SUMMER 2016 VOLUME 2 ISSUE 3
A Writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Guild Publication
ARTIFACT NOUVEAU Volume 2 Issue 3
EDITORIAL TEAM Maggie Anderson Mikael Honzell Jaysyn A. McDaniel Agustin Rios Jr. Vanessa M. Soto FACULTY ADVISOR Sarah Antinora FRONT COVER ART Roseate by Natalie Watkins BACK COVER ART
Golden Coast by Kassy Menke
Artifact Nouveau is a publication of works from the San Joa-
quin 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. ©2016
SAN JOAQUIN DELTA COLLEGE Superintendent/ President: Dr. Kathy Hart Board of Trustees President: Claudia Moreno Vice President: Janet Rivera Clerk: Richard Vasquez Student Trustee: Rafael Medina Dr. Teresa Brown Steve Castellanos, FAIA Catherine Mathis, M.D. C. Jennet Stebbins
A Letter from the Writers’ Guild Vice President Howdy, ya’ll! This issue we’ve got some fantastic prose, photography, art, and, of course, poetry from both Delta College students and people from around the country and abroad. As usual, it’s been a joy sifting through the plethora of material sent to us. Though it has been difficult choosing only a select few to make it into this issue, we’re confident that we’ve picked out work that is indicative of the creativity and talent that courses through the minds of all good artists. While this is my last issue as the Vice President of the Writers’ Guild, I’m confident that the next generation of club members will more than capably continue the legacy of the club and provide an outlet for aspiring artists to get their work published and shared with an audience that appreciates the hard work that goes into creating thought provoking and entertaining art. For those who have never submitted to Artifact, we’d like to extend an invitation to take some time out of your busy (and not so busy) schedules to send us an email with work that exemplifies what you’re capable of. While the prospect of being scrutinized by an editor may be frightening (is frightening) to many of us, there’s no need for that kind of anxiety when you submit to Artifact Nouveau. Plus, you may get published in something with some French in its title. That’s always wonderful. Warmest regards, Agustin Rios Jr. “If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less, but to dream more, to dream all the time.” –Marcel Proust Thank you to all the contributing authors and artists who comprise our summer issue. The Writers’ Guild is especially grateful for the hard work of Patricia Mayorga, editor of Poets’ Espresso Review. We also want to thank those who led the spring semester writing workshops: Gabrielle Meyers, Bruce Crawford, and Paula Treick DeBoard.
Table of Contents Daily Living by Patricia Smith ................................................5 An Unnecessary Sadness by Maurice Kaehler ..........................................7 Untitled Poem by Michael Duffett............................................9 Thou Fearful Progeny of Rain by Lilian Dube ...................................................10 Sighs and Laments by Richard Shelton .........................................12 Color Red by Marlen Gonzalez .......................................13 I Wish I Was a Flower by Victoria Bagatta ........................................21 Relics by Jack Harvey ..................................................23 Changing Times by A. Lark ............................................................27 Lol Re Lax by Rose Knapp ....................................................28 The Librarian by David Bankson .............................................29
Table of Contents cont. Smiling at the Rain by Will Walton .................................................31 Swiftsure by Alia Michaud ...............................................47 A Quest to the Tower of Shine by Myles Salas ...................................................53 Under a Quilt of Stars by Lyn Lifshin......................................................85 Like Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re All That by Kathryn R. Walkowiec...............................86 Sweating Whiskey by Nicholas Demski .........................................87 The Drums of Winterlong by Carol A. Oberg ............................................88 Green Onions by Austin Veldman ...........................................89 Smile by Victoria Bagatta ........................................90 Little Asian Woman by Kassy Menke .................................................92 A Homeless Man Reflects About God by Michael Duffett..........................................93 Contributors .....................................................94 4
Daily Living by Patricia Smith She stands alone in her mind’s eye ranting, raving, running amok. When she whirls up a dust-storm like the Tasmanian Devil, everyone tilts to the right of her, sometimes to the left, and sometimes on occasion, someone may even slither on past. There goes Athena— “Zeus did her wickedly” is the mockery. Fifty-five baby-mamas He dipped into One hundred three children opened their wombs. Beautiful isn’t she—fully armored Breastplate of Righteousness is her banner Shield of Hereditary Rights is her bodyguard The Sword of Correction at her side—ready to nick, flick, and slash any insult—if need be. Minnows of Hell rush in to feed on the foundation of her walls. Athena—chiseled marble— Plays in her head, shrewd, courageous as the lioness Yet, kitten-like in mannerism, pleasant girl though, chameleon-like Controlling her dominion at all cost. Like the owl—A recluse in unawares. Athena—swift as Achilles like all warriors her victory rests upon The Sword up by sunrise precociously prepping, preparing, protecting herself against whatever comes first. Any Shifting of the leaves is her cue to dance. This is the dutiful demeanor of any Reigning Warring Goddess— Just, living life. 5
Horse in Profile by Sarah Van Dusen 6
An Unnecessary Sadness by Maurice Kaehler I sit in the corner of the veranda. The shade succors me in the blazing heat. Tawny hills and oak trees surround me. As I write, I hear the scratch of lead on the page. I’m unsure of how I feel. With my tears just underneath the surface, I’m unknowing of what’s waiting for me at home. I found an old entry in the local journal Where I wrote, “She showed me the importance of home.” A dam seemed to break inside. I had forgotten that. And amidst jealousy, Envy, Hatred, And shame, A little boy came home to find his heart.
The habits of recent thoughts have not been thoughtful. It scares me. It’s as if I’m possessed. I long for connection and fear that I lack what it takes to commit. I then think of her, Her transitioning, And me at my best. How recently I’ve forgotten that. Instead, accepting the impossibility of swimming through air. Tragedy lies not in transition or change. It lies in this way of thinking. To know there is love and not care, And to live in an unnecessary sadness.
Heart pill at seven, water pills at nine And the day is under way; a distant Aircraft reminds me of the world Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve left Behind and from my armchair, a glimpse Of clouds through the back window tells me That sky and plains, valleys and mountains Are comfortably and uncomfortably around For others to explore. I am at rest And focusing on the slow and faltering Rhythms of my heart and bladder, feet up No longer restlessly pacing the paths I crossed, re-crossed and followed to this place Where life begins with pills at seven and nine And there is nowhere left to go but inward. â&#x20AC;&#x201D;by
In the Candlelight by Kassy Menke
Thou Fearful Progeny of Rain by Lilian Dube A flood sluiced his neighbours out of bed one Easter and 30 miles away they found them in the mud. Thus he walked from summer to winter fumbled around the cloud forest like a blind buffalo his lonesomeness perturbing the animals who took it for a threat And oh how senseless is this world when a man is a stick that breaks for another Nebuchadnezzar in his madness was bent like this man now pitching a tent on a black bog His body was wet with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like an eagleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s feathers He had been for a long time perfectly comfortable in the belief that there was no world beyond the reach of the eye As cold as a cannon with no sky we see him dissolving time with the locals now after that rain, his grimace, small but charged with significance. 10
SIGHS AND LAMENTS by Richard Shelton
Ah, what sighs Time dents upon the mind As plundering Age approaches Shovel in hand To beat upon man.
Ah, what laments the mind invents As Time gnaws the body Disarmed and feeble And Age struts boldly, Shovel in hand, Upon the immensity of death.
by Marlen Gonzalez It has been wonderful these past few weeks, ever since the wedding. We moved to a little house of our own. It’s a house that belonged to his family. It’s not much. It’s barely as big as my apartment, but I think it’s perfect for just the two of us. It needs a little fixing here and there, but nothing that can’t be fixed with some paint and nice decorations. It’ll keep me busy while he’s away at work. The hours seem eternal when he’s not home. I already finished my chores, so now here I am writing in this old notebook I found in the closet. It’s worn out, the binding is damaged, and there are pages that have been ripped out, as if it belonged to someone previously. As if they tore the pages in hopes of hiding whatever secrets they had spilled on the pages. I asked him if he knew whose it was, but he didn’t. I usually just type away on my laptop, but lately I haven’t felt like it. From time to time I enjoy the feeling of pencil on paper. Plus, my belongings are still at my apartment, so this old notebook will have to do for now. He’s been great to me. He says he loves me. That he’ll do anything for me, and I believe him. How could I not? He promised! He’s a good man and I love him. He’s at work right now, so I’m surprising him with his favorite: spaghetti. I hope he’s pleased with me. I want to make him happy. He’s always taking care of me, you know. Always 13
making sure I don’t stray too far from his sight. He won’t even allow me to get a job. He says that that’s what he’s here for, that I won’t have to worry about a single bill while I’m with him. He truly is a good man. The best I could’ve asked for. He almost got lost once. It’s a good thing I saved him. He promised if I married him, that he’d leave everything behind, and he did. He’s been nothing but good to me. *** All my belongings are here now, but for some reason I’m still writing in this old notebook. I can’t let it go to waste, so I might as well just fill up the remaining pages. I feel lonely here. He’s always away at work. I want to invite my friends over, but we haven’t gotten internet or a phone line. I found my cell phone on the ground the other day. The screen was shattered, and it would no longer turn on. It must have fallen from the table, although I don’t recall leaving it near the edge. He keeps promising that he’ll take me to repair it, but he never does. It’s been two weeks already. I would just drive myself there, but we only have one car at the moment. Mine is at the shop. I guess something is wrong with the transmission. At least that’s what he says. *** The house is eerily quiet lately. I ran out of things to do and places to clean. I polished all the furniture. I even made him buy me paint for the walls. I painted the kitchen red, my favorite color. He doesn’t like it though. He says it feels like it suffocates him, but I’m not changing it. I also fixed the yard up. That took me two weeks to do. The house had been abandoned for too long, so all the 14
Kazi’s Artichoke by Maurice Kaehler
vegetation had dried up. He bought all kinds of flowers for me to plant. My favorites are the red roses. The yard really does look beautiful with the flowers. It brought so much more light and life to the house. I’d say our yard looks better than any of the surrounding houses, not that there are many. Now I have nothing else to do, well besides write in this old notebook. Apart from having nothing to do, I haven’t seen anyone other than him. I’m always alone. I 15
still haven’t gone to the shop to fix my phone, so calling isn’t an option. We don’t have internet either. I’m really disconnected from everyone. My mom must be worried sick over me. He says there’s no reason to call, but I think otherwise. The only other thing I can do is watch TV, but I can only watch so much of it. I keep telling him we should go out, but he refuses. It’s always the same. He’s “too tired, maybe tomorrow.” I tell him I can drive myself, but he doesn’t want me driving the company’s truck. My car is still in the shop. It’s been almost two months since he took it. I’m growing restless. I was always so used to having my own car, and being able to go anywhere whenever I wanted. I guess I have to keep “nagging,” as he puts it, for him to hurry up with my car. *** He’s been acting strange lately. He’s always so distant, as if he’s in another world. At dinner we eat in silence, but I catch him looking at me. Actually, he’s always watching me, whether it be if I’m working out in the yard, or I’m washing the dishes. His eyes are always glued to me. He has that weird look in his eyes. The one he used to have. It scares me. He’s been getting irritated very easily too. He gets mad if I keep pressuring him to let me use the truck and his phone. I don’t want him to be that way. He promised he’d leave it behind. *** He finally let me speak to my mother yesterday. She sounded worried. It’s been months since I last spoke to her, or anyone else that wasn’t him. We could only speak 16
for an hour though. He said he was waiting for an important call. No one ever called. My mom said she wanted to come over, but I told her we were very busy. She didn’t seem convinced, and I hated lying to her, but I couldn’t let her see me like this. She wouldn’t understand. She’d judge him too harshly. It was partially my fault. I accidently spilled coffee on him. He got really angry and couldn’t control himself. He seemed sorry afterwards though. He hugged me and promised he’d never do it again. I wanted to leave, but he really did seem sorry. He made me see that what we have is too strong to just throw away. He’s right. *** He promised he wouldn’t, but he does. I don’t want to make him angry, but no matter what I do, something always bothers him. I think he feels angry with himself, so he let me speak to my mother again. She said I sounded strange. She wanted to know what was happening, but I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I know how he is. It’ll make him angrier, and I don’t want that. He cried last night. He hugged me and kissed my forehead. He said he’s sorry. He sounded so sincere. I know he means it. He really does, but no matter how much he regrets it, he always does it again. He always gets that look in his eyes, so I try to do everything right, but he gets angry too easily. *** I’ve been in this room for three days. He locks the door from the outside, so I can’t leave. There aren’t any windows, so I have no escape. He only lets me out when he’s here, so that I can clean and make dinner. He’s on 17
A House Is a Home by William Crawford 18
Chained and Waiting by William Crawford
guard when I’m free to roam the house. He follows my every move. It’s unnerving to have him watching me. I want to leave, but I can’t get time alone. He’d know if I tried. He’s just waiting for any small mistakes, and he yells at me a lot for being slow. I can’t help it. Everything hurts all the time. *** He gets mad at me for not listening, but I don’t care. I have lost track of how many times I’ve had to clean up my own blood. I can’t feel anything anymore. I don’t even cry like I used to. I sit there and stare at him. He stares at me too, like always. Sometimes I stare at the drawer, where I know the silver knives are kept. I wonder how sharp the blade feels. It surely would be sharp enough to draw out blood. Blood as red as the kitchen walls. I want to get one, but he’s always watching. 19
*** There’s red everywhere. I was cooking his favorite: spaghetti. I only wanted to make him happy, but he was angry. He was yelling and throwing things, but all I could focus on was the cold metal in my hand. It was sharp like I had thought. I even drew out some of my own blood. The color of blood is so beautiful, and now it was everywhere. It stained the white tiles I had spent hours whitening. It matched the walls, but I had to clean it before they came for me. It was an accident really. He was yelling so loud that it made my head hurt. I just wanted peace and silence. They wouldn’t understand though. I did it so we could be happy and because he looks so peaceful when he’s asleep. They were going to be so mad, and they were going to take me when they saw what I did. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but it wouldn’t come off. It only got worse. Everything was red. They would be so angry…so angry. I continued to scrub, and scrub.
so that you would
i wish i was
touch me with a reverence shown only to things of pure beauty so that you would pull me from my roots and kill me but as i died i would get to see you dance while you cooked in the kitchen or laze on the couch in your pajamas or cry in your room while you watched your favorite movie on netflix my stem would twist and my petals would bloom in your direction like the sun you are my sun but maybe i am already a
I Wish I Was A Flower by Victoria Bagatta
Big Bang Zinnia by Maurice Kaehler
Relics by Jack Harvey Schiller’s skull on Goethe’s table awaits interment. The unspeakable, the mothering earth, impressed with too many monuments, is dumb; unanswered Beethoven’s out in the cold. Mann’s Faust, lost in spiritual ice, like a crane stretches from one shipwreck to the next; shipwrecked for good, Schiller’s skull, thrown up by an unsteady sea, lingers on the beach. Consider the consequences of genius or exceptional eyes and ears, limbs and all the rest; like the rest of us consigned to jumping over fences till death 23
do you part from the earthly part, the dross, the gloss on the text; consider the ant, you dreamers, and fall back in line. The fires of creation and the winds of the muses blew through Schillerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s head, possessing him and possessed; breathed on by divine lips, eyes rolling like windmills, he suffered the bread of pain, the water of anguish, scribbled away and the legions of the lesser built their castles on his books, built on his backbone. Long ago in the dark German woods Varus had his problems. Rome marched back and forth in the damp and the cold; the southern Mediterranean light paled, and went out. Centuries later Schiller turned south;
dignity and sun drew on enthusiasm; the sacrifices of yore dimmed to a point and then all was light. Light from the dome blasted the dark sides of the temples white as sheets; Schiller, at the zenith of his flight, unmoving as Zenoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s arrow, looks out: an eagle fixed. Now on a table his skull grins at the skill not lost; the bard shall not go speechless to Orcus. And Goethe, setting like Antares, sees a pattern everywhere; moonlight and hope at the last. Goodbye both; you served us better than most, raised us 25
high as the Venusberg, sunk us to the depths of the Brocken. Flesh and bone conjurers, sufferers of human ills, your secrets are safe with us, your honorable works stand in unbroken ranks.
Immer besser, immer heiterer,
the dark side, the light, live off the flame; Schillerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s skull, balanced in Goetheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hand, grins like an ape, and then dies again.
Beyond Dome by Mohammad Ali Mirzaei
Changing Times by A. Lark Today, there’s concrete where a playground used to be A magic place where children used to laugh and play By human force, the joy has been removed away Because concrete is where a playground used to be Today, there is a stop where go used to roam free Echoing only sullen dispirited sounds Repeatedly, rubber striking the altered grounds Because concrete reigns where a playground used to be Today, there is distance where closeness used to be The cars, the people all distracted, zoom by fast Busy and absorbed “one cannot stop for the past” Today, there’s concrete where a playground used to be The virtual has replaced the reality One’s skin knows not the feel of trees, dirt, grass, and sand Our children will be safe on fabricated land Today, there’s concrete where a playground used to be. 27
Bouquet by Kobina Wright
Lol Re Lax by Rose Knapp Lol Re Lax, Idc jk Jfk irl I need xanax LA may be a little lala but it’s laid back, chill, dope, and “happy” NYC is very neurotic n lala it’s not your fuckin friend or bourgeois utopia but it’s where people go to find dope and define dope 28
by David Bankson “The final book is closed,” she confesses through cupped and quivering hands, hands possessed of ancient force and fury. But that force—that fury—drained into a thin cup upon her fireplace mantle. It brims, overflows, spilling anxious mist across the floor of her emptied library corridor. In all my times here, I’ve never seen this cup before, the way it hangs over her, over her hearth, disconnected and alien, shaky and unfamiliar, pliable yet untouchable, as if protected in the vacuum chamber of a bell jar. 29
It does not belong, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not what matters; one cannot scratch a message in the margin when her books her children are closing, checked out, unreturned, some missing, some burned. Not when you stand in the face of the childhood librarian, with no books left for her care.
Every Where by Kobina Wright 30
Smiling at the Rain by Will Walton
I closed the doors to Best Move for the last time on December 7, 2012, nearly five years to the day of the housing-market crash of ’07. I was surprised to have lasted that long. With no one buying homes—in the midst of a recession—there was little work for furniture movers in a small town like Waycross, Georgia. The company hung on those last years like unrequited love, but each day was merely a delay of the inevitable. Our last month in business was devoted to emptying our warehouse storage facility. By the end of the final week, we had cleared out all of the remaining seventeen units, except for one. This unit had been rented out for over a year to a woman named Sophia Foster. Sophia had not missed or even been late with a single payment up until this point. It took my secretary, Miranda, two weeks of unsuccessful attempts at tracking Sophia down before she finally reached Sophia’s sister, Beverly, who informed her that Sophia had died in a car accident a few weeks prior. When Miranda asked Beverly if she would accept her sister’s belongings, she told Miranda that she wanted nothing to do with the items that were in storage. She said they belonged to Sophia’s nephew and that they were worthless to her. On the morning of the seventh, three of Best Move’s employees—Bill, Jacob and Leo— and myself met at the warehouse to load Sophia’s furniture, boxes 31
and whatnots, and then take the load to the dump. The closest Goodwill or Salvation Army was over an hour away, in either Valdosta or Brunswick—either way, too far. Bill backed the van up to the loading dock, and Leo pulled down on the chain, opening the bay door. Jacob stood on the ground and directed Bill as he backed the twenty-six-footer. “This is a damn shame, Josh, a damn shame,” Leo said to me as he walked up to the stack of furniture. “Perfectly good stuff just going to waste.” He and Jacob grabbed the first piece, a couch, lifted it to their knee—so to get both hands under it—and walked it to the front of the van’s bed, where they heaved it up over their heads and into the overhang. They turned and went back for the love-seat, which they placed inside the couch, with the feet facing out—like the merging of an uppercase “L” and a “7.” As Jacob and Leo continued to load the furniture, I began stacking boxes for Bill to dolly into the van. I stacked seven rows, and, on the seventh row, I placed the only open box at the top of the stack. As I stood, catching my breath, a booklet of papers at the top of the box caught my eye. The booklet had a title-page that read, “ ‘My Story’ by: Dick Brenna.” My curiosity piqued. I picked up the booklet, turned over the title-page, and began reading.
“Don’t worry, Boss, we’ll get it.” I heard the sar-
Watcher of the Lake by Briawna Freeman
casm in Jacob’s voice, but I never looked up. Instead, I sat down Indian style in the spot I’d been standing— eyes on the paper. ***** I am angry at no one for the horrors I endured as a child. I have now forgiven those who harmed me. I was born on Halloween in 1977, at Memorial Hospital, in Waycross, Georgia. My birth was 33
complicated, and my mother nearly died from severe hemorrhaging during labor. She said it was the most miserable experience of her life. I grew up in an old decrepit house in Hoboken. I lived there with my mother and father, my sister, Kate, and my brother, Brad. Kate was the eldest of us three, Brad was a year behind Kate, and I was three years behind Brad. Until I was seventeen, most all of my worries in life revolved around my bed-wetting. Nearly every beating I took as a child, every insult, every embarrassment, was because of this problem. One of my earliest memories is of me being made to sleep outside in our backyard. I was left with a bare mattress and no covers. I don’t remember my mattress being moved outside. I don’t remember being given a reason why I’d been cast out. I don’t remember my age, or what year it was. I don’t remember what day of the week it was and I don’t even remember the cold, but I will never forget the reds and greens and blues of our neighbors’ Christmas lights. I can see them now. Although it prevented nothing, Mother didn’t allow me to drink anything hours before bedtime; oftentimes, lunch was the last time I was given something to drink. I can remember, at age seven, sneaking outside, and hastily drinking from puddles of rainwater—on both knees, humped over, hands cupped. To this day, at 34
age thirty-four, I smile at the rain. My mother never once struck me, though I feared her the most. My father was the muscle of the pair, but only as an extension of my mother, only as her tool. He didn’t lay a hand on me that wasn’t commanded by her. From the best I can remember, I was about seven or eight when the beatings began. I guess it was at this point that my mother realized my bedwetting was not going to be an impermanence, and felt it necessary to address the situation in the way she felt was best. The beatings always began the same: my father, pumping himself up, would sling open my bedroom door, and begin cursing at me, saying something like, “Another stain on my damn mattress. That’s all you’re good for: staining my goddamn mattress with your piss.” With him, everything was always “my...”—this was the same with my mother as well. He also said things like, “After putting in a hard day’s work, I have to come home and hear it from your mother, so now I’m forced to take care of it.” He usually started with his belt—buckle out—and, more often than not, ended with his fist. He would drop the belt, and make the switch once his emotion took over. Father’s only mercy was to spare my face, but this was merely because marks on the face had to be explained. By the time I was nine, I prided myself in being able to take a beating. I began to recognize the better I took it, the less 35
satisfaction he gained. This was the age when I consciously decided to stop crying, and the age that was the last time I cried. Kate, who had it worse than me, and in worse ways, never cried or screamed—although she couldn’t help but moan—when Father locked her bedroom-door behind him, and took care of her. From her, I gained my strength. ***** On the night before my tenth birthday, while washing the dishes after dinner, I caught a glimpse of a Dairy Queen ice cream cake, as Kate opened the freezer door to grab some ice for her Dr. Pepper. I couldn’t believe what I saw! Not only was this to be my first ice cream cake, it was to be my first birthday cake. I barely slept that night. I thought of all that was going to happen at my party because surely, with a birthday
Seagull by Mohammad Ali Mirzaei
cake, there would be a birthday party to boot. I thought of all the presents I was going to get. I thought about the balloons that would be tied to the backs of chairs, and the ten candles that would burn like Christmas lights on top of the cake. I thought about everyone singing “Happy Birthday” to me, and how everyone would be nice to me. Good thoughts led to bad, and I thought about the night that stood between now and this day of happiness. I prayed to God for a dry mattress in the morning. I prayed to God for ice cream cake. My alarm sounded off. It was 7:00 a.m. and my birthday had arrived, and like every other morning, while living in my parents’ home, I woke soaked in my own urine. I didn’t blame God. After changing into my school clothes, I walked down the hall toward the kitchen to face my mother, where, as always, she was sitting at the kitchen table, thumbing through the paper. By age ten, this shameful walk had become a ritual. I made it to the kitchen, and, like every other morning, my mother neatly folded her newspaper, laid it down on the table, and went into my bedroom to check my mattress. For years I have wondered why she didn’t just ask me—so to save her a trip to my bedroom and a whiff of that putrid odor. Perhaps she liked the smell. Perhaps, to her, the putridity smelled like opportunity. I heard her coming back down the hallway, yelling to Kate, who was in the bathroom.
“Hurry up and get out, Kate. You and Brad are
having cake for breakfast.” Mother walked into the kitchen. “Grab a plate and a fork,” she said to Brad, who was walking to the table with a bowl in one hand and a bag of Fruity Os in the other. “No cereal this morning. Today, you and your sister are eating ice cream cake, and Dick is going to watch you eat it.” Mother took the cake from the freezer.
“Cake for breakfast? Hell yeah!” my brother said.
“Watch your mouth, or you’ll be standing right alongside Dick, watching Kate eat.” She yelled down the hallway, “Get in here, and eat your cake!” Mother set two plates down on the table, and topped each with a thick piece of DQ’s finest—I could see the inside layer of chocolate cookie crumbs. “We’re eating Dick’s birthday cake for breakfast?” Kate questioned, as she came walking into the kitchen. “Yes. Since Dick can’t even hold his piss on his birthday, he doesn’t deserve to have a birthday cake. Shit, he doesn’t deserve to have a birthday, after what he put me through.” She then turned to me. I was standing in the back corner of the kitchen, next to the trashcan, counting the cracks in the linoleum. By now, she had worked herself up and was ready to lay into me directly. She went to speak, but she stopped. I looked up at her, and, in an instant, I saw the most gratifying look wash 38
over her face. It was, perhaps, the look Einstein wore after coming up with his theory of special relativity. “Get them clothes off.” She walked out of the kitchen and down the hall. I could hear her rummaging in the hall closet. She came back holding a white sheet, and she had two safety pins in her mouth. She took the pins from her teeth and set them on the kitchen counter. She unfolded the sheet and began folding it back until it was the size and shape she wanted—all the while, keeping her head down, while talking to herself: “Piss on my bed. Stain my mattress.” She looked up. “Get those fucking clothes off! If you want to piss your pants like a damn baby then that’s how you’ll be treated, like a goddamn baby.” I stripped down to my underwear. “All of it, I said!” My brother snickered, with his mouth full of ice cream, as I stood there, bare-assed, arms by my side. Kate just stared blankly at my crotch, and said nothing—she looked as though she had something else on her mind. “Now come here, and let’s put the baby’s diaper on him.” Mother wrapped the sheet around my waist, under my crotch and back around my waist again, and then pinned it on the side. Through the front window of the house, I saw a flash of yellow go by and heard brakes squealing. Brad heard it, too. He grabbed his backpack, and ran out the door. 39
Kate snapped out of it and followed him.
“Well, what the hell are you waiting for?” Mother asked me. “You better not miss that bus.” There was a moment’s lull. “Well?!” I picked up my backpack, and walked out the door. As I neared the bus, I could see the kids on the inside pointing at me through the windows and laughing. Just before I made it to the door, I heard my mother, from behind me. “Get your ass back here, Dummy.” I turned around, and began walking back. She was standing in the front doorway, holding the screen door open, shaking her head in disgust, while smugly chuckling. “What, did you think I was going to let you go to school dressed in nothing but a makeshift diaper, and embarrass me like that? You’re embarrassing enough when you’re fully clothed. Get inside and get dressed, and I will take you to school. Lord knows I don’t want you hanging around here all day.” ***** My Aunt Sophia—my mother’s sister—visited us on occasion. I was fond of my aunt. She smiled when she talked to me. Sophia lived in Nahunta, which is only fifteen minutes away, but only once did I get the chance to visit her. When I was twelve, my mother and father drove down to Jacksonville, Florida for two days 40
to attend a funeral for my father’s brother, who drank himself to death. While Brad and Kate each stayed at a friend’s house for the night, I, because of my problem, had to stay with a relative. So, I was sent to stay with Aunt Sophia. Like my mother, Sophia is a small, slender woman, with hair as black as obsidian. They are only one year apart in age—my mother being older—and, aside from a noticeable scar over Mother’s left eye, it would be hard to tell the two sisters apart. I have often wondered, along their paths in life, what happened to my mother, or what didn’t happen to my aunt for them to turn out so different. On the morning in question, before leaving for Jacksonville, Mother dropped me off at my aunt’s. Mother didn’t come inside. She didn’t even open her car-door. I stepped out of the car, and she said, “Dick, don’t you fuck this up. Sophia is the only one we can leave you with. Do you understand me?” “Yes ma’am.” I shut the door, and she drove off. Sophia must have heard us pull up because, by the time I turned around and looked up, she had her front door open, standing in the doorway, smiling.
“Well, hey there, Dick. Come on in.”
For me, being at Aunt Sophia’s was like being in a different world. There, no one was drunk, no one was 41
yelling or fighting, and no one was hurting. For me, there was no worrying; there was no fear. Sophia, who was not married at the time, lived alone, so it was just her and myself for the entire day and part of the next. The first thing she asked me, once I had put my bag down, was whether or not I was hungry. I told her I was. “How about bacon and eggs?” she asked, and I told her that I would like that. She even refilled my glass of milk. After breakfast, she took me with her into town to run errands. She had taken the day off from her secretarial duties at the sawmill to watch me, and she said she needed to take care of some of her duties to herself, like getting her nails and hair done. After leaving the salon and making a couple of other stops, she took me to the local video store in Nahunta. We rented five movies, all of which I got to pick out: The Adams Family, Doc Hollywood, which has a nude scene (a naked woman rises up from out of a pond, thrashing her head up and down to shake the water from her hair) that I must have rewound and played twenty times, while Sophia was in her bedroom; The Rocketeer; Hook; and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which she was not too keen on me renting because of the violence; however, after a couple of “pleases,” she gave in. By the time we left the video store, it was lunchtime, so, before returning to her house, we stopped and ate at the Dairy Queen. I had a foot-long hotdog, a large Coke, and an ice cream sandwich that was sweet and cold. 42
The entire day, after returning from town, all I did was watch movies, while Sophia, for the most part, stayed in her bedroom, sitting at her sewing machine. For extra income, she did mending and patchwork on the side—mostly she worked on the uniforms of the men who worked at the sawmill. That evening, for dinner, Sophia ordered us a pepperoni pizza with extra cheese—just as I asked for—from Mikey’s Pizza. Nahunta was not big enough to have a Pizza Hut or Dominoes, but I didn’t care; I was happy as shit to have pepperoni and extra cheese. Again, she refilled my drink—water, this time. When it was time for bed, she walked with me to my room—to sort of see me to bed and tuck me in, I suppose. She pulled back the comforter and the top sheet and pressed down on the mattress, so I could hear the crinkling of the plastic underneath the bed-sheet. “It’s okay if you have an accident. There’s plastic down, which will keep the mattress from being stained, and also make for an easy clean-up in the morning.” She said, “B. B.,” which is what Sophia called my mother—her name being Beverly Brenna—“told me about your bedwetting, but it will not be a problem for you tonight because we are prepared. I understand that you can’t help it, of course, and I don’t want you to worry about this when you’re here, okay?” she asked, lowering her chin and smiling. 43
Flower Seller by Mary Carroll 44
“Okay,” I told her. She kissed me on the top of my head. “I love you, Dick. Goodnight. If you need me, I will be in my room, just at the end of the hall. You know where it is.” “Okay, goodnight, Aunt Sophia.” I must have fallen asleep immediately after she closed the door because the only thing I remember after the lights going out is waking up the next morning. I was dry. It was the first morning in twelve years that I didn’t wake up to the stench and stickiness of piss. The next time came five years later, on the morning after I moved out of my parents’ home. ***** I dropped my arms, along with the booklet, to my lap, and stared straight ahead at nothing. “You okay, Boss?” Jacob said. “Um, yeah. I’m fine.” I lowered my eyes a few inches, but kept them in an unfocused gaze. After a few seconds, I came to and saw the box I had found the story in, sitting on the ground beside me— Bill had set it down off its stack when he loaded the rest of the boxes. Jacob and Leo were finishing up loading the last few pieces of furniture. I set the booklet of papers down beside the box and pulled back the box’s top flaps to get a better look inside. On top, now, was a death certificate, which read:
Medical Certificate of Death • This is to certify that I, John E. Arnett, coroner for the County of Los Angeles, State of California, have viewed the body of Seth Brenna. • Cause of Death: Suicide by contact shotgun wound to head • Name of Deceased: Seth William Brenna • Age: 34 / Sex: Male / Race: White / Married or Single: Single • Place of Death: 77 Cardinal Road • Date of Death: 31 October 2011 I picked the booklet up off the floor and placed it in the box, on top of the certificate, and closed the top flaps. “Okay, Boss, everything’s loaded. We’re about to haul it off,” Jacob said to me. Bill had already pulled the van up, away from the loading dock, and was sitting in the cab, with the engine idling. Leo stood at the back of the van, waiting, holding one door open. “Do you want us to leave that box with you? Do you want to keep it?” Jacob asked. I stood up and dusted the dirt from my jeans. “No. Take it to the dump with the rest of it.”
Charlie Gains His Stripes by Abraham Alvarez
It starts when she’s a girl of only sixteen, crouching in the shade of a shopkeeper’s crates, and he spots her across the way where he’s holed himself in with his crew. The tavern’s warm lights soften the cut of his jaw and cheekbones until all she sees is the slick-glass green of dark-fringed eyes. He’s a lieutenant and she’s just a child, but he is kind when he buys her a pint. Or—no. It starts at the bottom of some rickety stairs when he tugs and pulls at her hand. His smile is small and his glances fleeting, the ones he flicks at his crew, but she’s too busy staring at their intertwined fingers to notice the way that they hoot. He gives her a bow before he takes her to bed. For a moment she feels like his queen, for a moment… No. It starts with her bones spreading like ashes at sea, all sprawled and trembling things wrapped in
the cream of her purpling porcelain skin that ache in his bed. And her cheek sealed by the sticky sweetness of her unwelcome sweat to the length of his soiled sheets. It starts at sea with blood and screams. She swears— that is how it shall end. *** She stands just behind him, peering over his shoulder to watch the Captain’s wife lift her skirts, the sight of her bareness meant to chase away any demons on board. Or so the men say. But she has not the head for logic it seems because she cannot make sense of the superstition. She knows how sailors are with their rabbit’s feet and red skies spread over glassy seas and absolute forbiddance of bananas on board. So she won’t begrudge them this one, but still she cannot understand it. She is only a wench, though; she thinks the men would forgive her if she can’t help but laugh. When the woman splashes them with her unholy visage and cleanses the ship, the kind lieutenant does not budge. Even as the Captain’s voice carries across the wind and attempts to spirit him away, he doesn’t move from where he leans. His long legs drape one across the other and his elbows slouch over the railing, all perfectly disheveled so that he may keep a possessive eye on her without much effort. His tongue slides over his bottom lip. She clears her throat and hopes her face does not blush. That old heat unfurls up along her throat uncomfortably. “Your Captain, sir.” There is a long moment of him watching her, his wicked tongue pressed to his cheek, before he pushes up from the railing by the jut of his hips. His head dips into a ridiculous bow. “Lady Anne,” he says with a smirk, tugs at her loose hair, and swaggers his way to the helm. She knows she should be sorry to see him go. A niggling memory, one of sour rum wetting his lips and that mouth slipping her a taste, whispers the sorrow into her
ear, but it is too quiet to hear over the men and their ship and this sea. She probably wouldn’t recognize it anyway and would confuse it as a miserable dream. The sort that makes waking a nightmare. “Bonny,” calls the Captain, his furry white brow bowing low upon his face. The cracked leather of his skin bunches at the corners of his eyes, and his thin lips curl into the squinting light of the noon sun. He tilts his chin to the deck. “Ship’s no place for a woman. Below, now, lest you tempt the Fates.” So she goes below. She knows Fate, her fickle hand pressed between Anne’s shoulder blades all her life, guiding her to the orphanage, to the whore house, to the tavern where she met her lieutenant. She knows Fate and her slight-of-hand parlor tricks that pass the time. The way she dangles something sweet as a lure, something golden and glimmering amidst the dark like a northern star singing to sailors. The way she purrs at the approach, coos and croons gently, until the very last moment when fingers have just stretched out to maybe have a taste of what goodness feels like before she rips it away. Anne cannot understand their superstitions, but she knows Fate. She has been the victim. So she will hide away and do her best to spare the generous crew.
Her efforts, though, are in vain. ***
The storm strikes in the heart of the night. While she curls in on herself, gathering the sheets as best she can to cover her trembling skin, despite the heat of the cabin and his burning breath coiling tightly around her neck, while he sleeps peacefully beside her. A lantern creaks mournfully above and spills the faint dregs of candlelight over the room.
She stifles her tears with her face turned into the pillow, and she’s just settled her racing heart when the midshipman throws the door open.
The orange glow falls just right to make his sunken eyes ghoulish in the night. Her heart pounds. She reaches blindly behind her and thumps the lieutenant soundly on the chest. “Bloody hell!” He seizes forward, startled. His gaze drops to her and he grabs a tight fistful of her hair. “What the hell, Anne?” Thunder rips through the still of the night, and his eyes dart instantly to the shadowed sailor. The midshipman blinks owlishly at his lieutenant, fingers white-knuckled on the edge of the door, and he stammers out breathlessly, “A—a storm, sir. The Captain’s calling—” But the lieutenant has stopped listening, hurriedly tying up his trouser laces and pulling his tunic over his head. He launches over her and stalks to the door, shoving the sailor along. “Never enter my quarters without explicit permission,” he growls, and then they’re gone down the hall. Not even a moment later, the ship lurches and tosses her from the bed violently. Books fly from their shelves and hit the opposite wall. She tugs her shift over her head and begins to hastily scoop up the tomes, ever aware of the lieutenant’s quick hand. Just as she’s gathered them all to her chest, the lieutenant throws open the door, seizes her by the arm, and begins to tug her up the stairs to the top deck. He never says a word. And above, there is utter madness. She can hardly see through the white wall of rain or the black of the night, but she can just make out sailors scurrying from stem to stern. They shout but the words are muddled by the victorious roar of the storm, by the clamber of God’s drums. Waves thrust up into the sky all around and crash upon them, submerging and tossing the meager men in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy. The ship rolls.
She grabs his arm by habit, by necessity, and for the first time, notices the dagger he holds. Her blood runs cold in her veins. In the next moment, the lieutenant grabs the front of her shift, presses the dagger so that the point touches her throat, and cuts a line clean down the middle of her clothes. Her mouth falls open around a useless protest. He yanks her by the arm, even as she scrambles to clutch the ruined garments, and presents her at the bow. He pulls her arms behind her back and looks to the sky. And though the lieutenant has bared her to the storm, given away everything of her he has right to give, Fate has found her wanting. The storm abounds, and still the men falter. He turns to her almost regretfully, drops his eyes down the length of her for a lingering moment, and then bares his teeth. He hollers to her over the storm and the frantic crawl of sailors up in the rigging, fastening the sails and crying out to each other as they’re pelted by the merciless sky, “Should’ve known! More trouble than you’re worth!” He lunges forward and heaves her over his shoulder. Before she even realizes what he’s doing, he’s taken the remainder of the deck under his long strides and dumped her over the railing and into the frothing sea below. The waters crack the moment she hits the waves and greedily swallow her whole. *** She knows Fate, but it is not to the goddess that she prays. No, she whispers it to the sea. While the waters swarm, press into her skin, and trace her every line with cold, wet fingers; while her torn shift billows like silky, angelic wings about her exposed body and drag her down into the ocean’s murkiest deeps; while the clouds in the
sky above her break apart to expose the peeking silver moon, a storm finally passing and a ship slowly settling. While she dies on a dark and perfect night, she whispers to the sea. Air swells from her lungs to her lips and slips into the waters above, carrying the words she hopes are enough. Oaths of vengeance and scorn delivered in pearly bubbles of her last breaths. She believes she will die hating him, but her curses are enough. The churn of the ocean that seemed poised to kill her only seconds before fades into something softer, nearly loving; a sisterly hand, cradling her; a motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s touch, swathing her in its cold arms. Pulling her deeper into the icy water and filling her lungs so completely she feels she may burst with just one more sip. It scrubs away the tear-tinted sweat on her cheeks, peels back the layer of her useless silk shift, and begins to unravel her skin until she blooms into glinting pedals like the first bud of some springtime past. Her flesh melts into scales, a tale of ivy green. She changes with the sea. And suddenly she can breathe. With breath comes her voice and the song that hums through the deep. She feels it and knows it as if it were her own. She begins to sing. Remembers the tales of the sirens, whispering their songs to sailors before they dragged them to their deaths, and feels, for the first time, as if she is completely free. The Captain was right. A ship is no place for a woman. No, she belongs to the sea.
She swears she will show them how cold she can be.
A Quest to the Tower of Shine by Myles Salas The vast green plains were definitely a sight to behold. Miles upon miles of green grass, all swaying in greetings against the wind. The only other colors visible were the what-seemed-to-be never-ending brown dirt path and Marylin walking with her friend, Ore. Marylin and Ore were walking along the path in silence. The silence felt awkward to Ore, but Marylin paid no attention to it, as she strolled along looking towards the horizon with a content smile. Ore broke the silence with a question that had been stabbing him ever since the start of their walk.
“Do you think we will reach it by nightfall?” asked Ore. “There’s no way of telling. Some have said that the journey is at least a full day,” said Marylin, “and we left the village around noon. So, we’ll most likely have to stop and sleep somewhere.”
“Are there any sort of inns along the path?”
“No. This path doesn’t have enough travelers for there to be any. Do not fret though. I brought plenty of water and some other goodies just for you!”
“Just for me?”
“Well, duh! I knew you wouldn’t bring anything sweet, so I brought us the essentials.” Marylin patted her 53
backpack and said with a delightful tone, “Momma Linda’s homemade crisps will be our main source of energy! I made sure to have Momma Linda specially make you those crisps that have the fresh apple slices embedded on the top.” “Thanks.” “Not a problem. I remember how you used to drool over them.” “Oh…” Ore paused and then said, “Did you spend all of your week’s worth of coins on the crisps? They can be very expensive.” “Ha, yes, I did, actually. You know Momma Linda’s crisps are worth every coin though; besides, the amount of memories we are going to make once we explore this tower are going to be more valuable than any amount of coins we could earn.” … They continued to talk about the possible wonders that awaited them. Ore found Marylin’s constant stream of desires to be soothing. In Ore’s mind, all that mattered was that he was finally able to escape the imposing grip of the village for a while. The village was once a rather quiet place to live, unlike the hustle and bustle of the town, which was always an obnoxious place to venture.
The town had a continuous flow of people who lacked sympathy. When in the town, one could not stop 54
to greet someone, even if they knew each other well – this mentality came from the fact that the town had a barrage of horse-drawn carriages going through the streets at a fast pace. Ore began to notice that the village had started to become similar to the town. The village’s main source of income was dependent on its residents’ crafts. The village provided the town with everything that did not involve politics, clothing, and the great Candle. Due to the village’s growing importance, the adult residents had to start assigning their children tasks at an earlier age. Ore used to wake up every day to Marylin’s knocks at his door. On the days Ore decided not to stay indoors, Marylin and he would loiter in front of Momma Linda’s shop and make contraptions out of sticks and wax that melted from their candles. Using the contraptions, Marylin and Ore always found new ways to annoy the other kids of the village. Most of Marylin and Ore’s childhood habits became distant memories. Walking with Marylin across the green plains, Ore noticed that Marylin’s hair was much longer than just a few years prior. And, Ore noticed, that hair was in the process of growing on his arms and legs. From another drag of silence, Ore said, “That book was older than Momma Linda, you know. Probably older than her momma.” Marylin did not reply immediately. Instead, she pondered over Ore’s statement in some silence that bothered Ore for a bit of time. To Ore’s relief, Marylin 56
said, “Hey, the sky is reddening. We should stop and eat our full course meal before it becomes too dark to see what we put into our mouths.” Marylin chuckled at her own remark and parted from the path, heading towards a nearby hill. Ore followed and refused to resurface his previous statement. Marylin set her backpack on the soft grass and opened it. Her manner of searching made Ore imagine someone who was trying to find a single particular pebble within the grand scale of a beach. Ore simply opened the biggest of two compartments of his backpack and pulled out a bag that smelled of one of his favorite meats, chicken. “Here they are!” Marylin exclaimed, throwing her hand, which held a net full of Momma Linda’s crisps, over her head. “That took quite some effort!” “Wait. Shouldn’t we eat something not-so-sweet first? I mean, eating crisps will probably ruin our appetite for anything else, anything healthy,” Ore fussed. “Nonsense! You know I always eat sweets before savory. I have always been that way, come on now.” “That may be so, but that doesn’t make it right. We still don’t have any idea of how far the tower is.” “That’s of no concern to me. No matter the case, we will make it there with all our senses as adept as they are now! You know, you worry too much about the little things.” 57
Marylin’s words were contrary to what Ore’s feelings truly were. Marylin’s health was never amongst the “little things” in Ore’s life. For as long as Ore could remember, Marylin had always planned antics without thoroughly considering the consequences. Every time Marylin concocted a scheme, whether it be for hopes of entertainment or personal gain, she always ended her outlining with, “And there is no way this can go wrong!” Usually something did go horribly wrong, yet something in Marylin’s demeanor allowed her to perceive any backfires as progressions. “Now, we can work with this,” she would always say. … “Ugh, I knew I shouldn’t have eaten so many of those damn deviled eggs,” Marylin complained. “The deviled eggs? I think it was the crisps that really filled you up. I’m sure one would have sufficed for ‘our main source of energy,’” Ore said. “Well, at least I will have much more energy than thou.” “You really should stay away from those dusty books. There have been many new shipments of actually helpful books in the past year.” Marylin placed her right hand on Ore’s left shoulder and said, “You really should enjoy this meteor shower above us.” She pointed upwards and Ore’s eyes followed. Above them was a deep purple sky – a blending 58
Water Road by Amin Kharazmi
of the facing horizon’s orange-red and the opposite horizon’s young blue. Speckled in the colors were an uncountable number of stationary white stars and a notable number of swiftly moving white meteors. With all the colors the sky was presenting, the grass and dirt path all radiated with shades of blue and white. This spectrum was so pleasing to Ore’s vision that he had to see if Marylin was enjoying the sight as much as he was. When Ore glanced to his left, he saw that she was in a trance like no other. It seemed her trance was broken upon her words, “You know, if a meteor were to strike me right now, I would die happy.”
Ore, staring at Marylin, who refused to break her
eye contact with the heavens, immediately said, “You must be going crazy. You’re too young to have such thoughts. Don’t you know that you have so much to offer the village? You could become the next Great Queen and give the town a less dependence on the village.” “I never wanted to nor ever will want to be a politician, Ore. The only person I ever want to be is myself. And, knowing myself well, all I want to do in this life is be happy. I wouldn’t be happy as a politician,” she said. Not hearing a reply from Ore, she continued, “You read the entirety of Hillred Shine’s account of the tower, didn’t you?” “No, but I got an idea of it from you constantly explaining it. The entire tower is apparently a maze that somehow spirals upward towards a library of infinite knowledge.” “The library isn’t where all the knowledge is, Ore. Shine stated many times in his account that there are many guardians of the library: gigantic talking snakes, spirits that possess objects that would otherwise be inanimate, and even fungus that communicate through telepathy. All of them appear at different levels and test visitors’ worthiness to see if they are able to enter the library, which simply has books with perspectives from other travelers. In the trials the guardians present, knowledge is gained. Those who return from the library return as entirely different people if they are strong and smart enough to endure the trials. Hillred apparently came out a much happier person.” 60
“You already said you’re content with your current state. Why do you care so much about this tower?” “I don’t, actually. I just enjoy new experiences. What if I enter the tower, beat the challenges, and return to the village just to debunk Hillred’s little theory?” Marylin chuckled at her own thoughts.
“Wow, you really are going crazy.”
“And it is always fun to get away from everyone for a while, you know?” Marylin surprised Ore. Marylin finally looked down from the sky that previously intoxicated her. Finally meeting eyes with Ore, Marylin said to him, “No one besides Hillred has returned from this journey to the tower. If this is not something you want to do anymore, I understand. I am sure that you’re satisfied with the amount of time you have spent away from the village but I am not. I am going to find the tower. I am going to endure the challenges. The only thing I am not sure of is whether I will return or not.” “Then why would you take this risk and possibly leave your parents and everyone else who loves you? Do you realize that everyone will miss you dearly?” “Ore, I don’t care if they will miss me. At least I won’t die there. Out of everything that could happen, that is what worries me most: dying at that village. I never have told anyone this, Ore, but you’re important and you should 61
know what I want,” she said with a serious tone that was new to Ore. She looked away from Ore and towards the horizon, and she said, “I want to be something of great importance, not something a few people value. If I simply work in the village, or even the town, I would just be another number. I would be a number that simply says I lived and died. Dying the way my parents are going to means I won’t be someone people around this world talk about. No one will fantasize about my achievements, my personality, my aspirations, or even how great my hair looked!”
“Mary – ”
“And, don’t even start with the whole ‘being the next Great Queen’ spiel! Those who want to be noteworthy in a polical setting have to learn to submit to the
Forlorn Trainstop by James Shoemaker 62
public’s wants.The only great minds that get to be true to themselves are writers or artists, or someone who was able to venture where no one dared to – and I’ll tell you right now that I cannot write or draw eloquently for shit!” “I was only going to say I had no idea you had such goals.” Marylin stopped her inner embers and realized she was standing up and imposing her index finger onto Ore’s face. She relaxed her muscles and put her hands in her shorts’ pockets. Ore noticed and said, “I enjoyed your openness. I actually find that I have similar desires; I just never had any real ambition.” “Ore,” Marylin said, taking her hands out of her pockets. She then proceeded to rummage through her backpack and pulled out a small booklet. “Here, read this. It’s Hillred’s account. I honestly think it’s my primary motivation. Everything about the tower sounds so new and surreal that the thought of exploring its innards makes my soul giggle in excitement.”
“I’ll give it a good read when the morning comes.”
“Well, it doesn’t really matter. You know that we are close to the tower, right?” … Marylin woke up to the sight of Ore’s face being parallel to her own. She sat upwards and stretched, letting out a loud yawn. The yawn woke Ore from his slumber, and he proceeded to mimic Marylin’s awakening process. 63
Marylin picked up her backpack and immediately threw it on. Ore took a tad longer to not only pick up his backpack, but to notice that Marylin was staring at him impatiently. He turned around and locked eyes with Marylin. “What?” he asked. “Just waiting for you, as usual. You’ve always taken fifty years to actually fully wake up,” Marylin said. “Well, I usually just take my time to appreciate the morning sky from the comfort of my blankets. Not having them is making me wake up faster.” “Good.” “Do we have enough water and food for the rest of the trip? How much longer is this trip going to be anyhow?” “We have water.” “Food?” “Uh, no.” “What? I packed my entire backpack full of meat and bread! When I said we can share rations, I didn’t mean we can share entire backpacks!” “Well, it doesn’t really matter. You know that we are close to the tower, right?” “How can you determine that? There hasn’t been a 64
Respect by Maurice Kaehler
single landmark since we started this path.” “You’re wrong. While you were dreaming of other things, I looked past the couple of tall hills that are ahead of us and saw a single tree that looks like a landmark to me.” “Mary–”
“Let’s go examine it!”
Before Ore could start another sentence, Marylin signaled that she was going to start the journey without him by simply walking away from him. He quickly grabbed his backpack and followed Marylin. While walking behind Marylin, Ore explored his backpack in search of anything that could resemble what he packed the previous day. Nothing. 65
“Hey, I got a little hungry after walking to and from the hills that lay ahead,” Marylin said, patting her stomach. Marylin usually did things that annoyed Ore; however, she always tried to make him feel better after seeing that he clearly was irritated. This time, Marylin could not think of anything to make amends. The two walked over the first hill in silence. Ore was always bothered by any sort of awkward silence because it always led to pessimistic thoughts. Marylin usually did not allow any sort of tangible silence to bother her, as her brain usually created any other sort of noise to distract her. This time around, Marylin could not stop thinking about the enormity of her act. Luckily, her mind was eased by Ore’s words. “I hope there’s some fruit growing around the tree.” After a sigh of relief, Marylin replied, “Yeah, tree fruit is always delicious around this time of year. And, Hillred’s account mentioned some sort of fruit grows along this path. I can’t remember what kind of fruit it is supposed to be. He didn’t eat them because he was thoroughly prepared, of course.”
“Well, besides that, I only had one crisp yestreen.”
“Well, I still have a couple more regular crisps. If there are some apples growing around the tree, then I’ll slice them up and embed them onto the crisps myself!” 66
Ore smiled and said, “Yeah, that would be nice.”
Another hill was topped, and the tree became clear in their vision. It was easy to see that the tree was tall and had more bark than leaves, but the leaves that were present were all just as green as the grass that surrounded it. Marylin squeezed her vision and exclaimed, “I see some fresh oranges growing!” She then ran towards the tree with a zealous smile. Ore followed her. Standing over what looked like a fresh orange, Marylin knelt down and clamped it. She tried pulling it from its roots, but it was not cooperating with her. Ore knelt beside her and then tried to pull it from its roots as well. While he struggled, Marylin observed her surroundings. Plenty of shrubs danced in the light wind. The only other life, in addition to them and the tree, were the shrubs. “I’m going to check some of the nearby shrubs,” Marylin informed Ore. “Sounds good. We are going to need as much fruit as our backpacks can hold for this journey,” Ore said. “Also, I think kiwi shrubs always grow next to tree fruit.” Marylin salivated to the thought of kiwis. She examined each shrub within the tree’s vicinity and found
not a single kiwi. Disappointed, Marylin returned to Ore and saw that he continued to struggle with releasing the orange from the earth. An idea sparked in Marylin’s head. Why not just cut the link between the fruit and the tree? The orange’s thick stem was external from the ground and did not look strong enough to withstand the sharpness of her blade. “Watch out, Ore. I have this entire situation under control,” Marylin said, while waving her blade from left to right as a sign of disapproval to Ore’s feeble attempts. “That orange better be worth it,” Marylin complained.
“It will be. I’m starving.”
Marylin’s mind was finally at ease, seeing that Ore was not only satisfied but also explicitly happy about eating something sweet. “I wonder why this is the only fruit that exists by the tree,” Marylin said. “Who knows! Either way, it is definitely a savior. I operated on only half of one of these for an entire day once,” Ore said. “I doubt you, but I’ll indulge you. The crisps are still yours when you need them.” “Thanks,” Ore said as he peeled the newly claimed orange. He took a single bite from it and found that he did not enjoy its sour taste. He made a sour face. 68
“Is there a problem?” Marylin inquired.
“Yes, this orange isn’t as fresh as it looks.” Ore threw the orange to the ground. “Wow, after all that effort I put towards saving you from starvation, this is how you treat my gift?”
“I’m sorry. I’ll just take the crisps now.”
1969 Armstrong Road Lodi by Maurice Kaehler
Marylin threw her backpack to the ground and erratically searched inside. Upon an “Aha!” Marylin presented the last two remaining crisps. She gave him his new gift and simply said, “I really am smart, aren’t I?” “You’re pushing more than your just ego with that statement,” Ore replied with a smirk. The two then followed the path that originally guided them towards something they hoped would be great. … The daylight was something to be admired. While the brightness of the rays was apparent, there was little to no heat to be felt. Marylin and Ore always somehow worked up a sweat despite this fact. Once Marylin became aggravated with the silence of walking, she decided to sing and move to the rhythm of her lyrics. It was a song that Ore was all too familiar with, so he joined along in both song and dance. Neither of their voices were comparable to the voices of the late legends that everyone praised, but they sang, throwing their insecurities to the wind. The only important aspect of their song was the lyrical content. They sang a song that was popular to their village. The lyrics reflected the values of the many who Marylin and Ore knew: hard work, contributions to their neighbors, and gold coins.
Suddenly, Ore stopped singing and gripped 70
Marylin’s shoulder. Marylin stopped her flow upon this and looked at her friend with confusion. “I really need to shit,” Ore revealed. “Oh, well, uh, go shit somewhere then,” Marylin said. Instead of doing what Marylin suggested, Ore simply gripped his stomach and fell to his knees. Immediately, Marylin went to his aid. “What is happening to you?!” she questioned. “I’m not sure. I feel like my stomach is on fire,” Ore wheezed. “This is not good. Are you going to shit your shorts?” “I have no idea!” “Well, maybe the crisps were rotten.” Instead of replying, Ore simply turned away from Marylin and put his hands on the ground. Barf and earth soon became close friends. Marylin did not have any witty remark to spout this time around. “Is there more?” she asked, concerned. “I don’t think so,” Ore finally replied, wiping his mouth with a handkerchief he always carried in his left pocket.
“I hope so.” 71
“Don’t worry. I think I just need some sleep.”
The sky was starting to show hints of red once again. Are we really going to continue this adventure with Ore in such a state? Marylin pondered as Ore stood up and started walking away from the horrid scene he had created earlier. Marylin began demanding some answers to her many stabbing questions. Ore did not acknowledge most of them, but answered a few with either a “No” or a “Yes.” Marylin finally asked a question that would get more than one audible word from Ore: “Don’t you think this entire journey was a bad idea?”
This question ignited Ore. “What?” he snapped.
“I mean, we didn’t come fully prepared for this journey at all.”
“Are you serious?”
“Of course I am! I have been serious this entire time. Can you not tell?” “I cannot,” Ore said with a rage that refused to simmer. “You must be joking. If not, then you obviously don’t see how dire our situation is.” “I do see it! That is exactly why I am urging you to agree to return home.” “No, Marylin. It’s not so simple. I will not be returning home like this.”
“What are you blabbing about?”
“Marylin, if you were to actually read books that did not collect dust, you would know that I am going to die.” A sharp pain intruded Marylin’s being. “What are talking about now? You won’t die if we rush to the village!” “I am not going to make it there in time, Marylin. Our last hope is the Tower.” “Ore, it might not even exist! Hillred was always known as a person who dreamed about how great things could be and he ended up going on a journey that everyone believed to be an ineffectual method of escaping reality!” “The only thing that is truly ineffectual is our world’s medicine. Every one in one hundred people are met with some sort of disease these days because of how unhealthy the environment is. If someone is fraught with any sort of sickness, they are purely unlucky and have to endure whatever it is that tears at their wellness.” Ore then discovered that breaths were difficult to muster. He tried to imbue Marylin with some last words before he lost the ability to breathe altogether: “That tower, its guardians, and whatever knowledge the library within holds may be the only way to find the cure to my pain.” Upon his statement, Marylin felt her heart thump faster and her vision filled with an ocean’s worth of tears as she tried to hold her demeanor together. Ore, after his words, simply turned from Marylin’s eyes and flattened his 73
Hope by M. Sakran
feet to the earth. Marylin attempted to grab Ore’s shoulder, but he escaped her grasp by walking forward, not saying a single word to Marylin. Ore’s struggle to breathe could be heard almost anywhere, and Ore’s loud struggle immediately allowed the ocean of tears to flow. There was a flow from both Marylin and Ore. Marylin knew there was no Tower awaiting them. If there really was one, why had there not been more travelers attempting to find it? Marylin thought that Ore was 74
actually the smarter of them. Why was he so eager to move in the opposite direction of possible safety? The questions started to crush Marylin’s spirit. She knew she could not forcibly carry Ore back to the village. She knew Ore would physically resist her, and he would probably win the battle. Ore’s physique, along with his gullibility, always painted him as weak to the unexpected; however, once Ore was put into a corner with no means of escape, Ore displayed an inner strength that was utterly terrifying. Usually Ore just tried to stay out of trouble, but he always had to save Marylin, with his intelligence, from any sort of predicament she got them both into. Marylin’s brain began to literally pound her skull in order to find a solution to their situation. The two walked in silence, as Ore retained a proper breathing pattern. Marylin knew this silence would not stay in the same state for very long. Soon the silence would be only in the presence of her mind. She came to this conclusion while observing Ore transition from a walk to a limp. Marylin could not handle the pain in her body any longer and stopped in her tracks to stare at Ore, who refused to stop and not once glanced behind him to check for Marylin since he had first looked away from her. The sky was showing signs of an approaching night, with shades of red and orange. Marylin demanded in an obviously solemn tone, “Ore, stop. Right now.” Ore did not comply immediately. He did eventually notice that Marylin was not following him and complied – the only thing he did not do was let go of his stomach 75
or turn to face Marylin. “What is the problem now?” he asked. Marylin heard his voice and sensed the amount of emotion he expelled. There was nothing. This terrified Marylin. After a brief pause to take in the entire situation, she shouted, “We are going back home!”
“No, we’re not.”
“Ore, I will force you to comply if you don’t do it right now!” Marylin could now taste the salt of her tears. She could not take her pain any longer and grabbed Ore’s shoulder. She attempted to budge him but found it was impossible to do so. Ore fell to his knees, terrifying Marylin. Ore then fell to his side and blacked out. … Ore awoke to the sight of embers and a surrounding darkness. From the crackling of the campfire came a moment in which he could only hear a loud, constant buzz. He finally heard a familiar voice.
“You’re awake!” Marylin exclaimed.
Ore could not move, even when putting forth all of his effort. The most he could do was feel the grass below him and eventually the touch of Marylin. “You gave me a real scare. I thought you were going to become fully encased in stone and never be able to walk 76
again.” Ore intensely wanted to reply to his friend. Instead all he could do was meet eyes with Marylin as she forced the perspective on his unmoving orbs. “It seems like you’re not going to be moving any time soon,” Marylin deduced. “You know, you’re making this entire thing much more difficult than it has to be. Especially with your hardened stomach,” she said, while tapping Ore’s then literal stomach of stone. “Carrying you is going to take all of my energy.” She paused. “I’m really worried, Ore. There has never been any sort of disease like this in any of the old medical books that I’ve read. Your entire body is being weighed down by your stomach. And, to top it off, it’s extremely noticeable. Luckily, your stomach looks so much like actual rock that maybe it’ll attract some of the village’s miners who are looking for some Ore.” Marylin smiled, and Ore willingly broke his eye contact. Ore’s action caused Marylin to say, “Oh! You can move your eyes? I guess my joke was good enough to bring you to life!” Ore did not meet eyes with Marylin. “Good to see you still are the same Ore I have always known, refusing to indulge my ego.”
“Yup,” Ore interjected.
Marylin immediately flinched upon his words. She then soothed her nerves and saw that he was staring at her once again. “Can you move your body now?” she asked. 77
“No, not really.”
“Well, how do you feel?”
“I feel like I can’t move.”
Marylin sighed and then said, “Looks like I am going to have to move you.”
“To the tower, right?” “No, not even close.”
“But, we’re so close.” “You have no way to prove that! Stop believing in your silly delusions already. You’re supposed to be the smart one here. Making decisions without you used to be difficult. Now I wish you would just go back to your sweet, peaceful slumber.” “Marylin, you haven’t noticed how long we have been traveling down this path? There is no way it can go on forever. We for sure are going to run into something if we continue in the same direction.” “No. Stop trying to justify yourself.” Marylin refused to look at Ore in any way. “You do not have enough strength to carry me all the way back to the village. At this point, the only thing we can do is move forward.”
“You always doubt me! Why can’t you trust me this
one time? You’re acting like I usually do!” “Marylin, just trust me. The Tower is not too far ahead.” Marylin could not endure his blindness any longer, so she simply wrapped her right arm around his legs and her left arm around his stomach – as much as she could. Her face quickly shading itself the hue of a tomato, her muscles gradually intensifying their sting, and her feet slowly burying themselves into the dirt, Marylin eventually lifted Ore from his grave. She then switched Ore’s position from fetal to hunched, moving his upper torso and arms over her skull and onto her right shoulder. She then shifted the rest of his body towards the back of her neck, over her deltoids. Immediately, she trudged on towards her and Ore’s village. It was not long until her sweat beads became waterfalls. “You’re going the wrong way,” Ore said. Marylin ignored him. “I’m going to have to force you to go in the other direction, you know.” Silence was the only reply Ore received. Marylin’s pace slowed dramatically. It seemed there was no hope for the journey. In fact, Ore’s weight seemed to increase the farther Marylin walked. There was no sign that Ore’s weight was going to let up. Marylin had only the desire to put down her friend and try to recuperate. “Marylin, stop,” Ore commanded. “My stomach is not going to quit hardening.” Marylin only grunted. “It seems you are the blind one now.” 79
At his words, Marylin simply stopped in her tracks and placed him upright, sitting, on the grass. Her face red – whether it was from anger or tribulation – was the clearest sign that Marylin was not going to talk to Ore, no matter how serious his concerns were. So, Ore sat in thought. “Why not just leave me here then?” Ore asked. His statement caused Marylin to finally turn around and present her full, red face. “You’re so fucking stupid,” Marylin said. “You may have been the brains of this duo before, but now I can see neither of us had any brains whatsoever.” Marylin gained her composure and stood facing Ore, but she observed the dirt between them. “It is so dark right now. Even if we do make it to anything down the path, I doubt we will run into anyone awake at this hour,” Marylin said. Ore appreciated Marylin’s analysis and said, “If it is the Tower though, we won’t have to worry about what hour it is. I know its doors, or gates, or whatever entrance it uses will be accessible at any time.” “Ore, I have never so intensely wanted you to be right before,” Marylin replied. … Night time was always a time for rest. If a person was not resting during the late hours, a person most likely was preparing for her sleep. Of course, Marylin never considered herself a person. She considered herself a creature who was ready for anything. Even with a day’s worth of food absent from her belly, she still managed to 80
not only walk for several hours, but to also carry the many pounds that Ore then possessed. No matter how impressive Marylin’s endurance would have seemed to anyone who observed her, one would expect an instance in which her entire body would give up. “This will not be that instance,” she said in between huffs and puffs. Unlike the scenes in the plays she usually enjoyed, there was no large audience there to cheer on her effort. The only noises she was able to hear were the rustling of Ore’s and her clothes, the many breaths entering and exiting her being, the subtle grumbling of her stomach, and her loud footsteps against the dirt of the path she so eagerly followed. She barely had an inkling of how long her marathon had been, based off the brightness of her surroundings. The pitch black of the night transitioned to the dark blue of the early dawn before her eyes, and her body was yelling in aches for the entirety of the transition. Despite such facts, her mind was focused on the task at hand. The only thing truly worrying her was Ore’s lack of conversation. She had tried to commence an intimate conversation many times since she began venturing in the direction of delusion. Any topic she brought up was met with a silence that Marylin finally noticed had been recurring. She knew setting Ore down to check his condition would be a huge mistake – seeing as she would have to pick his heaviness back up again, which would only lead to her dropping 81
him. It was not long after the skyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hue slightly brightened that she started to lust for a different reality. She began to visualize the Tower itself. In her vision, the Tower was tall, shaped to resemble an oval, yet it somehow managed to be imposing and tattered all at once. There were no windows anywhere above the first level, which was enclosed by a grand stone wall with an even grander set of iron gates as its front entrance. Immediately after the initial gates was a set of stone stairs that could hold at least three horizontal rows of ten people per step. At the very top of the building was where archers could easily be concealed yet have amazing angles for targeting anyone below: a flat roof encircled by a low wall for possible cover. She knew the library was directly below the archers, as the appearance of the walls below the roof was jagged and carved, while the walls even lower were smooth and bricked. In her vision, there was an older woman who wore rags for clothes and eyeglasses for protection, held a staff for assistance, and had short hair. Marylinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vision was interrupted by her lack of energy. She limped, and her eyes blurred. She had finally dispensed all the sweat she possibly could. As her knees gave into temptation, her shoulders gave one last burst of energy and allowed her to peer upwards to see the glimmer she had always wanted to see. Gravity slowly pulled Ore to its center. Marylin finally leaned forward. Having most of her senses deprived, eventually she violently buried her nose into the dirt. â&#x20AC;Ś 82
Stories say that Marylin awoke to find the Tower of Shine in front of her eyes. The woman in rags greeted her and gave her the energy and hope she needed to find the cure to Oreâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sickness. And, another quest began.
Sunflower Hitchhiker by Maurice Kaehler
Obstructed by Kassy Menke 84
Under a Quilt of Stars by Lyn Lifshin Like black onyx velvet. She pulls, like someone spinning straw into gold, visions that stun, would pull any man close, his breath held, frozen. Her stories, pungent as a mango grove, intoxicating as May wine in a night garden of jasmine and patchouli, lasso your blood and your dreams. Each plot stuns and slithers in to a new one like jeweled glass, ruby emerald and sapphire shards in a kaleidoscope. She is enchanting, gives you what you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t let go of. A magician, she is not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere but is daring and clever, wily as Coyote, definitely not like those afflicted at birth with some presentiment of loss 85
Like You’re All That You Blister Blowing Air… Bellow While Encircling me Touching me. You Hustle Bustle Bristle Crack Fluster Push Ignore me. Follow me. Do anything To get My attention. Which you TOO often DO! You fuss Sashay Play Dance Prance Like You’re All That… 86
by Kathryn R. Walkowiec
Sweating Whiskey Sticky fingers trying to peel themselves from soft-white keys speckled with a monthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dust. The tap-tip-tap of a keyboard long gone, sound waves dissipating into rainclouds over India or somewhere Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll never go. Knuckles quivering, like statues dreaming, want to break their inertia, their non-impetus. Arthritic writing in wrinkle-free fingers, eyes fixed on a small vertical line flashing: begin type here, now, here, now, here, now. Whiskey glass empty, sweating.
by Nicholas Demski
THE DRUMS OF WINTERLONG by Carol A. Oberg
Upstairs in my writing studio I sit at the desk Watching all the different shapes and sizes Of snow make its loud slide Down the tall green metal roof above me. Each chunk that drops is as noisy or Noisier than I anticipate and I am simply glad It isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t me falling off the roof. Sitting here lazy on this late day of March This never ending winter just as lazy as me Wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t obey the months commanding verb Anymore than I am.
Laughing Zebra by Stephanie Rice
GREEN ONIONS by Austin Veldman
I fear I am ordinary, the way sleep prepares us all. I cite the morning as the reason I recover, if briefly. Birds visit the feeder. A nuthatch walks perpendicular and the chickadee chik-a-dee-dees. I saw a golden finch picking out the thistle. A blue jay lands and the gentlefolk scatter. They spread her ashes on the dune. I wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t invited, but thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s okay. The weather like Glendalough and I drink Guinness by the fire. No matter how many thousands of years pass on, a campfire will look the same for all of us. Hot coals. Shrinking cuts of pine and maple. Legislation to regulate the wood smoke. Green onions congregate around the oak in the lawn, slender bodies rising from the dark mulch to worship that which seems endless. The body is fragile. A butterfly is a flower that has escaped, if you are a romantic.
by Victoria Bagatta in the midst of a yawn or a pinched brow or a snarl he will look at me and say, â&#x20AC;&#x153;darling, you look so much prettier when you smileâ&#x20AC;? he will try to play puppet master pulling the strings sewn to the corners of my lips up and away to reveal teeth like ivory my speech will slur as i try to sound out the consonants closer to a whimper than a word closer to a growl than a greeting i will try to resist a fish on the line flesh tearing open to reveal mandible and man unable to leash me i am no beast to be tamed but i will roar until the mountains shake and the valleys echo 90
i will claw at your strings feline and feral until your sweet bait lies soured i am immune to your venom the next time he tells you “honey, why don’t you give us a smile?” howl with laughter and show him how the wolf bares it’s teeth just before it strikes
Helical Hope by Angela Bardot
Little Asian Woman by Kassy Menke
Little Asian woman Standing 4 feet tall She didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have much to say But she knew it all So simple and complex All bundled in one She always had something to do The job was never done She was creating new lists Before the chime of work the next day She always held a smile Nothing could take it away I learned so much, that sad fall day When I laid her to rest The one who always guided my pathway I hope she knows I will always fight for the chances she gave Because now her body sleeps Peacefully in the grave But her beautiful soul Is free to be Born again into reality
A Homeless Man Reflects about God by Michael Duffett God is very close when my little dog Is next to me for there is no creature I love more than my little dog and God is love. If he were to die, I would, But I will probably die before him Just as my mother has, my father has, My brothers and sisters have and I am Alone on the street corner and wherever I and my little dog situate ourselves As inconspicuously as possible From others who are our neighbors Who do not love us and from whom we keep Distant enough not to remind them That God is dog spelled backwards and is love.
Beauty Elsewhere by Kassy Menke
Contributors Abraham Alvarez Victoria Bagatta Angela Bardot is a SJDC alumni, a former officer of the SJDC Writers’ Guild, and a current Enrichment Artist at One.Charter. She is most known for her work in the mediums of photography, creative writing, and printmaking. David Bankson’s works have been featured online at Thank you for Swallowing, Walking is Still Honest Press, and Indiana Voice Journal. More of his work can be found at https://www.facebook.com/davidthewordsmith. Mary Carroll William Crawford is a writer and photographer based in North Carolina. Nicholas Demski’s poetry can be seen in Whiskey Island (#67) and upcoming in Broad River Review. You can follow him on Twitter @ NicolasDemski. Lilian Dube is a writer, teacher and seasoned traveller. Michael Duffett was born in London, educated at Cambridge, and is now teaching English at SJDC. Briawna Freeman is finishing her first year in college and is happy to have the opportunity of being published. Marlen Gonzalez 94
Jack Harvey lives in a small town near Albany, NY, and has been writing poetry for years. Maurice Kaehler is a CEO/Designer of EPIC62 Fashion, yogi and farmer’s market junkie whose operative mantras are “There’s enough to go around,” “Do it because you can,” and “I believe in whatever makes me feel good to be alive.” Amin Kharazmi was born in Tehran, Iran. He works in software and enjoys music, soccer, and reading books. Rose Knapp is a poet, novelist, music producer, and multimedia artist who currently divides her time between Brooklyn and Minneapolis. A. Lark is venturing out timidly and spreading her wings in the field of publication – hoping not to fly straight into oncoming traffic like so many avian species have. Lyn Lifshin has published over 140 books and chapbooks, and edited three anthologies of women’s writing, including Tangled Vines. Her website is LynLifshin.com. Kassy Menke is a graduate of SJDC and CSUN. She loves writing and photography. Alia Michaud is a freelance writer from South Florida. Her work has been previously published in Living Waters Review. Mohammad Ali Mirzaei was born in Iran, Tehran. He has a B.A. in News Photography from University of Culture & Art Isfahan. His work has won numeorus awards, including First Place at the National Festival of Iranian People. 95
Carol Oberg began her writing career with Blue Mountain Arts, Inc., publishing her poetry on greeting cards. Widely published, she was one of three featured poets in Ancient Paths, issue 16, which was nominated for a Pushcart award. She and her husband are semi- retired on a small inland lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Nancy Quiroz is a Biochem and Electron Microscopy major and has been at SJDC for four years. Stephanie Rice was born and raised in Stockon, and she is still deciding between being an illustrator or graphic designer. M. Sakran is the author of a collection of poetry entitled First Try. His poetry-related blog can be found at msakran.wordpress.com, and his website can be found at msakran.com. Myles Salas is just an aspiring fiction writer. Richard Shelton is a painter whose writings include poems and commentary on art history. His writing appears in publications such as Willard & Maple. His artwork appears in museums such as the Smithsonian Art Institute’s Hirshhorn Museum. James Shoemaker: A photography major; he doesn’t make shoes, but he does take photos. Patricia Smith, also known as Patrician, is a poet who just finished two years at SJDC and her first year at Las Positas College in Livermore, CA. Susan Van Dusen Austin Veldman is a singer/songwriter, novelist, and poet from 96
South Bend, Indiana. Kathryn Walkowiec Will Walton is thirty-three years old and lives in Raleigh. He is currently attending NC Stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s MFA program in Creative Writing/ Poetry. He was a finalist for the Academy of American Poets Prize, and his work has appeared in or been accepted for publication by Spoon River Poetry Review, Faultline, The Evansville Review, Chiron Review, and Souâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;wester, among others. Natalie Watkins Kobina Wright is a California native whose works have been exhibited world-wide.
Aragog by Nancy Quiroz 97
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Sea Shell on the Shore by Kassy Menke
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