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the Literary Issue

APRIL 22, 2013


elcome to the Observer’s Literary Issue. Every year, for this issue, the Observer moves away from its traditional journalistic route to showcase the fantastic poetry and prose that so many students on campus are writing. Every year, for just one issue, we focus our efforts on the art of storytelling. We all hold stories within us, yet it requires dedication and perseverance to prepare them for others’ eyes. And it is through these stories that we truly communicate our emotions and our unique ways of thinking. Through stories, we can better understand one another and the world around us. And, of course, through the process of writing and reading, we can better understand ourselves. But we must remember that, as writers, we can only uncover these stories; we cannot choose them. This year, we received a record number of submissions, most of which displayed Tufts students’ keen sense of creativity, skill, and knack for the craft. We’re pleased to share with you, the reader, what we consider to be the prose and poetry that best articulate this commitment to storytelling. We’re thrilled to present fourteen student-written pieces in Tufts’ oldest student publication. We hope you enjoy, and, as you read, be mindful of the stories you too can unveil. O — David Schwartz & Eric Archibald

The Observer has been Tufts’ student publication of record since 1895. Our dedication to in-depth reporting, journalistic innovation, and honest dialogue has remained intact for over a century. Today, we offer insightful news analysis, cogent and diverse opinion pieces, creative writing, and lively reviews of current arts, entertainment, and culture. Through poignant writing and artistic elegance, we aim to entertain, inform, and above all challenge the Tufts community to effect positive change.

Editors editor-in-chief Anna Burgess managing editor Kyle Carnes production director Ben Kurland section editors Eric Archibald Aaron Langerman Ellen Mayer Claire McCartney Gracie McKenzie Molly Mirhashem Kumar Ramanathan Angelina Rotman David Schwartz Evan Tarantino Megan Wasson publicity director Lenea Sims photography director Bernita Ling photography editor Misako Ono art director Flo Wen lead artists Izzie Gall Robert Collins design assistants Moira Lavelle Angie Lou copy editors Liana Abbott Anastasia Mok Sarah Perlman staff writers Justin Kim Alison Pinkerton Nader Salass editor emeritus David Schwartz

Contributors Adam Bangser Gene Buonaccorsi John Dutko Laura Garbes Madeline Hall Angie Lou Jorge Palacio Margaret Pendoley Jasper Ryden Jared Sullivan

COVER BY: Misako Ono

April 22th, 2013 Volume CXXVI, Issue 6 Tufts Observer, since 1895 Tufts’ Student Magazine

Table oF contents Wolves by Adam Bangser 2 poetry For My Health by Gene Buonaccorsi 3 poetry Centigrade by John Dutko 4 prose Not Disproved by Jasper Ryden 8 poetry Homebody by Laura Garbes 9 poetry Blame by Anna Burgess 10 prose The Spawning Coitus, and Laughter of Andy Marathe by Jared Sullivan 12 poetry poetry You’re Looking For Happiness You’ll Find it Between Halo and Herpes in the 14 IfDictionary by Angie Lou 15 poetry Shit Eating Grin by Emma Turner 16 prose The Line in the Sand by Aaron Langerman 19 poetry Hawthorne Past Park, March 19th by Madeline Hall 20 poetry The Boat Builder by Margaret Pendoley 22 prose Sweet Tooth by Ben Zuckert 24 poetry Unsaid by Jorge Palacio

Emma Turner Ben Zuckert Chelsea Newman Knar Bedian Griffin Quasebarth Alison Graham Connor Cunningham Reema Al-Zoog Sofia Adams

WOLVES Adam Bangser My aunt married her second husband, an empty headed youngest child who danced with crooked elbows and wild joy, on a June day that was yellow all over. She pestered us with invocations of the soft moon and the bright sun and the glad aura of her groom; she thanked the movement of the planets, her joy mixing with her appetite for grand visions of herself. My wasted genius grandfather sat at the edge of the crowd with my mother, his staunch stomach bouncing with untouched laughter. One time, when my aunt was six, her black hair new and taut like a drum, she kicked my uncle on the shin and my grandfather left her on the side of the road because he had told her that he would: a raised finger that meant, Try me one more time. Then, he is dying, he looks like a white turtle without his shell, his eyes

are marbles, his hands feel like old rubber bands, she and my mother by the bed in gnarled silence; she bares her teeth and my mother is accused of killing him. Now, when I ask her about my aunt, her eyes cave in and disappear and her voice folds into itself like too many shirts and her hands fly away from her body, through the open window, and her howl dives into the packed snow outside. One family dinner, at her house, my aunt’s house, full of fresh lettuce and corn from the garden, she told me that my whole life makes sense because of where the moon was on the day that I was born. Her yellow eyes were manic, happy, I thought, but she looked at me like a rival wolf.

Robert Collins



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For My Health Gene Buonaccorsi When I was 15 my two older gay coworkers offered to buy me a pack of cigarettes. I said no but still can't help but write smoke into stories because I don't understand it and I wish I did.


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Buon acco r







APRIL 22, 2013

Robert Collins

“Let me tell you how I lost my pinky,” she tells me, so I shouldn’t be surprised when she spread-eagles her right hand out in front of my eyes and there’re only four digits quivering there. But I am. She looks up at me through that matted black hair (long) and again through that fan of lonely fingers. Her name is Erika, and she spins me something unparaphraseable, something about an ex of an ex and a car door and unpaid rent, fractions of stories I had heard whose sum total was now a severed pinky finger. I’m listening only peripherally. My mind is at the back of my neck where the light of neon suggesting Budweiser strikes me, hot. The warmth is like sugar to my veins. And now, tuning in again. “He got this look in his eye.” The shredded ice in my glass makes my teeth shriek goosebumps down to the root. Somewhere across the bar, the front door opens wide and with the frozen mountain air goes my patience. “I’ve got to go,” I slur, my words chewing on each other in the mouth (cannibals of convenience), but she’s taking my ten in her nine and now she’s dragging me out into the night and at this point I figure if I’m going to get out of the cold I may as well do it on her dime.

s Afterwards, I ask why she took me home and all she can tell me is that I looked tired. I fall asleep shivering, and my dreams are haunted by snowfall and storm clouds. I wake up and she’s gone and her roommate (imposing in her wakefulness) tells me to get out because it’s after noon already, and she’s shooing me away so fast I can’t get my coat and, slam, the door to that apartment hits my back, and I’m out in the cold again, and the moment I understand that this angry woman will not open the door to give me my coat back is the moment I realize that I have to leave Denver forever.

s It isn’t until I’m headed south on I-25 that my fingers start to warm up again. I’m

still north of Castle Rock and billboards urge me to regulate marijuana; there, on that highway, they tell me that God is imaginary, and that I am not alone, and to pull off here for Cracker Barrel and to save the Colorado River and to please, for the love of Christ, call if I have any information regarding the whereabouts of Leonel Steiner, thirteen years old and five-feet tall and blonde and missing for eighteen months now. I’m trying to take it all in, the pleas and the bargains and the downright assaults, but I’m so drained of the cold that I guess I’m not really paying attention to anything else, much less the road and just when my eyelids are the heaviest I have to swerve to avoid an oncoming Silverado. Not even the honkings of every motorist in a mile are enough to stir me. So I get back into my lane and then again onto the shoulder, slowly, and before my head even touches to steering column, I’m asleep. I’m up at the crack of something at my window, but my first waking thought is: the heat! My eyes closed, all I can hear is the purr of the heater. I squirm under the warmth, taking care to enjoy fully my newly-thawed joints. But crack comes the something again, and I open my eyes and the something is a police baton, and the someone cracking is a policeman, and I’m about a thousand yards from where I thought I parked and now that you mention it (fuck, fuck) my car is actually moving, oh so incredibly slowly down the shoulder, so I slam on the brake (an inordinate jerk given that I couldn’t have been going any faster than, say, a policeman on foot) and allow myself a moment to stare, somehow alert but vacant, out the windshield (asleep!) and ask myself (at the wheel!) what the hell happens next. The answer comes faster than I’d like —a third crack—and I’m forced to deal with the reality of impending arrest. In short order it comes, bearing iced handcuffs and accusations levied against the strength of my character. He assures me in gruff tones that my car will be taken care of, however, and the backseat of his car is even warmer than mine. In short order I’m asleep again. My last memory is

the purple of the setting sun cast over the melting Rockies and through my closed eyelids, autopsy-blue.

s A growling wakes me. I turn my head to a jewel-eyed fox. She scratches at the earth beneath her. This is strange. Where have I seen those hands before? (Paws, of course. Paws.) Hurry, she says, or you will be late, and then you will die. Oh, yes. That makes sense. You are afraid. Am I? I shouldn’t think so. Where are you? I don’t know. I don’t care! I’m alive, yes? I must be exceeding expectations. Why are you running? Because I can. What is behind you? Rent I can’t pay. Parents who don’t pick up the phone. The cold. What is before you? Nothing. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. Then I tell you again: hurry. I don’t think you are going to make it. Then her head snaps to the horizon and she starts to run, faster than anything. The sun is tied to her by a rope I cannot see and it takes off, too, like her, like lightning, and strikes the other side of the earth. The now-night sky has been shredded in their wake. There is an incredible stillness for a moment. Then a rumble, and then the air itself turns to static and every fiber of my being is magnetized up, now, and just before the crash, just before the stars explode and my heart stops.

s I’m thrust awake again. Spitting and gasping, this time, and when my vision clears and the wet is out of my eyes, I can see that it is only another policeman who stands above me. The bucket he holds above me is empty; I can only assume that the contents have just been dumped into my face. We are outside. It is intolerably bright and this man wears aviator sunglasses, pol-

APRIL 22, 2013



ished to a sheen. My vision adjusts to the scorching of the sun’s rays and once I get my knees under me, slowly, clumsily, the man points to the horizon. I turn to see where he is pointing—south, and to the east—and find myself on the edge of a desert. How did I get here? Where is my car? The questions start to bubble up, each vying for priority, wishing themselves resolved.

s I turn and the cop is already walking away from me. “H-ey!” My voice cracks. It is foreign to me, dry. “Yeah?” He does not break stride. His back remains turned. “W-here is this?” “Where do you think you are?” “No idea. N-ew Mexico?” He shrugs. He has reached his car and when he opens the driver side door, he turns to me. His frown is impossible to read, and I can’t think of anything else to say before he gets in the unmarked Crown Victoria, closes the door, starts the engine and drives, just drives straight away from me in a line to the north. I watch him for as long as I can but after a minute or two he is far away and the light from the sun devours him. I turn again on my heel and squint into the south-east and there, as far as I can imagine, pure light shimmers high on a mountain top. I turn again around myself. This place is impossible, I declare to no one in particular. This desert is impossibly flat, and those mountains are impossibly far away, and the air is so still, so quiet, so bright—blank-canvas sterile. But the sun is warm. I have not been this warm in a very long time. And my body is intact, if sore; so I point in the direction of the star on top of the mountain and, putting one callused foot in front of the other, I walk.

me. Still the cold persists! A voice deep inside tells me dig, dig, and so I claw into the sands with the urgency of any man with only one route out of the cold. As I dig I bury myself beneath this foreign sand, my fingers frozen and raw and unable to stop their work. After hours, after forever, all my body to my nose is entombed; and although I shiver, sleep finds me. The next morning I emerge with the rising sun. My head pokes out, first. For a while there is nothing to watch but the star on the mountain, but soon the sun crests the peaks and then, suddenly, the sand before me begins to roil. About a foot in front of my face a copperhead snake pops its head out of the sand. He wriggles free of the earth and basks, at the height of his climb, in the newborn morning sunlight. He turns to me, now, and his eyes catch the purple dawn gleaming. “Hey, buddy.” I whisper, unsure.

For four days and three nights I hiked like this, with unspeaking creatures snakes of all kind.

s The first night is a terror. As the sun goes down the temperature plummets, and the still heat of the day turns to a quiet freeze. There is no wood for a fire – nothing at all, in fact, save the occasional boulder, obsidian-black. My only thought, since even in darkness the star on the mountain keeps bright, keeps sputtering without rhythm, is to keep walking. But in the night my body quickly fails, and soon I collapse to the sands beneath



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Nothing. But his tongue tastes the world, finding me. “You’re not from around here either, yeah? This must be new for you too.” A hiss, impossible to interpret. I take him in my arms, and he coils upon my still-buried chest. “Just so you know,” I say, “I got bit by a snake once. True story! I was in Laos. I know, I know. What possible reason does someone have for being in Laos? Well, temples, mostly. There are the most beautiful shrines in that part of the world, my friend, and so I found a guide and we saw all of these monuments these Buddhists had built all those centuries ago. “So it’s about three days in, and its sunset and we had just left Wat Simuong in Vientaine. The light is coming in sublime, the purple of cough syrup dripping through the jungle canopy, and my guide and I are setting up camp for the night. I go to find some wood for a fire, and I set one foot off the path and, snap! Right through my ankle, the teeth of a temple viper. Tropidolaemus wagleri. Their bite contains a powerful hemotoxin. Once

infected, the blood starts the jelly. It congeals until is sits, plump and semi-solid, lazily bursting through the veins. Untreated in humans, the toxin can kill in an hour; but my guide was wise to the ways of the viper and he sucked the poison out of my leg and in thirty minutes I was in a hospital and two days after that I was on a flight home. “But what do you do after that, little buddy? Your cousin almost killed me out there. And all I could think about on that hospital bed, on that cozy flight home, were those five minutes: those five minutes where I felt the evil squirm of something wrong coursing through my veins. How can you trust yourself after something like that? When, Christ, even homeostasis isn’t a given, how can you trust your body to keep warm?” My friend, tactfully, refuses to comment on the sins of his extended family. Instead he slithers, over my face, down the

of reptile-beasts climbs with me, too. Their quarry is so close. But the night becomes cold, even as it is eerily bright under the gaze of the star, and as we climb many of my companions begin to slow. They slow, brute by brute, and begin to stop there on that mountainside. There is no sand into which they can dig. Many try, in mania, but fail and succumb to the cold. They crumble into themselves and soon the mountain hisses with the cries of dying and scaled beasts.

s I have scaled taller mountains in my life, certainly; but never before have I felt such a numbness, such a burn in my bones. Finally (I should have died, I should have fallen off this goddamn mountain, my tears are frozen on my cheeks and my blood is pudding), I have reached the summit. Here is a tower of white stone before me. Like a lighthouse it rises, topped by a great glass dome in which the star itself (impossible to look at directly) hovers, contained, yelling to me in a frequency I cannot begin to understand. Now that I have stopped, though, feeling has begun to return, shrieking, to my extremities. If I sit still in this cold for any length I will surely die. So while my feet are still blunted, I run toward the spire.


crown of my skull, back onto the sands. I follow him with my eyes until he unmistakably makes his direction known. So I too rise, and I walk toward that constant and blinking star.

s For four days and three nights I hiked like this, with unspeaking creatures, snakes of all kinds (even a few dreaded vipers wagleri) crawling out of the sands to join our procession. Still I bury myself at the end of each day-long march. The star’s sputtering spurred me on, now; for although there was no pattern, I could almost catch intention in its light, some scrap of meaning in some ancient language, encoded by some long-dead hand. On the third day the mountain seemed to approach; and by the fourth day, now, I came to sit at the foot of the mountain itself. There is no path, but I climb. The star is huge above me, now—larger than the now-setting sun. Its blinking has resolved to an ever-bright sparkle, almost painful to look at. The swarm

There is no visible entrance. If there is a hidden one, it does not make itself known to me. And the exterior walls are far too smooth to climb. I have pushed and pulled and pounded on every inch of its surface in my reach. I am so close! How warm that chamber must be! In there, I had assured myself, the humming of the star would tune itself to my eyes and my ears. I strike the tower with my broken fists. Damn. Damn. I collapse, unanchored, the spell broken. Where am I? What kind of dream is this that flips so swiftly between fantasy and nightmare? On top of it all, the cold of the night remains, ravenous, a carnivore. I curl in tight. I clutch myself with shivering arms. Far away, at the other end of the world, the horizon is highlighted in a deep purple. But the night is still young, yet, I can feel it, and I have climbed so far, and (I ascertain from the edge of the cliff upon which the tower is perched) beside this dreadful star I find that there is nothing left for me in this world. This body of mine can take no more frozen nights. It will move no further. I sit with my feet dangling over the edge, the desert floor far beneath me. Logically, there is only one way to go, and that is down. But there is something deeper within me. I had forgotten, but there it is, that old companion, emerging now from the tightest corner of my soul. I have met it only a few times before, half-glimpsed at the height of my darkest nights; but it swallows me now and tells me this cannot be the end and so I close my eyes and between chapped lips and chattering teeth I pray for the sun. O

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Connor Cunningham

You take plan B arcana swirl the object slips away verbs give nouns a reason. In Latin the words for heaven and sky are the same refer to slide twenty the rigid disk model for the galaxy does not seem to hold we are still very here. Rome optimized while it still could beer bled steaks lurched across damp hillsides as they grew. Wobbling priests chirp together beneath a moss filtered sun. Affirm the tree in order to be affirmed.

Not Disproved 8


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Jasper Ryden










Homebody A hodgepodge of trinkets scattered across the furniture handpicked by Mom and me when I thought it was The Most Important Thing in the World.

by L au

ra Ga

The Most Important Place in the World. Nana would come knocking at the door, fresh laundry the scent of a pale, hospital gown blue.


In the meantime I flip haphazardly through The Cult of Self-Esteem: Is Our Narcissistic Culture Ruining Our Children? anxiously avert my eyes from the gaze of the girl holding the trophy, smiling menacingly. Turn to the prayer flags piled lazily in the corner of the room. Made in Tibet. Turn out to “the world.” Ornate, obnoxious Halloween decorations across the street, the giant nondescript monster is a heftybag with laser eyes that stare back at me when I try to shut my eyes. When will Nana figure out her grandson is not in Colorado anymore? Is there a difference between Colorado and Asia, allophones of Not Here to the small woman who has gotten her hair done at the same place for decades? “Since before you were born!”

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m a l B s

ges r u B a By Ann

I’m looking at my sister, Cara, trying to decide who I blame for destroying her childhood. She looks back at me, sleepy but curious, from the right side of the bed. Repeats her question: “Do you ever tell people about what happened with Mom and Daddy?” I know what she means, but seeing her earnest face asking this serious question is something I feel like turning away from, roll ing over and pressing my face into the pillow, breathing in the scent of my wet hair. The day my father and mother told us they were getting divorced, I sat in our big green chair, my legs twisted under me, and felt hopeless. I remember it was summer. I remember the smell the most, of lilacs. Not quite a year later, my father took Cara and me to meet Rena. It was around November, windy and cold, and we went with our father to meet this unknown woman for hot chocolate at a cozy Irish restaurant. On the way, Cara and I sat bundled in our coats. and I felt cold and confused. She drifted off to sleep, gently snoring, as I nudged my shoulder into a crevice of the car door and stared out the window. I bit my nails and wondered at what she’d be like--Pretty, maybe? artsy and calm, with a long printed skirt? tall and long-limbed and loudspoken? Would she be intimidating? Would she even be smart? My father, driving, whistled along with a Johnny Cash CD. I later learned that Rena had made it for him. She was, in fact, cheerful and warm, both in demeanor and in her presence. Diminutive and strong-featured, with puffy graying brown hair. Her smile at the first sight of us girls in pink and purple coats was genuine, and one she always greeted us with. Cara and I, from that first smile, felt that she cared about us. We couldn’t help ourselves, seeing that contagious smile, 10


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feeling her immediate embrace, in beginning to care about her as well. Rena would come to our father’s apartment and teach us games, bring us sewing projects and special treats from bakeries we liked. She made my father relax and have fun with us in a way he rarely did. We saw him joke around, laugh loudly even though he normally was too shy as to even smile for pictures. “Johnny B,” she would say, “do that crazy dance you and the girls do--I’ll film it.” She filled our lives with art: photos she’d taken, pottery she’d made, drawings she’d done of my father that made him look wise and special. Once, we went furniture shopping--something Cara and I had always hated doing with my parents--and Rena made up scavenger hunts for us to play amongst the plush couches and shining wood cabinets. She became one of my favorite people in the world, helping my father learn how to relate to his daughters and letting us know that she truly adored us. She loved us. Loves us. The summer that I was 14, about a year after my father and Rena broke up, my sister and I went to Martha’s Vineyard with our mother and each of our best friends. Us four girls all shared one room, a dimly lit one with hard beds and a futon. On our third night there, my mother was reading in the lamplit living room and Cara, our friends, and I were brushing our teeth and pulling on pajamas. Cara took me aside in the hallway and I watched her swallow as she haltingly explained that she had to tell me something: “Do you...know why mommy and daddy got a divorce?” I found myself looking at the ground; she looked at the ground too. I felt the way I had years earlier, when Cara had insisted on knowing if Santa Claus was real or not. Trying to close my ears the way I squeezed my eyes shut, sensing words that I was sure I did not want to hear but needed to.

e m

Alison Graham

“Daddy cheated on mommy,” Cara said, softly. I asked, “what?” reflexively, but she didn’t repeat her words. I stayed there next to her for a moment, feeling broken. How had I been so completely idiotic as to not have seen this? How had it never made sense that my mother, in the few times we’d seen her and Rena together, was cold in a way that my mother never was with anyone? How had my father lied to us so surely, let us grow to love Rena as a part of our family? And how was it that I, who had tried so hard for years to keep Cara from hearing my parents’ fights, was the one standing here feeling stupid and useless in cloud-print pajamas? I felt failed and fallen, so angry that my no-longer-little sister had to bear the knowledge of this. Bear the burden of telling me. Cara’s asking me if I ever talk to people about what happened. “No...not usually,” I say. Looking right at her, not looking at the ground. “I don’t want to tell most people because I don’t want them to hate Daddy.” She nods, those big sage eyes sad in her agreement. And we silently recognize that we both want to be past letting it shape us. After Cara told me, after the questions stopped streaming through my head, I felt myself hollow. My stomach was pulling at itself, twisting up around my heart and lungs and compressing all of me down and out. With my eyes squeezed shut I could only see color bursts inside my eyelids. My inner eyelids were all color and the rest of me pale, white, bloodless. I opened my eyes, looked at Cara, and took a rattling rush of air into the hollow. I couldn’t cry; I had crammed all the tears back into my inner eyelids with the popping colors. My legs flimsy paper, I collapsed. I fell, a piece of Rena’s beautiful pottery, “To Johnny B” scripted on the bottom. O

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The Spawning, Coitus, and Laughter of Andy Marathe Jared Sullivan

I. I must be so off-base in these reveries. I’d have to enter a new life as you’ve imagined yours to be— an amnesiac continuation of great great aunt Bertha or someone shriveled— even to begin to know the beginning of me. Everyone knows there’s pain involved, but that’s just a word, a squawk, a squiggle. I’ve met no shrieking knives; no palm has flattened my nose with a brittle crack, though even these would be mere wincing hints. To imagine being pulled in half is to gape at its absurdity: a senseless moment like drifting to the bottom of the uterus or the watch swinging back and forth as slowly…slowly… your existence is squeezed into one throbbing vortex. I can only hope that the searing has been soothed away and for you, my first moment has been whittled down to the primeval blur of sacred fluids flowing, the soul-deep push, through the innermost I who chokes on its breath until elated sobs send feathertip tingles through all the fleshy nooks and crannies of your splitting self as one becomes two. But that’s just make-believe. Without your centered scent of hearth and cookies without the daintiness that sets you into the rocking chair without the monthly attention you must pay to your leaking body, I am a birch tree reaching to caress the moon. Please feel this gift for the both of us— you have known the pleasure of the life-giving pain that I can’t even imagine.



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Sofia Adams

II. Static we stand fully exposed in our clothes. We are magnets apart and converging, open armed but tethered by the thinnest wisps. You offer up your eye-shimmering attention, fertile with thoughtfulness, and coax an explosion of want, trembling and sweet, the essence of me all for you. Your searching voice, tender neck, steady gaze in mine whispers a shock that flows through hyper-extended fingers straining towards yours, your lips, the sharp inhale pulsing, pulling at now. Now we move as we were meant to, an approach that enshrines your knowing mouth which parts in a grin shy with desire and welcomes my deepest wish—it’s yours now too. We caress swelling memories: thoughts and blushing bodies admired, rolling boil of the musical laughter, gripping confession, dizzying genius, smile the invitation where I want to live. Mimicking mine, your eyes cease to see and summon me with all the force of your “I want you.” Now, we.

III. Halfway through the argument I felt like laughing. There she was, screaming syllabic hammers, flexing herself with each screech in hilarious convulsions like a wind-up monkey that flips. Sure, I was up to my neck in wrong, and the room’s wooden walls—so antique— blurred dizzyingly into the vicious gnashing of her swollen face. But somehow, all I seemed to feel was the howl of her body language, the flailing climax of an Italian silent film. The bristle of a snarling wolf ’s coat, quadrupeds becoming vertical, threatening to slap you silly, a nebula of bees poised to swarm suddenly seemed to me to be the woman’s visceral outrage. In that room of timber and faded oil paintings, paintings of men holding sticks holding rope to catch fish or of ladies posing colonially in pastel sundresses, the clash of bulls’ bleached horns is a spectacle of nature. “Olé!” I giggled to myself while holding my eyes in the wet regret of a naughty child’s time-out stare. My muleta, the joke that swept me from the violence of her charges, was the fact that she’s a dainty little human.

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i dreamt last night of the port of edmonds of the poem you wrote for me in comic sans of swimming to india and getting into a fight with you next to the southern tip of africa i tried to give you the silent treatment but that doesn’t work when we’re the only ones who are drowning a league beneath the sea you can’t scream because when you open your mouth the salty sea rushes in and your last words are incoherent you told me once you had a thing for skylines and cities reflected across dark oceanic water like a parallel universe washed in colliding white waves and now i’ve woken up, or maybe i’ve fallen asleep and this bed feels too big for one person where is my roommate all i see are her drawings of eyes plastered on the walls and all the people come and go but i don’t think they have ever spoken of michelangelo so here i am with my fire detector asphyxiated in a plastic bag smoking cigarettes and flicking the ash into a magic lamp trying to cover my secrets with the smell of incense locke once proposed that we should have a separate word for every phenomena that have and will ever occur liberry (n.) – the way a book might taste if you licked the words off the pages.

if you’re looking for happiness you’ll find it between halo and herpes in the dictionary by angie lou

Shit Eating Grin by Emma Turner

Between the potted plants of the Korean deli, you asked me if I could even out a bowling team, but my hands were busy since on Saturdays I shuffle the galaxy. After some phone calls, you chased me through the streets, but it was during the day so it wasn’t scary. I almost liked you, but then I remembered nothing is aesthetically pleasing about being left behind or the flashdancer gentleman’s club ads on Broadway and 53rd. Just a lone girl who has white hearts photoshopped into her eyes, pretending it’s the gleam from the camera’s flash. Sometimes I remember that story you told me, about the old man whose hearing was so acute he had to re-record all his favorite CDs underwater. Everything was muffled, but it didn’t hurt his ears, and at the time, I was too distracted by falling in love with you and forgot to ask how there was no water damage. Now my teeth show when I smile wide, and yesterday you asked me to tell you how it feels. So I told you to picture falling down a well with a smile on your face with the drop in slow motion and your fingernails don’t scrape but instead caress the wet walls as you drop to the bottom. O



uaseba in Q

APRIL 22, 2013




Alison Graham

The Line in the SanD Aaron Langerman



APRIL 22, 2013

alvin rolls a joint, ignoring the two girls building a sandcastle a few yards closer to the ocean. “Don’t you ever get bored here?” “Of course I do,” Michael responds. He burrows his feet into the warm sand. “But look at what’s around us: a beautiful beach, barbeques over fire pits, a boardwalk with roller coasters at the end of the beach. There’s plenty to do.” “I suppose.” Calvin sparks the joint, puffing smoke. He’s tan from spending so much time on the beaches of California, his brown hair stained blonder. God knows—some boys spend their whole lives in paradise. “You just need the right attitude.” “Or good enough weed.” “Exactly,” Michael chuckles. “Still, it feels so laid out. Nothing exciting seems to happen.” Michael shrugs. “I’m just looking for a good time, and you can find that almost anywhere.” “We lie around doing nothing all day.” “Not entirely true. We also blaze,” Michael jokes, passing the burning joint. “Blazing is too easy,” Calvin responds. The two girls building a sandcastle near the ocean remind him of what it was like to be a kid. Everything was new, exciting, meaningful. Taking a hit, he sighs as the familiar tingly euphoric feeling returns. Watching waves crash but restless. “Let’s do something wild,” Calvin begins, a glimmer in his glossy blue eyes. “Sure, it’s beautiful here, but let’s mix things up. Let’s experience.” Michael nods. “We need an adventure,” Calvin continues. “Something to stop this boring routine.” Michael puts out the joint in the sand. “So we’re going to need more drugs.” Calvin grins, smoke still drifting out his nostrils. “Exactly.”  h “A half ounce of shrooms, six tabs of LSD, three grams of molly, an ounce of coke, two ounces of weed, a bottle of whiskey, a handle of tequila, and a 30-

rack of beer,” Michael lists, going through the contents of his duffle bag. “This is the best I could do.” Calvin nods. “What’re you writing?” Michael laughs. “I figure this should be documented,” Calvin responds. He pauses, staring approvingly at his work. Michael shakes his head, amused. “C’mon, lets go.” He zips up the duffle bag and throws it over his shoulder. Calvin closes his pocket-sized notebook and puts on a pair of rose-tinted sunglasses, with a peculiar antiquated shape — two small circles for the frame. Like John Lennon. “Look at you,” Michael jokes. “Ridiculous.” “Not at all.” “You’re a spectacle.” “No. Life’s a spectacle.” Calvin motions for Michael to look at the printed Google maps sprawled across his desk. “Here’s the plan,” Calvin explains, pointing. “We journey south and eventually reach L.A.” “Any specific stops in between?” “None in mind,” Calvin says. “If we plan the whole thing out, it’d defeat the purpose of everything we’re trying to do.” Michael raises his eyebrows skeptically. “And what is that?” he asks. “Experiencing something that isn’t so boring and rehashed,” Calvin says. “This is about experiencing something new.” Michael laughs. “There’s nothing meaningful about doing drugs. End of the day, looking past the philosophical bullshit, I don’t think it goes much deeper than a basic fact: drugs feel awesome.” “We’ll see,” Calvin says. Staring at the pine tree brushed up against his window, he notices the subtle flicker of a black phoebe bird hopping from branch to branch, and a squirrel gnawing on a nut. The breeze rustles the leaves. The blue sky stretches, scarcely interrupted by clouds. Calm. They pick up their belongings and leave the room. Michael starts the car. Calvin closes the front door, taking care to lock it. He hops into the Honda and they drive

into the bright day, a lightness floating in the fresh air. Not a care in the world. h “I’m at my peak,” Calvin says. “God, these are some good shrooms.” “It’s beautiful,” Michael says, gazing towards the sunset on a mountainous ridge. The depth of the horizon seems infinite, each particle of each sun ray floating. Michael giggles at nothing in particular and Calvin joins him. “It’s so beautiful,” Michael laughs, a few tears spilling. “Jesus, I’m getting some serious visuals on those trees.” He points down to the redwoods below them. They laugh, hallucinating. The trees throb, as if vibing to a beat. Michael looks around, realizing everything—the sunlight, the bushes, the trees, the birds, the ocean—pulsates to the same rhythm. “People stigmatize drugs,” Calvin begins. “But I say we’re getting closer to finding truth. Look at this sunset. Have you ever seen anything so meaningful?” Michael shakes his head, returning his gaze to the sunset sinking into the ocean. “Never.” h Jaw clenching, pupils dilated, Michael jolts his head in various directions, searching among the crowd of thousands of people. Disneyland was a terrible idea, he realizes. He checks the time. Trying to avoid eye contact with the parents and children around him, he pulls out another piece of a gum from his pocket, knowing full well it won’t be able to stop his jaws from clenching. The result of too much molly. Wired and euphorically tripping. He tries to remember when he lost Calvin. Furrowing his brow, he realizes he can barely remember any of the events of the past five days with clarity. He rehearses facts. They took mushrooms and hiked in the mountains. They got wasted the next day and railed lines of coke before going out to the bars. Then a night in the LA clubs on molly. Or did they rave in Santa Barbara before APRIL 22, 2013



LA? Michael shakes his head at himself. Of course they raved at Santa Barbara first— it’s on the way to Los Angeles. And now LSD and molly at Disneyland. Feeling the LSD kick in, Michael calls Calvin’s phone again, hoping for an answer. h “Where the hell did you go?” Michael demands, grabbing a seat across from Calvin. Calvin’s sitting calmly at a table in the middle of a food plaza, wearing a fur jacket. Kids and Disney characters and adults all around. Everything bright and dreamlike. “I’ve been here the whole time,” Calvin smiles. Michael shakes his head in disbelief. “Are you feeling it?” “Definitely.” Calvin lifts his sunglasses to show Michael his state of mind, his radiant blue eyes pushed to the edges by his dilated pupils. “This is too far,” Michael insists. Ten feet away, by the neatly trimmed bushes and trees separating the food tables from the main path of the amusement park, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger greet passing-by kids. Calvin stops writing. “This is exactly what we set out to do.” “We set out to do drugs, but Calvin,” Michael sputters. He loses his train of thought. The bush to his right pulsates green. For a moment, everything looks like leaves. He shakes his head at himself. “But Calvin,” he repeats, returning his gaze to Calvin, voice trailing off. Concentrate, he thinks to himself. Shakes his head again. “I can’t even think straight. As soon as the LSD–”. He stops himself and lowers his voice. “As soon as I reach the peak of this



APRIL 22, 2013

trip.” He pauses. “I’m not going to be able to keep my shit together.” Calvin grins. “Isn’t that exciting?” “It was at first,” Michael agrees. “But this is too far.” Calvin looks past Michael to the spectacle around them. Castles, cartoon characters, catchy tunes, roller coasters, shops, food, and thousands of people—each and every minute detail a swirling movement of color. “Look around us,” Calvin instructs. “Appreciate the newness of it. Disneyland has been here for decades, has been experienced by people in the same way hundreds of millions of times. But we, we’re making something new out of it.” “Stop this vague bullshit,” Michael stammers. “There’s nothing new about what we’re doing—we’re tripping on drugs. Our parents have been doing it since the ‘60s.” Calvin grins, his rose sunglasses enflamed by the sunlight. “It’s not what we’re doing that matters. It’s how we do it,” he explains. “What,” Michael stutters. “We’re turning living into art.” Michael pauses, speechless. “Our lives used to be boring. But out of nothing we’ve created excitement. We’re experiencing things in ways we could have never imagined. We’ve come so far,” Calvin says, his voice a crescendo. “Think about what we felt hiking in the mountains on shrooms. Have you ever experienced a sunset so full of meaning? That glimmering pink and orange star sinking into the ocean, a new world—night—being created.” Michael shakes his head. Still speechless. “It’s poetry,” Calvin insists. “It’s turning the everyday into art.”

“We can’t go on like this forever.” “Maybe not with the drugs,” Calvin agrees. “But we’ve opened up a door of possibilities.” Michael stares at Calvin in disbelief. Satisfied, Calvin opens his journal and writes. h Calvin and Michael lie motionless in the sand, exhausted, brain-dead from their excursion. Michael’s never felt this tired. He feels gaping holes in his brain. He stares out into the ocean, an empty and dull nothingness glossed over his gaze. His finger drags gently through the sand, gradually making a line. The cool breeze blows the sand softly. The sloppy line becomes an etch before fading away into small dunes of sand. Two young boys sprint towards the water, passing a bright red ball between them, letting the weightless blowup toy fall unhurriedly to a spot only a few feet away from Calvin and Michael. Smiling, eager to experience the day on the beach, the boys charge forward, kicking the ball towards the ocean, laughing and shouting. “Less than a week ago, we were 400 miles north on the beaches of Santa Cruz,” Calvin mutters. “Look at how far we’ve come.” The kids play by the water, families spread out along the beach, people work the merchandise stands on the street. The bike-riders, roller-bladers, tanners, and restaurant waiters—all appreciate the cloudless sky, the gentle breeze, the warm sun. And no one seems to notice the two college kids lying in the sand, unmoving. O

Monica Stadecker

Hawthorne Past Park, March 19 The drive home is a knee jerk. The drive home is a habit I have. The drive home is the drive home from your house to my house And the drive home from your house to my house feels like that habit you said I have. It’s predictable, the drive home from your house to my house, at 3am, groggy from our conversation with our lips forming that circular argument with the same movement as that habit, lips to the lip of the bottle. Our respective repetitions have spelled the evidence of respective afflictions— namely the respective affections for our respective addictions, And yes, I indulge you long enough to let you pick my scab (that nasty habit I have), let you pull the edges of skin back to relieve that itching need, with a rush of red to the surface, while red cars rush past Main, Maple, Oak, Suburban scar tissue paved in asphalt, lined by lawns.

Whose habit is this? The habit I have? I drive, and I close my eyes, and I might as well be drunk on your accusations, my lips moving to the lip of your ignorance. But my habit never held the bottle. It picked you up instead, drove you around for too long and let you tell me what a nasty habit I had. A drunk is someone who can’t give it up. But this real habit I had, the drive home from your house to my house, Broke on Hawthorne tonight. Shouldn’t I be swerving, now? Doesn’t my vision blur, here? My judgment must have failed me, already, pulling out of the driveway on Park, But I have never driven so straight as this drive home from your house to my house.

Madeline Hall

APRIL 22, 2013





On April 9 th , 1999 Grey Callaway fell in love. It was love in Spanish, rough, cruder when he translated it, and nothing like the Neruda poems. He was fifty-two years old. Grey lives alone in the third story apartment on the corner of Calle Real and Plaza de los Barcos. In ’91 he bought it for the iron grates against the window and the tiles in the foyer. It was romantic, cream and Andalusia red. Once a week he walks out to buy café con leche from the shop below him, then two blocks to the frutería to buy breakfast for the week. The man weighing fruit tells him the same story every time. Did he hear what happened with that bull? Must have been fifty years ago. The greatest corriendo de los toros the man can remember and the meanest bull. Hijo de puta, what a beast! After two hours of chasing boys, the black bull had flung itself off the street and into the glass, charging through Grey’s apartment and goring walls as it fled. Isn’t that great! Maybe it’s good luck. The man winks. Grey shrugs, mumbles, and walks home with his bags. He doesn’t buy it, but his windows are a little smoother than his neighbors.



APRIL 22, 2013

Nine years ago, Grey was a sailor. He had tacked from Bar Harbor to the Cape and all the way to Falkland Islands avoiding mortgages and family reunions. After ten years he’d made enough money to last him through five mid-life crises. He didn’t remember what blew him to Spain. He was delivering the boat for sale, that much he knew, but the sale must have fouled or maybe that’s what he told the seller. He landed in sandy San Fernando. San Fernando where all of the butchers were missing teeth, and the horses died early from the salt marsh hay. San Fernando where the rails were laid down the middle of town two years ago, but no one had ever seen a train. San Fernando where the adventure wilted, where the finest ships were crafted by Grey in mason jars on his kitchen table. Spain was no romance. Today the streets are littered with ‘40s, dead flowers and piss from La Feria de Abril. On the tracks, the children play a game. One by one, they leap across the iron lines. The biggest, a dark boy with a ripped t-shirt, jumps first. Grey watches him from his street window. Deer legs unfold, running, jumping and running again, his younger bother,

AT LDER Knar Bedian

by ret Pendoley

the smaller boy with dirty hair, timing his best goes. Grey adjusts the sails on the sloop inside his jar. How many jumps can he make in two minutes? Grey knows it by heart, even if the children forget. One hundred and eleven. The big boy is fast. There are six in all, the regulars. Grey has counted them every day for the past nine years. There is one girl, green eyes, mousy, so much smaller than the boys. Today she is wearing a red dress. The point of the game is that you might get hit. The ghost trains run every two minutes and if you fall the littlest boy will shout “splat!” and you’ve lost. It’s the girl’s turn. Her spindle legs leap. One. Grey rigs the sail with tweezers. Four. Black curls bouncing. Six. Big boy whistles, “whoo whoooo”. The train’s coming. Thirteen. Grey is painting the stern, gold letters. Twenty. San Fernando is sleeping, laying down for her siesta. Thirty. Grey moves to the window, leans against iron and glass. Fifty. The girl is slowing, feet thumping between puddles of petals and car oil. Grey can see her chest heaving, little collar bones fluttering like white wings and then she is falling, oil smearing, fingers spreading as the railing for those ghost commuters rushes towards

her skull. Her dress spills over the stones of Calle Real like a blossom. The count stops. The girl must have died thirty minutes ago. Grey never stopped counting. Two thousand and thirty eight when one of the boys ran. Ten thousand six hundred and fifty seven when the sirens drove down the tracks. Grey knows cars aren’t supposed to drive down this street on account of the trains. One million and he see the woman. Silk hair, hands like flamenco dancers’ cup the dead girl’s face, dark eyes staring, small back curving, arching towards him. He watches the woman from behind his glass, wrought iron curling around his image of her knees, bent like a prayer in the red puddles between the tracks. When he opens the window he can smell her, lemon trees and dry Andalusian pines. This woman is a poem and he can feel her breath as he climbs the iron, closes his eyes. He can taste her, salt sweat and the fish she ate for lunch. He wants her. His feet are free and she is screaming, screaming for him! He knows it! He will fly with her. Find romance with her! Sail with her! All this beauty and he’s falling in love. She’s pointing, black eyes staring as he falls at her feet. O

APRIL 22, 2013



SWEET TOOTH by Ben Zuckert


My mom still says candy’s bad for you, but I disagree. Candy is the best food of all time. It gives me tons of energy. It tastes good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And there are so many different types so you never get bored. She says it doesn’t have any “vitamins.” That it’s “processed.” My mom kept no candy in the house. None whatsoever. There were only snacks like rice cakes or those edamame things. That’s why when I walked home from school I stocked up at the convenience store. I got 5 candy bars, M & M’s, and jellybeans and put the wrappers in my neighbor’s trash. I tried to eat it all before I got home because I never knew when my mom was there because sometimes she did yoga with Brad who lived down the street. His daughter Liza’s my age and makes fun of me for loving candy so much. But Liza lived with her mom, so I only had to see her at school. “What are you gonna have for lunch today? A chocolate sandwich?” she asked me. 22


APRIL 22, 2013

“I don’t know. Probably” I told her. If my mom was home, she never knew why I had so much energy. I was so good at hiding it. “I don’t understand how you have so much energy. Didn’t you exercise during recess and P.E.?” “Yeah. I’m gonna go run around the house.” I usually ran around my house and then fell asleep. 252 laps was my record. That day I ate 16 candy bars because my grandma gave me $100 for my birthday. When my mom would come home from Brad’s house or saw me from inside she woke me up. “Harry, wake up.” “What?” “You gotta stop falling asleep in the front yard.” “Dinner’s ready?” “No. Go do your math homework.” Math is really easy. All you have to do is make the question about candy. Jane has 10 dollars. She spends half of it today on eggs and a quarter of the remaining amount tomorrow on green beans. How

much money does she have left after she buys the eggs and green beans? I just switch eggs to Snickers and green beans to 3 Musketeers and then the answer is $3.75.


One day the convenience store was closed. I couldn’t believe it. I knocked forever, but no one answered. That was the first time since I was allowed to walk home. I could barely make it back and I only live 4 blocks from school. When I got home, my mom wasn’t there. My whole body was twitching. I had to find candy. Here were my choices: The convenience store on the other side of town. Too far for to walk to. My neighbors. My mom would definitely find out. My house. My mom had already thrown out everything sugary, but I decided to look anyways because I was desperate. First I started in the kitchen. I went through the fridge, all the cabinets, and the pantry. Nothing. Then I searched in

the living room and the TV room. I lifted the cushions and opened every drawer. Still nothing. Then I thought to myself, maybe my mom’s just keeping it for herself. So I went upstairs and opened my parents’ bedroom door. I looked inside and saw my mom’s purse on the bed. She always had it with her. I knew this was a sign. I went into their bedroom and unzipped it slowly. Jackpot. Even though it looked like underwear, I knew it was the real deal. It tasted just like Fruit Roll-Ups, but better. I didn’t understand why it was shaped like that, but I didn’t care–it was candy. I zipped her purse back up and closed the door. I didn’t have the energy to run around the house so I went to go watch TV on the couch. I was still hungry so I got some rice cakes from the kitchen. They don’t taste like cake, but I was starving so I ate 4 bags of them anyway. My mom came home an hour later. “Why aren’t you outside?” “I ran a lot at school today,” I told her. “Good. Finally they’re making you kids be active. Oh, we’re going out to dinner tonight. We have an early reservation because that was the only time they could take us. And Dad’s getting home early because of the 3 day weekend.” This was really bad news. We usually ate dinner really late because of my dad’s job in New York City. I didn’t mind because the candy keeps me full for a while. But I knew I wasn’t gonna be hungry because of the candy and the rice cakes.


We went to my favorite restaurant. They have the best pasta with red sauce in the world. And I’m always allowed dessert. “Harry, how was school?” my dad asked me. “It was good.” “Learn anything?” “Not really.” “How was work?” my mom asked my dad. “Fine.” We stared at our menus. “Harry, do you know what you want?” “I don’t know. I’m not that hungry.” “Not hungry? This is your favorite restaurant,” my mom said.

“Yeah, but I ate when I got home.” “You gotta be kidding me,” my dad said. “You can’t not eat dinner.” “I had a lot of rice cakes and some candy.” “Candy?” my mom asked me. “Did I say candy? I meant carrots. I had a lot of carrots.” I couldn’t stop thinking candy. When I don’t eat enough of it, it’s all I think about. “Where’d you get candy?” my mom said. “Nowhere. In your purse.” “My purse? What do you mean my purse?” I knew I couldn’t get myself out of this one. “Um, I found some in your purse. It wasn’t a candy bar, it was like a Fruit Roll-Up, but shaped like underwear. I ate it. I messed up. I won’t do it again I promise.” “Julia? What is he talking about” my dad asked. My mom cheeks turned as red as a Twizzler. “I have no idea,” my mom said. “Harry, you know there would never be candy in the house.” “And did you say underwear?” my dad asked me. “I don’t know. It looked like underwear, but it tasted just like candy.” My dad stared at me for a long time and then looked at my mom. “Why would that be, Julia?” “I have no idea,” she said. “Harry’s just making this up.” “Harry wouldn’t lie about candy.” “Did someone say candy?” I asked them. “I knew it. I fucking knew it,” my dad said. I had never heard my dad curse. “What did I say about that language in front of Harry?” my mom asked. “Harry’s fine.” my dad said. My fingers were starting to turn into Twix bars. “How did I not see this coming?” my dad asked her. “What are you even talking about?” my mom asked him. My dad slammed his fist on the table. “Oh don’t be coy with me.” “I’m not being coy.”

“Do you want me to spell it out for you?” I’m also an amazing speller. “You’re fucking Brad,” my dad said. “Richard!” my mom yelled at him. Everyone near us turned around. “Nothing to see here, folks. Go back to your overpriced linguini,” my dad said to everyone watching. They all turned back around. “Can we not do this rigwwht now?” my mom asked. “When did it start? Let’s get it all out there.” My legs were starting to fidget. “Can I just order desert?” I asked them. “No!” they said together. They looked back at each other. “I should’ve known,” my dad said. “Why should you have? You only think about you.” my mom told him. “Why Brad? What’s so great about Brad?” “Richard, you’ll never get it.” “I make more money. I have more hair. I have a job.” “He listens. That’s the difference.” “Oh he’s so sensitive right? Just because he became a yoga instructor after he was fired from his consulting firm.” The waiter came over. “Are you guys ready to order?”


Now, I live with Brad and my mom, and my dad lives in New York. Liza comes over on weekends, but they keep some candy in the house. It’s not a bad situation. O

Chelsea Newman

APRIL 22, 2013



Unsaid. Look down with careful eyes. And let me move you Slightly from side to side. Your petals are falling, I said And your smile is failing. Gather up your flaws and tie them With my cold ribbon. Tuck them away for goodness sake, tuck them Away under my Welcome mat. Not so welcoming, you thought, but letting Your hands harden and looking for warmth in mine isn’t welcoming either, God said. I’ve buried my pains under yours and kept you from crush, crush, crushing Under your sweet troubles. The moon once caught us. Caught you. And caught me digging and digging. She whispered into my Neck and turned away. She’s sweet, said her friend. But All you’ve known is this. Dreams undreamt, words

By Jorge monroy palacio



APRIL 22, 2013


APRIL 22, 2013



ple a se recycle

Spring 2013 - Issue 6  

The O takes a break from its regularly scheduled programming for poetry and prose galore in our annual literary issue.