The Thing Itself
Volume 48 Spring 2021
The Thing Itself Volume 48 Spring 2021
Cover photo “Responding” by Yvonne M. Estrada Published by Our Lady of the Lake University COPYRIGHT © 2021 All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying recording and information storage and retrieval, without permission in writing from the publisher. Printed in the United States of America First Paperback Edition, 2021
The Thing Itself Volume 48 Spring 2021
Editorial Staff Faculty Advisor Octavio Quintanilla
Managing Editor Samantha Ceballos
Hannah Robinson Virginia Rodriguez
Matthew Tavares Analisia Gutierrez
Non Fiction Editor
Thank you to Our Lady of the Lake University English, Mass Communication and Drama Department for their support.
Letter From the Editor
e thank you for picking up this current issue of The Thing Itself and hope that we have selected work that will inspire and encourage thoughtful conversations on issues of social justice in our time of Covid-19. We wanted to focus our efforts on creating dialogue about the human condition for Issue 48. A global pandemic of this magnitude happens less than once in a century, and in these pages, we try to document our experience as much as possible. Since March 2020, most of us have stayed at home and we have met via Zoom in an effort to stay safe. Despite our efforts to stay safe, we lost one of our cohort sisters, our sweet friend, S.T. Shimi, whose given name is Thanalakshmi Subramaniam. Shimi was an MA/MFA graduate student and taken too soon from us by a terrible accident. We would like to remember her while continuing to hold space in memorial for those who unjustly died during the pandemic. We hope these pages are proof that we have survived a dark time in our history. The work of our contributors speaks of hope and tackle pressing issues such as Black Lives Matter, mental health, quarantine, the presidential election, and more. What is important is that this collected work, ultimately, speak to our resilience as human beings and to how we still found ways to love one another while social distancing. We are a community of friends, a community of writers, and we thank you for reading this issue and for your support of The Thing Itself. All good things, Viktoria Valenzuela The Thing Itself CNF Editor
Table of Contents Fiction String Theory 16 Victoria Pantalion
Two shocked (Visual Art) 19 Sandeep Shete
STARS OF PERSEUS 20 Mira Saxena
Light, Shadow and Space (Visual Art) 27 John Chang
Spanish Rules 28 Leonel Solis
Returning to die in a pandemic 36 Edward Vidaurre
Thyme 37 Lisa Krawczyk
Late June, Portland, ME 38 Anna Turner
Solitude / Isolation 40 Brandon Burdette
ticky-tacky 42 V. Brancazio
The Aged Piano Tuner 43 Wei Zheng
Bipolar 44 Justin Byrne
Twogether (Visual Art) 45 Sandeep Shete
When we talk of stolen sisters Jessica Mehta
Dear colonized children 48 Lizz del mar florival
American Boy 50 Emily Rose Miller
I Took the Desert’s PulsE Kris Whorton
The Depth of My Deficit 53 Bridget Lang
Gold Mine 54 Liswindio Apendicaesar
How to Stop Fascism Kathleen Culver
Counting (on) humanity 56 Shivi Dixit
#74: george grosz 57 Rob Lane Wilder
Good Bones 58 Natalee Cruz
Behind Closed Doors 60 H.E. Riddleton
In a Pandemic Maintain Social Distance
making vultures out of girls
San Antonio 66 Sara Gilbert
Beating a Boy 68 MK PUNKY
THAT’S AMERICA 70 Jennifer Shneiderman
La Tierra y la tejana 71 Lea Colchado
Clarity 72 Brandon Marlon
Change 73 Leeor Margalit
collective spin 74 Paul Tanner
Creative Non Fiction
The Country Bleeds Red 78 Anna Kaye-Rogers
A Different Kind of Obituary
In Quarantine Rooms: Finding a Way Back to Joy
Douglas Krohn Jenna Seyer
THESE TIMes 96 Maureen Mancini Amaturo
A Transatlantic Lesbian Love Story Natascha Graham
This Christmas 102 Juliana Aragón Fatula
The Seven Sorrows of COVID-19
Little Piggy #1 (Visual Art)
Henry Garcia Kim Bishop
Under #2 (Visual Art) 113 Kim Bishop
FICTION FICTION FICTION FICTION FICTION FICTION FICTION
FICTION FICTION FICTION FICTION FICTION FICTION FICTION
String Theory Victoria Pantalion
ount backwards from 100. I bet I can do it faster than you. Count all the clouds in the sky. Count the number of cracks on the sidewalk and be careful not to step on any of them. Count to focus. I count to distract myself. “I don’t belong here,” I said to the doctor, rolling my eyes at his constant clearing of his throat. They all say that. I know this. I laugh to myself. I choke back tears. The nurse glances over, her eyes rushing to the floor the moment I make contact with her. It’s hard to be here. It’s hard to be in my head. It’s hard to be anywhere. The doctor says it’s a mental illness. TBD. To be diagnosed. I have my own theories. Don’t tell the doctor. Promise you won’t. But I think I have superpowers. I’m not sure. It’s just a theory. I was ten years old when the strings showed up. Shortly after my dad left. Mom said it wasn’t my fault and had nothing to do with my sickness. Mom said dad was his own
kind of sick. But the strings helped me see the truth. Dad leaving was a tangled mess of red string that led right to my chest. I tried telling mom about them. She said a therapist would help untangle them, and maybe eventually get rid of them. Mom doesn’t understand that I need them. The strings tell me things. Not the future, exactly. It’s more like translation. They help me understand why things happen. They show me the good, the bad, and the ugly in the world. And how to fix it. And because only I can see them, only I can fix it. Only I can make the world a better place. “Let’s talk about that. About why you’re here,” the doctor said, looking down at his clipboard. I’m here because mom betrayed me. She told them all. Not just about the strings. She told them what I did. She told them what they made me do. “I don’t belong here,” I persisted.
The doctor cleared his throat again, but if my stare was making him uncomfortable, it didn’t show. The hospital is covered in strings. Every person in here is tangled and fraying. I can’t possibly save them all. I count backwards starting at a thousand this time. “The police report reflects otherwise,” the doctor eventually said in response. I fight the urge to be defensive and try to follow the strings to see how best to play this. How best to play the doctor, to untangle the mess in his head making him think I belong here. So, I did it, yes. I won’t say what. I’m worried you might judge me. Like my mom. Like the police. Like this doctor, and the nurse that keeps giving me the side eye. Just know this: I did it to make the world a better place. To untangle a huge knot. One that started to get in the way of my ability to focus on the smaller problems. Started to blur my vision. The thing is, this one was too hard to untangle. So, I figured
I could just cut it off. Eliminate the problem entirely. “Your dad called,” the doctor said. I didn’t need the strings to know that he was lying. That he was testing me to see my reaction. “He asked if you want him to visit.” At that, I had to laugh. “He hasn’t spoken to me in six years,” I spat. “What’s the special occasion?” Okay. So the string leading straight to my chest, the red one that appeared after dad left. Yes, it was still there. And yes, that’s the string I was trying to get rid of by doing what I did. By doing what landed me here. But I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. I need you to believe me. I need you to believe that I was trying to make the world a better place. To untangle a string frayed by years of guilt. “He’s worried,” the doctor said. “He heard what happened. He got your note.” Right. The note. The one I sent thinking that my plan was foolproof. That there was no
way I could fail. “I don’t want to see him,” I said. “It’s too late. He missed his chance.” “That’s okay. That’s your choice to make.” I lost track counting backwards from a thousand. I count stitches instead. I count strings. I lose track. My dad used to tell me to get my head out of the clouds. I don’t know where else to live. The clouds hide the strings. They help me forget that I’m supposed to save the world. I can’t save the world. I can’t even save myself. The doctor warns me in a gentle voice to stop picking at the stitches on my wrist. I’ll give you some credit: you’ve probably figured it out by now. I tried to kill myself. Are you judging me? I wouldn’t blame you. I didn’t want to be like all of them. All the tangled, fraying minds. I didn’t want to be sick. Didn’t want to be the one that made my dad leave. That made my mom cry herself to sleep from the other room.
So, I tried to be better. I tried unraveling all the strings. I thought if I could do good enough, be good enough, that dad would come back. But years passed, and no amount of good, no amount of trying made the world any better. Not my world. Not my mom’s world. I still hear her tears. And so, one night I realized it. I can’t fix the problem. I am the problem. I couldn’t untangle this string that had taken over me. So, I took a knife to it. And now my dad wants to call. After a suicide note received in the mail and word of a failed attempt. Now he wants to come back. But it’s too late. “I don’t belong here,” I said to the doctor once again. “This is a place for people that can be saved.” “And you don’t think you can be saved?” He asked. Silence, from me. And then: “Not by you.” “But I’m not here to save you,” he replied. “I’m here to help you save yourself.”
Two Shocked Sandeep Shete 19
STARS OF PERSEUS Mira Saxena “Serotiny is an ecological adaptation exhibited by some seed plants,in which seed release occurs in response to an environmental trigger, rather than spontaneously at seed maturation. The most common and best studied trigger is fire, and the term serotinyis often used to refer to this specific case.” - Wikipedia
t was the summer that the virus arrived. Pulling us apart; suddenly but in slow motion. It took us sometime to accept, and all the while our hearts were being stretched apart from one another like salt water taffy in the hot sun. The plague had arrived in March, when girls like us were righting ourselves from the disappointment of dashed Valentine’s Day hopes, our minds instead filled with thoughts of spring break travel and boys and Easter chocolates. The chill of the winter was lifting and we had been joking with one another about this new illness named after a crown. The brazenness of our youth made even the most threatening things into a maudlin inside joke. We were princesses; cosseted and buffeted and tucked away obsessively from the sharper edges of the world by our parents, as though nothing could touch us; though even before this new situation, we leaned naturally toward seeking out the sharpest blades for emotional bloodletting -- as if only to just feelsomething. This was certainly something. A sickness that had supposedly begun with a pangolin traveled west from far away and burrowed itself into our lives. It is carried inthe air, they said, Be careful, they said. Wear a mask, they said. A mask won’t save you, they then said. They -- the experts that is -- said a lot of different things 20
that spring. At the very beginning, when it was announced over the loudspeaker on March 17, with the privilege of our full faces in sight and as yet uncovered, we exited our large white school buildings in a buzz, thinking this would pass after a couple of weeks, not understanding the implications of what was happening: the undoing of our world. No one understood it then, but our innocence was being snatched from us by degrees, one news cycle at a time. Our families were told to stockpile food, medicine and other essential supplies. By the time a month had gone by, we were beginning to forget what our friends looked like. After three months, we weren’t even sure who our friends were, or if we had friends anymore. The things we thought we needed seemed strangely unnecessary in our new, suffocated world. By that summer we had taken to climbing out Maia’s bedroom window, lying on the warm shingles of the new roof, breathing in its dark charred scent, and listening to hip hop. We looked up at the small patches of sky framed on one side by the tall cedar tree that waved in the heat of evening. We were grudgingly glad to have each other to hang on to for sanity and as markers of whatever the current reality seemed to be on any given day. When at last the sky turned to pitch we would observe the stars, but were always tethered to the earth by the reminder of what lay below: noisy cars, racial uprisings, teenage boys with sweaty palms and cigarettes - beckoning us to join them on dewy hills or patches of grass promising they knew ways to lift us away from our worries, if only for brief, stolen moments. Days blurred into one another and weekends had no meaning. Routine was a fading memory and sleep and waking hours had been inverted. We watched endless television through endless nights until the pink morning sun streamed through the windows. We smoked weed, the sad, leftover buds stashed away in pencil boxes in the backs of our closets. We were found out less often than the times we got away clean. Life had been an elliptical loop that spring during the first term 21
of what they called at-home schooling, one of waking up and spending days in front of the blue-light glare of our computer screens, pretending we were learning things like physics and history in between all the anxiety. But girls like us were afforded the best help there was - private tutors and therapists and doctors who warned us of the evils of drug use yet wrote us prescriptions for pills. Ones that woke us up or helped us sleep, others that blunted our roller coaster emotions. As the end of the school year came to a close our teachers tried their best to keep us from floating away from it all like sad, lost balloons. So when summer officially arrived, when the early mornings were bright and the darkness came late, we looked hard for things to look toward , since we had nothing to look forward to. It was often the sun and the stars we looked toward, on the roof in our new bikinis that would never know a drop of summer water — not ocean nor pool — with the hot shingles warming us from beneath our bright beach towels and the sun penetrating deep into our skin, its heat leaving our faces flushed. Layla had begun to spiral into watching online videos about virus conspiracies and odd planetary shifts. Chandra had taken to hanging on every word of the famous youth climate activist from Sweden and was reading books about the anthropocene era and humanity’s certain — and imminent —demise. No one was eating, and then suddenly everyone was hungry. We ate mac and cheese and brie on crackers at strange, undisciplined times of day. Samara dangled in a strange existential limbo between wanting desperately to believe college would spirit her away from all of this - and a fatalistic realization that the great American college experience may never be the same again, even if she decided to go. Her college entrance exams were canceled and rescheduled and canceled again. The scaffolding of the known world was peeling away: rules and boundaries and expectations all up for grabs, everything in shards. Nothing really held its meaning anymore. It was as if the magnetic poles of the earth had flipped and our moral compasses were off. 22
Directionless. We barely checked the time that summer at all and when our parents suggested we create routines for ourselves or take a summer class “to build some structure” into the summer days, we laughed in disbelief. So there we were: perched on the cusp of high school and college, longing for an escape but feeling more and more like princesses imprisoned in a turret somewhere high above the earth. One thing we all tacitly agreed on: this was the longest we had gone as American teenagers without hearing about a school shooting on the news. This is what life was for us: a sinister, invisible plague was the thing that saved us from the quotidien dread of bloody schoolyard massacres. Samara was the first of us walking the school campus the day she was rotated in for her fifteen minute shift, to pick up the contents of her abandoned locker and her paintings from the art studio. The school, perched atop its rolling green hill, seemed like a hollowed out carcass, an abandoned skeleton gleaming in the vapid sun. She thought of the cow skull paintings of Georgia O’Keefe: death could appear in such sharp relief among the bright colors. It was eerily quiet in the halls, and though it had been months since she had last passed through, it felt like just yesterday. She felt like a ghost slipping through the same hallways she had walked for the past twelve years. The entire place had the feeling of hasty abandonment, like Pompeii before the blanket of Vesuvian ash silenced everything and preserved it. Except the thing that brought it all to a halt for us, and ossified our past life, was something invisible that stole peoples’ breath. You couldn’t see it coming. You couldn’t feel it coming. There was no warning whatsoever. Samara finally cried that day, behind her cloth mask, all the way home. Maia’s room had become a morass of empty bowls and plates, half-empty cans of soda, dirty clothes, and makeup strewn on the floor where she would crouch in the low light to craft long black wings of liquid eyeliner outward from her amber colored eyes. The pulse of her music’s bass seemed to be a dark heart beating in the center of her room. She would burn incense sticks and blame the 23
smell of afternoon weed on them when our parents asked. They hardly ever asked.
JULY. Mom began a ritual in July. She called it Friday Cheese Board. She’d pile up a thick wooden serving board with grapes, dried fruit, logs of honey sweetened goat cheese, brie, manchego, crackers of every type, olives, and slices of deli meat contorted into little fleurettes the way one would turn crepe paper into roses in art class. She and Dad would allow us each a very small amount of blush colored wine to enjoy as we all congregated in the family room at 4 o’clock weekly. Mom said we were growing up faster than we should have to. She agreed to the wine like our lives’ ends were on the horizon. It was like the bond of the battle weary. We’d gather, talk, maybe watch an episode of our favorite TV show together, and observe the angle of the sun slide lazily down the wall. Mom would usually take a nap before starting dinner and while she slept we would walk the dog, never forgetting to take our masks. We wore soft, strappy sun dresses everywhere as though we had garden parties to attend. We looked both younger and older than we were that summer. We dutifully crossed the street when anyone approached to keep from sharing air. Many people didn’t wear masks. The protests over the killings of black men and women had flared then abated but some of the storefronts were still boarded up. Things seemed to be further hollowing out. People were tired. People were sick. Our big outings of the week were those Saturdays when we’d pile into the car and go downtown for a drive-in movie. We’d eat pizza and try to have fun. We’d scream extra loud during scary parts of movies because we just needed to scream, to account for all we were losing. Sometime in July Maia began stashing her daily medicines in a 24
satin coin pouch under her bed. Life sustaining meds, her doctors called them, meaning she couldn’t skip them. No one knew until Mom began searching our rooms after we were yet again caught smoking weed — this time the telltale sign was a smudge of earthy smelling ash on the family room rug — and suddenly our herbal infractions were put into immediate perspective. Mom’s face seemed pale and frozen as though she had found a stash of heroin needles. Actually, I think in her mind it might have been even worse. We all cried the whole afternoon. Mom and Dad made calls. Doctors are fond of speculating that certain acts of teenage girls are “not necessarily a sign of suicidal ideation.” I didn’t buy it. When I asked Maia what the hell she had been thinking she simply said, “I didn’t feellike I needed them anymore.” Nothing made sense. But obviously my sisters and I completely understood why she might have felt that way.
AUGUST. In August the Perseids arrived. The annual meteor showers that could be seen on clear nights every August. Named after Perseus, Samara informed us, the one from the Greek myths who sliced Medusa’s snake infested head cleanly off, never facing the ghoul head on (but eyeing her through the mirrored reflection of his battle shield), lest he be turned to stone. Our president was similarly failing to look the beast of the illness ravaging the country squarely in its face, sending up misinformation and lies like small floating lanterns that would land on dry earth and ravage the landscape. Speaking of the land burning, wildfires continued on the west coast, angrily scorching the earth like an extra punishment - as though a plague and even some insect called a murder hornet which emerged to wreak further havoc weren’t enough. Mom’s cousin, a journalist stationed in New Delhi even said there were locusts carving their way over the farming fields of the countryside. I saw a video online and shuddered. 25
Chandra, now becoming the house expert on wildfires, tried to offer us hope when our cousin texted us photos of the San Francisco bay bathed in a ghoulish orange light: she said of the burning forests to the north of the state: there is a type of evergreen tree pinecone called a serotinous cone — a female seed — it is closed up tight and only when the lodgepole pine tree is fully immolated does it spit its seeds toward the earth and implant itself into the burning earth. S he spoke like a school teacher. It’s intelligent design made for exactly these types of situations. It’s hope in the center of disaster, she said. Chandra was more than capable of creating the word serotinous so I searched it online and it was indeed a real word. In those mixed up days, no one trusted what anyone else said. We lay on the roof until late, waiting for the light of the meteor showers to streak across the night sky and save us from our anxiety. We only saw three. One flash looked more like a fireball. We were glad to see anything, given all the city’s light pollution. But this was the reward of patience. There was nowhere to go other than here. There was nowhere to be other than here. You couldn’t have missed this one, none of us did - we let out a collective sound of awe that seemed as long as the tail of the blazing streak of light. It really looked like a fireball. I was sure Chandra would let us know the technical term for it in the morning.
Light, Shadow and Space John Chang
GNACIO!” “Yes sir?” I said. “Come here, boy.” He was scowling. I did the usual perp walk. “Now!” he bellowed. “What, sir?” “Don’t give me that. You know the rules.” The coach was upset. “Go to the office!” I, the only child of an overworked cantina worker and a wandering father, shrugged and shuffled my way toward the office. Three weeks from graduating with the Class of ‘66, and I had violated the most sacred of rules, speaking Spanish in an American school which, in reality, was my school away from school. My single mom and I lived above a cantina that catered to roughnecks, farm hands, the undocumented, the thirsty, and the drunks. Her job included managing the place while simultaneously swatting towels at bar flies, roaming hands, and me, when I needed it. She had always said she was responsible for feeding, clothing, and housing me, but the rest was up to me. Living above a bar had its educational advantages. I learned math from my mom’s bookie friends, perfected keeping-a-straightface during visits by cops and border patrol agents and became blessed with the gift of gab from the preachers and pastors who visited the tavern in search of lost souls and homeless beer. My mom insisted on making me keep my own counsel by constantly finding something to occupy my free time. I was, after all, expected to be the first of my family to graduate from high school. The truth was that I was also earning a Degree in Life while waiting for my diploma. Sometimes, I waited in the school’s administrative office. The school office was always packed with secretaries and clerks killing time, teachers and counselors taking breaks, and assistant principals dreaming of promotions. Once in a while, a teacher would liberate me from first period class for gulping tacos or pan dulce in the presence of classmates who hadn’t 28
come directly to school after hurling newspapers in the dark from a bike. Infrequently, I endured lectures in the office about the length of my hair, the condition of my clothes, my tardiness, or my unbridled need to talk in class. On two prior occasions, I had been accused of speaking Spanish on hallowed school ground. My third bi-lingual infraction meant certain expulsion with no hope of graduation. As I entered the office, the staff greeted me with their customary yawns and then returned to the business of looking busy. I spotted Miss McClure’s burnt orange hair and walked toward the brass plaque that screamed PRINCIPAL’S SECRETARY. “Are you here again?” she said, while adjusting her rhinestoneframed glasses. “Yes, ma’am.” I said. “Well, sit down. I’ll tell him you’re here.” She lifted the receiver from its cradle and dialed a number. “Mr. Robbins? It’s Ignacio, again.” She paused, and then replied, “I didn’t ask him.” She turned to me. “What are you here for this time?” Avoiding the glare of her rhinestones, I told her. “He says Coach Meyers sent him.” She nodded, hung-up the phone, and snorted. “He’ll see you in a minute.” Then, “Baldy” Meyers waddled up to her desk. “Good morning, Lucy. How’s it going?” Looking at me, but speaking to Baldy, she replied with ice in her voice. “Fine, Mr. Meyers. The Principal will be with you, shortly.” Her remark froze him momentarily, but he stormed her fort again. “Care to have lunch in the cafeteria? My treat.” “No thank you, I brought my own,” Lucy replied, and she continued to peck at her typewriter. Baldy blushed. “Maybe next time, Miss McClure. At that moment, the Principal’s door creaked, and the tallest man in the school, Mr. Glen Robbins, stepped out. He was a kindly looking man, with a shock of white hair and a presidential face. His suits were always gray, his shirts a well-starched white, and his 29
ties habitually dark, except for the red one he wore on game days. His well polished and laced shoes were the size of shoeboxes. He never raised his voice, only his eyebrows. In a velvety tone, he addressed Baldy. “Good morning Mr. Meyers.” He generated a concerned look my way and sighed. “Do we have a problem?” Baldy pounced. “This boy’s been talking Mexican again, sir.” Mr. Robbins gave Baldy the eyebrow, nodded at me, and motioned us into his office with a hand. I stepped into the room like it was the first time, my eyes scanning the collection of Class Pictures adorning his walls. “Ignacio. Is it true? Were you speaking Spanish again?” There was a hint of concern in Mr. Robbins’ voice. Meyers answered for me, “Yes, sir, I heard him telling his compadrees....” The Principal lifted his hand as if taking an oath and stopped him. “Let him speak, Mr. Meyers. I heard you the first time.” Meyers cleared his throat and turned to me. “Yes, sir,” I said, “I guess so. But it was only a couple of words, sir. Nothing serious.” Mr. Robbins grinned. “Well, Ignacio, you know the rules. Three violations and you’re out. Let’s see. You’ve already had detention, and I’m sorry Mr. Meyers had to paddle you for the second violation. But now, you leave me no choice. Rules are rules. Understood?” I understood. A Mexican-American student heard speaking Spanish by some rogue teacher/coach, and it was off to the gallows. No excuse or justification could save the accused. Even the President of Mexico was required to speak English at our school. But Mr. Robbins was right; even if the rule was wrong. I pleaded the Fifth by remaining silent. Mr. Robbins extended the hand of mercy. “Do you have anything to say?” I shook my head at the floor. Mr. Robbins proceeded to pronounce sentence. “Okay, then. Since you’re close to graduating, I’ll let you return to school if you 30
bring one of your parents tomorrow. Understood?” I nodded several times in gratitude. He handed the assignment to a smirking Meyers,“Take him to his locker, and then escort him off campus. Understood?” Now, Baldy nodded. Ten minutes later, I began the slow bicycle ride home to the bar. The following morning, I padded into the office followed by the old man, who was short, unshaven, and disheveled. In his hands, he carried a faded red cap which he kept twisting and bending. With a shake of my head, I motioned for him to lead. With a shove of his hand, he pushed me ahead of him. We entered casually and walked to the desk with the brass tombstone. After a brief exchange, Miss McClure picked up the receiver. A minute later came the sound of the creaking door and the appearance of the man in the gray suit. With a welcoming smile, he extended his hand and said, “Good morning, Mr. Martinez. I’m Glen Robbins, the Principal. Please come in.” The old man made a quick bow, took the hand extended to him, and followed Mr. Robbins into his office. He took the seat offered and motioned me to take the other. “Sir,” Mr. Robbins said with respect, “do you know why you’re here?” Still torturing the cap, the old man gave a shrug and puckered his lips. “Ignacio? Did you tell your father why he had to be here today?” “Yes-s-s-sir,” I stammered. “I told him I couldn’t graduate unless he came to see you. But I didn’t tell him why.” Pointing with my eyes to the old man, I added, “He fires up right away, if you know what I mean.” My old man displayed no emotion and, except for the cap he was strangling, he remained still. Perplexed, Mr. Robbins reluctantly asked, “Does your father speak English?” I turned to my left and saw the old man looking around the room. “A little bit sir, but mostly Spanish. Like my mom. She hardly 31
speaks English either.” “Well, that’s not a problem,” Mr. Robbins said. “I speak a little Spanish myself, don’t-you-know. I studied it in school.” His face filled with pride. “Let’s see what I can do.” Mr. Robbins turned to the old man, who was now staring at the pictures on the wall. “Señor Martinez?” Mr. Robbins paused while the old man turned and nodded. “Mi nombre es Glen Robbins, el Principal.” Señor Martinez nodded. “Ignacio,” he said, pointing at me, “hablar español en .....” He faltered and looked to me. “How do you say school, son?” After a quick translation in my head, I replied. “Escuela, hijo.” The principal continued, “Si, en mi eskela hijo, el.... el....” He kept pointing at me while repeating,“No.....no…” He looked bewildered, and again sought my help. “How do you say ‘It’s not good’?” “No es bueno,” I replied. Looking at the old man once more, Mr. Robbins pointed to me and made another attempt, “El no es bueno.” Upon hearing this, the old man leapt up and turned his cap into a weapon. I covered my head and managed to ward off all of his blows except the one which cuffed my ear. Mr. Robbins jumped from his chair, hurried around the desk, and wrapped his arms around the old man in the gentlest of bear hugs. For a second, I wished the principal had been a real bear. I used the distraction to jump from my chair and scamper toward the chair formerly occupied by Mr. Robbins, my newly found champion. “¡Señor! ¡Señor!” Mr. Robbins pleaded with the old man.“No is necesario. Please, por favor. Stop. ¡Alto!” The old man began nodding anew and collapsed in Mr. Robbins’ arms. Mr. Robbins maneuvered him back into the chair while I eased my way back into my chair like my movie hero’s martini, shaken but not stirred. Mr. Robbins lingered between us. “Señor,” he said. “It’s okay. No problemo. Ignacio can stay in la eskela hijo. No problemo. Understood? I mean, entiende hombre?” The old man nodded and smiled, but his eyes never left me. 32
Like a man tiptoeing around a sleeping lion, Mr. Robbins whispered out of the side of his mouth, “Tell your father that I’m pleased to meet him and thank him for coming to see me today. Tell him that you will graduate and that I guarantee you will make him proud. Understood?” “Yes, sir, thank you.” I translated too quickly for the novice Spanish-speaking Mr. Robbins to understand. The old man rose, shook Mr. Robbins’ hand with the vigor of a man spared from execution, and bowed several times. He raised his cap to me once more in admonition, but Mr. Robbins again intervened and gently escorted us out of his office. Outside, and well away from any building or person, I turned to the old man, who was still throttling the cap in his hand, and spoke to him in his native tongue, English. “Joe, why did you hit me?” Joe smiled and replied, “I won’t charge you extra if that’s what you mean. Besides, if I were your father, you’d be bleeding. Now how about my five dollars? You said you would pay me when we finished.” I reached into my shirt pocket for my hard-earned money and handed it to him. As Joe counted the money, I gave him a tip, “I have to return to la escuela now. You be careful going back to the bar. Understood?” “You mean la eskela hijo, and speak English, that’s the rule,” he said, smiling and nodding obediently as he walked away, cap in hand.
P P O O E E
t T r R y Y
Returning to die in a pandemic
I cry out to him Selfishly asking him not to die, again He sits with a man, holding hands I peer through the window, in tears Always in tears, mouth gaping, mute Only thing I can hear is the two men One very old, the other, my dad I read his lips telling the old man, “I won’t let you die alone.” They breathe together, then they don’t I’m grabbing the steering wheel to my Buick Skylark The car he gave me just out of high school, still a teen Sobbing, not understanding why he had to die, again
Thyme Lisa Krawczyk
Water drips off your skin in rivulets. A garden next to the pool is full of thyme. When read aloud, you wish for more time. Instead, time wraps around these days and your neck like a delicate ribbon in your dreams. You’re dry by now, but still I wish for more time.
Late June, Portland, ME Anna Turner
Wearing a holey Red Sox shirt with a Sharpie sign–HUMBLE– wait no, HUNGRY–the panhandler stands on the sun-beat median of the four-lane intersection near my apartment building on Cumberland, up the road from the Big Apple CITGO where the cocaine dealer I met at Amigo’s hangs out with the guy with the dog and the shopping cart full of art he stole from Goodwill. Passing him, there’s a tightness in my ribs, like mornings I fall asleep in the shower, the cool water streaming down my neck. Was it that I stopped talking to God the night I started having sex? Figured if I was breaking one rule I might as well break them all. My therapist suggests I need to stop this black-andwhite thinking. Each night 38
I fall asleep knowing there is a tall shadow of a man looming just beyond my toes and I awake each sunlight with the imprint of a black dream on my eyes uncertain as tiny film outlines. I crave colors the way a child craves the wild of a summer day in the woods. Where I should see flowers I see wolves behind trees, hear bees beneath floors humming, and coming undone. I face myself in the mirror and find another’s face looking me back in the eyes. I run the water cold then hot, finally see myself in the gleam of the faucet, twisted and shadowed and godlessly whole, holy, hold me back from the edge of knowing the man in my ears, the corpse round my neck, shimmering, gold. It’s a flower? No, a father. Stop. Go. Pull me back to my knees.
One man’s loneliness is another man’s happiness. One man’s misery is another man’s joy. One man’s Hell is another man’s Heaven. On the same plot one man withers like a dying flower, and another man flourishes.
Harsh taskmaster, intolerant of emotions ... Tester of sanity, making good people snap ... Destroyer of plans and peace ... Gnawing nightmare reeling souls off cliffs ... Merciless slayer of weaklings, turning men into boys, and boys into men ...
Isolation: Giver and killer of life ...
Solitude: Freedom and Paradise for some -- sad prison for others ...
B. R. Burdette
Solitude / Isolation
41 Isolation: Giver and killer of life ...
Solitude: Freedom and Paradise for some -- sad prison for others ...
Isolation: Making men desperate for an escape, or acquainting them with contentment ... Filling them with nostalgia, or gifting them with productivity ... Handing them rope or razor, or maternally caressing them ... Tower of madness, driving couples miles apart at heart ... Confirming the deadness of men as they live, while providing busy minds with abundance ... Where we are faced with ourselves, either horrified and fleeing, or accepting the spartan challenge ... Where every issue is pushed out into the open ... Where memories require domestication ... Where one’s mind becomes a Colosseum, and thinking becomes athletic; where lack of discipline results in ruins ... The cutthroat environment in which equanimity means survival ...
II Solitude: The gun against one’s head, or his armor against the world. Creator of yearnings unbearable ... Sharpener of the sword, furnace of the weed; refiner of countenances, causing eyes to cry seas ...
ticky-tacky V. Brancazio We pass people playing tennis while we walk through urban decay and towering highway warped with weeds breaking through concrete for any attempt at life a young photographer’s overrated dream. The little houses have expanded to empty skyscrapers with shatterproof window panes private schools, and posh chain-store boutiques. Copy and paste lifestyle of environmental destruction The hillsides have been leveled flat. We pass people playing tennis while we attempt to escape to the closest patch of city-proof green-space of trees that smell like trees and a water’s breeze. It would take an hour on foot or an hour on bus. There is no safety net anymore.
The Aged Piano Tuner Wei Zheng
A dim ray of moonlight lingers between the keys and his fingers; The farthest stars roll over his shoulder; His stooping back wears the expression of a singing brook in the serene evening mist. Life is but a black and white affair. Where to settle the dust in the wind? Where to grind a string to the bow and shoot the arrow of notes at the defecting tide of hours?
Bipolar Justin Byrne
The two of us dance in silence. Neither of us know what to say. One of us is crying. I can’t tell which though. No one can.
Twogether Sandeep Shete 45
When we talk of stolen sisters Jessica Mehta
we talk of bodies gone to ghost or given back for goodness—as if we are sweets snatched from superettes discovered post-wash in sticky pockets. When we think on stolen girls we imagine pluckings from roadsides, wild flowers wafting honey-sick. Passed ‘round, stuffed in vases to wilt, before given back to ground. When we hear of stolen daughters
we listen with colonized minds. Settle into armchair arguments, share, shake heads, repeat. When we read of stolen women, We say, But it’s not me, my cousin, my child, my life—not really (until it is). When they speak of taking us it’s not an outing, a going, a coming back ‘round again. Stolen implies ownership, so
who then owns these sisters?
Dear colonized children Lizz del mar florival Some illegitimate Some adopted Other assimilated and less bastardized Until the right occasion comes Is this why? you dissect the portions of your blackness place them on a saucer in the back of your closet Showcase your negro abandonment in a glass cabinet - pristine and shining Is this why? animalistic treatment of living ancestors are confused for ghosts The hunting hasn’t stopped since being ripped away from home given another language as strings made into spirits for the crime of existing defining our humanity in a decreasing slope
Is it too hard to struggle this way?
You carry some of these burdens but pa que ser so L O U D why not? 48
tiptoe around this blackness call it, identidad shove the rest under this privileged disconnect Is it too hard? To say us Since them has access We don’t have Does it make it easier to carry all the red in each flag Tucking the negro and indígena tightly I too, am weary of writing eulogies Instead of love poems Yet to be black means to be always dressed for mourning My skin seems ready to be absorbed By the light a shade warning racists This black is: ready to die target practice bullseye property stranger threat prey and not Joy It is hard, isn’t it?
Once, I thought he might be running to me. I fed him peanut butter while he drove, that American boy. He held my gaze over the rental console and I wished his hands on the wheel would steer my waist.
He’s not running from something, but to it. Once, I thought it might be me. There was adventure in his eyes when he looked at me, holding my gaze over the rental console.
He’s always running, full steam ahead. Not from something, but to it; even while waiting for the next big thing he paces, restless with adventure in his eyes.
He’s an all-American boy: conquest of freedom, full-steam ahead. If he stops it’s only to wait a second for the next big thing.
Emily Rose Miller
He’s my American dream, but one tangible only a second, now gone. See his conquest of freedom, full-steam ahead. The ghost of him keeps bursting through my heart’s harbor: a bomb’s vision, that all-American boy.
He drove us everywhere and nowhere, even into the couch. He’s a modern American dream: here for a second, gone in a firework’s flash. But for a moment that freckle-spangled boy held me like America’s gleaming shores harbor a weary traveler.
I spooned him peanut butter from a jar over one-hundred country roads. He drove us everywhere and nowhere in particular, and I wished his hands on the wheel would steer my waist. Later, they did; he held me, that freckle-spangled boy.
I Took the Desert’s PulsE Kris Whorton
I’m waiting for the monsoons and wondering that such a thing can happen in the desert. Earthquakes perhaps or flames, even rowboats long abandoned; there was once a sea here. A sea is a desert too; two expanses, both blue, now gray as a storm blows in, now white as the sun shrieks in the sky. This plain is sprinkled with tranquility, and parched. By day, scurrying and hiding mark its heart. At sunset, blood fills the silence, birds rush overhead. I sniff the air, feel the eyes of a hundred creatures as I rest my palm on the ground in the center of a circle of rocks left by no one. Someone. Breath out. Still. Close my eyes. Still. Listen with the blackness behind my eyelids, thin air in my nose, across my skin, beneath my feet. There, inside the pant and exhale of this crossroads, a pulse of moisture as strong as Thursday looking to Friday. I trace it south to Mexico, feel it bleed, northward, to me.
The Depth of My Deficit Bridget Lang
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. The name of my “weakness,” And the roots of my warrior. My mind blessed with deepness A deepness So abysmal as it is expanding, The source of my uniqueness. In a world infinitely demanding. Demanding Of rigid, uniform productivity, As if I was born understanding. Understanding Of artificial authenticity, Disguised as innovation, That results in corrupt stability. Stability That is weakened by imagination, And fears any inquisition, That questions its immoral limitation. Limitation Of the expansive dreams and vision, Of those who do not appeal To society’s proper definition. Definition Of what is right and what is real, As if those with differences Are humanity’s Achilles heel. -BML 53
Gold Mine Liswindio Apendicaesar After the house is looted The army comes bathing our children in national songs in the language crammed into our sago tongue Because the promise of an independent nation: colonialism in the world must be eliminated Meanwhile, we are the dissident tribes who scavenge our fate upon our own land. However, they say, do not let foreign countries get their turn to play tricks here The army doesn’t stop singing with smoldering footsteps, they don’t let our blood rain down upon the sky of the morning star Bogor, October 11th 2020
How to Stop Fascism Kathleen Culver To humans the elephant seems to move slow as a wall, mud-caked tail a pendulum marking a southern pace--back and forth, ma’am, easy does it, ma’am. But I on the beach unleashed, rushing the sandpipers, kicking up sand, why, to sandpipers, I am slow. They gossip: “Who are those humans thinking they can catch us?” Time, is, after all, relative. Watch the cup fall so slow its spoon floats in air coffee glides out of the cup on a wide trail like a meteor long in the sky— plenty slow, plenty of watching time, plenty of dodging time. We can watch a baseball leave the pitcher’s hand stretch the time of trajectory, move the bat to it easily. We see fascism coming; watch it spin in the air, we pray for a time warp of absolute focus, for concentration we need to stop this, to hit it bravely, square on, dissolve it out of the park, round our bases and come home.
Counting (on) humanity Shivi Dixit Humanity, humanity everywhere yet not a drop to count. I couldn’t count for humanity so I let it count for me. Humans are not unkind. If anything, they’re the kindest of all. Yet unconceivable do my eyes see many are still in pain and agony. Humans are not phlegmatic. Empathy is what they carry in their back pockets. Yet the wails did make their way to my ears of a being with black skin. Unselfish are the humans. They relinquish their lives for each other. But then why wasn’t I surprised when I found a bird crying for the loss of its abode and family? Loving are the humans, I believe. All that humans are made of is love. So tell me, why did I see a lesbian’s body hanging from a tree? I couldn’t count (on) humanity, so it did kindly count for me. Count humanity for yourself and see if it is what you expected it to be.
#74: george grosz Rob Lane Wilder dramatizing human folly grosz laid bare unruly colors that would oscillate and shine, civilization in decline! george grosz landing brush strokes bold, this unequaled social critic prescient, foretold. fed up by degeneration nowadays like him, i perceive a host of dangers without and within bureaucrats invasive moneyed interests waving fists, craven types bulldozing the goodness in our midst!
Good Bones In honor of those who were robbed of their uterus by ICE
A growing season and the body have no borders the kinetics necessary to take the first steps are heavy like loose change or a gourd pregnant with possibility let it pass you like a pueblo a storm is approaching all bodies will shiver A hand slides into the body scooping seeds reverting to the hunter gatherers we all once were now demolishing walls from the inside tossing semblances of what used to be let the buyers see themselves here, white walls are inspirational, supposedly
“This house has good bones!” Below the living room there’s a den in the den, there’s a pumpkin patch let the children run with scissors and cut the roots whooping and hollering, “Only I will grow here” And they will blossom run circles around the reservoir and call themselves “the best” make trips to the den and reprimand the pumpkins stay put, “Only I will grow here” It’s not your fault you were shown a garden with fertile soil and nobody mentioned they’d treat you like a scarecrow stuff you with their answers and leave you hanging empty
Behind Closed Doors To Breonna Taylor
H.E. Riddleton The movie is turned off. You are trying to sleep. No one announces Uno, the last card. In a moment, what do you say? Who is it? Who is IT? No answer. Kenneth said: you screamed at the top of your lungs. A door swung open is jarring. A door imploded in is a jaguar. Stand your ground, the law says, but only if you have the Whitened right to ground. How do you warn against dying? 12 witnesses say they heard no plainclothes announcement. Why do the emptied empowered only listen to one hand on the door, a battering ram through the door, a concealed badge shooting past the door? There is no Door Keeper asking questions, only the one keeping
you out. Just a tyrant’s little finger firing blind into you. How do they measure your life to a wall, tend to fire over the burned? How do they stitch back shut time over open wounds of place-based investigations? Do you exonerate it, gentrify it? No. Maybe only you, Breonna, would know who stitches you behind your lynched pink gloss glazing muted lips on 26 billboards as you planned your Beauty for Black Beach, as a smaller, smiling you checked your grandmother’s blood sugar. Only you knew who stitched you through infinite doorways of doors you opened yourself. You fell in love. You were buying a house. You had wanted to be a nurse.
“No buffalos with shark fins,” says mom. “No Tasmanian Devils on your shoulder or big-chested angels,” says dad. “I thought this was a free country,” says John.
You’ll stay safe but in the end John’s not finding a girlfriend. For John is now grounded Just like in high school When his parents controlled his skin.
Avoid swarming, You swarming idiots.
Skip standing room only. Instead, be alone standing.
Shun elbow-to-elbow And embrace the elbowroom.
In a Pandemic Maintain Social Distance
It’s what this year has become: Either John in his youth or John now. Older. Closer to death. Who’s only slightly creepy and lewd. Making the best of his solitude.
But he doesn’t hate women. He’s still hopeful he’ll find a girlfriend. Someone else lovely, longing for a companion.
And now freedom in quarantine Comes as John turns 50. He’s taller and wider. Still introverted, lacks in social skills. Has a tattoo of a sheepdog with oversized ears. “I herd that,” says the sheepdog. And now John takes rests at the top of stairs. Leans against trees to listen to his heart and Still gets no attention from the opposite sex. Unless you count his pulmonologist Or as John says, “My pulmonary specialist.”
making vultures out of girls Sarah Constantine
there was another name for us, once, one lost in long-dead ancient mouths, mouths that told tales of our treachery. our nature was not terror, only survival. perhaps they feared that most of all. the monsters you fabricate have a way of staying against your will. we learn from infancy, fledglings pushed from hazardous nests and left to flounder. we have no choice but to become sharp, become watchers of others. we flock together, for safety, as no one can hurt us if we strike first. we are taught to circle, to search for decay. we know who will die before anyone, like banshees of old, only our wails don’t mourn, they mock. we hover, searching for prey.
it’s a silent hunt, until the end. we will say what the others like, but stay unassumed until we tease flesh and sinew from bone. they never expect the kill. you knew what we were, or should have, but our rubyred lips and nails kept you placated, assured such lovely looks could never denote violence. how could you forget the color of blood? crimson smears our mouths and hands, only showing how we must survive on deceit, how our beauty becomes the mask men forget we don’t always wear. we have always been monsters, girls of prey, girls of blood and bone. we have always become exactly what you made us.
San Antonio Sara Gilbert
In April, the heat of my home works in waves. Fiesta blooms when humidity mixes with prickly pear pink and mariachi melodies, before sweltering summers. In La Vallita the cinnamon smell of pan dulce and tart-sweet citrus tequila and salt fill the streets, Tejano tempos reverberate through the Riverwalk to Market Square where everyone from the city, South Side to Stone Oak, wander on cobblestone and crack cascarónes, sharing our home with tourists who have never seen our city in action. We set up screens to watch Los Spurs even in the middle of a fiesta. We
bask in the heritage we know best— not American or Mexican but somehow both mixed like margaritas. We snake through stands selling homemade elote and worry dolls and shop owners whisper “if you’re scared, make a wish and put this under your pillow” we buy tissue paper halos in bolstering blues and vibrant yellows and droves of drunk Spanglish is mumbled from lips locked to cups “la familia, por vida”. San Antonio, I miss you in every pore of my skin, I feel you in the silent shrieks, in the absence of sounds on small town sidewalks.
When the Los Angeles Police Department Officer struck me with her baton more or less at the nicely padded spot where thigh meets ass cheek I heard voices of my fellow peaceful protesters crying out what’s wrong with you stop it stop it what the fuck are you doing stop it while I remained silent noting the public servant’s name and badge number formulating the lawsuit I would be compelled to bring if only to dissuade other uniformed thugs from assaulting those who disapprove of their political benefactors
Beating a Boy
All the good cops seemed reluctant to stop this one bad apple since many of them had wives at home they knew what happens when you rub a girl the wrong way so us boys let her have her fun let her feel what it’s like to win until she started hyper-ventilating and had to be replaced in the riot line with an action-figure skull-buster whose body shots we human punching bags could respect
As she beat me four more times for no good reason I hadn’t done anything remotely illegal we locked eyes behind her foggy face-shield and I could tell it was the person with the weapon who was frightened frantic out-of-control some would say hysterical if not for the word’s sexist implications I stood still as an ancient tree absorbing the undeserved blows which hurt less than certain spankings I’ve received and I saw she was compensating for a lifetime of being told you hit like a girl swinging with mighty rage against the frame of a man a male a made member of the patriarchy accustomed to entombing the fairer sex in their proper compartment lined with embroidered velvet no guns permitted
THAT’S AMERICA Jennifer Shneiderman
Children in cages virus and separated families caught in a spiral of flawed contact tracing. That’s America. Does ICE spirit mothers away in unmarked buses to another door of no return? Are fathers forced to mine tunnels to justify the wall while time and distance dig pits of sadness? That’s America. Even if Biden reverses there is little return from Reactive Attachment Disorder. Fragile bonds forged in young minds weaken, decay memories disappear with their hopes. Permanent consequences of unanswered cries set in. That’s America. The children will never be the same.
The land is thriving, pulsing, pumping out water and crops to feed her children. Her daughters reap and sow her fruits, love and nourish her crops with water and tears, Aún sangre. La tejana loves the land, has learned her most valuable lessons from the tierra. A switchblade folds comfortably in the folds of her kitchen aprons. To skin potato or man. She laughs without restraint. Her temper lashes out like a whip of fire, Her anger stings like flesh bitten by the sizzling comal. Her love sweet like the cool rain that falls on the earth. She sings with Coyolxauhqui. Croons a corrido that climbs up the clouds with the voices of chicharras and offers it to the Goddess. The sugar cane sways in the wind under a pale moon. She sways with it. Inhaling, her lungs becoming filled with smokey mesquite and ganas. Ah, tejana, ninguna como tú, mija. Ninguna como tú.
La Tierra Y La Tejana
Clarity Brandon Marlon
The sail bellies out with the wind, relegating headland to hinder parts; overhead, geese soar the ether and glide rising air currents as the orb spans horizons with arcs of light, and all is right in the moment. You who awaken the dawn are reminded that, though at times transient crosscurrents compel you athwart, your vise remains tenacious if tenuous, your specialty perseverance in misfortune. Who number among the dreamers and dare to frustrate fate through hope unwonted transfigure the journey from graveward pilgrimage to a sojourn of the sovereign unafraid to flout doubt, knowing home is wherever one strives to be.
Change Leeor Margalit The psychic tells me to shuffle the cards and I do. She tells me to pick eleven and I do. She flips them over, one by one and the word “DEATH” stares up at me: a skeleton in a suit of armor on horseback. The psychic quickly assures me: “This card means change, not death.” We discuss school; she tells me to stay on the west coast to major in economics and that I will make a lot of money. We discuss love; she tells me I will marry a lawyer and that we will have two kids first a girl and then a boy. And as one does with a psychic, we discuss the future. She asks me what I want to be and I do not say “martyr.” I do not say, “I want to somehow die without disappointing my mother.” My mother is one of two reasons that I am still alive. The other of course, is the fact that the only thing worse than killing yourself is trying and failing to kill yourself. The psychic tells me to shuffle the cards and I do. She tells me to pick eleven and I do. She flips them over, one by one and the word “DEATH” stares up at me again: a skeleton in a suit of armor on horseback. The psychic quickly reassures me: “This card means change, not death.” Suddenly, I want to grab her by the shoulders, shake her, and demand she tell me “which card then does?”
collective spin Paul Tanner woke up this morning hating the world and everyone in it and I’m sure that’s controversial in this age of feckless woke positivity but get this: so did you and I know this because I work in retail because every shift I have to stand before a queue of you while you insult and/or threaten me and then go after my job for giving you “bad customer service” you have that cannibal hatred in you, that desire to tear down your fellow man, you wake up with it every morning and come to the shop I work in to prove it to me every morning so every morning I wake up hating you for it in return
admit this and we can open up a discussion about what is really bothering us about why the modern human is so frustrated and cowardly that they need to believe someone who can’t answer back is victimising them is it political posturing out of an embarrassment that we need others to serve us? is it a simple case of misery loving company? or is the Narcissist just our default personality? I don’t know, but let’s have the discussion. admit this and we might even improve our co-existence or just carry on as you were: name and shame me on Yelp because I was the only one serving in an understaffed shop just to annoy you, apparently before updating your Instagram profile with a meme of a flower at sunset, “be kind” superimposed in non-threatening italics above it. problem solved, I’m sure, you influenced influencing influencer.
The Country Bleeds Red Anna Kaye-Rogers
izzie Borden took an axe, and gave her father forty whacks. And when she saw what she had done, she gave her mother forty one.” Her eyes grew wide. “That sounds like fun.” * There is a place they call the body farm, where among the trees and ferns and long shafts of warm sunlight, the bodies rest peacefully. Some sprout thin green stems between rib cages, others sink into the rich brown earth, returning to their own. Each is a warning and a promise, a study of what has been and what will be. And if one can handle such a walk, through the quiet stillness that follows up your arms and to the back of your neck, that stays behind you when you reach your car, one might learn something. I wander my own woods often, but the illness here is harder to spot, and the bodies are long gone. * Phineas Gage took a crowbar to the brain and I watched it bleed red, out into the streets, and if you could shoot someone and run for president wouldn’t you? I guess, or you wouldn’t agree with him, wouldn’t vote for him, as if someone took a crowbar to your brain too. And I watched you pull up the ladder behind you, duct tape the glass ceiling you had shattered with your axe, oh mother how could you, and if you meant to make it harder to break or easier to find I do not know, but I worry about what got shot through your brain, the single mother who made it in Amer78
ica and did not look back, not even once, and now I feel like I’m bleeding out in the street, everything going, rammed through with coathangers in back alleys, and I guess metal through you changes a person every time, we just noticed Phineas first because he was a man, and when the red spread it was too late and everyone changed. * They raised the house beams but the whole town died, over 200 in less than a year, typhoid and malaria and hubris, oh my. It was a temperance town but someone had a temper, lurked in the grass and came quietly up from the creek, slipped under the door and over to the pillows, more ruthless and cutthroat than a knife, and no one remembers it now, how a town just up and died in a day; got in the throat just the same. They turned it into a trash heap and built up a hill, and the people who live there now couldn’t tell you where the ghosts come from, only that they’re nearby, if they’re even real. But I know. * Grandpa’s limbs went first, fingers shaking and legs quaking until he could no longer paint, no longer run. It traveled up his spine in the dark until he was trapped in his own body, buried alive, gone long before he was ever dead. There are things that lurk inside of us, ready and waiting to kill. * And the newspapers said it was fine but they lied, only it was too late, and the ghostly girls painted poison on their lips and became visions first, death later. Their jaws cracked and buckled like fault lines and the teeth slipped out easily, rocks cracked in half. The radium leeches into the ground until every tree is built up on spilled blood, lead-lined legends they did not bother to teach in schools, so close to home. There were holes in their bones and they prayed anyway, right until the last, never knowing if their work was in 79
vain, but by god you could tell time in the dark. * Could you imagine axing someone, so many blows until you both felt dead inside, only one of you was, and every hit something else would break and the noise it would make, the splatters of blood, and you’d wash off your clothes later and think that was enough to get away with murder, but oh, you’d be remembered for it afterwards, no matter how much you scrubbed. Lady MacBeth took an axe and still could not catch a crown in her bloodstained hands. * The thing I hear most about grandpa’s funeral is how I stood in the limo and sang ‘Yankee Doodle’ on the way to the cemetery, and whether I was trying to make them feel better or just performing we will never know, but mother never stopped me and so he made it all the way in to town, not cut short like Grandpa, but you don’t stop to consider your parents learned their mistakes from somewhere until you become afraid you’ll pass them down too. Now she traces names and dates on headstones and I watch, so vigilantly, to see if she starts to sing too. Grandpa lies beneath a crooked tree you can see from the road, the one we always point to so we know where to go, and grandma’s tombstone is already filled in, just waiting for the last date. I stepped on the grass roof of the empty space once and wondered if she’d felt it, but I was the only one who shivered. Grandpa watched me do it, but he’s never said shit. He was already dying when my mother was born, and so that’s what she brings up. I didn’t realize she was the daughter of an immigrant until I was an adult, how little assimilation matters when you are white and privileged in a small town here, how you can do anything you want and they just let you do it. * It spreads through my world like a virus, seeping under the skin and into the bones until everything is rotted away. We come to 80
blows in facebook posts and even here in the quiet smallness they organized marches. “They bussed them in,” I saw them scream, people who recognized my face and knew I had been here for as long as them. This is not the easy fix of a quick tooth pulled, and I do not know if leeches can swallow the hate I can no longer ignore. The newspapers once said radium was safe and now tell me he’s not that bad, printed next to columns of rising numbers, cases and deaths and all I see are the signs of sickness everywhere, covered in red, this valley where we have never learned and never will, only die without trying, and I hold her small hand in mine and make sure her mask is on high enough, hope she’s not next, keep her chasing ghosts in the forest instead of corpses in town. The black rods holding signs sink in deeply, and I wonder what they spread into the earth. * The Illinois Valley is filled with limestone, and it’s said to hold echoes well, if you believe in Stone Tape theory. You wander through trees and riverbeds and think of all the deaths; we named the rock after the people who threw themselves off of it for want of food, and I wonder what will happen this time when food runs off, if the railings and signs will be enough, or instinct will kick in and we will fall off waterfalls like droplets, running red. All those stones, all those ghosts, all these deaths, senseless and sudden and it fertilizes the earth until the corn grows tall and we never look around and realize how surrounded by death we are, it’s all water under the bridge that goes by the rock, and the carvings it makes will far outlive the graffiti us humans left behind. * The White House website says the Corona response is a success. * The Chicago fire started from a cow, but imagine the damage if a human had done it. I saw a dead body in the wild once, it surprised me, small enough to hold in my hand and I wondered if I should 81
try and put it in tupperware, bring it to a doctor, put it back inside. They don’t teach you how to survive a miscarriage, only that once you have sex you will burn. I had to pretend I was alright after, eat steak cooked the way I usually liked it, rare and red. It stuck in my throat. Let the cows burn it all down. It’s done nothing for me. I wonder if I could have buried it in the backyard to stop it from haunting me, just another echo in the earth for them to ignore. * If you come to visit, my eight year old will give you a tour, and the canyon walls will enclose you grandly, more limestone. She will grin wickedly and tell you about the murderer at the rock, the one the locals think is still out there, that got away free. I will remind her we are two girls alone and hurry her home before dark, but the truth is she will feel more free in the wide open spaces under the waterfall than she ever will tucked safely in bed. She lives above a ghost town and if all those people weren’t alive they couldn’t have been killed, so if she lives loudly and brightly I cannot protest, only worry, for if they got to Phineas Gage they can get to her too, but if I smother her too much that’s murder again, either hers or mine, she’ll axe me to death. Maybe I’ll deserve it. The murderer dragged bodies across the snow to hide them under the cliff caves and I wonder if she’s learned yet I hide things from her too. * We dug a canal to avoid the river, but it floods every year anyway. The Irish dug their own graves, canal water and cursed earth, and still the bluffs cry out for more. The water ran red and they used the bodies to make the walls stronger. * I wonder if it’s something in my blood, that’s lurked there all along, taken from my mother, and that one day too I will think of my own tax bracket before the humanity of others. I wander through woods with my daughter on paths we’ve never taken 82
before, as if in the silence and stillness we can outrun whatever haunts us, my mother’s mistakes, my own fears, my daughter’s future. I wonder how the selfishness spreads, if there’s something I can do to stop it before it takes me too, and I check my own pulse often; that the bones buried under branches still send tingles down my spine. * I try not to believe in ghosts, but they echo in the limestone that surrounds my world, baked into the earth like cake layers, one slice missing, our favorite canyon. The waterfalls bleed native blood into cornfields that crack in the first frost, and irradiated bones seep into tree roots. They dragged corpses wrapped in kitchen twine under overhangs in the park and waited for the ghosts to travel downstream. We dig up arrowheads and radium teeth, each decaying jaw silenced in lead-lined graves. I trace weathered headstones searching for whole towns of typhoid and malaria, murdered in a matter of months, this place where once we thought nothing ever happened. This is a cursed place, a dangerous, deadly small town where we keep our secrets in silence and we leave trailheads to toss ourselves off cliffs. The rock is bloodspent, weathered graffiti I try to read with my fingers, and I haunt such spaces as though I am already gone, a trick to keep me from getting got too. I will echo like tape in my daughter’s mind long after I am gone. We pass more Trump signs in the car, evidence of murder everywhere. My mother does not keep his sign out but she votes for him anyway, we are barely hanging on and I am running out of duct tape. I wonder if she wants to hide in these woods too to avoid going home. If she sees me like a ghost, only there some of the time, never hers to control. She must look for me in her own memories and the quiet moments as I push against the distance, trying to break through. I hand my daughter the axe.
A Different Kind of Obituary Douglas Krohn
ames Goodrich died yesterday afternoon. The world knows him as the neurosurgeon who separated twins, conjoined at the head, sharing brain tissue and part of a cerebral circulation. It was a complex procedure, staged over months, and it required exhaustive preoperative planning: advanced magnetic imaging, which provided the surgeons a road map that nimbly tip-toed around the land mines of its survey; a delineation of blood vessels, like a ball of unspooled yarn, primed for its meticulous untangling by contrast-enhanced angiograms; computed tomography of the one skull that would be coaxed into the encasements of two heads. Despite all this forethought, the surgical team unexpectedly arrived upon an isthmus: a bridge of terrain joining each brain (or was it only one brain, and in our primitive conception we deemed it two?), at a landmark where they had been expecting a divide, and once released from their vascular tethers, would have allowed the two boys to drift apart, continents separated as with the light tap of a chisel. This discovery, like Verrazzano learning that his backdoor to China was really Cape Fear, forced Dr. Goodrich to improvise the separation’s last crucial stage.
The twin boys used to live down the road from me, in a onefloor white house that resembles a fairy tale cottage. They lived there for years, and from time to time I would see them, when they were still little, wearing their molded helmets, sitting in strollers on a busy street corner where four double-yellow lines converge, holding one of their mother’s gloved hands in winter’s cold, waiting for the arrival of an access-friendly bus. But now they are young men, sometimes standing upright besides one another (one twin has fared far better than the other) thanks to Dr. Goodrich’s surgical moonshot. Remarkably, he pulled off this feat multiple times, with other conjoined twins, and because of this he was something of a celebrity pediatric neurosurgeon, if there could be such a thing. That is how Dr. Goodrich lived, at least in the last two decades of his storied career, and that is how he is broadly remembered. But yesterday he died from complications related to Covid-19, and in his passing I regret how I knew him -- or, rather, how I chose to view him, which was as the Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the medical center where I completed my pediatric residency, and thus the source of an unending stream of middle-ofthe-night toil for me. You see, Dr. Goodrich was the messenger, and the fragile patients he delivered to me I received as bad news: They had round-the-clock needs (blood cultures to draw, at the immediate beckon of a temperature spike; X-ray acetates to track down, in the middle of the night, buried within a cemetery of films in a file room so bleakly bureaucratic it could have been conceived by Kafka; largely symbolic transfer notes to write, in a sleep-deprived scribble, when the patients decompensated on the floor and were moved up to the PICU, as if anyone was going to read a trainee’s note). Their parents were frayed, like discarded remnants of
cotton cloth rubbed against brick. Their nurses, with decades of experience, were hamstrung by the requirement to wait for my ignorance (and, with it, astonishingly, my authorization) before they could act and actually try to help the patients. Because up on the floors, or segregated behind the pulled curtain of a hidden bay in the back of the emergency department, we did not care for the neurosurgical miracles that, in the mythical distortions that preceded social media, found themselves broadcast on the evening news, or pressed in ink on the cover of a morning tabloid: We got the permanently neurologically damaged.We received the kids with hydrocephalus, their enlarged skulls pressed outwards under the pressure of obstructed cerebrospinal fluid, and drained by ventriculoperitoneal shunts. We took care of the children with devastated intellect and no hopeful prognosis, left to deal with their infected surgical hardware, tending to every fever, checking the peak levels of gentamicin and the trough levels of vancomycin and obtaining approval, long after the sun went down, from an infectious diseases fellow, awoken at home as she slept beside her husband, to run these precious antibiotics into their veins. And then there were those veins: so tiny, so fragile, so easily blown. It was our responsibility to find them, in the middle of the night, in a poorly lit quarter, all of us a day removed from sleep (as the surgeons who put in these infected devices lay in a call room), and thread these delicate blue vessels with a plastic angiocatheter, ensconced around a steel needle, the child crying into the dark, pain the only worldly sensation they ever seemed to feel. Their parents were there, too, always beside them, in figurative darkness, slowly marching ahead with the weight of their
worries. And we received the questions, all day long, in between rounds, even awoken from sleep by a beeping page, usually from a frustrated nurse, harassed by her impotent placement in the middle of all this, herself unable to answer them: Why isn’t he better? When is he going home? What’s your plan? Where are the surgeons? Who’s your attending? My eyes swollen, a tight band around my head, I’d look at their child, muscles taut and thin and spastic, a little girl perhaps ten years old: ten years of this, ten years of raising a child bound to a bed, of never reading her a book, of finding the joy in preventing a bedsore, every day for ten years. She was completely non-verbal. She’d never so much as walked and never would, though her peers ran circles around the blacktop of a school playground, somewhere else in a distant world, as she slept in a diaper . . . It was all so despairing, and I contemplated whether there was a point to any of this -- itself a shameful thought, an uninvited intrusion whose presence cast me, in my own mind, as evil (which I probably was not), and inadequate for the task at hand (which I certainly was). And we got the Ommaya reservoirs (plastic cisterns that communicated directly with the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid, for the administration of chemotherapy directly into the brain): sometimes functioning, sometimes not, sometimes infected, sometimes clogged, the patient always an incidental companion to the task at hand -- which was to fix the broken mechanism that had been encrusted upon him. And it was we, the pediatric residents, who had to tend to their shaking chills and neutropenias, and figure out what the problem was (at the behest of the neurosurgical resident, who insisted we consult the neurology attending, who expected input from the pediatric oncologist, who asked that
we reach out to the infectious diseases fellow, this interminable consult wheel all an effort to allow the patient to see another day, in a life that might only last a few more weeks). And months later, when one of these children passed, it was a nurse -- younger than I was at the time, but with a much deeper understanding of how we might help others -- who pulled out a plastic basin and started a collection. And it was we, again, the pediatric residents, who dug into our pockets and pulled out a ten dollar bill (it’s all we had, but it was more than anyone else) to assist with the family’s funeral expenses . . . and finally, tragically, we had found a way to help. So I didn’t have much to do with Dr. Goodrich, because these hospitalized patients did not capture the bulk of his attention in between his heroic toil in the operating room. When I cared for his patients on the floors, I usually dealt with the residents that worked under his supervision, as that usually goes in the world of academic medical centers. Perhaps we exchanged directly a dozen words in the three years I spent in training there, and it was never unpleasant: He had a soft-spoken mumble whose words seemed to get lost in his white beard. His blue eyes, red on their rims, occasionally looked away when he spoke to our pediatric team, though not in dismissal (as one might expect from such a vaunted authority speaking to lowly subordinates, especially in the academic medical hierarchy). Instead, those eyes were self-effacing, seeming to reveal an inner shyness, an endearing social vulnerability. (Years later I would work with a nurse who had worked with him, a decade earlier, at a rehabilitation hospital where many of his patients would go after their hospital
discharge, and her descriptions of him unfailingly include the words “sweet” and “kind”.) And yet I always had this nagging sense of resentment toward him, despite the fact that he had never done anything wrong to me, and had never been anything other than civil and superficially polite -- all because the neurosurgical patient care he was physically removed from represented, in flesh and in spirit, the inundation heaped upon the house staff, the collateral damage of medical heroism burying us in an avalanche that wounded our spirits and punctured our optimism. Meanwhile, the “big cases” almost always went up to the PICU after surgery -- and when they got there, the patients were so fragile, hanging in the balance between an imminent demise and a normal life, that the work of caring for them was left to the most seasoned practitioners at the medical center: the critical care attendings, the post-graduate fellows, the infrequently acknowledged nursing staff. This was the care reserved for the gravely ill yet definitely salvageable: the Bronx teen clubbed in the head with an Easton Cyclone during a neighborhood dispute; the slow-growing meningioma, a golf ball tethered to the brain’s connective tissue covering, benign in histology yet functionally malignant; thin-walled aneurysms threatening to burst, a clip not unlike some gizmo you’d find at Office Depot placed at its base, safely segregating the defective artery from any further inflow of blood; arteriovenous malformations, looking to me like heads of cauliflower on the angiogram, riddled with crypts and deep recesses, high-pressure arteries rushing into low-pressure veins; and pituitary adenomas, pesky little growths at the seat of the
hormonal axis, in the center of an adolescent’s head, its surgical approach curiously and logically routed through the patient’s nose. These were the miracles, the seriously ill kids who, through the legerdemain of advanced surgical technique (and surgeons like Dr. Goodrich) were brought back from the edge and into a normal life. These patients were treated like gems, because they were precious -- and because we do not allow miracles to be blemished by sloppy post-operative care in the hands of an inexperienced medical team. And so it was almost as if there was yellow caution tape around these patients, unbreachable by anyone except an experienced intensivist, a seasoned neurologist, a skilled RN -- and Dr. Goodrich himself. Meanwhile, the damaged and the unsalvageable children (their parents worn raw, tragedy an inevitable companion, the work involved in their care constant and futile) were left to us, the inexpert pediatric house staff. This made me bitter. And, caught up in my bitterness, I was unable to see the good in a gentle man who, like the rest of us, was simply doing his best: Where others saw the easy-going central part in his hair, like a nostalgic comfort from the Seventies; or the white beard, trimmed into a cleaned up version of the legend who brings us presents from the North Pole; or the humble deference, so rare in a man of power and authority -- where others saw all this, all I seemed to notice was his red-rimmed eyes. And then one day it is a cold March afternoon. The skin on my knuckles is cracked from the bitter air of early spring. The schools are closed, the churches are empty, and James Goodrich
has died from Covid-19. He passed on in the medical center he had entered each day for decades, in the service of others, and had likely contracted his illness there, too. The news outlets memorialize his demeanor, his devotion, his kindness -- and I am left to struggle with the narratives I’ve created in my head, and the creeping realization that it is my heart that has lived in the shadows. What did any of this accomplish? What good did it do, for me to harbor this bitterness for 20 years toward a man I didn’t even know, and who had done the world his fair share of good? What was the point in being so transactional, in insisting on viewing a man only through the prism of what he meant to me? There’s only so many hours in a day, a person only has so much energy in reserve -- should I fault Dr. Goodrich for leaving to me and my fellow residents the patient-related tasks that, quite frankly, he couldn’t accomplish any better than we could? I walked around those hospital halls for three years, often indignant at the way I was treated, and the way in which patients were treated, to the point that I could no longer see even the merit of my superiors -- what good did that anger and simmering indignation do for anyone? What did that get me? I must breathe deeply, and let it all go with a reverent sigh. James T. Goodrich, please rest in peace...You deserved better from me...We all deserved better...I’m sorry ... I’m sorry...I’m sorry...
In Quarantine Rooms: Finding a Way Back to Joy Jenna Seyer Edinburgh isn’t so much a city, more a way of life…I doubt I’ll ever tire of exploring Edinburgh, on foot or in print. Ian Rankin
hat happens when we leave a place behind? Does it mourn us? Does it even notice we went missing? For a while after, I couldn’t pick up Colin Wilson’s The Outsider that rested at the top of my closet. I couldn’t read Alexei’s words in my journal: there’s a whole universe inside us—inside you. I couldn’t think of bonsai trees, Bruce Lee textbooks, guitar keychains, cracked wooden floorboards, the smell of marijuana, coriander. I would instantly break down because it meant that I was gone. I was more than six feet apart. The hardest measure of that confrontation was coming vis-à-vis with grief—a grief so deep in the body that I didn’t know if there was a point at which my grief would no longer grieve. The thing about grief is that it’s physical. It hurts. You feel it taking away your oxygen, lodging air in your throat, and all you want is to go back to the before, to what once was, what used to be. Sometimes my grief is still so raw that it feels inconsolable. I can’t comfort it still or stop it from shaking. I still don’t have the exact words to describe what I’m feeling. It stretches past the isolation, the yearn to embrace another, the signs that read Takeaway Only, the masks that repeat an abnormality, those tasteless microwaved dinners. This post-travel depression is beyond language, beyond any sufficient vocabulary. Here, I sit writing, trying to piece it whole. In August 2019, I traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland for an MSc in Literature, knowing beforehand that the capital was the UNESCO City of Literature (a perfect fit) and the University was one of the world’s finest. I am from Wayne, New Jersey, a fairly large, 92
suburban town about half an hour from New York City. I’ve spent most of my life in the States and it was my first time on an international trip alone. I had only been abroad twice before: St. Petersburg and London. But both times I was a passenger. Edinburgh was my journey. What quick facts and figures online couldn’t tell me was Edinburgh’s character, its constantly beating heart. There was something very special about the city. Between the charm of Dean Village, the colors of Victoria Street, the corner cafés and cobble stones that were like ice in frequent rains, Edinburgh—no matter its dreary cold—brought a certain calm. I was warned by friends who had lived in Edinburgh for years that I’d very quickly begin to despise Scottish climates. I understood when Edinburgh weathered every season in a single day (a running joke among my flatmates). It was the only city I’ve ever lived in where you could see snow and rain and sun within twenty-four hours. Many days were cloudy and wet, but I was too enchanted to change my mind. One moment that I’ll always remember was near Christmas. We lived on top of the mound, steps away from The Café On The Mound (a quite fitting name) with a beautiful view of Princes Street and the Gardens, shops and museums. We lived in the center of it all: first floor, Mylnes Court, shared suite. I may never believe in fate, but something that year had brought us together—the five of us. Three were from China, one from Iowa, the other (me, as we know) from New Jersey. We all struggled through the fears of what was constantly new in Scotland. But the city made settling in easy, like we had taken home with us, like home was indeed the people around us. During those beginning months, I learned that Edinburgh prepped early for holiday. The Christmas Market began in November, but it wasn’t the Ferris wheel or the cinnamon churros or whiskey fudge that made it so extraordinary. City workers placed a Christmas tree on the mound yard. It wasn’t offtilt or too far away to see. From our kitchen window, we sat center row. It was so covered in lights that you couldn’t see its branches. It was full. It illuminated 15:00 in December. It was my beacon to where I felt I most belonged. I wish I could go back—tea in hand, flatmates having baklava and Chocomel—to sit across from it 93
again. The same cold season brought adventure. Bundled in layers, I spent most of my days wandering. Other days I took the train, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends: Oban, Inveraray, Aberdeen, Dunfermline, St. Andrews, Glasgow, Stirling, Dundee. I rose early, attended class, read books, wrote essays, but the best story was where my footsteps fell. Though I had my favorite local destinations like St. Margaret’s Loch to watch swans or the Royal Mile for fish and chips with brown sauce, it didn’t matter where I went. The city was poetic, musical, painterly. It was continuously and wonderfully alive. For my twenty-second birthday, I had joie de vivre tattooed on my back in elegant, black script. Edinburgh pulsed that joy of living, of life, of having lived, and of living all over again. From the people I met, I discovered that living did not mean a constant stream of work, that living was a part-time job, frequent time for holiday, an encouraged diet of wee cakes and pastries. Living was—at its core—happiness. And in my wanders, I knew from where I had come, how to find my way home, and I learned how to live with humility and curiosity and, most of all, joy. Covid-19 arrived in February and suddenly everything stopped. University closed. Streets emptied. We emptied ourselves. I reluctantly departed on March 31. Even before the coronavirus, we had spent our lives striving to make a mark on the world without taking a moment to recognize the marks it made on us. We got on trains in the morning—our furrowed brows in our phones— were swept by the drone of the day, and failed to pause, breathe, make those marks feel seen. Edinburgh left many, including marks of heartbreak. Those haven’t fully healed. Edinburgh was home for seven months and though back in the States, it hasn’t left me, hasn’t quite let go. I don’t think I ever want it to. I still miss Scotland as though it was a person and like it is between people, not every day was perfect. We fought; we cried; we had our full of stale pizza and beer at midnight; we never found a job, we rationed lotion and shampoo, complained when we didn’t see Scotland’s snow then complained again when it arrived in shortburst blizzards. But, we endured together and I’ve found myself 94
chasing closure from a place that I never truly—properly, despite trying—said goodbye to. I did try, but it was the kind of goodbye where you walked its streets, turned this way and that, stumbled upon its Meadows, forced yourself to memorize each shade of green, each groove in flats, each laugh line in its brick skin, yet you never uttered the words. It was the kind of goodbye that made you feel like half of you was missing. So I didn’t say them. I knew that no number of miles I went would make leaving any easier. I would still have to get on a plane in the morning and hope that, post-virus, I’d be able to come back, make peace, and experience it once more (most likely in a new, lasting normal). I’ve spent nine months in quarantine remembering what it was like, that it felt like cashmere scarves, smelled like freshly-baked fruit scones with clotted cream, sounded like bagpipes and wind, looked vast atop hills of Arthur’s Seat. I am still waiting for that day to arrive—a time when I no longer have to remember, when Hogmanay or the Fringe Festival isn’t cancelled, when I don’t have to leave with such short notice. The virus might have taken too much away, yet it gave the power of empty rooms, of reflection and recollection and an active remembering. It has been the sort of remembering that refuses states of forgetfulness. The virus gave me time. I have been able to fill hollow spaces and blank pages with memory and it’s the closest I’ve been to Scotland in months. Before leaving for Edinburgh, I had never thought of myself as infinite, as anything close to being as boundless and vast as galaxies, as anything other than flesh and tissue and dreams. But in that closeness, I’ve come to realize that Alexei was right—about universes, about what we’re made of, our star contents. Whenever I return to Scotland, I still have so much to do, so much to see. I won’t leave Edinburgh behind this time. I’ll carry it with me— wherever I go.
Maureen Mancini Amaturo
aiting for the city to be alive again. Staring at the clock, sitting at the window, watching only empty things take the place of the crowds. A taxi, is that a taxi? No passengers, though. Oh, another car, but just one. No line at Starbucks, no seats on the train to fight for, no MetroCard to fumble, nowhere to go. It’s been months, more months than I believed would be necessary, more months than I still believe are necessary. But it’s not my call. So, I do my part. I look through protective glass, breathing through fabric-bound features at a city that is just a place. Without people, it’s just a place. Some days, though, I sit in my sheltered room, antiseptic and alone, more than six feet away from any other breathing thing, and I let myself remember when the city was alive, when it was more than a place. The smell of the hot dogs and curried kabobs and salted, soft pretzels circling street vendors like spirits seducing pedestrians. Movement, constant movement. Noise, life noises, vibrating against the city’s armor–conversations and horns and music and bicycle bells and bus air brakes hissing as if to shush the sounds. All kinds of shoes shuffling, scuffling, striding along Sixth, heading downtown, turning left toward Fifth and going through to Madison. The vision of crowds at bus stops, food deliveries on bikes, drivers cutting off other drivers, and tourists crushed into the Channel Gardens like flecks of color in a tweed coat. Crowds of people–flesh people, not pixel people, not on video–tight and flowing like muddy water, slow, steady, following the stream to anywhere they want to go. But not anymore. Will we ever see a crowd again? I mean a daily-life crowd responding to daily life not a crowd responding to an injustice, an opinion, not a battle-cry crowd. Just a crowd. Crowds because everyone is going to the same deli, waiting for the same train, running to the same office building, buying tickets for the same game. A crowd late for work, running to pick kids up at school, to meet friends for dinner. Remember? Just daily life. A crowd populating Times Square to welcome a new year. Never mind, more likely, they will gather to bid farewell to the old one. Will a calendar be relevant again? I miss planning things. My friends and I talk of making plans, but reality slaps us, and we know a plan and 96
a dream are the same thing at the moment. When I see my friends now, they are framed on a screen. Most have let their hair go grey. They wear what they are always wearing. No one bought new summer clothes. Not yet sure if we will need a new winter coat. We talk about the things we’ll do together when…when? In the meantime, we shop on line. We register for virtual classes. We pretend it’s fun. We do our part. I don’t even miss anything anymore. I, like many other city veterans, have resigned. We are reassigned. Reassigned to suburbs, our parents’ home, a studio apartment far from our friends. We are fine with that. We have to be. Fine with that as long as our wifi lasts. The city is different. Danger has gone viral. Before, when the city was alive, the dangers were expected dangers. Just regular crimes that the city had learned to live with, that people allowed as the price of residence. It’s different now. The city is irascible. Responses are furious and fierce and fiery. Violence is so creative. Anarchy is so thorough. Arrogance is so blind. Pride is more destructive than all three and is getting us nowhere, not even to the open-air Channel Gardens. And all this even though the city is more quiet now. That’s okay. No one is listening to each other anyway. No news is good news was never more true. Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear. Perception is reality, even though there are cameras everywhere. No one is watching anyway. Waiting for the waiting game to close up shop and free the people. Waiting for the people to blend into crowds again. Waiting for the people to blend…period. Waiting for the sound of “Amen” to echo off tall buildings and become muffled by the horns and shouts and footsteps and car radios and bicycle bells again. Still waiting. Hope sits at every table set on a sidewalk, in every marquis that remains lit, and in every market–small or super–that welcomes a percentage of the people who once shopped there. It’s been a hell of a time. In time, places and spaces will breathe easy as will faces free from masks. In time. We are in a race with time to secure a cure. Hard times will not have been a waste of time. Time heals all wounds. Time flies. We bide our time and listen for the word. It’s only a matter of time until we wish we had time on our hands again. We will stand the test of time. Time will tell.
A Transatlantic Lesbian Love Story Natascha Graham
“You make a million decisions that mean nothing, and then one day you order take-out and it changes your life.” - Annie Read, Sleepless in Seattle
didn’t order take out. But I did post online, and moments after that, my whole life changed. A couple of months ago somebody in a Facebook group for highly sensitive people wrote a post asking for movie suggestions for HSP’s. I could count on one hand the amount of times I comment on group posts, but for some reason that morning, whilst I was sitting in my sitting room, drinking tea, I decided to reply, and I posted my list. Then I forgot about it. I went back to my tea, my sitting room and my work. Then, only moments later, under my list of movies,
Lori Graham replied saying, “You’ve listed all of my favorite movies!” I stared at this name that I had never seen before, belonging to a person I had never met. From the moment I saw her name, I felt compelled to know, and within minutes of posting my original post, we were commenting back and forth, very quickly taking over the entire thread with our messages. Within an hour I was charmed, smitten, somewhere between swooning and giddy and half way to falling in love with a complete stranger. We spent the rest of the day swapping obscure similarities as easily as we swapped films 98
and books, and asked each other simultaneously if we could officially become friends on Facebook. When I saw her profile picture, my chest tightened and my heart felt as though it were speeding up and slowing down all at once. Then I saw where she lived: “North Carolina” in the United States, exactly 3,815 miles away from my English home. I felt so sad that this stranger lived so far, but more than that, I felt confused as to why this person half way across the world from me was making my heart ache and race more than it ever had before. We talked on and off all day and evening, and the next, and the next. We shared our lives in stories and moments over the next month, video messaging on Marco Polo, skyping, pictures and voice clips. She was fascinating and brilliantly funny. We connected in a way neither of us ever had with anyone else before. We told each other the stories of our lives. Shared the good, the bad,
the spider web complexities of past relationships and romantic missteps. I will never, ever forget the moment she told me, “I love you,” or the smile she smiled, or the overjoyed relief I felt when I told her, “I love you too.” Then, one day, just like Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail (one of the movies on my list) she asked, “Do you think we should...meet?” She arrived at Heathrow Airport just one month after we first met online, looking more beautiful than I had ever imagined. Watching her on a phone screen was nothing compared to the hug we shared across the barrier. It was nothing compared to the way her eyes sparkled, the way her hair smelled, the way she moved or the way she glanced sideways at me and smiled at me with a smile so full of love that I fell in love with her all over again. We took the train to Brighton and walked the labyrinth of streets in between sunshine and graffiti, seaside and city. We
held hands and we kissed, we drank cider in a pub and made plans to steal the coasters. We stood together and watched the sun set on the pier, wind and hair in our faces, and watched a drag queen sing ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ in The Queen’s Arms, one of Brighton’s many gay nightclubs. She fed me strawberries dipped in Nutella in bed, we dressed as hippies, and we laughed at how umbrellas on the beach look from the birds eye view of the British Airways tower. We stayed a night in London and had a meal in a Greek restaurant that was so awful, from a waitress that deliberately ignored us, so we left without paying and were chased down the street by the aforementioned self-important waitress, who blamed us for her incompetence. We got to see each other “get sassy” (as Lori with her gorgeous accent would say) and we hid in a bookshop down the street to recover. We had a terrible meal somewhere else to make up for it, and walked hand in hand to
Tavistock square where we took selfies with the bust of Virginia Woolf and watched a little boy hand-feed squirrels. Then to Paris, to sun dappled streets and bohemian apartments where the comforters were too small but we slept curled into one another and whenever I woke I whispered, “I love you” against her skin. We drank champagne and kissed and held each other at the top of the Eiffel Tower. We watched a woman walk by the Arc de Triomphe who threw bread crumbs to streamers of pigeons. We read snippets of Emily Dickinson and touched the spines of Virginia Woolf and Mrs. Dalloway in the Shakespeare book Shop, overlooking the skeleton of Notre Dame. She took pictures, and I fell in love with the way she saw the world and the way she pronounced the place name “Pigalle”, whilst we took guesses on how to pronounce the name of our train station. We bought a lock, wrote
our names on it, and hung it on the bridge overlooking the Eiffel Tower, where we sat, that night, and watched it glitter and sparkle whilst falling in love even more. Charming waiters in charming restaurants served us delicious food. We found our way home in the middle of the May Day riots. We saw the Moulin Rouge, drank wine, and slipped in and out of shops, and smoked peach flavoread hookah in a blue lit bar where I watched her blow smoke rings and kissed her while she blew smoke into my mouth. Then she visited my town where we planned our future, and she met my family, my cats, my chickens and my friends, where we suffered strings of accidental, but very funny, injuries, found vicars playing bohemian rhapsody on the organ in a church, and where we dodged the rain and drank pretty cappuccinos and tea in arty coffee shops where David Bowie was on the radio and nothing seemed more alive, or
more beautiful, than her. Now, a love-blurred flurry of weeks later, and she is in the sky, flying back across those 3,815 miles home from coming to see me for the first time, and I am missing her so much I can barely breathe. Some people speak of soulmates, some people seek “the one,” some people claim love at first sight but this was, as Annie Read says in Sleepless in Seattle, ”a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together.” And we knew it. I knew it the first time I touched her. It was like coming home, only to no home I’d ever known. I just knew it. It was like magic, and I knew that this someone I did not know, until only a month ago, was the only someone for me.
This Christmas Juliana Aragón Fatula
’m listening to the song, This Christmas and singing along with Christina Aguilera. It always puts me in a melancholy mood. The holidays are rough on me because I lost my parents on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, several years apart, but I swear my mom, Louise Aragón, was holding out for Christmas day to die on the same day as her one true love, my dad, Julian Aragón. I’d like to tell you their story this Christmas. It’s a love story but filled with tribulations. My parents were born in the U.S.A., but their parents were born in the 1800’s in the wild west when Indians, not Native Americans, lived and died in Aztlan. My ancestors were part of the Mexican Wars, the Indian Wars, the Civil Wars, all the fucking wars. My father told us stories of black men hanging from trees and the KKK watching them swing in the breeze. My mother told us stories of being shot by a rifle through both legs. In and out clean and through. She was also stabbed behind Bernie’s on the Hill, the local watering hole. Stabbed by my dad’s ex-wife and oldest daughter. She almost bled to death. She survived and I was born to that nightmare. My parents married and we became a family of ten. We were poor but we never struggled, but my ancestors, they struggled. They struggled at the hands of the men who wanted their land, their resources, their labor and stole it. My ancestors left New Mexico and migrated North to Colorado where I was born and raised. But my roots remain in New Mexico.
My parents finished the sixth grade but never graduated school. But they were intelligent and could have gone to college like I did, if circumstances hadn’t prevented them from achieving the success that I have had from the benefit of their sacrifices. My father sang to me every Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and my mother made tamales every holiday season in her tiny kitchen filled with family and friends. We’d eat tamales and drink beer and smoke mota out back and cherish each other and our good luck to live in a country with democracy. I’m grateful this holiday that my parents didn’t live long enough to see this nightmare that is the global pandemic of 2020 and the erosion of democracy under this corrupt government. The thing I remember about my parents the most: the love, the joy, the devotion to family and friends. The gifts they gave me are priceless. They taught me honesty, hard work, charity, communication, and to love the sinner and hate the sin. I refuse to lose my mind because of the turmoil of the world. I come from survivors. I hang on to my sanity and pray for better days. I know the future will be better. I know this because the world has evolved toward globalism. We are one world. One love. We will survive this pandemic and the next because the next generation will find a way to preserve and save the planet. Men like the 45th will pass into history as villains. The heroes: the nurses, doctors,the EMTs, the teachers, the social activists, the healers will conquer hate and insist on peace on Earth. This Christmas let there be kindness and good will toward each other. This Christmas let there be love.
The Seven Sorrows of COVID-19 Henry Garcia
Saturday, June 6 It is my friend Juan’s1 birthday. I am careful. I wear a mask to the restaurant and to the bar, at first. I am stupid. I eat, and drink, and make merry. I laugh with Juan and the other people he invited. I share drinks with one of them, a Mai Tai and an Amaretto Sour. It is a fun night, precisely what I needed after weeks and weeks of quarantine. Tuesday, June 9 I decide to wear a mask during choir practice, just in case. I’m not feeling very well. My throat is a bit scratchy, and I am coughing very lightly. I tell everyone to stay away from me, and I refrain from singing as I usually do. I can’t, anyway. I am smart. That night, I take my temperature. 99. I go to sleep. Wednesday, June 10 I’m not feeling great, but I’m not feeling terrible. I stay home anyway. I’m in Dr. Lalor’s Shirley Jackson class, so I have enough to keep me busy. It’s a good course, and I’m loving Jackson! I am fullfilled. That night, I take my temperature. 99, still. I go to sleep. Thursday, June 11 That night for dinner, my parents bring home some Whataburger. I’m starving. I rip through my #1 with cheese and no pickles quite happily and hungrily. Usually, when I’m sick, I lose my appetite, so I take this as a good sign. It was a good burger! I am satisfied. That night, I take my temperature. 99. I go to sleep. Friday, June 12 I go to take a test. It’s a bit hard to find the testing site because it’s tucked away in front of a community center I have 1 Names were changed to protect identities. 104
never seen before. I’m playing some good music in the car, humming to myself, wearing my mask proudly. The guys at the testing site wave me through the process, and I drive home, but not before stopping at a Family Dollar for a snack and a Gatorade. I am unafraid. That night, I take my temperature. 100. I go to sleep. Saturday and Sunday, June 13-14 The weekend is uneventful. It’s a friend’s birthday, and Juan invites me to go celebrate at another bar. I’m still feeling a bit unwell, so I decline; I would feel bad if anyone caught whatever it is that I have. I am considerate. That night, I take my temperature. 99. I go to sleep. Monday, June 15, around 9:30 AM I wake up that morning. I know that my results are going to come in that day, so I check the website my results will be posted to in the morning. Nothing yet. I decide to check a bit later, after doing a spot of homework. I am hopeful. I check my temperature. 99. Monday, June 15, around 12:30 PM I check the website again, a bit tiredly. I see the results. I see a negative something on there. I text everyone who has been checking up on me with the good news. I am excited. I don’t check my temperature. Monday, June 15, around 2:25 PM I double-check my results. I want to bask in the glory of my success. I scroll through the page and notice. Underneath the space where it says Result, I see two words. Detected Abnormal. I am positive. … The First Sorrow – The Losing of Health That first week, that’s the hardest. My health deteriorates slowly after my positive diagnosis. I tire more easily. I choose to stay in bed at first, and then I need to stay in bed. I start coughing. A lot. It has phlegm in it, and I think about my 105
allergies. I take a pill for my allergies during that first week, and I start taking Advil, or Tylenol, or anything to help me manage the fevers that start to ramp up. I check my temperature every day. On average, I run a 102-degree fever. Daily. Thursday of that first week, my asthma starts to become agitated. I whistle while I work to breathe. I begin to use my inhaler daily, something I have not had to do since I was very young. My parents bring me soups and food, and I eat what I can. I still have an appetite, somewhat. I get hungry. Food still has flavor. I can still smell it. But I find no pleasure in eating, so I avoid it whenever I can. I begin to wonder if I should make up a will. Someone deserves to get my fairy tale collection. My brother will get my Xbox. My parents will get a ghost of a son. Sophie, my Shih Tzu, will get confused when I am no longer around. The Second Sorrow – The Losing of Church That first week, I tell the church. I am the choir director and have been providing the accompaniment for the English Mass. Father Agila, my boss, offers his condolences. He gives me medical advice that is very sound. Sleep well. Drink a lot of water. Try not to stress. I am told not to go to Mass until I am negative. I agree; these are all very reasonable demands. Sunday inches closer. I wonder to myself how watching the livestream Mass will be; the entire pandemic, I have been going to the temple to play the piano. I review the readings to ensure that my song selections are okay. I still have a choir going to sing, they will just sing acapella. I create the PowerPoints for the lyrics that will be shown on Sunday. I think of how the psalms will work. I call the parish office and ask if the psalms can be read instead of sung. They agree. I sit about ten feet apart from my parents and brother in our living room. They turn on our television to livestream the Mass. I watch, and I notice things that should be done differently, and I ache at the song selections of the 12 o’clock Mass, which I no longer plan. I want to be there. I feel disconnected. I do my best 106
to participate as fully as I can. As I kneel on the unforgiving hardwood of the living room floor, I think to myself about how very far away Jesus seems to be from me now – 6 feet apart, to be precise. The Third Sorrow – The Losing of Music That first week, I also notice something else. My voice. I cannot sing. It hurts to sing. I notice because I listen to a lot of choral pieces while I am sick. My favorite group, Voces8, is giving me a lot of comfort. They are performing “Lully, Lulla, Lullay,” a reworking of the Coventry Carol that I absolutely adore. I try to sing my Bass part. I can’t. I try to sing the Tenor part. I can’t. I panic. Who am I if I can’t sing? My voice strains against my throat like a beast ravaged and broken. As a freshman at OLLU, I filled the chapel with psalm and song. As a sophomore, I relished in performing in the University Choir production of an Into the Woods medley. I loved singing “Agony.” Fitting, I guess. My fingers itch to play the piano. I was working on Tchaikovsky’s Valse Sentimentale before I got sick. My fingers seem to demand to play to alleviate the sensation of horror at my inability to sing. Alas, I cannot play. The piano is in the dining room. That requires me to leave my room and to enter the rest of the house. I’d rather not infect my home in that way. The Fourth Sorrow – The Losing of Family That first week, my family reacts to my new status. My dad. He is excited when I pronounced myself negative, and anxious when I announced myself positive. He constantly walks into my room during that first week, checking my temperature, feeling my forehead. I put on my mask to shield him from the virus and from my frown at his ministrations. My mom. She brings a laptop home with her from her job. She works daily in the dining room. She takes phone calls, answers emails, and manages the billing of her employer, a trucking company, quite successfully from home. She constantly knocks on my door and walks into my room to care for me. I don’t care for that. My brother. He wears his heart under his sleeve. He doesn’t 107
worry for me. He knows I’m going to kick it. I guess he forgets I have asthma. He isn’t sick, so he thinks himself asymptomatic. He doesn’t go to work either. My aunt. She goes to the church choir faithfully every Sunday and works extremely hard to sing to the best of her ability. She practices on her own and constantly checks on me. She reassures me that she feels capable of working every Sunday, even if it is acapella. I shut myself in my room, away from my family. When, one by one, they all test positive (except for my aunt, who does not live with us), I break. The Fifth Sorrow – The Loss of Literature That first week, for the first time in my remembered life, I cannot read. My brain does not function anymore. I try. I try so hard. I clutch Hangsaman like the lifeline it is. I try to make sense of its interwoven narrative. I draw upon every skill I have in reading fiction. I look at characters. I try to relate to Natalie and her sense of isolation. I am feeling pretty isolated myself. Natalie speaks, her thoughts dancing around the page. Jackson tries to comfort me. I cannot understand a single word of what I am reading. I message Dr. Lalor, apologizing for not being able to read. She tells me that it is okay, that my health comes first, that I should focus on getting better and beating the virus. I hope that I can. The Sixth Sorrow – The Losing of Faith in Myself That first week, my body loses its ability to do a lot of things. I can’t read. I can’t sing. I can’t get out of bed. I can’t break a stupid fever of 103. It’s a litany of what I can’t do. I can’t see my family. I can’t do my homework. I can’t create music. I can’t write. I can’t read. I can’t be. I can’t. That’s the only other thing I’m positive about. The Seventh Sorrow – The Losing of My Sense of Self-Worth That first week gives way to the second week. 108
It’s the same thing. It’s the same damn thing. My parents exhibit the following symptoms: body aches. Chills. Slight fever. Coughing. Fatigue. My brother exhibits the following symptoms: fatigue. I exhibit the following symptoms: chills. Fevers. Daily asthma scares. Coughing. Sneezing. Fatigue. Inability to focus. Inability to read. Inability to write. I try to write a poem about my thoughts and feelings. Oh, there’s another symptom. Inability to feel like anything other than a blight, a murderer for infecting my family. … The first two weeks are difficult. I kick my symptoms after about a month. I slowly regain my ability to think and feel in the third week, and I put those to use in a furious attempt to catch up on my schoolwork. I read Hangsaman, The Haunting of Hill House, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle in the span of a week. I write a 15-page term paper in about three days. I comment on discussion boards. I feel well enough to go out and be with my family again. We are all positive, so we might as well be positive together. We play Rummikub together. I play the piano again, my fingers clumsily tripping over themselves in an awkward attempt to regain their former ability. I finish learning the Valse. It’s not pretty, but it oozes with a sense of loss. I guess that’s the Sentimentale part, that loss. My family and I go get tested three times. The first time, we all come back positive. The second time, my brother, my dad, and I all test negative. My mom tests positive. She rages against this. She feels fine. She has no symptoms. But she keeps testing positive. She tests herself two more times. She keeps this positive diagnosis and this negative outlook. Monday, July 20 I am working on my Contemporary Poetry course with Dr. Quiroz. I say working, but I really mean struggling. I am rusty with my poetry, and contemporary poetry is exceedingly difficult for me due to its rejection of form and meter. After weeks of confining 109
myself to my room and bed, I find it hard to free my mind and accept these experiments and powerful odes to self and liberty. My mom shouts with joy. I leave my office and ask her what happened. She proudly shares with me her most recent diagnosis. My mom is negative. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Sunday, September 20 Dios mío, Dios mío, ¿porque me has abandonado? This is a psalm based upon Jesus Christ’s suffering. David gives us guidelines here, a script for how to suffer with grace. During my time with COVID-19, I suffered in silence. I did not suffer with grace. My thoughts were in a turmoil. I was angry. Not at God, mind you. God is not the one who chose to go out that Saturday in June. God is not the one who chose to go to the bar. God is not the one who forsook the mask in happy, drunken idiocy. God is not the reason for my suffering. God did not abandon me. I abandoned myself. I abandoned reason. I abandoned good sense and judgement. I abandoned my body while sick. I was furious with myself for a long time. I lost so much. Health. Church. Music. Family. Graduate studies. Faith in myself. My sense of self-worth. I had seven sorrows, seven swords that pierced me. Now, I find an odd sense of comfort in that. Mary, mother of God, Queen of Heaven, Ultimate and most Blessed of Intercessors on our behalf, experienced seven sorrows of her own. It’s funny. For a religious person, I did not pray as often as I expected to during my sickness. I never doubted that God had my back, but I did not feel the need to explicitly pray anything special, until one day during either the second or third week of illness. Time was such a blur that I cannot say with accuracy what week or day it was. What I can say is that I prayed the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. Seven septets. Seven Hail Marys. Seven times seven the amount of intercession from my Blessed Mother for my family. In that way, God answered the question of porque me has abandonado. 110
He never abandoned me. I abandoned myself. And I needed Mary to help me find my way back to myself again. And for that, there is only one word I need to say. Amen.
Little Piggy #1 Kim Bishop
Under #2 Kim Bishop
Contributors Maureen Mancini Amaturo, New York based fashion/beauty writer/columnist, has an MFA in Creative Writing, teaches writing, leads a writing group she founded in 2007, and produces literary events. Her fiction, creative non-fiction, essays, poetry, and comedy have been widely published. She’s a 2020 Bram Stoker and TDS Creative Award nominee. Liswindio Apendicaesar is an Indonesian writer & translator who loves poetry and short stories. He is a member of the editorial board of Pawon Literary Bulletin. Recently he joined the InterSastra translator team for the project “Transwomen Stories Transcending Borders”. His pieces have been published or are forthcoming in several Indonesian & international literary outlets. Kim Bishop is a San Antonio based artist who has worked in arts education, social engagement arts, painting, printing and drawing for over three decades. As co-founder of Bishop & Valderas, LLC, she and Luis Valderas have established A3 Street Press, a largescale industrial printing event that has traveled the state for fifteen years and 3rd Space Art Gallery. Her work is a part of the San Antonio Library, Pearl Brewery and UTSA permanent collections. Currently she is in her final year of her MFA in contemporary drawing and painting at UTSA. V. Brancazio (They/Them/Theirs) is based in the Greater Boston Area and was recently awarded a 2021 Fellowship from the Somerville Arts Council, as supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. V is also a proud member of Stage Source’s Gender Explosion initiative. To view their work, visit: victoriabrancazio.com Eddie Brophy is a poet, author, and blogger from Massachusetts. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in English and Creative Writing. His previous writing credits include poems in The Poet’s Haven Digest, Better Than Starbucks, Ghost City Press, and Terror House Magazine. His short-short story “The B.K.R. Killer,” 114
can be read on Haunted MTL. You can read his blog at https:// eddiebrophywriter.weebly.com/ B. R. Burdette is a 34-year-old poet from Los Angeles, CA. His poems have been published in many literary journals, including the 15th Annual of Oberon Poetry and the Wingless Dreamer anthology: “A Glass of Wine with Edgar.” Justin Byrne is an elementary teacher and poet in Middle Tennessee. Justin earned his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with dual minors of Music and English from Middle Tennessee State University. Justin’s work can also be seen in Plants & Poetry, multiple books by Poets’ Choice, and The Parliament Literary Magazine. John Chang dreams in many worlds and brings back remnants. In his new works, people come and go; yet no one is seen. The migrators leave their shadows in the air and their marks on the sidewalks. Their words and echoes float through storms of sharp, black fragments flying in all directions. Chang’s East/West identity enriches his memory and brings flashbacks from lives lived in many places. Lea Colchado is a lecturer of English at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. She has a passion for teaching decolonial and Anzaldúan modes of writing such as as autohistoriateoría, magic thinking, and shadow work. She will begin her Ph.D. studies in Literature, Rhetoric and Composition, and Pedagogy this Fall at the University of Houston. Sarah Constantine is a New England-based writer who tends towards writing fantasy, magical realism, and poetry. When not writing, she can be found snuggled under a blanket reading, playing video games, or googling copious amounts of Mothman lore. Natalee Cruz is a poetry and fiction MFA candidate at The New School. Her previous work has been published in The Spectacle and The Ilanot Review. Her chapbook I Have Seen The Bluest Blue 115
is forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse in 2022. Kathleen “Corky” Culver, born in Chicago, but continually sliding South, is a poet, activist, videographer and historian who earned her doctorate in English from the University of Florida. Her films documenting lesbian history in the Southeast are archived with the Lesbian Home Move Project, and she has written on lesbian activism for Sinister Wisdom. Her first poetry publication was in the iconic children’s magazine The Weekly Reader, and her full-length poetry collection, The Natural Law of Water, was published in 2007. A regular performer at the annual Womonwrites Conference. Culver lives and writes in North Central Florida. Shivi Dixit Shivi Dixit is a high school student, currently preparing for medical entrance exam. Being fascinated by the idea of death, she writes short horror stories and poems centred around its nature and its relation with the world around her. She can be reached at her Instagram account: @shivi____dixit Yvonne M. Estrada is a photographer and poet. Exhibitions include two solo shows at Avenue 50 Studio and group exhibitions at the Vincent Price Art Museum, Antioch University, Cal Poly Pomona, and Rio Hondo College. Her photos have been published in My Name on Top of Yours, featuring Estrada’s own poetry; Wounded World, lyric essays by Terry Wolverton; Gutters and Alleyways, from Lucid Moose Lit. Estrada is an Emergency Medical Technician for L.A. County. Juliana Aragón Fatula’s, second book, Red Canyon Falling on Churches, won the High Plains Poetry Award 2016, and her first book Crazy Chicana in Catholic City was also published by Conundrum Press. She teaches cultural diversity and believes in the power of education to change lives. Lysz Flo is an afrolatinx, trilingual spoken word artist, author of fiction and poetry, member of The Estuary Collective, and a podcast host of Creatively Exposed and a Voodoonauts Summer 2020 Fellow. She released her poetry novel Soliloquy of an Ice Queen, March 2020. 116
Henry Garcia is a current graduate student of Our Lady of the Lake’s MA in Literature, Creative Writing, and Social Justice. An avid student of folklore and fairy tales, Henry has taken his love of stories into his classrooms as both student and teacher. Sara Gilbert is a third year Ph.D. student in Creative Writing at Oklahoma State University. She holds an MFA from American College Dublin and an MA in literature from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her work has been featured in New Plains Review, Minerva Rising’s The Keeping Room, the Santa Clara Review, along with others. Natascha Graham says she was raised simultaneously by David Bowie and Virginia Woolf. She writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry, as well as writing for stage and screen. She lives with her wife in a house full of sunshine on the east coast of England. Her play, How She Kills, was performed by The Mercury Theatre in August 2020 and broadcast on BBC radio. Follow her progress at www.nataschagrahamwriter.com, or Twitter: someofherparts and Instagram: vitaswoolf Anna Kaye-Rogers A resident of the Illinois Valley, Anna KayeRogers has been previously published in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. A list of her pieces (when she remembers to update it) can be found on facebook. Lisa Krawczyk (they/them) is a nonbinary, neurodivergent poet currently based in the Midwest. Their poetry can be found or forthcoming in the West Review, the Ice Colony, Defunkt Magazine, Vaine Magazine, the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, and elsewhere. They teach for Gris Literatura. Douglas Krohn is a primary care physician outside of New York City and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at New York Medical College. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Intima, Crossroads, The Westchester Review and other publications.
Bridget Lang is an 18-year-old writer, currently studying at the University of Maryland, College Park. Leeor Margalit (she/her) is a 22-year-old from southern California currently residing on a kibbutz in the south of Israel. She is yet unpublished, however one of her poems: “Fragments From a Junior’s Thoughts (Part 1)” has become quite popular on Tumblr. She enjoys writing poetry, reading, and photographing her friends. Leeor Margalit (she/her) is a 22 year old who was born and raised in southern California. Her work has recently appeared in Rigorous Magazine and she is currently backpacking across Israel. Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 300+ publications in 32 countries. www.brandonmarlon.com Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and multi-award-winning author. She is currently a Fulbright Scholar and completing her PhD with a focus on the intersection of eating disorders and poetry. Learn more at www.thischerokeerose.com. Emily Rose Miller Emily graduated cum laude with a BA in English. Her work has been published in Capsule Stories, PopMatters, and Red Cedar Review, among others. Find her online at emilyrosemiller.weebly.com, on Instagram and Twitter @actualprincessemily and @Em_Rose_Miller, respectively, or in real-life in Orlando, Florida, cuddling with her five cats. Victoria Pantalion is an emerging writer whose work is previously published in After Happy Hour Review the Sheepshead Review. Kushal Poddar, an author and a father, edited a magazine - Words Surfacing, authored seven volumes including ‘The Circus Came To My Island’, ‘A Place For Your Ghost Animals’, ‘Eternity Restoration Project- Selected and New Poems’ and ‘Herding 118
My Thoughts To The Slaughterhouse-A Prequel’. Follow him at amazon.com/author/kushalpoddar_thepoet or FB @KushalTheWriter and Twitter- @Kushalpoe MK PUNKY A co-founder of the 80’s hardcore band The Clitboys, MK PUNKY is the author of 13 books of fiction, journalism and poetry, most recently The Unexpected Guest, about befriending and housing a homeless neighbor. H. E. Riddleton, is a neurodivergent, mentally ill poetess exists mostly as a wandering, fluttering hippie in search for the prettiest leaf and a better world. Her publications can be found in The Visitant, Not Very Quiet, and No Tokens Journal. She has a forthcoming publication in Cold Mountain Review. D.D. Rozella is a bicycle tour guide who loves sharing poems. He is a deliberate and sporadic poet. He’s also a graduate of Seattle and Columbia University with a degree in Language, Literature and Social Culture. He lives with his wife and two daughters and runs trails with other poets. Adeline Pagan Sanchez is a Puerto Rican native currently attending the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas. She is a senior majoring in graphic design with aspirations in multiple media types. Sanchez strives to create work that reflects the emotional weight of everyday experiences and interactions. Mira Saxena is a writer based in Washington, DC. She was born in London, and is of East Indian origin. The motifs of home and belonging inform her writing. Having recently completed graduate level coursework in fiction at the Iowa Writers Workshop, she is currently at work on a novel. Jenna Seyer is a Publishing Assistant for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in New York City. She holds a Master of Science in Contemporary Literature from the University of Edinburgh and currently resides in New Jersey.
Sandeep Shete (“SandyVisual”) is an Indian visual artist who dabbles in digital artworks and gag cartoons. His work has appeared in both Indian and foreign publications such as The Fabulist, Esthetic Apostle, Scriblerus, 45th Parallel, Chaleur, Rumble Fish Quarterly, Camas, Beyond Words, Stoneboat, Showbear Family Circus, Reading Hour, and Fireside. Jennifer Shneiderman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a writer living in Los Angeles. She writes primarily about mental health and social justice. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in many publications, including: The Rubbertop Review, Bright Flash, Nanoism and Yale University’s The Perch. She received an Honorable Mention in the Laura Riding Jackson 2020 Poetry Competition. Leonel Solis is a local attorney who writes for pleasure. He attended a high school where Spanish was prohibited and sanctions were applied in English, i.e., spankings and expulsion from school. Leonel Solis remains bi-lingual to this day, proving you can’t beat the Spanish language out of anyone. He resides in San Antonio, where people understand both languages. Paul Tanner has been earning minimum wage, and writing about it, for too long. He was shortlisted for the Erbacce 2020 Poetry Prize. Author of “Shop Talk” (Penniless Press, 2019), “No Refunds” (Alien Buddha Press, 2020) and “Working Class Zero” (Dreich Publications, 2021). He likes cheese, except when he doesn’t. Anna Turner is a poet whose work centers on the ordinary and the spiritual. She is a 2018 Stonecoast Writing Conference attendee, and her work has appeared in ‘Balancing Act 2’ (Littoral Books) and been featured in the Portland Museum of Art’s ARTWORD ekphrastic exhibition. She lives in Portland, Maine. Edward Vidaurre is an award-winning poet and author of seven collections of poetry. He is the 2018-2019 City of McAllen, Texas Poet Laureate, a five-time Pushcart-nominated poet, and publisher of FlowerSong Press. His writings have appeared in The New 120
York Times, The Texas Observer, Grist, Poet Lore, The Acentos Review, Poetrybay, Voices de la Luna, as well as other journals and anthologies. Vidaurre resides in McAllen, Texas with his wife and daughter Kris Whorton, Originally from Boulder, Colorado, Kris Whorton lives in Chattanooga where she teaches writing at the University of Tennessee and Hamilton County Jail; she also teaches teens, adults, and mental health members in the community. Her poetry will appear in The Greensboro Review, Salmon Creek Review, Poet’s Choice and elsewhere. Her fiction has been published in Driftwood Press, Scarlet Leaf Review, and elsewhere; her Creative NonFiction has been anthologized rob lane wilder explores philosophy, psychology, and spiritual transformation. Some publishing credits include Poetry New Zealand, Feathertale Review, Pacific Review, Chronogram, The Seattle Review, Libretto Review, The Boston Literary Review, Cordite Review, and Poetry Quarterly. Wilder is also a classically trained musician and voice actor. Wei Zheng has written poems since 1991, and his poems appear in Poetry Exploration, Poetry Journal, Stars Poetry, and Green Breeze in China. He is also a contributor to Innisfree Poetry Journal, Third Wednesday, Whale Road Review, Apricity Magazine, Bracken Magazine, Lucky Jefferson, Fahmidan Journal, and The Rainbow Poems.
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