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p hoe ni x li t erar yar t smagazi ne

Fal l2010, Vol . 52, I s s ue1 TheUni ver s i t yofTennes s ee


Frontispiece: Clifford Neal by Guen Montgomery

phoenix Editor -in-Chief Jed Pruett


Editor Emeritus Will Parker

Leslie Grossman


Jonathan Phillips


Laura Gossett


Sara Marie Miller


Jonathan Purtill


Zach Widgren


Katy Smith


Blakely Bannister


Art/Photography Editors Marissa Landis Hannah Patterson Fiction Editors Jake O’Donnel Colby Swift Poetry Editor Rachel Finney Design Sarah Smith Planning Chris Cameron Joshua Richeson Media Director Sam Bacon Support Staff Garrett Bourdon Aaron Craig Sarah Elias Matt Hoover Brittany Tipton Brandy Wells Hannah Yancey Faculty Advisors Jane Pope Eric Smith

(c) Copyright 2010 by the University of Tennessee. Rights retained by the individual contributors. Send submissions to: Phoenix Room 5 Communications Building 1340 Circle Park Dr., Knoxville, TN 37996, email:

Fiction A Few Good Men....................Daryl Yearwood


Below the Mountains...............Sam Petschulat


Poetry Cartography..........................Marigrace Angelo


When Crickets Play Oboes.....Daryl Yearwood


Peace...............................................Amien Essif


Harper’s Five and Dime..........Daryl Yearwood


7 Ways to Eat Toast......................Austin Kodra


Christmas Gunfire.......................Austin Kodra


Untitled Leslie Grossman


Cartography On your thigh, inked lines formed Africa, snaking around the Mediterranean Sea near the coast of Melilla. I wanted to trace the contours of Iberia, halfhidden in the shadow of jersey shorts bunched in your fist like Whitman’s full-handed child playing with cut grass. Drawn to your hands, itching to take their place I asked, why Africa, watched your moss eyes glint. You replied, in short, adventure. Separated by sea, slicing your leg vertically in half, that dark continent struck with want has the allure of blood diamonds. I wanted for nothing but to run my hand along Morocco’s coast, a halfmooned finger nail dotting Africa’s shore for every Canary Island. A sea of laughter bubbled from your lips, cut short by a shout from across the hall. Tempers short, they scowled at us; they wanted us to stop playing cartographer, the seas to be undisturbed by inquisitive hands. But where fingers end the mind enters, African hills seen in National Geographic flooding the right half of my brain. A woman halves an avocado, freshly picked from short fronds five miles south. This is Africa, on a slow day, but I know you’d want a land far more perilous, where hands and scalps dangle from belts, cast into sea to prevent blood-stained cargo. At sea, where eager young white men fly over half a day’s worth of travel, hands clasped tightly, praying out any shortterm regret, replaced with the want to claim this wild west called Africa, wanting to shorten the length of the sea, because it only takes half a hand’s distance to travel from Africa to Iberian shores. - Marigrace Angelo


A Few

GoodMen Daryl J. Yearwood

She was trouble from that moment last July when she showed up on Jim’s doorstep —all of her clothes in a Kroger’s bag and a baby balanced on her hip. She pushed past both of us and disappeared inside. Jim stood perfectly still, back straight like a steel rod had been driven into the hollows of his vertebrae. “Dave,” he said, “I swear I don’t know her.” I’ll never know what happened in that trailer, but she stayed, and now, a year later, she’s still here—her, the baby, and all the problems that started with the drinking. Before long, she moved on to harder things and left Jim to take care of the kid. When she started staying gone for several days at a time, Jim paid one of the teenagers to come over after school and babysit until nine or ten. It was the only free time he could get. He would have lost his job if he had one, but the government checks came right on time—payment for three pounds of shrapnel and a knee that won’t straighten. There is enough to live on but not enough to raise her and the kid.



The waitress brings our food and refills the coffee cups. She smiles at Jim, but he is deep in that place of

wanted my opinion.” Jim drowns another cigarette in the coffee cup. He

grenades and trip-wires—his face a death mask—one

stares at his food, apparently surprised that he hadn’t

of those African jobs that is supposed to scare away evil

seen it before. The egg yolks run yellow when he pokes

spirits. I don’t think the waitress is evil, but she must

them with his fork. He mixes the eggs into his grits

be a spirit because one look at Jim’s scowl, and she

and dumps in two spoonfuls of sugar, too much salt,

vanishes. Maybe that’s what he is trying to do—frighten

and enough pepper to color the whole mess a speckled

away his troubles. He smokes instead of eating, and a

black, white, and yellow.

blue haze colors the air. Small tufts of smoke zip by on

“You’re right,” he said. “I don’t.”

currents from the window air-conditioner that hums

We talk about the upcoming Chargers football

just loud enough to be annoying. Three butts float in a

game and how the senior quarterback is sure to get a

half cup of cold coffee that sits between the salt and the

nod from the college scouts. Jim eats while we talk, and,

ketchup bottle’s blood red excretions staining the once-

for a little while, things feel normal. We laugh about

white table cloth.

the bull that took over the drug store parking lot until

The diner is mostly clean if you don’t look too

Frank showed up, tied a piece of bailing twine to the

closely. There are stains on the vinyl seats, and the

bull’s nose ring, and led it away like a dog on a leash.

wallpaper is yellow with age, but in its day, this was

The mood slowly changes until we stop talking and sit

a hopping place—a hangout for teenagers with their

looking out the window.

pompadours and saddle oxfords. Today’s kids drive

Jim surprises me when he says, “I don’t know why

thirty miles to get to a Starbucks in the next town,

I let her stay.” He waves for another cup of coffee and

drink their lattes, and talk about whether or not the

watches a dog try to cross the street getting hit. A break

latest DUI pop-star is going to jail. Steam and smoke

in the traffic gives him his chance and he streaks across,

mingle in the air, and the cook’s “Order up!” becomes

vanishing out of sight down the alley just past the

background noise like Muzak on an elevator.

hardware store. “I couldn’t send her away. She seemed

Jim catches me with a mouth full of hash brown potatoes and asks, “What do you think I should do?” I look up, and he is staring at me. When I could answer, I said, “I didn’t think you

so vulnerable. And then, there was the baby.” “She’s been anything but vulnerable,” I said. “But who is she, Jim?” “Just somebody that needs help.”


“I’m sorry,” I shake my head. “I’ve known you a long time, Jim, and you’re not known for your charity.”

one for miles. It generates lots of talk at the diner about why it’s there, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle

“That’s not very nice,” he said.

of a cornfield. In the early evening mist, it looks like a

“Face it, man. You punched Santa. You hit him. Pow!

flying saucer making crop circles in the corn.

Right in the kisser.”

“Man, you don’t need this.” I’ve said it before, and I

Jim looks offended. “He got in my face with that bell. I warned him.”

always get the same answer. Jim takes out the red and white box of cigarettes,

“Good grief, Jim, he was taking up money for

tongues one from the pack, and lights it—the chrome

presents to give to poor kids. Shaking the bell is what he

Zippo scratched from years of sharing a room with a


bone-handled pocketknife. The sudden flame lights

“Yeah. Well.” He swirls the cup of butts. “He got in my face.”

Jim’s face and casts deep shadows in all of his hidden places. He puffs hard and rubs what’s left of his thumb

The waitress brings Jim a fresh cup of coffee and leaves as quickly as she came.

over the lighter’s MIA emblem. I remember when he had that thumb, and the day he lost it. There was

“Why did you—let her stay, I mean?”

small arms fire, and we dashed for cover, but that one

Jim sighs and stares out the window, his coffee sits

mindless piece of lead found a target. I remember it all,

on the table getting cold.

especially the blood—lots of blood. “Where else would she go?” Jim asks. “I could answer that if I knew who she was.” I know


that isn’t what he wants to hear. “She could go to a shelter. They take in people all the time.” Jim draws hard on his cigarette before he answers.

The drive back to the trailer is quiet—darkness

and gives me one of those strange looks you get from

scream at the black road. I stop the car, and we head

people who seem to have noticed something for the first

for the porch—the crunch of gravel more than enough


noise. Leaning against the rail, we stare into the dark woods. There’s a streetlight off in the distance—the only


“No.” He flicks ash on the ground. “She stays.” He turns

filling the car with a stifling silence while the headlights

“You’re starting to sound like my ex-wife,” he said. “She used to nag me all the time. That’s why I kicked her


“Six-hundred dollars for an aquarium!” I can’t

“You make it sound like I caught you cheating on me.”

believe it. She wiped out all of the money he set aside to buy a more reliable truck.

“You’re not a woman, Dave. Stop acting like one.” “You know what I mean.” I’m starting to get angry, and there is that strange look again. “Is that it? You think we’re that close—some kind of couple?” Jim puts out the cigarette. “Well. We’re not.” I don’t know what to say, so I say the wrong thing. “I’m not your wife, Jim, and I’m not your mother.” I guess we’re not that close after all.

“It came with the fish,” Jim says. “Besides, Dave. You’re not my mother. Remember?” “But come on, man. Six-hundred dollars?” Jim opens his mouth to say something, but closes it, sighs, and tries again. “It’s really big.” What do you say to that? Jim’s been sequestered in his trailer for the last couple of months—not even answering the phone. We’ve only spoken when I take the time to drive to his place,


and our conversations are becoming strained. I tell him that she is using him as a babysitter while she goes out bar-hopping and sleeping with anything in jeans and

She gets caught shoplifting, but Jim is able to get

cowboy boots. He says that it’s none of my business. I

the Manager to let it slide. Plus, there is that whole mess

figure after all the time we’ve spent together as friends, it

with the Priest over at St John’s Episcopal Church—the

certainly is my business, but he tells me to stay out of it.

one she accused of being in league with Satan because he uses real wine at communion, which she never attends. In fact she doesn’t go to any church, not even the


Unitarian bunch down by the river, and they take just about anyone. But the real kicker is when she takes the money from Jim’s cigar-box stash and uses it to buy an

I haven’t seen him since the day I dropped her off

aquarium that’s almost as big as the trailer’s living room. at the trailer. She’d been willing to keep the appointI’m sure that this will push him over the edge, but Jim

ment that I made with the therapist, so I picked her up

takes it right on the chin like everything else she does.

in front of the laundry mat. On the way back, I can tell


that she isn’t even going to make an effort to change.

remember the last time I’d seen him this mad—this

I also know that Jim will be pissed, but I have to try and

agitated. “I’m the one who tried to get help. I’m the one

make him see what’s going on—the way she pushes him

who took her to the doctor!”

around—the way she causes trouble and treats him like a piece of property. But first, I need to talk to her.

“Doctor?” Jim lowers his voice. “You took her to a shrink. That’s what you did!” He looks at me with disgust. “Man, what were you thinking?” This conversation is a bust. Jim has no love for


what he calls “the head police.” After four tours in the Mekong Delta and struggling with the VA docs over his own demons, he has no use for psychiatrists.

Jim’s muscled frame blocks the top step, his Colt

“She needs help, man. Are you going to help her?” I

.45 shoved through the black, sweat-stained belt that

put my hand on the railing with the thought of pushing

he wears everyday like some kind of uniform. I always

him out of the way. “You can’t even help yourself, Jim!

wondered if it was the only belt he owned, but not

Still killing Gooks in your dreams?”

enough to ask. “Go away, Dave.” Jim stands motionless, the ever-present Marlboro hanging from the corner of his mouth.

“Get back in your car.” Jim’s voice is cold. “No.” I shake my head. “I want to see her.”

“You know I’m not leaving until I’ve talked to her.”

“Get in your car, Sarge.”

Jim sighs.

Jim broke the unspoken rule. He crossed the invis-

We’ve been friends long enough to hope that he won’t hit me. “I just want to talk.”

ible line—the one that has allowed us to stay friends for all these years. We never talk about the war. Ever. There

He puts out his cigarette on the porch railing and

is bitterness in our relationship that started the day he

flicks the butt across the yard, watching it bounce into

re-upped and I didn’t. He went back to the jungle with

the driveway’s limestone gravel. “She doesn’t want to

its enemy-filled villages and tiger-filled jungles. I went

talk to you.” He looks up and points his finger at my

back to a good old American apple-pie life. And he

face. “Not you.”

never called me “Sarge” again.

“This is not my fault, and you know it.” I can’t


I cringe at my own words—at the dark shroud that suddenly falls over his body.

Jim speaks slowly and deliberately. “Get back in

your car.” His eyes focus on mine with a look I had seen before, a look that said I was no longer off-limits. “Sarge.” He stops—makes sure he has my attention. “Don’t come back here again. It won’t go well.” “Is that why you’re carrying the Colt?” I ask “Are you willing to shoot me?” 
 “If I have to.” “It’s that easy is it?” I slowly pull back my hand. “You’d just squeeze that trigger after all we’ve been through?” “All I’ve been through, you mean.” Jim’s face tight-

scared of what I had become—what they made me!” The moment passes, and Jim’s fingers tighten around the pistol grip. “It is easy, you know—killing a man.” He speaks in a whisper. “Easy for me, that is. Always was. Point— shoot—repeat. Just like you taught me, Sarge.” “That was a long time ago, man.” Helping the girl is no longer an option. Jim looks through me, and I know it’s too late. He’s back in VC territory, finger on the trigger, wondering why I’m not beside him. I want to put my hand on his

ens. “I was there when the ambush hit. Not you. You

shoulder. I want to tell him that it will be alright. I want

were gone—back in the States with your happy little life.

to, but I don’t. His eyes clear, and I see him return to the

I was the one who spent a year…” Jim’s voice breaks.


He takes a deep breath and tries to continue. His voice shakes and he fights against painful memories.

I don’t tell him that I know who she is—know that she’s his granddaughter from a daughter that considers

“I spent a year learning to walk again. Not you.”

him dead. A daughter he hasn’t heard from in thirty

All I can do is stand there. All I want to do is run

years. I don’t let him know because I want him to tell

away. For a moment, I see a shadow of the scared kid who didn’t want to go to war, the skinny boy with dreams of kissing Virginia, the hottest cheerleader in school, of cruising McDonald’s parking lot in a jet-black ’57

me. I really need him to tell me—to let me in. I just want him to trust me again. But he doesn’t. I guess he never did. “You’re on your own.” Headed to the car, a metallic click tells me all I need to know. The safety had been off.

Chevy, of being a rock-n-roll star with a girl in every town. “I was in the psyche ward for eighteen months, Sarge.” It’s that little boy’s voice trapped in a broken man’s body. “They kept me there because they were


Untitled Jonathan Phillips 12

Sunning without Cigars Laura Gossett 13


(Left) Tops (Above) Lunker Sara Marie Miller


The following are untitled works by Jonathan Purtill 16




Bonhomie Zach Widgren 20

When Crickets Play Oboes Reality never was her forte— the mind, they said, never clear, thoughts rattled, an earthquake sailing granite below Puget Sound while a cricket plays the oboe— legs in shape-note disharmony. She orchestrates etudes of flight, afraid of b-flat men in lab-coats with smiles, stares, PhD words— disorder, psychosis, delusion. She’s okay with that, lost in symphonic lithium. Her cricket. Her oboe. - Daryl Yearwood



theMountains Sam Petschulat

The mountains soar up out of seas of North Dakota dirt and rise up all around me as high as I’m able to see. They’re like daddy sleeping way up in his bed in the middle of the night, and I’m just a sick kid way down below hazy with a dream still halfplaying in my head a mile underneath him on the dirty carpet. Him all smothered in rolling blankets, still except the steady air flowing into him and back out again. I sit down there on the floor, sick as a little germ, burning hot at that time before morning but after night, the silent-nothing-limbo that you’re supposed to sleep right through while it passes right over you and continues on. But there I am, sneaking my glance at the big secret moment that God tried to hide and daddy sleeps through, but I’ve seen it now, and I’m left with the ache of seeing and knowing and wondering what comes next and if I’ll ever sleep again and if he’ll ever move again or just lie there like the mountains, just how God made them, the same for all eternity. I just sit there down below, watching daddy but watching nothing really, nothing new, just the solid heavy stillness immovable as far as I’m concerned. I’m trying to muster up some courage down on the floor, but not really the courage to do anything, I’m not even that far yet. I’m just trying to pull myself


together to make any kind of decision as to what I

to be asleep, and shows so by sending out his alien

want to do next.

lighthouse signal, lest anyone fail to recognize the

Then I’m really feeling sick as a dog down there,

fog of night blackness for the obvious sign that it

cross-legged on the grainy carpet, feeling long,

is and consequently fail to bow to its expectations.

smooth cat hairs between my fingers that split in

The clock just keeps shifting up there, immune to its

half when I pull too hard as I breathe deep and slow

own warnings as it chugs on, minute after minute,

and lean my bruised spine and head against the flat

independent of me or daddy or God or whoever else

wooden hardness of the wall, putting pressure in

may happen on by to see it.

all the wrong places while I try to balance out the

The longer I sit there the higher the numbers get

comfort of no longer supporting my weight with

till they roll over naturally, and the new hour begins

the discomfort of allowing the wall to do so instead.

with me still sitting down on the ground, back still

So I sit there trading this relief for that pain best as

against the wall, head still wide awake inside a body

I can, bartering and haggling and half-way dozing

that just wants to rest while I wait for something

with aches running through my head and neck and

inside or outside of me to come along and advance

throat and gut down into my legs and pretty much

me to my next action verb.

any other part of me that moves while I wait for

Gradually (and I do mean gradually, as the

something to come to me, some great revelation of

whole process takes at least a quarter of an hour), I

what I want to do, or some hefty bout of courage

start working up the courage and the resolve to act

that’ll permit me to do it.

in some way. Right there in the moment, all I really

The only thing to remind me that time hasn’t

want to do is keep on resting down there on the floor,

stopped entirely in the black pre-dawn dead is

because it’s sure more comfortable than the pain in

daddy’s old alarm clock that he’s had long as my

the butt it would take for me to move. But I guess

memory stretches back, about 10,000 feet up on

partially because of the clock’s reminding me of

his nightstand with the over-sized digital numbers

the hours that I’ve already wasted, I get to thinking

steadily advancing while they project their other-

that those hours are never, ever, ever coming back.

worldly green haze over the room, another unset-

Nothing I’m capable of doing can change that, but

tling sign that even the tiny little computer living

I can keep the forthcoming one from suffering the

inside that clock knows that everyone’s supposed

same fate, and anyway I sure don’t want to sit upright


awake on the cold floor all night, so my mind finally

practically screaming now although I’ve only just

going to have to be done by me (and not by anyone

raised my voice above a whisper, and I poke him real

or anything else) in order to get through my fever-

light on the shoulder hoping this might help without

soaked insomnolence. This truth has crept into my

forcing me to start yelling at the top of my lungs into

head, and I’m well aware of its presence, so now it’s

his ear.

just a matter of how long I’m going to let myself

Whether it was the slight edging up of the vol-

indulge in ignoring it before I get up and do some-

ume or the tap on the shoulder, this works one way

thing. I tell myself it’ll just be a minute more, but the

or another, and boy does it ever work. Daddy kind

longer I do this the more I know I’m delaying the

of gasps and contorts real frantic for a second, still

inevitable, until I finally reach a breaking point, open

half asleep and not knowing whether I’m me or an

my dazed and achey eyes, and stand up on my two

axe-murderer come to split open his head or Jesus

sore legs to stand by the side of daddy’s bed in the

Christ himself back for the final reckoning. And that

dark. He’s still just lying there, motionless as ever.

bout of his half-asleep hysteria is just enough to scare

I feel a little bad for what I’m about to do, cause

the hell out of me, just a little tiny person seeing his

I know daddy has to get up early tomorrow morning

daddy act all crazy like that. It’s almost bad enough

to go to work, whereas I’ll more likely than not get to

to make me wonder if he hasn’t been taken up by

stay home from school dogged as I’m feeling (such

some awful spirit like you hear about in church on

things are typically the first to cross sick boys’ minds

Sundays or in the stories my friends tell at the lunch

in the middle of the night), but I know I have to do it

table or on the blacktop pavement at recess. I’m

or else just sit back on the floor and wait for time to

watching right before my eyes the only model, the

have its way with me.

only other human in the world that I know to try

“Daddy,” I whisper, probably about as loud as a


“Daddy,” I say one final time, feeling like I’m

starts coming around to the reality that something’s

and emulate best I can, the only person on this earth

pin dropping on a pillow. I repeat that word over and

that I know to watch and study and replicate, the

over again, gradually raising my voice in infinitesi-

living, breathing ethic that I’m doing my best to turn

mal increments, trying to find the exact minimum

into get all spooked and half-crazy with fear all

volume that’s just barely loud enough to wake him

because of my little pokes and whispers in the middle

up easy.

of the night, and I just get overcome by a rush of fear

and guilt and absolute confusion as I watch all this

carries me over to the old dusty medicine cabinet

happen to the only man I’ve ever seen.

above the bathroom sink and pulls out the right

So I start bawling like the little kid that I am

medicine with his big, knowing hands and pours it

and always will be, gasping for breath through my

in the little plastic cup that usually rests upside-down

sore throat down into my firey lungs, choking down

on top of the bottle and then gives it to me to drink,

waves of my own hysteria that start to fill up my

along with a glass of cold water to chase down the

sick gut as it convulses in and out irregularly as I’m

awful stuff.

catching whatever air I can from all around me to

Then he carries me back to his giant bed, where

take in and turn into more of the stale scared feelings

I get to sleep for the night just in case I get to feeling

that I’m all of a sudden so full of.

so awful again but really to keep me from feeling

Of course daddy’s by this time come out of his

awful, since I can’t even imagine feeling bad in my

startle and is only worried about what’s wrong with

daddy’s big sheets, on one of his pillows with his gi-

his little crying boy down there in the middle of the

ant person right beside me to protect me in case any-

night. He sits up and sets me on his lap and wraps

thing should happen. It’s the biggest, safest, warmest

his arms around me and tells me it’s all gonna be

feeling in the world lying there by him, and as I lie

alright and that he’s still there and that nothing’s

there dozing off, I can’t imagine getting sick without

wrong and I just keep crying into the shoulder of

my daddy there. I know daddy’s been gone since be-

his white undershirt, not quite sure what I’m still so

fore I even existed, and I can’t imagine what he does

horrified by but still overcome nonetheless.

when he gets feeling real sick or sad or overcome by

I gradually calm down, and I’m just sitting there

something so much bigger than himself. I think that

in daddy’s lap with his arms around me while he

daddy’s pretty much got to be his own daddy in such

sushes me and rocks me back and forth and asks me

a situation.

what’s the matter. Once I’m finally done hyperventi-

This thought almost disturbs me a little as I

lating, I squeeze out four inarticulate words: “I don’t

drift off to sleep, but it’s all but overcome by the safe

feel good.” They obviously fail to quite capture the

warmness I feel lying there under daddy’s blankets

vast repertoire of crises and emotions that I’ve stared

with him, as my aches and pains wear away into a

down so far tonight, but daddy still understands

little kids crazy dreams way up in my daddy’s

better than anyone else in the world could, and he

mountain bed.



The TV says “Afghanistan” but the TV’s in the living room and I am in the sleeping room eating my way through the 18th Century on the back of a paper worm. Maybe it’s better this way: They do their thing, I do my own on which problems congregate like larvae in the instant grits, fruit flies on my dinner plate, in the garbage can where they procreate. I’m talking: unwashed things in a dirty sink. When things start to stink I crack a window, open a book and once a week I go outside to see how the world looks. The extent of my visit to the Great What-Is-It is my tramp through the trenches of the supermarket where I see young Americans buried alive in little packagings—the rubble of the new world, or washed away in karo syrup shelled by number-one hit-singles from above, where melody mingles with love and promotional advertising.


Out at my car in the parking lot the groan of roadside silence. The asphalt is hot. I balance a plastic bag on my thumb and open my trunk. I doubt for a minute that the quiet is real, like there was a sound buried by other sounds that I’d like to hear but can’t— That I’d like to feel, but won’t— And then I peal out as if chased by hounds but all around me the clanks of street workers, gas stations, banks, resound in peace.

- Amien Essif


Harper’s Five and Dime The failed mill, absent families, yards painted dandelion-yellow. Eczema paint-flakes peel from siding. Old Man Weaver’s broken chimney swims his forgotten yard—sea-monster in a Loch of weeds. Ice-floes of boiling asphalt cut through town. Harper’s Five & Dime, Soda Fountain, and Apothecary ignores the corner of Highway 124 and Mill Road—mute sign, bubonic brass handles, fresh coat of thirty-year-old neglect. Glass shards razor the sidewalk—once windows—once clean— once Piggly-Wiggly. Coyote tracks, circle a stubby yellow hydrant, compete for dark corners behind rusted trashcans. A rattlesnake bakes in front of Murphy’s Barbershop, stands guards over the open doorway. Shingles crumble, highway signs fade—no way to go home again when the foundation’s gone. - Daryl Yearwood


Bruised Katy Smith 29

7 Ways to Eat Toast I Scrambled, bacon and a corn muffin. On second thought, make that rye toast. II While reading the paper, Calvin and Hobbes rubbed with crumbs between forefinger and thumb. III Counting carbs, flat focaccia flax bread. Kids peer at their plates, suspicious. IV Bristle by the boy to grab a buttered slice. I love you is a mouthful out the door. V Naked after sex, short stabs at black slabs from the toaster, forgotten. VI O respite of sunrise, your gold-cratered lips mingle with her kiss and raspberry jam. VII Eyes closed and teeth grind, somehow. Damn Mondays.


Christmas Gunfire I’m certain. The yelp I’m convinced is coming never echoes through bruised night. But I’m certain. A pool of fox blood, tepid and crimson, soaks banked snow behind the shed bedecked with boarded windows and cobwebbed chimes. Young, oily-haired boys suck half-smoked menthols, assure me the buckshot plugged like a spade into soil or struck rock face and kicked through the pines. Shoulder stock solid on bone is as foreign as my pre-incarnated first-born, green eyes strange, sullen face drawn deaf from the blast as gunpowder smothers the cramped back porch. They’ve already forgotten, sipped deeper into Christmas liquor, cheap rum in coffee mugs whisked with diet cola splashes. Railroad tracks atop the bank don’t stray at the seismic twitch of my finger or the corpse that’s surely stiffening in its makeshift hillside grave. Men and metal pose, resonate in street lamp shadows. Canines scavenge the pallid foreground.

- poems by Austin Kodra


Veil Blakely Bannister 32

Phoenix - Fall 2010  
Phoenix - Fall 2010  

The editorially independent student literary and arts magazine of the University of Tennessee.