Artifact Nouveau Summer 2015 1.3

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ARTIFACT NOUVEAU A New Beginning

SUMMER 2015 VOLUME 1 ISSUE 3

A Writers’ Guild Publication


ARTIFACT NOUVEAU Volume 1 Issue 3

EDITORIAL TEAM Maggie Anderson Breanna Hildebrand Summer Migliori Eric Ramos Agustin Rios Jr. Myles Salas FACULTY ADVISOR Sarah Antinora COVER ART Ephemeral by Angelica Marinez Madrigal Artifact Nouveau is a publication of works from the

San Joaquin Delta College community. It celebrates the artistic and creative works of its students, faculty, alumni, and employees. It is published by the Writers’ Guild of San Joaquin Delta College. The contributors certify the works are their own. The views of these works do not reflect the opinions of the administration or trustees of Delta College.

Artifact Nouveau copyright remains with respective authors and artists. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Š2015

SAN JOAQUIN DELTA COLLEGE Superintendent/ President: Dr. Kathy Hart

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Board of Trustees President: Steve Castellanos, FAIA Vice President: Claudia Moreno Clerk: Janet Rivera Student Trustee: Alejandro Gomez Dr. Teresa Brown Catherine Mathis, M.D. C. Jennet Stebbins Richard Vasquez


A Letter from the Writers’ Guild President Welcome to our first online-only issue of Artifact Nouveau! We decided the best way to showcase longer submissions from faculty, students, and the community would be to dedicate a double issue online, rather than in print, to works of poetry, short stories, photography, and art. This larger issue is also a precursor for the expansion of our journal as we reach out across campus and beyond. As students continue to study, transfer, and discover new paths, they will explore new experiences and share them through their words. Artifact Nouveau aims to share that human experience and discovery with everyone, and what better way to do that through one of the most accessible channels of all: the internet. Working on Artifact Nouveau, and being President of the Writers’ Guild, has been a fun and gratifying experience. As President, saying goodbye to working on the magazine is bittersweet as I transfer to UC Berkeley with editor and Secretary Breanna Hildebrand. Although I will be no longer be at Delta College, Writers’ Guild and Artifact Nouveau will always be a part of me, and I am ecstatic to see where it goes as I pass the torch on to new members and officers. Thank you for being loyal readers and contributors of Artifact Nouveau and for making the work on this journal truly enjoyable. Sincerely, Summer Migliori

Thank you to all the contributing authors and artists who comprise our summer issue. The Writers’ Guild is incredibly grateful for the hard work of Christopher Flores and Patricia Mayorga, editor of Poets’ Espresso Review. We also are proud to feature artwork from the SJDC Student Art Exhibition, held April 23-May 25 in the LH Horton Jr. Gallery in this issue. Enjoy!

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San Joaquin Delta College Get Published in Artifact Nouveau Artifact Nouveau is a magazine of works by students, faculty, alumni, and employees of San Joaquin Delta College published by the SJDC Writers’ Guild. Works by writers and artists unaffiliated with Delta College may be selected for publication for up to 15% of the overall content. We accept literary and visual art submissions year round. All genres and mediums are welcome. Submit to artifactsjdc@gmail.com. Literary Submissions • Poem Length May Vary (limit 10 submissions) • Short Stories and Essays: Max 1500 Words (limit 2 submissions) Visual Submissions • Colored/Black and White • JPG Format at 300 DPI • limit 10 submissions

ADVERTISE IN ARTIFACT NOUVEAU Outside Back Cover: $300 Full Page Inside: $100 Half Page Inside: $75 Quarter Page Inside: $50 Send inquiries to artifactsjdc@gmail.com

Get Published in Poets’ Espresso Review Patricia Ann Mayorga invites submissions to Poets’ Espresso Review to be mailed to Patricia Mayorga at 1474 Pelem Ct., Stockton, CA 95203 or emailed to poetsespressoreview@gmail.com. Free submissions can include poetry, artwork, and photography. All material must be appropriate for most age groups. A two to four line biography is required. Please include a photograph if possible, a return address, phone number and email address.

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Table of Contents Newlyweds of Lull by J.C. Henderson .......................5 Dusk by Jessica driver ...................................................13 True Politesse Is Restriction of Vision by Sam Hatch ....................................................................14 Landline by Paula Treick DeBoard...........................15 Secondhand Lonely by Deborah Maroulis............27 Free by Alexander Chellsen.......................................28 Untitled by Peter Hawley............................................29 Brother by Jessica Driver............................................46 Unseen by Alyssa Gass....................................................47 The Secret Book of Sands by Paula Sheil ...............48 When You by Alexander Chellsen ............................59 Our Seasoned Saunder’s Lake by Cindy Grafius...60 Summer Grass Is All Remaining on Battlefields of Warriors’ Dreams by Michael Duffett..............63 To a Little Dachsund Dog by Michael Duffett.....63 Fruits of Labor by Breanna Hildebrand.................65 4


The Newlyweds of Lull by J.C. Henderson

They started, according to Mr. Phelp’s report, at approximately 8:25 A.M.— no one was informed. They had exited the southbound freeway ten minutes prior, taking advantage of the early morning quiet to trespass into our town and drive on our roads to what they assumed to be their new home on 225 Hubbard Street. We know the house had been vacant ever since Phil Lowens passed away from a heart attack on November 18th last year, and had no one to pass the household down to. We know Mr. Phelps witnessed the U-Haul trailer enter the northwest neighborhood off highway 24 and that he was so startled he unfortunately did not get a proper description, unintentionally spilling his morning coffee before he could take his medication. [Willy and Gwyneth Barnet wake up in the hotel room early this morning facing each other, grinning and eager with a strong beating in their chests, the sunrise outside the opposite window projecting yellow light on the wall above them. Once on the freeway, he takes the U-Haul and she takes the Prius and they only travel the speed limit, stopping only once so Gwyneth could go pee. Willy takes the opportunity to surprise her with coffee and chocolate donuts for breakfast, the only sustenance they will have all morning but will help push them further to their new home. Willy frequently checks his mirrors along the way to make sure she is still behind him, Gwyneth making funny faces at him every time he does it. The air is crisp, cold and fresh, the sky a young blue and the sun hovering over the horizon with the wind blowing gently against them. Arriving in Lull, the trees and rooftops block the sunlight and the shadow casts over them like a dark blanket.]

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We had no reports again until 10:56 A.M. when Mrs. Brown, the gardener who lives next door at 223, reported hearing music, which disrupted her while watching her daily soap operas. We know that Tessa, her dog, does not like strangers and had been barking ruthlessly out the front screen door since 9:28 A.M. We know she said that they were seen unloading their belongings into the garage from the U-Haul truck, and inside the garage a stereo was placed, plugged into a lone socket on a bare white wall. She reported the music was loud, disturbing and chaotic, and according to her report, shook her porcelain horses on the shelves of the house. She made numerous phone calls but was ordered not to interfere until more information was gathered. [“Stairway To Heaven” blasts away on Gwyneth’s tiny boom box while she carries a box labeled "Living Room Photos" into the garage. Willy returns from the kitchen. “I just tried the water. Tastes damn funky to me. I’m gonna have to talk to somebody about fixing the plumbing or the water heater or something,” Willy says, placing the empty cup down on a box labeled “DVDS.” “I think that can wait. By the way, do you realize you always listen to Led Zeppelin while you work? I’ve been hearing them for the past week almost. It’s a little repetitive,” Gwyneth says, playfully bumping into him. “Well, when the album’s done you can put your own music on. Then I’ll sleep on the living room floor,” he tells her, looking in dismay at the work yet to be finished. She turns around, “No way, that carpet reeks of cat piss.” “I don’t remember the real estate guy saying anything about cats.” “Believe me, there’s no mistaking that smell.” He wraps his arms around her. “Can you believe we got hitched? We did it!” “Just wait until my father finds out. Or your parents, for that matter.” “They’ll find out in due course. Maybe you should make some coffee, eh? I’m feeling winded already.”] 6


We know that the Miller family, while on their weekend survey routine of bicycling the neighborhood, also came across the intruders. The time was 11:27 A.M. The Millers did not speak to them but reported that the U-Haul truck was parked crooked, and was nearly eleven inches into the public street (clearly a violation of law 13), and there was also a green 2010 Toyota Prius parked parallel to the house (also in violation of Law 13, under section B, explaining public parking in residential communities) and decorated with a white ribbon on the roof, and soda cans dangling off the bumper, and “NEWLYWEDS� written in pink lettering on the back window; therefore, we conclude they had been recently married, though it is obvious the marriage is a farce due to the fact that they are outsiders. [Gwyneth watches the family of eight pass by, traveling down the street. Two parents and three kids of various young ages, and another adult she assumes to be an uncle and grandparents following at the rear, all spaced four feet apart from each other. They have smiles on their faces, as if the world were perfect and made of bliss and childhood dreams. All of them are cycling on white Schwinns with mesh wicker baskets on the front. They don’t say a word, but merely watch her. Gwyneth waves while thinking about when she and her man can do the same, when they can ride their bikes across town on a beautiful sunny day, such as this one, someday with children in tow. She sighs. They had scoured many locations, but Lull seemed the safest, cleanest, and the happiest. The town had been overlooked by so many real estate websites and other mobile families that there was nearly zero competition. The house practically fell into their laps; it had been so easy and affordable. Her wave is never returned.] We know that Karl Hooks, who lives across the street from the perpetrators, now referred to simply as the newlyweds at 226, was informed at 12:13 P.M. and was ordered to climb upstairs into his attic to report on the scene from his attic window, which he did approximately five minutes later. From that viewpoint he could see into the garage and could see that the male perpetrator had at 7


Rainbow Schnoodle

by Savannah Edgeworth

the time removed his shirt. The man had tattoos located over his right shoulder and left arm, between the elbow and shoulder. He could not make out what the tattoos displayed, but they were large, dark and, as a rule, vulgar. Karl would remain in his attic for the remainder of the day, his wife staying in the kitchen, preparing his meals and bringing them to him upstairs. He reported later that their public displays of affection were substantially high and in poor taste— therefore offensive, stated clearly under Law 21. [Willy wraps Gwyneth in his arms and dips her. The tiki lamp in her hands nearly slips out of her grasp; she giggles in glee and surprise. “I wonder when the help is coming,” he says in the place of saying something romantic. “You know how he is; he shows up when he wants to. He’s your brother, do you really have to ask?” He laughs. “I keep hoping he could prove me wrong. Are you ever going to get rid of that hideous lamp?” “This was my grandmother’s. It was the last thing she gave me before she passed.” “I think if I have to look at that thing any longer I might pass away in disgust.” She slaps his chest, shaking her head and smiling. He knows he can’t stop her from putting the tiki lamp in their new home, and he doesn’t feel like arguing. If they turn out8


to be the only people on the street with an ugly lamp, so be it.] Approximately twenty minutes later (making the time 12:30 P.M.), was when Mrs. Jefferson, who is well documented with her behavior and repeated law violations, breaking Law 23 (“no citizen is allowed to cross the train tracks to the east side of Lull”), Law 9 (“No citizen is allowed to be absent or late to Temple”), Law 4 (“No citizen shall decorate their home without consent of the Elders”), and Law 10 (“No citizen shall ever speak with outsiders”) successively in the past two years alone, approached the scene and made an unscheduled and unannounced first contact with the "newlyweds." From what Karl could comprehend, she pretended she had to go out for groceries, something she habitually does that time of day, and that she was so distracted by the scene that she approached them. He immediately utilized his walkie-talkie and radioed in, as in accordance with regulation 66. He then attempted to open the fixed window, but would not apply excessive force due to the fear of causing damage to his home. He was ordered to open it but backed down due to the fact he was afraid of giving away his position (he will be reprimanded at a later date). [Willy sees the middle aged woman approach their driveway from the left, walking slowly, cautiously, as though she might be falling for a trap. She is dressed in pajamas, and her short grey hair is a mess, similar to that of a disheveled bird’s nest. Her obvious anxiety brought Willy slightly at ease about their first meeting with a new neighbor. Besides that point, she looks kind enough to him; after all she has a fanny pack on, slung across her waist pointing at their new home. “Hi there,” he says, waving his right arm into the air, fingers open. He had to raise his voice over haunting jam of The Eagles playing “Hotel California” from the garage. The middle-aged lady looks at him for a moment with a slightly confused look, then puts her hand above her eyes and stares at the truck and all the boxes and used furniture scattered from the vehicle to the inside of the garage. She looks at their morning’s work as if they were unloading on her own driveway. Willy approaches her, his wife following quickly behind him. “Hi, I’m Willy Barnet, and this is my wife, 9


Gwen. We just moved in next door to you. Though I bet you figured that out for yourself,” he says with his hand extended for a handshake. “Sorry about all the noise,” Gwyneth says. The lady stares at Willy’s hand for a moment, both recognition and confusion in her face, and puts out her own hand slowly, “I’m Molly Jefferson, your— your neighbor. How do you do? Something strange is going on here; there’s too much confusion and something is not according to plan. I was— I was going out for groceries when I heard all this noise and conversation. I thought, gee, what a hullabaloo! I had to come see for myself.” She shakes his hand and speaks with a voice Willy and Gwyneth find monotone and slightly distracted. She speaks again in a commanding tone, “They’ll send you letters at first. Always letters. They like to remind everyone who’s in charge. This truck is not parked according to the law, and neither is your other car. No vehicles are to be parked in the public street at all times. Such a row, such a terrible row this is. Stock up on bottled water if you intend to stay, but don’t let any of them know it. Animals are to be indoors or otherwise always be on a leash—” “Wait, what do you mean by letters? No one said anything about parking rules. Is there some kind of neighborhood conduct going on?” Gwyneth asks. Mrs. Jefferson laughs. “You really newlyweds?” The two of them hold each other close and smile, nodding. Mrs. Jefferson smiles and looks like she might start weeping. “How unusual, newlyweds don’t show up here. They say this place is on lock down; no one new will be coming in, but ever since that real estate agent started coming through—” Mrs. Jefferson’s voice wanders into incomprehension, mumbling low and shaking her head inconsistently as if she put herself in an argument she can’t get out of. She turns around, still mumbling, and Willy and Gwyneth watch her walk in a daze back to her home with puzzled looks on their faces. “That went well,” Gwyneth says. “Don’t look at me, I didn’t say anything weird, all I said was 10


‘hello’.”

“Maybe we were too overbearing. Meeting new neighbors is never a comfortable experience. People never know quite what to think of one another.” “Speak for yourself, I loved all my previous neighbors.” “Will, you grew up in the city.” “Exactly.”] By 1:00 P.M. we were trying to learn how these newlyweds found their place in our town. Calls were made to Sherriff Jones’s office and appropriate officials in real estate, namely Mr. Applewhite. Many citizens were confused, unclear and worried. As a result, the next Temple meeting was pushed up by two weeks, set for the following Sunday. Letters were sent, calls were made and everyone was appropriately notified. Our ever-efficient action to keep the city clean and decent and abundantly moral will never waver. The first order on the agenda is the “Newlywed Situation.” [Gwyneth is enjoying the late noon sun on the lawn of her new home, drinking a half empty bottle of red Kool-Aid when the blue Honda Civic pulls up from the far side of the street. The engine roars as it zips down the road, passes her and quickly spins around and parks before Mrs. Jefferson’s house. The car rumbles of rock and roll, shaking its foundation from the inside. “Look who’s finally made an entrance,” Willy says, shaking his head while watching his younger brother, Eli, exit the vehicle. Eli is wearing black aviator sunglasses with a cigarette hanging in the corner of his mouth. The loud sonic noise of The Beatles’ song “Helter Skelter” bursts out of the car speakers, immediately silenced once the engine died. “I brought the beers,” Eli tells them, as if their lives depended on the beers and now they can relax. Gwyneth smiles and shakes her head, watching Eli walk to the back of his car to the trunk and pop it open with a push of a button on his keychain. He always brings beers, to whatever occasion it might be. It’ll be the same beer he’ll bring to their housewarming party, and the same beer he’ll bring to their baby shower, and whatever occasions come afterward. She misses the discourse between the brothers due to a thick chopping sound nearby. 11


“People in this town drive like mental patients, man,” Eli says to Willy, handing him the box of beer, a warm 30 pack of the cheapest possible brand Eli can find. “Really? People trying to run you over?” “Hell no, I was only going five over and was flying past everyone. People were driving like they were in a daze, not sure who they were or what they were doing. I’ve seen drunk drivers with a better sense of direction.” “It’s the twenty-first century and everyone’s on their cellphones, Eli. People are like that everywhere; they’re doing one task but looking at three other things at the same time.” “I don’t know about that. I live in a town with at least double the population of this one and I’ve never seen anyone just wander across lanes like that. Seen a guy over on that gas station on the corner with his truck in reverse, but he was just sitting there, staring at his mirror like he was waiting for someone to move out of the way, but there was no one there.” “Old guy?” “Yeah.” “Well, there ya go. They drive like that everywhere, dementia and Alzheimer’s, that’s all it is. Ain’t that right, babe?” Willy calls to her but she is distracted, watching a neighbor across the street, a woman whom they have yet to meet, working in the garden of her front yard. She is on her knees, chopping weeds out of the earth with clippers and pulling the roots out with thick leather gloves, grunting as she pulls them out. She is no doubt a senior citizen but appears to be well acquainted with how to tend to a garden and treat the undesirables inside it.] This is only a mere summation of the offenses collected by the informants, we have enough to justify any action accordingly. Documented: XX/XX/XXXX Incident: #9

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Sky, Road, and Field

by Tabatha Melin

Dusk by Jessica Driver Wind rippled the wheat, Cigarette cherry sun sank In mermaid hair sky 13


True Politesse Is Restriction of Vision by Sam Hatch True politesse, madam, sir or cyborg Is restriction of vision Why do you think the Lone Ranger Wears the mask and always Leaves the pretty schoolmarm desolate, Ears full of the William Tell Overture Eyes full of tears and dust? Please, William, Concentrate now on the apple Ignore the trembling boy beneath. You are right, madam, sir or cyborg Polite people always see the apple split in two, They never, on principle, See the arrow in the boyish forehead Or hear the father’s groan before he slumps. So, madam, sir or cyborg I face forward and damn the corners of my eyes (If necessary, I will damn the torpedoes) So madam, sir, or cyborg I curse peripheral vision For more is always less For true politesse Is restriction of vision As now I curse the inklings Linking me to light. As now I curse this poem This vaguely glimpsed inchling of a poem And so I pay homage with you, Madam or sir or cyborg To the Queen of cane and glasses. True politesse is restriction of vision. 14


Landline

by Paula Treick DeBoard The telephone rings, its echo bouncing off my bare walls and faux-wood floors. I answer on the third ring, my voice creaky with neglect. “Hello?” “Is Mario there?” I clear my throat. “I’m sorry. You’ve got the wrong number.” I click the “Talk” button and replace the receiver, noticing for the thousandth time how silent the room is, how there isn’t even another person’s breath to break the quiet. I should turn on the television. I should become one of those people who watch the Real Housewives of Wherever just to have something to talk about at work in the morning, just to kill the silence. Chelsea, my tabby, saunters into the room and rubs against my calves. In the kitchen, I pour myself another glass of cabernet.

The next call comes two days later, at about the same time. I’m in the kitchen washing my single plate, spoon, fork, knife and glass. I wipe wet hands on my jeans on the way to the phone. “Hello?” “Is Mario there?” “You’ve got the wrong number,” I say, and ease the receiver into its cradle. Back in the kitchen, a dinner plate is half-submerged in the plastic tub in my sink. For a long moment I stand with my hips against the edge of the counter, watching soap bubbles form and pop, and then I plunge my hands into the cold water to finish the job. I normally don’t even answer my landline. I shouldn’t even have it anymore – my professional and social contacts, such as they are, reach me through my cell phone. Initially I told myself that I 15


was keeping the landline for my mother, who had always been slow to adapt to change. But recently, after fifteen years as a widow, she’s moved in with a man ten years younger in Cleveland, a man with a daughter still in high school. Now she has regular contact with teenagers – has regular sex, sure – and her calls light up my cell phone with uncompromising frequency, her cheerful messages overwhelming my inbox. So I’ve had to admit that I’m keeping the landline purely for old times’ sake – I like the person I had been when that number rang regularly, for me or for Henry. For a long time I’d kept the outgoing message that identified us as “Henry and Clair” and found reasons to press play over and over, reminding myself of that Clair, that version of myself. I’d even kept our ancient phone, manufactured before ID display screens. If I had a therapist, I would pose the question: Is $43.99 a month too much to pay for nostalgia? Most days when I come home from work and listen to my messages, it goes something like this: Hi! As a homeowner, you may qualify for a lower interest rate – Delete. I’m not a homeowner. This is a message from Conservative America! – Delete. Not a conservative. If you or someone you love – and I hesitate here before hitting delete. But there is no one, not anymore. A third phone call, followed by a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, until I lose count. Not every night, but most nights, sometime around eight. I stare at the telephone, composing myself before I answer. One ring is too few, too desperate, the sure sign that I am a woman who lives alone with a cat. Four is too many, someone who doesn’t want to be disturbed. “Hello?” “Is Mario there?” The voice is male, young, possibly Hispanic – although maybe I’m only making an association with the name of the person I’m not. “I’m sorry,” I tell him, and I am. I’m genuinely sorry not to be the person he’s looking for. I regret that we have only these lines 16


to say to each other, that the conversation reaches its natural dead end so soon. Sometimes I hang up right away – gently, a tender let-down. Other times I listen to his breathing, in – out, and on the other end, I suppose he listens to mine. It is an aching, strange feeling, to have another person’s breath in my ear. Sometimes he calls when I’m gone, the phone call registered by a blinking light on my machine. When I press the button, I hear my own voice. You’ve reached Clair. Sorry I’m not available to talk right now. You know what to do. And then there is nothing but silence – his silence, a crackling static that extends for a long moment, longer than a telemarketer would pause before mispronouncing my last name. I play it again and again, until I can almost sense him in my apartment, just around a corner, behind an open door. At work, there is an annual party to reward employee longevity. Before the economy tanked and we had to answer to investors about every single dime, the event was catered, with a smooth-moving wait staff in white tuxedo shirts hovering nearby to refresh our drinks. Now the event has morphed into a company potluck. The night before, I make a cake that doesn’t quite work out and end up bringing a plate of tortilla pinwheels from the deli. I set my offering on the buffet between a plate of deviled eggs and a bowl of pasta salad and I’m ashamed. When did I become such a bitter, stingy woman, as dried up as an old tortilla? Janet from HR has been with the company for forty-three years, and after her name is announced, I join the crowd in clapping mightily for her. It’s such a fantastic accomplishment, such a tremendous amount of time. Forty-three years ago, Janet says into the microphone, I typed everything on a Remington Portable. We all laugh, applaud again this monument to achievement. I’m surprised when my name is called later, and it is announced that I have been here for seventeen years. This simply doesn’t seem possible. I stumble on my way to the podium, catching myself against the back of a folding chair occupied by a man from 17


accounting. He doesn’t exactly recoil from my touch, but it feels this way. The applause is lukewarm, embarrassed. What I receive for seventeen years of service is a certificate with my name, the signature of a person in upper management, the company’s gold seal of approval. The frame is cheap, almost bendable in my hands. If I’m with the company for another three years, I’ll receive a food basket. At twenty-five years, I’ll receive a lifetime parking space. If I’m here for another twenty-six years, I’ll be as old and washed up and ridiculous as Janet from human resources in her too-tight black pants. After work, I run a few errands. There are a few cold, desiccated tortilla pinwheels left on the plate, and while I’m filling up with overpriced gasoline, I tip them into the trash can on top of empty plastic bottles and blue paper towels. By the time I’m home, I have missed his call. The machine blinks, letting me know I’m not alone in the universe. I have started to fantasize about him, this person on the other end of the phone who dials the same wrong number each day and asks for someone who isn’t here and maybe, maybe, doesn’t even exist. He’s young, but not so young that I could be accused of anything. I haven’t, anyway, by answering the phone each night at precisely the same time, contributed to the delinquency of anyone. But still – I make him post-college, mid-twenties. A man just beginning to go somewhere. I picture him dark-eyed with a brooding stare. Taller than me, but not too tall. Henry had to duck beneath doorways, or he would conk the top of his head. Henry had to lay coiled up in our queen-sized bed, the front of his knees against the back of mine, in order to get any sleep at all. This is a dangerous train of thought, so I remind myself: Henry is gone. The voice on the other end of the phone is not Henry. I dress this man-who-is-not-Henry casually, in rumpled shirts fetched from the laundry pile. I wedge his feet into tennis shoes without troubling to untie the laces. I stack biographies next to his bed and curse him with a perpetual library fine. 18


The phone rings twice, three times. I wonder what he can tell about me just by hearing my voice, if he assigns me an age and physical characteristics, if he imagines the music in my iPod or the movies in my Netflix queue. “Hello?” A pause, a breath. “Is Mario there?” “I’m sorry,” I tell him, my voice smooth and throaty and nuanced with all the things I want him to know without me having to say them. Over the phone I can be anything I want – smart, successful, witty, beautiful, kind. I am all of these things at once. I can be a person without flaws, without a past. “You’ve got the wrong number.” “I’m coming to visit you,” my mother announces. She is calling me on my cell phone, which I have answered without thinking. It’s my lunch break, and I have unwrapped at my desk a tuna-salad sandwich on wheat. The lettuce is fresh, purchased only two days ago from the smart organic mart down the road, but it looks pale and dry already. Listening to her voice, I suddenly lose my appetite. “Um, that would be nice. Except I’m so busy with things… with work…” I trail off, allowing her to fill in the blanks any way she wants. I’m relatively busy at work, true, but it’s not the sort of work I take home. “I won’t be any trouble. While you’re at work, I’ll keep myself busy. At night, we’ll just hang out like two girls.” “Mom. I appreciate this, but it’s not really necessary. Why don’t we make some kind of plans for this fall, maybe for Thanksgiving or Christmas?” I have a sudden mental image of me, her forty-two-year old daughter, sitting at a big noisy table in an unfamiliar kitchen, surrounded by my mother’s lover’s children, attempting to explain my very existence. “I want to see you before then. James agrees. He’s concerned, too.” I would like to point out that I’ve never met James, that all I know about him comes from his Facebook page. He’s posted a few pictures of himself with my mother, and the images are so strange, 19


they seem to exist in an alternate world. When did my mother get so young? When did she start wearing jeans without pleats? “Clair,” she says, her voice so deep and motherly that I imagine myself melting, disappearing with my tuna sandwich into a puddle at the foot of my ergonomic desk. “When are you thinking of…?” “Monday,” she says firmly. “And I’ve already booked my ticket, so you really can’t say no.” “Hello?” I’m breathless this time, catching the phone on its fourth ring. This call comes later than normal, at almost nine o’clock. Maybe he’s had to wait until his roommate has gone out, or his kids have fallen asleep. Maybe his wife is in the other room, folding laundry. “Is he there?” I’m surprised that he’s broken our pattern. Who? I almost ask, as if I need clarification. But there is no he. Even Chelsea, watching me with her blue unblinking eyes, doesn’t fit the description. “No,” I say. “No, he’s not.”

10 Minute Gesture Drawing

by Veasna Ling

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My mother flies from Cleveland to Phoenix to San Jose, rents a car, and parks in the visitor zone at my complex – all things I could never have imagined her doing alone. At my instructions, the super lets her in to my apartment. When I turn my key in the lock that evening, I find her unpacking in the bedroom, hanging one hundred percent linen dresses next to my cotton-spandex suits. She has brought no less than a dozen pairs of capri pants. “Aren’t you going to put anything on the walls?” she asks. This is hello, accompanied by a tight, quick hug. I look around, startled by her observation. The only thing on any wall in the entire apartment is a calendar from the JC Penney salon, which I am overdue in visiting. In the nook next to my computer, I have a stack of framed artwork purchased at Pottery Barn, cool and impersonal, that has never made it onto my walls. I shrug. “How was your flight? How is everything?” In response, my mother hugs me again, and I let myself go limp in her arms. She has changed in so many ways, but she is essentially the person who knows me best in the world. Once upon a time, she nursed me, washed between the fat rolls on my chubby toddler legs, packed my lunches, cheered during my volleyball games, helped me shop for a bed-in-a-bag set and coordinating curtains for my college dorm. After Henry’s funeral, she helped me box up his clothes. “There now, there,” my mother says, smoothing back my hair. I’m literally crying on her shoulder, leaving behind black half-circles from my mascara. “Why don’t you tell me all about it over dinner?” We don’t get home until late, at a time I’m normally in bed with a novel and a glass of wine, with Chelsea curled up at my feet, a feline blanket. I change in the bathroom, suddenly shy. When I come out in a t-shirt and boxer shorts, my mother is already wearing a one-piece silky nightgown. “Aren’t you going to listen to your message?” she asks, pointing to the blinking light. “In the morning,” I tell her. For the entire night, I’ve forgotten about him. 21


We sleep side by side. She takes Henry’s place, and all night I’m worried that in my sleep I’ll spoon with her, settling my back to her front. We eat out for three nights in a row, staying too late at our table, tipping generously to compensate. I tell her about work, about a new drug in development and how I listen to calls from consumers all day long, one after the other. Their questions are very specific, their stories very detailed. While they speak, I type the information onto a screen, recording name, age, gender, side effects. My mother shakes her head. “I can’t imagine hearing so much tragedy on a daily basis,” she says, and I counter, “What tragedy? I’m helping them get control of their lives again.” After a glass of wine for her and two or three for me, we switch to ice water. She pays twice, but I insist on paying the third night. It’s the most I’ve been out in months. We pass neighbors in my apartment complex, going out when we’re coming in. They are young, dressed up, their faces bright and hopeful. I imagine them coming back in couples, their arms around the waists of someone else, a person who doesn’t know their secrets, the best and worst things they’ve done. Of course this makes me think of Henry. It’s better not to go out, than to be confronted with this sort of optimism when I return. I press play on the machine and hear the silence on the other end. He doesn’t say anything, but I know how to interpret each message: Wounded, abandoned, accusing. On the fourth night, my mother has a meal waiting for me. Pizza casserole, the meal I used to ask her to make on my birthdays, when we sat around the table wearing party hats – my mother, my father, and me. She makes the full recipe, filling a 9 x 13 pan with noodles, tomato sauce, green peppers, about a pound of mozzarella. I haven’t eaten like this in years, not since I left the Midwest, not since I married Henry. On my own I stir fry vegetables, grill chicken for salads, try to make sure I’m not putting on weight. I’m 22


careful with my appearance; I don’t want to look the way I feel. But together, my mother and I polish off three quarters of the pan, reaching again and again for another scoop. It’s delicious, I tell her. As good as it always was. My mother talks about James. They might marry, she says, but not right away. There’s no rush. His youngest will graduate in the spring, and then they’re thinking of taking a cruise. My mother mentions places neither of us has ever been: Saint Lucia, Antigua, Barbuda. When she talks, I close my eyes and imagine water so blue it looks fake, like something doctored for a postcard. I picture hot sand, the waves rolling cool onto my ankles. I have money saved up. I have some from the sale of our house, more from Henry’s life insurance policy. Why don’t I take a vacation myself? Am I so afraid of finding that life goes on? “Oh, honey,” my mom says. It’s uncanny the way she knows when I’m about to cry, or maybe it’s uncanny the way her voice triggers an emotional response from me. I go from zero to blubbering in about five seconds. I try to say something, but I know I’m not making any sense. I’m going there, to the place I’ve locked away, that storage locker full of horror I don’t want to visit. Finally, what comes out is this: “Everyone blames me.” “No one blames you. It was an accident. That’s what the word means, that no one can be blamed for it.” Her hand is on top of mine. I close my eyes, squeeze back the tears. We were at a party. Henry had more to drink than me, so I took the keys. One minute I was driving, the sky a thick black slab of granite, perforated by tiny stars. It was so pretty, and I was so sleepy. The next minute, someone was snapping a finger in my face, asking, “Ma’am? Can you hear me?” I whisper the truth: “I blame me.” “Now, what good is that going to do?” my mother asks. “You think that might bring him back?” Of course not. But Henry – 23


“He was so wonderful.” I can hardly choke out the words. “And so are you,” my mother murmurs. “And so are you. You’re letting your whole life hang on that moment, but you can’t. You can’t.” It’s funny, I went months without crying. I took Henry’s ashes home in an urn and put them in a box I can’t bear to open. I went through each day, dry as a bone. And then my mother leaves her ten-years-younger lover to come visit me and I become a regular waterfall. We hold onto each other and we both cry, and somehow that helps. I don’t feel quite so alone with my mother crying, too, her tears and my tears mixing, both of us snorting back rivers of snot. I’m in the bathroom washing my face when the phone rings, and it doesn’t register with me immediately. My mother answers, her voice crisp. “Hello. Clair Bartel’s residence.” A deadly pause. I open the door, rush out, my heart in my mouth. “Who? No, there’s no one named Mario here.” She’s replacing the phone in its cradle by the time I reach her. “Wrong number,” she shrugs. “What do you think about taking a walk? It’s not too late.” There are no phone calls for weeks, although it takes me a while to realize they have stopped. My mother extends her stay, helping me hang up the Pottery Barn artwork and box up the plates and glassware, things Henry and I had received for wedding gifts a million years ago. I want new, everything new, I realize suddenly. I call in sick for two days and we drive around the Bay Area, hitting up Crate and Barrel and Williams-Sonoma, stopping for tacos one night and ordering takeout the next. There is a message on the machine, and after we lug in our purchases, I press the play button. This is a message from Conser-vative America – Delete. “Why don’t you get rid of the landline?” my mother asks, slipping out of her sandals. “What do you need it for?” 24


Groot and Rocket by Pamela Ortiz 25


I tell her that it’s on my to-do list. After my mother returns to Cleveland, I join a gym and a book club. I call her once a week, not minding if I get James on the phone. He invites me along on their Caribbean cruise, but seems relieved when I decline. I’m thinking of going to Europe, I say. I hadn’t known I was considering it until the words were out of my month, but suddenly I find myself buying every Rick Steves book I can get my hands on – Europe Through the Back Door, Paris 2014, the French, Italian and German Phrasebook. A week before I fly out to visit my mother and James for Christmas, the phone rings again, and somehow I know it is him. This is what I’ve been waiting for, that one last call for old times’ sake. I’ve filled out the online form to cancel the phone service, and at the end of the month it will be disconnected. “Hello?” There is a long pause, and then his voice. He sounds young, very young – how could I have missed this? He is a teenager, for goodness’ sakes, a lost boy reaching out for some kind of mother figure, any welcoming voice on the other end. “Is he there?” And I try to make my voice the mirror of what I suddenly see that he needs. Gentle but firm, more counselor than seductress. A person who can help, and wants to. “Who are you trying to reach, honey?” He wavers, his voice splintering in grief and shame. “You,” he croaks. “You. Only you.”

26


Secondhand Lonely, inspired by Sula by Deborah Maroulis Ain’t gonna be No second hand lonely For me No Sah! Struggle ‘gainst the whip Of your man, The Man, Any man To be turn’t out In the cold When they done With you. N’y’all take it too. I has my own Things to think. Places I choose To see. Ain’t no man Tellin’ me nothin’. Ain’t gonna be No secondhand lonely For me. No Ma’am Y’all feed’em Have their babies. I will fill they hole And they can fill mine. Don’t you worry now It ain’t that deep. 27

Braque at the Beach by Dennis Droge


Free

by Alexander Chellsen I have seen highways constructed in the countryside. I have seen roads stretch through the valley. I have seen the Pacific Ocean and the West Coast collide. I have seen everything but a place where I am free. I have seen teenagers look for love wild-eyed. I have seen kids live their lives careless and carefree. I have seen lovers domesticate and then divide. I have seen everything but a place where they are free. I have seen civil wars and I have seen genocide. I have seen mothers’ sons shipped overseas. I have seen thousands of recruits enlist for suicide. I have seen everything but a place where we are free. I have seen the dead bathed in formaldehyde. I have seen their bodies dissected on a gurney. I have seen shopping malls built upon the graveside. I have seen everything but a place where I am free.

Tough Love

by Jessica Pardo

28


Untitled by Peter Hawley Ashton Timor: A young writer, writing under the name Holden Bedford, who is having trouble finishing his novel Blue: A man in a fancy suit, claiming to be Ashton’s main character from his best-selling book Edna Murtaugh: Ashton’s editor Pizza Boy Scene 1

Ashton sits in his apartment on a chair facing his computer. He is dressed in sweats and a t-shirt. The garbage from old take-out, soda cans, and crumpled papers litter his workspace. The phone rings. Ashton: [tentatively] Edna, hi. [pause] I know my deadline was... [checks calendar] last Thursday. Sorry about that. I’m almost fin- [pause] The story is supposed to be bleak. [pause] Oh no. I can’t rewrite the last five chapters I just sent because I’ve already spent too much time rewriting it for you. I need to write the ending. [pause] Happy? How the hell am I supposed to make a story about AIDS have a happy ending? [pause] Okay, “just make it work” doesn’t help. [pause] I can’t do that. I know you like the character Blue, but I have very strong reasons not to do the guy-gets-girl thing. Why? Because he’s gay! [pause and then sigh] Fine. Later. [hangs up] 29


Through the Trees by Tabatha Melin

Ashton (Cont.): [mutters] Well, of course I can finish this book with a deadline pressure and creative oppression. No problem at all.

His fingers are poised on the keyboard, but he does not type. After a minute, he leans back in his chair. Ashton (Cont.): Let’s see. Mark likes Blue, Blue likes Blake, and Blake... never mind. I guess there’s some opportunity for romance there. Okay, Holden, let’s try this. [types while reading aloud dramatically] In the chaos surrounding them and the uncertain future ahead, Blue decided to give Mark another chance. [as Blue] I was being selfish. You’re right Mark. We don’t have time to argue. [pause for thought] It’s through with me and Blake. [as Mark] I’m glad you finally see it my way, baby. [as Narrator] Mark pulled Blue into a passionate embrace as the sun came up again. [as Blue] I forgive you for everything you’ve done, even for trying to kill me. [as Mark] I 30


knew you would. [as Narrator] Blake stood alone in the corner and Delilah became a completely useless character, because this story will end happily. The End. [stops typing and bangs head on the table in frustration] And to make this a really happy ending, the author shot himself in the head.

The doorbell rings. Ashton (Cont.): [yells] Come in and leave the pizza on the table. Money’s there too.

Ashton continues working on the computer and doesn’t look up. A man in a fancy suit enters the apartment. Blue: This is pathetic.

Ashton stops typing and slowly turns around. Ashton: Excuse me? What are you doing, and where’s my pizza? Blue: Coffee and pizza do not make a balanced diet. Ashton: Okay, that’s it. You’re starting to try my patience. Either drop off whatever you’re dropping off, or leave. I don’t have time for this. Blue: I’m not here to drop off anything. Ashton: Which leaves you with the other option... Blue: But I am here to help you. Ashton: Unless you’re bringing me food, you’re not helping. Or, you could bring me coffee. Not that I haven’t had enough coffee, because I’ve had quite a bit already. Who are you again? 31


Blue: I’m [dramatic pause] Todd Finch. Marine biologist and fashion entrepreneur of your best-selling book In The Deep Blue. Your creation. [casually] You can call me Blue for short.

Ashton stares at the man incredulously. Ashton: Okay...so, no pizza? Blue: No pizza. Ashton: Then no tip. Get out. I need to work.

Ashton turns back to the computer. Blue: I suspect you need help. Ashton: No, you need help. I’m flattered that you happen to like my book so much and that you took the time to dress up as my main character and find my address, but I really don’t have the time to be murdered right now. I’m being nice and letting you leave, without calling the cops.

Blue walks closer to Ashton. Blue: But to call the cops, you would have to, God forbid, get out of your chair. Ashton: [gestures to telephone next to the computer] Phone’s right here. Besides, my chair rolls. Blue: Alright, that’s [sighs]...you’re completely missing the point. Ashton: [irritated] Look, you’ve had your fun, fulfilled your bet or dare or whatever. I really have to work now. Deadlines and whatnot. Blue: Ah yes, the highly anticipated sequel from the surprising32


ly talented new author. Ashton: [staring at the computer] Something like that. Blue: Animus by Holden Bedford, the pseudonym of Ashton Timor. Ashton: You did your research. How...creepy. [quickly turns around after realizing what Blue really said] How did you know my real name? Blue: [smiles] I have my ways. You’re having trouble with this, and I decided it was time for drastic measures. Are you ready to listen now? Or are you just going to stare at me?

Ashton doesn’t move and continues staring at Blue. Ashton: There’s a reason people use pen-names. Blue: [ignores] I liked the setup for the twist ending in the first draft. You changed it in the second draft though.

Blue leans over and reads off the computer screen. Ashton: You definitely shouldn’t know about that. Who are you? If you’re trying to blackmail me, I personally don’t think there are enough people who care about knowing what the twist is, so you’re wasting your time. Blue: [still ignores] Well, this third draft is...interesting. And it is exactly how it should end if you put Mark and I together. [he reaches for the mouse to scroll down] Ashton: [pushes Blue’s hand away] Don’t touch Holden! Blue: What? 33


Ashton: I–I mean my computer. Blue: You named your computer Holden? Interesting. So is your pseudonym named after your computer or vice versa? Ashton: My computer is named after Holden Caulfield because of his tendency to breakdown, and these books of mine are written on my computer. Perfectly logical. Why am I explaining this to you?

The phone rings and Ashton picks it up. Ashton (Cont.): What is it now, Edna? [pause] Of course. Why not consider changing my title now? That’s fan-fucking-tastic. [pause] Yeah, yeah. [hangs up and sits in silence for a moment] I’m giving up. Blue: What do you mean? Ashton: It’s the only solution. I’m not cut out for this. I’m no writer, and I can’t finish this book, so I’m just gonna quit. Blue: You know, as a person who is derived solely from your imagination, I must forbid you from doing so. Ashton: Are you still on about that? You’re not Blue. You’re a well-informed stalker. Imaginary friends are just pink bunny rabbits named Harvey, not people that you wrote on a cocktail napkin. Blue: It depends on whom they’re stalking. Ashton: Why do I get the guy in Armani? Blue: [puts his hands up as if surrendering] Hey, I’m just wearing what you wrote. Far be it for me to criticize. 34


Ashton: [confused, but shakes it off] Fine. If you’re Blue, inspire me. I have nothing to lose. Fame, money, sanity, life.... Blue: Good. Now you’ll finally listen to me. First thing is that there’s something deeply flawed with your characters. Ashton: Gee, thanks. I feel inspired already. Blue: [ignores] You didn’t have this problem in my first book. In fact, I quite enjoyed being in it. How did you write that one? Ashton: Drunk.

Blue glares. Ashton (Cont.): If not that, then definitely without a care. [shrugs] I needed something to do after my dad died, and I decided school was a waste of time. Blue: How old were you? Ashton: Around seventeen, I think. Blue: [slightly surprised] You managed to create me and your own world when you were seventeen? Ashton: [exasperated] Yes. Now that we’re all up to speed, help me. Blue: I think I have a solution. [pause] You have to off your mom.

Ashton rolls his eyes and turns back to his computer. Ashton: She’s gone, too. 35


Untitled by Giovanni Gonzalez Blue: [sincerely] I’m sorry. That was tasteless of me. What I meant was that intense emotions drive you.

He picks up a photograph from the table that was obscured by papers and pizza boxes. Blue: This her? Ashton: [suddenly] Don’t touch that! [gets up from his chair for the first time and snatches the frame from Blue] Blue: You’re slightly possessive. Has anyone ever told you that? Ashton: [angrily] It’s none of your business. [he puts the photo in his desk drawer and sits back down] Blue: This is good. Use your anger. Do it. 36


Ashton: That’s your advice? What help are you? Blue: The tall and handsome kind. Seriously, what drives Mark to be hostile? Ashton: [annoyed] Isn’t it obvious? Blue: If it were obvious, I wouldn’t be asking and your editor wouldn’t be unsatisfied. The only thing I get is that he didn’t have a very good home life. Ashton: So I should tone it down? Blue: [slowly, as if speaking to a child] No...why would you think you need to tone it down? Ashton: Because...well, it shouldn’t dominate his character. Blue: How he grew up does dominate his character. Readers will be more sympathetic if they can identify with his family problems. I can certainly identify with having an incompetent father. Ashton: [sarcastically] Isn’t he also imaginary? Blue: At least he’s not dead. Ashton: Ouch. Blue: Anyway, don’t be scared to put yourself into your art. Ashton: [pointedly] Oscar Wilde says otherwise. Blue: [sighs] He was writing as his character, which proves my point. Plus, you’re not fictional, so it’s okay. Mark isn’t going to come out and hurt you. 37


Ashton: [mutters] He’s not the one I’m worried about. Blue: What was that? Ashton: Nevermind. I need to write. Blue: Which is what I’m trying to help you with. What’s the core of your story? Ashton: Nothing. [frustrated] How the hell am I supposed to know? I don’t analyze my own writing. Other people just make stuff up and I nod and say it was exactly what I meant to do. My last book? Apparently it’s an allegory on...something. I don’t even know what an allegory is.

The doorbell rings. Ashton: [yells] Come in and leave the pizza on the table. Money’s there, too.

Enter Pizza Boy The Pizza Boy obliges and smiles briefly at the two men before exiting. Ashton rolls his chair to the table and takes a piece of pizza. Ashton: People can find depth in anything. Take this pizza for instance. It could be symbolic of assimilation. All these independent ingredients come together and lose their individuality, [he takes a bite] but are stronger as one. Unless the person who made this pizza meant to comment on the loss of self for the sake of unity, it’s complete bullshit. Blue: Well, I think Animus – Ashton: It’s untitled now. 38


Blue: Well I think Untitled is about isolation and alienation. Four childhood friends can’t get along with each other. How long has it been since you left your apartment? Or talked to anyone other than your editor? Ashton: [frowns] I think you missed the point there. Blue: I’m just saying that I think that’s where you got your idea, from your own emotions. Now you need your emotions to carry it out. You need something big to inspire you. Ashton: [sarcastically] Isn’t that your job? Blue: Let me think....

Ashton finishes his pizza and waits impatiently as Blue ponders. Blue (Cont.): I’ve got it. You need to stand up. Ashton: I don’t want to. Blue: You need to stand up. Ashton: You can do this with me sitting down, can’t you? Blue: [more slowly and more forcefully] You need to stand up. Ashton: [groans] It’s a bad idea already.

As Ashton stands up, Blue pulls him forward into a kiss. Ashton recoils and almost falls backwards. Blue holds his arm until he regains his balance. Ashton: Ahh! What was that? [shakes his arm away] 39


Blue: [ignores and says casually] Now write from disgust or lust or whatever. Ashton: You kissed me! Blue: Write from rage then. Ashton: Stop telling me what to do! Blue: Oh, I’m glad that you can stand now. Do I annoy you when I tell you what to do? Here’s a hint: you don’t have to listen. Write whatever crazy idea you originally had in mind. If Edna Murtaugh knew how to write a good book, she would be writing one. Ashton: Who are you, honestly? You’re not actually Blue, are you? How do you know Edna? Blue: Does it really matter? Ashton: [throws hands up in defeat] Fine. I don’t care if you’re Blue or some psycho who’s really bored. In fact, I’ve decided you’re a figment of my imagination. I’ve had too much coffee and it’s affecting my brain. Blue: Don’t worry. I’m leaving right now. I’ll come back in a month to see how you’re progressing and if you need any more inspiration.

Blue turns to leave. Ashton: [hesitates] Wait a minute. [pause] What about the title? Blue: Why did you name it Animus in the first place? Ashton: I don’t – [pause] because it means hostility and the 40


Wesley Wright 41

by John Quiroz


book is about people who don’t like each other. Blue: Well, each of the characters do play a specific role, but there is more to them than what they seem to be. I’m compassionate, but actually quite annoying; Delilah appears innocent, but is really quite psychotic; Mark is aggressive, but is really quite cautious; and Blake seems indifferent, but cares more than the others know. Ashton: They’re not what their titles say they are. Blue: That reminds me of what you said before. About it being untitled. Ashton: [uncertain] I should have it untitled? Blue: Keep thinking about it.

Blue salutes and as he leaves, his hand is taking something out of his pocket. Scene II

It is morning and Ashton is asleep, face planted firmly on his desk, when the jingling of keys can be heard and the clicking of a door. Edna walks into the apartment, taken aback by how filthy it is. Instead of the pizza boxes and soda cans of last night are multiple beer cans in their place. Edna: [poking at Ashton to get up] Hey! Get up! Ashton: [opening his eyes--drowsy] What? What’s going on? Edna, what are you doing here? Edna: [sharp tone] Why haven’t you called? You were supposed to call me at eight last night, but you never did. 42


Ashton: [confused] What are you talking about? I called you. No, wait...you called me. Sorry, I was stuck to this desk all night. Edna: Really? [picks up a beer can] Well, it looks like you were stuck to something else. Care to explain? Ashton: Look, I don’t think you’ll believe this, but...I got really drunk last night. Edna: Well, I can certainly believe that. [finds a spare chair and sits down] Now tell me, did you get any work done last night? Ashton: [trying to remember] Well, I got down to it and felt that Blue should...Blue should...die. Edna: Die? What the hell are you talking about? Blue can’t die! Ashton: Why not? If anything, Blue is the only character that should die. He’s irresponsible in his relationships and is annoying. Besides, his death is what makes Mark, Blake, and Delilah come back together as friends. Edna: I’m sorry, but no. Ashton: No? Edna: Look, your publisher, my boss, isn’t going to accept an ending like this. When you came in with your first book, we wanted a trilogy, and you signed your creative ass away to us until you finish, so unless you want to make an enemy out of me, I suggest you rewrite the ending again, because I will let nothing happen to Blue. [grabs Ashton] And if you even think of doing so, I will destroy you. Are we clear? Ashton: Very clear. 43


Edna: Good. Why would you want to kill Blue anyway? Ashton: Would you believe that he came to my apartment, told me the theme of my book, and then kissed me? Edna: No. How much did you drink yesterday? Ashton: Probably a lot. For all I know, I just dreamt it all. Edna: Well, once you get your head back into reality, remember that the due date is tomorrow, so you better have a new ending by then. [leaves] Ashton: Shit. [notices footsteps coming from his kitchen, when Blue walks back into the living room, mixing bowl in hand] What the hell are you still doing here!? Blue: I noticed that you needed a break, so I decided to help you in the best way I can...by knocking you out. Then I decided to stay and clean up after you. Then I bought some beer, called some friends, and trashed the place again. Sorry. Now I’m making some breakfast cake. Ashton: Why? Blue: I like cake. Ashton: [angry] Do you know how annoying you are? Blue: I hope so. After all you wrote me. Ashton: What friends do you have anyways? Blue: You’d be surprised how many people want to be your friend by nine ‘o’ clock. [takes out cell phone] Look, I took pictures! 44


Ashton: [horrified] I think I’m going to throw up. Blue: You know, I could really enjoy living here with you. Ashton: Oh no. You are not staying here. Ever! Just tell me what to write and be on your merry little way! Blue: It’s not that simple. I only know what you’ve wrote so far, and what you’ve wrote so far is a hot pile of shit, so you’re doing it yourself. Goodbye. [stops at the door before opening it] Oh, and there’s something for you on your desk. And don’t forget to put the cake in the oven, or...well, you know. Ants. Ashton: What’s on my desk? Blue: A gift. Might help you get out of this rut. [grabs an umbrella] I guess my work here is done. Ashton: Are you going to fly off now? Blue: Oh, ha ha. Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m that gay. Besides, it’s been raining all day. You really need to go outside more. [leaves]

As Blue leaves, Ashton looks at his desk and finds a copy of his first book, In The Deep Blue, with a note attached. The note states: Dear Holden, or Ashton, or whatever you want to be named. Thought you might be able to find what you’re looking for with this. Didn’t think my creator was such a dick. Love, Blue. Ashton: [opens up the book and reads the intro out loud] Hello, my name is Todd, but everybody likes to call me Blue. I don’t have many friends, but the ones I do I cherish with all my heart. [upon hearing these words, Ashton starts typing on his computer again, feeling inspired] 45

THE END


Brother by Jessica Driver Have you lived to see ten thousand suns? Have you squandered any breath? Have you searched your soul for meaning But haven’t found it yet? Have you felt a lonesome chill In the middle of a crowd? Or heard the roaring silence Amidst a deafening sound? Have you burnt some bridges Just to watch them burn? Or only laughed Because you couldn’t mourn? Have you tried to find a niche— The smallest groove— Untitled by Brandy Smith To call your own? If you have brother, You’re not alone. You’re not alone.

46


Alyssa Gass’s poem “Unseen” was written in response to a tenminute prompt at a writing workshop led by Professor Anna T. Villegas. She was asked to write a poem using a provided first or last line. Visit the SJDC Writers’ Guild web page for more information about upcoming writing workshops.

Her by Caterina Zina Kimes

Unseen by Alyssa Gass

What do they see, the outsiders who Watch as my dad walks down the street? He sways and teeters, but doesn’t fall. He is looking around, but looks like he doesn’t quite see it all. “He looks drunk,” I tell my mom. She completely agrees. That’s probably how he looks to everyone else, To those who cannot see Cannot see the illness that has taken his body, The one that has also taken his mind. I know he is not drunk, and I do what I can to help him. I doubt a police officer who saw him walking would be so kind. The officer doesn’t see. No one sees. My dad is not drunk. He has Huntington’s Disease. 47


The Secret Book of Sands by Paula Sheil

How my heart pains in this latitude. There is the beach. These moments on the membrane, the slippage between earth and sea. Only beach lives this transformation. Broken down like always, to grains like stars, like radical neutrinos, the sand puddles under my feet. Carrying me closer to discovery, if I but let the glass beads of sand roll me forward. Mazatlan. The garbage. Blowing in the streets, flying at the wheels of the pulmonias. Lace wings floating across the broken asphalt in defiance. So is the sun. A warrior. Taking off my clothes, making me sweat. His heat begging. Hold me, sun. Locked in frying sweat, I heave and heave...there is nothing coming forth. For I have come empty. Along the journey, I jettisoned expectation and arrived to be filled. Zona Dorado. How Chinese. The golden land where passions are beaded on looms, beaten hard, one strand at a time, desperate hopes. Silver, pearls, sunglasses, string hammocks, carved horses, palm frond hats. On the surf ’s edge, an endless cue of eager merchants. I want something new to wear. A cloth that will wear me well. Stretching across my round belly, my housewife arms, my swelling thighs. So I buy golden cloth. A spidery web of black, gold silk to share my wealth with a woman I am just meeting. I came these thousand miles to press 100 pesos into her brown hand. Accepting this shred of cloth for which she paid 30 pesos a yard. To accept my thighs and butt as they are now. Here in the sun. (He beckons incessantly, having no war on his horizon, so love is an alternative battle.) Over head, the frigate birds. Death’s black arrows. Magnificent frigate bird, Fregata magnificens...common during summer in Florida Keys; occasionally on the Southeast, Gulf, and West coasts. Plentiful in Mexico. Prominent crook in narrow wing takes them to dizzy 48


heights. Long, slender forked tail. Big blood-red pouch blooms from throat during courtship. Robs gulls and terns in flight. Takes small fish and marine refuse from surface, but does not land on water. A bird that looks fearless and instills beautiful unrest. Juveniles have white heads that blacken with age. Frigatebirds and pelicans outnumber the gulls by the thousands. Frigates–seductive. Stealth bombers. They live by stealing. Lawyers. Politicians. Compromising other’s livelihoods. And on the beach. I am almost alone, with a trickle of bodies. The corporeal existence of desire. Naked as they dare. The sun singing off pants, shirts, shoes, but not the stretchy spandex that cups breasts, balls, buttocks. How perfectly bagged and coddled our passion. Our bargaining power. In the streets, traffic. Fuming buses. The musicians ride for a few pesos and sing, lamenting the change from our pockets. Embarrassed, I pay him for his song. He sang for me, bringing it forth from a beat-up guitar, more cherished than wife, unless she’s paid better. He jackhammers my concrete resistance, one plucked string at a time, vibrating the air. Twisting the bougainvillea bleeding in profusion on spiked stems. The flowers shudder. The air strokes me hard. Sing. Sing. I ride the bus. Singing. My money buys me happiness. My own. I always possessed. How diligently do beggars remind us of our own joy. On this stretch of beach facing Malaysia, there are churning fish in the water. Marlin, blue metallic as sky and just as hard to take, rifling the waters, sweeping the shrimp into brown men’s nets. I eat fish, shrimp, lobster. As often as cereal or grain. Harvested from the sea, day after day, like there is no tomorrow. And each day is filled with golden eggs, like from the ogre’s goose. The goose never fails, this blue sea. The well is always full. That is our belief. As trusting as the shark. She does not fear tomorrow, that she could fail. How could she lend her belly’s ear to the possibility that love alone might have to fill her? For what is food but love? I have always thought that to be true. Offering up to the gods, we always tribute food. That we steal 49


from earth, that we were given but took. Food, our earth’s love we can return only by dying, and giving up our body and our need, and returning to her completely. ~~~ There is no book here. No story. No travelogue. Just boys, seven or eight years old, standing on the street corners juggling lemons. Can you believe it? I, a mother’s scream, Get out of the street! The traffic embraces him, nudges each of his delicate arms. Loves him in passing madness. And he juggles three lemons. One for birth, one for death, one for today. And tourists give him coins the size of shirt buttons. His a boy’s body. A smile. That needs no encouragement. A winning bravado and gold lemons he turns to cash in his pockets while his flesh evaporates. When he has given up the ghost, he

Me vs. Me by Savannah Edgeworth

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sells sunglasses, or rugs, or pottery, or colorful fish hanging from threads so transparent people say they fly. Walking these beaches, vendors approach me, one at a time. I sit, a queen, with my coins. Waiting. But they detest me. I am obligated to be despised. Pretty, pretty. He approaches, begging smile, hand out. This Maztalan economy will break my arrogance. But I am not thinking of my superiority. I am thinking to possess him to understand Mexico. I offer up all my money to make love to him. Now. He comes closer, smiling. What does he think? –She would cower under the strength of my cock. I could bury her

in the sand, delirious.

I shake my head. No. There goes the fisherman, his mobiles flashing. No love. No, none. The queen’s flesh dormant. The messiah unborn. But for pesos and a smile that would release their tangled languages. Unfurl a bed on the beach and eat our flesh. An offering to the ancient Quetzal Trogon resplendens. Each ounce of body–his hanging balls, his erect cock, my mango folds, my breasts broken open. His feasting cock diving, my breath swallowing him in perfumes, gardenia and picante sauce. Sun. Sun. The boy juggles. The balls, lemon coins, circle above his eyes and he darts like a lizard to miss an errant taxi. Oh, joy, to miss death nearly every moment. All is fucking, kissing, flirting with death with my tongue tied in Spanish knots. ~~~ Helene Cixous writes about days. The days she keeps sacred, or possibly that make her sacred. Such is Jan. 24, passed two days ago. Lucian was born 17 years ago. A day, also a Sunday that made me a mother. Sewed me tightly to my own heart. A love I could not escape. There was no returning to a love without meaning. Now it meant, and would forever mean, agony of separation. More than lover is mother. How my body aches to regain him. Happy Birthday, Son. Lucian, bringer of light and knowledge. My own apple of defiance. The knowing I would never be free–only my death could sever this cord around my neck. To his 51


body flowed my blood. The mothering link now strangles and suffocates. How could I live if he died? All of me wishes my own death so he may live. It is natural. All the animals behave as if their seed were omnipotent. Spread it–the children will flourish if they are able. In the meantime–the parents–tigers, parrots, lemurs, muskrats–they eat. I, should he perish, would disappear from anguish and loneliness. My own body’s thread mangled in the unthinkable future of no history. Happy 17th Birthday, Son. My whole body is sad, joyful, sorry and aware of my love, so fragile. So capable of destroying my senses. “I write your name on a grain of rice.” The boy passes with his folding card of cheap necklaces and the tools to inscribe my name on a grain of rice. How is it I could be reduced to a signifier small enough to be rolled away by an ant? To be rendered insignificant. Could my name be written on a grain of sand? Or on the wind? Oh, yes. And it has been done so already, billions of times. That is my same song coming back to bring sleep–the sleep of infinite eternities without thinking of the ones I love. We are all fucking. The sun, the waves, my Soweto jive music, my silver bangles, the January latitudes in Mazatlan. Pregnant women walk the beach, the living and yet to be. One cradles her belly in her hands, wears a demure blue suit, strides long steps on thin legs. Another wears an orange & gold bikini, her brown belly like a coconut heaving on the elastic brim of her pubic boundary. Quiet, she reeks noise, the pounding surf, the disquiet of stillborn possibility. Will her child be born with the requisite number of arms and legs, fingers and toes? One head and her eyes open? Will her cooking yield sweet results? Will the baby be born dead? How is it to deliver death? A corpse dragging its lifeless legs through your womb? How could the canal dredge up such horror? Death, parading as an infant, ready next to suckle your breast. Her red teeth like razors, her breath a furnace. Your heart, ash. ~~~ 52


The big golden retriever sighs and lowers his body with unnatural gravity to the rug in front of the sink. A five on a five for a pair. Fifteen, Fred says, playing a card and racking up eight points, the third five down. And John lays down the final five for twenty and twelve points. What a game. They play and drink brandy and Coke. This game and this drink–all their relationship requires. They share years of Catholic memories and betrayals. Only ice and a golden dog left to make life perfect. Benjamin is the son of the father. The nephew of the uncle, the brother. The dead mother–grandmother. All passed. His blood is alone, in him. His sperm waiting. John him to breed. The golden dog, but not today. Not in Mazatlan. The dog, too, is on vacation. No one has to perform or succeed here. The music blares, white-hot. Trumpets, drums. Some whistle–a shrill clarinet whines on the wind. Practicing for Carnaval, John says. A band of the red & white taxicab union. Fried fish and beer and band practice. Carnaval is in February. We came too early. But we wanted this beforehand. The quiet anticipation. Instead of the street action, we stumbled upon artists in a workshop making sparkling mosaic flowers and birds with pounds of glitter glued to two-foot square cardboard sheets. No one stopped working when we approached, but looked up and smiled. Both the doors to the street and the inner doors to the courtyard were flung wide open and a dozen people worked diligently as if on a factory assembly line–all for serious fun. But I am here on this beach to quiet myself. I could not have arrived during Carnaval to celebrate the Virgin, paraded in the streets of Old Town, past the German Community Center and the Teatro Angela Peralta. I am allowed only on the beach. He is allowed only to shuffle and deal. ~~~ A bitch, Mar Mar, with teats dragging the dust. Her back right leg mangled. A car hit the dog. Not an unlikely occurrence in Mazatlan where in a population of half a million are 250,000 animals. There is an active protection league made of worried gringos who fundraise among themselves to spay animals and care for cripples like Mar Mar, the RV park dog at Playa de Escondido. She 53


survived her lost limb, three pups hidden in brush regularly burned to control the tangled, dusty growth. Her teats distended, exaggerate her responsibilities. John wears a gray plastic bag on his head while playing cards. He was funny then, but at home the pictures make us laugh instantly–Fred so hard he can’t control himself and no sound comes out. John says it’s his gladiator helmet. His lover walks by, not amused. Charlie does not condone excess foolishness. John   wears the bag for hours, all through the evening, through hands of cards and brandy and Cokes. We are reminded that Dono does tricks with a condom on his head. Dono pulls the condom down over his head, his eyes and nose. He blows through his nose and the penis protection rises eagerly, explosively from the top of his 15-year-old head. The wrong

Untitled by Giovanni Gonzalez

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head, I’m thinking. But at least the boy has felt a rubber in his hands long before the sweaty, nervous moment of disaster when his own dick-demon wants to sink its mouth into a tremulous vagina or a tight pink ass. Certainly he could be ready to cap his surge with the plastic NOT NOW fatherhood/AIDS/Death prohibitor. Please, keep your babies/death to yourself until you’ve hurt your heart and found it still beating. Please don’t cause babies/death by accident. Your own self and unknown. Wait till you know how much pain you can tolerate. I look in his blue-green-gray eyes, lost forever in love with my last baby boy, a child-man becoming and laugh till I cry. He walks through the house making the rubber erupt on his head. I laugh and laugh. This trip was planned from Saturday to the following Sunday, nine days, two for traveling. Only three days left before we pack up. I am ready to return when I first depart and always ready to leave when I return home. But a call tonight finds the boys well. Three dollars for a few minutes magnetically reads from the Telmex card. Sailing, their dad said. Joined the club, the team...more gear, more money. They do so love playing rich games. I miss them both. Not that they would be tolerable here. In this town, where the locals are less well-off than they were in 1982, due to an economic policy that’s boosted high-tech jobs, but left the working poor wanting. Most likely they would be bored unless they had free rein of the Gold Zone, and even then I think they would tire of the same tourista junk. They would disappear into the dunes on Charlie’s fourwheeled, olive-green ATV. ~~~ I’ve not seen any beautiful men or boys here. John points out super hairy ones that he thinks will suit Charlie. Such a joke that these bimbo males grace every vacation port–the How Stella Got Her Groove Back bun-hard satisfiers–they don’t exist here. The beaches and tourist run is crawling with fat old Canadians and Americans in “Fear No Bear” shirts and leg braces. Even their tans seem tired. Besides the locals and their children, we are the youngest ones around. A family traveling together, sticks way out. 55


We took a bus into Old Town. We walked around the narrow streets in the district de artistas and looked in people’s windows. The colors, the coolness, the tiled sidewalks and broken steps. Watermelon-colored bougainvillea and lemon hibiscus. Purple walls with orange shutters. Lime green halls and carnelian doors. And parrots whistling to the cars like cops with military precision. The mercado–supermarket and department store in one. A pig’s head on display among the meats, carcasses unnameable.   Belts, sandals, sports knock-offs and peppers...yellow, green, red, orange...the true national currency. I bought Mexican saffron for a friend. I promised her sunshine to heat up the Valley fog when I left. For her birthday, I’d given her a Moroccan cookbook and the saffron she purchased (the stems plucked from crocus flowers) cost $12 for a teaspoon’s worth. This bottle of Mexican seeds to be ground may be another source of saffron-like color. We are both eager to see how it compares. I also bought a quart of real vanilla. Ah, the world spice market...nothing else matters to a cook. I can’t take pictures. Nothing framed in my eye. Nothing (but everything) to shoot. But my pen. My words, overfed and drunk are trying to work. Still, they too, are on vacation. ~~~ Traveling backward at 490 miles an hour. There must have been a head wind, Fred says. When we were traveling forward into time nine days ago, we managed 550 miles per hour, our plane grabbing up sultry air gaining tropical degrees, leaving fog and rain in San Francisco. How was it that I transported myself from Stockton, where my reality is carved in stone, to not reality where I flutter awhile, a monarch migrating? How, since I rearranged my molecules from the blue house within to the Playa de Escondido without – sur la mer – can I know what happened to me? My feet know. My hands. My stomach. My eyes. My tired spine. My heart and mind do not yet know. They, the two in consort, took their pictures. We will see what they processed some night with owl song in the oak. The blue house home and within. Fred wants to plan the next trip and I do not yet know where I have been. Only after I can blend the where I was with 56


where I am can I see the new color. And color is what I take to the blue house now, on monarch’s wings. Camarones. Camarones, a vendor calls every morning at 8. This is what I cannot take home–his tongue. For me shrimp in the blue house in the Central Valley are not the teeth-busting sweet flesh of Mazatlan camarones. Camarones does not even mean shrimp. Camarones carries a new experience. A new taste, next to the ocean in a wave far from Stockton, washed the length of the Pacific skirt. Camarones, the color of sunset and bougainvilleas. Bougainvillea the color of the freshest blood–before the blue-purple oxygen. Fresh like the cracked sun spreading over the Sierra Madre. Showing me that what I saw was new even if I had my own words. Lupita Chavez. Luis Gomez. Are these real names? Chavez and Gomez...Smith & Jones a la Mexicana. It doesn’t matter. When I asked Luis his last name, he hesitated. Like perhaps there was a reason he should lie; that I should be denied the truth. What should I do with the truth? That I could not be trusted with the truth. Truth. Lies. Trust. The words agitate, co-mingle, muddy. But he says, Gomez. He was our server. White shirt and pants, brown hair and eyes (made more mahogany by the colorless uniform of service)– our smiling host at El Rancho, a restaurant el norte on the beach past Zona Dorado. And Lupita, the cook. Cooked. The lobster, the fried fish. The camarones. The chicken cordon blue, the chipotle and carrots. Potatoes tasting more potato than any I ever ate. How new in this old place. Yet the usurpers–exchanged rites in Mazatlan even as they did in Stockton. Tearing away the veil – murdering the past – making Indians an archaeological, a museum display. But the Spanish were everywhere on the hem of the Pacific. (Peaceful? Hardly when she watched what she saw.) The Spanish. The Germans. The Portuguese. Travelers. Poets. They left verses and mistakes in many languages. This traveling backwards, but not to where I started from, an hour left yet to go. Maybe an hour–half, Fred said, in the air, 57


The man next to me and I check our watches at the same time. Synchronizing our boredom. Three young women, two seats back and over my right shoulder laugh and laugh. They cannot talk to one another without laughing. Their laughter is in Spanish, like washing clothes in a river, like much-longed for sex. It spills and covers my right shoulder. I am covered in Mexican laughter, like orchids in palms, and I hunger to make the same sound. My laugh is like machine-gun fire: eh, eh, eh, eh, eh. Not the melodious flapping of wet linen. Joanie laughs in Filipino. Sigrid in Swedish, also musical. A laughter that covers, not beats. My laughter punches the air, staccato, riveting myself to the experience. I always want, hardly receive. And when I last laughed on this Mazatlan journey, it was at the gringos swinging a broomstick at a pi単ata at a margarita party. And, forgive me. Laughing at not me being made a fool of by a comely youth of fourteen pulling the rope from the concrete balcony. I laughed at him laughing. And laughed at my own embarrassed refusal. Eh, eh, eh, eh, eh. Only twenty minutes later, and the dignified man in a sport coat and tie on my right and I check our watches, exactly at the same moment. As if we were conducted by an unseen baton, the cello in us responding. The plane dips down through the sky. My ears pop. The pilot curls words in his mouth, marbling them under his tongue, squirreling them in his cheek. Tells me to stop my electronic device use. But not this flow of ink. They laugh. The girls. There is something hilarious about falling out of the sky. Ahead, Salida. Exit. A blue curtain that separates me from this stage. My story: eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, when I reach the ground. Am delivered to the ground? When the slowing capricious metal butterfly welcomes its bite.

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When You

by Alexander Chellsen When you looked at me, my unblinking eyes became bloodshot. You smacked your eyelashes like a fly swat, blurring my peripheral vision until my surroundings became blind spots. When you touched my face, my cheeks burned red with desire. You warmed your hands above the fire and laughed playfully as you poked the charcoal and the flames grew higher. When you kissed my lips, my tongue curled up like a small child. You sharpened your serpent toothed smile and let your fangs sink into my neck like a cold-blooded reptile. When you held my hand, the thin bones in my fingers crushed. You buried them beneath the earth’s crust with the skeletal remains of other species waiting to become dust.

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Self-Portrait

by Jessica NuĂąez


Our Seasoned Saunder’s Lake by Cindy Grafius

I’d been to Saunder’s Lake many times after my mom moved to Oregon. Though the seasons change to the next and back again, each is new and different, experienced once more. There, as everywhere, winter and summer are the seasons most characteristically opposed; they each display features that are unique…as well as some qualities that are shared by both. The two seasons are similar in some respects, yet inherently different. Summertime: the time of year when all things have awakened, have come back to life. Sitting on the deck with my eyes closed, I can hear this life all around me. In the bushy green pine overhead, fluttering chickadees and fat little sparrows chirrup, calling to me for more seed!...more seed! Out across the lake I hear the contented murmur of the Canadian geese as they settle in for their afternoon nap. I drink in the sound of rustling dry leaves nearby; they are witnesses to the light breeze moving through their branches. Not yet willing to open my eyes, I take in the scents of summer. The air is so clean and clear, with just a hint of moisture, for the ocean is just over the dunes to the west. Honeysuckle blossoms, bending over the railing to my side, are propelling their sweet aroma to me, as if courting me. The warm smell of air laden with sunshine is enough to intoxicate me; I begin to drift… But, oh!–not yet! I hasten to open my eyes to the loveliness around me. I see that the geese are resting now, their soft feathers moved slightly by tiny gusts of wind from above, their long necks winding back to the privacy of their wings…to sleep. The surface of the small lake is broken now only by the occasional dive of a small bird, or the pause in the flight of a dragonfly. Small ripples appear, the signature of a hungry fish hoping to catch one of the tiny insects floating above. Lilly pads, great emerald thrones for the pleasure of the bullfrogs, float suspended above their thin anchors.

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Still reclining on the bleached boards of the wooden deck, I look behind me to the eaves of the house. There the remnant of a spider’s web hangs, wafting in the breeze abandoned long ago; its gossamer loneliness is reminiscent of the winter past…and is somehow a harbinger of the winter to come… Winter at Saunder’s Lake can be likened to glimpsing a series of still-lifes. Though almost no movement in itself can be detected, each glance reveals a change indeed. I find myself once again on the clean, wind-swept deck overhanging the lake. The air has a crispness to it now, lighter and thinner than in summer; as I inhale, my breath catches before escaping to form puffballs of fog before me. In the chilly air, sounds of the lake are amplified, almost felt as well as heard. These sounds are of the elements rather than of the life of Saunder’s Lake. Off in the distance I spy a mass of black cumuli moving inland, its lightening flashes followed by a cannonade of rolling thunder. Though the storm has not yet reached us, the air is filled with moisture… my view across the water is clouded by a fine mist. My attention is drawn through the haze to a sound–is it the snapping of a pine bough, laden with hoarfrost, or an otter beating a hasty retreat, his tail slapping the glacial water as a tocsin of my presence? There is a timelessness to the lake now. The water is glasslike, a mirror reflecting the blackening skies and the stillness of the shoreline. The smell of rain is heavy as the storm approaches. The icy cold is intensified by the frosty panorama before me; light from Mom’s window is reflected in the glistening diamonds of moisture surrounding me. Many fireplaces are burning logs tonight; their sweet pungency fills the air. I realize that though winter is a time of cold, it is also a time of warmth…the storm is nearly upon us, and this promise of warmth, the anticipated orange glow of the fire waiting inside draws me to its comfort. As I bask in the heat of the blaze, the winter outside becomes only a memory, as has the summer before…

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Kiki-san (bank) by Sherry Mikawa 62


THE POETRY OF MICHAEL DUFFETT

Summer Grass Is All Remaining on Battlefields of Warriors’ Dreams —Basho These stones have been laid to mark the path That leads to our front door; they are haphazard, Sized from great to tiny and among them The grass has grown untidily. They will Be there long after I have shuffled Between their chaotic rows for the last time. A lover laid them and she will outlast me But they will outlast us both. Our children And theirs will trip among them when we are Memories as faded as the grass In summer, as passing as the decorative Leaves that leave their wet imprint on stones Which dry when summers return and efface These ghostly images brief as our memory. To

a

Little Daschund Dog

To her I’m a giant, billowing against her flank, Offering warmth to radiate her bones, Her liquid black eyes turned towards me Making an angle of her neck that strains Her brown-bound muscles in a tension Only to be relieved by returning Her nose to my knee where she rests all day And snoozes, abandoning barking. When I move, she struggles upright, her legs Unfolded against the Leviathan. As I leave her alone in the armchair, She is impatient for my return, For legs to be re-folded, nose nestled Against the lumbering, now stilled, giant.

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Humiliation by Linda Menke 64


Fruits of Labor by Breanna Hildebrand

small and raw not yet ready to pluck. once, I was entirely green beginning to grow and ready for whatever was to come. turning crisp and ripe ready for anything. I slowly grew colors of red with forbidden tendencies and the urge to roam adventurous. slowly rotting– from the inside out. my core is turning brown it's spreading I can no longer hide it. with time, I’ve changed; emerged, expanded, and erupted, but now I wither away. wishing time would heal, but instead it bruised leaving lesions of my past.

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Ignorance by John Quiroz

Featured Artists Dennis Droge (27)

Linda Menke (64)

Savannah Edgeworth (8 and 50)

Sherry Mikawa (62)

Giovanni Gonzalez (36 and 54)

Joy Neas (Back Cover) Jessica Nu単ez (59)

Caterina Zina Kimes (47)

Pamela Ortiz (25)

Veasna Ling (20)

Jessica Pardo (28)

Angelica Marinez Madrigal (Front Cover)

John Quiroz (66)

Tabatha Melin (13 and 30)

Brandy Smith (46) 66


Fox by Joy Neas

https://www.deltacollege.edu/org/wrtrsgld/ artifactsjdc@gmail.com sjdcwritersguild@gmail.com facebook.com/SJDCWritersGuild