Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue 14

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Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14 We’re walking with a bit more spring in our step this month as we bask in the glory of YOUR awesome submissions. From the phenomenal quarter-finalists of the 2015 Vine Leaves Collection Award, to the stunning artistry featured in this issue of the journal, we’re honoured you’ve chosen us as a place to showcase your talent. Whether you’re a contributing artist or one of our treasured readers, we know you’ll get swept up in the clever wordplay of poets like Valentino Cano, or find the beautiful simplicity in vignettes such as Emilie Peck’s Swallow the Rot or Susan B. Apel’s The Power of (Muscle) Memory. As the journal continues to flourish, so too does the new Blooming Vine Leaves section, featuring emerging talent from high school students across the globe, such as the stunning poetry of Emily Liu, or another fresh vignette by veteran Michael Louard. Art & Photography Fitting, given this is the season Vivian Calderón Bogoslavsky ~ pp. 3, 11, 17 Caitlin Crowley ~ pp. 15, 27 of new. Alegre Polvo Veraniego | Euforia |Registro

Smile | Half Full

W. Jack Savage ~ pp. 5, 9 Living Downtown | Alone Together

Roopa Dudley ~ Cover, pp. 22, 36 Chess-Mate | Help-Mate Chess-Nut Forest @ Dusk

Alli Hurley ~ pp. 7, 19, 33 Edge of Now—What Lies Behind Resting Notes | Trepidation

Leonard Kogan ~ pp. 24, 30, 39 Severance | In a Three-Dimensional Captivity | Rover

Tree with Sundial by Amanda Bess Allen ~ pg. 13

East Beach by Donna Rosser ~ pg. 42

Elisha Holt ~ pp. 6, 42 Hummingbird in Sunset Mountain Leech on Sugi Teresa Williams ~ pg. 10 To the Women of Dubrovnik, 1991 At the Museum, White Space

As you devour Issue 14, pour a glass for us, and salute not only the warmer season, but also your contribution to our everblooming Vine Leaves family.

Featured Authors

Valentina Cano ~ pg. 12 Phone Call | The Crafts | Cartographer

Kushal Poddar ~ pp. 25, 28 Dog | Sparrows

Nayantara Dutta ~ pg. 20 Palmistry | Forest Fires

SuzAnne C. Cole ~ pp. 26, 28 Death by Numbers | Ghost Riders | Small Remains

James Croal Jackson ~ pg. 25 Blizzard | Bonfires on the Outskirts

Richard King Perkins II ~ pg. 35 Ides | Because I’m Being Honest

Dust by Sloan Thomas ~ pg. 4 Easier Than Pie by M. M. Adjarian ~ pg. 6 Twelve by Dejah Beauchamp ~ pg. 6 Vulnerability by Katherine Liu ~ pg. 7 A Confrontation by Cecilia Donohoe ~ pg. 8 The Zookeeper’s Wife by Andy O’Kelley ~ pg. 8 Confidence by Jen Davis ~ pg. 9 Here I Am by Stacey Michelle Spencer ~ pg. 14 Wednesday by Shloka Shankar ~ pg. 15 Scarlet Letter by Diane G. Martin ~ pg. 16 Four Months and Counting by Maryann Lawrence ~ pg. 18 Swallow the Rot by Emilie Peck ~ pg. 18 Easy by Cathy Bryant ~ pg. 19 Letter to Robot by Jonathan LaHaye ~ pg. 21 Steps to Goodbye by Charity Tahmaseb ~ pg. 23 The Power of (Muscle) Memory by Susan B. Apel ~ pg. 25 Billy by Sid Orange ~ pg. 27 Tongue in Cheek by Susan P. Blevins ~ pg. 28 Letter of Closure to an Indonesia Slum Shower by Timothy L. Marsh ~ pg. 29 I loved Georgia, too by Keah Brown ~ pg. 31 Daddy Never Asked by Tommy Dean ~ pg.31 The Tattooist’s Daughter by Angela Readman ~ pg. 32 Collision by Steve Prusky ~ pg. 32 Anonymity on Campus by Susan Sage ~ pg. 32 Fiber Optic Religion by Sonya Groves ~ pg. 33 Two Weddings by Amy Collini ~ pg. 34 Bang by Katherine Thomas ~ pg. 37 Mechanics by Amy Nemecek ~ pg. 38 Bubbles by Janani Venkatesh ~ pg. 40 Adho Mukha Śvānāsana by Stacey Margaret Jones ~ pg. 40 Mauthausen by Barbara Krasner ~ pg. 40 Slow Dancing by Ronald Jackson ~ pg. 41 Resuscitation by Maraya Loza Koxahn ~ pg. 41


Blooming Vine Leaves That Girl by Lindsey Thompson ~ pg. 44 Emily Liu ~ pp. 44, 45 Plip Plop Dandelions Like a Plane, They Flew Water Horses Empty Horizon Practical Math The Old Man by the Sea Artificial Flowers Ashes by Greg Owendoff ~ pg. 45 Christina Flores-Chan ~ pp. 46 Rainy Grey Someone Far Far Away Wanderer at Lightning Speed Oh Boy. Crappy Old Cleveland by Michael Louard ~ pg. 47

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Alegre Polvo Veraniego

by Vivian Calder贸n Bogoslavsky


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14


by Sloan Thomas The dust hovers in the air without settling. This is how I find Deanie—it’s how most people find her. Dirt kicked off the tires of her bike never seems to fall. Sometimes it hangs out for days. Sometimes it follows her. Her whole life she’s been partially obscured by grit.

from the ground underneath the tree. I take out my cigarettes and offer her one. I couldn’t tell you if she smokes, but she looks like she does. After all, she is our James Dean E. I just found about her little brother yesterday. Never woke-up. Her mom had him long after Deanie was grown, and had a little girl of her own—that her mother takes care of as well. Her father always got his way. Deanie takes the cigarette.

Under a fir tree, off the side of the old church, she sits legs crossed. Indian style. I can’t tell how long she’s been there; the dust gives no hints. She’s wearing a white t-shirt and dark blue Levis. Her usual outfit. “She’s our reservation James Deanie,” is the joke said out in the yards I tell her I’m sorry. “I just heard about Bub.” of homes she races by—on the almost broke down Harley she’s had since age 12. She takes a drag. “Bub had asthma.” She blows smoke rings that fan out and mix into the In high school, she played boys varsity basket- unmoving dust. “I smoke a pack a day, even in ball—all four years. Briefly a legend. Highly high school. Once, I lit one up, right there on recruited and never going anywhere. I was a the basketball court. Bub, he didn’t play sports.” freshman—she was a senior. Really, we never talked. Really, I only knew the sound of her “What are you doing here, Deanie?” I sit down bike roaring down the road when she cut class; beside her, adding my smoke to her atmosphere. usually fourth period American History. “I’m waiting for the leaves to fall.” I look Her family is notorious but no more than mine around at the spring day. It’s hot enough to be or anyone else’s. We all know how to take a mid-summer already. “They aren’t ever going lickin’. Still her father’s slaps could be felt for fall, Deanie. We live in an evergreen forest.” miles. He wanted boys. Deanie grinds her cigarette hard, corkscrewing She was light speed fast—hustled slam-dunks it into the ground. for gas. Leaving trails around the valley. Spinning in large circles. Her tires never crossed the “I wouldn’t know anything about green. I’ve Now You’re Leaving sign at the end of town. lived my life in the dust.” I pull over and park my car. She doesn’t move


Living Downtown by W. Jack Savage

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14


Easier Than Pie by M. M. Adjarian

by Dejah Beauchamp

You peeled apples for me, Papa, sculpting Small spheres of red, green and gold Into perfect quarters then perfect eighths That fit, neat and sweet, inside my mouth.

“You can come in,” she says, as if sensing my hand hovering, about to knock. So I do, I go in.

Your baby bird, I sat with beak wide open. Then, growing up, I suffered from amnesia, Forgetting how your strong fists curled Delicate around the fruit you hewed for me.

She is lying on her bed, long limbs curled up, knees to her chest, staring out the window at the setting sun.

You loved apples baked between butter crusts Like I loved them raw between my teeth. But not even earthquakes could move me To serve the man who had served a little girl.

I lie next to her, relieved when she doesn’t protest, doesn’t move away.

It would have been easy, easier than pie, To make you what you wanted, Papa. The day I did, the crust was hard as nails. Only the inside was soft, like the heart I could not let you see.

She’s twelve now, the in-between year of sharp and sweet. I rest my head close to hers, breathe in her scent. It never changes. It’s the warmth of the morning, of dew, of violets about to be born. I gaze lazily at the stars on the ceiling above her bed. We stuck them there when she was six, glow-in-the-dark-stickers that she was fascinated by, making us arrange them all in the shapes of constellations. I made Ursa Major; her father, Orion. They still shine.

Hummingbird in Sunset by Elisha Holt

There is a burning beyond the mountains’ cold shadows its smoke rising in orange tufts that blow eastward across the dark sky, over the peach orchards and fields of lavender. There is a blackened emerald hummingbird, the curve of its tongue licking at the red flesh of the clematis vines that grasp the face of a concrete silo. The heart of the hummingbird thrums like a wing like a massive unseen fire.

“I love this time of day,” she sighs. “The light—it’s so particular, don’t you think? You never get light like that at any other time.” But I can’t think of the light except what’s already in her hair, her arms, her eyes, her smile. My sweet girl, still young, still dreaming, still mine. 6

Vulnerability by Katherine Liu If I were to be found dead belly-up in my bathtub & limbs tangled like spider legs, I’d like to think that at least the paramedic would stare.

Edge of Now What Lies Behind by Alli Hurley

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

A Confrontation by Cecilia Donohoe

Phil came home from school flustered and “All right, so,” she said, and went to change her upset. shoes. “Mam,” she said. “Mam. Mrs. Giblin said I can’t Annie cycled the mile into town, grim and silent, come home for lunch.” meeting no one but the odd cow gazing at her from behind a fence. She cycled over the small “Did she, now?” said her mother, whose name iron bridge that led to the church, where she was Annie. “And why is that?” knew Mrs. Giblin would be found. She strode through the small church graveyard and up the “I don’t know. She said the town girls can go path to the heavy wooden side door, which was home but I can’t.” ajar. Entering, she dipped two fingers in the holy water font, genuflected, and made the Sign The reason behind Mrs. Giblin’s decree, though of the Cross before walking up the aisle. In the neither mother nor daughter could acknowl- gloom just below the altar (it was unlike her, so edge it, was clear enough. Phil was straight-pos- devout and reverent, to have stepped onto the tured and self-possessed; she did well in all her altar itself ), she waited until Mrs. Giblin turned subjects; and, because Annie wanted her daugh- from the vase of lilies and looked at her. ters to be different—better—than the other girls, she wore a small lock of blonde hair in a “Philomena Egan will come home for lunch,” twist at the top of her head. A teacher given to Annie said. Her voice would have been hoarse begrudgery might think she had airs about her from the silent walk to town, so that the words and might wish to puncture them. exited her throat scraped and raw-sounding, yet they fairly stampeded through the incenseAnnie looked at her daughter for a moment, at tainted air and up the altar to where the teacher her distress at being singled out for what was stood, blank-faced, lilies still bunched in her essentially a punishment. hands. “Yes,” Mrs. Giblin said. “Of course.”

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Andy O’Kelley

He left before sunrise, something about inoculating the Ibex. I couldn’t get back to sleep so I stay here in the lingering warmth. Alice, the boa constrictor, tickles the back of my knee like a lover, interested but not urgent. The clock ticks its strange digital facsimile, more like a pulse. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a pause in the rhythm and turn to see a flat green line. Each cold morning in the silent kitchen, half a cup left in the pot, crumbs on the countertop, empty coat hook in the hall. Nothing left behind. No kind note, no lifeline, no bridge between his life of purpose and mine of quiet desperation. My mother warned me: You ain’t got but two legs honey, how you gonna compete? It takes a kind-hearted man to care for animals, I insisted. She raised one eyebrow and slowly lowered her coffee cup. I was not an animal. If only Alice were longer, she could stretch across the miles and pull him back into our warm embrace. 8


by Jen Davis

The moment I pour my heart out, I am desperate to cram it back in.

Alone Together by W. Jack Savage

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Teresa Williams To the Women of Dubrovnik, 1991

At the Museum, White Space

I want to remember them the old women on the side of the road with their black dresses and white wheels of cheese

In the Chinese landscape, there is a lake, a full moon and a lotus. It is brimming with white, and without warning, I find myself— empty sky in the water.

tired faces that smiled in the heat. I left them behind with the limestone shore and my happiness when I first met the water memory of emeralds and time standing still.

The feeling is gossamer. I float, unencumbered by thought. A rice paper light passes over.

I wanted to be touched by what glints in the world’s gardens not by what hurts

Not knowing what to make of it, the emptiness, the relief in being a reflection,

but those women were worried.

or why I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I returned to the color of the world.

I felt the arrival of twilight at midday their dresses darkening

Lotus sun— my mind rippling lightly with pink

and I left them without saying a word missed the siege missed the war. I live far from the Adriatic closer to the mountains than to the sea but their grief came with me like the sound of the whole ocean spiraling in the tiny house of an errant shell. So I remember them to weave us together in this life. The black sounds crossing through the currents. The sun making gold from the stone.


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14


by Vivian Calder贸n Bogoslavsky


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Valentina Cano Phone Call

A number that tells nothing of itself. It could have your name stitched in its reptile curves and insect angles; it could smell as sweet as your hair does. of wet grass, or sound like your voice, a spoon against glass. It could be you.

The Crafts

I fill my hands with thread and warn to keep them out of my head. I allow them to knot and spread, to twist my fingers white that I may think in straight lines.

Cartographer I mapped the way to hell, traced its steps as welcoming as candlelight, mounded with moss. I carried its dust on my skirt’s hem, ragged by words and seconds on a crowded train. I mapped the way to hell and all its endless repetitions. 12

Tree With Sundial by Amanda Bess Allen

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Here I Am

by Stacey Michelle Spencer Here I am tapping my fingers on the steering wheel and checking my reflection in the mirror. My red hair has alchemized to dull brown, where it used to be golden blonde. I’m something like Neapolitan ice cream. I want to melt in his mouth like a pungent buttered garlic bulb. Here I am driving on highway thirty-one. Change the song on the stereo. Miss my turn.

don’t know what I’m doing and am too tired to care what you’re doing.

Here I am, four fifteen in the morning. Here I am placing an absentee man between myself and the person in the car with me. I am resisting the point, the turn, the climax of my narrative. We hug goodbye, capricious playthings, millions of moving, breathing cells, presumably normal, Here I am trying on shoes. The wedge heel has but most certainly wet through with alcohol. fallen flat on me. Here I am admiring the slope of my ankle in a three-inch shiny black stiletto. Here I am noticing his absence and how he Would he like me in this, I ask no one. No one doesn’t seek to resolve it. I ask myself is he answers. gone, missing, or simply not here? Here I am driving down two eighty. Down one nineteen. Here I am paying thirty-seven dollars and nine- Slowing past two SUV’s marked “Sherriff” ty-nine cents for my new high heels. Room: commiserating in the hours leading to this next population zero. I’m there but have been taken approaching dawn. Find a safe place to park. away, subtracted. Take me away. Cowboy take me away. Here I am, given away. Notice the night’s full moon again. Know he sees it, too. Try to beat him out of your thoughts. Here I am in the mirror applying make-up. Exit the car. Crawl into the backseat. Lock the Three hundred and sixty five days a year for doors. Pull the cover over your bare feet. Stare at twenty-six years. Here I am at the bar. Here I am the moon through your sunroof. Wonder if this on the dance floor where I will bounce my hips, is somehow poetic. Remember that fear never shift my weight and sway left to right, drink in is. Close your tired eyes. Open them quickly. hand, on my own. Here I am thinking, narcis- Snuggle inward with yourself. Wonder when sistically, erroneously, that this night was actu- you will make love again. Know you can have ally born and written for me. This band tonight, sex anytime you want. Think about him in a they play this song just for me, or so my feet are remembering way so that you can almost feel convinced. They think it’s time to shuffle, slick him in your body. It makes you wonder is he as silk, somewhere away from the hubris. also thinking of you, kindly, in that moment. Blink again. Slip into sadness and surrender and Here I am getting the text. Don’t come home. slumber, yet still scratch and scream out interDon’t write me down. Don’t you dare reveal my nally, silently. Sleep. Breathe. Sleep. subtle downfalls and daily atrocities. I’ve waited decades to give you an education. Here it is: I



by Shloka Shankar My life feels like a perpetual series of Wednesdays. Out of joint. Too far from the beginning of the week, too far away from the weekend. A limbo that stalks me like a shadow, only, it is mine. Constantly finding myself at the point of no return. Seeing the same things. Grey building after grey building. A skyline that has a platonic relationship with the stars. The voice in my head now cloudy, now belligerent. Like black smoke. Set against all that grey. The scent of rain in my pulse. I fold my legs, stretch them out. Repeat.

Smile by Caitlin Crowley

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Scarlet Letter by Diane G. Martin

It was the year Burlesque was in the air. Flimsy, take (Freudian slip?) and would be stalwart flash-in-the-pan films, self-conscious, thera- behind even this. peutic theater—the cheap gimmick had been rediscovered by another naïve generation that “Hi Mom.” thought it was anything but one. “Hi baby, what’s up?” For Savannah, a student of serious Grotowski-derived theater via Brooklyn, the genre would “Well, I hope I am, that is, up for tonight.” prove pivotal in ways she couldn’t have imagined when she was elbow deep in papier-mâché, “What’s happening tonight?” for she felt that the physical construction of the masks she would use to cover her face in Deep inhalation. “I’m stripping.” Nervous, her piece was as integral as the selection of the excessive laughter. garments she would strip off. Nervous, excessive laughter. “You don’t say. Is it As Belle Lettres, her burlesque name, she would to be a private or public function?” embody her character and inhabit her body with a physical thoroughness previously unachieved “Oh, public. Very. Don’t worry; it’s a legit theater in her extensive training and performance performance directed by that amazing woman history. by exposing her body and newly shaved I’ve been studying with. Listen, I’ll check in head, while intermittently hiding her face, she tomorrow. I thought I was ready, but I forgot hoped for a duel to the death with the demon something,” she interjected suddenly, noticing of stage fright, who had wormed his putrid way a previously undetected dark hair sprouting into her consciousness to assassinate her work beside her left nipple. “Love you. bye.” Ahhhh! and dreams. Why, why, why? by 3:00 p.m., Savannah, or by now, Belle, felt that her batteries were charged, so to speak— no gimmick here, merely metaphor. Three AA meetings and extreme defoliation in good light behind her, the slight young woman was rolling her 39th cigarette of the day with trembling raw fingers while she waited for a cup of Rooibos tea to brew, when her phone vibrated across the table. Registering the identity, narrowing her eyes and taking four deep breaths, she pressed the receiver hieroglyph.

Reaching shakily for her tweezers, Scarlett—no, not Scarlett, Belle (had she not deftly avoided the obvious alias?), but already Savannah again—saw that the red “A” painted on her chest had begun to sweat rivulets down her heaving stomach. She twisted her torso to examine the jaundice-yellow “A” and “D”, which had been carefully marked on each buttock. Not yet the yellow peril, she sighed with relief, but requiring a retouch by a friend, nonetheless. She didn’t dare sit down. Shit!

Why answer? Why did she feel the constant “bye, sweetie. Break a leg. Be careful,” whisneed to sabotage each modest advance? Prob- pered her mother into the night, for she was in ably because her mother felt the need to do a much darker place. so—her knee jerked automatically. No, unfair. Savannah’s mom had supported her unstintingly in every endeavor she’d chosen to under16

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14


by Vivian Calder贸n Bogoslavsky


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Four Months and Counting by Maryann Lawrence

It is a hot June night—2.a.m.—and I am sitting up in bed. All is dark except the sliver of light around the window where outside the streetlights shine for no one at all. Our son lies at my breast, sucking it vigorously. I am naked, and my hair hangs limp over my eyes and shoulders. I touch my stomach. It is dark, soft and loose-fleshed, and rolls in much the same way as my infant son’s. As he suckles harder and harder, I put my hand on my belly to ease the pinching. He continues to suck, making slurping noises and stopping for air once in a while, sometimes choking, pulling his head of thick black hair away from me and letting the milk drip from his pale pink lips. All of the house is quiet except for the sound he makes as he gums the fleshy areola—a slopping sound like an old man eating a banana. His heavily salivated tongue cups my breast, pulls down, swal-

lows, suckles again, sometimes with such fervour as to leave him breathless. I sit there in a heap, my eyes heavy with sleep and half closed as this child once again pulls at my nipple, grunting and thrashing his head. I allow him to continue until he yanks the nipple from his mouth abruptly. With quick reflex, I cup my hand over my breast, pressing on it as if protecting it from this eager innocence of infancy, which confuses hunger for starvation. Milk glistens around his mouth. His thick cheeks are full and he is satisfied, laying his head into the crook of my elbow, sleeping peacefully, his mouth still in motion. Beside me, my husband is deep in slumber. His face is soft and relaxed. I look into his contented face and think, I hate him.

Swallow the Rot by Emilie Peck

To all things, the end must come. Once full of mischief, proud Pan breathed his last in the forest of his birth. Only the trees and their animal residents witnessed magic’s final demise. Coyotes, crows and flies all paid their respects with bowed heads and hungry mouths. Bellies full, they moved on; the uneaten left to rot. Sickly sweet, stench passed with the flesh. The tree, bumpy of skin and luscious of leaf, stood silent as it drank the wild god’s final essence with every drop of rain. It cradled the bones long after they grew brittle and white.


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14


by Cathy Bryant “Love’s easy,” he said, “Just like falling off a log.” Which, of course, can kill.

Resting Notes by Alli Hurley


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Nayantara Dutta Palmistry I have consulted all the books and the future is murky. I turn it over in my palms, in crystal balls, hold it by its edges, and watch as it evaporates into plumes of smoke. I never quite catch its colour I can distract you with yellowed atlases and stories about the northern lights, trace your fate lines and make you feel like stardust,

Forest Fires

I will swallow you whole until the sun spins in retrograde, trigger minefields that take continents in their stride, and trap you under embers to burn. I started in this musty attic of tapestries, spent Did you hang your lies on the clothesline to dry? my days scanning star charts and tea leaves, Did they smell it on you? and watched Neptune drift Did you hold your head high the morning after? into the ninth house. but honey, certainty is an illusion. It took me long enough to realize.

Your oppressive culture births I bought silver toe rings and scented almond oils, lineages of leeches who collected glass bangles and velvet rugs, dominate and violate until everything is aflame. but couldn’t gather meaning. I’m sorry. I’m tired of searching. I can address your fears but cannot cure your chaos.

Did your lips quiver? Was there blood under your fingernails? Did you look both ways to see if anyone was watching? I will tell people they are mosquito bites. I refuse to simmer in shame. Did you see me coming? Did you blister from the backlash? Did you sink into the smoke? The women in my family have declared war against spineless men and submission. I am red sand and the open ocean. I belong entirely to myself. 20

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Letter to Robot by Jonathan LaHaye Dear Creation of Ours, Are you familiar with desire’s rat-a-tat-tapping? Do you know the rays that blister and boil, The “simmer down” perspirations of exhaustion that come to call Inevitably? Are you wary of The trivialities of face scrubbing in water rooms? Do you crave cheeseburgers? Are you better for your shell of titanium bliss? Stronger? Does love-laced wiring override spontaneity, like fleets of descending droplets Bounding off umbrella’s outer rim? Is there a romantic circuit deep within you, past Stern bolts and purposed hardware— Does it spark with lust for rusty fumblings Or shimmering metallic ringlets Wedged beyond flesh comprehension? Has it ever? Are you pleased to dodge the bullet that penetrates Our collection of stacked flesh and human juices, striking at The heart? The lust that makes men tremble In human balls of self-contained destruction? The salted ground of weepy pores? The fade of faces that never fly so far As they might? Or perhaps Against practical programming And wrinkled Einstein brows You simply long for yearning? Yours, Curiosity


by Roopa Dudley

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Steps to Goodbye by Charity Tahmaseb

Look at how the jetty cuts into the sky, bisecting the bay. Here the water is too choppy, too filled with whitecaps to reflect a blue only seen in the Pacific Northwest. Breathe in the salt before taking careful steps along the train tracks. There’s an art to this, a time-honoured ritual of sneakers planted firmly on the track. Thin rubber soles, unyielding metal, and the ache in the arch of each foot.

the creak and groan of old lumber as the wind rattles the windows and shakes the floorboards of the porch. Think about the once brightly painted building, now nearly silver from salt air, the spray of the ocean. Try to picture the brother you barely remember standing on that porch, in his woollen uniform, the brass buttons glinting in the rare Pacific Northwest sunshine. Think about the train that took his life.

Switch now to the wooden ties between the tracks, stretching your legs to reach each one. The wood splinters, almost crumbles beneath your shoes, a shiver running down your spine. It’s just a little bit dangerous, this walk down the train tracks. The wind roars, whipping hair into your mouth. That tingle again, down your spine. A train whistle? Strain your ears for its plaintive sound, press a foot against the track and wait for any tell-tale rumble. Look. Look again. Then move up the track with your heart still in your throat.

Dare yourself to put a foot on the steps. Feel the shift in the air, the squeak of protest. Wonder if, at ninety pounds, you are much too heavy to tread across the ancient floors. Wonder if only ghosts can walk here now. A roar behind you knocks you off balance. Grab for the handrail and feel the old wood fracture, driving a splinter into your palm. The air vibrates, the thrust of it pushing you against the stairs, compelling you inside. Turn instead and face the oncoming locomotive, speeding past on the embankment above. Touch puffs of hot air from the wheels’ friction against the track, feel the throb in your hand from the splinter. Raise your palm to your mouth as the caboose flies by. The engineer returns the gesture.

Study the thick, wooden beams and search out the railroad tie date nails. There’s an art to this too, mixed with a good dose of luck. The older the date, the luckier it is. Make a wish and nudge the nail with the toe of your sneaker. Take slow steps as you approach the old coastguard house. They moved the station decades ago. But this one remains, a reminder of the town that once thrived where the jetty now contains the ocean.

He thinks you’re waving. Stand in the silence, look to where the train has long sped down the tracks, toward that thriving coastal town.

Cross the tracks near the path overgrown with sea This time wave goodbye for real. grass, feel the sand shift beneath your feet. Hear


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14


by Leonard Kogan


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

The Power of (Muscle) Memory by Susan B. Apel

Sitting on a bench with him in Bryant Park, I York. My eyes move back and forth, to the tulips reached for my hair. and then to his face. I am hearing his words and saying my own, with the emotional vertigo of We have lived entire lifetimes in each other’s being simultaneously present in two temporal absence. When I last saw him I was 22 years old. spheres. Every ordinary thought is crowded out Now we are both circling 60, well to the right by this one: decades of my life have passed in of middle age. He is wearing French cufflinks, what seems like seconds. This is my moment, which I both adore and think are not quite him, then, when age, long rumoured, became a but how would I know? certainty. His voice lands on my ear and is too familiar given its near forty-year silence. We paste our memories on the air for inspection, reveries of younger bodies and exuberance. I once loved him, and I ponder what it means to love in the past tense.

I am watching and listening. I notice, barely, my right hand grazing the side of my cheek, fingers and thumb separating to form a sort of hook, and reaching toward the nape of my neck—the automatic gesture of a young woman who captures and pulls back her long hair for a clearer view, or to signal concentration. A We confess to feelings felt and not felt, then and gesture that only now, in retrospect, I see myself now. I claim and admit to my youthful heart- making hundreds of times in conversation with break. He covers himself, not well, with feigned him. surprise. But the long hair is gone. It is short and greyer. Tulips are blooming; it is early spring in New My hand stutters, and closes on air.



A deforested dog lies in the lean light of December. A throb roams in his body. A dead fly emerges from its half open eye and searches for someplace moist. Wrong season, I shake my head and walk by.

wind like a taiko along the crown of palm I shiver with the window

by Kushal Poddar

by James Croal Jackson

Bonfires on the Outskirts

by James Croal Jackson your mouth & cigarette smoke like chewed lipstick. the velcro tongue sweat, turtle. the lotioned hand. grip now. hold.


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

SuzAnne C. Cole Death by Numbers

Ghost Riders

Come in, come in, today only, [“Ghost Bikes are small and sombre memorials for buy something, have it signed by Pete Rose bicyclists who are killed or hit on the street. A bicycle himself, right here, right now, is painted all white and locked to a street sign near the pitches a tiny man, clad in Cincinnati Reds crash site, accompanied by a small plaque.” regalia, bouncing on the balls of his feet.] Behind him, visible through plate glass, Rose, who once bet $8,000 to $15,000 every day, One night a year the ghost riders still selling his name, still “Charlie Hustle.” drift home, all sizes, all ages, all sexes. Uniformed, baseball hat jammed over long hair, Six-year-old proudly wobble-riding he sits straight-backed, waiting. There’s no line; in front of her own safe brick house, a few shoppers circulate and stare. pink Barbie bicycle, plastic ribbons flying. Top Professional Athlete,1975 Teenager texting as he flew down the street, Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year too fast for a residential neighbourhood. World Series champion 1975, 1976, 1980 “Please watch out for our children” sign Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year no help if he never even sees it. Banned for life from baseball in1989, five months in prison for tax evasion. The ER surgeon who biked to work daily, Fourteen years before telling the whole truth fresh air invigorating his gruelling job, —I gambled on the Reds every day— never saw the pick-up that veered across but only on the eve of publishing his book. three lanes and struck him from behind, Too little, too late, too many lies, say critics. its driver fumbling for something lost. Hauled to his own hospital where the staff Baseball’s all-time hits leader requires failed to recognize him until finding his I.D. special permission to appear on field for the twenty-fifth anniversary of his record-setting A couple training for an M.S. race, struck so hit—four thousand, one hundred ninety-two. savagely, no time to grieve their orphans. His only Hall of Fame the “Celebrity Wing” of World Wrestling Entertainment’s venue. They all ride tonight, pallid wraiths, victims of fatal auto encounters, offers dinner with Pete, road rash scarring tendoned limbs, autographed baseballs, alcoholic drinks, four coasting silently on stripped-down bikes guests for $5,000, Click to add to shopping cart. painted as white as their faces. His calendar notes he’s signing autographs here, No placards, no chanting, no threats, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., twenty-three days in October a silent throng, wheels hissing on including Halloween, sometimes called streets, tragic in their numbers. The Feast Day of the Dead.



by Sid Orange Beside me, like weak rain, I wanted you. It was inquisitive and persistent as nimble fingers. Hairy, those powerful hands were skilful and firm. Casual as alpha monkeys, they tightly squeezed me. Almost lazy, they slowly swung, released and gripped again. Along mossed branches, wanting you, clambered and felt crude. I shivered to my clotted roots as simian hands shook me, until a tiny banana fell. I was a soaked rainforest, cloaked, masked and sneaky, like the weaselly mist. Heavy green-skinned fruit, ripened spotless, under jungle sun and your frail patter.

Half Full by Caitlin Crowley

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Small Remains

Tongue in Cheek

by SuzAnne C. Cole

by Susan P. Blevins

A mother chased from her home by tidal surges from Superstorm Sandy straps her two small sons, Connor and Brandon, into her SUV, heads for relatives in Brooklyn. But her car stalls in flood waters as a boulevard becomes a wrathful river. Fearing the car will overturn, she struggles into the backseat, releases the boys, opens the door, and rests them on the roof. A hungry wave engulfs the car and just like that, her sons disappear into the flood.

Have you ever stopped to think about your tongue? We use it incessantly, to taste, to kiss, to stick out in jest. Did you know it’s the only muscle in the body attached at one end? That would make it a cantilevered muscle, a veritable Forth bridge stretching out over seething rivers of speech, oceans of words truth and lies

Screaming, she, a strong swimmer, plunges after them, but this is no lap pool, water fouled with diesel, sewage, and sand, clogged with branches, backyard toys, garden implements, even lawn chairs. Now struggling for her life, she pulls her way to drier land, bangs on locked doors to no response; most have evacuated long ago. Walking in the direction of the flood, she yells their names endlessly.

We honour it in speech all the time when speaking of linguistics, multilingual people speaking in tongues tongue-lashing tongue-tied tip of the tongue bite your tongue

Three days later the small remains are found in a marsh, one hundred feet apart.

Ouch! Do you think we would have more control over our speech if it were attached at both ends? Instead of ophidian darting back and forth busily gossiping, and interminable trivial conversations on cell phones would we rein it in, stop and think about what we say and the mechanics of how we say it?


by Kushal Poddar A long flight they long for long, and here the sparrows prolong their conversation, near the edge they began, near the end all things spin to. How we can stall the desire with a fistful of crumbs, listen to something no bird can call. At the far end boats sail to some farther ends.

Maybe it’s God’s slip of the tongue the “oops” of His creation an oversight, along with last-minute addition of that other cantilevered item so precious to men


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Letter of Closure to an Indonesia Slum Shower by Timothy L. Marsh

The first time I ever saw you I knew I was going to write about you. From the second I undressed and stepped naked and cringing into your deranged space I knew this moment would come: the moment I’d depict to anyone who’d listen your perfect resemblance to a Guantanamo nightmare. And now that the moment has come I can honestly say it’s a pleasure to berate you, a goddamn therapy, though it won’t change anything, will not erase all those times I was obligated by hygiene to come to you like a shuddering bride to the arms of some arranged and vile partner. I knew I had a soul when you touched me, for something deeper than my stomach was nauseated. Your water was a corrupted lick. Cold, hard, stale, rank. What lousy minerals defiled it? What on earth did it do to the smell of my skin? Everything it touched it turned pungent and orange. And those times when you inexplicably gave no water at all, not a reeking measly drop, and sent me foraging with my pail to the spigots and field pumps of shanty neighbors, all of them grinning at the thought of the dummy white boy, the pretty western surfer doll scrubbing ass with a puny dishcloth, wringing trickles of turbid groundwater down his face and back. The mornings were the worst. Awaking to your upchuck of dead roaches, scratching at the bites of Aedes mosquitoes that hatched in your pipes then rose through your drain to suck from my ankles and wrists and once from my eyelid. My eyelid? It was you—you and your weeping streaks of black mold, your undying scum fungus that butchered three toenails and left the others flaked and sallow, brittle as crackers (I have never again shown my bare feet in public)—you who snuffed the thrill of immersion. by all means give me travel’s worst, its petty victimizations, its scams and pickpockets, its crooked taxis and despotic baggage restrictions, but keep its showers, toilets, sinks and restrooms away from me. I never thought of home so much as when I was with you. Now I am back in the west. And my God if you could see who I’m with. Mosaic basketweave tile. Textured glass (I’d almost forgotten the delight of glass). Brass fixtures and gentle body jets. The type you could make a beautiful life with, and believe me I will. I want you to know that I am in love. The time we spend together is long, slow, soft and steamy. I am given my space, soothed and caressed, and when we merge I am always willing and joyful, never obliged. Sometimes I sing. They say resolution is one purpose of narrative. Well, consider us resolved. I may never be able to forget you, but I sure as hell won’t think of you. You twisted little horror. When I slip into senility, may you be my first casualty of mind. 29

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

In a Three Dimensional Captivity by Leonard Kogan


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

I loved Georgia, too. by Keah Brown

When I was a kid I used to ask momma 10 questions a day but she was always too tired to answer them. She was always working those overnights at the hospital and making Georgia, my older sister, watch me.

left. The kind that made my butt look fantastic and did wonders for my boobs. They were already pretty wonderful though, I never received any complaints. They were happy on their wedding day, though, no one was happier than momma. She spent the entire ceremony crying and asking me when I was going to get married and give her grandbabies. Despite the fact that Georgia was already pregnant. Three years later and Georgia was still irritable from the day Alex left to the day she returned. Momma didn’t like irritable Georgia but I did, I liked every Georgia. The good and the bad.

Georgia hated watching me. I asked too many questions but she’d try her best to answer them; even if they were just silly little ones. She was tall and beautiful, her hair was always in an afro so big she could fit the world in it, if she wanted. I loved it, momma hated it. Sometimes I’d ask to sit on her shoulders just so I could peak inside. Georgia was graceful, the kind of grace that couldn’t be taught even though I wish she would have tried. She was smart too, with the kind of face that launched a thousand ships. Georgia never asked questions, she knew all the answers. She was supposed to make it out of here. She could’ve been an actress or a writer but she wanted a family.

She sat me down at the end of the bar closest to the door and let out a huff.

“Alex loves you. She loves you so damn much. I wish Ray loved me the way Alex loves you and Lila,” I whispered. It was one of those drunk whispers that means the drunk one is talking loudly despite believing that I never understood the appeal. I remember one time they are whispering. when Georgia was watching me she was talking to Ryan, her then boyfriend, about the kids she wanted. “She’s cheating,” she replied. Shooting back scotch like They decided on the name Jasper for a boy and Willow it was fruit punch. for a girl. Three weeks later Georgia met Alex and Ryan, Jasper and Willow were history. “Did you catch her?” I asked, refusing to believe that anyone would choose someone else over Georgia. “You know when you know. You just know,” Georgia said, when I asked her how she knew Alex was the one. “I didn’t have to Lou. Sometimes you just know.” On my 21st birthday Georgia got a sitter for Lila, my niece who is her spitting image, graceful and confident in the way you can only be with a mother like Georgia. Her smile is wide, wide enough to match her deep brown eyes. Lila has big dreams too and she should, people like that with a voice like hers, shouldn’t be stuck in a small town like ours.

Georgia was the only person I’d ever let call me Lou. I preferred Annie, Louanne was too much, reminded me too much of the bad years, the things I can’t take back. I was Lou to her and her alone because she never resented me for who I was back then, I’m better now, but still.

Georgia’s been dead for a week now. Hit by a drunk driver. The kind of ending you don’t expect for someone Georgia drove me to a bar just outside of town and as full of life as Georgia. There was still so much for her got me drunk before she told me that she was getting to do, so much I wanted to say. Everyone keeps saying a divorce from Alex. Alex was out of town on business that they loved Georgia like that makes it any easier but, again. But she bought me the cutest dress before she I did too and she’s still dead.

Daddy Never Asked by Tommy Dean

Daddy goes to work on a train I’ve never seen. Daddy works in a building, so many floors I’ve never seen. A man comes to stay with mommy while Daddy works. This man, I’m sure, Daddy’s never seen. 31

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

The Tattooist’s Daughter

Anonymity on Campus

Every time she wants to recall her mother’s eyes, she can roll up his sleeve and stare at a swallow flying over the milk inside of his elbow. The feathers are the colour of dishcloths, irises washed in salt. There’s a freckle of ink on a vein, an accidental full stop on a wingtip like the frayed speck of a pupil drifting to sea.

I abandon a notebook on the large sink of a public bathroom. Minutes later, I’m halfway across the campus trying not to appear guilty. Leaving it wasn’t as hard as I’d supposed. The single lines and short paragraphs—just stray thoughts written down. Not exactly random, I’d deliberately put pen to paper, but they were all kernels lacking the facets of true gems.

“You have to lose an arm and a leg to be an artist,” her father said. “You must stare at indelible scrolls of mistakes whenever you bathe.”

Now someone else is at the sink. The notebook’s still there. Will this student wash her hands before or after a quick thumb through? Does it matter?

There isn’t an inch of himself he can reach that isn’t coated in seagulls, roses, dancing girls that bleed, scab and heal. And still, he perfects fresh designs, strips off a sock, contorts to practice on the ball of his foot, deciding one second at a time if it tickles or hurts. It was simpler with a wife, a stocking of ink foot to hip painting private maps of places she longed to go. He wishes he could hold his tongue as steady as the needle. The girl ironed his shirt, left a burn on the breast and now a silence lingers like char in the air.

Maybe I’ll gather all the worn, weary notebooks from under my bed, in closets, buried in basement boxes. Hundreds from over the years… I’ll drop them off in various places, but not just anywhere. This college campus is the best place.

There is only one way to say I forgive you for her. Just like her mother, she stretches a bare arm through the space where his words hang. Fourteen, and pale, her skin is an apology she places in front of him. And waits for acceptance to take the shape of a bird.

Now I’m able to begin again.


Am I really able to begin again? I’d like to believe so.

by Angela Readman

by Steve Prusky

by Susan Sage

I never wrote my name on or in any of them. At a drugstore, I buy a new notebook after deliberating about the cover’s colour. These things matter.

Someone else picks up my old notebook on the sink. They come across a line: “The rain mopped the shards of light.” It won’t be stolen, merely adopted. I’m happy it has a new home.

“Be brave. Stay strong,” he says, though he is neither. Insincere encouragement, the dying a captive audience must often hear. Spongy purple flesh fills in where three ribs thrived, her numb legs are married to the dash; she has never been so aware, alive. “Hold on . . .” Spent airbags drown her in fleshy ponds of woven nylon. Each shallow breath she takes prints a novel of her past. Her head weakly bobs about uncontrollably as if those motions could be construed orgasmic ecstasy. Each shallow breath she draws sheds chapters from her past. “Help’s near . . .” Her eyes, less lucent now, fight dreamless sleep, peek from under flitting lids. “Stay with me . . .” She focuses on him, the cause of this,with quick bursts of clarity, grasps the significance of his frightened gaze, spurns his fake sincerity with unforgiving loathing that outlasts death. “You’re doing fine . . .” 32

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Fiber Optic Religion by Sonya Groves (After Carl Sandburg’s “The Hammer”)

I have seen old chips falter, new chips zoom, minute by minute, second by second. .coms fall, .coms rise, bits & bytes, 1’s & 0’s, highways 2 nowhere, wheeless buses push imaginary data blocks 2 celestial nowheres. Today, I worship nothing.

Trepidation by Alli Hurley


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

I have simply picked a new variety of flower.

Two Weddings

When we walk the single downtown block from the cathedral to the reception, leading our guests, a stick-thin homeless woman leans forward on the Wedding 1. sidewalk and screams at us, her arms flailing. I walk June 7. Morning. Grey skies the colour of nothing. faster, catching the hem of my dress on my shoes. Her words are garbled, but her message is clear: you In their hotel room, my parents are at war. Nothing are making a mistake. about this is new. He cheats, she reels him back in and extracts promises that are as meaningful as Wedding 2. puffs of hot vapour, and then, for weeks and months February 12. Morning. A pale sky the colour of freshand years, they tear at each other’s flesh with their water pearls. well-chosen words. And then they begin all over again. This morning, they are sniping over ties and First, there are no guests, not unless you count the nylons and keeping track of my juvenile delinquent twelve-week-old fetus tagging along in my womb. brother, their collective blur of hostility ricocheting We are gathered here today, in Grand Central off the walls of the room. Does anyone want to pay Terminal, to unite this couple in secrecy. No one attention to me? I want to shout. Can anyone tell knows we are pregnant, and no one knows we are me if I’m doing the right thing? marrying. He is 47 and I am 36: we have lived many years and learned many lessons, most of the painful We converge at a sandstone cathedral: eighty of us in variety. It should feel lonely, that I will have no one total on both sides. In the pews on my side: a whis- to hug at the completion of this ceremony, that key-soaked grandfather, a dry drunk father (also: there will be no rousing reception with dancing. a drug addict. Presently, OxyContin. Formerly, Instead, it is like savouring a small square of fine cocaine. Also formerly, marijuana), a Bible-wielding chocolate: this is ours and ours alone. aunt and uncle, two male high school friends (one my first love, the young man I have branded onto We do, however, have guests: the torrent of people my heart and still love that very morning). No other rushing to and fro in the station, the watchful clusfriends. ters of military men with machine guns slung over their shoulders, the scissor-legged servers in the I stand at the gilded altar, shrouded in yards of restaurants. In the dim gold light of the station, our ivory satin and white tulle, actively pretending to be officiate and her photographer husband guide us to overcome as the priest speaks: We are gathered here a back hallway of one of the restaurants, where we today to unite this man and woman in holy matri- hold hands on a staircase, look into one another’s mony. It does not occur to me that I should actually eyes and listen to Primo Levi’s words, chosen by us: feel anything. # Is it any surprise to anyone at all when this marriage I kept searching for you in the stars does not work out? When, after eleven years, I When I questioned them as a child. realize I am not and never was suited to this person I asked the mountains for you, I have harnessed myself with? But they gave me solitude and brief peace Only a few times. He is a perfectly nice man. He is everything my own # family is not: bland, unobtrusive, well-mannered, upper-middle-class. He follows instructions and is Afterward, we stumble out into a hallway, honeyobedient to his mother, who has a nice smile and drunk on our own sweetness, and random New speaks nicely with nice words. His family’s dysfunc- Yorkers call out good wishes to us, my bouquet and tion, which I will only later learn to recognize, is on his corsage giving away our status as newlyweds. the uppity side: eating disorders in a cornucopia of We are standing for photographs when a kindergarvarieties, acidic sibling rivalries concealed by lancet- ten-age girl, her head crowned in gold curls, overedged smiles, miniature jealousies and grudges. takes me. She wraps her arms around my waist and Their finery is much nicer than ours: college degrees cries out, “Congratulations!” her voice ringing out strung together like gems, an open disdain for liber- along the marble walls of the station. Her mother is alism and the lazy poor, posh suburban zip codes. embarrassed and calls her off too quickly before the photographer can capture her grip on me. At twenty-two, I am far too young to understand that sickness blooms in a wild and riotous bouquet. The moment is gone but we stand there smiling.

by Amy Collini


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Richard King Perkins II Ides

This is it— my father points expectantly at an unremarkable location. This is it … he says again, his hands chopping with each syllable. I guess I’m supposed to imagine my conception here a decade and a half ago but I’m fourteen years old and it all just seems a little gross and weird so I look to the spot he’s pointing at, feigning reverence, hoping we can just be done with this ... visit? Encounter? Reminisce? I just want to go home and do the things that really matter to me, not stand here staring at the foundation of fatherly memories. The Ides of March— seems like sort of the right day for any person to die. He’s been gone more than a dozen years and now I can’t help but wonder what I had going on that seemed so important that long-past day. Maybe a girl or probably just hanging out with a couple of friends, talking shit about music or TV or how much it was going to suck to start out as puny freshman in a few weeks. But that’s all just a guess. What I recall for sure is my Dad’s expectant face, trying to teach me something about beginnings and choices and whimsy and dedication and how he still looked so healthy, his profile firm and confident— trying to tell me that before me, he had so very little to tell.

Because I’m Being Honest Moon-deprived, I stumble full-bodied into the yard, fallen from winter’s black clouds, humiliating myself because it’s what you love most in me. This is what I have to give.

At the small gathering, you yell at me, but tell me it’s for an entirely different reason—but it’s really because I crave the body of a liar and fool more than anything that might be right. You won’t laugh at my humour because it’s really no substitute for intimacy. The photo on the wall gives us both pain for what we used to be. And now—our post script has become greater than the body it was. 35

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Chess-Nut Forest @Dusk by Roopa Dudley


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14


by Katherine Thomas It was the largest butterfly I’d ever seen—brilliant green and blue, purple and gold. When it flapped its massive wings, I felt waves of heat pulsing along the length of my wasted body. I was wondering how something so large could have gotten through my bedroom window when it exploded into shards of colour that evaporated into a white light. I blinked. It was gone. Dirty beige curtains hung in front of the open window. The air was still. My leg throbbed. The pillbox was empty and the water bottle dry. “Mattie,” I called. No answer. Through the window, I heard people running. I sat up and a stabbing pain shot up my leg to the groin. When I caught my breath, I saw Freddy’s rusted green wagon next to the bed where Mattie had left it. I dropped my pillows into the wagon and eased myself on top. I was able to wheel the wagon to the window with my good leg. When I looked out, I saw five men in tattered grey uniforms skulking along the street. The sun glinted on their rifles as they pivoted from the waist, first right, then left.

Then, the house exploded. The blast’s turbulence scooped me from the wagon, tossed me into the air, and threw me to the floor. My world turned red with pain, then nothing. I heard distant yelling. I opened my eyes to see sunlight piercing a hole where the window had been, shining on a thick coat of dust covering the floor and my right hand. I moved a finger and waited for the pain. When it didn’t come, I tried to push myself up and off my left arm, which was pinned under my body. The red returned and I heard myself scream. My arm was still pinned and aching when I came to. I heard a slamming door, shouted orders, and footsteps at a distance. The voices grew louder. Under the door to the hall, shadows flickered as bodies passed my room. Someone stopped. The door burst open and slammed against the wall. Two men walked in. I couldn’t move my head and stared at frayed blue pants above worn boots as they stood beside me.

“Do it.” “He’s just a kid.” Bang, bang, bang. At the sound of gunfire, the “Do it. Or I will.” men doubled over and ducked against the house across the street. With a boom, the street erupted One of the men took a step back. in front of them in a wall of dirt. They turned to retreat but faced rocks ricocheting from “Help.” My voice was a squeak. explosions behind. Trapped, they piled into a doorway and pummelled the door with their I heard a click. I squeezed my eyes shut. An fists. At last, it opened and the house sucked the explosion of sound and light lifted me into men inside. the air, then released me. The pain dissolved. I floated up, through shards of green and blue, The rubble-strewn street was empty, silent. purple and gold. And then, nothing.


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14


by Amy Nemecek Dad never wanted his daughter’s hands to get dirty. Still, he welcomed my presence each day after school, And during the long days of summer vacation He kept me busy stacking oil cans, Sorting parts, sweeping floors. Along the way I watched and learned, Though not what you might think. Now I fix books the way Dad fixed cars. My wrench is a red pencil That I use to install brakes in run-on sentences, Enrich the too-lean mixture of fragments, Insert commas so each sentence shifts smoothly. I open the cover to look under the hood, Check the dipstick line-by-line, Kick the margins for proper inflation. Sometimes it just needs a tune-up— Transpose crossed letters so they fire in order, Dot the i’s and cross the t’s for plenty of spark, Tweak the compound-complex timing of sentences. Other times the engine is seized And a complete overhaul is in order. Then I pull whole paragraphs, chapters, Tear down and rebuild the transmission of ideas. Dad didn’t know that ink Is simply a different kind of grease, And his girl’s fingers are filthy.


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14


by Leonard Kogan


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14


by Janani Venkatesh Unassuming and carefree, I watch you blow soap bubbles into the air. You see the images reflected on their surface and your eyes light up looking at them. For you, it is magic. Perhaps you see far off lands you have only dreamed of, or perhaps you see even more. Perhaps, in those reflections, you see the meaning of life... and, perhaps, you just believe it is mystical. One bubble after another, I see you blowing them into the air. You watch them flying away, as though they are carrying your dreams with them and turning them into reality. Your smile is unassuming and your eyes, ever bright and dreamy. You are in your own, private world. You catch a glimpse of me and shy away. Your eyes still give you away. They shine with delight and yet, are so deep— they seem to be saying something. But then again, it may well be a deceiving glance. One can never tell with you. In your own, queer ways, you make your presence known; yet you always seem to be lost in a world of your own. Are you really? You look at me pondering these things and, as you try to collect your expressions, a wry smile plays at your lips. Those deep, mystical eyes of yours bore into me as you pick up your frame and blow another bubble. And another. You are back in your own world again. One, which few have the privilege to be part of ...

Adho Mukha Svanasana


by Stacey Margaret Jones

by Barbara Krasner


Andrzej embraces the wire of the electrified fence.

downward dog ex-

Bullet snaps Marek at the neck.

hale head hangs shoulders rolled down making mind space

One daffodil bursts through the cold, hard earth.

relax hips high inhale here awhile.

Americans lay cigarettes at our feet.

Think no thing. Breathe.


Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14

Slow Dancing

by Ronald Jackson Her scent was a bridge asking me to move over the water, and I crossed, pressed into the folds of her baby blue silk blouse, felt the dunes and gorges of her thighs against me, her feather-nest hair against my cheek. I floated off the dance floor, rose and circled, a night moth swirling round a candle, the slow, slow music whispering I love how your heart beats whenever I hold you, and ours were, and the dance chaperone, Geronimo, came over and separated us with his tomahawk chop, and we leaned apart.

song started. The Paris Sisters, I Love How You Love Me. If you’ve never slow-danced with your dream lover to that, you haven’t breathed. She smelled clean, some kind of fresh-scented powder, a hint of musk, the woman scent of her skin.

As Geronimo slid away, the Paris Sisters purred when I’m away from you I love how you miss me. We refolded, a second wave of fragrance washed ashore, and we picked up our rubbing together, and Valery whimpered little mmmm’s from some deeper place, and I turned my head enough to see her eyes shut Valery Rowan. Since junior year, we’d spied on each tight in an involuntary way, moving inward, away other from across the floor almost every week on from me, toward some new flower blooming under Friday nights at Saint Joe’s Hall. The last dance a new sun and a new scent mingled between us. before school let out for the summer, I got my nerve up. We danced apart to some fast songs, which I Then Geronimo launched a second ambush and was not dazzling at. Being in front of her, without Valery’s cheeks burned a deep pink that made her touching, was good enough. I touched with my prettier than ever, and the sisters sighed I love the eyes. way your touch is always heavenly, and when the song ended, I could have died happy, and with a After that, she did not return to her bevy of swans formality that surprised me, I said, “Thank you,” against the far wall, but looked up at me from under and she said, “You’re welcome,” breathlessly. her eyelashes. A smile shivered on her lips as the


by Maraya Loza Koxahn We had only just met. Autumn’s sun painted heavy shadows behind us and already I was too warm. We sought sanctuary, walking amongst the aisles of the aggrandized in eternal homes, more intent on exploring the inner passages of each other than those of the necropolis. In the shade we sat, upon the steps of the tomb of the family Prat.

But the air filled with incomplete thoughts, halfformed sentences, jagged phrasing softened by tender possibility. No safety in answers. We are travellers, walking among the dead, seeking companionship, collaboration for a profound inner journey, however brief. We are searching for something to keep us from becoming ashes to dust from the inside out before our time.

“You know nothing about me,” I said. “I know a lot about you.” “How so? Did you Google me?” Wanted: Apply within without reservation. Be “No.” willing to travel into the depths of another without “Then you know nothing about me.” a map. Arrive armed only with a compass that “I know you from your words.” points true. “From your first message I felt as if you were courting me.” “Who are you?” “I am.” “I am the man who wants to be with you.” He pierced me with his gaze as if he might part the veils and strip me of defences—my nervous laughter, rapid-fire questions to keep him talking. Perhaps the cousins to the words that brought us together could explain why and predict the future.

He lay his back down on the cool marble, head at my feet, and shifted his gaze toward the sky between the sepulchral sculptures. I suppressed the desire to lean over and place my mouth upon his. 41

East Beach

by Donna Rosser

Mountain Leech on Sugi by Elisha Holt

The cloud fall licks the wet forest of camphor and beech and I have climbed the grey teeth of the mountain path passed under the pale Shinto arches and stood dwarfed before the thick trunk of an ancient red cedar. There among the moss and bare foliage a brown, orange fringed leech was sucking on the belly of a black earthworm and I knew what an immense thing it is to die.

Blooming Vine Leaves All writers in this section are below the age of seventeen. Please take a moment of pause before continuing ...

Blooming Vine Leaves Issue #14

That Girl


by Lindsey Thompson

by Emily Liu

A girl stands next to you at the bus stop. She She bled dandelions wears a simple white dress, knee length, and As the girl inside her torn in one place. You look up into her eyes Withered and died and see nothing. No spark of life, no desire, or ambition, no pupils, no whites, no… no eyes at all. Your brain can’t comprehend it. She has only gaping holes, dried with blood. Her mouth hangs open, broken and crooked with by Emily Liu several teeth missing. Those were the days, when we thought we could Squirming inside, you take a few small steps do anything. The old pictures still line my wall. backward, not wanting to turn your back, but Young versions of us grin out at me. We are still worried about tripping over something. painting your room, chasing each other in the How did she arrive in such silence? You didn’t park, high-fiving, laughing. You would cringe notice her walk up—she was just suddenly there. if you saw the hairstyles we used to have, but What could be wrong with her? She must be they always make me smile. We had big plans, alive after all, as she stands all on her own, and do you remember? The obstacles and difficulties you can see her stomach rise and fall. that waited ahead—we were prepared to face them all. Anything was possible. Things have You are sure you must have moved at least a changed now. The boat we tried to build lies couple feet by now, but the girl doesn’t seem dusty in my garage. The glow-in-the-dark stars to be any farther away. “Leave me alone,” you on my ceiling are falling down. I used to put say at last, and the girl’s broken mouth turns up them back up, but I don’t anymore. Thinking into a grin. about the past makes my throat tighten. We set out to conquer the world. The years flew by. Your last nerve breaks. Your feet are running Then they were gone. faster and faster. How did you even dare to turn your back to her? You’ve never gone this fast before, your blood has never pumped this way, your breathing never so laboured, your skin crawling with the feeling of bugs just beneath by Emily Liu the surface. At the end of summer, I found myself at the Somehow, you convince yourself to look over beach. I closed my eyes, breathed in, and started your shoulder, and she is there, much closer off along the soft sand: making footprints, and than before. Your feet tangle over each other breaking them. It wasn’t as if it was my first and you land on your back with a painful crack. time at the beach—far from it—but the sheer “You can’t outrun your reaper, dear,” the girl enormity of the ocean always makes me a says without moving her mouth. quail a little. Each time I visit the rocky shore, how small I really am. I could She reaches towards you and the world disappears. Inotremember resist scanning the waves eagerly, for the promise of autumn hung thick in the air, and in my sweet childish infatuation I had let myself believe that the capaill uisce really did exist. It was something I could not let go of, because if I by Emily Liu admitted the capaill uisce were a falsehood, then something inside me would change, and stay rain on the roof changed. So I held onto my hopes with tightly leaks through the ceiling, drips clenched fists, and let my imagination run free. into me

Like a Plane, They Flew

Water Horses

Plip Plop


Blooming Vine Leaves Issue #14

The Old Man by the Sea

Thus, I was not surprised when the waves shaped themselves into a horse muzzle, and I felt a giddy overflowing of euphoria and longing. And it was then that I really saw the thing slipping quietly away from me as I grew up. It may have manifested in the shape of an imaginary horse, but after all was said and done, it was still the same. So I looked on hungrily as the sleek, muscled back formed, and it was just how I had always imagined the capaill uisce: fiery, intense, and purely exhilarating. But the irresistible sea sang its siren song, and the beast was swept away with the receding tide, and then it was just the water and me, and the pretty spotted seashells.

by Emily Liu

today I met the old man by the sea he knows everything, or so they say. but when I asked him what was left to love, he said: “I do not know come back tomorrow.” I went back the next day, but his answer was the same so I went back the day after, and the day after that and many many more days after that, till I was as old as My heart rode on the backs of those white- the old man by the sea and I can answer the question myself now, crested waves. if I was asked. That autumn day, I walked along the stretch of (“nothing,” I would say. beach with the sun hot by my side and the sky “there is nothing left to love.”) behind me flaming red, but the capaill uisce did not show themselves to me again.

Artificial Flower

Empty Horizon

by Emily Liu

by Emily Liu

She falls out the door and stumbles down the street startled by the golden sunlight dancing in the air and echoing on the pavement

empty horizon glowing sky desolate, beautiful dead, alive


by Greg Owendoff

backpack on shoulders even breaths each step as wide as the hope in my chest

The images in my head become all too real as I stand here in the remains of my room. The place that had once been my escape from the world, the impenetrable fortress of safety, now holds on to the last threads of its life.

Practical Math by Emily Liu

The charred remains of the dry wall are painted with soot. The winter breeze silently crawls through the cracks of the boarded windows, while the floorboards groan like my own soul, in despair, with every single footstep. Colonies of ants scale the mountains of ash swept into the corners, overcoming the uncertain journey ahead. The dust losing its grasp from the walls, drifts into the air, dancing like a bag floating through an abandoned lot.

Math doesn’t come easily to me. Numbers transform before my eyes, Five times five equals twenty-six. But somehow, everything becomes clear When calories are added into the equation: Then, I don’t miss a single number— Nothing escapes my mental calculations. Then, it’s like math is the only thing I can do.

What if they had not escaped in time? What if I had been here when it had happened? Why my 45

Blooming Vine Leaves Issue #14

room? Why did it start in mine? The storm of Soon I fill the empty white canvas with meanthoughts in my head contrasts with the ominous ingless words and thoughts I don’t understand I fiddle with the corners of pages of my book silence of the house. Three dollars. The vault of my childhood memories have Tinted with yellow marks and coffee stains been burnt to the ground. Opening presents Brown eyes skim the lines on Christmas morning, eating Thanksgiving My mind is elsewhere dinner, and playing games with my brothers. I smooth a finger over the mark somebody else These memories dwindle like my surroundings. made on my book Someone far far away All that is left are the clothes on my back. It’s Someone who had similar taste in literature a new start from now, a new life. The next few Someone who drank lots of coffee months will be rough, but with the support of others, the journey won’t be too treacherous.

Wanderer at Lightning Speed

Rainy Grey

by Christina Flores-Chan

by Christina Flores-Chan

She lets herself wander She pedals fast At lightning speed when nobody’s around The turquoise bicycle Her black flowing hair The beige basket attached to the front of the bike Carrying a yellow paged book and fizzy water She doesn’t know where she’s going Yet she keeps on pedaling Seeking adventure Seeking to get lost Seeking to find Seeking to be found

It was a little bit like nothing. Rain. Fog. Gloomy streets that looked 500 something shades of fog. Mesmerizing. Don’t get me wrong, I loved sunshine as much as the next person, but this weather was moderately rare, and it was a chilly fall evening. The hazy tones were hauntingly beautiful; the sound of pitter-patter was just the right amount of moody. It was pretty amazing. I pulled on the sleeves of my knit oversized sweater, adjusting my position so I could face the window. I watched people pass, hidden under their plain black umbrellas. There were probably other colours too, but they all looked the same in the rain. Everything looked the same in the rain. Maybe that’s how I liked things. Blended and faded. Maybe that’s how I liked it. When blur smoothed across the world, and I was not a person. I was not a girl in a knit sweater. I was a shade of rain, a mere grey spot of colour in the painting.

Oh Boy.

by Christina Flores-Chan

Penny loafers Dark grey jeans With a tie a pattern too straight A smile a dimple too crooked The schoolboy looked at me Too much like a science project by Christina Flores-Chan Something he was trying to figure out Dust cascades down like glitter through the Like I could be built Assembled fuzzy window outside the used bookstore Presented Leaves, everyday miracles fall swiftly My green messenger bag sits beside me—note- And studied some more. I’m sorry you can’t study a girl. books scattered on the floor You can’t study anybody. A year of unfinished letters in my hand Black hair smells of salt from a pool of tears I let myself swim With a pen in hand,

Someone Far Far Away


Blooming Vine Leaves Issue #14

Crappy Old Cleveland

still want him here. Crappy old Cleveland. Where loved ones come and then leave right when you begin to think they’re going to stay forever. Reminds me of the weather.

by Michael Louard

A lot of people lose their loved ones in storms, but I lost mine to palm trees and warm weather. And to a job, that when compared to the last one, paid better, but not by much. And a wife who isn’t the Wicked Witch of the West, but she isn’t a sunny day. Florida whispers bad news, but Cleveland screams it, and I don’t know which one is worse. It’s as if Dad left me because he’d rather get stabbed in the back than punched in the face.

My dad is the summer season in Crappy Old Cleveland. He was here so long it seems wrong that he’s gone now. But I barely have time to ponder his decision. I have leaves to pick up and soon I’ll have snow to push. He didn’t give me time to enjoy the last bits of summer. There was no transition period. I had to pick up the pieces and shovel my feelings away.

And maybe he’ll be back another day. The “The lesser of two evils” is what he always says. seasons repeat themselves. Maybe wishful It’s how Barack is Obama and it’s how I’m in thinking is the only thinking. If only summer Florida. He assures me that I’m not the reason, was a human. I’d capture it, and I’d keep it forever. I’d beat Florida to the punch. and I’ve never really felt like the reason, but I


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