THE ROUND fall 2015: issue xiii
Enigma, Callie Fink
watercolors, tempra, acrylic, Copic markers, ink, colored pencils, ballpoint pens | 11â&#x20AC;? x 15â&#x20AC;?
LIT ER ARY ART 1 - the sky yawns blue-gold and blinks Felix Green 3 - Meal Song Audrey Spensley 5 - Salmon Run Audrey Spensley 8 - The Night Shift Anna Hundert 11 - The Women in My Family Try to Educate Me Julia Tompkins 13 - Now, She Is a Timekeeper Julia Tompkins 15 - An Elephant in the Holy Land Anonymous 17 - Lamb, Bunny, Lamb Alessandra R. Castellanos 18 - Secret Eater Alessandra R. Castellanos 20 - The Painter Kathryn Scott 23 - Imports Justice Gaines 26 - How to Dilute a Queer Justice Gaines 27 - Matar (for E.H.) Will Harris 28 - Bullseye Juleen Eun Sun Johnson 31 - Doing Sports Mark Baumer 32 - The Book of Thomas Zachary Smolar 44 - Bone Poem Isabelle Doyle
T HE R OUN D 46 - Death by Consumption Margaret (Maggie) Shea 47 - The Empire Elodie Freymann 57 - Snow Dancing David Schaefer 58 - Winterskin Lucia Iglesias 60 - Spiders Dream of Flying Matthew Lee 62 - The Black and White World David Schaefer 64 - Moorland Extends Berke Buyukkucak 65 - (early spring) Caleb Murray 68 - Rotational Grazing for Artist Milton Avery Julia Shipley 76 - Envying the Tide Alex Walsh 78 - Provenance Ali MacLeod 84 - Signs Emily Sun 86 - Caffeinated Chastity Comes and Goes Blake Planty 87 - in the city Alex Walsh 89 - This Parched Land Tali Rose Treece 102 - Eulogy for My Older Sister Audrey Spensley 104 - Brooklyn Audrey Spensley
V IS UAL ART cover - Enigma Callie Fink 7 - How Koi Kelly Williams 10 - Closer:Further Harriet Small 19 - Destruction Maria Bedoya
61 - Wing Lace Luci Jockel 67 - Cosmos flower in the wind Narumi Yamashita 75 - Common Duck with Stones Franรงois Luks 77 - Rueful Regine Rosas
22 - Stargaze
82 - A Chemist
29 - la table est mise Ivan de Monbrison 30 - le tableau Ivan de Monbrison 43 - Immolation Maria Arbelaez 54-56 - Three Character Classic Renee Jin
83 - Waiting Room Jennifer Xiao 88 - Heartlines Marley Korzen 100 - Pangolepidoptera Jessica Poon 101 - Chamellionellidae Jessica Poon
“You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.”
— Junot Díaz
THE SKY YAWNS BLUE-GOLD AND BLINKS Felix Green
for Alyssa the sky yawns blue gold and blinks bleary clouds away as the sun rolls over the pillowing hills heaving an elbow of sunbeam through folds of cotton and mist while a chill lies tangled about the feet of the earth though later it will slouch off towards the sky nuzzled and dissolved into contentment but for now it trails the belly in billows and half felt swelling and smiling at some bird murmuring as intelligibly as a dream as a lone car hums by ahead of the deep and distant moan of freeway or maybe a tree shivers in vague delight as the breeze sighs over its limbs just as the rooster always early stands proud to announce himself to the world
the sky yawns blue-gold and blinks / Felix Green
with a pulsing strain and the cat opens a slit eye half yowls in reply stretches out a suppressing paw then resumes her purring until the pressure of warmth rouses and subdues again until the drowsing dew skulks off to relieve itself over the lawn and the sky tugs a corner of mist over its eyes and melts back into sleep
MEAL SONG Audrey Spensley
an imitation of prayer: sorting scattered bones over counter tile, a skeleton unfolding on touch. there is no truth but hands and bone, a knife nosing for skin. love is how to carve
Meal Song / Audrey Spensley
the spine of a fishâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; how to watch it collapse, the parachute of flesh. hunger requires stabbing, a tolerance for pain.
SALMON RUN Audrey Spensley
My father tried to cram the moist earth of his hometown into the crook of his elbow, held it like a wad of gum tucked behind a molar. One summer we had trembled on the arched back of Alaska, tacked tent corners to the soil like butterflies pinned to corkboard. We came, he said, for the salmon run. For a river consumed with fish, formless and blushing under the thin film of water like wriggling capillaries. My father like a deity above them, careless palms plucking the fleshiest from the crowd, hoisting each above his head like a small miracle. Later my brother and I would burn their skeletons, make puzzles of the clean bones, mouths like shallow-water leeches sucking the cores from their bodies. Leaving the rest like ash on crusted soil, the dry sequin eyes crushed into powder, scattered sand grains. This small death the final result of a migration spanning hundreds of miles, leaving bloated corpses in its wake, an upstream exodus
Salmon Run / Audrey Spensley
of bodies packed on bodies. Tracing the cold grooves, the constellation of freshwater rivers, back to their birthplace. Where the spawning begins again. As I slit the cold fish up the stomach, my hands plunging into the rubber of its organs, I think Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m searching for something, the thing my father sees, I know he sees, in those dead fish, their puffed stomachs. He knows more than I do the way you can die for a reason only your bones know. My father canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t look his father in the eye, but he comes for the swarm and the strangers collected to feed, bears and gold-eyed hawks and men, and all those salmon gathered below the water, the slick slush of blurred pink, iridescent skin pulsing with the message they could never escape. Come back. Come home.
How Koi, Kelly Williams
watercolor and crayon | 12” x 12”
THE NIGHT SHIFT Anna Hundert
When I asked my father how babies were made, he sat me down on his knee and explained that if the universe were contained within my body, each freckle on my arm would be a galaxy. He pulled at one of the tiny hairs with his thumb and forefinger and said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;This is the observable universe.â&#x20AC;? I looked at it very closely. What purpose did it serve, this transparent worm growing out of my skin? I was sure that I could scratch it off. Later that year, we visited a beach on Cape Cod where white sand quietly infiltrated every crevice of my body, including a small scratch on my arm. I brought the stinging cut to my sunburnt father in his foldable canvas chair. He kissed it and told me to make a wish, and then before my eyes the tiny wound sprouted into a white-haired dandelion. This trick did not mitigate the stinging. The Human Resources people told me that the beaches on Mars were the finest in the known universe. The known universe or the observable universe? That was my first question. My second question was, What color is the sand? They told me that the sand was a beautiful reddish-brown, the same color that the rays of the sun acquire when they reflect off brick buildings in New England in October. They never answered my first question. When I walked along these reddish-brown beaches, I left two sets of footprints instead of one. The scientists in Oslo reassured me that this second set was nothing to worry about, but it left me feeling uneasy. This was supposed to be a solitary life, collecting seashells and mailing them back to earth. When Krishna showed me the entire cosmos inside of his 8
TH E R OUND body, it left me feeling cold because my body was so terribly small, smaller than one of the tiny hairs on his arm or a grain of sand wedged beneath his fingernail. The scientists in Oslo said it must have been because the air was so thin. Gods could travel more freely there than on the surface of the Earth. One night, I returned to my bedroom and found a swan defecating on my nightstand. I politely declined Jupiter’s advances and went out for a walk along the beach to escape the overpowering scent of swan excrement. There were no seashells on the beach. There were never any seashells on the beach after the river Ganga descended and wiped them all away. She would have crushed the entire planet if Shiva had not appeared to receive her in the coils of his hair as she fell. When I saw her swimming between his braids, I had to look away. It was a strangely intimate act. “I’ve changed my mind,” my father said to me as we pressed our footprints into the reddish-brown sand. “The universe more closely resembles a vegetable than an animal. It grows itself from the elements without consciousness, like this flower.” He bent down and plucked a dandelion from the ground. I don’t remember if it was white-haired or if it was still yellow. “This is the observable universe. Do you ever wonder why those scientists in Oslo never answer your mail?” I told him that he had a point, but I had a mission to collect seashells on Mars every night, and they were paying me a decent hourly wage for it. The following night, Jupiter pursued me a second time as a shower of gold, and that time I did not resist. As it rained into my lap, I groaned at first and then murmured consent. This was supposed to be a solitary life.
Closer:Further, Harriet Small
watercolor, acrylic paint, charcoal, chalk pastel
THE WOMEN IN MY FAMILY TRY TO EDUCATE ME Julia Tompkins
My aunt is Sunday and the Symphony, I am sinking into velvet girl down. Wrinkled with an aria, if this had been the opera, but we are cushioned in a box stage left. There is a cellist front-center sheâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;or is it cellisteâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the one I am instructed to look to. Role-model me this one, she has a knack for drawing eyes to her hands my ears linger with her vibrato, tracing her timbre while it ebbs through the vapor of full seats. My aunt is here for reasons older than me, she moves up and into the sound while I sink my few years into a box of hidden candies, letting the swells of the prelude time my dives through cellophane. My thighs are grasping at grasping the cello, she is heavy
The Women in My Family / Julia Tompkins
and thick, and in the words of my mother I must play until my eyes are no longer necessary, so under the dim of matinee I slide lower letting this necessity fade into a slumber of sorts, learning young that even boredom can be tuned to appreciation, even love, this is why I smile when the music rises. I am a child of moderation, through manner not desire, doing most things well. I am an achiever having yet to achieve hollow machinery, I play in the pauses.
NOW, SHE IS A TIMEKEEPER Julia Tompkins
There is something lacking, the way Bisabuela sinks into her mattress my familiar wisp, a whiteness I can see my fingers through. She is the kind of translucent that hugs window frame in winter, a waxing melancholy, releasing histories into the bed frame so that Cuba is only a photograph propped on the bookshelf, a husband in abstract, children bring flowers but names are for the walking folk and she tumbles into atrophy, our generations overlap in uncomfortable silence. Sickness would be success now, the fragrance of interaction with something other than a poorly-stuccoed ceiling or the woman lying in the corner bed, mind plaqued over into loose ends. Her chronology was not intended to fall to pieces this way, a sharp forgettingâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; in the lucid moments she cries for fluencyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;my
Now, She is a Timekeeper / Julia Tompkins
language now the only competition with her pauses. There is a slowing down about the air she breathes, in translation I can read it
AN ELEPHANT IN THE HOLY LAND Anonymous
Tell me why— It’s good to be happy but not always happy to be Good, Or why open spaces make me weep, deep in my heart I know the sluts have already won At least they’ve done something. Right? I am an Elephant in the Holy Land, She stumbleth over Burning bush with the Grace of an Elephant Irrelevant, deep in my heart I hear His blood thump like my gray, impatient feet on these fleshy crossroads
An Elephant in the Holy Land / Anonymous
Will they open the Gates for me, Papa? Or will I open my legs for the first man who says he lovesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; I runneth over.
LAMB, BUNNY, LAMB Alessandra R. Castellanos
I hate the smell of lamb. It smells like the rot from my grandmotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s liver. I remember squeezing the organ, my fist small, my knuckles white, the rot a warm ache against my fingerprints. When she died, she wore a blue bathrobe with pink bunnies running upside down, spreading like death across her belly.
SECRET EATER Alessandra R. Castellanos
Muñeca eats secrets. She eats the carving knife her dad held as he chased her mom around the bedroom. She eats the spit and beer that rolled down his chin, her mom’s panic too. She eats the mattress he slashed through, a flesh substitute. She eats the desire to kill him, he’s already gone.
Destruction, Maria Bedoya digital inkjet print | 16.5â&#x20AC;? x 11â&#x20AC;?
THE PAINTER Kathryn Scott
She likes to paint when she’s sad, which is most of the time these days, so she paints quite a lot. She goes into the little studio she’s set up that I said was too small but she said was perfectly sized and anyway, she loves the light in there, she said it was a different light from any other light in the house, and I wondered what she meant by that but didn’t ask because even though I was only curious, she would probably assume I was challenging her and trying to start a fight, which I wasn’t. She retreats into the studio noiselessly like a cat, and paints noiselessly because painting is a noiseless art, and sometimes I find myself wishing she’d taken up a noisier art like pottery or woodwork just so I could feel a part of it and try to understand. But she doesn’t want me to understand. She likes to paint alone, hates when I watch her, says she can’t concentrate with the sound of my breathing, which she says is amplified by the smallness of the room. Sometimes I press my body against the wall of her studio where she can’t see me, straining to grasp sounds like the swirling of her brushes in the yellow teacup of muddy water, or a contented or frustrated sigh. Nothing. I often dream of her painting, alone in that cramped and noiseless room, gazing at the beige, blank canvas and catching slivers of the grey light that filters through the window, which she always keeps closed even in the spring and summer when I imagine a warm breeze would be nice, or at least a relief, to let the fumes escape. I wonder why she keeps that window closed; she opens other windows, even in the winter, even noisy 20
TH E R OUND windows like the one in our bedroom that has rusted over and squeals like an injured animal each time you press your weight against the pane. Some of her paintings hang in our house. They’re all abstract; they make no real sense to me, though the combinations of colors are nice and I, of course, laud her, tell her they’re beautiful and stirring and raw. She shrugs her shoulders and says, I guess. I think she knows I don’t understand. Because she paints, and because she does so in this noiseless and private way, I will never fully grasp her. I want to, desperately, and she knows it and I think she takes secret pleasure in it, this withholding from me. I wish she would stop painting, because I hate this quietness of hers that seems to divide us. Her privacy divides us, and I feel entitled to it, even envious of it, that she feels comfortable allowing it to know her in a way that I cannot and never will.
Stargaze, Callie Fink
Copic markers, ballpoint pens, colored pencils | 11â&#x20AC;? x 11â&#x20AC;?
IMPORTS Justice Gaines
When people ask me where Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m from I try to draw a map with metaphors I take my scalpel-pen and cut my skinpaper from body Roll it flat And slice-write the lineage into a continent Though home can never be marked And where from starts In the middle of a black passage But I tell them New Jersey So they dig deeper They ask where my familyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s from In America, we pride ourselves On crossing borders and settling states Fleeing wars and following dreams We expect stories of distant homes To be pulled from the back of the mouth Without any anesthesia necessary In this Nation of Immigrants My ancestors were imports Sold like cattle Chattel slaves were told to build this nation But that they could not have their own
Imports / Justice Gaines
There is no immigrant story here So I answer that my family Comes from North Carolina And they look at me suspiciously An outsider because I can’t tell them where outside is I’d like to know where we come from too But a complexion ambiguous fields lots of questions My melanin betrays my Negro sob story And inquiries of origin keep coming Are you sure you’re not mixed Are you sure you’re just black And I can assure you That this miscegenation was not an act of love This rape-lightened skin does not provide me journey It does not make America new home Or hopeful destination Or safe refuge America is still nothing more Than a docking port Where chains served as passports And branded skin served as green card So every time someone asks me my heritage I press my scalpel-pen to skin-paper And try to bleed out a history But I always run out of ink I cannot answer questions
TH E R OUND About a home They excised from my memory But left on my skin I can only give you a map Full of pain That I will never be able to finish
HOW TO DILUTE A QUEER Justice Gaines
Your gender(s) A sloshing of feminine and -less and other A shifting (trans)continental crisis Your half (a)sexuality Never knowing when (you)r body Will start to stir a storm for someone Your p(reference) Interest wading from one pool to the other Today bi-, tomorrow pan(ic), yesterday just -flexible Even your (B)lack Diluted on the way But one drop is enough for that When Joaquin cracks With Atlantic gluttony Tell him: Am I (not) liquid enough? Can I be your tributary? And flood (with) you?
MATAR (FOR E.H.) Will Harris
the ring is in himself and the bull is in himself and he the bull and the matador he the old master of death and him the sharpened horns circling about himself wondering what he will be in the moment of blood red light the perfect narrowed circle of splattered dust
BULLSEYE Juleen Eun Sun Johnson
A plastic Target bag parades through the sky like a commercial blimp opening wildâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; and wide. The bag catches a seagull in full motion.
la table est mise, Ivan de Monbrison Tipp-Ex and ink on paper | 12â&#x20AC;? x 8â&#x20AC;?
le tableau, Ivan de Monbrison ink on paper | 12â&#x20AC;? x 8â&#x20AC;?
DOING SPORTS Mark Baumer
It was near the end of a sports game. Meat Death’s team was winning. Meat Death was excited and scared. Someone yelled, “Don’t mess up.” Meat Death was nervous about messing up. Someone touched a ball. Meat Death tried to grab the ball, but couldn’t. Everyone was sad. Meat Death lay on the ground and thought, “I can’t believe I messed up.” The coach walked over to Meat Death and lay down on the ground. Meat Death didn’t want to look at the coach, but did when the coach touched Meat Death’s shoulder. Part of the coach’s head was female. Meat Death wondered why the coach’s entire head wasn’t female. The coach began to talk. Meat Death cried a little and then apologized for crying. The coach told Meat Death it was okay to cry. The two of them stood up and climbed into an automobile. Meat Death had to sit in the back with the other non-coaches. The road seemed very long, but not very much time passed before the automobile arrived at a field. The coach pointed at the field and said, “This is your new home.” Meat Death climbed out of the automobile. A hole was dug. Meat Death waited until the hole water froze before climbing in. After Meat Death climbed into the hole, the hole melted. Meat Death couldn’t quite figure out if the hole was filled with soup or a pond.
THE BOOK OF THOMAS Zachary Smolar
Thomas opened his eyes. Now able to see the light of day, he figured that he must be awake, and this disappointed him. Thomas enjoyed sleep, and didn’t like to see it come to an end. In sleep, Thomas flew; he explored the depths of a black hole; he played the harp in a stadium in front of thousands of adoring fans. But awake, Thomas was merely a man, and this got tedious after so many days. Sometimes Thomas wished that he weren’t a man. Sometimes he wished that he were a dragon, or a praying mantis. That would really be something. Thomas arose and lumbered to the mirror in his bathroom. Through this mirror, he could see his body in full, save for what was covered by his pajamas. Thomas noticed, as he did every morning, the shocking resemblance between himself and Mikhail Gorbachev. Of course, he wasn’t Mikhail Gorbachev. He was just Thomas. He picked up the brown magic marker from the sink and drew the birthmark on his head. He could do it from memory now. It looked perfect. Thomas did not have the time for breakfast, and as he prepared for his day, his stomach talked to him ceaselessly. It growled and whined and spoke words. Thomas didn’t know why his stomach spoke English. It baffled him. He was in a hurry. While he had been dressing, Jehovah had emailed him with the schedule of appointments for the day and all of the addresses of the apartments. There were three—more than Thomas had ever had for a single day in the month or so he’d been working at this. Word must have gotten out. Thomas was both excited and frightened by this thought. 32
TH E R OUND He grabbed his briefcase with all the essentials and left, his stomach still complaining as he walked to his car. Thomas’s car was a Ford—a truck, the color of a gray midnight. The truck made Thomas feel like America, or at least, like someone who belonged in America. He put the key in the ignition and turned it, listening to the sound of his truck choking to life. He began to drive, a smile on his face; he liked the song on the radio: “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis. Thomas felt freer these days, but not quite as free as he wished to be. Work had always felt like work, but for some reason he had thought that this work wouldn’t feel that way. He sighed thinking about this now, and turned up the volume on the radio. Thomas drove to the first address, an upscale apartment building. He parked his Ford outside, grabbed his briefcase, and walked into the lobby—one foot at a time, always moving one foot at a time. In the elevator to the fifth floor, his mind drifted to the day he was fired from Schwartz, Schwartz, and Greenbaum. They had tossed him aside without so much as severance. Admittedly, he had made a mistake, and a terrible one at that. He had, in a moment of blind frustration, thrown a box full of files out of the window of his third-story office—it had subsequently landed on the head of one of the partners, who had been immediately rushed to the hospital. But still: no severance? Bullshit. Good riddance, Thomas thought now. He almost thought something anti-Semitic, but then remembered that he was also Jewish. He thought of how, when he’d worked for the firm, he’d always felt like he was prostituting himself. His mind drifted to memories of his ex-girlfriend, Dinah; she had left him shortly after the debacle at SS&G, retreating wisely to her mother’s house in Delray Beach, Florida. To her, Thomas had transformed seemingly 33
The Book of Thomas / Zachary Smolar
overnight into something toxic, a cursed pariah. He hadn’t understood why … Thomas’s mind snapped back to reality. Whatever this reality was. The elevator door opened and he walked to apartment 504. He stood outside. Stared at the door. Felt like John Travolta’s character in Pulp Fiction. Bending over, he opened his briefcase, pulling out a little blue pill. He took it without any water. Then he took four Advils. He could feel a headache coming on. He knocked on the door twice and heard a thick, barely-feminine, Russian-accented voice saying, “It’s open!” Thomas sighed again, but this time it came out as a shiver. He opened the door to find the owner of that voice: she was either fifty or sixty years old with dyed-red hair and a mole on her right cheek. She was thick, but not thicker than him. Her breasts looked fake. That was a positive. She was wearing a bathrobe the same color as her fake hair. Thomas really wanted to leave. “Wow,” she said. “You really look just like your picture—just like him.” Thomas nodded. He never spoke when he was on the job. He was afraid his voice would betray him. “Well,” the woman said, her face flushed. “Right this way.” And they walked into the bedroom. He learned that his customer’s name was Anna. He forgot it a minute after she told him. And then Thomas went through the motions. A little while later, when it was all over, Thomas was back in the truck. He had $750 in his pocket. That was a positive. He felt his phone buzz and checked it while sitting at a red light. It was a text from Jehovah: How was client 1? U on ur way to 2? 34
TH E R OUND He responded: Fine. 750. On my way, some traffic. Should be on time. Jehovah had also worked at SS&G. He and Thomas had been friends for years, and he had been in Thomas’s office when he chucked the file box out of the window. In fact, he had encouraged Thomas to do so. He had been fired as well. His real name wasn’t Jehovah. It was Morty. Jehovah sounded better than Morty. Morty sounded like a man with a family who worked in a law firm. Jehovah was the omnipresent, omnipotent Jewish God; and you don’t fuck with the Jewish God. Morty preferred his new pseudonym. Jehovah was better at this prostitution racket than he had been at the law. And he was better at it than Thomas was. Then again, Thomas was doing all of the grunt work—so to speak. The whole Gorbachev thing had always been a bit of a joke; that Thomas could pick up women by claiming to be the famed, final Soviet leader. But he had never dreamed that this was a legitimate schtick, and that he and Jehovah could set up a website called fuckgorbachev.net (fuckgorbachev. com was already taken) to attract older, sentimental Russian women, and charge $500 an hour for his services. Life was a fascinating thing. They’d been doing it now for about a month, but it had felt like a year to Thomas. At first the clients had been friends two or three times removed from Jehovah, and they’d get a customer maybe once every couple of days. But now, it seemed like all of Brighton Beach knew about Jehovah and Mikhail (Well, Thomas couldn’t go by Thomas, could he? Mikhail was the logical alias). And Thomas was burnt out. He’d even started taking those little blue pills that made him more excited. He had never thought that he would need those little blue pills. Before all of this, Thomas couldn’t
The Book of Thomas / Zachary Smolar
have thought of a time in his life when he hadn’t looked forward to sex. Realizing that this was no longer true made him sad. The funny thing was that Jehovah was actually the more attractive one of the two. He could have been a prostitute, just like Thomas. But Jehovah had a family: a beautiful wife named Sharon, three children almost of college age, and the best-trained pug that Thomas had ever laid eyes on. Jehovah and his wife told each other everything, and they made most of their decisions together. When he’d announced the idea of prostituting his friend while they looked for a more legal and dignified form of employment, Sharon had agreed, under the condition that her husband would have no extra-marital sex himself. And Jehovah was content as Thomas’s “manager”—they’d looked up synonyms for “pimp” on Thesaurus.com, and had chosen that term as the most professional title amongst “hustler,” “mack,” “whoremonger,” and “flesh-peddler.” That was a good decision. Thomas went through the motions with his second client—a woman who was identical to his first client in nearly every way, except that her hair was dyed blonde instead than red. And her breasts were real. His mind drifted during his appointment with this woman, whose name was Valentina. But after, once he’d been paid for his time, he couldn’t remember where his mind had gone. This wasn’t unusual. Thomas daydreamed so frequently and about so much that he could rarely remember what his fantasies were. Sometimes they were about being rich, sometimes about drugs, sometimes about women—although these days that felt like a bit of a busman’s holiday, so to speak—but most times about nothing at all. His mind would go blank, 36
TH E R OUND almost like he was possessed, and before he knew it he would be back in the real world again. Thomas had an hour and a half before his next appointment, so he met Jehovah for lunch at a deli on the same block as the third client’s apartment. Jerry’s Delicatessen had been around for as long as Thomas could remember. Since he’d moved to Brighton Beach, he’d spent most Saturday lunches there with his Times and a Reuben sandwich with extra Thousand Island dressing. When he’d still worked for SS&G, he hadn’t been able to go there on weekdays, because the firm was in downtown Brooklyn; now, he could go every day. One of the positives of his current profession. Jehovah got a pastrami sandwich. Rookie mistake. Thomas watched him eat while he ate his own sandwich. He spaced out, staring as Jehovah’s layers of pastrami condensed into one bite-sized mass—a singularity of the not-so-lean substance—only to be swallowed up by … “Yo!” Jehovah said. “I asked how our clients were today.” “Oh, fine, you know.” He looked at Thomas suspiciously, like he was hiding something. “No, uh … problems … that I need to, you know, take care of?” Thomas looked at Jehovah’s aging, fleshy form, and grinned. “Oh yeah, because you’re gonna fight a fifty-plus-year-old Russian woman.” “Hey man,” he said. “I’m your manager. I’ve got your back. I’m ready for everything. No one fucks with Jehovah and Mikhail.” “Jesus Christ,” Thomas said, “would you shut the fuck up? You’re so loud and you sound ridiculous. It’s all good. Everything went smoothly. Relax.”
The Book of Thomas / Zachary Smolar
“Hey, I’m relaxed,” he said. An hour later, Thomas was confidently knocking on the door of his third client’s apartment. This time he didn’t feel as much like John Travolta’s character in Pulp Fiction—confused, out of practice after spending months abroad—but instead like Samuel L. Jackson’s—the master, the headhoncho, the Ezekiel-quoting badass. Thomas occasionally suffered from delusions of grandeur. But those delusions faded quickly when his client opened the door. Thomas’s mind took too much time to process the figure in front of him: round, hairy, balding, wearing boxer shorts and an open button-down shirt. But his mind did process it eventually, and it came to a conclusion: man. A quick aside on the subject of Thomas’s sexuality and personal political views: Thomas was as straight as an arrow (straighter than an arrow, he might have insisted). He had never been remotely attracted to a man, and truly couldn’t imagine how anyone could be—man or woman. But Thomas also didn’t think it was any of his—or anyone else’s—business what or whom people were attracted to. Thomas had been taught as a young boy to be respectful and open to everyone’s sexual preferences, because both his mother and father were gay. But, again, Thomas had never been attracted to a man, and believed that, no matter how many little blue pills he took, he would not be able to do this particular job. But he still had to be polite and courteous. Maybe he could explain the misunderstanding and be on his way—perhaps even with a little money in his pocket. 38
TH E R OUND “Oh,” Thomas said. “Do I have the right address?” He said the address. “Yes,” the man said, in an unfailingly Russian voice. “Come in.” He put his arm around Thomas, and led him inside. “Hey, you know, I hate to do this, but I think there must have been some kind of miscommunication.” The man’s hand dropped from Thomas’s waist. “I don’t … I thought my manager would have specified … I don’t really do … men.” The man turned to face Thomas. “What do you mean?” “I mean … I’m awfully sorry. It’s just I really don’t … you understand, right? I just really don’t … uh … go both ways, as they say. Ha ha. Oh boy, this is embarrassing. I’ll just head out, all right? I really am sorry about this.” The man took a step away from Thomas and tilted his head in bewilderment. “What are you talking about, my friend? You’re not the Verizon guy?” Now it was Thomas’s turn to feel confused, but this did not last long. Behind the very perplexed man Thomas had just apologized to, a bathroom door opened, revealing a woman who looked more like Thomas’s normal clientele. Her eyes widened, and she stammered quietly, as both men stared at her, “I thought I told Jehovah that I had to cancel.” “Cancel what?” the husband said, his mood shifting to anger. But he was interrupted by a knock at the door. “Who is it?” he yelled. The response came muffled: “Joel, from Verizon.” And then the man’s eyes were back on Thomas. “Who the fuck are you!” he asked—more of a shriek than a question. “My mistake,” he said, walking backwards toward the door. “I must have the wrong address. I’ll just let myself out.”
The Book of Thomas / Zachary Smolar
“Who are you? And who is this ‘Jehovah’? I’ll fucking kill you!” And then Thomas ran. He ran out the door and down the hall and down the stairs and out through the door of the apartment building and all the way to his truck. He slammed the car door and gunned it, speeding twelve blocks and then stopping at a red light. He sat in the driver’s seat and breathed heavily—panicky. He stayed that way, with his eyes closed and his head resting on the steering wheel, for what felt like an hour but was definitely much shorter. When he finally lifted his head, he grabbed his phone, which he had left in the cup-holder, and hit the “home” button. There was a text from Jehovah: Client 3 just cancelled. Respond to confirm. Thomas laughed, and put the truck in drive. He continued laughing for the next few blocks. He was still Thomas—unwaveringly agreeable, or perhaps just hysterical. Thomas found himself stuck in traffic on the way home. And as he sat in his Ford, still smiling and hyperventilating from the incident with Joel from Verizon, he was assaulted by a vision from God. Either in his mind or in actuality—Thomas couldn’t distinguish— this happened: out of the sky a hundred-foot bronze statue of Mikhail Gorbachev descended, crushing the car directly in front of Thomas. The statue stood upright with its arms extended forward, reaching for something that Thomas couldn’t see. He walked out of his car and stared at the bronze Gorbachev. He then turned his head, only to find that all of the cars—including his—and all of the people were gone. Only the two false Gorbachevs faced off on the 40
TH E R OUND abandoned Brooklyn street. A golden ladder emerged from the statue’s mouth, landing to the right of Thomas’s feet. He climbed it, and with each step he took the rung below him disappeared. He had nowhere to go but up. Soon he felt the wind, like a vacuum cleaner, sucking him into the mouth of the great bronze Soviet president. And willingly he was devoured. And then it was all black, but soon that black was replaced by white light—blinding, in fact. Thomas covered his eyes, and realized that he was surrounded by nothing. All was white, and there was no ground in this new dimension. He was floating. Was he in the belly of the statue, or was he somewhere else entirely? A baboon appeared in front of Thomas. He wore a blue velvet suit and began singing the song “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis. Thomas joined him in his singing: “How many special people change ...” At the conclusion of the ballad, the baboon faded away into nothing. The angel Uriel materialized before Thomas. Thomas recognized him as the husband who had chased him out of that apartment just a little while earlier. But he had wings and wore a white robe. They shook hands. Uriel took a scroll out of his satchel and gave it to Thomas. “Iyov,” Uriel addressed Thomas in his Hebrew name, “you have done well. We have tested you and you have remained loyal and honorable.” This was hardly how Thomas had been viewing himself lately. He wasn’t even a conservative Jew. Perhaps the angel had the wrong man. But then Uriel handed Thomas a scroll. “Eat this. It will be sweet in your mouth but bitter in your stomach. And then all will be clear.” And Thomas ate it, and the pain in his stomach was unbearable. He closed his eyes, wrapping his arms around his gut.
The Book of Thomas / Zachary Smolar
But when he reopened his eyes, he found himself in his apartment. He was standing in his kitchen and holding a Reuben sandwich from Jerry’s Delicatessen in his hand. He looked around, disoriented and afraid. There was mild, bitter pain in his stomach, and the feeling in his head was like nothing he had ever felt. He was learning things, but he couldn’t explain what they were or how they were getting in his head. The more the pain in his stomach dissipated, the more he felt his mind filling up with newness. The sensation made Thomas smile. There was a knock at the door. “Who is it?” he asked. “Jehovah,” was the response, but the voice wasn’t Morty’s.
Immolation, Maria Arbelaez oil on canvas | 40” x 30”
BONE POEM Isabelle Doyle
This is a stone-poem; this is a poem made of stones. This poem has multiple pulses running electric circuits along its edges. This poem has ice-picker fingers. This poem has deep shivers. This poem lingers. This poem is a rabbit imprisoned in its own magic hat. This is a bone-poem. This is a poem made of bones. This poem told me to continue my midnight searches through streets lit like refrigerator-insides, to sear the body off my legs with hot telephone wires. This poem told me to become a tinderstick woman so I wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be alone. This is a grown poem, origin unknown. This is a hungry poem; this poem is a thief. 44
TH E R OUND This poem sucks on stolen tuna fish like a polar bear of grief. This poem breathes. This poem creaks, rattles, moans, holds itself in my big, soft obscene body. This poem knows. This is a bone-poem. This poem is made of bones.
DEATH BY CONSUMPTION Margaret (Maggie) Shea
So many secret sorrows I nurse, Contortions carry, up down Park Street, under skin. Steady, I am, I stride, while Sorrow suckles, silent. I was seven when a boy took my arm And said â&#x20AC;&#x153;this is an Indian burn.â&#x20AC;? My skin, twisted and hot, Twisting invisibly burned. At a party, we play an old Oxbridge game, Singe a wine-bottle cork, Sing a ditty; upon erring, we brand our foreheads. At night I watch a fire burn blue. I dream my body vague, flameproof, fluid, In my dreams, I unhinge my hips, Wet my lips, fling myself open to To welcome what? After all, I always awaken in the same humid room, where Sorrow suckles and feeds on my heat, And twisting, I am consumed.
THE EMPIRE Elodie Freymann
This isn’t a confession or anything. No one said anything about confessing; I just thought you would like to hear a different side of it, that’s all. On Sundays, when I’ve had my fair share of my wife—or the people I surround myself with anyway—I go to the Empire for the free nuts and complementary orange juice. I pick up a copy of the Post at the corner Deli from Stevie who I swear thinks he’s some kind of movie star or something—a defined jawbone does that to a man. He sits on a stool behind the counter and stacks cigars. I think he has a kid in Connecticut who won’t talk to him anymore. One Sunday, he told me that. Sometimes he throws a free cigarette in with my paper. I don’t smoke much anymore, only when Stevie throws one in. I had an affair once with a woman who knew nothing about me. I never even told her I had a wife, but I never tried to hide the ring either. She looked like one of those women in a fancy car commercial or on a game show or something. We spent two nights at a cheap hotel on Amsterdam Avenue until she told me she couldn’t stay in a room with leaking faucets. It was one of those places with a twelve-hour half-life: most people came for the day, stayed for the night, and left in the morning. I stood in the lobby barefoot for an hour arguing with a man behind the desk until he finally agreed to move us one door down—we could still hear the dripping water through the paper-thin wall. I think she imagined it differently. I think she assumed I was a lawyer or something fancy like that, maybe even thought I was insulting her. I didn’t mind the drip, but she was gone the next morning when I woke up. I started going to the Empire after that. 47
The Empire / Elodie Freymann
I make it a habit to look nice when I go out, but when I go to The Empire I take particular care. My wife thinks I’m going for a swim at The Y. I take my bathing trunks with me and everything, even a pair of old pool shoes. She almost had a heart attack when I told her I’d started swimming, I’m not exaggerating either—she was ecstatic. Recently the woman mentioned I was slimming down, “getting trim,” I think she put it. I told her it must be the butterfly stroke. I told her I’ve been working on my butterfly a lot lately. I don’t think my wife’s even noticed that I wear my only pair of Khakis, or if she has she hasn’t said anything about it. I comb my hair on the cross-town bus, not because I’m vain—I’d hate to be thought of as vain—but for efficiency’s sake, and of course because of the unavoidable correlation between dapperness and the speed with which the Empire door swings open. On my last visit it was raining. I made sure that the stout man holding the heavy door open saw me make a fuss about shaking my umbrella off and wiping my feet. I smiled at the concierge, and headed over to my usual blue velvet-backed chair by the window beside a potted plant that never seems to grow and which—I have decided—is likely not even real. Because of the early hour and the ferocious rain it was still pretty dark out. The hotel lobby, which is lit by two hanging chandeliers and small crystal lamps situated on coffee tables around the room, was almost completely empty. The ceilings were high and made of dark wood; my own careful footsteps echoed around the concave walls. The bar was around the corner in a smaller, more intimate room not visible from the lobby. I didn’t feel like peeking my head in, but most likely it was already occupied by businessmen in suits fortifying themselves for the morning of hand shaking and grease. It surprised me to see no one sitting by the fireplace 48
TH E R OUND drying off. I pulled out the Post but, realizing no one was there to watch me read it, quickly tucked it back into my jacket. Instead, I got up and, walking carefully so as not to slip on the black and white polished floor, crossed the lobby to where an attendant in a navy coat and golden buttons was pushing a luggage trolley into the waiting elevator. He stopped when he saw me. “I’d like a coffee.” The man barely hesitated. “Sugar and milk, Sir?” “Neither.” “And where will you be sitting, Sir?” “By the window there.” “It’ll be just a minute, Sir.” “And a bowl of nuts.” “Nuts?” “Peanuts, a bowl of them.” The attendant nodded and after glancing for a moment at the luggage trolley, disappeared in the direction of the kitchen. I returned to my spot by the window, brushed a hand through my hair and thought about the men at the bar. An ageless woman appeared in the arched doorway, surveyed the room and went to examine a pile of magazines lying on the piano bench. In the dim light I could make out the woman’s self-assured motions and graceful neck. As she passed in front of the low lights her diaphanous dress became momentarily see-through. If not for the dress it could have been Her— four years can do anything it wants to a person. I sat staring until the waiter came back with my order. He probably recognized me. They probably all
The Empire / Elodie Freymann
recognized me but never let on, and she didn’t know, not the woman by the piano bench nor any of the people passing by the windows outside. I was as important as I wanted to be at The Empire, and they couldn’t risk arguing with that. I rose and addressed her. “Do you play?” “Play what?” “Do you play the piano?” “Oh the piano! No. I’ve never even taken a lesson.” “It’s worth learning.” I smiled at her and she smiled back. “Where are you visiting from?” Her voice was high, annoying even. “I’m in between meetings.” I couldn’t even tell her age. I did my best to catch a glimpse of her hands. “I’m from Napa Valley.” She brushed a hand through her hair. “Lots of good wine in Napa.” “Oh, it’s alright. Elvis filmed a movie there once.” She walked over to my chair by the window. “Mind if I sit?” I nodded and gestured to a second velvet-backed chair at the adjoining table. The woman dragged it over. She looked different from up close. I could tell now why she had appeared ageless—all of the spots on her face had been meticulously painted over, the lines erased and the skin stretched. She must have looked like someone once, I reminded myself. Even her hair was blown out in a long, dyed, straight sheet of yellow. She was the perfect specimen of smooth, preserved silk, everywhere except her ankles where extra skin collected in folds. I couldn’t help but stare when she crossed her legs. I guess she hadn’t gotten to them yet. I gestured at the window, “Shame about this.” 50
TH E R OUND “The rain or the morning?” “The rain.” “Everything’s cancelled. I was hoping to take one of those horse carriages out today. The rain just ruins things.” “You should try the nuts,” I offered. “They’re very good here.” “I’m on a diet, but thank you—how long are you visiting for?” “I leave tomorrow morning.” “Early?” “Unfortunately. I have business in Colorado.” She believed me; I could tell she believed me. The woman smiled and uncrossed her legs. “How can you stay anywhere else after this?” She asked after a minute, sighing and gesturing at the room we were sitting in. “How do you mean?” “Have you seen the uniforms?” “I’ve never noticed them.” “The buttons are real gold.” I took a handful of peanuts and didn’t respond. “And did you know they’ll arrange to have a message written in the sky for you? You can propose or something like.” She was being earnest; I could tell she was really being earnest with me. I raised an eyebrow. “And then there’s the lavender soap in the bathrooms. Have you seen those? Shaped like seashells. And the grand ballroom for weddings and parties. Were you at the reception last night? It’s just the grandness of it here—it’s just—romantic. How can you stay anywhere else after staying for a night at the Empire?” I had never even seen a room—though I often imagined the plush beds and ornamented window curtains. “The hotel I’m staying in tomorrow night has ice sculptures.”
The Empire / Elodie Freymann
She looked at me hard for a minute. “What do you do anyway?” “I’m a lawyer.” I lied. “A good one?” I looked at her straight. She lowered her eyes. “So what impresses you?” she asked, moving her body forward on the chair and gesturing around at the grand lobby, “There’s nothing here that impresses you?” I thought for a moment, and as I did, I noticed the woman glance fleetingly at the window over my shoulder, with the glazed expression that only those examining their own reflections wear. A moment later, her eyes were back on me. “The plants.” I said, and scratched my knee, “The plants impress me.” She stood, readjusted her dress and walked over to the potted flower behind me, brushing my shoulder with her hip. “I admire men who notice flowers,” she said, and leaned in to smell it. “Orchids,” she sighed after a long whiff, “and beautifully tended.” I ran a hand through my hair to make sure nothing was sticking up in the back. She was standing now right beside my velvet chair. She smelled like lavender. The lobby was filling up with marble men and their noisy families—the day was starting. “You should see this place during the holidays,” I said, “It’s mayhem.” The woman sat back down. “Are you here alone?” “I am.” This wasn’t an untruth either. I was being honest about this. “Will you come out for a drink with me?” I could see now from this close that her eyebrows were a couple shades darker than her course, yellow hair. “It’s just such a miserable, rainy day. I’d love company.” My stomach 52
TH E R OUND dropped. I wasn’t scared or anything. The flirtation hadn’t gone over my head, but my stomach dropped like it had been shot dead or something, and it took everything I had in me to check my watch and answer. I told her I would like to get drinks with her, very much. I talked polished. She kept flipping her hair back as we talked and I was doing it, I really was, and everything would have been just as I had imagined it, so exactly as I had pictured, but all I could think about were her stupidsaggy-ankles. She rose, eventually explaining that she just needed to grab her purse and that she’d be back down in a minute. I still didn’t even know her name. She told me she’d be right back down, and we could head to this bar she knew on Madison. I watched her teeter out on her heels through the lobby and over to the elevators, imagining her slapping on some lipstick in the exquisite shaving mirror and gurgling some of the mouthwash left for her by the golden-buttoned maid. I waited a minute after the doors had closed before I drew out a five-dollar bill from my wallet, left it on top of my dirty napkin and, grabbing my dripping umbrella, briskly crossed the lobby. I changed my mind, that’s all, that’s why this isn’t a confession or anything. The jittery, reluctant marble people didn’t even notice me push through the doors—and I, the only permanent guest of the Empire—caught a crosstown bus back to my wife and Stevie and fucking Amsterdam Avenue.
Three Character Classic, Renee Jin
Chinese rice paper, ink, 1140 ice cubes | 20” x 28”
Three Character Classic has been a required text for all Chinese children and was used in Taiwan at least as late as the 1960s. Kids would recite it as a group, accompanied with the swaying of the body to give it a proper rhythm. It was written in the thirteenth century and usually attributed to Wang Yinglin (1223-1296), a renowned Confucian scholar. The â&#x20AC;&#x153;poemâ&#x20AC;? consists of a series of couplets of three characters. The complete text is less than 1200 characters but in that limited space it manages to enumerate all of the salient features of the Confucian tradition. Children were required to memorize it, much as a Catholic Catechism might be, even before they could read and write.
Growing up in China, Chinese culture plays a big part in some of my works. It makes me really think about my own culture and where I am from. Also being inspired by Italian writer Italo Calvinoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Invisible Cities. Last semester, I started to work with ice cubes which can suggest a period of time and memory. Being inspired by confucianism and the motion of pure water, I developed an installation using 1140 ice cubes with Chinese calligraphy on it. The contents of the calligraphy is the book Three Character Classic. After all the ice cubes melt, only some marks were on the paper, and everything is not readable.
SNOW DANCING David Schaefer
There’s a good one told about him and the Kaiser, but we loved my great-uncle most for his love letters, addressed at first to a woman, and then to a man, and finally to some sexless animus we’d all grown up loathing. “You’ll be shot if you enter this country again,” he’d say under his red nose and whiskers. “They’ll shoot you too!” The barrel of his index finger pointed at me from across the hall. In truth, I thought him an honest man with an honest heart, until the night he stumbled into my bedroom, a ghost beyond all measure, wearing pine laurels and a pleated coat. “One for the road,” he said, taking the tooth from beneath my pillow, his palms railroad soft, his port-wine cheek dimming with the door behind him. At each stair he labored some distant waltz into a foxtrot at the stoop. All that night, a thread of light parted my face in two and his leaden boots made sounds of the newly matted snow.
WINTERSKIN Lucia Iglesias
How can I slip into my winterskin? How slipped you December last? A shivering in, perhaps. Or an incision from scalp to heel. But would slit skin rime fast at the fringes as scalpel slithered away, leaving peelings frostcandied in cold? Have you ever skinned an ermine in an ice storm? If I had, would I know how to self-skin, slip on winter? Is an ermine winter? Once in a skin do veins forget what it was to be icetrees? As I skin-slip, am I ever skinless or does winter swaddle me flurry-fingered before the naught brushes my raw? Oh tell me, how can I slip into my winterskin? Is winterskin the rake of birch branches slivering my cheek to ribbons? Did birch scritch hieroglyphs in the blushed bark of your cheek? And did your skin winter? Or did knuckled twigs flinch you ‘til you were scarscratched as their own trunks? If I stood in the wood and waited a Hunter’s moon, would shed-leaves plaster me in autumn? When will I know my skin? When I know the breath of the avalanche rasping at the seam until I unravel and winter robes me over. If swallowed in the longest night might you be skinned in winterdark? Is winter the cling of night’s throat pulsing me? I asked the graves but they told only names. Oh, the graves might have told you how if only you had asked in their own tongue: letters in ashes, or the tock of bones. But I can’t speak cold earth unless I am winter-skinned. Winter waits under earth; slip in. I have grave dirt tarring my nails and you tell me to bathe in funeral silt? And when the necrotic crust clenches my flesh then will I be wintered? 58
TH E R OUND Or perhaps I must needle deeper. And what if my veins brachiate ice? Arterioles rime-feathered crisping silver under the skin of my wrist? Have you ever kissed the hand of the Snow Queen? Once her icicle nails tickle my underchin I never will know crocuses or robin hatchlings ever again, will I? But your skin would be winter’s. Under a Queen’s iced nail what am I but a fruit to be peeled and thinly sliced? Is your flesh so rare that winter wolves would howl it through the night? It is not yet frost-withered; isn’t that enough? A girl’s breastbone gleaned clean, have you not seen? Summer peeled off in long strips from her rib cage, sinews coiling where wolfjaws snapped them? Wolves tithe to Winter’s Queen peculiar coin. Ribs make a rare harp when strung with her long silver hairs. How could such a harp sing, so scoured of summer and song? Give listen to this ode plucked by icicle fingers, borne on breath that blooms frost roses on December panes. If I do, will my hot ears escape frostbite for more than a measure? Once I saw a frozen ear glassy on the cobbles, and when a horse hooved it, do you know how it shattered in fractals? I skipped a pebble safe across the glaciated stream. Was I to cross or not? Might ice close its lips to the pebble only to gobble my ankle in a crunch—all jagged with bergs and bone? If my ankle plunged icedeep in winter, if glacial teeth punctuated tendon and vein, then, then would my skin slip? There, is that my skinseam? Seam unraveling from untethered ankle joint? Unraveling into winter. I slipped into my winterskin. And how? Birch inscribed you? Night imbibed you? Grave dirt washed you white as bone? The Ice Queen froze your kiss? The wolves gleaned you? The harp sang you? The stream seamed you? The first snowflake melted winter under my tongue.
SPIDERS DREAM OF FLYING Matthew Lee
Like Starlings staring straight at the ocher moon with starry eyes supineâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; the whirr, rustle and bustle of night creatures coagulating consuming consummating, of leaves whispering and turning dreaming, flushed red and gold dreaming of sunrise and wet heat, falling falling back to Earth back to life rising breathing, of waves collapsing on cliffs, foam and froth fractals clinging to the sands of imagination, like shadows lingering gathering dust in the cornersâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; gossamers remember spiders singing sweet lullabies, what it felt like to be played. 60
Wing Lace, Luci Jockel
honeybee wings and rubber cement
THE BLACK AND WHITE WORLD David Schaefer
It’s not the diving in that’s got me most afraid but the rearing sounds we make when waking up this backwards. You see that blazing sunset? You see that speckled wing? Oh. I was hoping for an out to what we’ve come to call exchange. Lifeless, wandering, opal me from side to side, wasting my time with lipstick when the real money is in pockets. I already know what you’re gonna tell me, so I’ll just be upfront while we’re both on the clock: Today I am hidden in the rhyme 62
TH E R OUND of some soft tongue hardened, and even still do not see more than two lives lived at once, despite all this deep breathing and taxonomy, so bear with me while I jostle purviews like spinning plates in the dawn’s early light. And while we’re dawdling, be clear with me, here of all places, since I’ve gotten too cozy with extremes and bad weather to tailor myself much for holdings: If I were to pick, under the reluctant starlight, two shoots of lavender and the jewel of your porch light’s glimmer, would you think of me as anything other than kind?
MOORLAND EXTENDS Berke Buyukkucak
Wherever you go in the country I say mine, birds follow. Don’t know why, whichever Bosphorus I pass, whichever garden I try to hold as mine, the spring breeze smothers me like little children. A man hides his white handkerchief in his left pocket and dies before loving anyone. I guess the tragedy of theatre wraps our meadows right there. The girl, heaven’s face, smells like oranges, we walked in the streets with trees that look like rain. I guess the slim comedy of theatre casts away the dust of dreams like pomegranate arils, into vacuum, right here. Yeah, we said birds. Whichever wing I rubbed my uncouthness, the world rolled over. And the world that took my heaven’s face, now maybe will erupt and crack like a willow. Now I hug the birds more. Now birds are warmer, yet something else is icy. Your lonely fingers on my hair, bare as a baby, I am born again and again. Now a little girl with bandit eyes walks through the notes of a ballad. A bossa nova drizzles and a flower seals off the ways like death. It’s a jovial spring day, I count days now. Why, there is a disturbed look of a Sunday evening in your eyes? What is it in your eyes? The most familiar smell of the poor spirits on the pillow I sleep. The horizons thicken when you look at your side. You wash our nakedness, very clean, breathless. Your forgiving breath on my hair, nude as a baby, I am born again and again. 64
(EARLY SPRING) Caleb Murray
at the corner of brattle & farwell, a table of used books set aside sidewalk blown by wind— leaves turning pages back to trees in the almost summer sun trees stretch naked branches & wait. herald the turn of seasons. disregarded, used whispered alchemy, whispered windward and change. see sidewalks stained brown. last year’s sidewalk held in a net of veins, gift of trees gift of the thoughtless wind— indiscriminate. dead leaves & lawn waste, a gardener disused waits his turn to turn loamy soil, to turn paper pulp of leaves on sidewalk down gutters and curbs as used and familiar as naked trees in late autumn & to wind 65
(early spring) / Caleb Murray
dead vines like he winds a hose or turns an electric cable & clears the yard, the sidewalk. under a scaffold of trees aware of their use I am, have been, used and kindof worn he thinks, winding the rope though trees watching it turn shadow patterns on sidewalk & waits to graft trees & branches axed in turnâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; he will entomb the winter sidewalk.
Cosmos flower in the wind, Narumi Yamashita
ROTATIONAL GRAZING FOR ARTIST MILTON AVERY Julia Shipley
“A blank canvas is a thing of beauty. The challenge is to cover it and still retain that radiance.” —Milton Avery Lawn-side Paddock The tan calf is on the wrong side of the fence. And the gray steer with horns, docile as a faithful dog, is resting where he belongs, under the silver maple; he wags his ears and nods his head: He is constantly followed by flies. Flies are the paparazzi of cows. I have to break off writing—did you ever have to stop your work to shoo the calf back inside the paddock because he was stepping into the bed of iris, biting off their sword leaves? I just did. Milton Avery, under-exalted American artist and contemplative man, you gazed at a Kansas of canvas, plantations of cotton and flax woven into rectangle corrals. Milton, modest, quiet, more stable than Rothko, you attempted to paint something that retained the radiance of the raw stuff. Milton, maker of my favorite paintings, I never met you but loved you at first sight of Interlude (1960), a painting made entirely of yellow hues of two women conversing. And Milton, sir? Mr. Avery? I want to tell you about intensive rotational grazing. Because our aims are the same. You layer colors and interlock shapes. You paint group scenes of bathers, of simplified birds, of long-necked cows 68
TH E R OUND facing the field floor. And I? I use a strand of electrified polywire to move a pair of cows through pasture, so as to increase the vigor of what they consume, a physical and spiritual paradox, much like arranging a canvas to keep it as true as when it was blank. Posts, a reel of wire, a power source—these make my project possible. Now, I will demonstrate by carrying two reels to the field where I’ll graze the cattle next. Let me tell you how I know it’s time to move them. Notice the white clover flower, which looked as if the sky had shook out its pockets to the lawn, is gone. And where green inches once flopped, now the calf and the steer nibble shabby fringe, which if given a brief but total reprieve, will surge back into orchard grass, red top, timothy and rye, but cannot if cows have perpetual access, always nipping its progress. So the calf and steer must move, as you must have looked at the roving herd in Bucolic Landscape (1930) and decided to let it grow back its consumed radiance by turning to another blank canvas. Paddock with a Spruce Perhaps when you exhausted the possibilities of one canvas, you explored the next. Perhaps you see the vista, the potential of the next work from where you stand in the present canvas. Cows seem to think the best grass is ahead of them, is next. So, we’re going to move these two animals from the front lawn paddock to the paddock with the spruce. As I unplug the electric fencer, both steer and calf pause mid-mouthful to watch me re69
Rotational Grazing / Julia Shipley
spool the polywire that encases their range. They have been here three days, and even if there are still patches of untrimmed, succulent grass, they sally into new pasture, the way I, having not fully seen everything about Breaking Sea (1952) move on to view Hint of Autumn (1954). How many paintings would you entertain—just one until you were done, or perhaps you attended three or four simultaneously? Cattle eat as if they were painting several works at once, their noses nodding against the radiant grass, randomly attending here, there, wandering through their everyday buffet of color and light. I play out the new strand polywire and hang it on the posts, so they can’t return to the range they were grazing, so the grass will grow back tall, at least to my shins, before I’ll let them trim it down again. To let them have perpetual access saps the grass as, perhaps, an obsessively fussed-over painting. Look how they plunge their muzzles into the tassels of fresh pasture; we call it the “sward,” but maybe you see it as a tableau bristling with upturned brushes, maybe a steer’s tail, limp then lashing, is just like a sable-tipped wand. Did you ever lament that your paintings could not change after you stopped painting them? Upon re-encountering Dark Forest (1958), you would find that it still contained a sandy path leading into a clump of black-green trees, and though your attention might fall on a new part of the composition, would it remain what you made of it? Not so with intensive rotational grazing: the calf will get out. It’s like having your bather stand
TH E R OUND up, dripping, and leave wet footprints across your colorfield as she extracts herself from the lagoon you painted her in, though I know character is the least concern. Okay, let’s put it this way: What if your umber went out? After the stock market crash in 1929, it did indeed, and the only paint you could afford was black, white, and brown. In those lean years, did you ever see the orange rose of the moon and wish, like seeing a calf in the garden, those hues back within the perimeter of your painting? The Pie-Shaped Paddock It’s time to move them again. I move them every few days; some farmers move their herd twice, even three times a day. Each new pasture triggers their appetite. I wish you could hear them ripping mouthfuls of clover. It’s more pleasurable than hearing the whisk, whisk, whisk of hundred dollar bills counted into your hand by the person who curates the Whitney. From a distance, their gently bunting skulls nuzzling close to the turf make it look as if they are careful, sparing, kind to the sod. Ha. You could take the hand, your brush-grasping hand, and begin tearing fistfuls from the field—that is closer to their art. Their tongues grasp the blades against the bottom palate and, with lips pressed, they accomplish the rip. But look how the land responds. See that verdant quadrant—the deep green in it? The cows were there a month ago, and the grass is ready for them again; whereas here, where they have not been, the ligules and tillers are paler, more delicate and nearer to the earth still. I’ll wager this: that as you stood,
Rotational Grazing / Julia Shipley
biting your pipe, layering sapphire paint over turquoise in Recumbent Cow (Blue) (1930): the need to paint intensified. And languishing canvases languished. â&#x20AC;&#x153;All flesh is grass,â&#x20AC;? says farmer-author Gene Lodgson. That these cows convert the vegetable kingdom into animal bone, blood, milk and meat, is a miracle. That you take paint, solid particulate, and press it against woven material until the composition appears to emanate light, is a miracle. Furthest Field Your range kept changing, such that you were born in 1885 in New York State and took art classes in Hartford and met your wife in Provincetown, Mass. You painted in fields from Mexico to Gaspe, as your work loafed in galleries and museums, with some of it stabled in permanent collections before you died in 1965 in a hospital in the Bronx. Then for seven years, there was no you, and there was no me. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a grassy pasture between your making and my looking. Barnyard Pasture No moon. December 11, 2009, six in the blind evening, all charcoal dark, I groped my way into the barn, over to the light switch. The steer had broken his stanchion loose. He wore it like a strange frame around his neck for his portrait. The bare bulb illuminated the wreckage: red plastic watering can shattered into three parts; the wheelbarrow collapsed on its 72
TH E R OUND side; the gate splintered and leaning, but still holding; the hay gone, the eggs smashed, the nest lost, the crate upended, and the chickens huddled in two different groups in two different corners. I unlocked it and lifted it off of him. I corralled him in the pen with the calf and commenced cleaning. By the time I left, the hens were perched in a line; the floor was raked smooth; the broken, eliminated; the upended, restored. Last, I put the steer in the remaining stanchion. A week to go. Last night I negotiated with the butcher for their hides. When you paint them, they stay still for eternity. Next Thursday is their eternity. Eternal Pasture Was blood the first painting, the iron-ocher still holding to the walls of those caves? Blood on snowâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;does painting begin with the impulse to control or soften, make meaning from something like stain and seepage, on the radiant, empty face of something like snow? On one morning in early winter, the bull and the calf munch hay. Later that day, the calf â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s flayed pelt is spread and smothered in salt in the basement. One hundred pounds of bowels fill the sled, and I lug them through the snow to the compost pile. Tomorrow morning, a crow will perch on the mound and peck. Now, the dog licks the poppy-colored snow.
Rotational Grazing / Julia Shipley
The carcasses are over in a meat locker in Waterville, hanging with a tag with my name on it. Their organs are wrapped in my freezer. From whole beings—pieces. From painters—paintings. You are disbursed, your life’s work residing in various places: Music Makers, collection of Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Peck, Scottsdale, AZ; Mandolin with Flowers, collection of Caroline and Stephen Alder; Seated Blonde, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Sally, private collection, Toronto; Beach Blankets, Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, KS. The Color Field I first saw Interlude, I was twelve, on a mother-daughter outing to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I was too young to realize how sensibly you were situated alongside your contemporaries, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, and Mr. Rothko. In my naïveté, all I saw was a huge canvas that lit the room. Tall as my mother and long as me, if I were lying down. Most of the painting is golden, lemony in some places, mustardy in others. In the picture, you portray two imprecise women—one leans toward the other. Their postures remind me of the intense conversations my mother shared with my great-grandmother until she, as we say, escaped. My eyes rambled over the umbers and plunged into the golden scenery. Twenty years later, I gaze into it again. Now, I see this painting not as a window into another world, a calm confined to a canvas, the stasis of a conversation that cannot finish, but as swales of a late autumn landscape suddenly seen from above: fields fitting together, pastures girded by creeks, thickets. And rambling fence lines, which may succeed or fail to restrain anything. 74
The choledocus, or common bile duct (“common duct” for short) is the anatomic structure that connects the liver with the intestinal tract. Gallstones often form in the gallbladder, which is connected to the common duct—but stones can also form inside the duct itself. This is called choledocholithiasis—stones in the common duct. At the junction of arts and sciences, equal parts function and beauty, are the likes of Max Brödel, master medical illustrator, and John James Audubon, master ornithologist. This watercolor blends anatomy, surgery and naturalism, all in the service of a good pun.
Common Duck with Stones, François Luks
watercolor on paper | 12” x 10”
ENVYING THE TIDE Alex Walsh
Grapes grow on vines and lasagna isn’t pronounced the way it should be. Sex is a dirty word; meanwhile money is beautiful, except it’s also the root of some nasty tree growing daily in all our spines. Even microwaves are holy, in their way. Girls run away from home to live in big houses, but they’re old enough—just— so that it isn’t running but walking, dignified, with skirts fashioned as per the trend and heels stuck up like horse hooves, only pinker. Call me weak for envying the tide’s ability to ebb, flow, gracefully participate in the sacred moon-dance. I wouldn’t want to be beholden, even to such a magnificent body, but routine’s nice.
Rueful, Regine Rosas
print and collage | 6” x 5”
PROVENANCE Ali MacLeod
Some days, she would stare at the aged, dull wood that she was so fond of rubbing her hands over and wonder what it was like when it was shiny and new, when the cold mahogany would have felt smooth and waxy to the touch. She would never find out which tree in which forest it was that she was running her fingers over. She would never find out which eyes decided that tree was worthy to live on for two dead centuries as an ugly, ugly desk. But one day, she would be handed a thin, yellowed portfolio, and she would find out her place in its long, sad biography. The ugly desk was born into the light of oil lamps and candle wicks to a tired carpenter in his middling workshop, one of a few hundred identical siblings. Each had the same crisp leg detail, the same carefully segmented drawers, the same delicate crossbanding running through the mottled brown surface. But each was also cursed with asymmetrical peg-legs, with garish floral paneling, with a cumbersome slope-top that creaked open into an awkward gaping maw. They were cookie-cutter desks, clumsily and hastily made in the French style by a thoroughly American artist, but they were what his client wanted, so they were quickly shipped off to their first home: an east coast university for the edification of young men, newly founded in brownstone. It was owned in careless succession by little philosophers and transient mathematicians who spilled ink and tea and other miscellaneous liquids over its muddled desktop, creating a landscape of strange textures and mismatched colors that the centuries would never quite wipe away. Only the schoolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s long-overdue renovations interrupted its vagabonding, when 78
TH E R OUND it was sold to a nostalgic alumnus. But he’d never loved it, either. In fact, it ended up nothing more than a yard sale sacrifice just a few short years later, and the layers of dust and hinges stuck closed suggested that it wasn’t the most tearful parting. The ugly desk was raptured by a hungry bargain-hunter, and within the decade she found out that the thoroughly American artist who had birthed it so long ago had achieved fame in later life. Although it would never be worth the thousands that his masterpieces would, it was guaranteed that with the proper upkeep, the ugly desk could be an ugly little nest egg, a couple hundred dollars or more depending on how long the wait was. It became an heirloom-to-be, the hopeful grandma’s “worth something, someday.” She passed the mahogany guilt trip down to her children, who shifted it back and forth among each other before doing the same, an interdynastic game of Hot Potato. It became the burden of each generation to add their own unique improvement to the Frankendesk. Someone replaced the gold knobs with the more historically accurate bronze. Another reinforced the sagging pencil drawer with a mismatched cedar plank. Someone else chipped off years and years of waxy build up with a healthy dose of some as-seen-on-TV, patent-pending, while-supplies-last furniture polish. The desk never got any prettier, of course; in fact, to the dismay of its tireless caretakers, each remodel only seemed to highlight its ugliness a little bit more. The final renovation was just as nobly intended as its forbears. An expedition to reinsert some loose screws, to keep the loosening front panel from warping any further along its worn crossbanding. But a shaky hand, a hardy draft, or just plain bad luck turned this repair into the ugly desk’s last. As the drill began to whirr into the signature panel, it slipped, leaving 79
Provenance / Ali MacLeod
a thin crack that radiated from the top left screw. The family auctioneer could verify—what had once been a vintage conversation piece in excellent condition had, in the space of a second, become a “slightly damaged” chunk of glorified firewood. It would no longer be worth anything, any day. The mistake was a decided relief to the owners at the time. The pressure to complete the generational scavenger hunt, to find the newest cure for the ugly desk, was over. And although the crack had rendered it worthless, the family’s genetic thriftiness had only strengthened over the centuries. No matter how ugly, no perfectly good desk of theirs was going to go unused. In the last entry in the yellowed portfolio, the ugly desk moves into a bright pink bedroom, with its luxury brass-plated hutch stuffed with sheaves of half-used loose-leaf, mostly empty notebooks, and a haphazard combination of Penguin classics and bad teen romance novels. The girl’s mother had told her that they had run out of attic space. She didn’t buy it, but she took the challenge of making it her own. The slope-top doesn’t fold anymore because empty Reese’s wrappers are stuffed into its hinges. The drawer is never closed so it can be a drying rack for Hello Kitty underwear. The sturdy surface of the antique writing desk has forgotten what a pen feels like ... But instead, there’s a slight discoloration in the very center of the desktop, in the shape of a bright pink, overheated Macbook Pro. She likes to trace her hands over it and admire the deepened mahogany color. A water ring, from countless cups of hot cocoa sipped without ever worrying about a coaster, had formed in the upper right. She likes to lean back in her chair and use it for target practice with tiny wads of scratch paper. The outside wood paneling is covered in ugly white marks where stickers were 80
TH E R OUND stuck and then torn off. She likes to stare at them when sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lying on her bed and imagine constellations between them with unfocused eyes. The desk is worthless now. All those promises to sell it after one more refurbishment for nothing. The long hiatuses in the garage, free from the guaranteed depreciation of in-home use, were useless too. Now that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ruined, ruined for good, the desk can go inside. It can fold open, store books, cause an unwitting toe-stub in the middle of the night, earn scratches and scars, and feel the god-forsaken crack widen a little more each day. The desk is used now. Loved now. And uglier than ever.
A Chemist, Regine Rosas
watercolor and graphite on paper | 24â&#x20AC;? x 18â&#x20AC;?
Waiting Room, Jennifer Xiao
SIGNS Emily Sun
lin waited for rain but not at home. i drew circles on the window trying to catch the moon, the blue dark a pill i swallowed when i had bad dreams. yesterday a girl said i spoke funny and i laughed to prove her right. too bad i thought she was pretty. too bad there would be more like her. too bad the one who was different didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t like that i swallowed pills, the dark dying my insides funny she was brave enough to look down my throat. i wonder what she saw, a man who once could sculpt now an ancient drunk, moving in slow motion, or 84
TH E R OUND an archipelago of salt. i swallowed a jellyfish to see if my lungs would glow. i swallowed her words. i swallowed a body of water & it lived in my knee. She left, but i hadn’t swallowed her. i swallowed all the kids on the swings, and then i swallowed loneliness. lin waited for rain, called to it with salt. i swallowed food seasoned to the brim. when lin didn’t know a word, she asked me. when i didn’t know a word, i talked with my hands.
CAFFEINATED CHASTITY COMES AND GOES Blake Planty
Smaller than the sharpest grind, smooth prickle skimming fingers, the kindest sort of flower-seed warm in my palm—dissipating pollen, to a circle of blades, swiftly and tiny skilled performers, fine dust metamorphosing in heat, to consume for a later time; when grey light slides in through the blinds, a humidity brazen consummating closer to me, skin-sore when you woke up consolidated, came to believe in expansive disasters thereafter; commercial bleak colors in our cups: deeper porous exit-entrances, asking “what if black holes really existed, what if I could stick my left hand into my chest, now, and find a whole other world?”
to let it run burning into our throats kindly; it’s not quite winter yet, our bodies still soft from generous spring showers that washed holy anxiety off me, that pulled out an explicable needle record-scratch off my eye, crippling particle to direct myself, I reached for the nearest ounce of news, with sickly coffee breath under the wrist, heavy vein, somehow the face of an animal scared hidden in its snow burrow, when the blades suddenly stop: wheeze as I pour boiling water over their palms, for saints have hands that your hands do touch and recover the lid, wait until I hear your footsteps return to the stairwell, hideously uprising in the hall— my morning melts, lost between these very fingers, down the drain a waste without instructions, caution: contents might be a hot mess, do not spill.
IN THE CITY Alex Walsh
drunk by the thick bronze edge of the creek some romantic twirls her dark red skirt like a whirlpool of blood like a night-rose unblooming by the water which is black like the cave of her mouth which bleeds toward the brown of the sky until everything is soiled a statue has decayed
Heartlines, Marley Korzen acrylic
THIS PARCHED LAND Tali Rose Treece
Sweat slugged down Samuel’s face as he attacked the hard-packed earth with his shovel. Alva May carried out a glass of water, stood there silently and waited for him to notice her presence, to take the cup and drain it in one swallow. The ice clicked against his brown teeth, dark and gritty with smoke and dust. “We don’t have to leave,” she told him. “We’re going,” he said. The dry fields surrounding them had caught fire days ago, and Samuel had finally given up hope that the firemen would extinguish the flames in time to save their land. Samuel said all they could do now was cut down their trees, dig a trench around their yard, and wet the house with as much water as they could carry. Then, when the fires got too close, they would leave. Their fields and trees would burn, they couldn’t stop that, but they’d save themselves, and they would pray that their house would not fall. And when the flames had disappeared and the earth cooled under its black deadness, they would return. That morning, clambering up the ladder with a pail of water beating against her thigh, Alva May had seen a dust devil twisting across the field toward her, spiraling like an infant tornado through the golden wheat and yellow hay stubble. It was so small that she didn’t get off the ladder, didn’t move away as it chased toward her, just closed her eyes and the dust bit her cheeks and set her dark hair dancing. She had danced— how long ago now?—danced on the bare boards of their kitchen floor when the wind whipped through the pine trees and sent rain hollering against the 89
This Parched Land / Tali Rose Treece
windows. Samuel had kissed her and brought her dancing into the rain when the wheat was green with the wetness of the spring, and she and Samuel were wet, too, laughing against the majesty of the storm. Now short, thin cuts split the skin on her fingers, and brown sun circles stood out on her forearms where she had rolled up the sleeves of her faded rose dress. Thrusting the metal bucket forward, she splashed water on the shingles and crawled back down the ladder, then went to the water pump to fill her pail again. Again. Again. Watering the roof like it was a garden and trying not to see her garden withering by the edge of the house. Before he had asked for her hand, Samuel started building this house. He finished it just days before they married, and their wedding night was the first time he brought her here. There was a four-poster bed in their room and a handmade quilt fraying at the seams, and, if they craned their necks, they could see the peaks of mountains through the window. It was in this house, with its unpainted walls and its sweet smell of pine, that theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d first made love, and they had stayed inside their new home for three days, because it felt like all the world to them. But on the fourth day, Samuel decided they should drive into the mountains; he wanted to show Alva May his favorite spot, a glacial lake in a basin of mountainous rock. As they went outside that day, blinking into the bright sunlight, Alva May brushed her fingers along the door frame of their house. The road to the mountain crossed over rolling wheat fields and wound through pastures of grazing cattle. When they got to the mountain, they followed the wide path through the gently sloping pine-needled forest, holding hands while they walked. But when the path became narrower and steeper, Alva May had to use her hands to steady herself against boulders and to pull herself along the rocky trail. 90
TH E R OUND “We don’t have to keep on,” Samuel said. “Let’s go back if you’re tired.” “I’m fine,” said Alva May, though she did want to stop, to turn around and go back to their sweet four-poster with the patchwork quilt. Climbing up a boulder a moment later, she slipped and started to slide back down. Samuel caught her hand and said it was all right, he’d help her. “I don’t need your help,” snapped Alva May. “It’s looking like you do,” said Samuel, laughing. Alva May yanked her hand away from his and told him he was a bastard and began clambering up the rock as fast as she could. “No need to talk like that,” Samuel called after her. “I was just trying to help.” She ignored him and kept climbing, but her blue dress caught on a rock, and she had to turn around to pull it free. Wisps of hair hung loose around her face, illuminated by the sun shining behind, and Samuel scrambled after her. He caught up with her just after she reached the level path at the top, and, pulling her down on him in the tall grass, he kissed her until they were both laughing. Standing on the ladder leaning against the side of their home, Alva May slung water across the roof that Samuel had built. How often had they sat on these wooden shingles, watching the stars blink like a thousand eyes across the black sky? How many nights had they slept beneath this roof, how many suns had risen over it, how many storms had beat against it? And in this house, what life they’d had, what beauty held as their own. While Alva May climbed back down the ladder, she heard Samuel cry out in pain. Dropping her bucket, she ran to her husband and found him on his knees in the trench he had been digging. Blood dripped from his left hand. “Samuel!”
This Parched Land / Tali Rose Treece
He looked up at her, his eyes achingly blue in his browned face. His white shirt was gray with sweat and dirt, and his broad-brimmed hat seemed to sag in the heat. “I was trying to pull a rock out of the way,” he said. “I’ll wrap it for you,” she told him and rushed into the house. Grabbing a dish towel from a kitchen drawer, she hurried back to Samuel and tied it securely around his palm. “Why don’t you rest a bit, and hold that hand above your heart,” said Alva May. “There isn’t time for that,” said Samuel, but he stood still for a moment, leaning on his shovel and staring at his wife. Then he stroked her cheek with his rough hand, kissed her closed eyes and wiped the tears that gathered in her lashes. She leaned into him, but she said, “We don’t have to go. Please, we don’t have to leave.” “We’re going,” he said, and began to shovel again. Alva May stepped out of the furrow, picked up her bucket from where she’d flung it in the dust and, after filling it at the pump, lugged it to the house, up the ladder, and then climbed onto the roof to fling the water over the wooden shingles. Standing on the peak of the roof, the empty pail in the crook of her elbow, she looked across the hills and discovered that flames now leapt over the western ridge of their property. The orange fire swept like a tidal wave through their golden wheat fields, a column of black smoke rising above, heat making the air as hazy as a dream. She sank down on the roof and hid her face in her hands. For a long while she sat like that, but finally she lifted her head and stepped down the ladder. She walked to the shed to get a shovel, each step heavy with the weight of what she’d seen. Sliding into the trench next to Samuel, she did not tell him that 92
TH E R OUND the fire was already in their fields; she struck her shovel against the rocky dirt. Side by side they dug, preparing a tomb for the death that was to come, and she thought of that other grave theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d hollowed open. They had broken the earth together, just like now, tears slipping from their chins and watering the soil as if here, a garden would grow. And she had planted a garden there, in the earth where the body of their small one lay, a garden of flowers bright and beautiful. Now they withered like the vegetable garden by the kitchen, and she prayed for rain. It had rained on the day they married. A storm so heavy they had to raise their voices over the sound of it while they said their vows, standing there with hands clasped tight. The downpour drumming against the tin roof of the chapel, they slipped rings on each otherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fingers, kissed, and were married. For weeks the smoke had been gathering on the horizon, steadily rolling toward them from the west. They had been clearing their land for five days now, and the smoke had become so thick that they could hardly see beyond the furrow they were working in. It burned in their lungs while they worked, their breath heaving with the difficulty of breaking their parched land, and Alva May was conscious of each single breath. She could hear Samuelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ragged cough every time he inhaled, and in her own lungs she felt the sting of acrid smoke weighing heavily within her. How long ago had she wanted to prove her strength when they climbed in the mountains? How long ago had she spoken like an angry child because Samuel wanted to give her his hand? She would not fight now, with the smoke pressing upon her like sleep. When the fire came, they would lie here in this tomb they had opened, and give themselves up to the smoke, and go to be with their small one. And then, maybe then, rain. And from the scorched earth
This Parched Land / Tali Rose Treece
where their bodies lay would grow gardens, wet, green, lovely gardens. Samuel left the trench and went to the shed. When he hung his shovel on its hook, a blister broke and wetness spread over his right hand. He grabbed his axe and another blister broke, its clear liquid twining through the black sweat on his hand. Alva May had been making bread in the kitchen—how long ago now?—when water had suddenly fallen between her legs. Coming in from the fields, Samuel had found her leaning against the kitchen table, her whole body tightening with each contraction. She told him to drive to the Smiths’ house to use their telephone to call the midwife. He didn’t want to leave her, but Alva May said everything would be fine, that’s what she told him, to just be calm. When the midwife arrived, she settled Alva May in bed with fresh sheets and told Samuel to boil water for hot compresses. He brought them to the bedroom, then paced at the foot of the bed like a worried dog until Alva May laughed at him and said he was more scared than she was, and she was the one having the baby. That’s what she told him, laughing through the hurt. So he pulled up a chair and sat there holding her hand, squeezing it whenever her body tensed and her face wrinkled in pain. Every time Alva May made sounds of distress, the midwife murmured in a soft voice, telling her she was strong, she was doing wonderfully, the baby was coming fast. Samuel felt like they had been shut away in that bedroom for hours and that his wife’s labor would never end, but suddenly the midwife was commanding push push and all of Alva May’s strength seized and released, seized and released. For four years they had waited for a child, and now she was here, their small one was here, slipping into the world with a beautiful cry, falling into the midwife’s hands and being laid against Alva May’s breast. 94
TH E R OUND Samuel set the axe down and pulled the bandage on his left hand tighter with his teeth. Cracks ran up his broad fingernails and split through his cuticles crusted with old blood, and the long scar on his left arm shone pale beneath a coating of dust. The cut on his palm throbbed, but he set the axe over his shoulder and walked out of the shed to the copse of young trees encircling their home. He had planted these trees years ago, before he’d even started building the house. They’d only been saplings then, just the idea of trees. Now they stood above his head and, swinging his axe against a thin fir, he remembered the year he and Alva May first were married. His wife had worn a red scarf, wrapped all the way up to her nose, and they’d held gloved hands as they pushed through the deep snow. Their first Christmas tree, it had to be perfect, that’s what Alva May had said. So they searched until the light was beginning to fade from the sky, and he said they needed to be getting on home. That’s how long it took them to find the perfect tree, ‘til the sun was setting, and it was blind dark by the time they got home, because they had to drag the thick pine all the way back with them, and that took time. But Alva May, she made hot chocolate while he wrestled the tree into the living room, and they let the feeling seep back into their fingers with the warmth of the mugs. He got up to trim the tree, but Alva May said not to cut a branch, to leave it bushy and wild like it was still in the forest, that’s what she said. So he sat back down and drank another cup. When they could move their fingers again, they hung garlands of popcorn on the tree, and Alva May, giggling, wrapped the strand around her head and she looked like an angel, with the yellow corn shining like light all around her. Delicately they removed their few ornaments from their wrappings and hung them from the branches of the tree. When they were done, they sat
This Parched Land / Tali Rose Treece
under a pile of blankets and gazed at the tree until very late in the night. Standing outside in the copse of trees, Samuel set down his axe and adjusted his bandage, which had come lose again. He coughed in the thick smoke, and he thought of their small one, whose breath had shriveled when she was just three months old. It had been an unusually cold spring, so they bundled her in blankets and sat close to the fireplace, holding her in their arms, listening to the shallow draws of her breath. Finally Samuel had gone for the doctor, and after he examined their baby, he pulled at his eyebrow, and looked at Samuel. Pneumonia, he said. He would do all that he could, everything in his power. But pray, he told them, pray. That’s all we can really do on this earth, he said. And they had prayed. Oh, they had prayed. But she had gone, their small one, her life slipping away with her fading breath. Just a few days later, he’d been chopping wood in the forest and a storm had blown in, the wind setting the treetops tipping and swaying with aching creaks and broken sighs. He hurried inside, and the rain came just as he was opening the kitchen door, the first rain since they’d buried their small one. Alva May was standing at the kitchen sink; he could tell she’d been working, but she was still now, her body leaning motionless against the counter, limp with exhaustion and grief. He walked toward her quietly, took her in his arms and hummed the song they’d danced at their wedding, hummed it soft and moved their feet across the bare wood floor. Of course Alva May didn’t want to dance, he should have known that, but he held her close and swayed their bodies like the treetops in the forest. When the rain was so loud he couldn’t hear his own humming, he pushed open the door and pulled Alva May outside. She was mad, he could tell that, but he waltzed her through the storm until they were dancing into 96
TH E R OUND the green spring wheat, and they began to laugh, and laugh, laugh into the howling storm. While Samuel chopped down the trees closest to their home, Alva May began packing everything she could fit into their rusting Ford. She folded their clothes into the old leather suitcase, piled pots and pans in crates, packed the blankets in between. She wrapped their gun in an old towel and laid it in the trunk of the vehicle, next to the shovels and the saw. Her delicate flowered china, a gift from Samuelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s grandmother, she swaddled in their bed sheets. The house was stripped, everything small enough to pack stuffed inside the jalopy. Everything except the little cradle. At last she turned and looked at it, still next to the fireplace where it had stood empty for almost a year now. Walking toward it, she reached out her hand, slowly, and touched its dark wooden frame. It creaked like whispering pines. Alva May lay down on the floor and pulled the cradle against her chest. Rocking her shoulders in short, slow movements, she clutched the small bassinet so tightly that the blood drained from her hands. Staring at the ceiling, she listened to the emptiness of the house, their first home, the place their life had begun. She used to cut her fingers when she was slicing vegetables, red blooming over onions and potatoes, because sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d get to looking around the house instead of at her chopping. The lace curtains her mother made hung above the living room window, and on the floor was a rug sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d braided from tattered fabric scraps. In front of the fireplace was a wide, wingback chair. Samuel sat in it every evening when he came in from the fields, and she sat in his lap, her knees tucked under her chin. Above the hearth was a bookshelf, just a single shelf because they owned only five books, and these they read over and over again, burning oil late into the evening, reciting chapters out loud and talking about the stories.
This Parched Land / Tali Rose Treece
Alva May’s fingers had gone numb from grasping so tightly. It was in this house that she and Samuel had first known love, and in this house that she had become heavy with child. Against these walls their laughter and the cries of their small one had reverberated the night she was born, and here in this home they’d wept, listening to their child’s fading whimpers the night she died. Lying there on the floor, staring at the wooden beams of the ceiling, Alva May slowly forced herself to peel her hands off the cradle. Then she slid it away from her, pushed herself up, and stood, her jaw set, her shoulders straight. She would lie here no longer. Gently she positioned the cradle next to the fireplace again, watched it until its rocking slowed and it was still. Then she straightened the furniture and swept the floors, knowing the futility even while she did it. For a long while after that she stood in the doorway and looked around their small house, studying everything so that she would never forget. Then she went outside and leaned against their automobile, gazing at the unpainted wooden walls of their house, their first home. Samuel came and stood beside her. “Everything is ready,” she told him, because she knew it was time for them to go. They had dug their trenches, cut their trees, and watered their house as if it were a garden. The smoke billowing over their fields was so thick now that they could barely breathe, and the fire had drawn so near they could hear the biting crackles of the flames. For a moment they rested against the Ford silently, staring at their first home, then they got into the car and drove away through the smoke, leaving their house, and fields, and the grave of their small one behind them. Alva May rested her hands in her lap, and there was peace in her green 98
TH E R OUND eyes as she looked at Samuel with a smile on her lipsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;faint, but enduring. When the fire came to their farm, they would be far away, and they would let it burn their fields and fell their trees, they would let it rage and grow and consume their land. And then, when the flames had quieted, they would return. Their grounds would be desiccated, their forests destroyed, and perhaps their house, too, would be a rubble of ashes. But this Alva May knew, that to their home they would return, she and her husband, and they would hum softly as they waltzed on the blackened earth, their feet stirring up fallen ashes, and they would dance until rain fell with the hollering wind, dance until from this parched land a garden grew, wet, green, and lovely.
Pangolepidoptera, Jessica Poon ink on paper | 14” x 17”
Chameleonellidae, Jessica Poon ink on paper | 14” x 17”
EULOGY FOR MY OLDER SISTER Audrey Spensley
You tell me it happened in the back of a church. Watched yourself seep through your palms, fingers stained with glass. The crudest sacrifice is the one you wrote to yourself, to stab from the front and back. Your stomach is a pillar of all things not stone: heavy with puffed cherries, a flower of wine, the hair you never braided. The uncertainty comes in the moment after prayer,
TH E R OUND in the momentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rush of stickiness. The foreign warmth drawn from the spools of your peach-pit stomach. You touch your flesh to feel the air. The sudden lack of weight like a bird untethered. In a sheath of dust winging from the rafters, you lift your head like an animal in feeding and wonder why this single blessing leaves remnants on your skin like your thickest bruise, a violet bracket.
BROOKLYN Audrey Spensley
in the morning we swallow sugarless coffee, grease our tired throats, pick paths through the splintered toys, an architecture of ruin: cracked glass and pizza boxes and black lace. on the floor girls sleep with arms flung open, a separate galaxy or an invitation for a bruise, scarlet knee socks slit to expose gangrene. for breakfast weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll eat clumps of their hair and dance through the kitchen, the filth coating our skin, tangled and clutching each other like drowning is an imitation of art and art is pasted to our bedroom wall, streaked with remnants of glue. darling, your jazz collection is licking the ceiling. and you once kicked our dog to hear what pain was like and you once shut the door and made me open up like a desert flower unpeeling in darkness, petals hungry. i donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t talk about this except to say when i was younger i would clutch the stovetop
TH E R OUND and forget to let go. mouths thickened by morning, we dance now alone in the draft, each step recited like a prayer, each step a night i’d rather forget. when my fingers find the ridge of your shoulder i know what you buried in the earth of our bed, all those words i can’t find, like the night we ate the dirt from beneath our fingernails, spines kissing the kitchen floor. our skin scuttling like cockroaches toward the window. there are strangers carpeting my kitchen floor, there are no places your hands haven’t been. there is light so it must be morning now and i can taste jazz through the smoke and i can taste you through the smoke, and it’s everything the radio told me to want.
C o n t r ibutor s Victor Alvarez was born in Ecuador and has lived in Los Angeles, California for most of his life. At the age of 14, he discovered what would become his life passionâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the combat sport, Muay Thai. Since then, Victor has dedicated his free time to training, fighting, and has travelled to Thailand several times to immerse himself in the sport and culture. During his gap year before attending Brown University, Victor discovered an interest in photography and has since began taking photos depicting the art of Muay Thai, both in and outside the ring. Anonymous is a student at Brown University. Maria Camila Arbelaez was born in Bogota, Colombia, and immigrated to Pittsburgh at the age of ten. Since then, she has searched for the meaning of the structures that house us, and the triumphant returns to childhood one glimpses throughout life. The particular work of hers included in this issue is inspired by an abandoned house in Detroit, Michigan. Mark Baumer lives in Providence, Rhode Island. He works in a library. His website is thebaumer.com. Maria Bedoya was born and raised on Long Island, New York. She is a junior currently attending Rhode Island School of Design where she will graduate with a BFA in Photography in 2017. Her work has been featured in exhibitions in Plymouth, MA and is currently on display in the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at Brown University. Most of her work deals with situations pertaining to gender and body issues as well as the complexities surrounding familial relationships, especially her own. Maria divides her time between Providence and New York where she resides and continues to make work. Berke Buyukkucak is a sophomore from Istanbul, Turkey. He is studying biomedical engineering and is an exquisitely passionate
C o n t r i butor s poem reader and writer. Berke strongly believes in literatureâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s revolutionist power. He has been published several times both in Turkish and English. He aspires for more all the time. Alessandra R. Castellanos is a Los Angeles, California native who writes poetry, fiction and memoir that draw upon her vibrant and tenacious ancestral heritage in Guatemala and California. Her conjured worlds encompass feral spirits, otherworldly legends, and the disconcerting realities of domestic workers in Hollywood celebrity homes. Her work has appeared in Drunken Boat, Chaparral, and Duende among others. Castellanos is a student of the Method Writing Approach taught by Jack Grapes, a member of the Los Angeles Poets and Writers Collective and a graduate of California State University, Northridge. Aside from writing, Castellanos loves watching movies over and over again with her dog Nola, a rare breed of wolf-bear. For more about her, visit her website at arcastellanos.wordpress.com. Isabelle Doyle is a human woman. She has two eyebrows, ten fingers, and two kneecaps, like most human women. Passions include Frank Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Hara, orange juice, and googling refrigerator poetry. This time last year, she was twelve months younger than she is now. Callie Fink was born on July 23, 1994. A self-taught artist from Tustin, California, she believes that artistic expression is the spiritual and physical pathway between the hand and the conscious mind. It is a way of expressing things in life for her in which words cannot suffice. Each and every piece she creates focuses on the process and how it is made, and the deeper unconscious concepts that the colors and shapes bring up; the end product being a collective, organized, yet at the same time chaotic chasm of the things known and unknown in this world, and in the human mind. Her mind is placed in a very zen state, almost meditative, so that she only focuses on the here and now, rather than unchangeable outside forces. Art brings her dreams to life, and she is passionate about what she does.
C o n t r i butor s Elodie Freymann is doing an independent concentration in lizards. Her hobbies include horseback riding, math and soufflé. She prefers mugs over bowls and spoons over forks. Her favorite pizza topping is olive. Justice Gaines is a student at Brown University. Felix Green is a German-Australian poet from Adelaide, South Australia. He has previously published poems in Paris and London. He now lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where he is working toward a PhD in Comparative Literature at Brown University. Will Harris is originally from San Antonio, Texas, and was born into a military family. After serving two military staff tours in the Middle East, he left the military but returned to live and teach English in the United Arab Emirates for over a decade. He recently attended the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference. His writing is forthcoming or has been published in African American Review, The Trinity Review, Word Riot, Writers’ Forum, and The Zora Neale Hurston Forum. Anna Hundert studies Classics and Literary Arts at Brown University (’18). She grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio and graduated from Shaker Heights High School in 2014. Lucia Iglesias was raised by witches and winged things in the grove beyond the playground. Then she ran away to Brown University to study Literary Arts and German. Now she hunts for the path back to that grove: she wanders through novels and her own writing, still seeking. Renee Jin was born and grew up in China, currently studying sculpture and printmaking at Rhode Island School of Design. Adhering to the concept that great works usually come from true experiences, feelings, imagination, and the world artists perceive by themselves, She treats every piece of the works as a portal connecting between the
C o n t r i b u tor s outside world and herself. Luci Jockel was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania. She completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts concentrating in Jewelry and Ceramics at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Luci is currently a second-year Jewelry and Metalsmithing Graduate Student attending Rhode Island School of Design. Juleen Eun Sun Johnson is a co-founder of Soundings: An Evening of Word and Sound. She is in the critique group, The Moonlit Poetry Caravan. She attended the Wassaic Residency in Wassaic, New York, and her poems have been published in print journals including Cirque: A Literary Journal, Ink Noise Review, Symmetry, Nervous Breakdown, The Rio Grand Review and Buried Letter Press. She currently writes and creates art in Portland, Oregon. Marley Korzen has been painting and writing her entire life with the outcome of shining more light on true nature of inner strength and beauty. Her work has previously been featured in The Claremont Review and she runs the blog Lady Burrwick’s Third Eye in which she posts her art and writing regularly. Matthew Lee ’15 MD’19 is from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Cobwebs make him wistful. François Luks is a pediatric and fetal surgeon at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, and Professor of Surgery, Pediatrics and Obstetrics & Gynecology at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He has always drawn, for fun, and sometimes for profit, as when his comic strips helped get him through medical school. These days, he uses his illustration skills mostly to complement his scientific publications, as well as those of others. Most recently, he has been teaching future doctors to become better illustrators themselves. His BIOL6527 pre-
C o n t r i butor s clinical elective is a 6-week class for first- and second-year medical students who want to apply the rudiments of drawing and painting to become better visual communicators. Ali MacLeod writes to battle her debilitating anxiety, and also sometimes for class. She collects pretty notebooks, lighthouse figurines, and pink ceramic cats. Her last name is Scottish Gaelic for â&#x20AC;&#x153;Son of Ugly,â&#x20AC;? a fact she resented as a child but has since grown to appreciate. Ivan de Monbrison is a French contemporary poet, writer and artist born in Paris in 1969. He currently lives in both Paris and Marseille. He has published five poetry chapbooks and a novel. His art, poems or short stories have appeared in several literary magazines in France, Italy, Belgium, the UK, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, and the US. His visual works have been shown in Paris, Lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Hay-les-Roses, Barcelona, Brussel, Weston-SuperMare (UK), Pittsburgh, and New York. Caleb Murray is a first-year graduate student in Religious Studies at Brown University with particular interests in narrative ethics and the philosophical/theological implications of form and content in the composition of theological and literary texts. Blake Planty is a sophomore at Brown University. Jessica Poon is a graduate of UC Berkeley and currently works as a research assistant, investigating embryology and development. She also takes classes at the Rhode Island School of Design to earn a certificate in natural science illustration. Regine Rosas is a student at Brown University. David Schaefer is an MFA candidate at the University of Texas-Austin, where he acts as a reader for Bat City Review and an editor for
C o n t r i butor s Brawler. He is from Wisconsin. Kathryn Scott is a student at Brown University. Margaret (Maggie) Shea is an undergraduate student at Brown University. She is interested in Philosophy and English Literature. Julia Shipley is the author of Adam’s Mark: Writing from the OxHouse, which was named a Best Book of 2014 by the Boston Globe. Her essays have also recently appeared or are forthcoming in December Magazine, Fourth Genre, Gettysburg Review, Orion Magazine, Passages North,The Rumpus, The Toast and Whole Terrain. She writes and raises food on six acres in Northern Vermont. Harriet Small is a first-year student at Brown University from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a member of The Round. Zachary Smolar woke up this morning and didn’t recognize the man in the mirror. Then he laughed and he said, “Oh silly me, that’s just me.” Then he proceeded to brush some stranger’s teeth, but they were his teeth, and he was weightless: just quivering like some leaf come in the window of a restroom. He couldn’t tell you what the hell it was supposed to mean. Audrey Spensley is a senior at Avon Lake High School in Ohio. Her work is published or forthcoming in The Eunoia Review, Hermeneutic Chaos, and Yellow Chair Review, among others. She works as a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal and a prose reader for The Postscript Review. Emily Sun ’18 is an American Studies concentrator interested in art and politics. She thinks WOC authors like Toni Morrison and Arundhati Roy are pretty lit, and, since you’re reading this, so are you.
C o n t r i butor s Julia Tompkins is a sophomore at Brown from Brooklyn, New York. Born in 1995, “a good year” Julia is “fruity” with some “oaky undertones.” When she isn’t searching for Greg, the elusive mouse that broke into her store of oats, Julia writes for the Indy and dances with the Poler Bears. She also writes advertising copy. Tali Rose Treece moved from her home in Central Florida to Northern Idaho in 2010, where she received a BA in Liberal Arts and Culture from New St. Andrews College. She still lives in Idaho, in a tiny apartment with her husband and a growing number of books and house plants. Her work has been published on the daily blog for Image Journal. Alex Walsh is a first-year at Brown University planning to concentrate in Mathematics and Literary Arts. Kelly Williams is a first year at Brown University from the San Francisco Bay Area. Although she plans to concentrate in either chemical or biomedical engineering, her passion for creation and art has always influenced every aspect of her life. She has a love for interdisciplinary learning, and is both overwhelmed and excited by all the opportunities offered to her at Brown. Jennifer Xiao is a sophomore at the Rhode Island School of Design who is studying illustration and is bad at writing about herself. Narumi Yamashita is an artist from Osaka, Japan, specializing floral watercolor. She was featured in several art shows and she is also an instructor for watercolor art.
Ed i to r i a l S ta ff
MANAGING EDITORS Hanna Kostamaa Paige Morris
ASSOCIATE EDITORS Sarah Cooke Sally Hosokawa Anna Hundert
EDITORIAL STAFF Victor Bramble Sarah Clapp Isabelle Doyle Constance Gamache Lucia Iglesias Alexander Larned Mari LeGagnoux Blake Planty Ivelisse Rodriguez Margaret (Maggie) Shea Harriet Small
GUEST STAFF Amberly Lerner
We are grateful to Brown Graphic Services and the Undergraduate Finance Board at Brown University for their help and support.
N o t e f ro m the Editor s The Round is a literary and visual arts magazine based at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Our name is adopted from the musical â&#x20AC;&#x153;round,â&#x20AC;? a composition in which multiple voices form an overlapping conversation. Like past issues, this issue of The Round brings voices and visuals from as near as Providence and Cambridge and as far as Los Angeles and Japan into a single conversation. We are so excited to present Issue XIII, and honored to celebrate the writers and artists contained within these pages. The Round welcomes submissions in all genres and media, and we publish students and professionals. Send your work, comments, or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org View our submission guidelines, past issues of the magazine, and more information about us at: students.brown.edu/theroundmagazine As always, thank you for picking up The Round. We hope you enjoy the issue. Sincerely, The Editors