Transcendence Magazine Issue 4
MASTHEAD Emi Miller
Managing Editor, Executive Prose Editor
Jeremy Nathan Marks
Executive Poetry Editor
Executive Art Editor
Social Media Coordinator
Swati Barua Katia Kozachok Monique Ouk
Keri Karandrakis & Lydia Havens Founders
TABLE OF CONTENTS Antithesis // Cover waxing // 2 Persephone // 3 How to be Gay in Mississippi // 4 Welcome Home // 7 The Long Days // 8 EXCESSIVE DRINKING // 11 Constellation of Selves // 12 7:45 am // 13 Follow Me // 15 Leviathan // 16 BIRD-WIFE // 17 Untitled // 18 The Lotus Eaters // 20 Contributor Bios // 21 1
waxing Lily Zhou people say a lot of things. like the fact that the girl under the eaves is a pyromaniac, palm-fires blurring into august, swallowing ashes she’d sweep from the crevices of sidewalk. at dusk, she speaks of the fire that will one day devour the city: honey glazed and suffocating, fluorescence igniting neon. too much amber in this place not to. some days, she picks the grey from your hair, smoothens the wrinkles from your forehead. she says, kids grow up so fast these days. you tell her you’ve just turned twenty-two. there’s a cataract bleeding grey in her left eye and it waters. it makes you think of your mother, shedding strands of white hair at the checkout counter, skin flaking like kindling. when the monsoons come, you almost ask about the fire she wants so badly and how is it going to survive in all this rain but you don’t because her left eye is smooth and grey and it waters. summer swells then deflates. autumn simmers into winter. some days, you look into her eyes and see the fire there, thirsting, and some days, you look into her eyes and see the reflection: pinpricks of light, splintered, bursting. but mostly, it’s just the matches in her hands, marlboro lights catching flame.
Persephone Kaitlin Hsu
How to be Gay in Mississippi Amy Jones When you are ten years old, dig quarters out of your sister’s jeans in the laundry basket, drop them in the emergency piggy bank for the day your father kicks you out. Swipe cans of food from the back of the pantry, bury them beneath T-shirts folded at the bottom of the backpack under bed for the day your father kicks you out. Cower under your covers while he tears up the valentine you wrote for the girl with pigtails who sits in the front of the class. Sit in the back of the church, cringe when pastors beat clenched fists and condemn “homosexuals,” grit your teeth against nods and “amens!” yelled from surrounding pews, reducing your love to a single act, reducing your love to lust based on outward appearance, reducing you to nothing but a sinner whose Father will surely kick you out. When you are seventeen, don’t cringe when boy sticks tongue in mouth. Forget that you don’t want it there, remember that you should. On your knees, pray hand in hand with your best friend, 4
throat aching from asking your Father to fix you, eyes shut, amens whispered from the bedroom floor. When your eyes still linger on the curves of her lips and the flutter in your heart reminds you of your failure, try the counselor’s couch, beg for her to fix you, slam the door when you walk out, when she insists there’s nothing broken. When you are in college, suck up the tears when your father tears up the coming out letter you wrote and rewrote for years. Try to laugh when your roommate jokes about the girl with a pixie cut in her Spanish class, point out guys on the way to class to reaffirm your femininity, complain about fictional ex-boyfriends, confess fictional crushes, collect fictions, falsehoods, reside in lies with the Bible by your bed, forgetting the truth, praying it away. When you fall in love, wake up every day smiling at the face you don’t want to forget, but always remember to glance over your shoulder. Laugh when church boys pull up a chair at the coffee shop and ask if y’all remember a certain passage in Romans as if “y’all” asked for the reminder. You remember every day. When you are twenty-five, clasp hands till knuckles whiten as mother mutters queer; shut your eyes against your sister’s amen. Walk out the door; try to forget that they have forgotten that you are more than a single act, 5
When your first best friend throws her arms around you and squeals at the ring on your left hand, feel her pull back, watch her grin falter as you finish the sentence with a girlâ€™s name, watch her shake her head and walk away. When your father tears up the wedding invitation, walk yourself down the aisle.
Welcome Home Rebecca Deegan
The Long Days Abby Hall Days were longer, or so she thought, but it was hard to tell from the back of her shed in the evening—days seemed longer, when she would pull back the blind at 8 o’clock and find the first hints of the sun kissing the horizon, all the while making the sky blush in shades of orange and pink and blue. The pink was her favorite, as, in her younger days, her mother adorned her frivolously with bows and ribbons and frills of every shade of pink possible: hot pink, light pink, flamingo, salmon, champagne, cherry blossom, orchid, pastel, cotton candy, rose, rouge, and magenta. Days were longer but it didn’t matter for her, since all her time, light or dark, was spent living and building. Carving, grinding, dusting; she built intricate contraptions of gears and screws, round and round, performing the daily task of tick tock tick tock, and chiming gently on the hour, or maybe screeching, or maybe singing. Days were longer but she didn’t really care as she rubbed her sore hands, long fingers tired from a restless day of shimmying the tiny knife into the same groove over and over in delicate lines and swirls—push too hard, and it will crack, but don’t push hard enough, and the project will never end. The length of the day was of no consequence when the clocks would tell her the time. Time, time, and time again, she would crawl out the old door, drag herself across the yard, and toss her ragdoll body into a messy bed, covered in sheets of puce and peach, presents from her proper, protective, perfect mother. The days were longer but it was of no consequence to her, or to her mother, who worked, worked, and worked time, time, and time again to make the clocks. “It’s pointless,” her father would chide to her mother, who sat with a small clucking clock across the ripples of a long dress; her 8
mother would look up, tool in hand, tilt her head, and continue shaving away the layers of wood in a fine row, in the neatest fashion, and blow away the dust. “You’re right,” her mother would say. “It’s pointless for you to keep trying to stop me.” That year, her mother took an hour a day teaching her how to make the clocks, maneuver the fine metal, into place, into perfection, like a tiny, living puzzle—she taught her how to tarnish the wood, mold the face, and start the heart ticking. Once that year was up, and once her mother thought her ready, they left her father and the two set out to find a new home. “It will be hard,” her mother had said, petting back her daughter’s hair and tying in a ribbon before the school day began, “but it will be worth it. Your grandmother taught me the technique, and her mother taught her, and her mother her, all the way back to your five greats grandmother who disobeyed her father and ran off with the natural talent and nimble hands.” Her mother’s own smooth hand brushed across her shoulders, turning her around, face to face. Back then, the days seemed the longest. “But, if you ever wish to stop, please, do. Never do I want to trap you in the work. My love for you will remain the same.” A kiss on her head, a lingering mark of fuchsia to keep the memory of her mother in her mind all day, the tick of the clocks saying goodbye as the two walked out the door. Her mother began work, and then the days seemed longer, but only when she lived them; now—now those days seemed shorter than ever. With work, her mother couldn’t keep up the clock-making. She took over in her mother’s stead, spending one hour, two hours, three hours a day. Now she spent as many hours as she could. Her dreams were full of tick, pink, tock, strawberry, tick, blush. She awoke to the fresh rays of sun beaming through her window and into her eyes, eyes crusted with sleep and squinting against 9
the fiery assailant. Then, with a stretch, a yawn, a glance at the picture of her mother and herself on her nightstand, she stood, dressed, and looked at the clock. The days were longer, but she knew that time would eventually run out. A pop of the neck, a shuffle out the door, and she was on her way to the store. Until then, she would keep ticking.
EXCESSIVE DRINKING James Croal Jackson I am a sun-drenched willow field withered and purple. Headache remiss, wonder when the liver will churn its nightly clarion call, squeezing rags to draw the water out. Sometimes the nights are like that in the silence between friends. The drafts replace talking. You canâ€™t hear the words with breath so still and distant, willows soon awakening.
Constellation of Selves
Christina Nazariyan Model: Daria Kulikova
7:45 am Santino DallaVecchia Areolae as auroras the sky again You and your visions of space a piece of the universe beside me I’m clinging to for clarity in the hum of your body conjuring night songs out of memories as we drift in and out of half-clothed sleep Wine unfinished, your hands burning a hole into sheets of paper, raw and aching with ink from your lips Sketching out maps of space with x’s where humans start and infinite tendrils out to where treasure past treasure might be hidden Night hosanna, dawn hosanna, your hosanna, sung by you, whispered back by me, trying to connect the dots between realities to find where I am on the map I’ve tried constructing a universe 13
for myself thatâ€™ll look like a castle with walls of bookshelves and toy dragons and the smell of burning where I can hide from uncertain paths that lead into the dark But youâ€™re always beckoning out to the heavens Murmuring hot like coal with our warmth asleep beside me Past the window, I can see the sky drifting off like a blue-speckled stone down the hillside as the clouds begin to rain and your chest rises, the breath of the solar system counting in and out of your lungs You tighten up and pull a pillow closer, murmuring about gravity, and pull my naked leg into yours
Leviathan Keri Withington I felt obligated to make it through Moby Dick at least once. The audiobook droned on during morning commutes, marathon paper grading, too short cardio sessions. I got lost in the details, descriptions washed over me like so many waves grind even granite and discarded glass back to sand. Reflexologists say we defer pain, the twitch in my eyelid a sign: deficient vitamins maybe, or pressure from clenched jaw. I remember the names on the fishermenâ€™s tombstones, the exact shade of whale skin in water, parlor details over plot nuances, main characters. Harpoons are no less cruel for being the same through centuries. The hunt, filmed by National Geographic and narrated by some British naturalist, still dyes salt water red, makes swimmers miles away taste rust. The whale drags three boats in her wake, doesnâ€™t know sheâ€™s already lost. Fishermen leap from crowded decks to her back, thrust spears, retreat again. She rolls towards shore, rises less under every frothy wave.
BIRD-WIFE Gary Writer-Davies you unto each other mated like oak timbered rooms that keep the house together here is a table here is a wooden chair and upon the post (that holds the tension of the stairs) she perches wings spread (ready) for flight
The Lotus Eaters Santino DallaVecchia When Odysseus mentioned the Lotus-eaters, he always talked about the honey-sweet fruit they gave his friends, who never wanted to go home again, the circular truth of night and day hissing quietly at the edge of the surf. The surprise in the mornings– whether you want to wake up right away or loiter in my t-shirt and listen to the lyricism of the sixties echoing into light, echoing into our fingers coiling, slipping under clothes. Darknesses ineffably associated with visions and snakes would bring us back around to heat and light shut out by the blinds, you grabbing my arm and smiling while you insist we dream longer.
I love you but I’ll never want to get lost in you, you say, maybe not realizing you’re awake and talking out loud. I kiss your neck, drifting off in the quiet surf of morning catnap, dreaming of Odysseus again.
When he said, The Lotus-eaters gave my comrades
the honey sweet fruit to eat, and they lost all desire to come back, he meant something like your fear– that once you’ve plunged too deep, there’s no way to get back, even if you think you can, even if kisses coated in lips coated in coffee make promises with teasing fists about returning. I heard him say this as he pushed off shore, muttering to himself, leaving me behind dreaming, lost in the fine wilds of the beach, remediating the tune of the sand into a way home–
The only thing they wanted now was to stay with the Lotus-eaters and feed on the fruit and never go home again.
He might’ve meant that if we shrink and scramble into shells on the beach, the echoes from our breathing will slumber together into music. You squeeze my hand, not awake. The warmth from you is sunlight. I can hear the song and though you’re awake and laughing at me, I can still smell the ocean’s salt around you, the two of us swimming out together, our nipples stiff, our lips damp. I can’t help but think of the Lotus-eaters– their soft sweet island loving the embrace of the void couching itself coiled in a guise of loving life too much.1 : Quotes from The Odyssey selected and adapted from Stephen Mitchell’s translation.
CONTRIBUTOR BIOS Jonathan Brooks is an award winning Photographer/Visual Artist, whose work has been exhibited in Miami, New York City, Amsterdam, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. His work has been displayed at the Louvre, used as decor in a Anna Kendrick and Zac Efron Twentieth Century Fox film, was featured on the CW Networkâ€™s The Vampire Diaries, and part of the Emmy nominated 50th Anniversary video series celebrating National Endowment For The Arts. Santino DallaVecchia is a poet and essayist from Michigan, and is the former Editor in Chief of See Spot Run Literary and Arts Journal. His work has appeared in Heron Tree, The Timberline Review, and Birch Gang Review, among others. He divides his time between Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Detroit. Rebecca Deegan is a painter from Laois, Ireland and is currently resident artist at Dunamaise Art Centre. She works mainly with oils and acrylics to create atmospheric pieces inspired by the human face and figure. Abby Hall is a college student from West Virginia who spends most of her time daydreaming. Sometimes, she puts those daydreams to good use through writing and drawing. Abby plans to major in English and one day tell stories that everyone can enjoy. Kaitlin Hsu is the editor-in-chief of Wingspan Magazine.
James Croal Jackson was born in Akron, Ohio. After graduating from Baldwin Wallace University with degrees in Film Studies and Creative Writing, he moved to Los Angeles, where he worked in the film and television industry. He landed gigs with The New York Times, fashion photographer Erik Madigan Heck, The American Film Institute, and Workaholic Productions, as well as several independent film productions and hundreds of background roles for national television shows. He studied improvisational comedy at Upright Citizens Brigade and performed in a troupe. In L.A., James rediscovered his love for poetry, and has since been published in many literary magazines including The Bitter Oleander, Rust+Moth, Glassworks, and Columbia College Literary Review. He is the winner of the 2016 William Redding Memorial Poetry Prize, sponsored by The Poetry Forum (Columbus). Amy Lauren Jones is a graduate music major at Mississippi College, where she received her B.M. with a minor in English in 2015. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Lavender Review, GERM Magazine, Vagabond City, Wherewithal, and The Arrowhead. She hopes to pursue a doctorate in music while continuing to write about life in the Deep South. Adorable Monique is a US based artist brought up abroad. She received art instruction in fine arts at La Universidad Pedagรณgica Nacional Francisco Morazรกn and has had the good fortune to be mentored by a renown Central American artist, which has helped enriched her artistic vision. She has received merit awards and the opportunity to exhibit in various venues.Growing up surrounded by different cultures has broadened her overall view of life. She is continuously pursuing success in personal, professional, and artistic endeavors as well in the artistic experience itself.
Christina Nazariyan is a photographer. Keri Withington lives with her family in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains in TN. She is an English faculty member at Pellissippi State Community College and a graduate student in Women’s Studies at the University of Tennessee. Her poems have appeared in journals including Blue Fifth Review and Blotterature. Gareth Writer-Davies was Commended in the Prole Laureate Competition in 2015, Specially Commended in the Welsh Poetry Competition and Highly Commended in the Sherborne Open Poetry Competition. Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Erbacce Prize in 2014. His pamphlet “Bodies” was published in 2015 through Indigo Dreams and his next pamphlet “Cry Baby” will be published in 2017. Lily Zhou is a high school junior from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her writing has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Gannon University, and Columbia College Chicago, and has been nominated for Best of the Net . Her work has appeared in The Blueshift Journal and on Verse Daily. She reads for Polyphony HS.