U N D E R G R O U N D Undergraduate Art & Literary Journal
Volume 3, Issue 1 Fall 2012 Georgia State University Atlanta
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Parker Hilley PRODUCTION EDITOR Ben Wertz ASSISTANT EDITORS Rachel Leigh Clark Elizaeth Endara Cody Reyes STAFF Alexandra Ahmed Paul Ankerich Rebecca Doane Georgette Eva Nicole Haswell Melissa Landman Marissa Michalek Raven Neely Megan Reid MEDIA ADVISOR Bryce McNeil, Ph.D. COVER ART I Hope You Understand, Katrina Kennedy Photomanipulation Underground is funded by student activity fees. Issues are provided free to all Georgia State University students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests. All work located herein is the creation of Georgia State University undergraduate students. Underground retains â€œfirst publication rightsâ€? for submissions accepted by the journal. It is our understanding and intent that all rights for accepted submissions remain with Underground until the submissions are published, at which point all rights revert to the author.
For more information, visit us online at www.undergroundjournal.org.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Letter From the Editor - vii Jar of Ants - Mattie Frye - 2 In Heat - David Goins - 3 A Sex - Steven D. Abadin - 4 Words - Brittany Brown - 5 Fireflies - Brierly Davis - 7 Bum Speaks - M.J. Farbstein - 8 Stupid - Jonathon Matthew Poss - 9 Aubade - Daniel Hurst - 11 Procreation - Raven Neely - 12 Wind - Nicholas Goodly - 15 Clear - Christina Lynne Romo - 14 The Dragon and the Wink - Christopher Oun - 15 Heavy Ceilings - David Goins - 19 For Late Night’s Sake - Thomas J. Clark - 25 Rubber - Daisy Jane Trimor - 26 Widened Eyes - Taylor Garret Pannell - 27 She Sleeps - Georgette Eva - 29 Meanness - Steven D. Abadin - 31 Floral Fields - M.J. Farbstein - 32 Tarantula Silk - Melissa Cruz - 33 Bad Habits - Melissa Landman - 34 Five Addresses to a Stranger - D.W. Tanner - 37 On a Train to Glasgow - Elizabeth Endara - 38 Sandy Blonde and the Titian - William Lloyd - 39 Serenity - Katrina Kennedy - 42 David’s X-ray - Anthony Pacheco - 43 Mourning Stroll - Deonta Wheeler - 44 iii
Through the Clouds - Kathryn Dellinger - 45 Study no. 1 - Maritza Liebetreu - 46 Jade - Rachel Leigh Clark - 47 Feeling That I Know So Well - Deonta Wheeler - 48 Prayers - Emily Bowers - 49 Art is the Process - Teal Waxelbaum - 50 Youthful Innocence - Nadia Deljou - 51 Vanishing Movement 5 - Hyounnan Sohn - 52 Push and Pull - Makaila Borgerson - 53 Yeasayer - Jordan Ozubko - 54 Why Should I Ask For More? - Glen Sutton - 55 Taking in Images - D.W. Tanner - 56 Monster on Forsyth - Meechie Dickerson - 57 Librarian in the Stacks - Natalie Wood-Jones - 58 Alice on Opium - Mollie Beavers - 59 Handstand - Virginia K. Barnes - 61 Daybreak - Emily Bowers - 62 Chocolate - Daniel Hurst - 63 Vacant Places - J.C. Blake III - 65 Virtus - Nicole Motahari - 66 Carapace - Nicholas Goodly - 67 Filter - Weston Taylor - 69 I Am Your Child - Karli S. Robinson - 71 A Post-Apocalyptic Conversation Between Father and Son - Dean Shaban - 72 Twenty Past Three - Daisy Jane Trimor - 74 A Woman Who Faded Years Ago and Became Very Successful at Being Responsible - Lisa Wilson - 75 Provincial Life - Emily Elizabeth Tyrrell - 77 At First Sight - Charles AndrĂŠ Lagoueyte - 79 Me and My Father on a Beach - David Goins - 80 iv
Connorâ€™s Room - Elizabeth Endara - 81 The Tulip and the Crocodile - Tatyana Brown - 83 The Preacher - J. Adam White - 85 Savior - Ryan Webb - 87 We Were Just Kids - Meghan E. Greer - 88 Quadruped - Owen B. Anderson - 89 Morning Commute - Ryan Webb - 91 Neighbor, A Short Story - Ami Dudley - 92 A Dollâ€™s House - Andre Eaton Jr. - 93 Inside the Mirror - Dean Shaban - 99
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR First off, let me just say that I’m horrible at this. No, not horrible at writing in general, just writing a serious “LETTER FROM THE EDITOR.” But my Production Editor tells me that I have to address my fans. So there. You have been addressed. But seriously. There are many people I would like to thank for their help and support, without which this journal could not have been produced: My staff for going along with my delusion that a trip to Yogurt Tap constitutes as a staff meeting, for reading hundreds of submissions (well, maybe not hundreds, but a lot), and for making our table in the Library Courtyard more popular than the ranting street preacher. My Production Editor, Ben Wertz, for keeping me mostly on track, always pretending to listen to my stupid stories when he’s obviously studying for a Spanish test, and for laying out the journal single-handedly, almost getting locked in the school overnight in the process. The contributors, without whom there literally would be no Underground. The previous Editor-in-Chief, Emily Owens, for setting a precedent of awesomeness that I felt obligated to uphold. Bryce McNeil for taking care of all of those little things that I tend to forget (like supplying us with nifty Underground buttons) and for generally being my sounding board. Matt Sailor, who put me in charge of this thing. If it weren’t for him, I’d be asleep at three in the morning instead of writing this letter. And finally, you, the reader, for making it all worth the while. Happy reading, Parker Hilley Editor-in-Chief vii
JAR OF ANTS Mattie Frye The way they moved was of constant interest – so much movement – he’d think – such small, little things – Masses of them flooding from one side to the other, it was hard to tell what part was Georgia clay and what part their writhing red sea. Every evening he walked meticulously down his road, the same people sitting in the solemn heat of their porches, silently watching as he scanned the summer grass for those crumbling red castles. He carried in his shirt an emptied mason jar he pulled from the pantry on the afternoons his father was out. He had the look of a stubbornly ugly farm dog, the kind that hadn’t really any reason for meanness, but also no reason against it. His tightly drawn face was red with sunburn, and slippery child-sweat made his dust-blond hair dark against his forehead. He always admired the way his hair looked like that, dark like his Momma’s. He would smile into the tiny bathroom mirror after his bath until his father came pounding on the door. But now he walked along the crooked edge of the pavement, the low-gold sun pulling at his ruddy arms and legs. When he found a hill, he crouched gravely beside it and pulled a small spade from his shorts pocket. Then it became a hardened routine he carried out without hesitation. A small hole pierced in its side. The jar quickly covered it as angry dots spilled from its body. He watched them violently filling the ready glass. Some crawled down the sides, reaching spitefully for his fingers and wrists, but he remained still, watching them fill the jar. When his legs grew tired of kneeling, he turned the glass suddenly over and twisted the top. A few still skittered across the outside; some were crushed against the lid. He wrapped it again in his damp shirt and walked home. It was suppertime. – so fast, so angry – he thought – for such small, tiny things –
IN HEAT David Goins a cat in heat screams and screams outside my apartment door i stay in bed the cat doesnâ€™t stop just screams the fan rotates towards me and i close my eyes when the air rustles my hair the cat screams i pray to God while the cat screams i keep praying the cat keeps screaming i wonder how similar our voices sound
A SEX Steven D. Abadin Sublime is in the face of a boy thrown in the air, his father under him ready. The boy delights, he wants it, but in the air terror strikes him. Though when he reaches suspension, at that waning moment when gravityâ€™s apathy unburdens the jewel, his countenance glorified radiates Sublimity, microwaving the hearts of those witnessing.
Brittany Brown If you cut my hand open, it would bleed words – ugly words. Words that have no place anywhere, just linger in the background of conversations and thoughts, like mangy cats in back alleys. Words that I ignore and neglect, hoping that they’ll get smaller and smaller and disappear. I’d prefer you to leave my hand intact – dripping, wet words all stuffed into a bloody case like an oddly shaped sausage. I’d prefer to keep the mess inside – tightly compact, warm, safe, hidden, quiet – where I really am, where we all really are. Someone somewhere said that skin melts at 200 degrees Celsius. I wonder what that would sound like. A roaring hiss, a popping sear – like expensive veal in a cast iron pan. …or Silence? I saw you yesterday. Your skin looked sickly and yellow like stale urine, but your eyes – oh, your eyes. They couldn’t tarnish in the murkiest of oceans, even if thrown miles and miles from shore. I sometimes think about what they would feel like rolling around in my hand. Sticky? Dried out? You were wearing that soft yellow sweater – the one with the neckline that drives me crazy – but you wouldn’t know that. You never had time to know things like that. You looked quietly terrified, tormented but subdued, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what they might’ve done to you. I imagined their sticky red fingers like probes, like tentacles, like disgusting, writhing worms, touching your jaundiced skin, and I vomited, I vomited in the park. And then a dog came by, a white toy poodle, and lapped it up. Pretty boy. – I hate poodles. Did you see me? I know I’m not much to look at anymore, it’s these words, these words that drip like salty sweat from my pores. These words that claw at my insides like scared cats, ripping my flesh to survive, to exist. These slimy, strange words. I told you I can’t keep them in anymore – you shouldn’t have asked me to try. They consume me now, like a lover, like a god, like fucking leeches. I was wearing the blue hat – old blue like an 5
abandoned, neglected, forgotten lake, dirty, dull blue, barely blue, not blue at all anymore, not the sky blue you probably remember. I know you hated that hat anyway. Can you hear me? I was not happy to see you – I stopped eating my lunch and watched you, to see where you were going, to see if you still had that light in your face. You didn’t. I used to live by that light, you know. Who took it away? My entire day was ruined, my little semi-planned series of events shattered into a pointless abyss. I was going to have dinner at the café on 43rd Street, and I was going to order the corned beef sandwich – my favorite. I was then going to catch the train home and watch the man who always sits in the third car and who always wears red suspenders, and I was going to feel a pinpoint of soundness, of safety, of not lacking anything by lacking it all, and instead I sat and watched you. You with the skin that brings me to tears, You with the voice that carries me for miles, You with the face that haunts me like a demon... Where did they take you? I wanted to follow you but I didn’t move. My body was too heavy. That gentle force that pushes people to be who they are kept me where I was. It quietly held me like gravity holds the world from the sun, like a father holds his thrashing child in a storm. Its hands were on my shoulders. I think I might hate myself. You were drinking something in an orange cup, was it cream soda? I hope it was – I bet it still made your breath smell like caramel. I bet you spilled a little bit on your chin when you took the first sip. Maybe it wasn’t cream soda. They’re closing the gates now, so I should leave. I’m sorry that I always have to leave. I’m sorry that I came here with dying plants and a bag of words. I don’t have anything else to offer... I’ll give you my tombstone when I get one. My heavy placeholder in the great sea of decay. I’ve never understood them, but you can have mine. You should have two. I will come see you tomorrow. And I won’t wear the blue hat anymore.
FIREFLIES Brierly Davis When I was young our nightlight consisted of a mason jar filled with tiny blinking lights bits of flickering starlight harvested from the night
BUM SPEAKS M.J. Farbstein Poverty cyphers, orbiting my surroundings. The Goddess of the Sheltering Arms Soup Kitchen collapses runny mash potatoes on my plate and I welcome all nourishment, with eyes closed. The salty, drippy slop performs transfigurations manifesting a steak and baked potato. Unfortunately, eyes open to reveal the bitter truth. Walking barefoot, I am angry at politicians, the policeman monitoring the corner, and sickly crack heads that give me a bad reputation. Rags cling to my being, hands ache yearning for warmth. Ashamed of my status, clean-cut fellows spit towards my feet. “What do you want?” they ask me. A moist mouth, dignity. To read the newspaper amongst the subway riders wearing a grey suit and a polka-dotted tie. A chance to stroll up to the Black woman in the yellow dress, who waits patiently for the #6 bus, and tell her that she is the most beautiful, being, breathing. “What do I want?” they ask me. To be a man.
Jonathon Mathew Poss You will go to school. You will go to many different schools. You won’t go to all of the schools at one time. Instead, you will go to them at very different times. The first school you will go to will be when you are very young. You will paint with your fingers, and you will make stupid hats. You will do these stupid things until it is time for you to take a stupid nap. You will wake up from the stupid nap and go back to your stupid home. This is what you will do for six stupid years, unless you convince your stupid teachers that you aren’t as stupid as the kids in your stupid grade. Then your stupid schooling isn’t over yet. You are going to go to a stupid school for three more stupid years. You will have a stupid locker to put your stupid books in. You will change stupid rooms to learn stupid things. You won’t have stupid naps anymore. You will be awkward for all eight stupid hours. Then you will go to a stupid dance with a stupid girl. You won’t do the stupid dances; nobody will. You will stand on the side of the stupid room looking stupid with your stupid friends. After those three stupid years, you will experience four more stupid years of school. You will get more stupid books and more stupid teachers. You will be on a stupid team. You will be in a stupid band. You will ask many stupid girls out. Only the stupidest ones will say “yes.” You will get a stupid kiss. You will get stupid excuses as to why they can’t date you anymore. They will break your stupid heart. You will regret every stupid thing. You will get stupid pimples. You will get stupid erections in class. You will be stupid in front of class. You will sound stupid to the stupid pretty girls. You will run away from the stupid ugly girls. You will get a stupid car. You will drive your stupid car to the stupid school. You will be the coolest stupid guy because of your stupid car. You will be king of the stupid students. You will be homecoming king, but it will be stupid. You will dance a stupid dance with your stupid date at prom. You will have stupid sex with her afterwards. You will be stupid and not wear a stupid condom. You will worry about having a stupid baby. You won’t be a stupid dad. You will get a stupid job. You will apply to a stupid university. You will go to the stupid university. You will walk to the stupid classes. You will live in the stupid dorm. You will drink the stupid beer. You 9
will do the stupid drugs. You will think about your stupid past. You will be stupid and wish you could take those stupid naps, have those stupid dances, worry about those stupid girls, and all the other stupid stuff you used to do. You will be stupid.
AUBADE Daniel Hurst I’ve not put the pot of coffee on. I’ve not yet made the toast or the eggs. I’ve not gotten the mail, nor have I gotten the paper outside, soaking in the dew. I’ve not parted the curtains or retrieved your coat from the closet. I know you will go to get it, but I hope you will notice the things I have not done and believe you have woken an hour early by accident, so that you might stay, and spend one more hour here, with me.
PROCREATION Raven Neely “Damn.” The blue-eyed woman sighed as she dropped her head on her crossed arms over the keys of a laptop. Her hair was wrangled and wiry like she had just participated in a crazy scientist’s shocking experiment. Her face was thin, but the skin held a glow. A woman sitting on the couch on the opposite side of the room was preoccupied with a frivolous engagement between her tummy and snack time but still managed to grunt a quick “uh-oh” in response to her friend’s apparent frustration. She sat with the lower half of her petite frame fixated on the edge of one giant cushion and the upper half scrunched over towards the food. She had one hand holding a warm bowl of gracious queso dip while the other dug deep into the contents of a jumbo sized bag of chips when the blue-eyed one dropped the bomb. “I feel like I need an abortion,” she muffled sideways to her friend through the folds of her arms. She stopped with her hand floating midway between the dip bowl and her mouth. All she could do was look over at the blue-eyed woman and stare with mouth agape. In the time that passed before she was able to form a reply, two healthy globs of queso eased themselves from the tortilla chip she was holding onto the denim that hugged her thigh. “I didn’t know you were pregnant,” she was finally able to slip out of her rigid frame. “Well, I am.” The woman with the blue eyes paused and snatched up her cigarettes. After taking the first fresh whiff of cancer, she continued. “I was penetrated by love, fertilized by my muse’s seed. A bud has attached itself to the walls of my most precious vase,” (she said “vase” the way you would say “flaws” and with a scrunched up forehead and barred teeth, the way you would gnaw at a chewy steak), “and if I let Nature take its course, I will have a beautiful creation to call my own.” She sucked in a deep breath of her cigarette and held it while she wheezed, “I want to dump it out and burn it.” Then she blew the smoke out with exaggerated ferocity and stared into the gray haze that lingered above 12
her face. “Oh, my God, who’s the father?” “It’s not who. It’s what.” Her friend simply stared with incredulity. She’s heard about many a crazy night from this woman, but bestiality tops them all off. What mess does she have to clean up now? “No, it’s not that,” her friend noticed her alarm. “I may be crazy, but that’s just wrong on a whole other level. No, my baby is of a more metaphysical matter.” She waited and took a few more puffs, but all she got was an arched eyebrow. She sat up and turned around to face her friend. Behind her, the computer dimmed. Her friend looked into her eyes and tried to assess her overall being. “Are you possessed?” “Yes! And no. I am fully encumbered by this thing. It has definitely changed my whole lifestyle, but this thing didn’t come from hell. Maybe heaven, but I doubt it. This thing is no insidious parasite. Rather it’s a brilliant firefly that found its spark within my chest. I find myself getting hungry at odd hours and having random cravings for copious amounts of chocolate and chicken and chicken smothered in chocolate with something crunchy. I’m tired all the time. Even when I’ve slept for a full eight hours and have taken a nap during the day, I still feel like I haven’t gotten a wink of sleep in a week. I’ve been puking every morning for the past eight weeks because of this sickness. Can you imagine? Being crippled to all fours and crawling to the bathroom every morning to deposit a putrid waste from your mouth? The hell with this. It’s gotta’ stop. There just isn’t enough patience and sensibility in this body to handle it.” “Well, why the hell didn’t you think of that before you got knocked up?” her friend retorted, simply annoyed. “I didn’t realize how difficult this would be! I didn’t ask for any of this. It just came to me in a dream. I was desperate. I hadn’t written anything in months. I felt like my muse had forsaken me. I couldn’t live without feeling the balmy tingle of inspiration run through me. Then, it struck me. This beautiful notion without a name. But now I am sitting here with no idea on how to get it out and it’s eating away inside of me.” The woman with the blue eyes stabbed the butt of her cigarette into the ashtray sitting on the table beside her laptop. 13
“I want some alcohol.” Her friend looked at her, looked down, and ate the chip she had been holding in her hand for the past fifteen minutes. “Damn.”
WIND Nicholas Goodly “I’ll just go then. You have everything of mine, so it’s time for me to let go. I know you’ll be all right, although it may kill me. You certainly are strong and you’ll have hundreds more loves as I have loved you, clung to you. But I’ve seen too many seasons. My hour in the green is over and I must let go. Oh, how I loved to cling to you… Don’t fight me. I’ve taken enough from you. We both changed. You grew taller and I, a bit darker. I will fall a great bit when I let go of you, but what a beautiful tragedy it will be. Children will smile as I pass them on the way down. All the while you will be my mind. My mind and heart. And when I hit the ground below, it will be cold. I will begin to die (I will, in fact, die.) But I will rest and sleep. And I will find rest in you. For you gave me everything and I loved you with everything, but I will not hurt you. Let us go then, you and I. Continue to rise. Reach towards that sun we sought together. Ah, the wind is coming…” And then the leaf fell from the tree.
CLEAR Christina Lynne Romo Your hair was so long When I met you It could touch the bottom Of the bathtub When you leaned over to turn the hot water on I’d say 13 and one half inches At least Your voice was so clear Like sun through the kitchen window Like passing thread through spindles Like snowfall in late December Like waiting for stormy weather You said your life was so simple Yet I’m afraid all that’s a lie That you kept on your back Carrying too much weight But you can’t twist your problems Into braids
THE DRAGON AND THE WINK Christopher Oun She remembers the first time she tasted dragon’s breath. It left her tongue black for days, her lips dry with thirst. Her charred lungs assumed in whispered gulps of air that the serpentine god would return. But she never came again. She left the coming to her. She was eleven, and the time was afternoon twelve. She and her mother had brought their load to the laundry-mat, a modest building divided into two busy rooms with a door in the middle connecting both. It had two neon signs flashing before its double entrances. Each flashing blink buzzed like a zapping-electric-insect-killer. In hot fuchsia, the left sign read WASH ME, and the right one read DRY MEE. The extra E always got to her. It never lit up. She didn’t know whether to be angry or to laugh. When she pointed out the silly nature of this extraneous E to her mother, she said, “Don’t believe everything your textbook tells you with such conviction.” “Conviction? What does that mean?” “It means you need to have an open mind.” “…” [open mind] “You see this door?” her mother asked. “I do.” “Good. Now take your hand, place it gently upon the door, and push, dear. Push.” She did so and stared at the open door. While her mother walked in, and said with a smile, thank you, holding the door open for her to enter. “Mm, I think I get it now.” They both began to smile, but then her mother’s mouth slid into a frown. “Geez, it smells like a man in here,” her mother said. She didn’t know what her mother meant by that. But at the time, the room was charged with wet detergent. A sanitary smell, like fresh boogers, or a scrubbed toilet, even. But a man? They separated their clothes into colored and white, and placed them into two adjacent washers. Her mother sat down in a chair and stared at the TV against the ceiling. A suited man was talking into a microphone, yelling it seemed, in spirited gestures to a large audience. She couldn’t tell what the 17
The Dragon and the Wink
man was saying. Someone had pressed the mute button. “Thank Goddess,” her mother said. She asked her mother which one. “Athena, Yanet, or Ishtar?” “Pick one, or two, or three. You choose. There are many, dear. Many for every occasion.” She thought of this as Splish Splash, coins rattled, dropped and clanged for half an hour. Duhn Duhn Duhn Duhn. “Get a cart, sweetie, so we can push these wet rags to the other side.” Squeak Squeak Squeak Squeak. The creak of the dryer door. Bang/ Close. The rattling coins. Duhn Duhn Duhn Duhn. The emanating heat. So warm she chose to sit upon the vibrating dryer. She closed her eyes and breathed. Inhaled deeply, and exhaled the same way, thinking of deities galore. Ah, an eastern god. The dryer shivered her legs with warmth. The squeak and bang, the coined clangs all became mute. Only the gentle friction remained. The tiny burn twisted like a wet rag. A squeezed serpent whose venom dripped with rippling waves of electricity. The silent, plasmatic groan of a mouthed O. A dragon slithered down her narrowed part and lit her pink abyss. The flame scarred her with lines. The desertous path toward a sacred oasis. Opening her eyes, she found her mother staring. Her mother looked at her intently, then smiled, then winked.
HEAVY CEILINGS David Goins
Praying at night, the lights of the apartment shut off. Some fragmented portions from the streetlamp outside slip through the old blinds, but you kneel outside of them. On a carpet that hasn’t been vacuumed in months and the dust can be felt when taking a breath. Your knees hurt, huddled in a submission pose scared to look up at the darkened ceiling. The fan rotates and the air is cold on your near naked body, a shiver arouses. The air conditioning rumbles to life every thirty minutes, clinking and clattering as cold air leaks out the vents. Your fingers rest on the carpet somewhat outstretched, slightly, but not fully open. You stop talking for a moment, words have escaped and exhaustion seeps in. The bags under your eyes seem to pulse and you glance up at the ceiling, nothing. No ceiling is heavier than the one you’re staring at when praying, you think to yourself. The morning always comes too quickly, the covers are a mess and the hot breath is uncomfortable in your mouth. Hit snooze just one more time, the day can wait. The morning noise outside: birds chirping and cars grumbling, random horns and someone’s loud music. Shuffle to the bathroom and rid your mouth of the heat, throw on the clothes you’ve laid out for the day. Rustle your hair, good enough. The classes seem dull and people’s words fall flat, motionless as they hit your chest. Don’t think about the ceiling; don’t think about the dirty white and the way it is slanted, not now. A friend is standing beside you, talking and talking. On and on about the weekend, about work, about how school sucks. Their girlfriend is lousy and something about a cat in heat. You nod and reply softly, the people passing by talk over you but your friend doesn’t ask you to repeat. Though he didn’t catch what was said. You want to talk about the ceiling, about the crashing feeling when kneeling but it doesn’t feel right. So you stay quiet, like always. It is Friday and someone is having a birthday party tonight, you feel like you should go. So you do. It is late when you arrive, they already sang Happy Birthday, but you feel fine. The wave of smog smothers you, the smell of beer and marijuana. The porch is crowded with people unfamiliar, and the music makes the conversations feel as though they have rhythm. Birthday shots for the guy turning some age close to thirty, cheers and clinks as the vodka disappears from the small, glass cups. Once inside there is a circle forming around the 19
living room coffee table, a small pipe in the center. It is an assortment of colors blended into one; some red and black are noticeable. Maybe a hint of yellow and purple. The people around talk of nothing, but keep talking of nothing as if it were something. You sit on a loveseat next to a redheaded girl, she is saying something. You nod and force a laugh. Once the bowl is packed the talking dims, the click of a lighter and a long inhale. He coughs and keeps coughing, everyone laughs. The redheaded girl inhales deep and the smoke seems to erupt from her mouth, it is thick. She looks at you as her eyes begin to glaze, you politely decline. She asks if you can hand it to the person sitting to your right, you do it. A boy with short red hair and a beard takes the hit, he stands up and you look at the floor and wonder where that stain came from. The drive home feels long, the roads are empty. Nothing but the asphalt and the glow of your car’s headlights. The night air feels soft on your skin. The moon is hidden by scattered clouds, but the light is trying. The clouds are weak and not very dense, but then so is the moon’s light, but it is trying. Everything is trying you think to yourself. Everything is fine as long as you walk slowly, you speak to the steering wheel. Someone honks behind you and you realize that the light is green. It is 3 a.m. and once again you kneel. Psalm 77 is being repeated in your head, and you stretch out untiring hands though, truthfully, you are tired. Not just from the party of faceless people but of these nights, these heavy, heavy nights. Don’t curse the ceiling, stop. Cars are pulling into the parking lot. Someone is blaring loud music again, may be the same person from this morning. A car drives by and the loud muffler invades your quiet room. This is too hard, you speak to the carpet, if there is a brighter light beyond the moon then where is it? You think of the world, the dirt stuck to people’s faces, of the children being born as you pray and you think of their deaths. We are all just children, you are sitting up slightly and you are now talking to your fan, which rotates away from you, just children. You lay in your bed after. You feel you’ve said all you can, laying on your back staring at the ceiling. A shadow seemed to move but you dismiss it. It is 4 a.m. everything moves slightly at this hour, or seems to. When will the nothingness of this room break, when will the blinds finally decay and let in all the light of the morning? You wrestle with the covers and try to get comfortable, softly humming a song that’s been in your head all day, One way ticket to the lion’s den. You sleep as you think about the song. 20
You dream of being in a lion’s den, huddled in the corner as the lions roam the stone floor. Your friend with the lousy girlfriend and a cat in heat is there, petting the mane of one sleeping lion. He winks at you and holds out his hand. A passing lion snarls and lunges, there is no blood. Your friend keeps smiling and climbs into the sleeping lion’s mane and disappears. Your dreamscape switches, you are in a kitchen. It looks like the one from your childhood house, there are no lights turned on. Only the light from the open freezer door. A brown-haired girl sits at the countertop behind you. You eye a frozen pizza and reach for it. When your hand touches the cardboard your body shudders and you weep. There are tears on your face and on the frozen pizza box, you remember your sister committed suicide. The brown-haired girl sits quietly. The dreamscape switches you and your family are shopping, you tell them that this must stop. You all go home and cry together in a living room unfamiliar to you. Waking up came as a relief, the dreams felt real. Slowly your conscious life begins again and you text your sister. She responds and you sigh gratefully, relieved. You blame those almost torturous dreams on the ceiling and the fan and the air conditioning for being too loud. You don’t go on your knees but instead just lie there and say nothing. It being the weekend, you prepare for a few days of isolation and decide to lose the staring match you’ve been having with the ceiling since you woke up. You mutter something about being thankful that your job hates you and only gives you one shift a week. And you worked already this week, so the weekend is open. But you already closed it down and decided to do nothing. It is Sunday night; you overcome your aloneness and drive to church. You haven’t been to church on your own in three years. None of your friends want to go. It is in the basement of some building downtown. You walk down the steps and find a seat in the back. The room is small, the pipes of the building intertwined above you, there is no ceiling, just the underside of the floor above. About forty or so unfolded bronze chairs are lined up neatly in rows, you look around and wish someone were with you. There are people all around you, talking and laughing. The pastor of the church comes and sits next you, he asks your name. He begins to ask about you, and how you found out about the church. You respond by saying it was an old friend who referred you, you keep quiet about the wrestle the nightly fist fights with dirty carpet. He says that he’s glad you’re here and walks off. A girl that you know is there, she waves and comes up to you. She seems surprised to see 21
you and you two talk awkwardly. About school at first, and then about the church. After talking for a minute or two she walks off, back to her husband and baby sitting in the back row on the other side of the room. The lights dim and a kick-drum sounds as a girl speaks into the microphone of God’s love and how she is happy that everyone is here. You stand up with everyone else and can’t decide what to do with your hands. You put them in your pockets for a second and then rest them at your side, you fold them against your chest. Nothing feels right, so you just stand arms crossed reading the song lyrics being projected unto a screen behind the band. There is no ceiling here, you think to yourself, so you close your eyes and pray. You don’t know the songs anyways, so you try and sing your own. It is loud, the guitars are loud the drums are loud and the person singing is loud. But you keep your eyes closed. Trying not to feel the vacancy beside you. You still wish someone were with you. While driving home after the service you decide to drive without music and to instead just listen to the engine. The soft acceleration and the jerkiness as your car jumps between gears. Something makes the night soothing, maybe it is the passing buildings or the quietness of the night, maybe it is just the dead silence. You don’t know but you don’t care. It is Sunday and there isn’t really anybody on the roads, it is nine o’clock and you feel still. Looking out the window and at the sky, the delicate white glow of the moon. There are no clouds, you smile. The weeks that follow are in some sense a burden. The loneliness of your apartment is at times overwhelming. You remember the moment where the ceiling crumbled, that Sunday night on the empty roads. Tonight you kneel, the fan rotating as usual and the air conditioning grumbling. The carpet is soft and you just kneel, not speaking. When the fan rotates towards you, the air is cold but you don’t shiver. You continue to withhold speaking and just kneel, half naked. You run a hand through your hair and stare at the carpet. The sounds of the complex seem absent; all you hear is the air conditioning and the fan. You lean up, still on bowed knees and stare at the ceiling, and imagine it crumbling. First small cracks, they seem as ripples as they travel the length of the ceiling. From wall to wall, you imagine the plaster falling. At first small chunks, a white dust goes out in all directions as the pieces fall around you. Tangling in the carpet, white dust everywhere. Small windows to the sky, then the bigger ones fall. In big pieces, heavy pieces. Your body is covered in the white dust, coating your skin and sticking 22
to your hair and face. You leave it there. And as the ceiling crumbles you stand, with the pieces still falling around you. Soon they stop. White dust is blown by your fan, but the pieces stay where they’ve fallen. You look up to blackess. Sincere darkness invades your now open apartment and you bend down to pick up a piece. Rubbing it softly, your hand displaces the dust and you try and clean it. You hold the broken piece, it is jagged around the edges but it is soft. You get up off you knees and walk carefully to your bed. You pull the covers tight around you, thinking still of the white dust and broken pieces. You think to yourself: quiet now, rest now, everything’s fine. It is Easter Sunday. You don’t drive home, instead spending the day in your apartment. Watching T.V. You eat peanut butter and Ritz crackers for breakfast and feel sick after eating them for thirty minutes. You go outside a couple of times. The sun is bright and the clouds scarce. For dinner you eat nine supreme style bagel bites, your microwave didn’t make them hot enough but you eat them anyway. You invite a friend to church, they decline. You contemplate not going but your mother texts you, making sure that you go. So you do, but that night you felt discarded. This being your second time, nobody really knows you. So you stand off to the side again and some random people come up and talk to you because they see you standing there, alone. Some weeks later you are with a friend, he is drunk. It is 4 o’clock in the morning and the smell of drunkenness hits your face. He grabs you by your collar and pulls you in close asking for you to show him God. To show him where God is amongst a world that seems so absent of anything holy. You stumble over a response and he looks at you and laughs, “And how then do you plan to see God yourself?” and he just shakes his head and continues to rant. You want the faith but nights are long, dense and littered with doubts. Your doubts lay strewn about, in your bed and bathroom on your carpet and in your car. They seem to be all around you and even now, talking with this drunkard you see the doubts materialize on his breath. That night before bed you go into the bathroom and lock the door. He is out there lying down. You kneel and pray a quick prayer for something filling. For faith. For a faith that causes you to smile as the stones are thrown. When you come out he is sleeping, and you try not to disturb him. Stones, you think to yourself, hurt. Everything seems off, conversations drift in and out and at times God 23
seems far, you write in your Bible next to Psalm 88. Images of a dull city and blurred faces donâ€™t leave your mind, you think of friends and family of your sister in Brunswick and your mother at home of your father in Costa Rica on some business trip. Of your friends in dirty houses with cheap beer. God, you conclude, is somewhere just not here. Outside you hear a cat scream, you stare at your door and the cat screams again this time closer. You get up and open the door. But it is silent. The moon is bright and the parking lot quiet. Your neighborâ€™s window is open and you see that he is watching wrestling. When you go back inside you close the door softly and wish that the cat had been there. That it had been sitting on your doorstep, looking up at you eyes wide and screaming. You even wish that the guy with the loud music would drive by followed by the guy with the loud muffler. But it is silent, bitterly silent.
FOR LATE NIGHT’S SAKE Thomas J. Clark It’s midnight judging from the darkness, Dripping from the pines. It’s Friday judging from that shit look in your eyes. I have a bottle, Brother, wash your neck. Never seen a summer sear, Like this, where you melt every night. Vaporize with me. We’re all ghosts under a lamp, Or the warps of the heat waving. For late night’s sake, fade with me ghost brother. It’s closer than you think. At half past midnight, We’re smoke rising out of empty bottles.
RUBBER Daisy Jane Trimor When she was six, She spilled milk all over the kitchen counter. Her father spoiled her til her thoughts were no longer fluid, Legs were useless, And she began to taste sour. Her mother, she could not hold her. Though, she wanted to, but could not remove her. Drowned in pills and drained with dreams, Her mother, no, She could not hold her. At sixteen, raw but sweet, There were things that she could drink, But more things that she could swallow. She consumed milk in powdered forms, And the only thing that would hold her, She held in rubber.
WIDENED EYES Taylor Garret Pannell
Autumn rolls in, and the world becomes perfect for a short period of time, here and gone with the leaves’ decay. There was a girl I adored a while back. Her chestnut hair flowed over her shoulders and was cut straight across the bangs, evening out above the eyes before continuing to descend along her form. Short in nature and bright in personality, I was utterly captivated. I tried to play down my affection, asking her to join me for coffee and casual conversation. There’s an overpass a little ways from the crowded streets of the city that when standing against the railing and looking out, one can view the metropolis in full, taking in all of its lights and glory. I brought this girl here, coffee in hand. I had built up in my mind the overwhelmed look of her seeing something breathtakingly beautiful slowly form along her stunning features. Her eyes would shine from the light of the setting sun, soft lips parting in awe, and she’d unconsciously step closer, elegant hands pressed against the railing. We stood there, side by side as the light of the day faded in a brilliant, orange array. The autumn breeze blew through our hair 27
and she shrugged. “It’s nice.” I could not understand how she failed to see the beauty before her. She appreciated subtleties, those I found disappointing. She looked me in the eye and asked why I only saw beauty in greater things.
SHE SLEEPS Georgette Eva
On her big-girl bed with her favorite stuffed bear; on a fish-printed towel under the beating heat of the sun at the beach; in the auditorium of Adams Junior High during her sister’s eighth-grade band concert; on the floor of Mrs. Poole’s kindergarten class on top of a thin mat; in the family mini-van in Maryland, where it was so cold they pulled their towels from their luggage to throw over the windows; under her desk, studying the shapes of the gum during reading day; Benita Gleeson’s backyard in a pop-up tent; her parent’s queen-sized bed sidled next to her mother; squeezed in Ashley Bestle’s bunk at sleep-away camp; in the new house, in her new room she shared with her sister Gretchen; outside on the yard after raking leaves; hidden in the backseat on top of a makeshift bed of everyone’s luggage and jackets en route to New Jersey; her Aunt June’s floor, padded with comforters and sleeping bags, after her grandmother’s wake; the squeaky porch swing on her grandmother’s porch as her father walked around reminiscing; on the soccer fields after the championship win; at Ashely Bestle’s slumber party, tucked in her father’s old, plaid sleeping bag; at the eighth-grade lock-in, a few feet from the bowling lanes; on top of Chris Hadler’s book-bag during Biology; at Chris Hadler’s house trying to study for biology; Gretchen’s first night in her new apartment on the couch; on the first night she officially had her license parked at Turnbridge road; the library at Rollins High School; Mr. O’Shea’s British literature class at Rollins High School; while watching Rollins High School’s adaptation of “The Merchant of Venice” in the auditorium; the desk in the den, her head in her arms and her essay on “The Merchant of Venice” on the screen; at Ashley Bestle’s after the homecoming dance; the 570 transit bus to the city, though she fell asleep and missed her stop; the bench in Arnold Park with a book on her face; the back of her dad’s truck parked in their driveway with a book on her face; at the hotel where Gretchen’s reception was held; in the theater while watching a three-hour sci-fi epic with Chris Hadler; at Ashley Bestle’s after prom; in the car returning from orientation with her parents; in the passenger’s seat of Ashley Bestle’s sedan while exploring cities with doubleentendres for names; in the hospital, sitting in a chair beside new mother Gretchen; on her new sheets in her new dorm room with her old stuffed bear hidden under her pillow; at the Starbucks on near campus with her face 29
flat on her textbook, her hand splayed over a notebook filled with scribbles; in a study cubby in the stacks with a book under her face; at Dan Matthew’s dorm; at Bobby Higgins’ dorm; at the counter of the take-away restaurant during slow hours; at the counter at the video rental during slow hours; at Gretchen’s the night before she moved to Idaho with Barney and the kids; at Chris Hadler’s apartment after his house-warming; at Ashley Bestle’s new apartment after her house-warming; at Benita Gleeson’s new house after her house-warming; in her parent’s queen-sized bed on top of the covers after her mother’s wake; at her parent’s house in her old room in her big-girl bed; in her cubicle during slow hours; in the car en route to the city while driving
MEANNESS Steven D. Abadin Deep in the corner of my vision, reaching his arms over the tall grass of the arid valley is happiness waving for rescue. I am insolent, looming at a peak. My brain is anchored to a brick in some viscous, contaminated delta. I babble Bad French at the eroding visage of an orderly court, palimpsest on the terrain. Fog settles upon the cliff with me as happiness, down there, gets a tan. I am susceptible to tears, but the Ram in me allays my diffidence.
FLORAL FIELDS M.J. Farbstein “Yeah, I killed that mangy mutt. But the bitch had it coming,” I muttered under my breath as I walked slowly to the red rooster mailbox. Gratefully, the path from the house to my mailbox was lengthy so I could take my time strolling down the stone covered walkway while gazing upon my prizewinning garden along the way. Janice would have been proud. She used to be the one slaving over the eastside; home of the hydrangeas, orchids, roses and rosemary. Her side was in a blooming frenzy! I was always in charge of the west side; where the daffodils, pansies, and English ivy grew all around our enchanted trellis. When I got to the mailbox, I took the stamped, unsealed letter out of my pocket and read it aloud Dear Annie, It’s been 2 weeks since I saw you last and I have to say… I miss your face. Monroe was a good dog. He will be missed by all members of the Shady Brooks Horticultural Society. I hope you know that I am truly sorry for running him over and if I could take it back I would. In my heart, I know he is playing Frisbee in floral fields planted by Jesus himself.
Yours Always, Peety
I placed the letter in the addressed envelope and sealed it shut. While lifting the mailbox flag up, the red rooster’s eyeballs popped open, as they usually did when I sent mail out “You ain’t anything but a dirty dog,” a voice whispered aggressively out of nowhere. I gazed at the mailbox. I knew if the rooster was talking to me… that it was time to get the hell on. When I looked to the right toward my neighbor’s bush, there she was… Miss Haddy. The neighbor who never minded her own damn business. She was squatting down uncomfortably by her garden gate planting more red petunias, looking at me with an evil look. “You ain’t nothin’ but a dirty dog,” she uttered again while she twisted up her mouth like a vengeful witch, rolled her eyes, sucked her teeth, and continued on planting. 32
TARANTULA SILK Melissa Cruz Her spit hits like venom in my eyes. I feel it pierce through to my cornea, an explosion of red veins to complement the crusted frame already circling my pupils. I smile. She recoils, fragments of naked skin protruding where flesh meets drooping spine, her caving back a delicate display of the things she knows she has done wrong. Like a wounded animal I watch her retreat back to the couch, its soft leather providing a cool nest for her body. The slits in the blinds shoot pale light across her face, her arms, each curve a broken slant where shadow collides with the morning sun. I sit down next to her. Our coffee from the previous evening still rests on the table. Hers is a rich cream; mine a deep black. I can sense the tension from her body fading, being again replaced with a drained restlessness. I hand her her coffee – I always know how to fix her. A quiet sip; docile, taken in from the lips slowly. Tinted brown liquid clings from her passive smile. It’s more like a grimace. I had asked her to stay the night with me; by the morning I had awoken to an empty bed, the smell of her hair no longer etched into the lining of the pillow we shared. The air was moist, drifting heat from the used shower becoming trapped within the cramped walls of our bedroom. I had lit a cigarette in her absence, felt the ash curl to my throat. Moments later a gentle click of my front door told me she was trying to leave – in seconds I was there to block her; in an hour we had resolved to the usual. Cursing, tangled in words we didn’t mean, this time my vision being doused in warm saliva. Now we sit on the couch, sipping at coffee like the world is more perfect than what we really have. I watch her face break in and out of the cigarette smoke that has begun to fill the room. She still looks hurt. “You know why I had to call you that, right?” No response. Her eyes continue to wander out the window, to some distant place I’ll never know. But I let the silence remain. I knew why I had to say what I did – she was starting to break. It had begun slowly at first, allowing one too many of my calls go to voicemail. She started sneaking around, saying she 33
was going to one place but I know going somewhere else, to see someone else. If I ever was going to trust her again I had to make these sacrifices – occasionally remind her of the person, of the slut – she had become, to allow her to understand how to change. I had to be harsh sometimes, had to even give up some of the simple morals I had been raised with, so I could help to make her the best person she could be. So she could be the person I loved again, because that was the best she could be. I ask again. “Do you know why I called you that?” Slight fingers circle her engagement ring. “I don’t think I can do this anymore.” Tender cracks in her voice peak in timid defiance. I sip my coffee as she gets up from the couch. She actually looks like she’s leaving. My throat momentarily tightens. Because I know in the end, no matter her decision today, she will still be with me – walk with the knowledge that I’m close behind, talk with my voice instead of hers, one day come to understand all the things I have done for her. All of the things I have done to show I loved her, the dying burn of each handprint across the face; they will one day make her realize what she has lost. From my sacrifices she will build strength. And with that strength she can love someone the way I have loved her – if I let her. “Wait.” I grab her retreating shoulder, its gentle scoop snapping back as though I have just cracked the final bone in a wing. “You can’t leave.”
BAD HABITS Melissa Landman
Allison perched herself on a bench just outside the doors to the dormitory. It was humid outside; the sun occasionally poked through the dark, suffocating clouds, hoping for the best, but it was inevitable: it was going to rain. Allison grabbed a cigarette from the carton and pulled out her lighter, hitting the button a few times before a flame appeared. She bent her head so the end of the cigarette lit up in an orange-red glow, then she looked up and blew out a puff of smoke. She loved and hated smoking. She knew all about the health risks, but it didn’t matter to her, at least not anymore. She started when she was fourteen. She had caught her brother stealing from one of their mother’s many cartons. Up until that point, she thought it was wrong to steal, to lie, to swear, and definitely wrong to smoke. After getting caught, her brother had no remorse. He merely shrugged and handed her a cigarette, grabbing one for himself. She took it, but didn’t smoke it. She waited; she waited to get caught, or at least to be asked about it. However, her mother never said a word. She watched as her mother noticed fewer cigarettes, but joked, saying she must have smoked more than she thought, and she laughed carelessly. That was when Allison started smoking. She stole them from her mother, hoping she would notice, but she didn’t. Her mother didn’t care. In fact, she only cared about three things: smoking, chardonnay, and the money her rich husband, Allison’s stepfather, gave her every week so she could “buy something pretty for herself.” So, Allison’s rebellious attitude developed. As she entered high school at the Miller Academy, her classes became an inconvenience and her grades slipped past acceptable and rested on failing. The only reason she stayed eligible for school was because her mother threw money at the school, the principal, and her teachers to keep her grades at passing level, not caring to know why they were so low. Allison grew to love smoking; it was an escape from her life. Even though her mother loved it, she smoked every cigarette with a vain hope that her mother would actually care about her daughter’s well-being. She finished her cigarette and threw it to the ground, stomping on it 35
to make sure it went out. Another cigarette gone, another unnoticed stab to her mother. She stared out across the school grounds for a moment, and then grabbed another cigarette. This one would be for herself. She had enough bad habits; she could afford to lose that one.
FIVE ADDRESSES TO A STRANGER D.W. Tanner I. Her slender fingers move like a lover’s across the spine of the book she almost wears— like autumn the shifting leaves turn always in her hands. II. In a pause, her eyes raise from that other-world: (though I see she hasn’t left) moving one wild stream of hair behind her ear which holds it there: some high piano note like pond ripples in the air. III. Her eyes are fixed on some far place. Her blue eyes have the look of all that is distant— and gently hold a thousand mountains, a hundred trees leaning in the wind and light, a child that hasn’t yet been dreamed. IV. I drink my gin, and with my forefinger stir absently the little cut of lime and pulp, thinking of certain words that lately seem to catch like echoes in a canyon air, seem always near— words like this stranger: here not caring to be known: do I hold to things that are not there? V. Her blue eyes have the look of all that is near: these soft shadows resting on our hands like the moment between a wave’s pulling back and being gone. The light coming from the street outside moves and curves over the small hill of her cheek: almost she could be the moon, drinking whiskey here at midday.
ON A TRAIN TO GLASGOW Elizabeth Endara Four more stops. I rest my cheek against an ice-cold windowpane That clouds as I exhale. I pass the ruins of religion, Much older than anything there is back home, And I remind myself not to forget. Three more stops. An English day with the clouds resting Heavy and grey, matching my thick, wool sweater. I hug my overused canvas backpack close to my chest, And balance my blue suitcase between my knees. I built a life in these two bags. Two more stops. My nose crinkles instinctively. Someone near me must be eating something with onions. My hard plastic seat rocks back and forth As a cell phone rings. Lives collide under iridescent lights. One more stop. I take a last look out At the white sheep dotting ancient green hills. A gasp of cold air as the doors slide open forces me out of my dreamland. It takes lion-hearted courage to get me on my feet and out onto the platform. One foot in front of the other takes me farther away from here, But closer to home.
SANDY BLONE AND THE TITIAN William Lloyd
The rocks were called The Palisades— perhaps after the cliffs that rose high above the banks of the Hudson River, which were themselves meant to reference the battlements and defensive walls of settlements dating back to prehistory. These, however, were no more than mere granite outcroppings. Two of them, some forty or fifty feet high, jutted out violently over the dark, cold water. They had been carved out by the slow, steady hands of time and current. The girls (women, really) were going to jump from them. “No, I told her I was going to be busy tomorrow and she can just deal with it. I do have a life, you know?” spoke the shorter but more full-figured of the two. Her arms swung wildly at her side and her long brown hair, done up in a ponytail, whipped to and fro as she tried to keep her balance as she bounded downhill on the rocky, uneven path. It was like watching a living (albeit clothed) Titian on the move. She absently scratched through her T-shirt at the bikini top that itched at the side of her rib cage. “Sweetie, I totally get that. You’re going to be fine! They love you down there!” Responded her companion, taller and sandy blonde, with good-natured sycophancy. She pushed the wispy branch of a young willow tree out of her face and tried to keep up. They’d smoked a half hour past and, so far, that had helped to keep them giddy and excited to mount on their adventure despite the two mile hike down the trail, eroded as it was from heavy seasonal rain and frequent foot traffic. She tried not to think of the trek back: tired and bruised from the descent, they’d have to swim across the river current and climb forty, maybe fifty, feet of jagged rock in bare feet before they even got to their perch. Provided that they didn’t break their legs on the jump, there’d still be the matter of the return swim and the long, uphill hike back. “I was just thinking that we should have brought wine with us!” “Oh, bless,” the Titian said back with a warm, toothy smile. “That would have been a beautiful idea! Too bad you didn’t think of it, dunderhead!” “Don’t call me dunderhead, bitch!” Sandy Blonde said the word “bitch” as a bird might if given the power of human expression: with a kind of high-pitched, yelping, rebel yell war whoop replacing the low i sound. “You’re the dunderhead, dunderhead. And I totally thought of it just now! So you can just fuck right off!” 39
Sandy Blonde and the Titian
“Okay, lady lover,” she shot back with a feigned southern accent. “Let’s not start to quarrel before we’re fixing to jumpify down here.” There were already a handful of people down on the rocky bank. They had a few dogs with them that paddled around with life preservers fastened around their torsos. Once in a while a kayak or tuber would splash by, cutting between the rocks and small tree islands that stuck out of the river at odd intervals. The girls (women, really) didn’t announce their presence, but kicked off their shoes and piled their clothes and cheap plastic sunglasses messily atop them. The jumping rocks were just on the other side: a short swim away. Forty or fifty feet high. The rocks were at just the right symbolic height to seem adventurous, but safe enough to allay Sandy’s Blonde’s paranoiac skittishness about the entire affair. No, it was decided. From the girls’ vantage point they didn’t look threatening. They didn’t look like much at all. The water was, of course, very cold. It would be cold all summer. No amount of southern humidity or sun could warm this river, whose mountain source was only three or four hours away as the crow flies. But they quickly became inured to the chill and stroked their way with ease to the opposite shore. The sun and birds were out and poured through the dense foliage, heartening them with so much good old-timey beauty. “Come on, it’s just a bit up this way,” cooed the Titian as they lifted themselves onto a low, broad granite boulder. They began to climb. Sandy Blonde labored mightily to keep up with her overzealous counterpart. Forty feet. Maybe fifty. Anyway, it was still far easier than any of the SCUBA certifications and night dives with bawdy company in the Florida Keys. At least they were unlikely to run into tiger sharks up this way. “Go, go, go! Darling, you lead on!” It was the second time the Titian had been up there, but the first for Sandy Blonde. She was immediately taken aback by how much farther up it seemed than when they were looking from across the way. It looked perfectly manageable before, but they might as well have been base-jumping from a skyscraper now. “Forty feet, my ass!” She bellowed. “We’re in the fucking stratosphere!” Clearly, her trepidation showed. “Are you nervous?” The Titian asked with a smile. “Oh, bless! Sweetie, you stick with me. We’re going to be golden in a minute. Here, hold my hand.” “No, no. It’s okay. I can do it on my own.” 40
“Sweetie. Hand. Don’t look down, dunderface!” “I just feel all sorta catawampus right now. What if this turns out to be a real kerfuffle?” She really wished she’d brought that wine. “Don’t give me a foofaraw! Are you ready?” She hadn’t stopped with the wide, toothy smile, either. They gradually came together. Sandy Blonde nodded and they held hands. A paddling of ducks went downstream, and the girls (women, really) waited respectfully for them to pass. “1...” They began counting together. “2...” Noses pinched shut. Quick breath. “3!”
Serenity, Katrina Kennedy digital photography
Davidâ€™s X-ray, Anthony Pacheco scractchboard
Mourning Stroll, Deonta Wheeler photomanipulation
Through the Clouds, Kathryn Dellinger Instagram photography
Study no. 1, Maritza Liebetreu pen and ink 46
Jade, Rachel Leigh Clark analog photography
Feeling That I Know So Well, Deonta Wheeler photomanipulation
Prayers, Emily Bowers digital photography 49
Art is the Process, Teal Waxelbaum silver gelatin print, embroidery floss 50
Youthful Innocence, Nadia Deljou analog photography 51
Vanishing Movement 5, Hyounnan Sohn ink pen on paper
Push and Pull, Makaila Borgerson satin acetate, bleach, embroidery floss
Yeasayer, Jordan Ozubko analog photography
Why Should I Ask For More?, Glen Sutton acrylic and mixed media on canvas
Taking In Images, D.W. Tanner digital photography 56
Monster on Forsyth, Meechie Dickerson digital photography
LIBRARIAN IN THE STACKS Natalie Wood-Jones I wonder if he knows. Does he know he is biting the style of Thomas Merton? The top of his head is bald and reflections of light travel on the skin as he goes stalking the halls of this, his monastery. Does he know he has made a habit out of a hoodie? Knotty fabric of muted color like his fellow brethren. I wonder if he knows. He’s let the hood pool about his neck and the folds stack upon his back. Bare forearms and bare hands. Awake since 3:00 am this morning, on his knees from 4:00 am to 6:00 am, does he know it is now 7:00 pm and past his bedtime? He has come bearing offerings – legions of leaves, epistles, and narratives, trucking between aisles, he knows he is blessed. He does not mind that I’ve made his home my haven. I seat myself at the tables and give thanks for those offerings and thank God he heeded the call.
ALICE ON OPIUM Mollie Beavers
I remember it was summer and I was six. And, after Christmas, summer is the only real thing we have to look forward to as children. I was living with my aunt, whose house was the biggest I had ever seen at the time. She had a swimming pool out back that went eight feet deep and a patio extending from the second level of her home. One day my father came to visit me. I didn’t know where he had been, why I was living with my aunt, or how long it had been since I had seen him, but I was happy, nonetheless. We joked for a while before he went upstairs to talk alone with my aunt. The door to the patio was wide open. The outside wind whisked through my aunt’s living room; beckoning me to come outside. The light breeze complimented the Sun’s warm kiss and I twirled barefoot on my aunt’s wooden patio like Alice high on opium. Now, say here: What do you get when you mix a wooden patio with bare feet? Well, I got a splinter in my foot and my temporary bliss shattered into a million tiny pieces. My father started to call my name. “I’m coming daddy!” I yelled back at him. For me, six was about independence and I didn’t want him to know what had happened. I thought it would ruin his visit. I stood on my right foot and hopscotched my way to my aunt’s living room couch. Fighting back tears and with all the might my tiny fingers could muster, I tried to pry the splinter out of my foot. The damn thing just wouldn’t budge. Not long did my father come downstairs where he saw me struggling against a force invisible to him. “Didn’t you hear me calling you?” “Yes…” my voice cracked. He could tell I had been crying. “What happened?” “I got a splinter in my foot!” My eyes welled. “Give it here.” And in seconds my pain was gone. “Now why didn’t you call me?” “Because I wanted to be a big girl.” “That doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help. You can always ask me for help.” My father held me close and kissed my cheek and it was then I knew I 59
Alice on Opium
could do no wrong by him. I didn’t see him much for the next year. I started first grade at a school in my aunt’s neighborhood. I made new friends and earned good grades. My father made spontaneous visits and each time I hung on his every word. It wasn’t until writing this I ever wondered what my aunt and father talked about that day. It wasn’t until recently I even started to question the things that happened during my childhood. All I know is that I’ve made a life of twirling in the sun like Alice, high on opium.
HANDSTAND Virginia K. Barnes Hands touch grass. Head feels the weight of the feet. Itâ€™s a moment to stare at her skirt as it falls and legs hover like two towers, eleven swaying before you. Skin glows against the night. You choke on the bone of your chicken leg dinner. She falls, and you spit out your teeth. These are dreams of those summer fruits, the forgotten seeds, and juice never wiped from the chin. Each night dirty feet linger in the light of a street lamp.
DAYBREAK Emily Bowers Your eyes open like small buds bloom, as you rise to meet my mouth. Coffee kisses and morning well wishes sweep over me. What is this fascination I have with daybreak, and with you? Light pours in like whiskey from last night and Iâ€™m reminded of the mistakes we made. I vow never to regret you, your soul, or the taste of your skin. Until next time, morning bloom. I know I will see you again.
CHOCOLATE Daniel Hurst
I found them in the pantry and took them, the chocolate bars I was told to save for later. With a trembling but quick hand, I groped behind cans of peas, listening for footsteps or father’s voice (“Son, what are you doing?”) and made off quietly for the back yard, the bars bulging in the pouch I made with my shirt. Behind the shed was the only place I felt safe. The only place I could not be seen from my father’s window, or the back door. I laid the bars down and took one, slipping a finger under the hem of the wrapper (“Son, what are you doing?”). Beneath, the skin was smooth the flesh sweet. And I knew this is what sin must taste like. Sweet. Sweet all the way down. I consumed the rest, ate until my stomach 63
ached from the sweets. The silver wrappers (â€œSon, what have you done?â€?) shone dully in a pile looking back at me, empty and crumpled. I could not bear them and scattered them with dirt and leaves. My fingers were sticky with the dark nectar but I could not bring myself to lick them clean. I could not even bring myself to move. Father found me there, my fingers still stained. He stood silent and the silver wrappers seemed to glare, but I could not look them in the eye.
VACANT PLACES J.C. Blake III Itâ€™s a broken down building the exterior is inferior to the interior / the outside is plagued by viruses and bacteria Inside so illustrious / got a custom kit, marble floors, and Sistine chapel ceilings / painting worth millions / Persian rugs, Chinese silk, Egyptian linen Swarovski crystals hanging from the ceilings indoor fountain with exotic fishes / a hibachi island in the middle of the kitchen / Angelic sculptures playing music that is uplifting, stained glass windows with Jesus faces on them golden tubs with Gucci diamond laces on them (Gucci) clocks with demon faces on em watching till the early morning for the snakes and the birds in disguise as the word as the smoke feels the air as I crumble my herbs
VIRTUS Nicole Motahari It hurts, as if he thrust a rusty machete through her heart, and then slowly pulled out. After twenty years of marriage this is what it boils down to: some low-class whore taking the place that she and her child once held in her husband’s heart. Doing her best to maintain the shred of dignity she had left, she heard herself say, “If that’s what you really want,” her voice, once strong, now shaking with the strain of unshed tears. Head spinning, she tried to grasp something for support, as realization crashed into her like a freight train, robbing her of the ability to breathe. She struggled to throw off the pain, but like Caryatid who has Fallen Under the Stone, the weight of her sorrow was a load that is nigh impossible to throw off. The man whom she once called ‘my love’ stepped forward, offering his hand as a means of support. She looked at his outstretched hand, his eyes filled with pity. She thought of all she had endured for him, building their life up from scratch, forsaking her parents’ home, all for the love of him. All those years of her life that she had given him, tossed away like a gift unwrapped and played with, but thrown to the side once the child became bored. She looked up at the man who had broken her heart, shaking her head once to clear it, and then slowly lifted it up high, throwing her shoulders back, defying the sorrow he thrust upon her, not allowing her soul to be crushed by the pain. “Virtus,” she thought to herself, “Courage.” She had borne worse in her lifetime, and would survive this, for she was a queen, and that one word, ‘Virtus,’ was what set her aside from everyone else in the world.
CARAPACE Nicholas Goodly
So much was left in Ruin Amongst Muscles and Organs and the Eyes and Nails and what I heard and what I chose to hear – As Trees grow so twisted before they are proven, Standing Tall throughout the Storm, retaining its Union And where was I when the Rain did fall? When Pulse and Sweat broke Steps down to crawls? And Experience questioned if I had learned at all? Not bearing Feeling, but a Witness to it All. Numbness, after the Bones have clung To its last ounce of Warmth from Anyone – For it leaves the Heart burdened – then swelling – then dry – With nothing left to feel but the Notion to cry. She told me Endurance was the Word – I watched as this Creature consumed Me Before the Smoke diluted all I could see Great, more fearsome this Creature became A Beauty that I dare not tame. She shattered all that once had reside She closed Me in from every side and ran through everything – Nothing was out of the reach of Her – Bite – My Mind and my Core and my Heart lost this Fight, lost these muscles and organs – and nails – And what I chose – to hear. And She was left – And Me. She told me Endurance was the World – 67
Stripped bare – We look at pieces shed At layers disembodied – dead. We gather Fragments that ring true That resonates with this form of blue We occupy the ragged Shell And dance a sequence I can’t tell. We rediscover Crevices We reconstruct what Pleasure is – The unfamiliar finding home Next to Memories, unearthed, now roam. I, a swallowed living Man – That moves collecting through the Sand Shall sustain until my jointed End So this can happen never again.
Weston Taylor There was a two-story house somewhere in the city with a wide front porch where we would sit for hours with the orange night light of the skyscrapers blinking at us through the trees. There were soft nights in our bedroom, lying there in the blue twitch of the television with his ear on my stomach feeling for the kicks. There were two sons and two daughters, just like we’d planned, and they were happier than we had been as children. There were long months every other year when he went on tour and I sat with the phone always near, waiting for the ding of a text or the song of a call. And there was our little lake getaway in North Carolina that became our home when the kids had grown and gone. Just a modest dream. I walked into the bar drunk already on vodka and nostalgia with a group of my girls. We’d spent so many nights there in our college days drinking till class was only a couple of hours away and now we were back on a weekend venture, our husbands and children back home, feeling free. It was our fourth bar of the night, but it was the only one that mattered to me. I’d met him there. First glance yielded nothing but makeshift clumps of college kids stuck to this and that corner—the girls making us feel so old with their Barbie thighs and push up breasts, the boys, not much older than my son, trying their damndest to leave an impression on all the young, spongy, work-inprogress brains. We strutted over to the bar for what I hoped would be our last round of drinks when my entire world was swallowed by a gaping black hole, chewed up and spit out. He was sitting there just like he had been when we’d met all those years ago—alone, circling his finger around the brim of his glass, staring at the bar, probably searching for some sweet lyric in all the strangers’ sharpie scribblings. “John?” I said, leaving my girls and coming straight to him. He looked up with those hazelnut eyes. The last time I’d seen them he’d been in the passenger seat lashing out some typical rant about how the Instagram filters were doing to photography what Autotune had done to music. “Pretty soon we’ll have filters in our eyes so we can change the look of the day to our liking,” he’d said. 69
“Not everyone uses filters,” I had argued. “In fact just the other day I uploaded one with no filter.” I took my hand from his and reached for my iPhone on the dashboard. I opened the app and a car hit the passenger side door hard enough to send us flipping over three times. His eyes were always shut in the coma. “Hi,” he said, looking up from the bar at me. “How are you doing tonight?” There were already tears swelling in my eyes. “I’m okay,” I said. He looked at me so confused, so innocently confused. It was silent long enough to be uncomfortable. “Hey, um, I’m sorry to have to ask this but—do I know you from somewhere?” “John,” I said, the tears plummeting their suicidal leaps from my eyelids now. “Whoa, hey, hey” he said, shifting in his chair to face me. “What’s wrong? Is everything alright?” They told me it would be this way and I had imagined it a million times but there in the flesh of things I was unspeakably broken. “John,” I mustered again, leaning into him. “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” My words came in wisps through the tears. “What are you talking about? Sorry for what? You didn’t do anything to me, I just met you.” “John, I’m so sorry. John, I just couldn’t do it. I just, I couldn’t start over after all we’d built and planned and we were so young, and—” I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Miranda, one of my girlfriends. “Janie, we have to go now,” she said, pulling me back. “What’s going on?” John said. “I love you so much, John, I always will,” I tried to say through the sob but Miranda answered him clearly. “Sorry, this is just a mix up, we have to go now,” she said. “John, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” I screamed as my girls dragged me out into the moonlight away from him forevermore. We would have a jetski at the house in North Carolina, and he would take me on rides at sunset, and he would let me drive if I was feeling brave enough. And when the light got low we would go in and call the kids to see about their lives.
I AM YOUR CHILD Karli S. Robinson
The child listened in again as the story was retold… The transition was so subtle, no one noticed at first. Role model, mentor, mutual friend the oath. Then her gentle arms brushed him and he felt stilled in time under the rays of her eyes. He burned to see how many uncovered mysteries her body held. Maybe – I pray perhaps – a spark of pause ignited anywhere in the innermost cavity of his heart. She was an untouched allurement. Righteous and dutiful in her way but an enchanting barbarian to him. His heart’s homeland was depleted. The healing secrets her raw body held became an ironic necessity. Then it happened, inconspicuously at first. So covertly that some parts of her own body still deny. A toe or elbow, too insignificant for him to molest can rest easy without memory. Not her innocent heart. Not the unnamed essence ripped from her womb. And she watched as it bled. Even through the waters Blood, white and blue. Even across the barriers of lives times – blood ran. Trauma imprinted on DNA, passed down with a tremendous blow. Removed from a grieving mother. Raised in the epistemology of half-truths. Identifying with the abuser – abhorring the abused.
I Am Your Child
But life and time always conspire towards light. They lure the child to the edge of consciousness. A reality beyond the lower senses floods in. The light beckons back to the womb. With reverence and awe the child greets “Shikamo.” “Marahaba dear friend” is her response. Confused tears flow as the child shows birth written Scars imprinted on black skin. “Mother Africa – I am your child”. Compassionately she replies You are from my womb, my love remains with you. My arms welcome you as waves on the shore. My eyes bless you as rays from my golden sun. My spirit protects you in the wisdom of the medicine trees. But my heart – my people – can never declare here, your home. Our children were lost in the purple waters. The door indeed has no return. Role model, mentor, mutual friend her oath. I honor the journey of that child on the shore. Returning by choice to her old, new home. Her place, her race all shifted paradigms. Her undying hope for humanity – redefined.
A POST-APOCALYPTIC CONVERSATION BETWEEN FATHER AND SON Dean Shaban “Dear father,” said the child, eager, “Why, as you age, does flesh grow meager? Is life a lonely point in time That spins a spool to soon unwind?” The father, dusty in the sun, Collected breaths, releasing one – “Come” – the sound sleeked through his teeth And shined upon his son beneath. He gazed upon the gathered grove Of limbs before them in the road And pointed past into the vast Of empty desert’s slow corrode. “How real is this revered veneer?” Pled the son, who clung like fish to spear. “Is death against this lifeless screen No more than what my mind has seen?” “Come” – the father jawed once more, And through the human rubble tore A path entombed by arms and legs – The town’s remains of fleshly dregs.
TWENTY PAST THREE Daisy Jane Trimor Twenty past three, I cannot sleep. The thunders are more calm, Than the room next to me. I can hear As he raises, Both a bar and his voice, My mother pleading with fear All the way from her throat. I hear it, Too clear, Too soon, Too near. Ten years ago, I was born With the sky upside down. Times like these, I wonder, If there’s even A heaven to reach. See, I’ve been In the same direction, Ever since. And I’m not sure, If there’s really much left In this world For me.
A WOMAN WHO FADED YEARS AGO AND BECAME VERY SUCCESSFUL AT BEING RESPONSIBLE Lisa Wilson Writing has always been my comfort; my solace, but now I feel as if it’s been stolen from me. Someone else claimed it and left me to tend to the little darlings who have innocently sucked all the time and creativity from my soul. Listen children, come close and listen carefully. I once knew all about Morrison’s communal voice and Hemingway’s sentence structure. Dorian Gray’s beloved picture and the poor, sweet, voiceless Porphyria. Sshhh. Sit still now, little darlings. Listen to what I know about now and adore the sense of excitement that rolls through your body like Ahab’s whale himself is pushing it as I describe what I know. I know how to get up every morning at 6 a.m. and make sack lunches with a baby on my breast. I know how to change a diaper with one hand and button my blouse with the other. I know how to fold clothes, empty the dishwasher and prepare dinner – all at once. I know how to send you to school and drive to work, feeling nothing. I know how to sit at my desk while desperately fighting a dark numbness, all in an effort of futility and being compensated for my time with almost nothing. I know how to avoid phone calls because I have nothing to say. I know how to smile politely and walk away from your Father’s elbow when they are around. I know how to suffocate my bitter voice when it periodically rises up my throat at one of your Father’s toasts. Or when his eyes silently slither up and down a woman, a woman whose hips betray her as motherless and incapable of possessing the daily skills that I have become a professional of. I know how to carry a baby, a purse, a diaper bag, and two grocery bags and unlock the front door – all at the same time. Yes, yes! Gleam with excitement for me, for what accomplishments I have under my garter. What did you murmur, darling? Why, no, I would be a horrible woman if I felt useless or regretful. I should only feel satisfied and responsible. Unsuccessful, sweetheart? Absolutely not. I am your mother and the wife of your Father. I am not obliged the option of considering myself successful or not because there is no I, no Me. There is a Mother and there is a Wife, but that is all. There is a first born, which is you. There is a 75
A Woman Who Faded Years Ago and Became Very Successful at Being Responsible
second born, which is her and there is a Father, and along with those there are neighbors to consider, your Father’s friends and some family. But please, do not exude naiveté by asking if there is an I, for my I faded a while ago. Do not cry, darling! Do not feel guilty, you are just you and it’s not any fault of yours. I am an actress, efficiently playing a role that will never end.
PROVINCIAL LIFE Emily Elizabeth Tyrrell
I refuse to sit idly by, Watching a half-life fly And sink into a reflected sky. I refuse to close my eyes And believe a well-spun lie, Which leads me to die. I refuse to settle, Like some pregnant kettle, Pining from lack of use, Now a piece of refuse. I refuse it allâ€” The feigned pleasure which makes me fall. It wears a pretty mask of lace To hide its ugly, demented face. To live, then Will require more than my artful pen. To live, then Will require more than my dreams, In the wistful river where passion teams. To live, then, I will give it all away, For more than the wasted days Of a despondent heart with broken ways. Yet, even the most broken heart Can be made again, wholly, With hands who never part From this clay remade holy.
Though this bit of time I have will elapse, And to provincial life, I will see men clasp, I know now that eternity is in my grasp: Because I am found, No longer bound To the chains of sorrow, Or tied to the bargained hope of tomorrow. Now, I am clothed in purple dresses, And a king is captivated in the tresses. Now, I am anointed with oil To save others from a world of toil. Now, I am His And He is mine.
AT FIRST SIGHT Charles AndrĂŠ Lagoueyte I canâ€™t see the back of my eyelids Only the flashing silhouette of her visage Return to me the details of her face, I pray. But never will it come. It is simply the price I pay For staring at the Sun
ME AND MY FATHER ON A BEACH David Goins me and my father are standing on the beach, it is dusk and the wind chills us. i hold his hand, wrapping my jacket around us. why the beach? i ask. the gulls are yapping in the sky, the waves are eating sand. i’ll never be found he says. i think of him in the bellies of fish and tangled in the sand, becoming the sand. pulled apart by the tide’s fierceness and tenderness. i don’t like the beach i say as i feel the sand wedged between my toes, a small crab scurries towards the waves. i bend down and just manage to swoop it up into my hand, it is small and i pin it between my thumb and index finger. i squash it, a small crack is heard among the gull’s chatter and the waves’ endless moan. they are louder than my father. this is what i want my father says as i let the mangled crab fall to the sand. ok i say as i take off the lid and pour him into the wind and waves.
CONNOR’S ROOM Elizabeth Endara
Here are a few things that are true about Connor. He has brown hair. He was born in July. He eats too quickly (according to our mother). His first girlfriend died in a car accident. He doesn’t talk to me unless I do something to annoy him. Right now he is living in Palestine and I am standing in his bedroom, which is in the basement of our house. Yesterday in my dance class my teacher asked me about my brother. “He lives in Palestine and teaches English,” I said. Connor is not afraid of terrorists. “Do you miss him? Are you two close?” My teacher asked. “Yes, I miss him. We are so close. Inseparable. Best friends. He’s the best big brother ever.” The first answer was true, but everything else was a lie. I didn’t feel bad about lying. There are UGA posters covering the walls of his room. He did not go to college. There is a map of the world above his bed. There are pins sticking in England, Spain, the Bahamas, Uganda, Sudan, France, Germany, China, and twenty-three US states. I find a tack in Connor’s desk and put it in the place that Palestine is supposed to be. It’s an old map from before Palestine was recognized as its own territory. I know about this because I once heard my brother impart to my parents his wisdom about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Connor has a black bed spread with grey stripes that match his grey bookshelf and grey desk. He has been gone for three months, but my mother has still not bothered to pick up all the clothes that are still littering the floor. The top drawer of his dresser is open. There is a pack of cigars inside the drawer. My mother gets on to him a lot about smoking them, but he always reminds her that it’s better than pot. When my brother was in high school he smoked a lot of pot, and he also got drunk at parties on the weekends. He did this because he was hurting because his girlfriend died and his older brother (who is my older brother too) is in a mental institution. This is what his school counselor told my mother and she told my dad and they didn’t know I was in the kitchen. Connor’s favorite food is steak-fried rice. My mom makes it for him on his birthday. On his last birthday I made him a card. I drew hearts all over it and wrote, “I love you, Connor” on the inside. I’m not sure if that is true. I rummage through Connor’s desk. He has kept every card and letter he 81
has ever received. I do that too. I was in Ghana during my last birthday and when I got back home I had received fifty-two birthday cards. I saved them all and all the envelopes. Connor’s walls are eggshell white. In the wall, behind a 49ers poster is a hole the size of my brother’s fist. There is another place where a hole has been patched up. Connor gets really angry during football games. He also got really angry when our oldest brother had to go to the mental institution. My dad bought a punching bag, but I do not think Connor has ever used it. I used it one time, but it hurt my fists. In the back of Connor’s room there is a closet that I have never been in. I tried to go in it one time to borrow a sweatshirt, but he yelled at me, “get out.” He only said one other word to me that summer and it was “bye,” which he said at the airport when he left for Palestine. I open the closet door and expect to find his hidden supply of beer. I just see normal things like clothes, so I step further in. I see the sweatshirt that I wanted to get before. When I slide the shirt off the hanger I see some papers taped to the back wall. I push all the clothes aside. Taped to the wall are all the birthday cards I have ever made for him including the one with the hearts. Cards from my parents and my older brother are there too. I run out and grab a sharpie off his desk. On the inside wall of his closet I write, “I love you, Connor. Come home soon. Love, Amber.” He will be so mad when he sees this.
THE TULIP AND THE CROCODILE Tatyana Brown
A crocodile went to a tulip one day And on the ground she fell Slowly the croc began to say “Would you ever kiss and tell?” The tulip was truly taken aback And so the ‘fiend’ did sigh “I know my friend, you’ve heard the fact, But even a croc can cry. Although I was blessed with inner beauty, I was given the body of a beast And all men think it is my duty To have them as a feast. On lowly grass I weep and mourn And shed myself a tear From monster’s womb I was not born But none were there to hear. But woe, one day I woke to see A man was passing by He came to you with heartfelt glee And kissed you on your eye. How queer, I thought, was that man’s kiss For mine were not like that Where his were full of loving bliss All mine were cold and flat.
The Tulip and the Crocodile
In puzzled state I lost my road And came upon a croc My heart did drop a tremendous load For he was crying upon the dock I sought him thinking he could be it The man to steal my frown But to my rue, I was attacked and bit And bled forth from my crown. Before I die, I must relay For heavenâ€™s bells now swell I fade away, but now I pray Could you kiss and tell?â€?
THE PREACHER J. Adam White
Garlic and vanilla, I remember, hung in the humid doorway when he walked through. Shorter without the pulpit, less divine in a tan suit. I was looking at his face now in our light, his cheeks were splotched red like ripening fruit, puffy like pew cushions. He flattened his hand to hover over my head, and said “You grow bigger every day.” Smiles all around, I must be a miracle. He sat down with a fat groan, a light sigh in the living room, my mother said “Coffee?” “Yes, please. Did you know the Bible says women should not make coffee?” Of course we believed him. My mother froze filter in hand. “It says Hebrews.” Relief, always quick with a joke and boy, such big teeth we all had. Soon, his Bible was opened and a verse was read like honey in our mouths. I was the reason for the visit, claiming I had heard the Lord’s voice call my name and was ready to answer yes to him. I had seen my friends all say yes during Sunday services, then fall awkwardly into unseen water, only to rise up dripping in a wrinkled blue gown. I felt guilty for how inglorious I was, and so he stood and said “This is how its gonna go.”
Chest-high I stood as he placed a warm hand on my neck. “I’ll ask you some questions and we’ll say a prayer, then you’ll drop.” And he guided me down into baptismal air, his other hand cupped over my mouth in mocked caution, then I rose clumsily, too heavy, I was growing bigger and was ready to answer yes to all questions as he said my name, I imagined, just as it’d sound when that roll was finally called.
SAVIOR Ryan Webb I almost put Jesus in the washing machine. Good thing I reached in my pocket to check. Itâ€™s not everyday that you get to save Jesus.
WE WERE JUST KIDS Meghan E. Greer We were just kids, Williams and Wilson, the alphabet brought us together. PI USMC RTD Alpha all the way – 1062, SOI-E ITB Alpha – again and always Williams and Wilson. We cut it up. We tore it up. If we were involved, we generally fucked it up, and I man I fucked up. Sergeant was all Shut The Fuck Up and even though we were in country – well, you always revert back to your training ya hear? Well, Williams, he didn’t hear Sergeant’s warning ‘cause as I turned to my left and laughed “so like I was saying” an orange fire flashed through Williams’s right eye at the speed of 2870 feet per second and the only trace left was a glowing line that burned between that moment and the moment before when we were just kids. 88
QUADRUPED Owen B. Anderson
There was once a young man who had feet for his hands, complete with both ankles and toes. He would wander down streets all consumed by defeat, but that was the least of his woes. Because on top of his head the foot-handed man fed through a hole that dove straight to his core. And inside, it would rain, polluting his brain, that he needed two feet, but had four. So he wandered alone to towns heâ€™d never known. Yes, heâ€™d walk till his feet were both sore. Then he flipped, in the street, to his other two feet, and he pondered and wandered some more. He walked and he ran and he slept in the sand but that hole in his head, it would drown. So he strayed from the shores and spent his nights with whores who cared not for his feet nor his crown.
Till along came a girl, who had french-fried her curls and she caught hold the foot-handed manâ€™s eye. But she scoffed at her haul, he would not do, at all, so she threw him back into the sky.
MORNING COMMUTE Ryan Webb The train smells like a lost dog barking underneath the city. And in the chair across the aisle a man dreams with his chin to his chest and his hand on his dick. Along the tracks, I reread The Road. “Someone stole my bicycle. Stole it all the way down to the airport,” Says a man with an open shirt, chest hair, and a cellphone. “And now I have a sharp pain, so I’m taking the train on my way to the hospital.” I apologize for not having any change.
NEIGHBOR, A SHORT STORY Ami Dudley I sat in between my older brother and younger sister. To anyone, we would appear a portrait, still in frame. That’s how I felt… like a portrait, still. Only, portraits speak a thousand words. And we had none. We never had many words. The dead speak enough. And we had plenty of the dead around us. Living on top of a morgue in the basement, makes one quite familiar with them. Dad and Mom started that morgue together in 1985. She said that on their first date, Dad’s first words to her were You meet the greatest people you’ll ever know in the obituary section of the papers. She fell in love with him right then and there. They didn’t fear death. Dad said The only thing to fear is not being prepared for it. We didn’t fear death either. Death was our neighbor. Say goodnight to your Mom before you wash up tonight. The words barely slipped past my dad’s salt and pepper mustache. Nothing ever really slipped past his salt and pepper mustache. Up from the couch, down the stairs, in perfect procession. The basement, cold. A busy bee, my mom worked days and nights there, becoming quite the artist. My dad envied and admired her devotion to our neighbor. But today, death moved out. And something else moved in, something unfamiliar. Goodnight, Mom. Goodnight, Mother. Night, Mama. And with that, we left. Eagerly. The warmth of the upstairs pulling us in. Leaving Dad alone… to work on Mom.
A DOLL’S HOUSE Andre Eaton Jr.
Withered, experienced hands cup the doll’s porcelain face gently as Robert paints her irises a deep cerulean. Before him sit three small tables lined up with one another. One table holds doll pieces, another holds various articles of small clothing, and the last holds various tiny wigs. The sound of laughter drifts in from the open window. Outside is a small grassy field where children are playing. There is a group of boys playing baseball and two girls running through the field picking dandelions and blowing the seeds, making wishes each time they scatter the seeds to the wind. Robert focuses on one particular girl, around the age of eight, as she and her friend throw empty stems to the ground as they chase after a puppy that runs across the field. The little girl is wearing a pink sundress and has matching ribbons nestled around her golden pigtails. Robert glues a blonde wig, made of human hair, onto the doll and attaches pink ribbons to her pigtails to match the dress that she has on. He gives a small smile of satisfaction as he holds the doll up and inspects it. All that is left is to finish painting the face. Robert, with steady hands, dips a thin paintbrush into golden paint. Before the brush touches the face of the doll, a thud just below the window breaks his concentration. He shakes his head and his sunken eyes focus again on the doll’s face. He paints one eyebrow and starts on the next one, when the sound of “Jingle Bells” echoes throughout the house. The ringing of the doorbell brings a pained smile to Robert’s face. “Jingle Bells” was his wife’s favorite Christmas carol. Christmas was her favorite holiday. “It will be like Christmas all year round” she said when she convinced him to have it installed. Now it is just one of the many painful reminders left in the house. He raises himself up slowly, joints cracking, as he supports his weight on his wooden cane’s silver handle. He slowly makes his way down the stairs, one stair at a time, leading with his cane. On the wall hangs a single framed photograph, pristine against the aged and cracked wall. The photo is a picture of Robert when he was much younger, with his arms around a young woman. The woman has green eyes full of life and love. They are both standing behind a little girl of about six or seven. Most of her features come from the woman in the picture. From her bright smile to her mahogany curls. However, her eyes are distinctly 93
A Doll’s House
Robert’s. A deep blue and holds a certain mischievousness and contentment that has long since vanished from Robert’s own eyes. He finally makes it down the stairs and hobbles towards the front door. As he passes through the living room he sets the doll down on a small side table. The doorbell sounds again as he opens the door and looks out, and sees nobody. “Did you know that your doorbell is “Jingle Bells”? Robert looks down to see a small girl staring up at him, her bright blue eyes regarding him curiously as she plays with the fringe on her pink dress. “Yeah.” “Um… can I get my ball?” Robert looks towards the field and watches as the boys stand there watching. They quickly turn around when they spot him looking in their direction. He hesitates for a moment, thinking about how inviting her in might look. He looks back down at the little girl, who is shuffling her feet nervously. “Why don’t you come in while I get your ball? I might still have some milk and cookies you can have.” “My mommy said that I’m not supposed to talk to strangers or go inside their houses.” “I’m not a stranger. I’m your neighbor.” She bites her lip in hesitation, deciding on whether or not to accept. Robert bends over and puts his hand out. “My name is Robert. What is yours?” “Emily,” She says as she reaches her hand towards his. His hand completely engulfs hers as they shake hands. She smiles up at him before skipping into the house. Robert slowly moves behind her, shutting the door. Robert goes to the cabinet and grabs a pack of cookies. He takes a few out and puts them on a paper plate. He pours a glass of milk and sits it on the kitchen table. “Have a seat and I’ll be back with your ball.” “Ok,” says Emily as she hops onto the stool and immediately grabs a cookie and begins dunking it repeatedly into the glass of milk, spilling some with each dunk. Robert slowly makes his way towards the back of the house. The glass on the backdoor is cracked and creaks as he opens it. He steps out onto the small concrete patio. The yard is very small and completely fenced in with 94
a wooden fence. The once well-kept garden off to the side has withered and become overgrown with weeds. The grill in the center of the yard is rusted over and mold is beginning to slowly take over the furniture one section at a time. He steps into the overgrown grass. The grass tickles his calves as he walks towards the center of the small yard. Nestled in the grass lies the baseball. Robert uses his cane to roll the ball closer before squatting to pick it up. His knees crack as he bends over to grab it. He stands up, ball in hand and makes his way back inside. He walks into the kitchen to find Emily gone. Her glass of milk is still half-full and there is a pile of cookies left uneaten on the plate. He walks into the living room looking for her. The living room was just as his wife had left it. Handmade coasters remained in the same place on the coffee table as well as an opened bottle of navy blue nail polish. Robert spots Emily standing on the arm of the love seat reaching for a doll on the bookshelf, tongue hanging out the side of her mouth in concentration as she sticks her arm out, just brushing the left foot of the doll. “What are you doing?” Startled, Emily jerks her hand back and loses her balance on the arm of the couch and falls backwards, arms whirling in an effort to remain upright. She lands on the couch and quickly stands up, shuffling her feet in nervousness. “I just wanted to look at your doll.” “You can look at it without touching it. Here is your ball.” Robert hands Emily the ball. She looks down at the ball uninterested and back at the doll. “Whose doll is that?” “It was my daughter’s.” Robert gently guides her to the front door. “Will she let me play with it?” “No. Don’t you think you should return that ball to your friends?” “Yeah,” she says, turning towards the door. She stops for a moment and stares, eyes wide with curiosity, at something behind Robert. She immediately rushes over towards the small side table. “This doll has the same ribbons and dress I do!” she says excitedly. “I think that it’s time that you…” Robert trails off as he is interrupted by a knock on the door. He opens the door and a woman is standing outside nervously wringing her hands together. She is dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Her short-cropped hair is the same color as Emily’s. 95
A Doll’s House
“Mr. Mosley, is my daughter here? The boys said she came over to get a ball.” “Mom, look! This doll looks just like me!” Emily runs over to her mother holding the doll up for her to see. Robert watches as she looks down at the doll and recognizes the similarities, from the pink dress and ribbons, to the hair and eye color. “Emily, sweetie. Why don’t you go give the boys back their ball? You only have a few more minutes to play before dinner time.” “Ok, Mommy,” says Emily as she runs out the front door, a wide smile brightening up her face. The door closes behind Emily. Emily’s mother, Susan, grips the doll in her hands tighter as she tries to remain in control of her emotions. Robert and Susan stand in an uncomfortable silence, staring at one another. “Tea?” “What?” “Would you like some tea?” Robert says as he makes his way towards the kitchen. Susan reluctantly follows after him. Robert fills an elephantshaped teakettle with water and puts it on the stove. He pulls out two mugs from the cabinet and rests a teabag in each. Susan takes a seat at the kitchen table, moving the pile of cookies and glass of milk aside. The silence grows more uncomfortable. Robert’s thoughts race in an effort to find an explanation that doesn’t make him come off as some sort or pervert. His thoughts are interrupted as the teakettle soon whistles and Robert pours the steaming water into the mugs before setting the kettle back on the stove. He hands her a mug and she takes it, setting the doll on the table. Robert stirs in some sugar and sips his tea. “They were for my daughter.” “What?” “The dolls. I made them for my daughter.” “That doesn’t explain why this doll looks like my daughter! Have you been watching her?” “Yes” “What!” Susan slams her cup of tea on the table; some of it spills over the edge. “You are one sick son of a…” “It’s not like that. Let me explain.” Robert calmly takes another sip of his tea before he gently rests the cup down. Susan reluctantly sits back 96
down. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his wallet. He opens it and pulls out a worn photograph. It is the same picture on the wall of his house. It has many creases from being repeatedly folded and unfolded. He slides the picture across the table and Susan picks it up and stares at it. “Is this you?” “Yes. We took that picture twenty years ago. It was about a week before the accident.” “Accident?” “We had been planning a trip. I got home from work later than usual. I told them to go ahead and catch our flight and that I’ll take the next one out and meet them there. They never made it there.” “I had no idea. I’m so sorry.” “Thank you. You know your daughter reminds me a lot of mine.” “She does?” “Yeah. When she rang the doorbell I thought my little Abby had come back. When I see her it’s as if she never left. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. I have no harmful intentions towards your daughter. Abby’s favorite toy was a doll I made for her. She was so excited that it looked like her. I thought that maybe Emily would like one too.” “I understand. I’m sorry for jumping to conclusions but in this day and age you can’t be too careful. I’m sure she’ll be very happy.” Susan rises from the table, bumping it slightly as she gets up. They both watch as the doll slowly falls onto the floor. They hear the shattering and they both look over at the doll. The doll is lying on its stomach, a chunk of porcelain, broken into a few pieces, lies next to the doll’s head. “Oh my God! I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to…” Susan rushes over to the doll and bends down to pick it up. She turns the doll around facing her and there is a jagged hole on the left cheek of the doll, and part of the eye is missing. Robert gently takes the doll from Susan’s hands and inspects the damage. He lays the doll down on the table and stares at it a moment before coming to a decision. He walks into the living room and reverently lifts the doll off of the bookcase. He holds it gently in his hands and smoothes the mahogany curls. He walks back into the kitchen and hands the doll to Susan. “Here. Give this to her.” Susan looks down at the doll in shock. “But this is…” “Yeah. I think dolls were meant to be played with instead of just 97
A Doll’s House
collecting dust. Besides, I think Abby would have wanted her doll to go to a good home.” “Thank you. Emily will love it.” Robert and Susan walk towards the front door. He opens the door for her and she steps out. “Tell her to take care of it and if she needs any repairs, my door is always open…and maybe she could come by every once and awhile?” “I will and she’ll probably be over often to pick up baseballs.” Susan gives Robert a smile before turning and walking off the porch and down the driveway. Robert closes the door and walks back into the kitchen. He picks up the picture lying on the table and looks at it. His thumb traces over the smiling face of his wife and daughter. He turns the photo over. On the back written in his wife’s handwriting is Family Portrait September 4, 1991. He folds the photo and puts it back into his wallet, before sliding it in his back pocket. He picks up the broken doll and carries it upstairs. He lies the doll down on the first table, filled with various body parts. He picks up a blank face and begins to paint the irises a deep cerulean. He pauses to look out the window, watching the kids play. The boys have continued their baseball game and the girls are still chasing after the puppy. Emily is running with a doll clutched tightly to her chest, smiling brightly.
INSIDE THE MIRROR Dean Shaban
Inside the mirror, she lives, gazing into her eye as butterflies emancipate her lips to speak. But she says nothing. She is too good for words. Golden ears would fix the fates to hear what her wooden tongue has to impart, however unjustly, unto the world. She stares into the mirror, a sponge laced in white seashells given to her on her wedding day, when Cupid shot, with no mistake, both arrows into her combusting heart. If only did this looking glass inside it hold another realm, where Kodachrome is black and white and Narcissus is blind. Her thoughts amount in bubbles above her head, reflecting word for word what she had hoped to ponder. Perhaps it is a puzzle, and she can see no more the end game than the juts and jagged edges of the pieces lost. Absorbed in the lines that trace her fallow field, she stands at the gate through which no friend or foe should ever hope to cultivate their conquest. And as she feigns to wonder what wealth may lie beyond her reach, all who cast their eyes upon her know that sheâ€™ll forever live inside the mirror. 99
Issue III, Volume I