ESPRIT The University of Scranton Review of Arts and Letters Fall 2009 Editor-in-Chief Matthew Mercuri Production Manager CJ Libassi Assistant Production Managers Patrick Bannon, Jenn Dice, Patrick Morris, Ryan Pipan, Lauren Shuleski, Danielle Torres, Aleksander J. Zywicki Editors Patrick Bannon Gerard Nolan Laura Bonawits Eric Pencek Jenn Dice Ryan Pipan Renae Fisher Lauren Shuleski Gina Fullam Alexis Sullivan Jenna Gilligan Rosa Todaro Mike Le Danielle Torres Caitlin McCarthy Gemma Williams Patrick Morris Aleksander J. Zywicki Check-In Maria Landis Faculty Moderator Stephen Whittaker
Esprit, a co-curricular activity of the English department, is published twice yearly by the students of The University of Scranton. The content is the responsibility of the editors and does not necessarily reflect the views of the administration or faculty. The University subscribes to the principle of responsible freedom of expression for its student editors. Copyright by The University of Scranton, Scranton, PA 18510.
Fall 2009 Awards The Berrier Poetry Award Gemma Rose Williams The Raw and the Cooked The Berrier Prose Award Kathleen Hudson Saturday Night The Esprit Art & Photography Award Anna DiColli Untitled 2
Fall 2009 Award Judges: Poetry: Matthew Vita, class of 2009, was an editor and assistant production manager for Esprit, as well as Editor-in-Chief of Aquinas. His short story â€˜Simulacrumâ€™ won the Berrier Prose Award in Spring 2009. Currently, he teaches in a charter school in Delaware through Teach for America. Prose: Jennifer Lewis is a former editor and contributor of Esprit who served as Editor-in-Chief for the 2008-2009 school year. She is currently pursuing a medical degree at Thomas Jefferson Medical College and plans to practice primary care medicine. Photography: Lisa Hinkle is an assistant professor at Marywood University, from which she received her M.F.A. She teaches history of photography and all levels of studio photography. She is currently at work on a book of her photographs.
Contents Holding Back (In The Workshop)
What He Might Have Meant
Zygfryd S. Dabrowski
Aleksander J. Zywicki
Thou Profoundest Hell Receive Thy New Possessor
The Raw and the Cooked
Gemma Rose Williams
The Cocktail Party
Haikus for the Waking God in Ruins
Aleksander J. Zywicki
Rose Marie Wong
After the Aquarium in Coney Island
Untitled The Pottery Date more or less color moon and sunset
Anna DiColli Kevin Behr Gina Fullam Gina Fullam
Front Cover Inside Front Cover Inside Back Cover Back Cover
Holding Back (In The Workshop) Josh Perry
I’m getting lost in your curls, the way that you twirl, flowing gracefully from line to line. But I won’t let you know. I can’t tell you how flawless you are. Instead, I say things like, “I really loved that line about loving that line about loving that line,” but that part where you kept repeating the same thing seemed a bit showy. Then my disclaimer: “Maybe that’s just me though.” Always holding back, because it’s easier to pick than to praise. I could end here, but I didn’t. If you had written that, I would’ve told you to say, “could’ve ended,”
because that goes better with “didn’t,” but I won’t, cause you didn’t–I did. At this point, I might hint that you’re rambling. And, maybe, you should’ve ended at praise. But I won’t.
Emerald City Matthew Mercuri
Few have ever heard of Crawley, Missouri, as if the town in its totality had been dropped from the sky when no one was watching, the Creatorâ€™s hand withdrawn into the clouds as quickly and discreetly as it had come. With a recorded population of five-hundred and thirty-two, Crawley sits quietly to the northeast of Bull Shoals Lake in the wooded highlands of Ozark County. On the outskirts of town runs a brook full of stripers, catfish and rainbow trout. A grist mill sits at the head of the brook, all the day its water-wheel creaking splashing turning. The current leaves out into a pond beside a single-story house with green wooden siding and brown wooden shutters. In the side-yard stands a small, window-less garage painted to match the house. Both the house and its pond are encircled by thick foliage on the brink of seasonal change. A girl, aged nine, is riding her bicycle down the driveway, which is lined on the right by a low stone wall and on the left by sunflowers dressed in yellow jackets. Pink ribbons dangle from the ends of her handlebars. Clipped by a clothespin to the tail of the bicycle, a Jack of Diamonds trips the spokes as she pedals. Noisily, she coasts onto the grass, her spinning tires glistening wet, and rides to the back of the house. Nearby the pond, she dismounts and throws her helmet into the yard. Poised among the reeds, a black cat swipes at the water. The girl watches silently, her brown curls flat and dampened with sweat, as a small fish flaps in the mud. Nervously, she joins the cat on the bank of the pond, water seeping from the muddy grass beneath her sneakers, and peers over at the blue-jade surface. There she sees her reflection; brows bend down and inward. The brook rustles like distant paper in the trees. As the sun begins to fall in the West, the child shifts her attention to overturning rocks at the tree line, exposing a worm half-buried in
the dirt. She readies her thumb and forefinger and grasps its cold slick wriggling body. Surprised by the texture, she releases her grip but quickly regains hold. She then draws the worm from the ground slowly, gently, inch-after-inch, like the vital thread of an ornate fabric. She dangles it at armâ€™s length, its slimy skin coated with moist bits of soil. Seconds later, the worm is ribboning through the air like an unlatched bracelet, striking the face of the pond and shattering the reflection of foliage above. Radially, tiny waves race outward from the spot. The girl is running, squealing at her boldness. The cat follows her into the house, where the child kicks off her muddied shoes, leaps onto the sofa and turns on the television. Upon the screen a farewell is unfolding: hugs and waves, tears and smiles; loosed from its platform, a balloon bannered OMAHA. Ruby slippers twinkle silver. The girl reclines upon the plush sofa and holds the cat snugly to her chest. There beneath the swirling shadows of a ceiling fan, she dives into the green-cloudy world of sleep. *** Paul Caldwellâ€™s head is swimming. He sits in the living room of his home in Crawley, Missouri, The Wizard of Oz playing on a television in the background. Cindy was thirteen months old when she spent her first night in the wooden crib that he had purchased second-hand from his neighbor for twenty dollars. He would hang his torso over the rail of the crib, his wide round face beaming like the moon, and struggle to believe that what he had was real. Sometimes he would close his eyes and pretend that it was all a dream, a charade playing out in his unconscious, so when he opened them and beheld the adopted child lying there, he would be temporarily filled with quiet joy, reaffirmed, overcome. Home-schooled her entire life, Cindy will eventually need the instruction of a real teacher. Paulâ€™s geography is shaky, his grammar flawed. And Cindy will have the chance to make friends. She will be invited over to their houses to study and play. Sometimes she will stay for dinner, passing the salt and peas and potatoes to other children at the table, other children and their parents.
Glancing out the window, Paul spies Cindy upending rocks beneath a canopy of sycamores. According to the pencil scratches on the kitchen door-frame, the girl has grown an entire inch in the last six months. JoJo is watching her carefully from the water’s edge. Girl and the Cat. Paul reaches for an old Polaroid camera and takes a quick exposure. The photograph slides out of a slit in the front of the plastic casement. He takes it between his fingers and fans the air for a few seconds before dropping it onto the table. Soon the income from The Herald will not be enough to support the two of them. Thank God for the free-lance in Springfield. Paul hopes to gain some recognition by submitting his work to prominent showcases in the region, though not much good so far. At a recent gallery in Jefferson City, a critic termed his work “vapid,” the child of an “unoriginal mind, stifled by technicality.” Development proceeds silently on the table before him. Grayness dissolves into beige. Dark outlines emerge slowly from the nothingness, forms taking their shape as shadows. The color always comes in last. In a few minutes, the image is revealed. Paul holds the picture at arm’s length, then close to the bridge of his nose. He frowns. Frozen in time, Cindy is barely holding onto something—a worm, he thinks—in front of her face. That steep, hooked nose. Matted curls of hair. To him, she appears old, inquisitive, other. Paul reaches again for his Polaroid and postures himself at the window, but the strange child has apparently abandoned her play. He turns back to the table, takes one final look at the photo, and discards it into the waste-paper bin. *** At a desk topped in green leather-cloth, Paul sits in his bedroom with a book in his hands. Words roll quietly off his tongue while the evening wears on amid the rhythmic ticking of the desk-clock, its secondhand stuttering about the face. Eyelids wearing heavy, Paul sets down the book and rests his chin in the bend of his elbow. After thirty minutes, the acrid, chemical scent of burning plastic calls him to attention. Enlivened, he runs to Cindy’s room and leads her safely to the road. He commands her to stay there, along with JoJo. Black
smoke rolls out beneath the door of his studio in the side-yard. With one hand masking his face, he reaches for the knob. The hot metal scorches his palm, so he wraps his hand with a bandanna from his back pocket. He grabs the knob again, and turns. Through fear-stricken eyes, Paul watches it transpire. Tongues of flame licking at the ceiling tiles of a window-less garage, burning the photography equipment and melting paint from the walls, exposing and purifying. Specters emerging from folds of smoke, then vanishing behind curtains of fire. Like a nervous magic lantern, he thinks. Above the deadened air, amid the cracking sparking popping, the roof begins to cave. Blinded by the blaze, Paul retreats to the darkness of the road, man and child silhouetted against a flaming edifice. *** Laved in sunlight, Paul and his daughter watch a crew of hardhatted men raise a wooden frame upon a square of burnt earth. The day is typically autumnal, warm and damp. Paul holds Cindy in his lap as they sit on a blanket in the backyard. She grows restless in the confines of his arms and begins to squirm. Eventually, she breaks free and sprints away squealing, her sneakers crushing brittle leaves of red and gold and orange. A pile of spare lumber lies next to the construction site. Paul conceives a tree house in the fork of one of those sycamores overlooking the pond. He pictures the rungs fastened with nails to the thick plates of bark, a rope-swing for jumping, knots for climbing. Large enough for two people, maybe three. It would be, for his daughter, a world to herself: a space to pretend, a place to relax, somewhere to hide when suppertime calls her home on a hot summer evening. A tiny voice interrupts these imaginings. Cindy is yelling out to her father from near the pondâ€™s edge. She demands that he watch her carefully. She raises her short, thin arms above her head, bends her neck down, and hurls her body into a cartwheel. She loses her balance in midturn and falls on her knees, leaving two bowl-shaped imprints in the grass. Cindy looks down disgustedly at the mud on her jeans. Paul laughs and leans back on his elbows, head tipped to the sky, eyes set on stray clouds passing, the sun shining through morning gauze. A tree house.
Save for the sycamores and the patches of pine that stand tall and impressive amid the enclosure, the foliage in Crawley has begun to surrender its green cover. Tomorrow, the colors will persist in their turning, engulfing the little-known town in the hues of autumn.
What He Might Have Meant Shawna Hogan
The fruit is definite in my hand, it justifies itself in my mouth. Nothing mystical here. Since there has been music in my memory, Jim Morrison has been imploring me. Break on through, he bellows with changing basement parties with the similar miasmas of beerâ€”Break on through to the other side, yeah. And I have tried. But does the fruit have to plant seeds and turn to a tree in the pit of my stomach? Do we have to be transported by external forces we can never name, cocky at the distances weâ€™ve come from the familiar self? Or can I, instead, walk the ordinary steps of my narrow life and wind up so deep into the human I discover it all over again, can taste creation. The light, warm laughter of some kids in the courtyard comes towards me like a solid touch, wraps around the nearby universe. At this moment my teeth break through the taut red skin, and Jim, I may have done it. Yeah.
Zygfryd S. Dabrowski Aleksander J. Zywicki
Thumping themselves through the on and on despondent dawn, the unpublished, unpainted pair gasp and whisper in hollow spurts of restless soft and sunken air past bodegas, brownstones, and bars and homeless men curled like scars beneath the chilly city’s concrete skin and blank sprawling neon awnings that beg the stumbling night, come in. Zygfryd S. Dabrowski who lives, for art, now, especially, gives Lulu the water that he bought her with his last two dollars from the café that plays music that stirs and he sits quietly, mildly, stroking his beard wildly, secretly grasping and groping at the sheer overwhelming reason for why it is he’s here. And the speakers pour his songs for free which he requests for his wife recently, who Lulu whimpers for on the sill. And on and on he paints the dawn and whispers softly still.
Thou Profoundest Hell Recieve Thy New Possessor Eric Pencek
Mildred didn’t know her name was Mildred. Her lover addressed her only by a soft squeak that suggested affection. The zookeepers had given the name to her when she hatched but never bothered to tell her this. Until one very peculiar day in early summer, Mildred’s life had proceeded uneventfully. She ate the fish her handlers provided, and made sport of sliding down the ramps to the communal pool, where she swam for hours every day. She and her lover engaged shamelessly in acts of physical intimacy amid crowds of onlookers, as is the custom among penguins. (Her lover, incidentally, was named Harold, but neither of them knew this.) Every day a human keeper spoke to crowds of other humans about the penguins, in strange, droning incantations that Mildred found vaguely unpleasant. Because she did not recognize this speech, she learned nothing about her species. In truth, she never thought of herself as having one. How that particular summer day came to pass is very difficult to relate; an uncanny series of accidents occurred which is impossible to describe without taxing a reader’s credulity. Therefore I shall simply have to ask the reader to accept that, as the zoo fell into chaos, Mildred quietly and inconspicuously waddled free. She made her way to the road, and, as she took her first step onto the macadam, she narrowly missed being killed by something that crashed through the air before her, something large and red, flickering with frantic lights and blaring a loud, mad howl. Mildred turned to watch as the fire truck joined a host of other emergency vehicles at the zoo’s entrance, and for some time she stared at the flashing lights they produced. She stared quite longer than a penguin might be expected to. I believe—I cannot prove, but offer as my hypothesis—that it was this encounter with the
strangeness of this new world that awoke something deep in Mildred’s ornithic mind. An infinitude of possibilities swirled before her eyes in that chaos of lights, and gears began to turn that for ordinary penguins simply never move. The word “satori” might not be wholly inapplicable. Mildred crossed the road, and I must insist to you upon the wholly remarkable fact that this time, she looked both ways before she did so. The fields beyond the highway brought Mildred to a quiet suburban development. She found herself growing warm; the late-morning temperatures this time of year were a bit too much for her without the zoo’s climate controls. Still she waddled on, and approached several backyard pools, but the chlorine stench caused her to recoil. By the time midday drew near, the walk had worn her out, given the heat and her present condition— Ah, I have forgotten to mention. Mildred was heavy with egg. She relaxed for a while in the shade of a shrub, looking about her and wondering. The mental gears set into motion earlier had not ceased to turn, and the newness of the world made a marvel of everything she saw. Every squirrel was a package of mysteries, every dog-bark a message from heaven. The scent of lilacs gave her a rapturous shiver. She paid special attention to the birds overhead. How she knew that she possessed some distant kinship to them I cannot explain. But she found herself transfixed by their graceful cavorts though the air. Presently she beheld a nest. Sparrows flittered to and from it high in the branches of a nearby tree. Somehow Mildred intuited that the structure was intended for their eggs. And in a flash, it dawned on her that that was why these birds could fly—they were hatched in the sky, free from the shackles of the earth. I do not believe it to be an overstatement to assert that Mildred had the greatest idea in the history of penguin thought when she resolved to lay her egg in that nest. Mildred drew herself up to full height and savagely beat the air with her wings in imitation of the sparrows, willing herself to rise. Out of respect for her I shall decline to describe what this looked like. Finally she collapsed, exhausted and roasting. The sun descended, the shadows lengthened. She watched the
squirrels very carefully. When the heat of the day abated somewhat, Mildred waddled up to the tree, wrapped her wings around its bark as tightly as she could, and tried stepping up onto the trunk. She pushed with her foot and succeeded in knocking herself flat on her back. After several tries more, she gave up on a direct vertical approach. Instead, she pondered a lesson the squirrels had taught her. To get to a higher branch, leap from a lower one. If she could only make her own “branches,” she could eventually jump to the one with the nest. Q.E.D. The nearest makeshift “branch” she could find was a decorative rock in a nearby garden, smooth and rounded and almost the size of her. The effort it took to move that rock from the garden to underneath the tree was too painful to contemplate in detail. Despite the heat, she heaved and pushed with her shoulders and neck until, little by little, the stone eased and inched to its intended location. It is a wonder that she did not lose the egg. Finally, with the stone in place, she decided to take stock of her present advantage and climbed on top of it. She looked straight up, craning her neck to see if the nest looked any closer. Perhaps it did, by the slightest degree, appear just barely perceptibly closer. Maybe. And that meant that it would take hundreds of stones to reach that pinnacle, each as heavy as the last and further afield than the one before it. Mildred fell off the rock and collapsed on the grass in an agony of mute despair. Her failure had condemned her chick to the ground forever. She lay there and stared at the nest her egg would never know until the zookeepers came to collect her, stuffing her into a plastic carry-case. They were well on their way along the highway when a new epiphany struck Mildred. She had lain in the confines of the carry-case, feeling the slow lull of the road, until, for the first time, she began to listen to the human murmur she had heard all of her life but to which, until now, she had never paid attention. It was unpleasant, yes, but oddly complex. The longer she listened, the clearer it became that these murmurs were, for the humans, what the bleats and brays of penguinkind were to them— vocalizations of some expressive quality. But oddly more complex, with
pattern of sounds and intonations far more complex than those of penguincalls. And they traded them back and forth… Those new gears in her mind began to spin in a wild frenzy with an idea so strange and wonderful that she all but shook for the discovery. A complex enough vocalization could convey—well, potentially anything. And if she could but discover how to make those sounds for herself, then she could return to tell her fellow penguins about the secret of nests, and teach them that someday, they might learn to lay their eggs in the sky, that their offspring could swim in the air. After a brief health-check the handlers returned her to the penguin-pen. Harold approached her with his softest, most loving squeak. Mildred returned it and tried another, at a higher pitch. Harold attempted to snuggle. She tried a lower pitch, another still lower, a modulation of low and highs. Harold continued attempting to snuggle. Mildred’s efforts over the next few weeks become a puzzle to the zookeepers. She would run up to any penguin in sight, attempting a series of noises of no particularly apparent signification; at her pen-mates’ invariable failure to reciprocate, she would often scramble around in circles beating her wings in something curiously akin to a tantrum. Finally Mildred settled into a quiet, morose despondency. The handlers had to take her egg; she wouldn’t attend to it. She is still alive, and if you go to her zoo, you can still see her, standing apart from the rest of the penguins and brooding. She spends a great deal of time staring into the water in the pool. If I had to guess, I would say that the lights reflecting on the water remind her of the emergency flashers, and she is waiting for an answer. Harold, because Mildred would no longer return his affections, found another lover. Her name is Lucy. But none of the three of them know that.
The Raw and the Cooked Gemma Rose Williams
Old woman, Ruptured and rotting, We used your marrow To sweeten our tea. But our stories are still in those bones– Those bones we licked clean. Old woman, Landlocked and blind, You are the keeper of all we know. Lock it up And let it go. How could you stay up, Carrying nations on your back? How could you keep up In a kitchen with Closed curtains? But still– We pray you keep us– Old woman, Keep us civilized. Keep us locked up In old pictures, Old stories– Keep us alive In those bones– In Sunday dinners,
In holidays. On holidays, We’ll take what’s left Of your eyes And boil– Boil it with mint And drink. Old woman, What’s left– What’s left after All your recipes– The scraps of your stories, Of your creations– Is progress. Beat it off until it bleeds– Beat it off with a wooden spoon And make the blood a sweet sauce. Old woman, Keep us polished. Stave off what’s left– What’s left is progress. We know it pushes, it presses, It caves in your chest– Just let it go. Mother and whore of all we know, You kept us polished, But let us go. Old woman, When you’re gone, We’ll entomb you In your linens
And bake up your bones. Lay you on the table And pray around The carcass We helped lick clean, And delight in any taste We can save. And savor any taste We canâ€™t afford To let go.
The Cocktail Party Gerard Nolan
At Rise: MATT and LISA are at a cocktail party on Valentine’s Day in someone’s house.They each have a glass of wine in their hands. MATT is wearing a fancy tuxedo. LISA is wearing a costume shaped like a heart with fancy embroidery on it. MATT You’re dressed as a heart. LISA Oh? Yes. I am—a heart. Matt The embroidery is superb. LISA Oh?...Thank you...I guess. MATT I don’t mean to sound creepy; I am an embroidery enthusiast. LISA What’s that? MATT Exactly what it sounds like. LISA I still don’t know what being an embroidery enthusiast entails. Do you attend craft shows? Embroider pillows every night before bed? MATT Not often. Usually I attend embroidery battles. LISA Battles? MATT Yes. Embroidery battles. Two people, needle and yarn in hand, go head to head, feverishly embroidering a 12 by 12 piece of fabric. The person with
the more intricate and accurate rendering of the design—say, a heart— wins the battle. LISA You do this? MATT No. No. I don’t compete. I merely watch from the sidelines. LISA Oh—well it’d be more impressive if you competed. MATT I’ve tried. Couldn’t hack it. Not enough fast twitch in my fingers. LISA Pity. MATT Yeah...but I live vicariously through the real athletes! LISA Who are these people? MATT Just everyday people. People who are excited about embroidery—and have a lot of fast twitch muscles. It takes the whole body working together to win a contest like that. LISA Why don’t I believe you? MATT What’s so hard to believe? LISA You don’t look like you’d be into embroidery. MATT Do my fingers not look very nimble or something? I assure you, it’s true, I love embroidery—What are you into? LISA Definitely not needlework...Hmmm. Well...I taste wine... MATT You do? Really? LISA Yes. I just started last year.
MATT What do you think of this wine? LISA The wine here is so-so. It has a lot of complexity but lacks character. MATT I hear wine tasters can get intoxicated even if they don’t swallow the wine. Goes in through the lining of their mouths. LISA That’s true. It can happen—but we’re careful. I’ve never seen it. MATT I also think I may be a little intoxicated—though I wasn’t tasting the wine. Just drinking it. I usually don’t care what it tastes like. By the way, why exactly are you wearing a heart costume? LISA Yeah. It’s sort of embarrassing. I thought this was a costume party. MATT So did I! LISA That’s so funny! MATT I know!...Is there anyone else dressed oddly? LISA I looked before. Saw no one. I was going to leave. But I thought I’d mingle and hope my big heart wasn’t too obtrusive. MATT There’s a joke in there somewhere. LISA For some reason I thought my friend Julie said to come to her costume party. Maybe she said cocktail party? That doesn’t make sense. MATT You know Julie? LISA Yeah. She and I have been friends since the eighth grade. How do you know her?
MATT We work together at Ron’s Rentals. LISA The tuxedo. MATT Exactly…But I didn’t actually think it was a costume party. I just thought it’d be ironic to celebrate Singles Awareness Day by wearing a wedding tux. LISA Singles Awareness Day? MATT Yes. Today is not Valentine’s Day for me. People need to be painfully aware of the number of hurting people afflicted with singleness. Single people have been cast off by a society indifferent to their troubles. All we hear about is gay marriage or civil unions or the defense of traditional marriage. Etc., etc.—What about single people? Valentine’s Day is just a symptom of a society bent on celebrating marriage and relationships and forgetting the single person. So I chose to celebrate Singles Awareness Day. LISA That’s actually kind of sad. MATT Happy sad! LISA I think people can find fulfillment outside of being single.You don’t need another to be happy. MATT You’re right…I don’t. I have embroidery. LISA Yes but do you find that kind of hobby satisfying?...As satisfying as a woman?…Or a man, if you’re so inclined… MATT Why do people always think I’m gay?…I like to embroider. It has little to do with my sexuality. LISA Little?
MATT I meant it has nothing to do with it. Nothing at all. Don’t connect the two. LISA Hey—you like to embroider.You even say you used to want to embroider competitively. I wondered. MATT There you go again! Don’t evaluate people using your preconceived ideas about the sexual preferences of a male embroidery enthusiast. I like women and embroidery but find embroidery more satisfying. LISA What about embroidery on a woman? MATT Heavenly. But without the embroidery? Commonplace. Old hat. LISA Women are old hat? You sure you’re not gay? And you want to remain single? Supposing that you are. MATT Yes, yes, and yes. LISA What about your support for Singles Awareness and how painful it is to be single? MATT Easy. I am showing solidarity with my single friends who don’t have fulfillment in their lives. I have fulfillment. There’s a difference. LISA I don’t believe you. MATT It’s true. LISA So you’re only talking to me because you admire my embroidery? MATT Yes. It caught my eye. I like embroidery. LISA I know.
MATT Where’d you get it? LISA The outfit? MATT Yes…Look at that lattice work. Stunning! LISA I’m not sure. I found it lying around the house. MATT Yes! I knew it! You can’t buy something with this level of workmanship! LISA I had no idea. MATT May I feel it? LISA I’m sorry? MATT May I feel your embroidery? LISA What a strange request. MATT I just want to feel the intricacies of the stitch. LISA Ok. You’re hitting on me. MATT No I’m not. LISA I’ve been hit on...on several occasions...I know what’s going on...though I’ve never had a man come up to me under the pretext of being an embroidery expert. MATT No. No. It’s not what you’re thinking. Would you like to get some more wine?
LISA I think I’ve had enough actually...Name five different kinds of embroidery stitches. MATT Ummm... LISA You can’t! MATT We don’t have to get wine. We can have mixed drinks! LISA I refuse to talk about anything else until you name five different stitches. MATT There’s even BudLight if you’re so inclined. LISA You can’t! MATT Can’t what? Basque stitch, feather stitch, cross stitch, buttonhole stitch, and Algerian eye stitch. LISA Wow. MATT Wine or mixed drinks? LISA Yes—I mean more wine. MATT Ok. Let’s go.
Daniel Kathleen Hudson
“I hate poetry,” he says. “I know,” I say. “But you still have time to do it. Class isn’t for an hour.” He rolls his eyes and reads. Shakespeare, Frost, Blake, all the classics. He buries his head in his book as I do Italian homework. I’m supposed to be conjugating verbs. The verb is… An acorn hits me in the chest and lands on my book. I look up, but he is pretending he didn’t throw it. I go back to Italian. The verb is… Another acorn whizzes past my head and I look up with warning anger. He hangs his head with mock shame and sighs. “I hate poetry.” “I know,” I say. “But fall break will be soon.” “And Christmas after that.” “Yeah, and then the January Intersession.” Grim. Nobody likes January. “At least it’s nice out,” I say, because I don’t have anything better to talk about than the weather. I’m right though. It is nice out, for a change. We are sitting outside the library at one of the metal picnic tables, which is covered in mud and bird crap. The sun is out, shining through the trees around us, filtering light through leaves of green and gold. A warm breeze washes over us, and I shiver. It won’t be this way for long. It will be cold soon and the leaves will blow off the trees and leave them wasted and barren. The gray clouds will roll in and hide the sun. It gets pretty cold up here, in the mountains where we go to school. January will come and the world will turn gray and white instead of red and green and yellow and purple like it is now. I am staying at school for January, but he isn’t. He’s going home, and I won’t see him for a whole long dark month. He throws another acorn at me and I throw it back, concentrate on verbs. The verb is...
At first I think he is throwing something at me again, but when I look at him he is concentrating on his work. I look up and gasp and then he looks up, too. A strong breeze shakes the trees above, branches spread out in a brightly colored embrace. The tree shakes and hundreds and hundreds of tiny oval-shaped leaves fall, a golden storm, covering us, cascading and swirling in the breeze. The light shines through the leaves and I reach out my hand and catch a few, and they tumble through my fingers and I laugh and so does he. Just for us the leaves swirl and dance, covering everything, and we are in a miracle.
Anna DiColli 31
Catch Patrick Morris
We can find ourselves catching glimpses in the little reflections that look back at us in glass. Us like glass. Eyes of relatives and eyes of friends. That summer I might have been floating above the eye of my friend. Like frosted windows my face muted from condensation and the grass something from typical Maine. All this in his glassesâ€”Sometimes my mother and her grey acid wash jeans exactly like the sky outside of our apartment. Sometimes the melting of the charcoal-colored snow and then charcoal-colored ice. That summer all the colors fighting each other or dancing
together like the friends we will miss because they knew to explode in independent light just to fade into something we could only see. Their minds and fireworks on the fourth of July over the Hudson river. The skyâ€™s close up and everything lighting and dimming down again like thoughts or fireflies in the dark. Like a movie set put together with nails and glue. We, finally the leads, and together like a shattered mirror. Light and a broken bottleâ€” Like a broken watch buried with a king. Us crowded together that summer night and something overheard ...well, todayâ€™s debatable under all that light. Maybe that too in this dissonance out of context or our reflection
in the clear glue we used to use drying up, us disappearing. We can see snow coloring in time and ourselves playing catch and catching glimpses.
Her Cat Shawna Hogan
“I’ll tell you what, you take your shoes and we’ll throw in that cat for free.” He smugly snickered, and this was my opportunity to grab the sandals and get out of there, to snicker along in pretended sympathy and punctuate it by turning the door handle. But my uncle was not done. “Yeah, that’s a good deal, right? I’ll even give you its carrier—and how’s this for a bonus—I’ll even throw in its shitty litter box.” My hand weakly released the handle as I watched him in his grease-stained work uniform, stabbing a knife into a mayonnaise jar, assaulting the thick white stuff and neglecting his waiting bread. The ceiling fan whirred, a convenient place to direct my gaze while I looped strands of wet hair around my finger in time with the blades. I had come here to swim, thinking the place empty, and it had been. Floating aimlessly in their pool through the morning with my head on one of the kid’s tubes, I silently spoke to my mother under the fierce July sun, counting the months since she died. At the number seven I went under, touched the lining with my hand, and when I resurfaced, I saw that her cat, which my aunt had reluctantly taken in, was sunning himself like a white lion on the tiles, squinting at my familiar form. And then Jerry had come home. “Nobody believes me but I’m telling you that thing is psycho. We’re not cat people but I really hate that stupid thing….” He was off of his kitchen stool now, shifting his weight from side to side. His eyes had begun with mischief; at the mention of that thing they grew wide, as if confessing something of great importance. They pinned me to the spot where I stood; the disquieting feeling was that I was supposed to understand the confession. He made a jittery little laugh like springs releasing from a coil: “You like that cat that much then it’s yours. I’ll even throw in its food. And it ain’t the cheap stuff, either!” His shoulders jerked
tensely and he continued—the cat was weirder than other cats, and they’re not even cat people anyway…the cat was ugly, or too pretty for a boy, too fluffy…the dirty thing wanted to rub up against you all the time. That cat did not belong there. She once tried to share with me a dream she had. The cancer hadn’t been in remission for long, and when tired or sad enough she still looked like a sick woman. She had appeared to be all three that morning, scooping coffee grounds into the filter and trying to tell me about her dream. She kept forgetting the small details she wanted to relay, but what she could remember, she said, was that it was violent. What she couldn’t shake that morning was that the cat was locked in a burning house and the two of us couldn’t get him out. Glancing around my aunt’s house, I tried to recall what I had done that morning—had I reassured her? Did I patronizingly nod and murmur, furtively skimming the paper (like so many do when being told of a dream)? I was certain I did not talk to her about death. There was an acidic taste in my mouth now. If I listened intently enough, I could hear my mother and Jerry laughing over there in the family room at some family party, pouring plastic cups of wine, swapping a series of raunchy jokes. I inched towards an exit, only Jerry was at the peak of his rant. “Of course it has to have long hair, so it gets shit stuck in it all the time. God I can’t stand that thing.” With that he seemed satisfied, his complexion returning from an irritated red to pallid. He set his plate and knife in the sink and turned to me. “If something bad happens to that cat, I didn’t do it. Right?” He chuckled and walked out the back door. When I followed him out, I was surprised to find the day still pretty and breathless, with long shadows under the suburban objects—the deck furniture, the bikes and pool fence. The shadows might harbor what I was looking for, and I scanned each one, finding nothing until I reached the back edge of the yard, where a sparse wood separated it from the main road. I called the cat’s name and he ran to my side from some hiding spot, brushing against my leg for a quick moment before scurrying over the grass into the thicket, out of my reach. My fingers grasped at air.
Remains For Patrick
The ghost that kisses the back of my neck no longer smells of your bargain cologne, but the night I learned of your suicide I lay down in the bed we had shared and it sagged again with the weight of both sets of bones. It was a young girl who needed you, who found a new depth to hold you in; that odd-shaped space called love has since been rearranged to accommodate the sizes of othersâ€”others whose scent Iâ€™ve forgotten too. Now you leave the world and I am surprised to become that girl once more, waking at night to search the air around her for your fitful body, dreaming your homeless soul a home.
You leave and I find you again, remaining somewhere in this troublesome place where our lives are never quite our lives alone.
The Story of Georgia’s Best Salesman
The office of Herbert Williams is tucked in a quiet corner on the th 8 floor of the Witten County Municipal Building in Tranesville, Georgia. Its walls are covered in wood paneling and over the parquet floor is a faded mustard-yellow rug. Along the walls, scattered throughout fishing trip photos, various achievements hang in the form of news clippings. Among the many accoutrements on his oversized desk are a few renderings of bald eagles done in wood, plastic and ceramics, many against the backdrop of a flowing United States flag. One, an eagle and flag painted on a flat, smooth stone with the words “Divided We Stand” underneath them, is encased in Plexiglas and rests directly across from him at the desk. On each side are pictures of what appeared to be Mr. Williams’ wife and children. “Nice little reminders of liberty,” he remarked of the trinkets on the afternoon we met in his office. “Easy to forget these days.” Williams, a detective for the Witten County Police Department, is a towering figure, easily outsizing my own 6’2” 230lb frame. It’s a stature reinforced by his booming voice and tendency toward a frankness he calls “no shit talk.” His gray hair retains a few clues of its former darkness and his aging is echoed in the slight sag of his facial features. As we talked, he often extracted himself from his place behind the desk and lumbered around the office, stopping to look out the window, his shadow stretching across the room. “I gotta get up and walk around a lot. I’ve changed chairs a shit-load of times. No matter what, my ass hurts if I sit too long,” he explained. Opposite his desk is a couch. With cushions worn nearly white, the clearest evidence of its original color is in the fabric of the frame. An extra pillow not belonging to the couch lays against one armrest and a blanket is draped sloppily over the back. A number of empty cans left around the room and a slightly stained soup bowl on a table show signs of
the space’s role as part-time domicile. When I asked him about his typical hours, he told me that he preferred working when the office was quiet, “once all the rock heads aren’t buzzing around trying to impress the whole goddamn office with their busts... Arrests, not tits,” he clarified. He sat down as he continued. “That’s the thing you find most around here. Hell, it’s the thing you find most anywhere. People are idiots. No two ways around it. Lotta dumbasses out there. Most of life is figuring out how to avoid them.” In his grumblings he hid well all evidence of the reputation that had brought me to him. He was known throughout Georgia as “the saver,” a name he earned for having talked down all 39 jumpers that threatened attempts at suicide on his watch in his 37 year tenure with the WCPD. Not far from the Municipal Building in which Williams’ office has its home, Georgia’s third tallest bridge overhangs the south side of Tranesville, which is encircled by mountains. From the ground, the roadway looms so high above that the bridge is hardly part of the world of the town, except as a few sets of immense pillars. As the town historian, Jessica Wells, described for me, when the bridge was first constructed in 1948, it was not so ignored by the population. “First there was the pure novelty of the whole thing,” she explained. “More than that though, it was a source of pride. At the time it was the tallest in the state, and everyone felt as though it really put them on the map.” As interest wore off, however, people returned to their lives. Wells, who has been working on a chapter specifically on the bridge for a book on Witten County history, recounted that after about a year all mention of the bridge in newspaper articles dies out. “Then people started falling out of the sky.” From 1950, when the first person successfully jumped, until 1974, when Williams talked down his first jumper, Witten County had the highest jumper rate in the nation. In those years, 54 people made successful attempts from the bridge, and 8 more jumped to their deaths from various other places in the county. “It was really unheard of,” said Wells. “Most of the statistics bear out that you see the highest numbers of jumpers in big cities. But here we were, this small town in Witten County, seeing more jumpers than Atlanta.”
Letters to the editor of the Tranesville Post from the period reveal that many theories were proposed for this spike. One person argued that it was a collateral effect of an illegal toxic waste dump site that had been discovered just outside of Witten County, while another believed it to be the result of the rise of fast food consumption, citing that the appearance of the first McDonalds in Tranesville in 1963 was followed not long after in late 1964 with a sharp rise in the number of jumpers. Most who have looked at the numbers agree, however, that while the concentration of suicides into one method is odd, the overall number of suicides had not risen enough to believe that there might be an odd environmental cause. As Williams put it when I asked him his theory for the rise, “I think it’s just because they put up something tall enough to jump off of.” Williams began his career with the Witten County Police Department in 1972. “At that point it was mostly the usual stuff: minor theft, traffic violations, shit like that,” he explained of the types of issues he dealt with early in his career. “Then, one day I happened to be closest to the bridge when one of the jumpers was spotted. I got up there and I guess I did a good job because he backed down. Anyway, it was a good thing for the department because the last five jumpers had succeeded even though they had cops up there trying to stop them. So my first talk-down helped the captain out of a bit of a spot.” The responsibility of the police department for the number of successful attempts had always been a vexed question for Tranesville. There were those within the community who looked at the events as unavoidable tragedies. Others blamed the police for an inability to prevent these incidents, especially when they were often on the scene before the person jumped. The police, for their part, blamed the city council for failing to construct proper fencing. “In ‘80 they put up these little half fences, telling us they were all they could afford,” Williams remembered. “That pissed off a lot of people for a lot of reasons. First, they were worthless. Jumpers climbed right over them. Second, at that point it had been six years since a successful jumper. It was seen as too goddamn little, too goddamn late.” As the years passed and his saves began to add up, Williams’ reputation grew. Local newspaper articles soon became redundant as word
of his talk-downs spread quickly and they were soon seen as commonplace. Wells explained to me, “Herb was quite the phenomenon for us. He came in and he got rid of this black mark on us all. We were the place where people came when they wanted to end it all. That’s not really the best town slogan, you know. It’s not like being the blueberry capital of the world. He took away that shame.” While a few questioned his credentials, by the time he was being called in for every jumper, Williams’ record could not be denied. Also, the department began sponsoring Williams to go to continuing education seminars on suicide prevention techniques in order to quell any remaining doubts. After his fourth seminar, Williams put a stop to them. “All bullshit,” he told me. “There’s all these people in there talking about ‘suicide triggers’ and ‘affected personalities,’ all these reasons why people do it. Shit, man. In my experience, I haven’t met a person yet who really had a clue why.” “If it’s not knowing why,” I asked him, “what’s the key, then?” “Whatever it is, it wasn’t the shit they were shoveling at those seminars. Most of what I learned for doing this, I learned from being a refrigerator salesman. It was a shit job, but it showed you a lot about talking people into buying what you’re selling.” As he spoke, he shuffled through some papers on his desk. Suddenly, a booming “Goddamnit” erupted from him. “Every fucking time. Some asshole ordered about 600,000 of these sheets of paper with this stupid goddamn watermark of a badge on them. I always ask for totally blank paper and because they think I can’t tell the difference, they give me these. Guess what, I fucking see the watermark.” He pushed back his chair, rose and walked to the window. “People don’t buy fridges just because. They buy them because they think they need them. So, you really aren’t selling only solutions, you’re selling problems, too. Same thing with all this. Everyone has at the very least a little nagging issue with giving it all up. Someone who will be hurt, some cat that won’t get fed.You gotta find that, whatever it is, and tug at it until you sell them on it.” In March, Williams will retire. “What,” I asked him, “will they do
without you?” “Hopefully, they’ll put up a real big fence,” he joked. “They’ll find someone or they won’t. Anyway, there’s no guarantees I would have succeeded on the next one. Plus, no one ever needed an extra large vegetable drawer anyway.”
Haikus for the Waking God in Ruins Aleksander J. Zywicki
A handful of rain is all a branch reaches for in the winter morn. The sun, impatient lover, crawls between my sheets to kiss my eyelids. My coffee, solace for thoughts lost, unlived in bed. Cream, no sugar, please. The NewYork Times breathes the sounds of a loud distant war into my room. I, waking slowly, shake off the chill of the house and sip, read, yawn, sigh.
Rose Marie Wong
After the Aquarium in Coney Island Patrick Morris
I saw his breath come to life against the glass that kept the jellyfish floating in their orange glow. His mother might not have stood behind him if her hand on his shoulder wasn’t pressing just lightly enough. Our inexistence– This was taken out of us. He pretended to drown that one summer when the mosquitoes swam in our laughter and all that loudness
they sang in our ears
how they loved our blood– We’re waiting to stop and breathe to finally ripple shamelessly like a lake.
If only someone knew that all he ever needed was to be split like an atom just to be seenâ€“After the aquarium in Coney Island in the Atlantic, we stood still. When we looked down we saw how we were pushed up and pulled down our selves and different parts of ourselves oscillating with each other in ridges and points and feathers of foam and another wave over another waveâ€“ We shook. Light on a trembling sea.
Saturday Night Kathleen Hudson
My roommate is getting ready. She is going out with her boyfriend tonight. This is what she does—about an hour before she has to go she takes a shower. She gets out of the shower and gets dressed and the rest of her time she spends doing her hair and make-up. Her hair is usually straight, but tonight it’s curly. Her skin is clear and there is a dark blue shadow over her eyes and she smells like soap and perfume. There is a knock on the door and her boyfriend enters. He wears a polo shirt and jeans. He looks over at me, sitting as always at my computer, my headphones in, purple painted fingernails flashing over the keyboard, typing my life. Fun night in, he says, teasing. You always have so many papers to do. And on a Saturday night. Yeah, I say, because it’s easier than explaining that I’m not doing school work. I don’t go out at night, not too often. Sometimes I go to my friend’s place and watch a movie and eat pizza and then come home. I don’t go out and wander. I don’t have adventures. It’s not safe, though I want to. Nobody knows what I do on Saturday nights. My roommate and her boyfriend leave. I make tea and stretch out in front of the computer screen. I open the file marked “stories” and I click on a folder. This story is about a cop. She chases killers and rapists and psychos for a living. She is a real badass. She will have adventures. The tea is still too hot to drink, so I munch on a cookie instead. Tonight I will write a sex scene. Somewhere out in the world my roommate and her boyfriend are walking down the street. There is a party up the street—they are going
there, I think. They will meet up with some friends and play beer pong. Beer pong is when you toss a ping-pong ball across a table and try to get it into a plastic cup filled with beer on the opposite end. You then have to drink the contents of the cup. The better you are, the drunker you get. I have never played beer pong. In my story, the character is going to have sex with the killer, only she doesn’t know he’s the killer. I’m debating whether I should let the reader know that or not. On one hand, if the reader knows that the guy my heroine is going to have sex with is the killer, it would add a great deal of suspense. Every minute they’d be wondering if the heroine is going to be the killer’s next victim. On the other hand, that might ruin the surprise, the grand climax when the main character finds out the truth. Either way, they’re going to have sex, the cop and the killer. It serves my heroine right for being able to have adventures. My roommate and her boyfriend are sitting on a couch. I’m not sure how much they have had to drink. Whenever she comes back to the room she’s always pretty steady, so probably not that much. On the other hand this could be one of the nights when she crashes at her boyfriend’s place, in which case I don’t know. They’re making out. His hand is on her leg and moving up, and she’s pulling at his shirt. Somewhere behind them a guy yells stupidly and chugs a beer. I sip my tea. It has cooled down enough. The killer is wrapping his arms around my heroine’s waist, pulling her tightly to him. She is alone and stressed and hungry for him. He kisses her gently, on her forehead, her nose, her cheek, her ear, but his death grip makes his kisses lies. She groans. My roommate and her boyfriend really love each other. They’ve known each other since high school. Lived in the same neighborhood since forever. He brings her lunch to our room on the weekends, and she’s been online for forever trying to decide what to get him for Christmas. They fit together seamlessly, gentle words, finishing each other’s sentences, teasing glances. They have left the party and are walking again. It’s late. They will go to his place, where they can be alone. Mom sent me Milano cookies in the mail. I love her for it. Chocolate always makes a good substitute.
I think my heroine wants the killer to hurt her. I think she’s reeling from the case and her own emotional instability. She bites his lip, pushes him with her legs, fighting so that he’ll fight back. She will feel this. Tender and rough he throws her down on the bed, rips her shirt, yanks her pants zipper. He is more than happy to oblige. My roommate and her boyfriend are curled up in bed, snuggling, watching TV. He wraps his arms around her and kisses her. My heroine screams with love and fear. Her heart tells her something is wrong but her body doesn’t care, and she cries out for the ecstasy to come. The killer is fantasizing about slitting her throat, but I’m not sure if the reader knows this yet. Again and again like the tide. I had an adventure once. It was sad and hateful and I felt lonely and empty afterward. I stay in my room now, and the keys on my keyboard go “tap, tap, tap.” I gulp down cold tea. My roommate and her boyfriend are dancing in the sheets. She will not come back to the room tonight, but will come in around noon tomorrow. He will walk her to the door and she will come in and shower and then do homework. It is over, the rough sex. Now the hard part begins. Should the killer leave or stay? Should my heroine pull a gun on him, accuse him of being a psycho? Should the killer make my heroine breakfast in bed? I don’t know what to tell my reader. I don’t know how it ends. I never have. I don’t even know if I have a reader to begin with. It is late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. There is church in the morning, I suppose. Maybe a friend will call and ask if I want to see a movie. I have a paper to write for my history class. Writing stories, giving fictional characters wild adventures—that’s just a hobby. I have so many stories all saved on this disk, and none of them are finished. The tea is all gone. I save my work and congratulate myself on a well-written scene.
Contributors Kevin Behr is a software engineering graduate student. Jenn Dice is a senior media and IT major. Anna DiColli is a senior neuroscience major. Gina Fullam is a senior political science and philosophy major in the Honors and SJLA programs. Shawna Hogan is a junior English major. Kathleen Hudson is a junior English and history major. CJ Libassi is a senior English, Spanish and philosophy major in the SJLA program. Matthew Mercuri is a senior English and philosophy major in the SJLA program. Patrick Morris is a junior English major. Gerard Nolan is a junior English and philosophy major in the Honors program. Eric Pencek is a senior English and philosophy major in the Honors program. Josh Perry is a senior English major. Rose Marie Wong is a sophomore English and history major. Gemma Rose Williams is a senior English major. Aleksander J. Zywicki is a senior secondary education English major.
Esprit Submission Information Esprit, a review of arts and letters, features work primarily by students of The University of Scranton and is published each fall and spring as a co-curricular activity of the English department. Manuscripts - Original stories, poems, essays, translations, features, sketches, humor, satire, interviews, reviews and short plays must be typed, paper clipped at the upper left corner and in an envelope. All manuscripts, except poetry, must be double-spaced. Every page of the manuscript must list the title and page number in the upper right corner. The author’s name must NOT appear on the manuscript or on the envelope. All manuscripts must include a CD-R containing each submission saved in Word, and please label the disk with your name. Artwork - Black and white photographs and pen and ink drawings work best in this format, but pencil drawings, collages and paintings will be considered. All original work should be submitted in a plain manila envelope. The artist’s name must NOT appear on the work. Graphic submissions should not exceed 8 x 12 inches (larger works will NOT be considered). Please include a CD-R with digital photography submissions. Please note that the original print will be the only copy reviewed during the selection process. All graphic submissions should include a simple mark indicating the orientation of the work on the backside of the print. When work submitted is a study of, or is otherwise dependent upon, another artist’s work, please supply the other artist’s name and that work’s title. All submissions MUST be accompanied by one 3 x 5 card for each genre. The card should include the following information:
Writer’s or artist’s name Royal Identification number Local mailing address and phone number Year in school, major, and pertinent information (Honors, SJLA, etc.) Genre of submissions on current card Title of each work submitted in this genre
We will consider a maximum of five visual art submissions (art, photography) and five literary submissions (prose, poetry) per author/artist. Submissions received late, mislabeled, faintly printed, damaged, or without a hard copy, a disk or a complete 3 x 5 card (including the real name of the submitter) will NOT be considered. Esprit does not accept resubmissions or previously published works. Submissions and inquiries:
Esprit Room 221 McDade Center for Literary and Performing Arts Scranton, PA 18510 (570) 941-4343
All submissions are reviewed anonymously. All submissions to Esprit which have been accepted for publication by the editors and which are the work of currently enrolled full-time undergraduates at The University of Scranton will be considered, according to genre, for The Berrier Prose Award ($100), The Berrier Poetry Award ($100), The Esprit Art & Photography Award ($100). Deadline for submissions for Spring 2010: March 26 Esprit is available online at http://academic.scranton.edu/organization/esprit/
Acknowledgements Esprit appreciates the kind support of:
Kevan Bailey Ray Burd Ellen Casey Jody DeRitter Windy Diehl Mary Engel Jennifer Lewis John Meredith Hill Lisa Hinkle Diane Jachimowicz Maria Landis Wade Ollendyke Glen Pace Lynn Scramuzza Matthew Vita Jenny Whittaker CLP physical plant staff
Bean Creek Adam Athanasius Johnson Age 7 I like how some trees bend down Like theyâ€™re trying to drink water from the stream. Red leafed trees just shoot up for life. Trees are like their life for everything Water is like health. New trees are like a new life in the forest I like when pebbles fall Itâ€™s like a new fish A rock is like a new island.
Published on May 10, 2010
Esprit, The University of Scranton Review of Arts and Letters, is a co-curricular activity of the English department, published twice yearly...