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TULANE REVIEW |review.tulane.edu|

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The Tulane Review spring 2012

EDITOR in CHIEF Abi Pollokoff ART EDITOR Jason Ervin DESIGN EDITOR Gavin Newman POETRY EDITOR Jennifer Kilbourne PROSE EDITOR Micaleah Newman PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS Gabrielle Bethancourt, Jason Ervin,

Jennifer Kilbourne, Ian Zelazny, Daphne Zhang READERS Whitney Braunstein, Lisa Brown, Dean

Burman, ZoÍ Clements, Paige Davis, Madelaine Hock, Heather Pohnan, Laura Stokley, Elizabeth Walker, Lauren Wethers, Ian Zelazny, Daphne Zhang Cover illustration is a detail of Untitled (Guardian) by Kirsten Moran. Full image: page 82. ISSN 2166-5001 ISSN 2166-501X The Tulane Review is a literary and art journal published by the Tulane Literary Society twice a year. Submissions are judged by review boards in an anonymous selection process and final choices are made by the editors. For submission information, consult the submission guidelines on the last page or visit review.tulane.edu. Funding for the Tulane Review comes from the Undergraduate Student Government of Tulane University and the Tulane Literary Society. The works published in the Tulane Review represent the views of the individual artists and are not the expressed views of the Tulane Literary Society, Tulane University, or its Board of Administrators. Copyright Š 2012 by the Tulane Literary Society. The Tulane Literary Society reserves the right to reprint the journal in part or in its entirety for publicity on the web and in print. All other rights revert to the author or artist at the time of publication. The Tulane Review acquires first North American serial rights.


Contents Gallery I | Poetry 9

Mather | Elizabeth Walker

10

On Marrying a Poet | Benjamin Morris

12

Girl Who Sculpts a Lion | Allison Wilkins

13

A COED’S BIRTHDAY | Susan Comninos

14

Home Invasion | Wendy Gist

17

Pain Perdu | Jack Miller

18

The Commonplace | Valentina Cano

19

Bacchanalia | Claire T. Feild

20

CRAZED MAN CHANGES WEATHER | Harold Whit Williams

21

Joe | Brian Satrom

23

HE (2) | Ryan Sanford Smith

24

Trending Right | M.A. Schaffner

25

Nicaragua | Brian Satrom

26

Meditation on Baked Goods | Brady Rhoades

27

Sylvester Stallone Overdrive | Joey Nicoletti

28

Walt Whitman expects so much of me | Corey Dethier

31

Longest Haul | Glenn Stowell

32

December Is a Dirty Glass | Joe Zendarski

34

Trespass | John Popielaski


35

Sunday Evening | Kevin O’Connor

36

STATION M8 | Steven Pelcman

38

Last Room | Richard Dinges, Jr.

39

Excavation to Belief | Jenny Moseley

40

Mankarnika Burning Ghat, Varanasi | George Such

42

PHILOSOPHER AT A FUNERAL | Askold Skalsky

43

BULLFROGS | Dave Seter

44

Escaping the City | Adam Day

45

Shell #2 | Elizabeth Walker

Gallery II | Prose 47

Like Birthday Balloons on Lockers | Liz Clift

55

Forest, Water, Hair | Ian Zelazny

58

The Expert | Richard Neumayer

64

Our Place on O Street | Jeff Wasserboehr

67

Men of Apology | Brandon Bell

Gallery III | Art 76

Cooling Watermelons | Allison Barnes

77

Wild Boar Encounter | Allison Barnes

78

Ode to Mandelbrot | Sarah House

79

Hydro Dynamo | Sarah House

80

Victory Bridge | William Ruller

81

Gloversville | William Ruller

82

Untitled (Guardian) | Kirsten Moran


83

Untitled | Ivan de Monbrison

84

Hello Operator | Molly Strohl

85

The Tooth Fairy | Molly Strohl

86

Environment for Perfect Sleep | Brooklynd Turner

87

Apple Bright | Brooklynd Turner

88

Chu’a | Chelsey Corgan

89

Robbin Crosby | Ray Cavanaugh

90

Figure 21 | Elise M. Wille

91

Figure 15 | Elise M. Wille

92

The Temple of Pure Understanding | Jonathan Dean

93

TOAD LICKING ON SPAGHETTI HILLS | John Haverty

94

One Bad Cat | David DeVaul

95

City Bird, Reykjavik | Keith Moul

96

Shyness... Emerging from the Shadows | Ayesha Sujan

97

Nevermore | Sara Fields

98

Nanteyie | Emma Mattesky

99

The Rainbow Light of Our Deepest Knowing | Jonathan Dean

100

Roadside | Sarah Lustig

101

Obouri Village | Emma Mattesky

102

Rust and Decay | Eleanor Leonne Bennett

103

Haunting in Audubon | Rebecca Shinners

104

Speak to Another or Live in a Lonely World | Eleanor Leonne Bennett

105

Sea | Eleanor Leonne Bennett

106

HAUNTING SHORES | John Haverty

107

STRANGE DAYS | John Haverty


Gallery IV | Interviews 109

Melissa Dickey | Poetry

111

Benjamin Morris | Poetry

116

Andy Stallings | Poetry

120

Zachary Lazar | Fiction


| Poetry |

Mather Elizabeth Walker

dig in this calla lily cradle, she was yours too, you know— freshly fifteen, mouth open to the river, we intersect, sweat naked in the grass.

9


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

On Marrying a Poet Benjamin Morris to E.

What shelters we construct: the words we lay like bricks, the houses built of stanza and rhyme. You knew the rooms ahead you would enter, their work of the tongue and the fingertips, their turn of mind that finds a comma in a breath. Each evening spent at home, a form in which your bodies came to rest—searching for that grace a limb remembers, the lessons a body draws in the night. And so, now, the turn: you twist the plot so that its readers cannot grasp it, cut the pages one by one from the book. For you it was less about the ending than the way it could never be written, each new poem teaching what neither of you knew how to learn: the unloving, the scrubbing half your self from the plate. So bend your ear:

10


| Poetry |

to the wind rustling over the sheet. The music of the empty chair. Place the ring inside the spine where it cannot fall, and from this day, wed not the lover but the love: where it left you, sifting through the debris, where it finds you, arm draped over shadows in your bed, and where it vows to send you once again: past that hollow room into the morning, where you will wake, and break the darkness open like a line.

11


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

Girl Who Sculpts a Lion Allison Wilkins

As child, she played with dragons store their fire, replaced it with florescent tin & a single apple tree for each charred ember. She liked to drag her fingernails through the heat & burn telegraph lines onto her skin. When she was a teenager, she coveted the strut of the scorpion, picked it up by the tail to extract the poison. She planted yellow flowers & learned to read cardiac rhythms. Now, adult, she scultps a lion from Aegean sand, like a chemist trying to calculate the formula for desire. Each day she feeds her lion octupus & chickpeas, waiting for him to break out in hives. But he only grows stronger, harder, more measured in his movements. So she braids her hair, plunges into the sea, discovers a child in an oyster shell. She knows that soon the North Wind will start to blow away all the sand & what will remain is marble. 12


| Poetry |

A COED’S BIRTHDAY marked by her college clock tower Susan Comninos

Nothing happened. But the rain jerked from the sky, then jaywalked toward earth, while dim light stroked the eyelids of excited clouds, clamped with an ardor against the day. Even now, a stomach draws a knot—recalls the daft butterflies, the dense wind that blew a backdrop of gravitas for girly wings (for frappés beat by crazed foundlings: the moths in the updraft). It’s serious foul weather when the dew lifts its anvil upwards to strike whatever’s walking. Upright dongs a bell whose deaf tones ruin the chorus of rain. Rip back a corner on this failed sheet which, note by note, wants to mate with the trees, the damned grass, the shiftless roofs. Nothing sweet starts like this—lover of branches, by posting amorous intentions on the short-waved air— but moss, and the mud. You’ll die in the hooves and hair of animals that move slow and eat up the expanse of the soiled ground. But, for you, wet friend, nothing happened. 13


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

Home Invasion Wendy Gist

We are awake in bed mesquite seeps in powders pillows after 3 a.m. scent of cinnamon cocooned in white satin folds breasts heavy as green papayas on the kitchen counter my hair swims swollen octopus legs beloved’s shoulder tattoo blurs scorpion intense on defense dust devil (i guess) whipped this stranger to the door drawn to it miniature moon on high pole like a white blow torch burning all night came to it down dusty road the stranger rode that hershey-kissed horse a man in blue denim and cowboy hat and long spurs each day slow to stare as if to scare and here in the dark a.m. beasty-man unclothed caked in sand cries “help” outside our front door 14


| Poetry |

i am thirsty tongue painted by sunset’s prickly pear margarita armed beloved by my side dreamt this place sweet country for he and me but there’s a man’s naked feet beside gigantic centipedes on our porch and knocks won’t stop as man-beast brawls unknown visitors who come in a thunder truck then thump thump and down comes door beloved’s shots blaze so it goes and out the gashed hole shreds of duct tape in the dirt touch Mexican hat flowers falling and here lies man-beast on his back on tiled floor like one titanic hairy sea mussel stuck to the ocean floor drained and all he yearns 15


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

and all he needs and all he requires is a drink of water he is unkind i want to refuse but can’t ambulance skids in first and here comes border patrol broncos bucking chihuahuan dust so goes our desert margaritaville

16


| Poetry |

Pain Perdu Jack Miller

not in the fridge you told me when last you went to ground you’ll make it go stale but I’m just so tired of throwing it out warm tears breed mold that kisses and spreads like spider-veins of blue cancer or relief 1. break two mongoose hearts into a dented copper bowl 2. cover both red yolks with cuckoo’s milk beat ’til it cries 3. add cinnamon regret 4. dredge thick slices through this wreckage 5. press them flat on fevered forehead flip them quick when smelling loss then choke down whole with thumbs tied back and both eyes broken 17


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

The Commonplace Valentina Cano

Love you heard, you said. Love scratching with crystal fingernails on that cracked window. Are you sure you were awake? Love like a millipede strolled down the sidewalk, you said, smiling, greeting the loose pebbles. Love with a leash around its thick neck, you told me. Barking gloriously at its neighbors. Are you sure?

18


| Poetry |

Bacchanalia Claire T. Feild

The party gathered evil to its bosom, its members burning down a pecan grove without feeling guilt’s lithe fangs. The owner of the grove, an elderly man with heart problems, had a stroke when he heard about his toby jug loss. He lived, but his body looked like one of his pecan trees, a paralyzed heat having taken both down. The backcountry heathens play cards underneath the doomed army, the insides of their mouths feeling like pincushions when they try to speak, a lavage not in nature’s plan.

19


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

CRAZED MAN CHANGES WEATHER Harold Whit Williams for David Wojahn

Elvis Aaron Presley, born Tupelo, Mississippi January 8th, 1935, once used yogi mind-power To move a single small cirrus cloud backwards Above the death-bleak Nevada desert & for this Was placed in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Just weeks before his untimely explosion Atop a Memphis, Tennessee toilet. & I figure If this poor boy’s deep-fried grey matter Could command such meteorological magic Then what of my own humdrum, caffeine In the morning, scotch whisky in the evening Early to bed, Leave it to Beaver brain? So, on an unusually warm midwinter day With a fast approaching cold front to the north, I stand, arms stretched out & up, in my street, Straining like the old Hound Dog himself, Quietly humming Return to Sender, Teddy Bear, Love Me Tender & Suspicious Minds, When lo & behold, the blue sky freezes Into a full-color photocopy of itself & as I can only wish our God, our King, was still alive To looketh upon me, verily & tremble.

20


| Poetry |

Joe Brian Satrom

I came for the quiet, the conversation. All evening you’ve returned to the story of a man you loved who didn’t love you, or who loved you but couldn’t stop loving others. This archeology, sorting of shards, searching for a whole. It seems late in the year for crickets. There’s an ongoing murmur from the freeway, cars on I-90 headed for Beloit, Rockford, Chicago, you after work counting cards out loud, fifteen two, fifteen four, a pair for six, moving a peg around a cribbage board, me with my cards, fifteen two, fifteen four, the kitchen door open a crack to let out the cigarette smoke, the air cold, the moon just above the horizon, huge, weighed down like a loaded barge, night with its chaos of barking dogs, your voice a thread holding things together, a virus in your blood trying to undo you like fingers working away at a knot. Joe, don’t judge yourself. This afternoon I walked down State Street with shoppers and students, their shadows touching, a man

21


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

with an overcoat, gray beard, and earrings, playing harmonica on a park bench, singing the blues, teenagers on corners in baggy jeans, cigarettes between thumb and forefinger, giving each other bored, knowing looks, a preacher, bible in one hand, pointing with his other, store windows with their oversized photos of fashion models, images of happiness like bright, fluttering kites.

22


| Poetry |

HE (2) Ryan Sanford Smith

He found his little notorious ocean/empire, adrenaline pooled between lungs and half-burnt photographs lining his mouth. Oh blindness, sails, gunmetaled overarching desire to take a crowbar to the canvas and painter and every tall building. He was a tall hotel, all blue dumpsters being emptied and rooms with complimentary people shotgunning people and wide novels and frosty mugs of formaldehyde.

23


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

Trending Right M.A. Schaffner

Cellophane wrapped, my youth in history pungent as a root beer Fizzy eaten with results no worse than Nehi head-aches and scraped knees. Awful times with the Russians, the Chinese scary but not as well-armed. For a time we lacked ethnic bogeymen, but the law was firm. In my day I want to say sometimes but I never had more than an hour now and then that still brings smiles despite the elasticity of memory. Not just drugs but casual decay works upon every synapse and tendon like fool with a following and a marine corps. True patriots all; the supermarkets and highways under construction take them from citizen to consumer and back, I think, on occasion, or I hope so.

24


| Poetry |

Nicaragua Brian Satrom

I don’t remember when the indignation started to seem stale, self-righteous. And the rhetoric. What I do remember of those times is a protest sign with the word tomorrow misspelled—two Ms and only one R. It made me feel silly being part of the crowd. So I went home. But years later that I’d have this sense of loss like an empty banquet hall, a curtain billowing in the breeze of an open window. What of the people brought together? Of knowing something for certain? And you, Pippa. You hoped to go down, help out. There were things to do, literacy campaigns, public health drives, schools that needed building. You wanted to use your hands for more. And have a child. Did you make it to Nicaragua?

25


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

Meditation on Baked Goods Brady Rhoades

The hottest March 10 in Los Feliz history, and you’re focused on a baker’s apron. It’s cool in here, the coins in your pocket are cooling, and biscuits sound good to go with your iced tea, but you don’t move, despite the scut and scat of shoes outside and, at the next table, a gum-chomping, knee-bobbing branch manager of some sort who, on another day, might make you burn around the ears. No, you feel too cool, too good. Seconds ago you were neck-sweaty, blinded by the sidewalk, annoyed each time you passed a news rack, caught the news and, somehow, applied it to your life. But now, focused on the dusted patch of sleet that falls from the baker’s knees to the floor, you’re thinking, in this bustling moment, of biscuits.

26


| Poetry |

Sylvester Stallone Overdrive Joey Nicoletti

was how my father referred to his brother, my Uncle Enzo; he called him that because of his passion for muscle cars and Sly Stallone movies—films, as Enzo once told me, film-zuh, which was no movie I ever saw. Enzo was partial to John Rambo; his jet-black Belvedere GTX; its purple fuzzy dice, hanging from the rearview mirror like square grapes, like the fruit his father, my Nonno Giovanni picked for a living in Italia. He drove John Rambo mostly in the summer, during marinated nights, on streets of dungarees and wide-eyed streetlights. The voices of fire escapes cracked in rusted tenors when he asked his wife, my Aunt Zia, out for their first date. Enzo hurled his popcorn and soda at the cinema screen when Apollo Creed won the split decision over Rocky Balboa. Perhaps above all else, Enzo was indefinitely awestruck; always taken with the slow burn of Aunt Zia’s impossibly long red hair in curly wind; with the moon, burning a hole in his pocket: a token to enter the turnstile of night.

27


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

Walt Whitman expects so much of me Corey Dethier

i. Today, I can only point towards the mountains, that way the forests, the everywhere-backyards. Today, I am a statue, one-legged; sometimes I am a grandfather or the spider who tricked raven into stealing fire. I am everything, but not everything I once wanted, not even as a child sipping tea and eating oranges— ii. You are the people I introduce as friends who run like little children in their fathers’ shirts, unpack clotheslines and remind me of my mother when you intently stare at grass blades, at katydids on grass blades. I am everything, and I have spent eleven years getting to know you; I am a botanist who has spent his lifetime on one leaf, grown-up and childish, reserved for better times— you turned and sung inside yourself like ospreys or sheets untethered. iii. You and I, we are young and not so driven off into the world of the mountains to have roots dug in. I wandered among them (always a boy born hiking) whispered in and out, lost and undermined; I examined the rocks and I was the stone that made them 28


| Poetry |

hard and fast and cold. You though, you never wavered for a second, pulling me back, unplanted

hobbit-like: only you and mountains led your way. And I, I always followed after. iv. When I was young, I moved in forests like the aphids and ladybugs chasing myself over their detritus. I tell of oranges, peels left composting, a child who built his own playgrounds out of willow trees— You keep the tarmac like oceans inside yourself while I built my quilted logs together into arks; cracked sidewalks and the osprey only brought me from the mountains, but Walt Whitman still expects so much of me— I cannot be everything alone. v. You were once my unforgotten lover, my childhood in the way that star-gazing is both remorseful and romantic. You built in me a fire with tumbleweed and dead sagebrush and all the other timber we could find. And I don’t feel like we thanked those dead things enough, or knew how, even if each branch needed to die before we could be warm, bodies that we are or no. You must believe me when I tell you that I love you, as that imaginary grandfather loved his grandchildren in spite of everything he had given up to the world. And well, yes, I did love that jay yesterday, whith his beak like some old Grecian nose— and the way he flew out to the edge of our woods to stare down that nose at the empty feeder; and later, even when the woods were empty 29


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

and there were only some trees. Tomorrow, I will sing together like logjams, bracing my ribcage against a tree, younger than I am now.

30


| Poetry |

Longest Haul Glenn Stowell

I [By Day]

The Burlak sun lugs Bill over the pasture.

II [By Night]

The moon drags its feet through the minefield stars.

31


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

December Is a Dirty Glass Joe Zendarski

Every day of winter a hammer skips a nail and bursts a thumb numb with cold and curses fall amidst red slatters. Elsewhere, a piece of fascia, some gaudy composite, fractures under an 8d nail and two hours pay departs. Wading through icy dumpsters, through mounds of asphalt shingles, sodden rafters, gauzy-eyed, delirious for a prodigal stick of pine or an unbroken brick men wonder why in the name of God they left the jungles of Bolivia, or Ohio. With bones so cold no shower, no coffee, no woman can warm them,

32


| Poetry |

they die with tobacco stained fingers calloused and cracked around hammers.

33


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

Trespass John Popielaski

I try compassion, but the constant wheezing of my wife is sometimes too much and I step out of the house as if I do not plan to enter it again. This is illusion, I’m aware, but it is better than my rendering acceptable a time shift that permits the first beer to go down this early in the morning. I’ve checked my genealogy on websites on the off chance I’m descended from a Polish count or an industrialist whose money is collecting dust and only needs my claim to do some good among the living. I’m aware this is illusion, too. Don’t let me fool you, though. There’s joy out here and lessons I believe can be applied to make life lift me up before I have to go inside the well-appointed coop again. I don’t know why a chickadee can free me of the gloominess or why a deer who doesn’t run can make me feel accepted by the world our settlement crowds out or why this naked man asleep beneath my hedge inspires me to spray him with the garden hose, why, for the moment, I’m as happy as I’ve ever been alone.

34


| Poetry |

Sunday Evening Kevin O’Connor

Of course, the present has its charms—the Christmas lights a neighbor won’t take down and it’s almost February. Why not leave them up?—flashing pink and yellow and green in the sky. A pot of flowers slowly dries on the window-ledge atop a brown paper bag. Last month I hung twenty abstract paintings on the bare walls. Today I bought grainy white detergent and brown dimpled coffee filters. I made coffee twice and had nothing to drink but blasts of heat from the over-eager radiator. Today I don’t want to kill or harm. I am listening to maudlin music, but I have smoked cigars and danced. I know this silence is an evocation, not a taken space. If I were on-screen in a faraway diner, I would know whom I had betrayed. I would recognize him and not lapse into bacchanalia drinking whiskey, traipsing through clouds of damp bark and earthy leaves. I can still see evergreens bending in the night. No aliens are coming to hang plastic bags of red and purple trash in the woods. No paperboys are being attacked by chained canines. The ice age is coming and I am rapt in a squeaky reading chair, knowing I have sinned a thousand times.

35


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

STATION M8 Steven Pelcman

Even from the waiting room where medicinal air filters throughout, the windows buckle at the sounds of helicopter blades sauntering between buildings forcing tree leaves to rain upon the dry cement patio at the hospital entrance. We wait on a three-seated black couch rife with arterial tributaries showing age in their white-scarred lines as nurses scurry by with fixed smiles and pockets bulging of cell phones. Other patients return like unwanted mail delivered to their rooms when we last see her under a thick-white blanket rolled on a bed in and out of hallways shadows towards the elevator 36


| Poetry |

departing like so many departures we have come to know where waiting in line or on planes, as bridesmaids, and “dead men walking� or the unemployed who fear the anticipation and expectations of the unkown.

37


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

Last Room Richard Dinges, Jr.

Door ways droop, lifeless and dim toward you, brief glimpses of a future I avoid peripheral vision, very little sound floats on odors learned early in life and now too close to this end, where I stand in your doorway to see you lying on your bed, eyes closed, curled toward a fetal memory, and I always pause, waiting for you to move, even a slight rise of your chest, before I gather courage to enter your last room.

38


| Poetry |

Excavation to Belief Jenny Moseley

You cannot hide the soil coating your fingernails and undersides. Your feet are rooted, but not nearly as deep as her coffin. “She lived a good life,” you’ll hear them say and it will shake you down until your wrists soften like the silk of her hair. You wonder if you can still see beauty, if she will always be this ghost etched only for a moment as an image within a thought within a whisper. Your wrists soften as you remember shared closets bursting with shared clutter, now grown thick with a dust of lost eyelashes so deep your stomach fills only for a moment. You wonder if you can keep your promise to the clouds that you won’t be bitter, but their shame is bright with the silk of her hair. Even though hearts are denser and distance is louder and life is longer, your roots are not as deep as her coffin. You do not hide the soil coating your fingernails while your wrists soften and shake you down and your “She lived a good life,” comes and goes.

39


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

Manikarnika Burning Ghat,Varanasi George Such

All I can do is watch the bodies burn in the rain. Chanting approaches: Om Shri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram. Another body comes down the street, a thick bamboo stretcher above the shoulders of four men. Monsoon season, what keeps me standing here in the rain? They carry their mother wrapped in red and gold satin down to the bank and lay her in the Ganges, resting her head on the steps. Each cups his hands in the river and pours the water into her mouth five times. There, with other bodies, she rests. Just beyond her, four boats hover, each piled high with wood that looks like body parts. Chanting approaches, another body coming. All I can do is watch the bodies burn in the rain. Below me, the eldest son, head shaved and wearing only a lungi, positions his father savasana on a heap of wood, the corpse limp, head mobile. Straw in his hands, he walks around his father’s body five times, each time touching the straw to his father’s head. He puts the straw under his father and pours liquid butter and sandalwood powder over him. Family members pile wood on top of the body before the son lights the fire. A dozen bodies burn below me, the flames, a jealous god. I’m soaked with sweat 40


| Poetry |

and rain, but I don’t care. I watch the dead change form, see them darken like storm clouds. I watch them slowly disappear, flesh and bones whiffling away, ashes coming down again in the rain. The dead move when they burn. Below me a knee bends backwards, the shin and foot (red, swollen, and blistered) raise upward like a flag, then collapse into the flames. Cows and dogs wander between the pyres, a goat eats some fallen straw, the undertaker, with his long bamboo stick, pokes at each fire to keep them strong. Another body gone. The siblings dip cupped hands into a ceramic bowl of river water and throw it on the ashes, each casting five times onto the remains, fluid that turns the gray ash black with a short hiss, as if the water said: is

is

is

is

is

41


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

PHILOSOPHER AT A FUNERAL Askold Skalsky

After her spiral romp with bad infinities, the open casket shifts her into absolute lack of clarity and missed insights, gone like Nefertiti’s eyeball, lips thrummed with dark roses beside the double-breasted shroud, the unsophisticated absence of breath visible in the chest while mourners trail their fingers across polished oak, letting doubtful premises lead her to unavoidable conclusions, shut doors into which she collapses like an unhooked hinge, squeezing her face into a veil and calling on helpful spritis, whiskey and Valium—paladins of the soul where everything turns mysterious like a blue light bulb. Someone helps her stand, guides her to an anonymous chair, like a confessional, muttering We are what you see— a hand, a skullbone, twining vein, inseparable from unexpected endings, and abashed.

42


| Poetry |

BULLFROGS Dave Seter

Maybe tree roots grew knots in our backs as we slept. Whatever the reason, we both woke up. In the middle of the night, despite the cold, we quit the tent and got drunk first shot on the Milky Way spilling its light. Sleepy staggering, staggered, we stood open-mouthed far away from the city. Back home we tried to obliterate night with fistfuls of light thrown back at the sky. But camping in the dark, our senses heightened, what had woken us was the call of bullfrogs. We followed the sound, towards the pond, the distance between us and enlightenment seeming to close. Each step seemed to float. In that setting, who could care about what was petty and industrial? That moment devastates me still. We knew then and there beauty could not be owned only borrowed, our mouths gaping like those of the bullfrogs but making no sound of our own.

43


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

Escaping the City Adam Day

If on an electrifying autumn morning—the air stiff with cracked leaves— you want to get the hell out of town, go to west Oregon between Toledo and Coos Bay. The beaches are nearly Scottish in their dog gray sand and skies, their beetle- and seacarved cedar drifts. The crows there are sharper than the farmers who are so backward it’s the sheep who seduce them, and feel guilty after. And the children sliding from the wombs of their red and swollen-handed mothers, scream not at the cold shock of first air or the terrible world of light, but at the repugnance of their bodies.

44


| Poetry |

Shell #2 Elizabeth Walker

smoke-stitched, unbraid our sinews quiet— return this corner to the city. I never thought you’d exist in fragments, hardened air, a stolen blueberry.

45


| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

46


| Prose |

Like Birthday Balloons on Lockers Liz Clift

The Halloween I was in eighth grade, Mom passed out condoms. Mom and Dad have never passed out candy like normal people. They passed out things like erasers and pillboxes, journal books and toothpaste. This began when people still believed sugar caused ADHD. Now Dad says passing out non-candies helps stem the childhood obesity epidemic. Mom thought passing out condoms—she bought three economy variety boxes a week before Halloween—would get people talking about birth control. She even passed them out to the little kids. I’m sure their parents were mortified when they inspected their kids’ candy for razors and rat poison. “Don’t you want to pass them out?” she asked the afternoon she brought home the boxes, along with enough toilet paper to supply the entire county for a week and a couple of four-pound bags of dried fruit. I sat at the table, drinking mulled cider and working on a social studies essay about women in the Revolutionary War. “No.” I stared at the sentence I’d just written, willing her to go away. She held up one of the boxes and studied it. “Some of these are flavored. Chocolate and strawberry and banana. And some glow in the dark.” “No.” “You’re getting old for trick-or-treat. Besides, don’t you think it’ll be great to see the faces of the parents who notice what their kids are getting?” “I’m sure it’ll be a riot,” I replied. Mom pouted in the way that said she honestly didn’t understand why I acted like I did, then went out to smoke pot. She probably told me she was going to weed the garden, or something—she had a list of excuses she cycled through. Dad was the same way, as though they didn’t think I could tell when they were stoned. They were hippies. Ex-hippies. Something along those lines, except Dad was a banker and Mom sold engagement rings at the mall. I grew up trying their various diets: raw foods, vegan, macrobiotic. They shopped organic before every grocery store had an organic section. I’m sure they thought the idea of passing out condoms would appeal, maybe because the word embarrasses so many people. Mom and Dad tried for weeks to talk me out of trick-or-treating, pointing out it was a holiday for 47


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kids created by candy companies, that most of the chocolates people passed out were harvested by child slaves, that it’d lost the charms of All-Hallows Eve and the celebration of fall. I countered by talking about bonfires and celebrating, for one night, our monsters, our dreams. As a last resort, they pointed out how bad all those extra calories would be for my figure. I wasn’t vainer about the way I looked than most eighth grade girls. I played softball and joined swim team at the community pool each summer. I dressed in clothes that showed off my curves, at least as much as any girl did when acid-washed jeans were in. I didn’t spend hours inspecting my face for pimples or piling on gunk to make it prettier. Mom provided me no shortage of articles about how make-up was full of cancer-causing things. When Mom and Dad pointed out what extra calories could do (indiscreetly at grocery stores, nudging me and pointing at some corpulent person with a cart full of junk food), they almost had me. I didn’t want to end up fat, with saggy arms. But, by their reasoning, things would only get worse. I told myself I could always up my afterschool run to three miles. It wouldn’t be such a big leap and a couple of my friends ran a lot to burn calories. “Suit yourself,” Mom said. She set one of the boxes of condoms on the table in front of me and glanced at my paper. “You know, during the time of the Revolutionary War, they used animal bladders for condoms.” Mom paused. “But mostly they relied on female contraceptives. You should include that in your paper.” On Halloween, when I left the house dressed as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader—including makeup—a navy-colored pillow case in one hand and a blue and silver pompom in the other, the Christmastime nut bowl we use for Halloween goodies was nearly full; when I came back it was empty, save three lonely little packages. I’m surprised Mom didn’t just give the last trick-or-treaters extra and turn off the porch light. She and Dad liked trickor-treating to be done by eight so they could watch horror flick marathons. I tried not to let myself think about my parents having plans for the extra condoms. It didn’t work. * The next morning, I woke early and went into the living room to practice yoga with Mom. I didn’t usually do that, hadn’t since I started junior high, but I needed to feel centered. We didn’t say a word, until time for me to leave. “Have a good day,” she said, like always, as she handed me lunch. “Remember your pranayama.” “Love you.” At school there were condoms, inflated and tied off, attached to my 48


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locker, like balloons the popular girls put on each others’ lockers for birthdays. I almost turned around and walked back out the door, but couldn’t think of what I’d do for the next six hours. It was a seven mile walk home—across two highways. There was nothing around the junior high where students could hang out if they skipped—just law offices and bail bond places, a strip mall with a bunch of closed shops, a tailor, and Kentucky Fried Chicken and another one with a baby supply store and a mercado. I walked toward my locker, feeling my cheeks heating up. I tried to focus on my breathing. I imagined a teacher or the principal walking by while I stood at my locker—I felt sure some already had. It wouldn’t matter I hadn’t put the condoms on my locker. I could hear the conversation I’d get sucked into, in the principal’s office about the appropriateness of displaying condoms on school property and how abstinence was a better choice than sex at my age. Like my principal wasn’t a teenager in the late 60s. I pulled the condoms off my locker, and it felt like my whole body was burning. It didn’t help that I’ve got fair skin and so whenever I blush even a little everyone can tell. I didn’t have any place better to put the condoms, so I stuffed them in my book bag. “You know, they’re not going to work anymore,” Tom Ramos said from behind me, in his deep sing-songy voice. He always sounded like he was faking a deep voice because he wasn’t even 5’5”, but he wasn’t. “You’re not supposed to keep them after they’ve been tied off,” he continued. “You’re supposed to flush them or something.” Tom died at the end of our senior year of high school. Wrapped his black ’87 Camaro around an oak tree two weeks before graduation. “Aw, leave her alone,” Chris Kepler said. He was Tom’s best friend, a wrestler with gray eyes and a weak chin. “At least we know she’ll be well prepared.” He spoke louder, “If you’re looking for a quickie…” Everyone nearby started to laugh. The bell rang. I knew I’d be late to class, but I waited for the hall to clear—Chris was last to leave. I couldn’t help but notice he glanced back at me once more before he walked into his language arts class. I’d never been late to class before. I knew the teacher would want an explanation. I wished for a hole to open in the ground. I’d step into it willingly. “You okay?” I didn’t need to open my eyes to know it was Quinton Armstrong. We’d been in classes together since 4th grade, when my family moved to town. Usually he acted like a jerk. Mom used to say this meant he liked me. I nodded and opened my eyes. “You’re late to class,” I pointed out. He shrugged. “So are you. You feel like going?” I shook my head. “Don’t let ’em get to you.” He smiled and I wanted to believe him. He 49


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could always make people laugh in class. I wanted him to be a jerk now, or make me laugh. I didn’t know how to handle nice Quinton Armstrong. “Come on,” he said, after a moment, “Let’s go sit on the football field.” “Won’t someone notice?” “You’d be surprised by the things no one notices.” * “What were your parents thinking? And why weren’t you in science this morning?” Roberta asked as she slid into the seat across from me. I shrugged, refusing to answer both questions, and passed her my lunch tote, then dropped a couple of napkins onto the pizza I’d bought with babysitting money and blotted the grease. “Just so you know, the other girls are talking about it. A few are calling you a slut.” “Which girls? Bitchifer and the others?” Bitchifer—Jennifer—Wallace was the leader of a group of snobby girls who wore name brand clothes and dated athletes. We said we hated them. They also called Caitlin Snodgrass a slut. And even though she was my friend, I agreed that sometimes she was a slut. Not that I’d have told her that. “Who else?” I crossed my arms. My pizza didn’t look so good. I watched Roberta dig a carrot stick into black bean hummus and I wished I’d stayed out on the football field with Quinton. We hadn’t talked about much, sat on the bleachers, mostly watching traffic. “Oh come on,” Roberta said. “What do you expect them to say? They need fresh gossip. Caitlin going all the way with that boy she met at camp is old news now.” I knew. Everyone knew Caitlin was easy before that summer. She was the first of us to let a boy stick his tongue in her mouth and in fifth grade, the year my parents passed out pocket protectors and travel shampoo, she’d dressed like a street-walker for Halloween. Like Pretty Woman. Plus, she’d dated nearly half the boys in our grade—though she said she’d only had a few real boyfriends—she said a real boyfriend happened after at least three dates. She talked about how uncomfortable she made boys when she initiated the first kiss or encouraged the boy to lie about where they’d been. I didn’t think all her stories were true. Caitlin was exceptionally pretty, even without make-up. I was jealous because boys asked her out. The summer before eighth grade, I’d gone on a couple of movie dates, group things, with a boy who wore thick glasses and had sweaty palms. In my mind, because Caitlin was asked out by so many of the boys, she could choose the ones that didn’t have sweaty palms or garlic 50


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breath. She said all boys had sweaty palms or garlic breath or worse. I didn’t ask what was worse. I didn’t feel hungry. I picked up my tray. “I’ll see you in geometry.” Roberta stood, ready to follow me. We’d been friends since third grade, but she sometimes just didn’t get when to leave me alone. I shook my head. “I need to study anyway.” We had a test in geometry and I hated math. I had no intention of studying. Instead, I sat in the stacks and meditated, something I’d never have admitted to anyone. It was Mom’s thing. * By the time I got home, I was nearly in tears. If it had just been being called a slut or the way the boys looked at me—and tried to look down my shirt, or even the condoms on my locker, I don’t think it would’ve been so bad. But these things, combined with a geometry test and the school counselor calling me in during social studies (right before I was supposed to talk about my essay on women of the Revolution) to have a “little chat” about the condoms on my locker and my relationship with my parents (Are things going okay at home? Yes. You sure, because you know this is a safe place to talk about anything that’s causing you to act out. I didn’t put the condoms on my locker. Is there a reason someone would have found this funny? You’re kidding, right? Are you normally picked on? Not really.) was way too much. I slammed the door on my way in and tossed my book bag on the floor. Mom stood at the kitchen counter, looking at ring catalogues and writing notes on index cards. Because she had to know all sorts of stats about the rings she sold, she made flash cards about them. “Bad day?” I didn’t answer. “John Keynes said, ‘In the long run, we’re all dead.’” Mom turned the page of the ring catalogue. “John Keynes?” I asked. “An economist.” “Great, well, once I’m dead, I won’t worry about it. Or about economics.” She told me it couldn’t possibly be that bad, and I told her what’d gone on in school, expect the part about skipping class. I didn’t think she’d be okay with that, especially since I’d skipped class with a boy. A couple of times, I could see her force back a smile. “People probably just don’t know how to approach you,” Mom said when I finished. “After all, they teach abstinence. The boys are probably embarrassed and you don’t really like those girls who are calling you a slut anyway, do you? Bitch-any or something?” 51


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I shrugged. “Bitchifer.” The fact I didn’t like those girls was beside the point and the boys certainly didn’t act embarrassed. “Plus your body language is closed off. Look at this,” she said. She crossed her arms and scrunched her forehead. She hunched her shoulders and bit her lip. Mom was always on me about my posture, part of why she wanted me to practice yoga again. “Would you want to approach someone looking like that?” I wouldn’t, but couldn’t let her know. “I hate you,” I said. “Of course you do,” Mom said. “But that’ll pass and in a few weeks you’ll hate me again.” She gave me a big smile. “It’ll be just like that for the next seven or eight years.” Mom sounded like a parenting book a lot of the time. I knew it wasn’t something that would “just pass.” Even though I wouldn’t be the main gossip forever, people weren’t just going to forget either. Mom was clueless about school and my life and the real world. But what can you expect of someone who wore slippers to the grocery store in winter because slippers “keep my feet warmer?” * I locked myself in my room after pushing dinner around my plate, eating just enough so Mom and Dad wouldn’t protest when I asked to be excused. There, I sat on my bed clutching a purple plush monkey Dad won for me at the state fair when I was seven, plotting how skip school until Mom and Dad agreed to transfer me. My first idea was fake-sick, but I was one of those unnaturally healthy types and when I got sick, I got really sick. I couldn’t pull it off. Maybe some kids could just tell their parents why they wanted to skip school (after all, it was the parents’ fault, something a reasonable human being couldn’t fail to see) and those parents would consent. I, however, wasn’t blessed with cool parents. It’s character building, they’d say. Code for: Glad I’m not in your shoes. It kind of sucks. You’re probably just blowing the whole thing out of proportion. Code for: This won’t look so bad when the next worst thing comes along. As an after-thought, Dad would come to me alone and say he’d talk to the principal about the boys if I wanted. Don’t bother, I’d say, knowing he’d call in the morning anyway, and secretly I’d be pleased. By the time I went to bed, I still hadn’t come up with any ideas to prevent Mom and Dad from sending me to school in the morning. I couldn’t just do what my parents suggested and ignore the comments and stares from the boys. I wasn’t that type of girl. I still believed in nice boys. Nice boys. That’s a joke we’re all in on, if we’re older than 15. 52


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* In the morning, I did feel kind of sick—achy and head-swollen. I considered complaining to Mom, but she’d just make peppermint tea and hand me a Vitamin C pill. Instead, I made sure I put a novel in my backpack. Usually I left for the bus stop early enough that I could get in some good gossip with Caitlin and Roberta before the bus came, but that morning I waited until the last possible minute, stirring my congealing oatmeal with my spoon. “You going to sculpt that oatmeal?” Mom asked. I glared at her. “If I did, you’d probably figure out how to display it on the refrigerator and point it out to everyone who came over.” “Don’t be silly. It’s not like anyone would want to see your oatmeal unless it had the Virgin Mary’s face in it.” I ignored her, what I should have done to begin with. “I’ve got to go.” “It is later than usual,” Mom replied with her stellar grasp of the obvious. “Bye, Mom.” I tried hard to make my voice even. My parents would stalk me in the car if I left the house angry. What would happen if we died? they’d ask as they rolled along beside me. How would you feel? “Do you want a ride?” Mom almost never offered to drive. She biked most places. I hesitated, before telling her no. Only losers got dropped off at school, especially in a station wagon. I don’t remember what happened the rest of that year, at least related to condoms. There were other condom comments, but it blew over pretty quickly because Chase McDonald got arrested for arson two weeks after Halloween. What I do remember is this: the next year was the year that ninth grade moved from the junior high to the high school and a middle school formed. On Halloween, someone left five packets of condoms taped to my locker. Chris Kepler pulled them off. We were dating, had been since the end of summer when we’d started bagging groceries together at Winn-Dixie, one of the few jobs we could get at 14. I’d wanted to work because Mom and Dad didn’t want me to—especially Mom. “You’ll have the rest of your life to work,” Mom said. “Use the time to volunteer if you need something to do.” At 14, dating meant talking on the phone until my parents yelled at me to get off the line, and going to the movies, sometimes hanging out in the mall so we could be alone. Chris said he’d find out who put the condoms on my locker. I told him not to bother. The condoms were glow-in-the-dark, ribbed for extra pleasure. We broke up the summer before tenth grade, for no good reason, because that’s what you do when you’re 15, four years to the day before Mom died in a bike-car collision. He was the first person I called 53


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after I learned the news. Chris drove three hours from his parents’ house, to my college, when I told him. You shouldn’t make that drive, he said, I���ll come get you. I was working as a summer tour guide and getting trained as a resident advisor. I protested halfheartedly. When he arrived at my dorm, I was sitting on my bed, clutching the purple plush monkey and staring out the window. Chris wrapped his arms around me. “You packed?” I shook my head and he went to my closet and started pulling clothes off hangers. “You remember the first—the only—time you had me over for dinner when we dated?” he asked as he packed my stuff into a duffel bag. “Your mom made raw lasagna and after dinner, we went on a walk to Bojangles and each ordered a 2-piece dinner, then ate on the elementary school playground.” I nodded. When I got home that evening, Mom told me what a nice boy she thought Chris was. I didn’t tell her I’d let him feel my boobs, after we’d finished eating, while we sat on the merry-go-round and made out, that even though he’d wiped his fingers on the paper napkins in a way that seemed almost dainty, I could feel fried chicken grease under my bra. * After the funeral, after I’d hugged people I’d never seen before who I’d never seen again, after Caitlin and Roberta left with their mothers, Mom’s college roommate came up to me. I’d met the woman once, at Mom’s 40th birthday, had heard Mom’s stories and seen pictures. Pot. Business classes. A sit-in for equal rights for cafeteria workers. Summer of ’69 road trip. The woman, if I remembered correctly, lived on the west coast somewhere. The woman’s hair was red, streaked with grey. “You look just like her,” the woman said as she embraced me. I didn’t think much about it. I’d heard that all my life. I nodded when she told me she was sorry for my loss, because that was what I was supposed to do, because that’s all I’d done all afternoon. I wondered what it was like to lose a friend you’d known for longer than I’d been alive. That night, Dad and I smoked a bowl and drank rye and didn’t talk about our feelings. We listened to The Beatles and The Doors. He set all of her shoes out on the back porch the next morning, and two days later, when the next summer storm came, they filled with ice marbles and rain. Chris drove me back to college the next day. I felt ready to smile at incoming freshmen, ready to forget the image of those lonely shoes.

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Forest, Water, Hair Ian Zelazny

A tree rustled as the wind picked up, branches shaking. Its small white flowers swarmed about like bees. The limbs writhed fluidly like eels, or the dance of fire, struggled fiercely, bent with moans, cracked open at sharp angles showing white inside. Then, suddenly, they were still. Slowly, like someone glancing over their shoulder, the tree turned to me, reared back a bit. It was filled with a strange passion, furious. I gripped my hair. The branches came for me with all the firmness of trees. They sunk themselves into my shuddering chest and came out my back, went through the bus stop wall. My eyes rolled back hard and snapped shut. These days, dosed up on quetiapine antipsychotic and benzodiazepine sedative, I’ve stopped hallucinating. I don’t laugh inexplicably, wander aimlessly in the streets, stare into forests. Back then, Anne came around the corner abruptly. I tried to loosen my limbs from where they were plastered to the bus stop, tried to slouch casual. But she could tell all the same. She kneaded her skinny fingers into my curls and said, “Feel this, right here.” She pressed her forehead up against mine. “Come back.” Slowly, my body began to unwind. Back when we first met she pulled me out with her eyes, that tunneling, monolithic gaze that snapped into an abandoned world—a world I’d thought only my own. We shared what we’d seen. I told her of the rigor in wood, the burning girl, the eye in the sky. And she told me of her faeries, despite that such sharing made the secretive creatures gnaw at her knees. In the textbooks, these delusional states fall somewhere between the daze after a sucker punch and being fast asleep. But I don’t think that’s true. With Anne I was awake. When my great grandfather died, he left our family his house on an island, where we spent what warm months we could. There smell of salt water permeated everything. Anne, a native, always teased me a bit when I said such dreamy things about home. That is, until the year we sold the house. That year, we slouched on a curb corner in early June, the Milky Way splattered above our heads. She turned to me, chiding, “We’ll only have the summer, you know.” I looked at the cobblestones. “Then we’ll break the moments,” I said. “We’ll split them over and over 55


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and we’ll have all the time in the world.” She smiled. The next Wednesday she told me she wanted to show me something. We walked in comfortable silence, padding along the tide where the sand was firm. Our noses were a ripe strawberry tone by the time we got there, to that massive rock. It struck up out of the water, slick with spray, a deep slate color and bigger than a house. Anne stopped, stared long at it. It was hers. She spoke as if to herself, “We spread my father here.” The quiet after she said it was different. Anne began to backpedal then lowered her head with intention—a hunting dog spotting a fox in the snow. Her muscles strained against her bones and she sprung forward, ran a splashing yard through the surf and up the thing, her freckled feet scampering on holds I couldn’t see. At the top, victorious, grinning wide, the light glared off her teeth. Her eyes were wild with sun, feverous. She let her head down and knelt on the rock. Her long hair spread over it in wet swirls. Her shoulders bobbed rhythmically with her breath. Suddenly though, she coiled like a snake and flung her body out over the water. She fell, belly flopping it with a resounding smack. When she didn’t come up I dove in after her, scanning about as the salty water stung my eyes. Her hands gripped me and forced my head down. My feet slipped out over into where they couldn’t touch. She was a wiry girl and I hadn’t taken a full breath. We thrashed and my brain swirled. Little gold specks started blinking in my vision. My heart started pounding desperately. At the time I found the sheer kinetics of the moment magnificent. Every cell in my body was active and each moment filled with a raw intensity—the eroticism of fear. I stopped struggling and remembered the old tales of the beginning of the world, where at first Oouranos came into being—and further back, to where there was undifferentiated continuity—a slick surface of ice on which the mind can’t grasp anything because there’s nothing to grab on to. The thought lasted only a split second, as there were more pressing matters. I was drowning with a hard-on. I struck up and made contact—an elbow in Anne’s mouth. Her hands released. I broke water for a moment, gasping. She reclined in the water, still grinning, some blood on her teeth. I crawled out of the surf and knelt, chuckling water onto the sand. Anne came up behind me and I grabbed her around the throat, threw her to the ground, my hands still clenched around her neck. “What the fuck, Anne?” She tried to speak, but I had her too tight. She winked at me knowingly, knew the shape of my terror, how badly part of me wanted to choke the life out of her... just to have, as I’d put it to her, some comfort, something human, a tenderness with the safety of solitude, a warm thing I wasn’t afraid of. 56


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I had to stop, though, to blank that drive out. I called in my mind to the tree and it was there again in front of me. I sloughed myself off of her onto my back. My eyes rolled ninety degrees up, still open. Every muscle in my body went taut. I felt Anne slip my trunks off my stiff legs, her hands press on my arced-up chest as her supple girl-legs straddled me. She was shivering. She bit my ear. “You scare me,” she whispered. “I like that you scare me.” One day she curled into a ball on the couch. She said that she wanted to die. I said, “If that’s how you feel, let’s go out to the ridge, look it in the face.” She slammed the screen door and we drove across the moors, sand flying off the wheels of my truck. We passed a cranberry bog, its surface thick with bright, ripe flesh. A dog with a purple tongue paddled across it, its nose parting the body of fruit. The cranberries rippled. Anne walked up to the cliff and stared out. Her yellow dress rippled in the wind. I knew I couldn’t stop her. I watched as she stared past her feet at the shit-colored dirt of the ridge, which gave way to pale sand and the sickly olive water under the flat line of horizon. We stood that way, silent for a long time. A seagull picked an oyster from the surf and pushed the wind down, rising, then released it. Anne moved toward the edge. For a moment I thought she might really go. But she just sat, let her ankles dangle over the edge, the soles of her feet in empty space. I sat down beside her. “You know, if you lean forward I’ll try to catch you. I’ll go, too.” “I know,” she said. Light gave away a gap in the clouds, falling in a patch on the water. I remembered that fish tend to stay where it hits, where it’s warmer. We got back in the truck. We put the seats all the way back. We put maps over the windows to keep out the sun and napped. The day I left I cut her hair. Her sunburnt shoulders moved softly with her breath as wet clumps amassed on the green tile floor. When I was done she went outside to rinse her head under the hose. It was raining. The kitchen windows gleamed with water over the cutting board, where there were peaches we’d sliced for dessert. I gathered clumps of her hair and put them in an empty mason jar.

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The Expert Richard Neumayer

“The moment of truth, Rusty,” Wade Embry says, “comes when the matador faces the greatest danger and plunges his sword over the horns and into the bull’s heart.” To demonstrate, he lunges toward me across the deck of the sleek white cruiser with an imaginary sword as a yellow and black-winged butterfly flits past on the breeze. I know Wade fenced in college, but he just doesn’t seem that deadly to me. When I don’t react, he asks my wife if she’s ever read The Sun Also Rises. “In high school, but that was a long time ago,” Paige says. “Not that long,” he tells her. A faint blush highlights her cheeks as she tosses her russet curls, smiles, sits up a little straighter on the gunwale, and I realize the son-of-a-bitch is flirting with my wife! Paige’s new best friend, June, notices and gives him a piercing stare. We’re on the stern beside the gnarled dock in Key Largo waiting for the last three equipment-laden tourists to straggle aboard. Low clouds on the horizon hint at possible rain, but under this blazing tropical sun it seems improbable that anything can ruin such a day. Unless it’s Wade, who’s now leaning on the starboard rail, squinting in the glare coming off the rolling blue-green Gulf, flexing his muscles, the dumbass. Who does he think he is—Ernest Hemingway? He doesn’t seem afraid. But he should be because he lacks the proper training for this. I’m afraid he’ll pose a danger to all of us underwater. He’s talking about Hemingway, I believe, because he’s obsessed with machismo. Also because we’ve been in Key West. I’ve been telling him how I spent the last six weeks getting ready for this trip by studying Boyle’s Law and Archimedes’ Principle and sitting on the bottom of a pool turning the air in my tank off and on. At the dive shop, it wasn’t the mermaid posters promising “wet dreams” and “divers do it deeper” that got my attention, but a faded canvas diving rig like Captain Nemo’s, equipped with black rubber hoses and coarse brown rope, threaded into a huge riveted windowed copper helmet bristling with wing-nuts, joints, hinges, and valves. I’d told him about the shop keeper, 58


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who saw my intrigue with the rig. “I see you’ve met Jacques, one of our elder instructors,” he’d said. I felt Jacques was beckoning me toward underwater adventure. * “Rusty, all this training and risk-taking and passion sounds like someone bent on becoming an aficionado. Are you?” I’d thought about that yesterday while standing on the second floor balcony of Hemingway’s New Orleans-style home, which is surrounded by abundant plantings and a rough brick wall. Hemingway and a pal built the wall back in the Thirties to keep curiosity-seekers away. Ironically, now the place was teeming with tourists like us. Of course, the bigger question was, why were we down here with these people? The answer seemed obvious: otherwise, Paige wouldn’t have come. She had no interest in scuba diving and even less in Hemingway, whom she considered a philandering braggart and bully. She just wanted to go shopping with June. Or savor the purple and white bougainvillea, palms, and Gumbo Limbos. Or walk around the metal-roofed Bahamian-style houses whose porches sometimes had purple planks, pink walls, and sky blue ceilings. We’d moved into the master bedroom, where one of Hemingway’s famed six-toed cats lay curled up on a pillow, and I overheard a tour guide saying the cats now had computer chips implanted to foil would-be thieves. When Wade began sharing his knowledge of that technology, I slipped off to Hemingway’s study over the pool house, where many of his most famous stories and books were said to have been written on his old portable typewriter, which still remains. I imagined him standing at the wide window sills where he might’ve placed the typewriter when terrible back trouble drove him to write standing up. I wanted to touch the keys and feel the magic. I wondered if the old man had ever written any diving stories. At first, I didn’t think so. But then it came to me: ‘After The Storm,’ where Hemingway’s hero made multiple dives trying to get treasure out of a wreck off one of the Keys—breaking every rule in the book, I might add, beginning with diving alone. * Paige and June and I are sitting under a canopy, admiring circling gulls and gliding pelicans, as we begin the seven-mile run out to the reef, where the diving starts and the talking stops. Paige is wearing a yellow sundress with a striped beach towel wrapped around her head. Dark sunglasses perch on her nose and when I slide closer, she smells like Coppertone and squeezed limes. 59


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“You’re a lucky man, Rusty,” Wade murmurs, and smiles at my gorgeous wife. “You’d better believe it, buddy,” she grins back at him. Bastard. The dive boat slowly winds through mangrove-covered shoals and finger channels, where the captain, who stands at the wheel in nothing but his shades and Speedos, says small game fish may be found. “Where’s the best diving you’ve ever seen?” I ask him. “In twenty-six years of diving all over the world,” he says, “I’ve never found any better than right here when conditions are right.” “Did you hear that, Wade?” I say. He strokes his Vandyke. “Unfortunately, conditions today are nothing to write home about,” the captain says. “Visibility is only twenty to thirty feet.” “If that’s bad, what’s good?” I say. “Forty or fifty, so you can see all the way to the bottom.” We emerge from the channel mouth, and the boat rears up and starts slicing through the waves, unspooling foam in our wake. * Back in that famous bar on Duval Street, where there is still Cuban tile work and jalousie doors, I noticed yellowed press clippings and framed photographs of Hemingway up on the wall. In one dusty memento, the thirty-something novelist stood holding a fishing pole. “Hemingway drank gimlets,” I said. “You should drink gimlets in Sloppy Joe’s.” But Wade insisted on ordering a bottle of Beaujolais. He poured it into his glass, swirled and sniffed, and held it up to the light that glittered on the rim and wine trails. “Thicker legs mean higher alcoholic content,” he said, smiling again at Paige. By now, I wanted to strangle him with my bare hands. The more he drank, the more erudite he became about the thin-skinned low-tannin Gamay grape. “Must you go on and on?” June said. “I’m not going on and on.” “Well, whatever it is you’re doing, I wish you’d stop.” June turned to me. “Scuba diving makes me imagine being either terrified or supremely confident, Rusty. Which are you?” “Hell, June, if you’re that impressed, maybe I ought to go diving with him,” Wade said. 60


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I looked at him. “Are you serious? You have to be certified to buy air, even in the Keys.” “A guy down at the docks today told me I could get certified in an hour.” “Don’t be a fool, Wade,” June said. “You could drown.” Wade let out a huge sigh. “Sometimes, a man just outgrows a relationship.” “You mean the same way a woman outgrows a man?” June looked away. “Maybe you’ve had enough.” “I’ll let you know when I’ve had enough, my dear.” * “If Hemingway were a fish,” I say, over the roar of the engine and the surf, “what kind of fish would he be?” “A trout,” Wade says. “Hemingway loved fly fishing.” “A dolphin,” Paige says. “Why a dolphin?” I ask. “Because they’re almost human.” “Well, I say a great sperm whale, for obvious reasons,” June says in her deep southern accent. She’s a nice-looking woman, but modest; her swimsuit conceals more than it reveals. “What about you, Rusty?” I think of Hemingway’s close brushes with death. “Probably a battered marlin with fourteen hooks in his mouth.” “Hemingway, Shmemingway,” June says. “What about Jaws? What about sharks?” “The sharks,” Wade says, “who rip apart Santiago’s big fish in The Old Man and The Sea are considered by some a metaphor for Hemingway’s critics.” After ten minutes of that, the captain cuts the engine. “Molasses Reef. Gear up.” Paige and June are going to snorkel while we’re diving. The captain throws a rope over the stern for them to hang onto. “Y’all are going to have a great time,” I say. “Be careful down there,” Paige says, hugging me. “Why are you rubbing Vaseline over your moustache?” Wade asks. I strap on my weight belt, Buoyancy Compensator, and tank. “Seals the mask.” “Can I have some?” I hand him the little plastic container. “Remember to keep the regulator in your mouth at all times,” the captain’s telling us. “Even if you feel sick underwater, don’t ever take it out or you’ll drown. You can do whatever you need to through it. Even vomit.” When we break up into buddy teams, I’m with Wade. “Stay close down there,” I tell him. “I’ll wait. We’ll go to the bottom together.” 61


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“Stick with Rusty,” June says. “He knows what he’s doing.” “Oh, yes,” he smirks. “Follow the expert.” I lean back and fall in. Others are ahead of me. I wait for Wade but don’t see him until I set off for the bottom, where he joins me on the white sand. The boat’s hull seems far away, with only the anchor line as a reassuring link to the surface. I flutterkick to the reef and hang motionless in the slightly turbid water. In seconds, I’m surrounded by shimmering, iridescent orange and blue fish holding steady against the current until I reach out, and in a blink, they’re gone. We’re supposed to signal the captain every ten minutes so he’ll know we’re okay, and I do so faithfully. But I’ve never seen anything like this before. Tiny sea horses bounce on invisible currents. Blue-green intricately-patterned fish dart through a forest of stag horn, elk, and brain coral. Black striped fish with yellow tails bolt through sea fans and plumes and whips. When my air gets low, I signal Wade that it’s time to go up. Instead, he shakes his head. I try again, more emphatically. He turns and swims away. You’re never supposed to leave a fellow diver, but now I have no choice. I surface. “Where the hell’s your buddy?” the captain snaps. I try to explain what Wade has done. “I don’t care. Get your ass back down there and find him. Don’t come back without him.” I descend once more and search. No Wade. A camouflaged ray explodes out of the sand under me and flaps off. Wade finally locates me, breathing very rapidly—a sure sign of panic—and points to his tank just as his air runs out He wants mine. I could share—or let him drown. After all the shit he’s pulled, I’m tempted to do just that. But you can’t really, not if you’re a normal human being, so after several quick deep breaths, I remove the regulator from my mouth and pass it to him. He grabs it like a drowning man, unleashing torrents of effervescence. But when I signal that it’s my turn for air, he won’t give it back. Knowing the leading cause of drowning is panic, I try to relax. He’s not going anywhere without me; the regulator hose is attached to my tank. But if I try to wrest it away from him, he may drown us both. I’m considering my options when he uses up the last air in the tank. Now there’s only one option left. I grab him, unbuckle his weight belt, and pop his CO2 cartridge. As the belt drops and the B.C. inflates, the sudden change in buoyancy rips the regulator out of his mouth and he shoots upward. I make my own emergency ascent, forcing myself to exhale slowly so 62


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I don’t get the bends, even though it feels like my lungs are empty. There’s always a little air left. The pressure outside my body will lessen as I rise, and the air inside will expand and fill my lungs. I hope Wade remembers to exhale, assuming he’s been taught to during his one-hour crash course. Otherwise death could follow. By the time I cork up fighting for breath, the captain is fishing Wade out. “You son-of-a-bitch!” I scream. “Were you trying to drown me?” Wade doesn’t reply. Maybe he can’t. I climb the stern ladder on my own, tricky with the wind kicking up and the boat rolling. Wade is in the middle of the deck, flopping around like a gaffed tuna. June and Paige, dripping wet, hover over him expressing concern as I sink exhausted against a gunwale. “Wade, Wade, are you all right?” June says. “What’s wrong with him?” Paige says. “What the hell happened down there?” the captain says as he puts the dive boat in gear and hurries back to shore. “A moment of indecision,” I say. But I doubt if he can hear me over the engine noise.

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Our Place on O Street Jeff Wasserboehr

Just over eight months had passed since Jini’s decision to leave Washington D.C. and return to Seoul with our newborn, Lily. Her announcement came on one December morning after I’d sat down at the kitchenette table to wrap my head around the bills that had accrued before us and started devising strategies on how to go about paying them—which ones deserved immediate attention, which could be put off another month, which, if any, required minimum payments only. Jini had her arms wrapped over my chest, her lips pressed to my head when she delivered the news. She held me in that way for a while and, behind us, the kettle boiled over onto the stovetop. The kitchen was frigid. We couldn’t afford oil that winter and the only space heater was in our bedroom, on high, keeping our infant daughter warm. Our financial situation had been gradually trending downward for a while, but, with the lack of work for cameraman contractors in the winter months, it had taken a significant plunge. After an apartment shift to Southeast D.C., Jini and I found ourselves submerged in a genuine fiscal crisis. Not a divorce, a separation. “We’ll be gone in three weeks,” Jini’d said. Back then our apartment had only two rooms: a living room slash kitchenette and a bedroom. Lily slept in her crib at the foot of our bed. Unlike where we’d lived before, the Capitol Building wasn’t within walking distance. There was no view of the Mall. You couldn’t even sense, from our brick building on O Street, that people were milling about merrily some three miles northwest. We were on the second floor of a three-story affair, crammed into a single building with at least seven other families. The unsmiling neighbors were mostly non-English speakers, families in which entire sets of relatives lived in with the tenants. Every one of them made Jini nervous. At night, I worried over the safety of my car out on the street. I wondered if I’d wake up and find the thing hoisted onto cinder blocks, the tires extracted, the windows smashed in and the stereo carved out. On the odd day when I got contracted for a corporate videotaping at my minimum going rate, I’d leave the house worrying incessantly about the safety of my wife and our daughter. 64


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Our place on O Street had horrifying acoustics: post-midnight, a loud drunk coming home sounded like a bowling ball dragging up a flight of stairs, and, at all times, other unsettling noises passed through the sheathing— noises like that of our male neighbor pissing. A taurine force from a fire hose. Around the clock, ambulances sped westward up M Street toward the capitol. In the confusion of the night I sometimes mixed up the wails of the emergency vehicles with the crying of my daughter and I’d untangle myself from the sheets and move quickly to the end of our bed to check on her. On those nights, I’d pull her out of the crib and cradle her teeny body against my chest. She was the size of a football then and I squeezed her and kissed her helplessly. I’d stand there, rocking and watching her breathe until I grew tired enough to fall back asleep. Then I’d crawl back into bed, this time sleeping upright with my back against the wall, my arms folded across my chest like a night watchman. But I never slept long. Something would always wake me. It was never, as it had been in the other places where we had lived, the quiet wee hours of night. People were always passing below our window, hooting gibberish. Cars thumped by with their basses pumping at absurd levels. Outside, our neighborhood never took on a full darkness. Yellow streetlamps glowed, inviting, like mosquitoes, swarms of thick-jacketed men to convene underneath them. Down the street a couple blocks the lit 7-11 storefront served as an excellent locale for drug deals. Here, the late-night world of unseen crime thrived. Working girls patrolled the even-brighter streets nearby. The first time we heard gunshots go off in our building, Jini and I leapt out of our bed and ran to our daughter. Always to her. I was first to grab Lily. Jini peed herself. Stunned, we moved together into our bathroom where we regrouped—me on the toilet and Jini on the tub floor with our daughter. It took fifteen long minutes before we heard the first sirens. That night, huddled as we were in the bathroom, I thought of the things we’d gather in a total state of emergency—one in which we suddenly had to flee somewhere—and the list I assembled wasn’t long. In a pinch, I reasoned that these things could be packed into a duffle: passports, the under ninety-dollar “rainy day fund,” a week’s worth of diapers, the laptop, the Sony XDCAM (something I could sell if need be), a week’s worth of Gerber’s vegetable and turkey baby food, and a box tab folder filled with our family’s essential papers. Sitting there, thinking about it some more, I learned that if such a situation did present itself, most of these things were expendable. I realized that I was expendable, too, when I mused even further. Not long after the night the shots had been fired, I started having a reoccurring dream. In the dream I was riding on The Screwdriver, a famous rollercoaster from my childhood, a rollercoaster, well known, of course, for its screw-like spirals. Except, in 65


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the dream, I wasn’t a kid riding my favorite rollercoaster, I was me, in full father form, and the seats were not secured by the hydraulic safety restraints as they are presently—no—in the dream, the seats had regular old bucklestyle seatbelts, the kind installed in common automobiles. But everything was going as usual until the rollercoaster made its infamous 360-degree whiparound and flung us into the corkscrew segment. There, upside-down and in the midst of the breakneck tumbles, I managed to peel my eyes down to my white and bloodless hands gripping the seatbelt and—just then—I watched my index finger poise over the red push-release button. I knew, that with any sudden urge, I could press the thing and go flying to an uncertain death somewhere over the trees. In bolder dreaming states, I’d press the release and then feel all of my weight become lighter, my limbs become flightless flesh pieces succumbing to gravity’s tug. Then I’d jolt awake, sweating, my arms swimming, looking for a surface to brace onto. When later I told Jini about the dream, as any troubled and decent man would confess to his wife, she was facing the bathroom mirror, straightening her hair with an iron. In the ten years I’d known her, she had always kept her black hair long and very straight. “Life’s that hard?” she asked, passing through our bedroom on her way to the kitchen. “Don’t tell me these things.”

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Men of Apology Brandon Bell

A double spit is rare, but it happens. Especially at Strike Zone, where the returns often hold onto a ball until the next one arrives, spitting out both balls in a quick one-two. Nights when pins seem stuck to the lane, a double spit provides nice comic relief: your tardy ball pops out of the return, followed immediately by the next guy’s. Both of you say, “Double spit.” I had never seen Stu before the spring league of 2004. The league managers placed him on our team—Team Blue—in the 150-and-Up League. Night of the first match, his practice roll caused a paltry five-pin spill that I hoped was the result of jitters. He grabbed his ball as soon as it came out of the return. I knew the double spit was coming and lunged to save Stu’s hand before it was crushed by the second ball. I weigh two-twenty and my bones are rattled to chalk from driving a bulldozer for eighteen years. The double spit mangled Stu’s hand, which blackened in minutes. All of Team Blue—me, Cal, Kevin and Ed, the alternate—begged Stu for forgiveness. “I’m so sorry,” we said. “We should’ve warned you.” “I’m just cursed,” Stu said, his hand submerged in a cup of ice. He was in pain, but demanded to stay in the rotation. Ed was sorry he wouldn’t get to roll, but he was impressed by Stu’s determination. He cheered for Stu, hoping the newbie would gimp into a miracle, crack two hundred, maybe even roll a perfect game. Stu fought through the pain. Each time he winced, we said, “I’m sorry.” “Thanks, fellahs,” Stu replied. The miracle never came. Stu was lucky to graze the endpins. His score of seventy-nine dropped our average to one-nineteen. We hobbled into the season with a loss. * I joined a bowling league for one reason: I liked bowling. I did not care for camaraderie. I did not want a support group. I never mentioned the hard time I was having with Denise. A year ago, she was promoted to 67


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Chief Engineer at Civil Paving. Her income now doubled mine (and when I was laid off, she was the sole breadwinner in our house). She worked long hours—maybe too long. She came home smelling like bourbon and started taking phone calls in the basement. Sometimes I answered the phone and heard silence and then a click. Signs pointed to something on the side. I mention this now so I can say that I did not mention it to the boys at Strike Zone. I bowled because I liked bowling. Then there was Stu. The second night of league, he complained about a garbage truck that had grazed his house. “It raked off the siding and shucked the gutter off the roof,” he said. “When was this?” Cal said. “Last night. When the truck hit, I was digging in the freezer for an ice pack for this,” Stu said, holding up his bruised hand. “I’m so sorry,” we said. Since he couldn’t bend the middle finger, he rolled his ball with his index and ring fingers in the holes. He left pins standing every frame. “I’m better than this,” he said. “We know,” we said. “I feel like I’m letting you guys down.” “No way. Sorry if we made it seem that way.” I remained cordial to Stu, but the second loss made me worry that our team was on pace for a losing season. Only the top eight teams qualified for the round robin tournament. In fourteen years of league play, I had never missed a post-season. I arrived fifteen minutes early to the next match, hoping to voice my concerns to Cal and the guys. Let’s give Ed a crack at it, I planned to say. Denise was working late, again, so I had to bring Sissy and Devin with me to the alley. After I left them in the game room with ten bucks, I went to the lanes. Stu was crumpled on a plastic chair, surrounded by guys with hangdog faces. “His mom fell,” Cal told me. “Broke one of her hips.” Dave, alternate for Team Purple, rubbed Stu’s shoulders. “I’m so sorry,” Dave said. Stu shook his head. “I told Mom to not walk all that way to the Dairy Mart. But did she listen? No. Now I got to pay her medical bills on account of the legal gambling.” I gave Dave a confused look. “His momma’s addicted to scratch-offs,” Dave said. “They’re fun, but damn if they ain’t addicting.” Cal patted Stu on the back. Dave kept rubbing Stu’s shoulders. I knelt at 68


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Stu’s feet. I didn’t know what to do with my hands, so I touched his rented shoe. “We understand if you need to sit this one out,” I said. “Thanks, but no. I need to play,” Stu said. “That’s brave of you,” Dave said. “You gotta do what you gotta,” Stu said. “I’m so sorry,” everyone said. * Minutes before the start of match four, the Strike Zone manager came over to say that Stu was going to be late. “He popped a tire,” the manager said. “He said for you to wait.” “I got a final in the morning,” said Bill, captain of Team Green. “Final?” Kevin said. “Getting my MBA.” “Well that ought to be marketable,” Ed said. “It won’t be nothing if I don’t study,” Bill said. Cal slouched against the scorer’s table and unbuttoned the wrist of his glove. “We’re waiting for Stu,” he said. “Why can’t Ed take his place?” I asked. “Because,” Cal said. “Yeah,” Ed seconded. “It’s fucking Stu.” * By match seven, I felt like I was part of a support group. Cal, Kevin and Ed focused so much on consoling Stu that I had to remind them to roll their goddamn balls. I tuned out the therapy sessions by listening to an iPod that I had stolen from Denise. The iPod had just appeared one day on the dresser. It was filled with sappy soul songs that Denise had never mentioned, sang in the shower or hummed. A gift from her mystery lover. When it was my turn to roll, I rolled. Every three minutes I clicked back to the beginning of “Unchained Melody,” the only song worth a damn on the iPod. After we lost, I grunted goodbye to the team and stalked out of the alley. Stu had beaten me outside. Jaundiced by the neon lights, he plagued the sidewalk, cigarette in his mouth and phone to his ear. “Hey hey hey,” Stu said, wagging a finger for me to hold on a minute. I mouthed that I had to go, but Stu blocked my path while talking on the 69


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phone: “Okay Mom. Mom. I have to go. Mom. Okay, bye.” Stu hung up and pretended to break the phone in half. “That was Mom,” he said. “Got that.” “She’s great,” he deadpanned, miming agony. He took a drag and then dropped the cigarette. “It’s great being able to vent to you guys. With Mom being psycho and then the doctor sending me in for these tests. I told you about the tests?” I nodded, though I didn’t register the applicable memory. “Mitch, buddy,” he said. “You don’t seem like yourself.” “I’m fine.” “Just fine? Why so short?” “I’m holding an eighteen-pound ball. And I gotta get to home.” “Home? Yeck. Don’t get me started.” But he did get started. He lived alone and his annoying sisters stopped by unannounced. (“Every. Single. Night.”) He mowed the lawn of his elderly neighbor and sometimes got stuck helping her bathe. (“Wrinkly tits’ll keep me single forever.”) He claimed to have created three games on The Price Is Right. “You what?” I asked. “Yep, I conceptualized three The Price Is Right games,” Stu said. “That game where the leprechaun yodels up the mountain? That was me.” Driving home, I squeezed the steering wheel like I was choking it. Think about Stu, tighten grip. I bet Stu’s mom never even broke her hip. And yelping every time the ball rolled off his spindly fingers? And what kind of asshole lays claim to the yodeler game on The Price is Right? I passed Pauline’s, a strip club that was my second home during my bachelor days. For the past decade, I had passed the club on my drive home and never felt its pull. Tonight I fixed on its red awning in the rearview. Then I u-turned hard, wheels squealing, and doubled back for a drink. Pauline’s was packed. I sat on a stool, I saw breasts, I watched strangers get lap dances, I felt old among so many naked children. I ordered a Coors Light on a Thursday night. The first of a few. * I didn’t tell the team that Denise had asked me to move out. I didn’t mention that I was living in a motel and numbed my brain with sitcoms while my wife spent primetime in her boss’s bed. A middle school babysitter spent more time with my children than I did. I began tolerating the slow Boys II Men songs on the iPod. 70


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I missed my children. My one-twenty average—a personal worst for league play—led our team in scoring. Cal seemed indifferent about his embarrassing one-o-five average. Kevin started dropping his ball on the lane like a man leaving trash at the curb. Ed stopped bringing his ball to matches and spent most nights in the snack bar. Then there was Stu. He arrived early to every match, ready to drag down the team with gutter ball scores and sad sack stories. I decided to arrive early to the next match and sucker punch Stu in the parking lot. I planned to ambush Stu as he entered the alley. I envisioned my fist pocked by teeth. Strike Zone didn’t open for another ten minutes, but the door was wedged open by a brick. I looked inside. The dim lane lights backlit Stu’s pudgy outline. He sat facing the door, holding his face. I unclenched my fists. “How did you get in here?” I asked. Stu draped back in the chair. “It’s cancer,” he said. “What is?” “That test I told you about. I got tumors in my lungs like baby fists.” “Shit on me,” I said. “They can treat it.” “It’s eating me up, they said.” Stu detailed menial horrors known only by someone facing death. (“I’m too broke to even bury myself.”) I didn’t know what to say, so I kept it simple. “I’m sorry,” I said. When Kevin arrived, I snuck outside. It had started to rain. I was ashamed of the assault I had planned. I drove to Pauline’s, unsure if it would be open on a Saturday morning, but it was. Musty music seeped through the tinted door. I got soaked as I hustled into the club. The empty lobby pulsed red like a tunnel to hell. I passed through the curtain into the bar/stripper room. On the stage, a paperclip-like dancer bent herself to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” as a golfer stuffed dollars into her thong. Sack-like figures were scattered at tables, their collars tugged by half-naked solicitors. A large woman wearing a silk robe barreled into me, arms wide. She enveloped me and pressed her waxy lips against mine. This did not happen during my last visit. “Why’re you so wet?” she said. “It’s raining,” I said, trying to iron out my face. “Buy me a drink,” she said. “Why don’t you buy me one?” “That ain’t how it works.” “How what works?” 71


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She put her hands on my butt. I doubted she was obeying the law. She explained: “A lap dance costs fifteen. For twenty you get two-for-one and I’ll do you a private dance. For fifty you get whole bottle of champagne and—” She slid her hand across my crotch. I parted her arms, more reflex than response. “I’m just here for a drink,” I said and sought the bar for refuge. When I leaned against it, the woman grabbed two fists of my ass. “Buy me just one drink,” she said. “Can’t.” “Well at least tip me for talking to you.” “Maybe later,” I said. As the woman sulked away, she christened me a cheap-ass bastard. I sat on a stool and kept an eye on the bartender’s cleavage. Suddenly a blonde was straddling my lap. It was the paperclip who had just been onstage. “Hey sugar,” she said, glittering mouth inches from my face. “I’m broke.” “Well hell. That ain’t no hello. Why’re you so wet?” Her blonde hair shagged against my cheeks. I regretted admitting I was broke. She wouldn’t stay long. “I’m Mitch,” I said. “Who are you?” “I’m Sammy.” I noticed a curtain to the left of the bar. “What’s back there?” “That’s where the fun happens. Unless you’re broke.” “I wish I wasn’t.” I fished a mess of soggy singles from my pocket. Even if I’d had money, I did not have the nerve to pay to go where the fun happens. Did “fun” mean sex? No attachment, no emotions, just sex? I needed something, maybe that, but I still hoped to patch things up with Denise. I left the club feeling horny and foolish. * Stu became a permanent fixture at Strike Zone, surrounded by wellwishers and shoulders to cry on. The success of his chemo regiment gave hope to everyone in the alley. He seemed to relish detailing each treatment to me. “But you haven’t lost any hair,” I said. “They say it happens,” Stu said. “I’m not complaining. But to think I almost asked my teamies—you and Cal and the boys—to shave your heads in solidarity.” Stu’s two months to live stretched to six. I wondered why he sought comfort at Strike Zone. Where was his family? Where were the sisters he complained about? Or the old woman he bathed? Why didn’t they console him? 72


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I avoided Pauline’s, drank bourbon alone in my crappy new apartment, ignored the calls from Denise and her lawyer. She wanted to finalize the divorce, sooner rather than later. I wadded up the divorce papers and chucked them in the trash. Screw your timeframe, I thought. And screw Stu. The man should have been bald by now. He had a full head of hair and claimed the chemo had the cancer on the run. Bunk. I knew he was lying about having cancer, just like he didn’t create the yodeler game. He spooned up cancer lies and everyone at Strike Zone opened wide and swallowed. But not me. Not even after Stu lost fifty pounds. Skin hung from him like a tunic. Part of the act, I knew. He was starving himself. Then his body shut down. He had to be hospitalized. “It ain’t pretty,” Cal said. We had met to practice for the winter league. Cal leaned against his truck and rubbed his hands together for heat. The Strike Zone sign buzzed against the white sky. “They got him alive but ain’t ventilating him.” “Makes you wonder what’s the point of all this,” Kevin said. “I’d trade places with Stu,” Ed said. “Ed now, hey.” “I’m sorry, man,” Ed said, trying not to cry. “Don’t be. We’re all sorry. Ain’t that right, Mitch. Mitch?” I got in my truck and drove to Pauline’s. It started to sleet, and I wondered if something about Pauline’s caused rain. Tuesdays must have been a slow night, as the club was mostly empty. A gaggle of dancers slumped at a table and bitched about money. The bar was cold, but the barely-clad women didn’t seem to notice. The paperclip sat with them, head in her hands. I sat at the bar and motioned her over. “What the hell am I doing,” I muttered to myself. “Evening,” she said. “You remember me?” “Should I?” She sat in my lap. “Why are you wet?” “How much is a bottle?” “More than the two bucks you probably got, wet man.” “I have money,” I said. Then I realized I didn’t. “I’ll go to an ATM.” “ATM’s right there,” she said, nodding at the small machine beside the exit. “I’m not using that one. I’ll use one at a bank.” Her mood turned cautiously hopeful. “It’s fifty for the bottle and a fifty tip for me.” “What’s the tip get me?” “Plenty.” 73


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I leaned in close to her mouth. I wanted to flirt. “I want more than plenty.” “I will fuck you,” she said. I was speechless. “It’s seriously been so bad a night. You get the money right now and I will for real fuck you.” “Okay,” I said. “For real?” When I rose to my feet, she latched onto my arm and rode shotgun to the exit. “You’re for real,” she said, running alongside me. “Thank you. I really need this. Mitch? God, I need this.” Her desperation scared me. I tried to imagine that she needed money to take care of children or a sick mother. Drugs, I thought. It has to be drugs. I sprinted out of her reach and into the rain, ignoring the shrill curses yelled by Sammy. In my truck I sped down the strip, ran stoplights, and cursed myself all the way to Strike Zone. I needed to bowl. It was Tuesday, a slow night at Pauline’s, Strike Zone, everywhere. I planned to knock down the pre-standing pins in every unused lane. I did not change into my bowling shoes. I grabbed a community ball, passed Ted and Cal, who were rolling in lane two, and lined my shoulders for a roll on lane three. I stepped forward, swung back the ball, heard the squeak of my wet shoes, and slipped backward. My fingers hung in the ball as I slammed onto the wooden floor. Bowlers stopped mid-roll. Pins crashed from balls already rolled. I heard the conk of a double-spit. The room erupted with laughter. I hated them all, closed my eyes, wished I could disappear. Then came the helpers. They held back laughter, smiled in support, told me sorry. All of the sudden I wanted to let it all out: I hate myself for going to Pauline’s. I feel like a fool for being cuckolded by Denise. A man tells me he’s fighting cancer and I do not believe him. I didn’t deserve it, but I needed someone to talk to. Maybe one of the people helping me to my feet.

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Cooling Watermelons | Allison Barnes

Toned gelatin silver contact print | 8� x 10� | 2011

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Wild Boar Encounter | Allison Barnes

Toned gelatin silver print | 16� x 20� | 2011

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Ode to Mandelbrot | Sarah House Porcelain and glaze | 2011

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Hydro Dynamo | Sarah House

Stoneware and beeswax | 2012

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Victory Bridge | William Ruller

Mixed media on paper | 32” x 42” | 2012

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Gloversville | William Ruller Mixed media on paper | 32� x 42� | 2012

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Untitled (Guardian) | Kirsten Moran Oil on canvas | 30� x 30�

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Untitled | Ivan de Monbrison Ink and acrylic on paper | 15.7� x 9.5� | Paris, 2012

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Hello Operator | Molly Strohl Photograph

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The Tooth Fairy | Molly Strohl Photograph

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Environment for Perfect Sleep | Brooklynd Turner Installation

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Apple Bright | Brooklynd Turner Pen on paper | 17” x 20”

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Chu’a | Chelsey Corgan Photograph

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Robbin Crosby | Ray Cavanaugh Illustration

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Figure 21 | Elise M. Wille

Platinum/palladium on Thai Kozo paper | 16� x 20� | Fall 2011

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Figure 15 | Elise M. Wille Platinum/palladium on Thai Kozo paper | 8� x 10� | Fall 2011

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The Temple of Pure Understanding | Jonathan Dean Transmuteo

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Ballpoint pen on paper | 24” x 35” | 2009

TOAD LICKING ON SPAGHETTI HILLS | John Haverty

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One Bad Cat | David DeVaul Mixed media | 8” x 10”

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City Bird, Reykjavik | Keith Moul Photograph

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Shyness... Emerging from the Shadows | Ayesha Sujan Photograph

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Nevermore | Sara Fields Archival inkjet print | 6” x 9” or 8” x 12”

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Nanteyie | Emma Mattesky Digital photograph

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The Rainbow Light of Our Deepest Knowing | Jonathan Dean Transmuteo

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Roadside | Sarah Lustig Photograph

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Obouri Village | Emma Mattesky

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Rust and Decay | Eleanor Leonne Bennett Photograph

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Haunting in Audubon | Rebecca Shinners Film photograph

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Speak to Another or Live in a Lonely World | Eleanor Leonne Bennett Photograph

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Sea | Eleanor Leonne Bennett Photograph

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HAUNTING SHORES | John Haverty Ballpoint pen on paper | 72” x 147” | 2011

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STRANGE DAYS | John Haverty Ballpoint pen on paper | 60” x 120” | 2010

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| Interviews |

Interview with Melissa Dickey Melissa Dickey is a poet, professor, and mother of two. She teaches at Tulane University in New Orleans, where she was born and raised. Her first book, The Lily Will, was published by Rescue Press last year.

Tulane Review: Where do you find yourself situated in terms of the contemporary poetry sphere right now? Comfortably mixed in with other poets? Leaning towards one specific trend versus another? Melissa Dickey: I’m definitely inspired by contemporary poetry, and though I don’t usually think about influence while I’m writing, I see it later. For example, Julie Carr’s recent books helped me find a form for the poems I’m writing now. In terms of where I fit in with it all, I try not to situate myself anywhere really, because that would feel so limiting. I think I’m in between, neither here nor there: I don’t feel like I’m doing anything revolutionary or avant-garde, but I also feel different in some aspects than the current trends. My work has always been very personal. TR: Has publishing a book changed your perspective on writing? MD: Publishing a book has changed my perspective on writing, but not in the way that one might expect. I don’t feel more confident or better or pleased with my work exactly. On the other hand, it’s such a relief not to have that manuscript hanging around, not to have to worry over those poems anymore, some of which are very old and most of which I’d never write again—not that I think they’re terrible, just that I’m a different person and a different writer. Also, now that it’s out there, I feel I can relax a little bit—that dream is done, accomplished. TR: Do you think that teaching classes has altered your perspective on poetry or your style of writing? MD: One reason I love teaching is that it forces me to reconsider my perspective on poetry every single semester, and I’m often surprised at how it changes. Sometimes I teach from a super-contemporary anthology, only to 109


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find out that what I really love is the poetry I grew up with, the 20th century classics like Bishop and Roethke and Berryman. So the next semester I’ll choose a more traditional, conservative anthology and end up supplementing it heavily with contemporary, experimental work that feels important to me in making poetry accessible, alive, and fun. The other answer is that every semester I have a handful of students who continue to not “get” poetry and it seems like there’s nothing I can do about it, and that always makes me a little sad. I feel like I have to be this champion of what I love, this cheerleader, when that’s really not my style. I prefer to leave people alone. In regards to how teaching has changed my style of writing, I most certainly worry, during the busiest times of the semester, that reading so much student work will influence my writing in a negative way. It’s a vain fear. So far it doesn’t seem to be well-founded. I keep telling myself that one semester I’ll do all my own homework, complete all the exercises I assign. That would be great. TR: When do you find yourself inspired/able to sit down and write? MD: Oh, I can’t wait for inspiration anymore! I learned that a long time ago. In graduate school I used to force myself to turn in a poem every week, though I didn’t have to. One summer, a couple of years ago, I held myself to that standard again. I still believe it’s a good practice. Unfortunately, at the moment writing happens mostly during breaks from school. I’d like to be more disciplined, but I’ve got many obligations in my life right now that I can’t get out of—such as caring for the needs of small children! TR: If you could share some writing/publishing advice that you didn’t know ten years ago, what would it be? MD: Advice to my 20 year old self: Write more, drink less. Stop hanging out with your lame friends from high school, get over your shyness, and go out and meet some poets.

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Interview with Benjamin Morris Benjamin Morris, a native of Mississippi, is the author of numerous works of poetry and fiction, and has received such awards as a fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission and a residency from A Studio in the Woods. He lives in New Orleans.

Tulane Review: What do you think about the New Orleans literary community and how it fits in with the rest of contemporary literature? Benjamin Morris: In a word, intimate. The New Orleans literary community is one of the most knowledgeable and supportive communities in which I’ve ever worked. Everyone knows everyone (a truth characteristic of New Orleans in general, but never more true here), everyone praises and encourages each other’s efforts, the profusion of venues and styles and genres all across the city ensures that no one here will ever feel aesthetically lonely, and the citywide desire for talent and innovation is as true with poets and writers as it is with all our other forms of artists. Part of this, it must be said, stems from It—we lived through It together, we came back from It together, and we read or write (or don’t) about It together even now. It may be over in one sense, but we’ll keep telling Its stories until we can’t hold a pen any longer—It is a part of us, and we a part of It, and that sense of bonding has created some truly wonderful and beautiful relationships. As Brad Richard noted in an essay for the New Orleans Review last year, and John Biguenet again for Poets and Writers online, we’re as resilient as we’ve ever been—if not moreso. In one sense, I think we in New Orleans fit in on one level simply because we’re still here – because we survived, and have thrived, and continue to make new work, we won’t ever need to seek any kind of outside cultural credibility ever again. Rather, we’re now in the position to where we’re exporting that work to other places, we’ve reestablished our cultural legitimacy in such a way—namely, the hard way—that national and international audiences are even more intrigued to see and hear what’s coming out of the city. (Now what kind of stories are they going to tell?, they ask) More importantly, we’re able to view ourselves in a new light, and recognize that our work is up to those national and international standards—this is why, over the course of the coming year, a small group of poets and writers here in town are working to establish a New Orleans chapter of PEN—to bring even more exposure 111


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and awareness to the issues and facing not just writers in New Orleans but across the South. New Orleans is a thrilling place to work, as attuned to new ideas and experimentation—what the essayist C.W. Cannon calls ‘cultural miscegenation’—as ever. It’s my belief that our experience over the past seven years reaffirms that. TR: How did your residency at A Studio in the Woods change how you think about poetry? About how you write? (If it did at all). Why do you think that is the case? BM: I don’t know that it changed my conception of poetry, either artistically, in terms of the work of a single poem, or culturally, in terms of poetry’s place in the broader aesthetic and political landscapes around us. I’d been writing seriously for over a decade by the time I went in to the Studio, so my ideas of what poems and poetry can do were fairly well-developed by that point. The collection I began at the Studio, a book exploring the ecological community of the bottomland hardwood forest, has proved to be something of a departure for my work—unlike the more lyrical tradition in which I’d previously been working, it owes as much to the botany of Charles Allen as it does to the poetry of David Harsent—but that was probably to be expected. One should never write the same book twice. That said, I did feel the immense reassurance while at A Studio in the Woods that poetry here in New Orleans, like theatre and music and the culinary arts, could enjoy an institutional home outside either universities (the classic place to find poets at work) or the places of its performance: open-mics, coffee shops, slam nights, cabaret shows, and the like. To be able to practice in a place which recognized poetry as an art as central and vibrant as any other was one of the chief blessings of being at the Studio. Poets often, in this culture (American culture, unlike many other cultures around the world), have to fight for their relevance, and even when it’s achieved the gains never seem to last for very long. Hence the need to make the most of those opportunities when they come; certainly I tried to do just that—both for the sake of poetry, as an art form, and the poem, the individual piece of work itself. TR: If you could spend time writing anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? BM: If you’re asking where I’d like to travel, then the answer is simple: everywhere! I have a day job as an academic geographer, and few things excite me more than packing a suitcase and traveling to a new place. Honestly, I’ll 112


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write anywhere, with pleasure: in bed, in the shower, in the car (I’m worried it’s going to cause an accident one day, but there are some long, level stretches of highway in Mississippi, where I’m from, that are just perfect for sonnets—I keep a notebook in my glove-box just in case), or on a boarding pass or restaurant bill or grocery store receipt. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I’ve had to write in the backs of other poets’ books when I couldn’t find any paper—to any other poets out there, I promise: it’s not personal, it’s just business. But my favorite spot, above all, has to be the public library, no matter which one or where it’s found. Public libraries are one of our greatest institutions, and writers and poets have a responsibility to take care of them—by using them—in return for all the ways that they take care of us: by housing our books, offering us work space, hosting events, nurturing a reading culture, encouraging young people to be readers and not watchers, and, in many cases, comprising a chief portion of our readership. Most of the work in most of the books I’ve been working on over the past year was written at one of many different branches of the New Orleans Public Library or the Hattiesburg Public Library, and the same will remain true of my books to come. The accounts of our indebtedness to these institutions extend indefinitely, and there’s no better way that I have found—with one exception—to honor that than by making full use of them whenever and wherever possible. Drop me off in the middle of a new city, and I’ll find its public library by sundown. It’s a matter of survival. TR: What do you look for when you are writing a poem: a voice? A line? An idea? Or does it just emerge onto the paper? BM: The simplest way to answer the question is to say that each one differs in its form of arrival, which is why I try to remain open and attentive to the prospect. It can be a challenge, in this age of professionalized, personalized distractions, to keep those antennae tuned – but I do try. We have to. As John Besh once said of cooking – if I can’t make a good gumbo, who will? Going out in search of a poem is a dicey proposition – it’s possible to try too hard to write a poem, to go bag it like you would a trophy buck, but that’s the surest way for it to hear you coming and clear the county line as fast as possible. And then there you are in the forest, hungry and frustrated, and suddenly it’s getting dark. No, I honestly believe you have to be humble, and grateful, and receptive in a way that honors the moment—not that lords it over the page in triumph. This belief stems in part from our political situation, of course—poets and writers in this country, unlike so many others, have the freedom to work, 113


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and it’s this sense of perspective that keeps me ever grateful and determined to make the most of that time. When at work, I go in search of the clearest and most precise articulation of what must be said, often working through multiple—sometimes dozens—drafts to find it. A good poem must offer the reader, poet included, some understanding, sentiment, insight, or vision that they did not share before: the world must be fundamentally different by the end of a poem, either in writing it or in reading it (or performing it). If it is not, what, I ask, is the point? Do we write to tell ourselves what we already know? Were that the case, I’d have been a weatherman—after all, the weather is always going to be something, we just don’t know exactly what. I always look for a point in my poems—a reason for being. Otherwise, the work isn’t a poem. It’s something else. The point should strike the reader as would the point of a spear, inviting its way into one’s exposed side. If there’s no point, either in subject matter or in execution, then my interest level wanes, often immediately. It’s a standard to which I hold my own work as that of other poets—bad work, no matter whose desk it pollutes, is still bad work. Hence the desire to go in search of the good: the necessary, the meaningful, the startling, the exact. The poems that, once you’ve read them, you can’t remember your life beforehand with any clarity, or, granting that, any fondness. TR: How have you changed as a writer over the past few years (if you think you have) and where do you see yourself going/how do you see yourself evolving (if you think you can predict that)? BM: I revise more than I used to. After receiving a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission a few years ago, I felt the best way to honor that opportunity was to take the time to truly hone my craft—to work not just more but harder, not to rest on any laurels (the surest way to crush them) but to go in more dedicated pursuit of the individual poem. So, several years ago, the number of revisions in my work jumped over a mile. It’s felt good. You know with more certainty that a poem is done, and you reach its hard, diamondlike core with greater precision and confidence. My lower back may hurt more from the hours at the desk, but I train at the gym to counteract that. That’s one thing. I’m trying to read more, too—not just in poetry, but in more subject areas. Not for material for poems (remember, that buck will hear you stomping through the woods long before you ever even see it) but for personal education—for ideas for travel, for assignments, for knowledge of other cultures, for all the reasons that reading brings us such joy. Books on my nightstand lately include those by Christian Wiman, Liao Yiwu, Roger Deakin, Jesmyn Ward, and one of my favorite books of all time, The 114


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Phantom Tollbooth in its new 50th anniversary edition (which I’m reading to my nephews). Again, it can be a challenge to make the time to do so, with all the pressures of modern life—and I do struggle with that—but it’s no less important than it has ever been. As for the future? It’s difficult to say, and I don’t like to predict. I leave that to the weathermen. I’d like to trust myself more, to approach the page not with cocksure arrogance but more with the ability of one who has trained, and continues to train, for such moments—like a surgeon, or an athlete, or an astronaut. To be able to work with humility and gratitude, the kind that allows you to explore and try new things, with no fear of adverse risk or failure. (Despite knowing that failure is critical to accomplishment, a truth understood by artists, designers, and engineers for centuries.) One should approach a poem like a lover—slightly in awe at the very opportunity to go to bed, but confident and inquisitive enough, willing always to listen and discover, that both lover and beloved are changed fundamentally by the experience—and desirous, past any obstacle that might come in between, to do so again. It’s a direction I hope to go in all my life.

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Interview with Andy Stallings Andy Stallings lives in New Orleans, where he teaches creative writing at Tulane University and raises, with his wife Melissa Dickey, two children, Esme and Curran. He is a co-editor of THERMOS magazine, and a devoted fan of the Seattle Mariners.

Tulane Review: Do you think that teaching poetry has changed your views on poetry or what people need to be exposed to? If so, on what do you think people are missing out? Andy Stallings: The specific act of teaching hasn’t changed anything I could name about my sense of poetry or poetics. However, in the sense that my thinking in and on the subject of the classroom is (temporally) continuous with the rest of my thinking, teaching is essentially inseparable from life, as I treat it. And life (the fact of living) is a constant source of pressure applied to my sense of poetry and poetics, which two things constitute more than half of what I’m ever thinking about. In which sense, as an unprivileged entity, teaching has certainly contributed to my constantly shifting sense of what is or is not important in poetry. More clearly: what I bring to the classroom as important to the experience of poetry is, without exception, what I consider to be important to the experience of poetry is. My sense is: a poet is a person who has permanently accepted the gambit that they are to be a poet, and who thereby opens him or herself to the continuous possibility of transformation. If that is true, and I take it to be, then the difference between myself and, on one end, John Ashbery, on the other end, someone about to write their first poem in earnest, is a matter of degree, not of kind. Therefore, what interests me about poetry should interest John Ashbery and should interest the beginning student about to write their first poem. Why would it be otherwise? My pedagogical sense, then, and I recognize this as a bit of an elitist or privileging view, is that what people need to be exposed to in poetry is their own interest in it. Another way of saying that is: if there is disinterest, there is no missing out; if there is interest, there is no missing out. I don’t consider it my responsibility as a teacher to change this equation, though it is my responsibility to recognize interest where it is latent, and make every attempt to bring it to the active state. Some specific things of concern to me right now, what might be called 116


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views on poetry or questions about poetry: (1) poetry is the motion of the poet, the poet’s transitions and transformations, rather than any protocol, more or less defined, concerning technique, form, or ideology. (2) I’m at present most attracted to open forms, what I’d call generative forms, poems that create the space they will come to occupy, or otherwise, to paraphrase Charles Olsen, function as a transfer of living energy from world, through poet, through poem, to reader, and onwards. Generative as opposed to imposed forms. (3) a poetics of indeterminacy (in which signs—words—or what might in other contexts be taken for symbols are rendered unavailable to coherent symbolic interpretation) is of much greater interest to me than, for instance, any dichotomy of free verse or closed verse, tradition or avant-garde, and particularly than a poetics of symbolism and interpretation (i.e. I take John Ashbery to be of greater importance than T.S. Eliot, to simplify things). TR: Do you have any plans to publish a book? If you do, how does building a first manuscript differ from sitting down to write poems? Do you find yourself writing for the manuscript instead of writing for the sake of writing? If you don’t, you should, because your poetry is awesome. AS: At present I think of the book as a compositional unit, in the way that I used to consider the discrete poem a compositional unit. A new strand in my writing is almost invariably provoked by encounter with a specific poet or group of poets who emerge to me in a new light. The early poems in a strand, then, tend to occur in close response (though not imitation, a practice that has significant use to me in other ways) to, for instance, George Oppen or Guillaume Apollinaire. The first poems, then, have more in common with, as you say, “sitting down to write poems,” than the writing that follows. As soon as I get the sense (and at this stage it’s entirely interior—I don’t show poems to friends or attempt to publish them until I’m fairly certain that they’re opening ground for me as a group) that a few poems suggest a direction other than the trash bin, I begin to consider them in relation to one another, and start to imagine the other poems that form a set of contrasts with them —and it’s in that imagining of what reverberates, whether through similarity or through contrast, that the book as a composition emerges. The particular shape of the book is part of the imagining—recently, for instance, I’ve written 3 poems that I take to be a sort of belated response to the Swiss/French poet Blaise Cendrars, and they suggest to me a larger parameter. In this case, my sense of their size is a chapbook as opposed to a full manuscript. If I had to put a page count on it, I’d say 19. Will it wind up that way? It’s highly doubtful. But as a compositional tool, it gives me a concrete shape that I can flexibly work towards or away from. I suppose it’s worth noting that 117


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the event, the transformation, of whatever this group becomes has already occurred—it is the first few poems, and the subsequent imagining of what it means to have written them. I’ve found that this past tense, carried forward, doesn’t preclude the best poems in the group from coming later, as one might expect. However, the remainder of the compositional process is responsive, a sort of triangulation. A long way around of saying that yes, I write for the manuscript once it presents itself to me—but it is, though dissimilar in scale, essentially no different to me than writing a discrete poem. As for publication, I don’t have much to say that you can’t read in other discussions like this one. In light of what I’ve written in the past several months, I’m grateful to have not published my preceding work. But there’s no doubt that I hold the endpoint of an object I can touch and admire pretty near to the front of my mind, whenever I consider the shape of my life. I’ve always considered it to be a matter of time, if one is truly devoted to poetry, and I still do. But the technical aspects of the process—spending time submitting a manuscript instead of using that half hour to write a new poem, for one thing, is a tradeoff I often find difficult to make. There are many more tradeoffs like this. TR: What do you think contemporary poetry gives to today’s culture that isn’t found in any other field? AS: My claims for poetry are perhaps more modest than you might expect from someone who considers it worth the majority of his time and energy. I can’t say that I honestly see anything in the experience of poetry, whether contemporary or not, that gives an altogether different experience from, say, watching a baseball game. That is to say that I see poetry, engaged as a practice of reading or of writing, as one among many potential modes one might use to open oneself to transformation—or, at least, to the real. The key is recognition and not, per se, poetry. Nevertheless, poetry seems to serve that function, for me, more than any other thing. Another way of saying this is that meaning comes from everywhere distinctly, not distinctly from one place. TR: If there is one poem you wish you had written or one poet with whom you could speak (and who you don’t currently know/speak with), what poem would it be or which poet would he or she be? AS: I don’t know that there’s truly one poem that I could answer this question honestly by—but today, anyhow, I sure wouldn’t mind having written Apollinaire’s “Zone,” at least in the Ron Padgett translation. To the other half 118


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of the question, I’ll say David Antin. The great thing about poetry, though, is that there’s no one who seems inaccessible to me. It was startling to recognize when I first did, but “celebrity” in poetry is a vastly different thing than it is in other fields, so that a person like David Antin, while certainly in particular quite different from me, is as I take it also a person who thinks about poetry, and therefore accessible to me. I talked about this above, in a different sense. And this is true in the posthumous sense as well—I can think of a number of instances reported by poets in which they dreamed encounters with poets they’d had intense reading encounters with. And this, to me, would suffice. Shall I e-mail David Antin, or dream about him? I guess I have my choice.

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| Tulane Review / spring 2012 |

Interview with Zachary Lazar Zachary Lazar is the author of three books, most recently the novel Sway and the memoir Evening’s Empire: The Story of My Father’s Murder. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and elsewhere. He is an assistant professor at Tulane University.

Tulane Review: What does the contemporary fiction world look like right now? How do you fit into it in terms of style, voice, etc? Zachary Lazar: During his Q and A here at Tulane, Jonthan Franzen said that contemporary American fiction has a certain goofiness to it and I would agree with that. By “goofiness,” I mean a tendency toward absurdism and heavily ironic humor. My own writing is meant to be a deliberate counter move against this. I am not ironic, at least not in that way. I’m interested in dramatic intensity, in raw human emotion, and in the quality of a writer’s mind behind the words. TR: Has teaching changed your perspective on writing? Do you find yourself valuing one element (plot, character, etc) more than another? ZL: Teaching has made me more conscious about the various aspects of craft, but understanding the aspects of craft is only somewhat useful. It’s kind of like reading a manual on how to fly a plane: it doesn’t prepare you to actually fly a plane. As far as elements go, I am so much a language and character person by nature that I don’t think about those things at all anymore. I think about plot and story all the time. I struggle with making a story, whereas I’ve learned that if I get myself on track in that sense then the language takes care of itself. TR: How do you go about constructing a narrative? Do you have a character first or a plot? A scene? Is there a difference in your own method between writing shorter pieces and longer ones? ZL: In general, both short and long, I like to lash things together that at first seem unrelated and then explore why they might be related. It’s sort of a 120


| Interviews |

collage approach. With a novel, I plan the whole thing out, then write until the plan breaks down, then plan it out again, then write until the plan breaks down, etc. It’s important for me to believe that I know where I’m going, even though I don’t know where I’m going. TR: Are there any up-and-coming writers that we should be aware of? Who and for what reason? ZL: Too many to name. I will name one, Rachel Kushner, whose novel Telex to Cuba is a recent favorite of mine. TR: Where do you see your own writing in two years? Five? Ten? Are there certain things that have changed your writing in the past or inspired you in different ways? If so, are those changes hard to resist or do you like the evolution? Do you have any goals in terms of your own writing? ZL: I am on the third book of what I now see as a kind of loose trilogy of books. They all explore crime in one way or another, and they all blend fiction and nonfiction. I think after I finish this one, which is about Jews and violence (not only victims of it but perpetrators of it), it will be time to start a new and different body of work. One of the things I’ve let slide in these books is humor. There’s some humor, but not a lot. It’s the trade-off I’ve had to make in order to get a certain level of intensity in the prose. But I’d like to find a way to reintroduce humor into my work. It’s important. Shakespeare can be very funny and very dramatic at the same time. In Anthony and Cleopatra, when Cleopatra kills herself, there’s a clown making these incredibly coarse sex jokes that are in such bad taste you have to laugh, and at the same time Cleopatra is giving this beautiful speech about how she feels about dying, and that part breaks your heart.

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Contributors Allison Barnes works exclusively with an 8 x 10 camera. Concerning herself with the visible history of a given naturral locale, she detects unique qualities in the landscape. She is currently working towards her Masters of Fine Arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Brandon Bell writes on his lunch break and when not reading, walking, talking, or sleeping. Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 16 year old internationally award-winning photographer and artist who has won contests with National Geographic, the Woodland Trust, the World Photography Organisation, and others. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph, The Guardian, BBC News Website, and more. Her art has been globally exhibited. Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time she has either reading or writing. She also cares for a veritable army of pets, including her six, very spoiled snakes. She can be found at: http://carabosseslibrary.blogspot. com. Ray Cavanaugh enjyos long walks. His work has appeared in Celtic Life, The Irish World, and The London Magazine. Liz Clift’s work has appeared in Green Mountains Review, Hunger Mountain, CICADA, and The Raven Chronicles, among others. She lives in Oregon. Susan Comninos is a writer in New York. In 2010, she won the Yehuda Halevi Poetry Competition run by Tablet Magazine. Her poetry has appeared in TriQuarterly, Quarterly West, Lilith, Tikkun, and the Forward newspaper, among others. It is forthcoming shortly in Subtropics, the Cortland Review, and Literary Mama. Chelsey Corgan is from Deland, FL. She is currently attending Savannah College of Art and Design with a major in Photography. Once she graduates in Spring 2013, her goal is to work for a fashion magazine. She loves portraiture and working with models.


Adam Day is the recipient of a 2010 PSA Chapbook Fellowship for Badger, Apocrypha, and a 2011 PEN Emerging Writers Award. His work has appeared in the Boston Review, APR, Poetry London, AGNI, The Iowa Review, Poetry Ireland Review, The Kenyon Review, Guernica, London Magazine, and elsewhere. He coordinates The Baltic Writing Residency, is an advisory editor for the literary journal Catch Up, and is currently writer-in-residence at Earlham College. Jonathan Dean is currently pursuing an M.A. in Art History at the Newcomb School of Art at Tulane University. Transmuteo is his audiovisual, multimedia art project that encompasses music, video, digital art, gallery installation, and live performance. Corey Dethier was born in southern New Hampshire and grew up in Utah. He is currently a senior at Wesleyan University, where he has worked as an editor for Stethoscope Press and Hangman’s Lime poetry magazine. He was a Wesleyan Student Poet in 2011, and is the winner of the 2012 Sophie Reed prize for poetry. He does not, for the first time in his life, have any immediate plans. David DeVaul received his Master of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1971. He established DeVaul’s Fine Art Studio in 1984 and is included in over 500 collections including The Cincinnati Museum of Fine Arts and Johnson Museum of Middlebury College in Vermont. He currently lives in Savannah, Georgia and maintains Talina Lane Studio with Susan and four bad cats. Richard Dinges, Jr. has an M.A. in literary studies from University of Iowa and manages business systems at an insurance company. Licking River Review, Verse Wisconsiin, Foliate Oak, Pinyon Review, and Slant have most recently accepted his poems for their publications. Claire T. Feild is an English composition instructor. She has had 236 poems accepted for print publication in 102 literary journals, most recently including Perceptions: Magazine of the Arts, Turbulence Magazine, Black Magnolias Literary Journal, The Toucan Literary Magazine, Windmills, and others. Her first poetry book is Mississippi Delta Woman in Prism. Excerpts of her memoir, A Delta Vigil, have been published in Boston’s Full Circle: A Journal of Poetry and Prose. Sara Fields is an established artist and photographer from Austin, Texas. She is a recent graduate of the Art Institute of Austin with a BFA in Photography. Her pieces have been featured in over ten exhibits around North America. Sara’s geometricallyinfluenced work is available for sale, publication, and exhibition. Wendy Gist currently lives in the Navajo Nation with her husband and two dogs. She has written for regional and international publications. Her recent poetry is forthcoming in Rio Grande Review.


John Haverty earned his BFA at University of Massachusetts Amherst and is a Savannah College of Art and Design MFA candidate for 2013. He currently resides in a small town in Cape Cod where he displays his work in local bars. Sarah House works primarily in ceramic sculpture to articulate her fascination with mathematical patterns found in nature and the concept of infinity. House earned her BFA in Ceramics from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in 2006. She has been invited as an Artist in Residence at prestigious ceramic art centers and has been recognized internationally for her work and has been the recipient of a number of fellowships and prizes. She is currently finishing her M.F.A. at Tulane University. Sarah Lustig is a freshman at Tulane University from New Orleans majoring in sociology and minoring in Jewish Studies. Her photgraphy has been previously published in Riverbend Review. Emma Mattesky is a local New Orleanian and a junior at Tulane University. She is a double major in Anthropology and Philosophy. Jack Miller is a recent Pushcart Prize nominee and the second-place winner of the Vallum Award for Poetry 2011. His poetry has appeared in print in several journals, including Sugar House Review, RHINO, and Packingtown Review. He lives and writes in Arlington, MA, which is just far enough from Boston’s lights that the stars at night are sometimes pretty spectacular. Ivan de Monbrison was born in Paris in 1969 from a French Protestant father and an Egyptian Muslim mother, both with mixed Jewish origins. His interest in art can be linked to his exposure to African and Oceanian arts and his desire to pursue the question of what art meant in the old days and how it can be dealt with in our modern world of thriving technology. Ivan’s works have been shown in the recent years in various countries. Kirsten Moran grew up in a little brown house in North central Massachusetts where she became infused with an appreciation for all life and its fleeting nature. What shaped her aesthetically is the origin of memory and the deep feeling belonging to both the past and the present. Kirsten has a B.F.A. in Painting and a B.A. in Cinema from Binghamton University. She is currently an M.F.A. Painting candidate at Savannah College of Art and Design. Benjamin Morris is a Mississippi native and the author of Coronary, a poetry collection, and The Bella, a novella about the United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen. The recipient of numerous awards for his work, including a fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission and a residency from A Studio in the Woods, he lives in New Orleans. Jenny Moseley is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, and is currently studying


anthropology at Tulane. Keith Moul’s photos began appearing widely just about two years ago, from which time he’s had almost 150 published in 65 journals. His poems have appeared widely for more than 40 years. Blue & Yellow Dog Press released his chapbook, The Grammar of Mind, in 2010; Red Ochre Press is readying Beautiful Agitation, a winner of its 2011 chapbook contest, for an April 2012 release. Keith is retired, writing, and traveling for photos. Richard Neumayer has a B.A. and an M.A. and is currently a grad student in Spalding University’s M.F.A. Writing Program. He has taught in high school and college, co-edited a literary journal, and been the lead singer in rock’n’roll bands. This year to date, he has had other short stories accepted for publication in 34th Parallel Magazine, Eunoia Review, and Bartleby Snopes. Joey Nicoletti is the author of the poetry collections Borrowed Dust (Finishing Line Press, 2011), Earthquake Weather (NightBallet, 2012), and Cannoli Gangster (Word Tech, September 2012), which was a finalist for the Steel Toe Books Poetry Prize by Denise Duhamel. His writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. A graduate of the Sarah Lawrence College M.F.A. program, the University of Iowa, and New Mexico State University, he is a former poetry editor of Puerto del Sol. Kevin O’Connor was born in Hornell, NY. He received his B.A. from Johns Hopkins and his M.A. from Tulane. He has published poetry in various journals, including Slant, The Quotable, and Wild Violet. He is currently a student in the M.F.A. program at Old Dominion University and lives in Norfolk, VA. Steven Pelcman is a writer of poetry and short stories who has spent the past few years completing two novels and two books of poetry. He has been published in a number of magazines including The Windsor Review, Paris/Atlantic, and the Baltimore Review. He has been nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Prize. Steven has spent the last thirteen years residing in Germany where he teaches in academia and is a language communications trainer and consultant. John Popielaski has had some of his poems recently appear in The Hollins Critic, Post Road, and Redivider. His collection Isn’t It Romantic? won the 2011 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize and is forthcoming from Texas Review Press. Brady Rhoades’s work has appeared in Antioch Review, Baltimore Review, Faultline, Georgetown Review, Louisville Review, South Carolina Review, Tulane Review, and other publications. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times. William Ruller, born in Gloversville, NY, received a B.A. in painting and ceramics from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh in 2007. Over the past five years he has participated in numerous exhibitions across the U.S. while


working as a production potter and a teacher of ceramics at Maude Kerns Art Center in Eugene, OR. He currently resides in Savannah, GA, where he is working on his Masters in Painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Brian Satrom’s home is in Minneapolis, but he also lived in L.A. for many years and completed his M.F.A. at the University of Maryland. He works at Capella University and supports faculty as they design online courses. A variety of magazines have published his writing, including RATTLE and Southern Poetry Review. M.A. Schaffner has poetry recently published or forthcoming in The Hollins Critic, Magma, Decanto, The Monarch Review, and Prime Number. Other work includes the collection The Good Opinion of Squirrels and the novel War Boys. Schaffner used to work as a civil servant, but now serves civil pugs. Dave Seter’s poetry has appeared in various publications and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Born in Chicago, he has lived on both coasts and currently resides in Sonoma County, CA. His chapbook Night Duty was published in 2010 by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. Rebecca Shinners is double majoring in Political Science and Communications at Tulane University. She is an Art Studio minor and most interested in photography and hopes to pursue a career in visual communications. She is the blogs editor and photographer for Her Campus Tulane, an online magazine, and is also the photographer for Newcomb College Institute events. Askold Skalsky is originally from Ukraine and is currently a professor of English at Hagerstown Community College in Western Maryland. His work has appeared in numerous small press magazines and journals on an international level. He has been the recipient of two poetry awards from the Maryland State Arts Council. His first book of poems, The Ponies of Chuang Tzu (Horizon Tracts), was published last year. Ryan Sanford Smith is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame’s M.F.A. program. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in JMWW, Nashville Review, Hot Metal Bridge, Ozone Park Journal, and The Pedestal Magazine. He resides in northern Indiana. Glenn Stowell is an investment banking analsyt in New York City. He has been published in the Tulane Reivew, the Claremont Review, and Swerved. His translations of Chinese poet Yan Jun’s work are forthcoming through the mainland China organization Subjam. He won the 2010 Sebastian Herbstein Creative Writing Fellowship and Wesleyan University’s Olin Fellowship. His first collection of poetry, Until We Leave, is forthcoming from Stethoscope Press. Molly Strohl is 19 years old and currently pursuing a degree in photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA. She picked up the camera


when she was 16 after moving from Connecticut to Alabama and needed something with which to occupy her time. When she finishes school, she plans to move to NYC to pursue a career within the photography world. George Such is an English graduate student at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. In a previous incarnation he was a chiropractor for 27 years in eastern Washington. His poetry has been published in Arroyo Literary Review, Blue Earth Review, Cold Mountain Review, Dislocate, and many other journals. Ayesha Sujan was born in Pennsylvania and moved to New Orleans when she was ten. She is a double major in psychology and studio art and is a minor in art history at Tulane University. Brooklynd Turner is a senior at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX. She spends her free time goobering. Elizabeth Walker is from New York and is currently a sophomore at Tulane studying English, Film, and Spanish. Jeff Wasserboehr is a writer and a world traveler hailing from Boston. He’s spent the last two years living and teaching abroad in Asia and has just relocated back stateside to Amherst, M.A. where he will be an M.F.A. candidate in fiction at the University of Massachusetts. Allison Wilkins is a graduate of the University of Nevada Las Vegas International MFA program. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from STILL, Broken Bridge Review, The Georgetown Review, The Adirondack Review, and others. Her article on Sylvia Plath and the color red was published with Plath Profiles (August 2010). She currently lives in Virginia with her husband and dogs and is an Assistant Professor of English at Lynchburg College and Poetry Editor of the James Dickey Review. Elise M. Wille was born in Oklahoma City, OK and is currently finishing her BFA in Photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Her current work is heavily based on scientific themes of the earth, body, and mind. Harold Whit Williams was born and raised in musically-renowned in Muscle Shoals, AL and has a solo record available on iTunes. His first collection of poetry, Waiting for the Fire to Go Out, is available from Finishing Line Press, and his poems have appeared in numerous literary journals, including Atlanta Review, Slipstream, Oklahoma Review, and Oxford American. He lives in Austin, Texas. Ian Zelazny was born in Princeton, NJ. He lives in New Orleans and is an undergraduate at Tulane University majoring in Philosophy and English. Joe Zendarski lives and writes in Mississippi.


Submission Guidelines The Tulane Review accepts poetry, prose, and art submissions. Poetry and prose submissions should be sent electronically to litsoc@tulane.edu and be included as attachments. Hard copy submissions will be accepted and should be sent to Tulane Review, 122 Norman Mayer, New Orleans, LA, 70118 with an SASE. Please submit no more than five poems and limit prose submissions to 4,000 words per piece. Hard copy submissions should include the artist’s e-mail address. Art should be submitted electronically to tulane.review@ gmail.com in high-resolution format. Please include dimensions and media. Please include a cover letter with biography for all submissions. The Tulane Literary Society normally acquires first North American serial rights but will consider second serial publication. For more information, visit our website at review.tulane.edu.


Tulane Review Spring 2012