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new york university college of arts and science

2009 – 2010


Editor’s Note

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Poetry Aaron Abbott Brown

the sleep of the just

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Christy Tomecek

Imaginary Rooms

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Jason Jiang

Volcanoes Might Erupt

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Stephanie Gallagher

Digestive Thought

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Amanda J. Killian

In the room sleeping with his black sock

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Michelle Chen

Entheogen

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Andrew Colarusso

Parade Grounds

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Tom Mooseker

Haiku #19

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Kayla Atherton

Matches

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Andrew James Weatherhead

St. Patrick’s Day

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Katie Blakely

Dissection

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Vanessa Victoria Volpe

We Were Like

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Marcine Miller

Lines of White

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Ashley Imery-Garcia

God Loves Nopalitos

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Jake Fournier

love me the description exactly

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An Interview with Anne Carson

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Prose Keith Cagney

Basic Division

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Mallory Locke

Keeping House

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Sam Goldsmith

A Fascinating Line

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Amy Greenberg

Pinus Pinaster

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Tara Bedi

Give Me Sweet(ness)

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Todd Hasak-Lowy, Guest Contributor

The Aspiring Idiot

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Steff Yotka

Tritones

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Contributors’ Notes

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Editor’s Note In the many months it took to review submissions, work with writers, prepare pieces for layout and publish the third issue of West 10th, I often found myself wondering: What is our publication’s purpose (if it needs to have one at all)? What is it that we are trying to communicate when we assemble such a varied collection of poetry and prose? The Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire has meditated on a word as praxis. He believed that to combine a word’s two dimensions of reflection and action is to put ideas into practice—that to speak a true word is to transform the world. A discussion of what makes a “true word” might seem beyond the scope of this introduction, but surely Freire’s conception of transformation encapsulates what occurs in the following pages. These words are not spoken to be heard, but rather written to be read. They are incitements to consider. Just what to consider is left up to you, the reader, as you explore the worlds our writers have experienced, imagined and transformed with their words. West 10th itself has transformed this year, moving beyond words to publish the work of more undergraduate photographers as well. The third issue provides new space for students and the arts that they pursue. Developing this issue gave our editors the opportunity to engage with a greater range of forms and content than ever before. I would once again like to thank my accomplice and confidant, Managing Editor Miriam R. Haier, as well as the entire editorial staff for giving their time and care to this publication. I also want to thank Dean Matthew S. Santirocco, Deborah Landau, Scott Statland, Matthew Rohrer and Darin Strauss for making it all possible; Erin Schell for her help with design; Anne Carson for answering our questions; and Todd Hasak-Lowy for giving us his incredible story. My hope is that West 10th will continue to grow and transform in the future, along with the many worlds, words, truths and imaginations of a student body brave enough to share their creations with all of their peers. Sara Lynch


the sleep of the just Aaron Abbott Brown i sleep too much but how can sharks sleep if they can never stop moving and why do people think it’s ok to cut lines and vote or not vote i never dream but if i did i’d be sure to forget everything and make no attempt to understand out of fairness to the sharks especially the hammerheads who says fish can’t interpret joseph was swallowed by a fish and he read dreams or was that jonah i just know that someday i’ll wake up early without meaning to and it will be because i will be old and the sharks will be dead

B r o wn : t h e s l e e p o f t h e j u s t

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Imaginary Rooms Christy Tomecek 1. her sad brown hair gathered in bunches around her head. together we stroke the last wilting petals from rusted sheet metal. many times we don’t stay to finish the tale. 2. only in the cool light of the basement’s window will she relax and lay back against the chipped wall. she doesn’t stay for company, she’d rather keep the door shut. 3. when purple ink splatters against her arms, she smiles. more colors fleck her thin shoulders, contorted bone only.

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Volcanoes Might Erupt Jason Jiang two mirrors facing each other admiring themselves lilacs blossoming between them lilacs wilting detesting themselves facing each other two mirrors

j i ang : v o l can o e s m i gh t e r u p t

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Wi l l i a m Mo o d y. “s o m m e t d u m o n d e.” T i s c h S c h o o l o f t h e Ar t s ( 2 0 1 1 ) .


Basic Division Keith Cagney “Penny Pendleton was a whore!” The fat woman collapsed without an attempt at grace, gripping a man she had barely met as he rolled on the floor in a daze. Dom chuckled. Some revelation. He shifted in his seat for a better view, rapping a flimsy program on his bouncing knee. Bree was staring too intently to reprimand him. None of the other believers seemed to notice. The circle didn’t utter a breath, sneaker-dust smoke abated in the beams of caged lights above them. Even the bleachers, folded the entire night, looked as if they were huddled even closer to the walls from pure shock. Looking around him, Dom couldn’t tell if this was the real thing, but he supposed it was the closest he’d ever get to a séance at the Djibo County Rec Center. Big-rig began to wail, her bouffant doing a humble percussion to the pulse of her cellulite. Her ex-husband’s tirade frothed at the medium’s lips, still crumpled at half-court, “She wasn’t half the woman you were! I always regretted leaving, always!” Up front she fell into tears, exclaiming, “Oh, God, I knew you’d made a mistake.” A man in high socks and jean shorts put his arm on her shoulder and led her away, wiping Animal Crackers from his tee shirt with dignity. “Poor bastard,” Dom said, eyeing them across half-court. His girlfriend chewed a nail. She was getting impatient for her turn. Watching the pair nearly trigger the fire alarm at the back exit, Dom decided, This evening might be fun after all. He put out of his mind that Bree was eating this stuff up, clinging to some hope of talking to Gavin. It wasn’t easy staying quiet about the guy when he was alive, because of the way she looked at him. Dom turned back to see the medium struggling to his feet. Dead two weeks and he’s still edging me out. Place was awfully crowded for a community séance from the clipper

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coupon ads, and the medium’s “Go Hawks!” sweatshirt didn’t lessen the somber air hanging on the old gymnasium. High window slats flexed like scorpion tails toward the court, a lone row of hanging bulbs sliced the black in halves. Dom’s folding chair guttered as he shifted in his seat, trying to figure out Bree’s face through the shadow. She screwed it and unscrewed it like a kid with a secret. Somebody’s turn came. A man stood, walking the three-point line like a prisoner headed to the chamber. Her brow was slightly set, eyes a rolling cement-truck payload. Stony but torrential, Dom considered, thinking of a poem. He didn’t know if she was genuinely interested in all these townies or if she just hoped to spare some teasing on the way home. She knew that if it was sacred, Dom couldn’t joke about it. Gavin didn’t come up a lot. He tickled her ribs and Bree pecked him on the cheek. That was her reminder that Dom was being an asshole. His cheek still wet, he felt adequately guilty and more than a little self-righteous. If it was just to say we came to one of these things I’d be more into it, Dom heard himself saying, one or two hours ago when she told him about it. His internal monologue commiserated the way only a paranoiac’s could. The real reason she had come made him wince. She never told Dom about Gavin’s funeral. Didn’t even know the guy had kicked it until somebody spilled later, asking about Dom’s absence at the service. Said it was a beautiful ceremony, the whole graduating class was there. Said Bree got real emotional. Some friends of theirs stayed with her at the cemetery with a bottle of red for hours after the procession left. He never brought it up, because she’d find some way to blame him—some aspect, his paranoia, his jealousy—for hiding that she went. He wasn’t new to being lied to—what stung was the remembering how nice she had been last week, only realizing now she was buying off guilt. She said she’d been at her mother’s house since she wasn’t getting out much after the diagnosis. Forgetting a remainder in basic division. Thought we took this problem out of our lives. The night of the funeral she came into their apartment drunk, and fell asleep at the kitchen table. Dom found her with the lights off, head on


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her arm, a shot of whiskey poured and ready. Her dress was rumpled on a chair, a heel snapped off a shoe making its slow crawl beneath the fridge. He smelled the wine on her breath, the sweat in her hair. Slowly he carried her to bed, removing her jeans and the old college sweatshirt and drawing the covers up to her shoulder. He didn’t ask any questions, just felt her hair while she shallow-slept and grumbled. He prayed softly for her mother, whispering, “It’s gonna be okay, kiddo”—until the triteness of the words melted and returned. For an instant, they had significance. A promise that could preserve her mother’s vitality and defy death. Then, quietly stopping, Dom remembered what he was saying. His unconscious lover drooled on his hand in a room where no one could hear his voice. How did I muster the cowardice to come to this? The standing man shook hands with a total stranger, who might, if he believed it enough, be speaking for the dead. Dom thought it could happen, but that nobody else really did. The dead were there, they just weren’t listening. It was a rented room meant for easing consciences. As the evening wore on, he scouted for evidence that someone was trying to make a buck off him. He defended his sense of spirituality with the dogged pursuance of a man completely self-aware. The medium continued to assume personalities at each expectant request, and Bree’s silence throughout predicted a long car ride home. There weren’t nearly enough cigarettes in his dashboard to get by; his head surged with every passing charade. The crowd was just like he imagined it, panting like kids meeting Santa after a year apart. “He doesn’t exist, either,” he had declared when they arrived, “but at least he actually shows up at the mall.” Bree was right along with them, hoping to resurrect a man from her past, whose name still made Dom grit his teeth, even with 300 pounds of dirt making a very strong argument for keeping his cool. Don’t you say all you need to say at the funeral? He hadn’t been to one in years, but he remembered his uncle’s—the drinking, the crying. Where’s the sense in meeting up with a ghost to talk about things you already know? With her, these impulsive jaunts were usually fun, often unavoidable. But for the most part Dom was having a good night. The medium pointed


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their way. When she cleared her throat in hesitation, his synapses fired. All of them. She wasn’t here for a dead relative, or some ex who ditched her for Penny Pendleton outside a gas station in Waco; she was channeling Gavin, two weeks dead. Her missed chance. Dom felt like killing him a second time. As she walked that blue-tape bridge, he traced the curve of her spine. If I died, he thought, counting vertebrae. Her narrow-set shoulder blades just pinched against her cotton tank top, her slender legs gracefully negotiating their uncertain steps. As the medium fastened his shin guards, his lover spoke. “My name’s Briana Reynolds. I’d like to contact my friend Gavin.” Hearing the pert little words, an unconscious image of Gavin’s thick fingers in her hair jumped into Dom’s psyche, and every self-deprecating bone in his ripcord body winced. If I died. *** The heat was on, but Bree still felt cold. The radio was tuned to a latenight talk show. “And it’s not as if these troops are going because they want to—” some chuckling deejay tucked away, soapboxing the Djibo county airwaves, never having imagined raising the dead. He spoke to all the truckers, the couples sitting in lots just like this, tuning him out in philosophized microcosms. He knew no one was listening. He talked to and for himself, knowing somehow which words were picked up by ears like Bree’s, sitting in silence, dumbfounded. When it came time to tune out life, there was his dead voice, his singular words crackling, that needle jumping twice as high on the words that make it somewhere. Everyone trickled out of the rec center, flaccid yellow light irking over the sedans. Cavalcaded reds and greens were turned cross-shade as head lamps clattered to life. The moth shadows played out on the hood while the deejay prattled on, talking about some war, some place, some dying person whose only reason to die was obligation—and the ghosts settled down, let the moths take the night, walked back into the woods. Bree looked at the tree line in the distance, the white and red highway lines striping its face, haunted. Dom quietly smoked a cigarette, watching the enfilade. She


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waited for him to speak. He said nothing. The smoke fingered its way in all directions, charcoal veins in the carpeted ceiling. It moved with a hesitant audacity, taking up the air it knew should be filled with words. When they were the last car to go, and the streetlights came on, she put it in drive and eased into the night. She put her arm on his shoulder, and for a second it felt wrong there. Then she found its contour, his bony figure begging the roundness of her palm. He smiled weakly, and lit another cigarette. Dom had told her he quit. It seemed they both had secrets. The car’s filtering groan was the only sound as Bree pretended to navigate the familiar roads. She squinted her eyes, kicked on the brights, as if lost in the void. They had lived in Djibo for two years, and she could easily reach home blindfolded and stoned. She smiled to think that she actually had, that time Dom leaned over to cover her eyes and dictate the directions to her. He put one soft hand on her neck, rubbing the bones in her spine and covering her eyes with the other. She turned to mention it to him, her eyes the same flaring chestnut he’d fallen in love with. He wasn’t looking now. Dom sat completely still, silent tears catching stray red-lit numbers from passing signs. He was contemplating the words I love you smeared in the foggy window, words he had heard spoken across the divide. Between life and death, between radio silences and lonely drives, Dom fluctuated. There were no stars out, not like the night he’d leaned over, not like the night they moved to their new apartment, two sets of eyes beneath the blanketing. Bree saw only the sharp draw of his cheek silhouetted against a grain of passing trees, those words an accusation and a study. What was their worth? His fingers trembled against the cool glass. They considered their work, the elegant lines and curves that blended in just such a way—did they have to become letters? They could have been anything else. Why letters, Dom thought. Letters were just coffins for sound, plastic exam skeletons to illustrate a point, concretion of something impossible and inconceivable. I shouldn’t have gone, he decided, but I had to. The deejay: “So, my neighbor’s got a poodle. Mean little thing, bites me when I’m passed out on the lawn.” Somebody laughed. Bree remembered the way he touched her neck. Only he could get that close to her, his hands


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on her very vitality. The memory vanished quickly, and she would later come back and find it stained with night.

Ta ra Be d i . “ T i m e l e s s.� Co l l e g e o f Ar t s a n d S c i e n c e ( 2 0 1 0 ) .


Digestive Thought Stephanie Gallagher

doused in the heady scent of vine tomatoes and sautĂŠing garlic, Brooklyn resurfaces unapologetically in the warm Florentine sun.

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In the room sleeping with his black sock Amanda J. Killian He saw he had knocked things down and she had put them back  this pair that wrestles in bed and laughs over slaps dealt.  Nightly, he hit the shelf above his head and all her shells fell down.   She does not know dropping the raw sea pieces into a jar   whether the amount is there from before. He says they must be somewhere.

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Entheogen Michelle Chen Three o’clock at the window seat, and I am but rosemary in a peddler’s stock. I am but herbs on the sun-stained dock that simmers with inorganic heat— pinched with flourish on a pasta dish that you flung with rage on West 4th Street. I am the roasting fowl, or flock. (or the lonesome slice of stinking fish). Yet all at once I can faintly see an image of home on an old spice rack: the Colorado folds its colors back with a melancholy song or wish.

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Ju l i a n n e Co rd ra y. “ Un t i t l e d .” Co l l e g e o f Ar t s a n d S c i e n c e ( 2 0 1 0 ) .


Keeping House Mallory Locke Ernest hated to think that he had “fired” her; he preferred to tell himself he’d “let her go.” Certainly Maureen hadn’t done anything worth a “firing.” “Firing” was the kind of word Wall Street big shots threw out across big desks because someone cost someone else a few billion dollars, and Maureen hadn’t ever lost a dime…in fact she’d found more than a few lingering between the cushions of the checkered loveseat in the downstairs parlor. She was a rather large woman, but she moved about the house quietly with a wonderful domestic grace that Ernest could never quite understand, let alone mimic. Once he’d tried calling her “Maid Maureen” in a chivalric attempt at a compliment, but she’d merely smiled sympathetically and continued with the dusting; he still fretted about the remark and hoped she knew it was praise. He’d hired Maureen after Cora died because of something Cora used to say. Cora came up with the one-liner one day after Ernest had knocked over his seltzer during a light lunch way back when. “Ernest Gale,” she used to say, “no one more aptly named.” She had laughed it out during their wedding when he dropped her ring down the carpeted altar steps, hissed it in a short whisper when he bumped into Charlotte’s wooden toy chest in the dark as they put her to bed—he used to send the whole lot of polyester pigs and pink teddy bears flying (“Who knew cotton could crash?” Cora said). With her hands on her hips, she would exasperatedly exclaim it when he sent trays of hors d’oeuvres topsy-turvy during dinner parties, or when this or that plate or vase shot through his fingers en route from the drying rack to the ever-waiting, often-disappointed cupboards. When Cora had her stroke and the one-liner fell out of use along with the rest of her, Ernest began saying it to himself after every accidental overturning of the potted begonias on the front porch, following every renegade attack of the sturdy doorframe upon his unsuspecting hip or shouder.

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Aware of his crippling absentmindedness, Maureen became Ernest’s weekly offering to Cora; in lieu of flowers on her grave he gave her Maureen, the perfectly pleasant youngish woman who came in to “keep house” by taking care of the little piles of laundry and dusting Cora’s orphaned knickknacks. Each Monday, Maureen dutifully feathered away Ernest’s weekly debris, his quiet dead dust that accumulated in creases and corners and formed little halos of stale age around the base of this or that. Ernest liked the way the counters and chair rails looked after Maureen left; he would sit in the parlor and gaze about at the neat surfaces, shining the way Cora had kept them. But retirement can ruin a person, and Ernest’s active lack of a honey-do list was wearing on him more than the weight of an actual day’s work had. He relished the gentle disruption of Maureen about her duties, but he felt stifled by his own stagnation; while sitting on his front porch early one Wednesday evening, he found himself straining for breath in the scum of restless ennui, coated in a hopeless sense of idleness that he knew could be resolved if only he could “let her go” and thereby gain something, anything, to do. Ernest kept his resolve, and Maureen didn’t appear the following Monday; he set to her routine with relief, following the rivets she’d made in the mauve shag carpeting from room to room, surface to surface. Unlike Maureen, who dusted with memorial disregard, Ernest paused carefully at the mantle in the parlor to admire its boxy brood: a bunch of framed family afternoons of clams in Nantucket during June, bits of brightly colored birthday cake on Charlotte’s face, Cora in her garden, Ernest with his back to the camera, head cocked toward the horizon. Next to each little lifetime rested Cora’s, incinerated into its billion bits of seconds and piled into a neat mountain inside the navy blue urn that Ernest and Charlotte had so awkwardly picked out at a fussy antique store in town. Ernest squinted at the surface, remembering how Charlotte had thought it dignified, how she’d embarrassed her father when she apologized for his lack of taste to the sales clerk who’d wrapped the thing up; Cora never would’ve stood for such a sting but Ernest had simply stood there. As he gazed at the urn


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Ernest softened, loosening his grip on the dust rag as he felt the stillness of the room, mulling over the way it was so fundamentally, so sharply antipodal to the decades before; the bitterness seeped slightly into the grooves of his tongue and crept nastily into what he’d thought would be just another occupied Monday afternoon. Caught off-guard by the rush of solitude, Ernest groped forcefully at the first frame, running the rag firmly across the glass and its silver casing, erasing the heaviness of the dust and his grief. He set it back, did the others and then reached for the urn, taking the utmost care to push the rag into each tiny turn and every empty crevice. As he polished he gazed at the surface reflection of the chandelier above him and the window by his side, both so still, shut off and closed tight. The parlor was no longer the affectionately-treated, wholly-unfortunate bastard child of Cora’s affinity for ‘70s modernism and the new American oaken set they’d received from his parents; no, the room was simply stoic; yes, it was a real piece of work that no one could really live in and in which only one person—one beautiful, spent person—really had. Aware of the lifetime he grasped in his hands, Ernest knew then what it was to watch a home turn into a house. Slumped shoulders compressed, Ernest gulped at the air as he replaced the urn. Turning toward the side table next to the loveseat he heard, before he saw, the rough unfinished bottom of the urn scrape across the edge of the mantle as it toppled downward. Eyes widening, he heard “Ernest Gale” as the urn cracked open across the hearth, found himself deafened by the sound of his name echoing the little rolling waves of dust that thundered about the room. The dust settled as every bit of him fell down to the floor; Ernest sunk slowly down to the hearth, hands grazing his bony knees as he stared at the dust of the week mingled with the dust of his wife, two different kinds of dead.


Parade Grounds Andrew Colarusso tone. image of American momentarily I thought of you in the hour of my small death. I ope n vain and space shortly. watch this.

transmission. you catch a glimpse of the face appearing t o at last fill your half empty. looking again so quickly you forget the cause for the turn of each season. in this moment your path i s altered and the body possessed with peri pheral light is lost to concrete sight.

power. to prove the transparency of the veil betwe en worlds we dine on sensualism. vines on nuclear ladders combust with idea to mast er the ill advised idealist.

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orientation. the four gather and sway in a deciduous gr een palisade. no limitless supply of mariju ana and warm ecstasy can make this living four pass beneath blue scaffolding in a sort of giddy haze.

more real for them:

consequence. you begin to realize; not much can be said or told of occurrence. a shadow will some times rock softly without consent. it is ok t o feel helpless before the fight ensues.

1. I was just enjoying my candies when you s tepped into my palm.


An Interview with Anne Carson

Anne Carson is an internationally acclaimed writer. Her books include Nox (2010); Decreation (2005); The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos (2001), winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry; Economy of the Unlost (1999); Autobiography of Red (1998), shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize; Plainwater: Essays and Poetry (1996); Glass, Irony and God (1995), shortlisted for the Forward Prize; and Goddesses And Wise Women (1992). Carson is also a classics scholar, the translator of An Oresteia (2010) and If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho (2002), and the author of Eros the Bittersweet (1998). Her awards and honors include the Lannan Award, the Pushcart Prize, the Griffin Trust Award for Excellence in Poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship. She is Distinguished Poet-in-Residence in the Creative Writing Program at New York University, where she also offers courses in the Department of Classics.

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West 10th: What made you start writing? Anne Carson: I don’t perceive any “start” of it. There must have been a time before it but I don’t remember that. West 10th: Is writing a poem an emotional or an intellectual act? Or is it something else entirely? Anne Carson: Certainly it must be both. Also physical. West 10th: What one piece of advice do you wish someone had given you early on? Anne Carson: I don’t, never did, like advice. But I wish I’d known John Cage, I wish I’d been brave like him: “What we have already done conspires against what we have now to do.” West 10th: Do you think that creative arts can be taught, or are creative writing classes more about polishing innately-possessed skills? Anne Carson: I have often wondered what creative writing classes are about. Mostly I think they allow people to engage in (that most pleasurable of human activities) thinking together. As for what gets taught, joy. Working at the hardest place in yourself is a joy. West 10th: Do you ever look back on pieces that you wrote as a student? If so, how do you feel they relate to your more current compositions? Anne Carson: I was never a student of writing. You mean my old Classics essays? Not much relation at all except I am still addressing the same texts in my research and translation projects.


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M i c h a e l S t a s i a k . “J F / D N.” C o l l e g e o f A r t s a n d S c i e n c e ( 2 0 1 1 ) .


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West 10th: How does your work as a visual artist enhance or intersect with your poetry? Anne Carson: I prefer drawing to writing but am not very good at the former. A book I wrote once called Short Talks was originally a series of drawings with captions but no one wanted to publish the drawings so I took them out and enlarged the captions. After that I didn’t try to sell my drawings. Nowadays the activities proceed side by side but they are two different streams of energy and two different ways of analyzing reality. West 10th: Your collected works seem to span a variety of forms, some of them uniquely yours—such as Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse (1998), The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos (2002) and Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera (2005). What compels you to move from one form to another? Anne Carson: Boredom I guess. There is a restlessness. There are a lot of forms to try. West 10th: How do you see the genre of “poetry” evolving in the 21st century? Anne Carson: You know I haven’t any idea. I suppose we will keep on reaching around for the thing that is inside our hand. What do pirates want anyway.


A Fascinating Line Sam Goldsmith That morning, Mr. Drummond peacefully eased into consciousness inside his bed. The sun fell through his window at a hypnotic angle, its brisk spring warmth padding his comforter. Birds sang outside, a lovely sound that seemed to fit today perfectly. His feet felt warm without slippers, his arms comfortable without a sweater. Clouds had all but abandoned the brilliant blue sky, leaving a few lonely puffs like stray freckles. Colors shone vibrantly, and the blue sky, green grass and autumn-red tree leaves melded together harmoniously. Mr. Drummond could not think of a more beautiful, perfect day. He flossed twice and brushed his teeth for five minutes, just to be safe. He ate a full breakfast—a glass of orange juice and a bowl of Corn Flakes with a pinch of sugar—but not so full that his bowels would beckon him to the bathroom too soon. He ran a comb across his scalp and meticulously picked out renegade nose-hairs. He shaved his stubble, even though he never grew much of a thick beard. Everything had to be perfect today, as perfect as the weather outside, as perfect as he had always imagined. He took his beloved to Wishing Point, a small, level patch of land on a hill overlooking the modest city below. One could see sunlight reflecting off the water and onto the sides of the reassuringly geometric buildings. It was the perfect place, he reasoned. Hand in hand, they sat on a bench and gazed contentedly out over the scenery. They watched a child press his face into a pair of pay-to-use binoculars and complain to his mother that he couldn’t see anything. “Oh, Harold, it’s beautiful!” his beloved sighed, resting her head on his shoulder. “Thank you so much for bringing me out here.” Her voice sounded like warm milk, and he felt like pouring it into a saucer and lapping it up like a thirsty cat. The mother soon ushered her child away, leaving the view and the wel-

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come feeling of blissful solitude to the enamored pair. There was no better time in the world, and Mr. Drummond basked in the moment’s perfection. “Angela,” he said, “there’s something I wanted to ask you, something very important.” She looked up at him expectantly, making his heart pound ever-so-pleasantly. “Let me just say it straight out: Will you marry me?” His beloved, with her long golden hair blowing angelically in the wind, stared at him blankly for a moment, and then turned back to the view. “Hum,” she said flatly. Mr. Drummond had not anticipated such a lackluster response. He waited for her to elaborate, and when it was clear she wasn’t going to, he said, “What’s wrong?” “It’s nothing,” she sighed dully. “It’s just, well, this isn’t all that romantic.” Mr. Drummond looked out at the city, coated in crisp spring sunlight, the cooperative weather enough to make a landscape photographer salivate. “What do you mean? This is plenty romantic.” “Sure, if you’re going out for a nice, uneventful stroll,” said his beloved. “But not to propose.” She said the word “propose” with disdain, unmistakably disgusted with Mr. Drummond’s choice of time and place. She lifted her head off his shoulder to look him in the eye. “And you did it all wrong, too.” “I did?” “You did,” she confirmed with a nod. “You’re supposed to kneel down in front of me, hand me a diamond ring, and say, ‘I love you more than anything, Angela. Will you marry me?’” A diamond ring. Mr. Drummond felt his wallet throb in his back pocket. “But I thought we could pick out a ring together so we could find one you’d like,” he said. “And I do love you more than anything, Angela.” She groaned. “Oh, forget it. We’re not even on the beach in Southern Italy, and I’m not wearing a flowing white gown that dances in the wind like a walking ballet.” “Like a walking ballet?” “It’s always been my dream.”


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*** I met Mr. Drummond in line outside a one-day clinic. I had taken the bus downtown to grab lunch and read a novel in a nearby café, but long lines like the one outside the clinic fascinate me, and I figured I’d wait in it. The line meandered its way to an abandoned retail building that was notorious for rapidly changing hands. It had been a Foot Locker for three months before giving way to an ice cream store, then to a Starbucks. Everyone with sense knew to stay away from a space once Starbucks failed— except, apparently, this clinic, which was somehow drawing an impressive turnout. The line was long enough for me to tell as interesting a story as Mr. Drummond’s, if only I’d had a story to tell. Mr. Drummond expected that I did. He thought there must have been some epic history that led me to this spot, and he couldn’t understand my simple, boyish fascination. I breathed in the air of the college town, the offshore half-metropolis where I grew up. It smelled like pollen, gasoline, fast food, and familiarity. I explained my original plan for the day, handing Mr. Drummond the book I had hoped to read in the café, Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. He said he’d never heard of it, and I returned it to my backpack. “They advertised for the clinic in the movie theater,” explained Mr. Drummond. “They showed the ad before the movies started. You couldn’t have missed it.” I shook my head. “I don’t watch movies.” Mr. Drummond was not a young man by marriage standards. His sideburns were starting to show hints of gray, and his pork pie hat undoubtedly covered up more. His face was also starting to age, wrinkling like creased paper along his forehead and the sides of his eyes. He wore a thin mask of stubble, which he said was the result of recent depression-induced apathy toward his appearance. I would have guessed he was in his early thirties, but I’ve never been a great judge of that sort of thing. I can’t say much about his beloved, Angela, because of his unasham-


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edly biased description of her, but it was certain that she was three years younger than he, saw life through ocean-blue eyes, and brandished long, blond hair. They had met two years ago, both energetic realtors working for the same firm. It was quickly doubtless in Mr. Drummond’s mind that she was the perfect woman for him, and she seemed to feel the same way. So her reaction to his proposal was entirely unpredictable. “I had no idea I was supposed to take her to the coast of Southern Italy,” said Mr. Drummond dismally. “She should have been more flexible,” I agreed. “You could have taken her there for the honeymoon.” “That’s what I said, but she didn’t care. She wouldn’t even look at me.” He shook his head, and kept his eyes on his worn-out sneakers. “And I thought it was such a perfect day.” “So that’s why you’re here at the clinic,” I said. He nodded. Over the abandoned building there was a friendly yellow sign with the words, “Emotional Repairs Clinic,” explaining the clinic as thoroughly as a sign would be expected to. “There’s something wrong with me, with my emotions,” said Mr. Drummond. “I’m not romantic enough. I should have known the best way to propose to her. I should have known.” “It doesn’t sound to me like there’s anything wrong with you,” I said. “Have you ever disappointed a woman, Sam? Have you fallen miserably short of her dreams no matter how desperately you wanted to make them come true?” I laughed. “That’s a tall order, Mr. Drummond. It’s too much to ask someone to make a dream come true.” Mr. Drummond shook his head, smiling sadly. “Then you have no idea why I need to be here.” He gave a short chuckle. “You’re probably emotionally impaired yourself, and you don’t even know it.” “How can I find out?” I said with simple, boyish curiosity. Mr. Drummond shrugged. “I’d ask inside. I bet they have some way to test you.” He was called up, and he shook my hand in a short but courteous fare-


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well. Once he slipped into the clinic, I had nothing to do but study the other people in line. The woman directly behind me was tall and elegant, her hair tied hastily in a bun, her makeup running in streaks down her face. I asked her what she was here for. “My husband left me. He felt I didn’t love him during intercourse,” she squeaked. “Why would he think that?” “Because I never moaned enough.” I scoffed. “And you think that means there’s something wrong with you?” She nodded slowly and rubbed her eye with a shaking hand. That’s when they called me up to the front desk, and I had no chance to respond further. It was odd to see a desk in the old, abandoned building, though it shouldn’t have been. The place had been so many things before, so why not an office? I could still smell ice cream through the plaster, but it was probably just a piece of my imagination. Strong memories tend to have strong scents. Small desks lined the walls of the narrow room and were marked by signs with bold numbers—cold, undistinguished semblances of names. At each desk, a person in a gray suit sat across from a former member of the fascinating line. Mr. Drummond sat at Desk Nine, which was near the opposite end of the room. I figured my coincidental meeting with him was over. “Desk Five,” said the man at the front, not looking up. I said, “Excuse me, how do I find out whether I’m emotionally impaired?” “Oh, that’s Desks One and Two,” he pointed, his eyes still down. “Please wait over there for one of them to open up. Next!” I walked to the cramped waiting area, sat between a nursing mother and a wall, and was left to watch the motley interactions around me. It was a bizarre sight, like a zoo of emotions, caged and furious. At one desk a relaxed woman was holding a photograph that I couldn’t make out from a distance, and a soundtrack played to her through a pair of giant headphones. She leaned back in her metal folding chair and sighed, contentedly smiling at the ceiling. Another woman sobbed uncontrollably, while the


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man who was helping her demanded she cry louder, cry like she meant it. A teenaged boy laughed at a television screen, pointing with one hand and slapping his knee with the other as the Three Stooges happily clubbed one another. A man with a bloody nose lifted his helper by the collar and yelled profanities in his face, spit flying this way and that. I couldn’t tell for certain, but I thought I could see a woman masturbating through her clothes over by the far corner, her free hand holding an indistinguishable piece of paper. Well, I thought. “Next!” called the man behind Desk Two. I sat down at the desk and tried to ignore the hyperventilating woman at Desk Three. It was simply impossible. “You have two minutes to save your sons, and you can’t open the door because of your broken wrists,” said her helper calmly. The woman screamed. I turned to the man in the gray suit in front of me, who, seeing that he had my attention, asked, “How may I help you today, sir?” He smiled blankly. “Hi,” I said. “I’d like to know whether I’m emotionally impaired.” “Very good,” said the man, pulling out a notepad and a laminated slip of paper with “Emotional Deficiency Chart” written on the top in big block letters. “That is something everyone should know about themselves, don’t you think?” I nodded absently, my attention back on Desk Three. The woman had stopped screaming, and her helper was patting her on the back, confirming that her emotions had been successfully repaired. She was a mess—red-eyed, red-nosed and red-cheeked—but she wore the biggest smile I’d seen on a human being since graduation. “Now, I want you to imagine some situations, please,” said my helper, bringing my focus back. “Remember, this is just a test, so please relax and allow yourself to be as emotional as you possibly can.” I nodded and closed my eyes, preparing to visualize. “Imagine your wife is cheating on you,” he said. “She’s been the love of your life since elementary school, and you can’t live without her. Imagine you find out about her unfaithfulness when you walk in on her with two of


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your basketball buddies. Imagine she is in bondage, tied to the bed.” “What?” I said, my eyes popping open. “Please don’t interrupt, sir,” he said. “Imagine they are muscular African-Americans and have much larger penises than you. Imagine your wife spits on you and leaves the men to beat you up and break your nose. They stop only when you pass out on the floor.” I blinked a few times with a mixture of horror and perplexity. “Now, sir, how do you feel about those men? Take your time.” I said, “That’s incredibly racist.” “Don’t you feel mad at them? Or insecure compared to them?” he asked. “Um, I don’t really know.” “Interesting,” said my helper, writing something on his notepad. A man now sat at Desk Three, awkwardly stepping into the wake of the hysterical woman. He was being prompted to laugh at something, his face reddening from the exercise. I rolled my eyes. “Now,” said my helper, “How do you feel about your wife?” I shrugged. “I don’t have a wife.” “Then imagine she’s your girlfriend.” “I don’t have a girlfriend, either.” “Boyfriend? Any romantic interest at all?” I shook my head. The man looked at me suspiciously and hunched back over his notepad. I gave an uncomfortable sigh and glanced to the back of the room. I couldn’t see Desk Nine from my seat, which was disappointing. I wanted to know if Mr. Drummond was falling for this hoax. My helper handed me a photograph. “I want you to imagine what life is like for this four-year-old boy,” he said as I plucked the picture from between his fingers. It didn’t look like a boy to me, but I could see the resemblance at my helper’s suggestion. His eyes were swollen unrecognizably, his nose bashed in, his lips puffy, his mouth leaking blood. I winced. “He was a victim of violence in Darfur that destroyed his family and everyone else where he lived,” said my helper smoothly. “He could be saved with proper medical treatment, but since his country is so poor and access to


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doctors and medicine is impossible, he has exactly zero percent chance of surviving to his fifth birthday. Now, sir, how do you feel?” I took a deep breath. “Um, wow,” I said, looking into my helper’s eye to avoid the image. “I’m not quite sure. Sad, I guess.” My helper watched me expectantly, waiting for me to say more. “Is that all?” I thought to myself for a moment. “I think so.” My helper closed his notebook with the clapping sound of finality. “Okay. You are definitely emotionally impaired. I am afraid you have a particularly serious case that necessitates immediate attention, and I recommend you see a specialist as soon as possible. That will be thirty dollars, sir.” “Thirty dollars?” I felt like laughing, but something held me back. “Are you serious?” My helper gave a curt nod, his expression remaining gravely unchanged. I took another glance around the room and decided that there was no point in getting worked up in a place already saturated with emotion. I handed him two fifteen-dollar bills and left before he realized it. *** I saw Mr. Drummond at the café a few days later, where I was reading my wrinkled Edith Wharton paperback. He was a happier man, I could tell. His stubble was gone, as were the bags under his eyes. All in all, he looked years younger than when I had met him in the fascinating line. He told me he had started drinking more coffee to keep up his energy for romance, just as the clinic had suggested. To see him like this made a little piece of me die inside. “What kind of coffee do you drink?” he asked. “Decaf?” “I don’t drink coffee,” I said, taking a sip from my Thai iced tea. He admitted that his relationship with Angela hadn’t yet returned to its prior blissfulness, but the healing had begun. She insisted that he couldn’t roll back time and pretend he hadn’t fumbled the proposal, but since


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he’d already bought tickets to the coast of Southern Italy, she figured he deserved another chance. I shook my head, partly to myself. “Why does it have to be so onesided?” I said. “What about your own dreams?” “My dream is to make her dreams real,” he said, smiling like a salesman. I sank back in my chair. “Don’t give me that romantic bullshit. We both know it’s not true.” Mr. Drummond rested a compassionate hand on my shoulder. “Are you sure you’re not emotionally impaired?” “Yeah,” I sighed. “I’m sure.”


Haiku #19 Tom Mooseker The dolphin looked up toward the night’s fading moonlight and thought: click click click.

m o o s e k e r : ha i k u # 1 9

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Ch e l s e a Ja n e P f o h l . “ D o g f i g h t .” St e i n h a rd t ( 2 0 1 1 ) .


Matches Kayla Atherton We don’t even know any more, the names of the bones in our hands, the Latin word for skyline, if such a word exists(ted) at all. How we say take a lover, recycle those cans, and still; need nothing. Touch no one’s hand. Rucker. Go on and go  if you will. The unlit end of a match. The night time is much more quiet. What little noises we make. I think I make them at myself. I wish (so much) to please  yourearswithnoise. I don’t know how to say  it any other way: my love some days seems to be end less.

a t h e r t o n : ma t ch e s

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Pinus Pinaster Amy Greenberg At the relative time of eighth grade, a girl moved from one house to another house three streets over, and very little changed. Many dresses were packed in congested squares of cardboard, and the girl used them later as small condos for her cat, something the cat did not like. The girl was tall, almost gangly to a fault, but not completely fault-ridden. Enough to get picked on, though, which is why Carrie Winters, on a Monday—The First Monday of School and The First Monday Jonathan Barkin Came to Class— called her “celery girl” in the middle of a very tense and very fast game of four square. The girl was very upset at this, as she already had a hook nose she would (later in life) blame on her father and a slow, wobbling gait she would (later still) blame on her mother. She had very round ankles, and her breasts, although not fully developed, were pink-swollen and sloping, a pair of popcorn kernels waiting for the heat. At her old house (the better one, the best one) there was a thick green pool, and it was perfect: easy steps, terracotta tiles at the sides and the most terrifying deep end ever created by man. Deep. Full of fuzzy pollen at the bottom. Sometimes she would pop up out of the water (Dihydrogen Oxide, thank you Mrs. Sickman), the strands of her hair parting, parting toward the surface, and oh! just there! tiny floating spiders, right at eye level, the kind that clamp on to the water, ruining the lightness of it. Terrifying. Six times she had imagined it! the fuzzy thrill of dropping down in there. Deep end it all! like Virginia Woolf. She had learned about her after watching The Hours with her big fat dad, and the whole thing was sort of gross but she had liked Woolf (mainly Nicole Kidman as Woolf, before she knew her big fat nose was a prosthetic) and later Googled her. Virginia just plopped pebbles in each side of her tracksuit. Of her drenched suit. Of her trench coat. And then just sidled into the pond! into the river! She thought maybe the ducks watched the woman-poet with a sad duck feel-

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ing, because who could do much to stop her? She imagined that after it happened the body popped up like a bath toy and the whole world was sad until the next Tuesday. She told Jonathan this at recess, exactly ten days after she considered “desk-mate Jonathan,” “friend Jonathan.” But he had less duck-like plans, if it was to happen at all. “I think I would do it in a big way, you know? At least when I’ve thought about it. Like I would be flying an airplane and then jump off without the parachute. That’s all, folks! That’s how I’d die.” “That sounds so cool. I wish I could think of something like that. I wish I could die like that.” “I wish Carrie Winters would die like that.” “Shut up!” But she had never wanted to die. Really she hadn’t. Before the girl moved houses and before things changed infinitesimally, she’d put a neon and plastic diving ring around her ankles when she swam in that truculent pool, only to feel what it could be like to be a mermaid, tied up by your own tail and leaving your own wake, which is very much the way boats feel and move as well. But you can’t just play like a boat or a mermaid or a crustacean, these things are all very dangerous. She was found swimming with the ring once and the girl came up for air once and the whole family was there and her father’s toes were yellow and ick! right smack against the pool tiles watching, watching her. She had to tell all of them how simple it could be if something bad happened. And sometimes this bad could happen before she knew, which was why it was the worst to swim this way. After this talk she kept her eyes open in the slick pool and sometimes glanced down at the neon green diving ring round the bones of her feet (behold—they are charming and fuzzy-seeming in the water!) the plastic lifting up and up the hairs of her calf, the whole of her skin lighter and thinner than most things. Jonathan said he had. Really had thought of it once. For a second! just what it was like. It wasn’t a big deal. Not a huge one, where people had to wheel Jonathan off and give him blue pamphlets on life: how to live it. Ha!—not a pamphlet problem. And this was true, as Jonathan never died.


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Although Jonathan did leave. He left after six (count ‘em—six) months of school, not including the week before school when you buy school supplies and excluding summer entirely. Once, many weeks before Jonathan knew he was leaving, the girl saw her neighbor with a girl. The neighbor had just learned to drive, and his mom had purchased a shined Ford Truck, heavy with expectations. Before the truck, he (Carl) used to stand by his mom’s bird feeder and hurl acorns at the glinting spokes of the girl’s newChristmasbike. But that night he stood clutching the hips of his friend, which made the girl wonder if his friend thought it was funny and liked it when he used to throw acorns at the girl’s bike in a way the girl could not. She told Jonathan of this the next day. “I saw my neighbor last night walking.” “Yeah?” “He was with someone.” “And so?” “I heard him say, ‘I Love You.’” “You were that close?” “No, I wasn’t so close. His voice just carried.” A crushed velvet one, with lace at the hem and shoulders. This one, her favorite dress, sat principally at the head of her New Closet. She had worn it as a child, which was (as big fat Dad said) very darn diaper long ago. Practically an infant is when she wore it. But it went well with her saddle shoes and looked good with the tiles of the synagogue atrium, a place where she hid as many a guilty Jew kissed away a year of sin in ancient breaths on Yom Kippur. It was like that, she thought. The feeling of blowing down the glass doors of the shul to snap at the hot air of afternoon after a lifetime of speaking. Services: done! It was like this maybe, with Jonathan. That gasp of air was like ice, thick like custard. Jonathan’s mother, Edna Barkin, had egg-white long thin hair, and made it to every soccer game. She made friends with the coach in between cigarette breaks, and was well known by the other mothers at school. She had told Jonathan over dinner that they couldn’t afford the school, and this


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could have been true. Even in this day and age little is known about the warble of a mother-woman’s heart. Jonathan’s confession made saying good-byes a ceremony, as both mother-women thought it best the children do something the weekend after Jonathan left school so as to establish a running correspondence. He had transferred to a public school two exits south on the Interstate, and the new friends and the new clothes and the thirty minutes wounded what had been established before. They were dropped off clumsily and awkwardly at the local movie theater and with ten dollars each they saw a movie, and sometimes the girl had to look at the carpeted walls and the dim-lit sconces in between scenes to keep from weeping thoughtlessly (if such a hurt can really happen, if a brain can scream in one note). Keep from Weeping Still! she thought, in the little corners of her pink pink room. Keep from Weeping Still and soon enough, soon enough there will be summer. In the summer there were radiant things. Hot hot things. The pine needles began to sting when she stood for too long, and many times at the beach seagulls would hop too close, so that they seemed almost like friends, like old aunts who, too weary for the rolling water, sank in the sand by the girl’s side for quite a long time. It was three (count ‘em—three) weeks into the summer Jonathan Barkin left that the girl felt the thrill to drop down in there. A week before this revelation she had felt a tug at her pelvic bone, and her mother found the chocolate stain laid flat on her panties and slapped her (a Yiddish tradition) the second the girl got out of the shower. “Honey!” she said, and she grasped the sides of the girl’s freckled (zitridden) face, “you’re a woman now!” The girl cried. Not because of the pain or the sight of it, but because it had once seemed so very far away. It was after this that she decided to visit the old place, the old house where before, her dresses were hung up neatly and sang in chorus. The pad popped right there in the crotch of her bathing suit—the small stretchy, flesh piece of fabric. It may have been said that the girl’s sudden and frantic outing to the old


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house (frivolous! too often the female brain is wrapped in lace) was a result of the boy leaving, as Jonathan Barkin had left heavily, like an angel with Saran-Wrap-wings sticking horribly up up. Yet this, like Edna Barkin might say, is just a “bowl of shallots” inconceivably thought-up, felt out for in the dark like a primary color—Yellow, without a light how quickly and how often you change! Oftentimes inconsistency is found in its own transfiguration, in the minute and the accurate, on the many lines of the pine needles. The girl walked barefoot three streets over, with a skit-scutt sound as she shuffled, because she walked in the soggy pine needles of the gutter, and because it had just rained. The cotton wings tore gently against what is called the inner thigh—this is imagined to be quite painful, somehow. Three streets over is not a terribly long walk, especially not in this particular type of suburbia: things are very close-knit. But it’s longer in a red bikini, and when she finally reached _______ Street she got a couple of looks from what people call “neighbors,” although these people lived very far from the new house, three streets over kind of far away. Mr. Lawrence and his two youngest boys were playing with a Nerf gun at the top of their tiny mowed hill when the girl skit-scutted by, and he was so riled at the sight (because of his boys, because of his wife, because of the mundane prettiness offered to a girl broken down in a bathing suit) that he could do little else but holler, “Sweetheart, you should put some clothes on!” And while it seemed odd, but not terribly odd, Mr. Lawrence—a Classics major—had thought it was kind of gorgeous, kind of really artful—this girl he’d seen as an infant naked now growing and skit-scutting by—and not the least bit unattractive, although this is strange to admit. When she finally stood in front of the house in the red bikini, in the old-time bottoms and the snug red top, she was in fact not the picture of psychosis or of mental breakdown or of any form at all of stress, duress, exhaustion or even fatigue. In fact, the stalk of her was taut, the center part of celery girl. She looked quite determined, almost like Joan of Arc when she had refused to change out of boy-clothes, and snap! (into the pond!) burned at the stake. The tall pine trees filtered the light onto her tummy, where her navel mouthed an accusatory no, snapped in negation and


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screaming south to where the hairs that skidded down had been bleached blonde, as blonde as Carrie Winters’ hair was when she had dyed it Kiss of Sunshine and paraded up and down the picnic tables in front of both the girl and Jonathan. “After I took my head out of the sink my mom just looked at me and said, ‘Well, isn’t that wild?’ And I think it is,” Carrie said, the tips of her hair coarse and as fake-looking as a nose. “Well I don’t think it’s wild. I think you look like a skunk,” the girl said. “Shut up! I didn’t ask you, stir-fry!” (Things had progressed to “stir-fry,” as Carrie’s stepfather made stir-fry using carrots and chopped celery—an ingredient both completely extraneous to Asian Cuisine and completely unsavory, rude even.) The girl used to swim in the late afternoon, and her brother and her father would sit on the peeling wrought iron chairs, her father with a glass of Diet Coke and her brother content with poking around, teasing the girl, running his hand in and out of the flame of the charcoal grill before burgers. Still those spiders though! Back then there might have been thousands of them clinging to the top of the water, all invisible with egg-white little hairs, all resembling Ms. Edna Barkin—member of the Stonelark Middle School PTO for about six (count ‘em—six) months. Charlene McAfee noticed that it was the girl from three streets over. The neighborhood was close-knit: block parties came and went every few months, and the tiny computer-printed invitations, clean with friendliness, were stuck with aplomb on the McAfee refrigerator. When found at the front door, the girl was stopped and walked back to her new house by Mr. McAfee. There she was received by her big and fat father, who was bewildered and almost sort of horror-struck, if you looked hard enough. Later that night Charlene phoned the girl’s mother, recounting with uncomfortable niceties the slide of the girl’s almost bare summer body: her too-round ankles and her bound-up but still sloping breasts. “She asked if she could swim in our pool. And then she tried to come in and—well, Don had to sort of hold her back from coming in. She seemed—I don’t know, Judy—shaken.”


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Jo r d a n Te i c h e r. “ D a d d y.” C o l l e g e o f A r t s a n d S c i e n c e ( 2 0 1 2 ) .


St. Patrick’s Day Andrew James Weatherhead Manual fixation

isn’t really a thing

but I have it

I think

this poem would be better

written in crayon

There’s something sloppy

in the way

you present yourself

in the way

your little sister

got shiny and fat.

w e a t h e rh e ad : s t . pa t r i ck ’ s da y

51


Give Me Sweet(ness) Tara Bedi “Hello Jia,” he says to me, “Hello Jia, will you please give me sweet?” Rustom says this over and over again, till I have no option but to respond. “No, Rustom, no more sweet.” “Please say yes, no Jia? Please say yes to sweet.” I concede, handing him a stick of gum from my pocket. “No,” he insists, “sweet.” “Ok, Rustom. Here’s your sweet,” I say, taking out the emergency stash of cigarette mints from my bag. Rustom makes to grab the sweet from my palm, but I pull away, asking him to take it gently. I unfold my fingers, revealing the green plastic-swathed jewel and he puts his hand on mine, his eyes fixed not on the grand prize like usual, but rather on my eyes. There’s a slight smile on his lips, and as I realize his hand is still on mine, and he realizes I’ve noticed this, he giggles spasmodically. His body quivers with fits of naughty glee, a quiver very similar to one he shouldn’t know about, but it seems to be a familiar pleasure. As innocent as he is, I’m sure he knows there’s a perversion in this lingering act…a perversion not I, nor anyone else, suspects of him. I get a little scared by his stiff muscled twenty-two-year-old body towering over me and I pull my hand away. “Hello Jia, no more sweet?” “No,” I say, embarrassed. “No more sweet.” *** I remember when we were little and played in Dalhousie, where we met every summer. We were let loose on the sprawling hillsides and played catch-and-catch with each other, while our parents hid in the shade, sipping Bloody Marys and secretly smoking the local blend of ganja. Rustom was sent with us but never joined in. He didn’t speak much either, just

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stared vacantly at the daisies that grew wild. I would take his hand and pull him into the group, but he stayed put, digging his heels into the ground. I would get annoyed and run off to my brother and our summer siblings, and he would continue to stare, confused at my anger, unable to articulate whatever it was that made him hesitant to join our afternoon divertissements. I used to feel bad, but after a while I’d forget he was even there. One day I asked my mother why he was so weird. “What do you mean, weird?” she asked. “He doesn’t speak to me, he doesn’t play with us, he just stares. He’s weird,” I concluded my diagnosis. “He’s special, Jia.” “How is he special?” I asked. She took her time to answer, figuring out how to explain why he was the way he was, such that it would be comprehensible to a six-year-old. “He’s in two places at once,” she started. “His body may be here now, with you in Dalhousie, but his mind is back when he was younger.” She seemed satisfied with her explanation. It didn’t make much sense to me, but I reconciled myself to the idea that maybe we could be in two places at once. “I want to be special too!” I decided. My mother laughed. “You are special, Jia. We’re all special.” *** My mother’s explanation for Rustom’s condition should have sated my questions. Instead it whetted my curiosity for him. I’d sit with him and look at the things he’d look at, even when they were nothing. I’d take his hand in mine and try to play clapping games, but he’d pull away, or play them wrong on the rare occasion he indulged my persistence. His head always slanted as though one side of his neck was shorter than the other, his light Kashmiri eyes distant, his mind on a trek down some narrow path my limbs couldn’t maneuver. I was jealous of his ability to mentally transport himself to somewhere I didn’t have access to, and I often wondered


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why no one else appreciated this strange power. It was them, not Rustom, who were lacking. My fascination for Rustom began to fade as I grew older and realized that he wasn’t as “special” as my mother made him out to be. Rustom was different, and we had no place for different in our severely stratified teenage world. At parties he would hover over the adults’ table looking for some kind of attention, while the rest of us teenagers sat away from the adults and the under-ten-year-olds, sneaking beer into our Cokes and using “fuck” like it was the currency for coolness. One Dalhousie dinner party, we sat at our table in the TV room and began to play a game of Monopoly. Our parents were sitting outside around a bonfire, listening to Dylan and Joan Baez—music that we violently objected to because it lacked the requisite heavy beat and profanity. “Hello Jia…” Rustom came up to the table and poked my shoulder. “What, Rustom?” I replied, pained. “Hello Jia, will you please give me sweet?” “Here, Rustom.” I handed him a rolled up piece of paper napkin. He looked at it, realized it didn’t have a sweet and said, “Jia, sweet. I want sweet.” I ignored him and the others laughed. My brother, the eldest and therefore our leader looked at me and said tauntingly, “Come on Jia, give your boyfriend a sweet.” The others burst into howls of laughter, and Rustom looked at me with a confused expression, not understanding why I didn’t give him a sweet like I normally did, and partly laughing along with the others because he thought he’d been the source of this great amusement. “Go find your mother, Rustom,” I said quietly, furious with my brother for mortifying me, but more so with Rustom for coming up to me and publicly demanding the bounty of sugar I provided him with when no one else was around. I was terrified he would expose my clandestine acts of sympathy. As I saw him bounce back across the room in search of his mother, I tried hard to suppress a smile. It was really sweet. He never used his heels, and so his walk resembled a sort of clumsy rhythmic ballet.


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*** I was seventeen the year my brother left for college. My parents and I drove up to Dalhousie at the end of the summer to catch one last week of rest and relaxation before I went back to school. Being the only one of the “kids” who was allowed to drink, I would end up spending evenings with the adults, while the rest of the people my age sat inside and played cards or watched TV. They ignored Rustom, so he would be out with the adults, hanging around the bar waiting to dupe yet another person into pouring him his fourth or fifth glass of Coke. One night, I leaned against the bar, waiting for my parents to get drunk enough so they wouldn’t notice me sneak off for a cigarette. When the singing started around the bonfire, I figured I was safe and walked off behind the house to my spot. Just as I was about to light up, I heard Rustom calling out to me. I stuffed the cigarette back inside its pack and into my pocket, and he jogged up to me, panting, the thin cold air making him breathless. “Hello Jia, can I have Coke?” “I don’t have any, Rustom.” “No, Jia. Coke.” “Sorry, Rustom. I don’t have any Coke.” “Sweet,” he demanded, sticking out his palm. “No sweet, Rustom. Go find your mother.” “Hello Jia, give me sweet.” I put my hand into the back pocket of my jeans and found a breath mint. I held it out in my palm, and as usual, Rustom tried to snatch it from me. I pulled back my hand, reminding him to take it gently, and once he nodded, I extended my palm again. He approached my hand, his fingers slowly sliding over mine toward the mint. As he reached it, I saw that he was smiling again, enjoying the tingling sensation at the ends of his fingers that I felt at the ends of mine. I pushed my fingers through the gaps in between his. The mint fell on to the cracked cement drain below our feet, the hard translucent green specked with wet flicks of brown grass and dirt. I pulled him closer to me, guiding his hand to the top of my forehead. He moved it down


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my face, touching my eyebrows, my lashes, my nose, my lips, the cleft in my chin. I leaned my head back as his fingers softly grazed my neck and found the warm gap between my breasts. He began giggling wildly, and I snapped out of my momentary frenzy, realizing suddenly what I’d just done. I pushed him away and ran back to the party, and he came following behind me, saying, “Jia, give me sweet. Where’s my sweet?” “No sweet, Rustom.” “Please say yes, no Jia? Please say yes to sweet.” “No more sweet.” I snapped back at him, pulling out my pockets to show him. They were empty.


Dissection Katie Blakely Oh you have the greatest yawn and the greatest sneeze. I would love to live inside your lymph nodes. And you could not possibly realize the power of your hypnotic, fat face. And how I dream of you. And how I wake to dreamsounds. That birthmark on your inner thigh— more like a cloud it distracted me; I paid less attention to your dick. Sorry. I really do love the little things in life, like your voice (monotonous). Like your gait, the way you hate me. Our love is repetition our love is cruel, boring!— like stealing legs off a spider, one by one.

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M a x L a k n e r a n d L e a h H e n n e s s e y . “ U n t i t l e d ( V i k t o r a n d EJ ) . ” T i s c h School of the Arts (2012).


We Were Like Vanessa Victoria Volpe three days asleep with boots on that kind of stilt, or heaps of salt in your mouth everything was little milk mist stunted like bonsai trees and as fragile or foolish.

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The Aspiring Idiot Todd Hasak-Lowy In March I received an invitation to appear at IdiotFest, the second most prestigious event on the entire Idiot circuit. I called my mother. - IdiotFest? - Don’t you remember, Mom? It was in San Diego last year. I was an alternate. - Oh, right. Of course. Congratulations, honey. That’s wonderful. - I have a solo performance the first night. On one of the side platforms. Then, the last morning, I’m supposed to participate in a workshop on fluids. - Sounds great. - I bet they probably heard about what I did at the Canadian Summit. - I’m sure they did. You got a lot of attention for that. Listen, I wish your father and I— - Don’t worry about that, Mom. Indianapolis is quite a haul from California, and tickets aren’t cheap. I need to start looking for bargains myself. - They’re not paying for your travel? - No, just a discounted room at the main hotel. - Still. - I’m only performing on a side platform, Mom. I’m not exactly Maury Benjamin. - There’s only one Maury Benjamin. Still, I’m sure you’ll do great. - This could be a really big break for me. If I make a good impression there, I got a great chance of winding up at the Gathering in December. - Did you tell Michelle? - No. - Will you? What about the girls? ***

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I counted fourteen people gathered around the small, wooden platform, including a friend of mine from high school who lives in town. We had talked about going out for a beer afterward. I blamed the weather. Fucking rain. At 6:30 there were still probably two hundred visitors snaking around the lobby waiting to check in. I tried not to think about it. I opened with some incoherent bellowing, my mouth still dry. After moving to the floor and yanking out a fistful of hair, I began my slobbering sequence. This was the first time I was using an oil capsule in public. I had no trouble bursting it, but I had some difficulty determining the rate of its drainage. In the solitude of my apartment, I had trained myself to gauge the size of the capsule’s rupture by concentrating on the strength of the oil’s flavor in my mouth. Once that was clear, I would decide how much saliva to mix with the oil in order to create a plausible degree of viscosity. I used a rosemary infusion. With a crowd this small, and with this kind of professional lighting, the oil was probably unnecessary. But it would have been foolish to pass up an opportunity to try it out in front of an actual audience. Plus, I could ask my friend about it later. As I prepared to return upright, I noticed the assistant to the impresario standing against the back wall, nearly hidden in shadow. Somehow, I had missed her entrance. She contacted me with the initial invitation. Called me out of the blue and proceeded to compliment me throughout the conversation, she even made reference to the fact that I craft my own dental prosthesis. They had done their research. Maybe she had come to this room to check on the sound and the lighting, or to record the turnout, or just to get a feel for the overall atmosphere here on the first night. Maybe she just wanted to enjoy my work, to catch the act of that up-and-coming guy who refuses to order his hideously yellow buckteeth out of Chauncey’s Idiologue. Still, I couldn’t ignore the possibility that she had arrived primarily to judge me. To decide whether or not I deserved this platform, to consider whether or not I would be invited to return next year, to estimate the potential long-term commercial appeal of my idiot, to ask herself if she hadn’t made a mistake by bringing me here in the first place. By now I was standing back up, moving into my bluster. The snot, thick


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and generous thanks to the air travel, bubbled out of my left nostril and ran onto my lips. But then, for the first time ever in the middle of an actual performance, I began to wonder if I had made the right decision. As I heaved my shoulders and used my forearm to spread the phlegm across my right cheek, I found myself focused on the assistant to the impresario. Like more than a few idiots, I had considered the route of the moron and the fool as well. And despite the fact that I believed deep down my talent lies in idiocy, I was haunted by what might have been had I elected to become a moron. After all, even my manager would admit that the moron circuit had more than doubled in the last five years and was now threatening to surpass foolishness in overall market share. My manager didn’t try to hide this from me. But he insisted that none of this mattered. All you should do now is be an idiot. It’s all you can do. You are an idiot. It’s that simple. An enormously talented idiot. You’ve spent too much time, you’ve sacrificed too much to give up now. Could you have made it as a fool? Perhaps. If you had gone the moron route, would you be on magazine covers today? It’s not impossible. But you know what, your time is coming, I truly believe that. There’s no turning back. All you can do is go out there and do it. And be it. Be the perfect idiot. I’ll take care of the rest. The assistant to the impresario shifted her weight and moved her clipboard from one hand to the other. My website had eight thousand hits last week. In April I learned I had made it to the final round of a major fellowship and was encouraged to reapply next year. Plus, there were rumors of increased government funding. And I did still enjoy the actual appearances, when I always felt I had found my calling and been true to it. My manager knew I had started meditating, he knew I was reading some of the Buddhist masters. He was kind enough to resist taunting me for this, he understood that with everything I was going through there wasn’t any other way. The point of my craft, the goal in my eyes, was to empty myself into moments of absolute presence, such that all my practice and devotion could be translated into simple effortlessness. A couple of high school kids got up and left the room, walking past a young woman at the edge of the third row who looked to be a professional


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photographer. The assistant to the impresario greeted an older man who, judging from his suit, likely worked for the hotel. I was finding it difficult to cry. Rather than fight it, I released an especially violent moan, which drew the faces of the audience back to the platform, and brought my attention to the closing urination. I made myself perfectly still, letting the drool and mucus run off my chin. Fixing my eyes on a random spot near the side of the room, far away from the assistant to the impresario, who remained visible only as the small yellow patch of her hair, the hair I recognized from her picture on IdiotFest’s website, I prepared to empty my bladder. The jock strap and tape had done their job, and the tip of my stretchedthin penis remained fixed high above my right thigh. I began to relax my entire body, starting simultaneously from the tips of my toes and the crown of my skull. My eyes closed as my feet sunk into the uneven heels of my orthopedic shoes. With arms hanging limp from my shoulders and with knees slightly buckled, I allowed my abdomen to relieve the pressure it had been forced to endure for the last three hours. I sensed a gradual shifting below my waist, and soon my pant leg grew heavy and warm. Visualizing the expanding contours of the darkness steadily covering the worn khaki on my thigh, I sought to limit the rate of flow. At around fifteen seconds I heard a faint gasp. At half a minute the room had grown perfectly silent. By the time I was done, a full minute later, by the time my right sock was drenched and a fair-sized puddle was likely glimmering as it spread out along the platform, I allowed myself to seek out the assistant to the impresario. She had tucked her clipboard under one of her arms and was leading the stunned audience in a round of applause that sounded like the work of much more than twenty-six hands. *** The beer with my old high school friend was so-so. Naturally, he praised my performance, and his words seemed very sincere. Said he was blown away. He may have been willing to continue talking about my idiot much longer, but it didn’t feel right. So I asked him about his career, something


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to do with marketing or PR, or marketing and PR. We shared what little we knew about the other guys we used to hang out with almost twenty years ago. Laughed a little. Food was decent. Even though we left the hotel, I couldn’t help scanning the bar from time to time to check if I recognized anyone, or if anyone recognized me. He listed the other divorces he’d heard about. There were more than a few. I reminded myself to be thankful that he came out. Even told him I was grateful. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk about my performance, but I couldn’t really talk about any of my art if I wasn’t allowed to express what it meant to me to be both exceptional and overlooked, to be an obscure genius, to be a man nearly, but only nearly, capable of finding solace in the expression of his own unique vision. I tried not to hate myself and my life again, so I reminded myself that here I was in a pleasant bar in Indianapolis, where I had recently shared my authentic self with a dozen or so perfect and similarly grateful strangers. He insisted that he pay and we told each other to take care. *** Then I found myself back in the lobby, which was crowded, though not quite bustling. I scanned a number of small lounges, places where four or five pieces of furniture had been assembled for casual encounters. There were a few faces I recognized, but no one I really knew. I could think of two options. Go to the bar and order a drink, sit by myself, look at the televised sports, perhaps find someone to talk to. Adults did things like this, including adults at IdiotFest. Or go to my room. Turn on the television. Try to read. Take a pill. Sleep eight to ten dreamless hours. I took out my phone, called Michelle, and had this conversation over the cheery din of the people gathered around me: - Hello. - Hi. It’s David. - Hi. - It went pretty well. - Good.


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- My performance. I think it went well. - Yes, I know. That’s good. - The audience was kind of small, but I made a big impression, I could tell. - That’s great. I’m happy for you. - How are things there? - Fine. - Can I talk to the girls? - They’ve been asleep for over an hour. It’s past ten here. - Right. Of course. They’re okay? - They’re fine. - Well, thanks again for taking them this weekend. I appreciate it. - No problem. - You know, I gave a really strong performance tonight. I know I did. It could mean something for me. - That’s wonderful, David, it really is. - Someone from the organization saw it, and I could see that she was amazed. - Great. Really, but look, I— - No, I mean, I just want to say, and I know I’ve said this before, but if my day comes, and I don’t know if it ever will, but if it comes, I won’t forget about your support and everything, about all those years… - I know. - I won’t. It’s important you know that. I’ll make it up. - David, c’mon. - No, I don’t mean that. I’m not asking for…but to you and the girls, I will. - I should go. It’s late. - Will you give them a hug for me? - Sure. Bye. - Bye. On my walk to the elevators I passed a circle of people that included Paul Drexel, who had recently been awarded a genius grant. He was the


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first idiot to restrict his work to video installations, narrative-driven pieces shot in public spaces. We had met a few years earlier at a regional event, I found him tedious. - David? I turned around to see the blond head of the assistant to the impresario. She was smiling and looking at me. - Hi. I smiled back. She extended her hand. Her other hand was still carrying the clipboard. - Gretchen. - I know. Hi. Her hand was small for her height, but her grip was firm. - I really enjoyed your performance. - Thanks. Thanks a lot. - No, really. I was truly impressed. - Thanks. - I had heard some good things— - You did? From who? - From a number of people. It’s our job to hear things. - Of course. - But I mean it, that was better than good. That was a lot better than good. I’m sorry we couldn’t get you a bigger crowd. - Don’t worry about it. I’m glad you liked it. I felt like it went pretty well. - I hope we can get you a better platform next year. I don’t know, maybe you could even perform a Center Piece on the first night. - That would be amazing. - I mean, I can’t promise anything like that. Obviously. - Right. - But, but you’re ready for something like that. You are. - Thanks. That’s really great to hear. From you especially. Her phone rang. She said just a sec, pulled a device out of her pocket, answered the call, and turned a quarter-rotation away from me. Someone from the organization. She mentioned the name of a cable station, and then


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I realized I shouldn’t be trying to listen to her conversation. I started to back away when she raised her finger toward me and made a strange face. She may have been apologizing or making fun of whoever was on the other line. I think it meant I shouldn’t leave. So I didn’t. I looked at her body briefly, at her face, wondering if she was attractive. I don’t think she was beautiful, but there was something warm about her, something that made her look more inviting that her physical features all alone would suggest. Some kindness, perhaps. She got off the phone. - Sorry about that. - No problem. Everything okay? - Just more bullshit. Nothing new. I nodded. She asked if I wanted to have a drink. *** I hadn’t been with another woman since the divorce. Just two dates. Or one and a half dates. A little kissing with the second one, someone my brother knew from his company. I wanted it to happen, I didn’t want it to happen. I tried not to think about it. Gretchen wanted it to happen. I was grateful to her well before we got to the room. She had an easy confidence about her, was able to put me at ease as she let me know she was happy to be in charge. I didn’t know what to order, so she suggested a particular beer. I didn’t know what to ask her, so she told me about the organization, about what it’s like to work with the impresario. I didn’t know if I wanted a second, or a third, beer, so she ordered for both of us. I didn’t know what to talk about, so I let her talk. When she started asking questions, I answered them, telling her whatever she wanted to know about my past, my art, and my ex-wife. And then she said, while the bar was still filling up, would you like to come to my room. I didn’t know that people ever really said such things. I knew they must. But I wondered how common it was and how likely it was that I would ever be asked such a


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question. For fourteen years it hadn’t been much of a possibility. It was, all in all, not a bad question to be asked, and I was thankful for my beers, for the way they allowed my face to not respond very much at all. - Sure. *** We had sex. This outcome was clear to me the moment she used her card to let us into her room. I was surprised to be so sure of something so new, but there could be no doubt. She went to the bathroom, tried different lighting combinations, took off her earrings and placed them on a dresser. Then she kissed me. We must have had the exact same breath. I smelled nothing. Soon we found our way to the bed and our way out of our clothes. Her body, if not altogether better than Michelle’s, was fresher. This was a younger woman, with a tattoo of a pear tree on her hip. It felt remarkably reassuring to be with someone who seemed to have so few compunctions. Quite quickly I was inside her. I thought, in these words, which announced themselves loudly, so this is what it’s like inside another person. Another fit. I removed myself for a moment, concerned about the possibility of premature ejaculation. - Everything okay? - Yeah, yeah. - You sure? - Yeah. It’s just the first time since. - Really? - Yep. She smiled generously. Raised her head to mine and kissed my check. - Well, I expect you’ll enjoy this. I’m going to do my best. She may have laughed. I returned to her and things accelerated rapidly. Much more than not, her prediction proved accurate. I found myself calling upon some of my training in order to postpone my orgasm, and after a time I sensed she was both extremely pleased with, and fairly impressed


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by, my self-control. After perhaps ten to fifteen minutes we knew somehow to pause for a moment. Or maybe she just decided to ask me a question: - Did you. With Michelle, did you ever? - What? - Did you ever, you know? - Know what? - Pretend to be an idiot. I looked at her. - Did you ever have sex with her as an idiot? - No. No. I didn’t. - Did you want to? Ever? - I don’t think it was ever much an option. - But did you want to? Did you ever want to? - I guess I probably thought about it a few times. - And? - But did I want to? She was stroking my back. We were on the thirty-fourth floor of a downtown hotel. - Would you like to? Now? I looked at her, at her nose and the way it lead to her mouth. Her features were a great deal more angular than Michelle’s. I touched her chin, which was smooth and red. - Would you? - Would you like me to? - A little bit I would. And so I did, a little. I watched her as she watched me, as I brought her such strange pleasure. It felt wonderful, mostly. I was good at this. The room seemed to grow perfectly quiet except for me and the sound of our bodies, as if her attention silenced the circuits and pipes, the elevators and footsteps alive in this building, the late night traffic in the streets below. As I finished I thought, has Michelle been with another man yet? Was he kind to her? Did he invite her to be someone I discouraged her from being? Did it make him as happy as this Gretchen is right now?


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*** I opened my eyes and found myself in a moment of pure uncertainty, with no idea where I was or even when I was in my life. I must have been dreaming just a second before, and my confusion led me to wonder if I still was. But I soon remembered. My head, near the edge of this bed, was pointing toward the outer wall. I tried to be completely still and listen for Gretchen’s breath, which was soon audible. The world outside was still dark, as dark as it ever got in the center of a city like this. I slowly left the bed. Once standing I looked back at her and a combination of red numbers on a digital clock that I had never before seen in a dark room in a strange hotel. I walked to the window, pushed aside the curtains, and considered the view for a very, very long time. I was naked and unexpectedly calm, as if large parts of me remained asleep in that bed. The skyline was both unremarkable and interesting, as the traffic lights changed steadily even when there were no cars to direct. Though the rain had stopped at least three hours earlier, much of the city was still damp, and together the lights and the moisture created a pleasing effect. I felt truly alone, every bit as alone as I would have felt in my own room, twenty-nine flights below. This did not bother me. Eventually I turned away from the window, suddenly struck by an urge to wander the streets before dawn. I quietly found my clothes and shoes. While getting dressed I wondered what it would be like to be a source of pride for my family. I left Gretchen’s room, stepping carefully over the morning paper already waiting just outside her door. *** The elevator stopped at the thirty-second floor. After the door slid open, Maury Benjamin stepped inside and pushed a button. I had only seen him in person three times since I first attended one of his shows over twenty years ago. I was visiting my older brother in New York, where he was going to school, and he and his friends dragged me to a performance. Idiocy was


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still a new art then, and, my brother told me on the way to the theater, Maury Benjamin was going to be its ambassador to the world. - Morning. - Hello. In the twenty-plus years since I had only ever seen a few pictures of him out of character, and I was, in addition to the larger shock of being alone with him in this elevator, amazed by how conventionally he was dressed. A button-down blue Oxford, cuffless grey trousers, a herringbone sports jacket, a pair of plain penny loafers. He was holding a couple sections of that same newspaper under his arm, standing right next to me as the elevator resumed its descent. He turned to me, studied my face. - You look familiar to me, you know that? I smiled, perfectly speechless. Not five minutes into that first show I was overcome with fear. As if the man on the stage were a source of heat, some out-of-control flame, as if by merely watching him I was exposing myself to great danger. But I experienced a weird joy, too, as if his performance were an invitation, a challenge to go forward into something I knew nothing about, nothing except its overwhelming authenticity. I decided that night, sitting right there in that crowded theater, this is what I will do with my life. He was responsible. - I know! Of course. Look at this. And he opened the Arts section of the local paper. And right there on the front page, right below the headline, “Idiots Invade Indy,” was a large, color picture of me from the end of yesterday’s performance. - That’s quite a bit of piss, young man. - Thanks. He laughed briefly. - I mean, you must have been keeping some of that in your lungs. Unless you were smuggling it in a sack. - Not me. Never. - No, you look like the real deal to me. Must have hurt like hell, sitting on that bladder. That’s talent. And determination.


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- Thanks. He turned back away from me and watched the elevator display the floors passing by in quick succession. Until he spoke again, without turning his head. - You know what I did on my sixtieth birthday? - No. - About a month ago. Sixty. I moved my bowels in front of almost four thousand people, some of whom had reportedly paid over $500 for the privilege to watch. Then, after a late lunch at the best restaurant in all of Manhattan, I was awarded an honorary doctorate from Columbia University. I gave the professors and donors a short speech, fresh out of crap as I was. The elevator stopped just above the lobby, the display said 1R. The door behind us opened. Maury Benjamin started walking out. - What’s here? - Oh, I eat all my meals in the kitchen. I don’t mind the performance, but I can’t stand the autograph hounds and all the other lunatics at these events. I looked at him as he stood in the doorway. - Say, you going to be at the Gathering? - Not sure. I hope so. Haven’t heard back from them yet. He pointed at the caption under the picture in the paper. - Did they get your name right? I read the caption. - Yes. That’s me. - I’ll put in a good word for you. But don’t think of it as a favor. Just curious to see all that piss in person. I myself was never much in the piss department. Before I could thank him he turned and walked away, the door sliding closed a moment later. I got off at the lobby, only to see that it had started raining again. According to the clock above the reception desk, it was already late enough to call Michelle and the girls. But first I decided to have a drink of water. Wanted to see if I could hold it until lunch.


Va n n e s a F r i e d m a n . “J u m p e r.� C o l l e g e o f A r t s a n d S c i e n c e ( 2 0 1 0 ) .

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Lines of White Marcine Miller Often we sat in the dappled room swabbed with cotton light lace curtains blowing as we chewed on apricots. Outside the birds dug in the garden the butterflies silently forgot themselves.

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God Loves Nopalitos1 Ashley Imery-Garcia Someone once told me it’s like being inside a giant nopal2. Where everything is crisp and green and the world’s walls wrap around you like cool blankets. Being una niña sordita3 is not that bad when you are in a nopal—your sharp thorns keep the sound out, because you know Señor Sonido4 is a coward. Sound is nothing like sight, because you see their ears, open wide like the leaves of an elephant ear plant, and wonder how they can concentrate with all the noise. When someone is boring, you close your eyes and open them again. Your body is the light switch that turns the world on and off. You are allowing them to be boring. Nobody else needs to know that this little deaf girl lives in un nopalito5. They’ll want to cut you open and heal their burns and bruises with a poultice made from your home. Todos heridos6. It is better to stay how you are than to be like them. They are all injured from the words of their brothers. Don’t be alarmed. They can’t hurt you. The only thing you should be worried about now is waking up to find that the sticky green insides of the nopal have left your ears and you have a headache from realizing how loud you sound when you cry.

Little Cacti cactus 3 a little deaf girl 4 Mister Sound 5 a little cactus 6 They all hurt 1

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Tritones Steff Yotka We haven’t changed a bit, I thought. —Jorge Luis Borges, Jorge Luis Borges If it is not the feeling of the winter wind against my mittenless hand, it is not worth my time. But then again, I do spend most of my time, sitting around, thinking of rhymes, bored to desperation, waiting for my monotony to reach the point of expiration. Take Wednesday, a day like many of the rest. When I woke up, there was nothing I wanted more than a toasty cup of chamomile tea, crisp and calming, cool, collected. But the stove was covered in dishes and cups of tequila, so I gave up trying. I settled for an empty stomach and a ravenous appetite. When one thing is less another is more. Easton Katyaiev lives at 305 East Katon Street. He is not tall, nor are his parents clever. He is neither exciting nor bland, pale nor tanned, but rather his skin has the pallor of someone whose love onced greatly, but normaled was small. Few things quell the anxiety of his life. He stares out the window counting the leaves dropping off the trees, knowing the horror they feel falling from fertility into frozen trauma. He fears the change we all worry about. I went to class and I suppose I learned things about direct and indirect objects. I had trouble focusing, a doctor would say because of my untreated ADHD, but I would say because of the errant piece of blond-girl-hair that coyly sat on the shoulder blade of the boy in front of me. On his refrigerator was a list, meticulously written in all capital letters, of things to and not to do.

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1. 2. 3. 4.

NEVER DRINK MILK. RECYCLE. PART HAIR ON LEFT. DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH THE CASHIER AT THE BOOKSTORE ON MAIN STREET. 5. DO NOT WANT DESSERT. 6. CALL AND MAKE DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENT FOR MONDAY, TUESDAY, AND FRIDAY. 7. TAKE VITAMINS. 8. BUY BAND-AIDS. 9. FIX WOBBLY LEG OF SOFA IN LIVING ROOM. 10. DO NOT SIT ON SOFA IN LIVING ROOM. 11. WRITE LETTER TO CITY HALL ABOUT NOISE ON NORTH EAST CORNER OR EAST KATON STREET BETWEEN THE HOURS OF 2:25AM AND 2:43AM. REMEMBER TO IMPLY ILLICIT ACTIVITY. 12. PURCHASE NEW SOFA TO DONATE TO CHARITY. 13. LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING THE STREET. 14. TIE SHOELACES. 15. NEVER SUCCUMB TO LATE NIGHT T.V. Easton began every day by writing a new version of this list. Some things were constant, like “NEVER DRINK MILK,” while others varied from “TIE SHOELACES” to “DO NOT FORGET TO TIE SHOELACES.” This was the great excitement of Easton’s day. I skipped lunch like I skipped breakfast. After his list-making and nerve-shaking Easton would sort the contents of his bathroom cabinet. He was careful to only eat the ones he was supposed to eat in the quantities he was supposed to eat them. Once, he had two of something and none of another, and his head and heart swelled so large he fainted, not because of the medication, but rather because of his fear of coloring outside the lines.


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The life in 305 East Katon Street was solitary and confined. Light lumped onto the surfaces and blurred into a Matissian maze of perspective and nothingness. The tablecloth was the table and the window was the picture frame, but the triangular hollow below the stairs was well equipped to well the whimpering of the faux-Fauve faux-pas. In a space in between the thick brick walls was the only white room in the house. A restrictive whiteness void of refreshment, it would hurt the eyes of someone not accustomed to meticulously dusting off the powdery lilac teakettle every last Wednesday but never once making tea. I drank three cups of coffee and a Diet Coke as I sat in my rolly chair at my internship. I played around in Photoshop drawing moustaches on Freja Beha and Raquel Zimmermann. They were Austrian spy lovers, I thought. Then I tried on bow headbands. The time couldn’t have moved more slowly, and I couldn’t have cared less. It was something to do between something and its else. In Easton Katyaiev’s triangular cell was nothing except a lovely, loquacious spider. While he disapproved of its pins-and-needles legs that spread wide and erotic, he couldn’t help but to marvel at its fascinating fluttering. The lady longlegs would linger on the wall-side, and Easton Katyaiev would whisper his wants and wills to the spider’s deaf ears. He contemplated its form for hours and hours, slowly moving his vacant eye from its lethal legs to its luxe lips. In Easton’s dull and particularly regimented life, the spider was the arachnid of his eye, the quilt of his pleasure. Egomaniac Easton’s obsession swelled to intoxication. The spider fueled something in Easton that had been ever-so-dormitory for what seemed like an ever. While he wanted nothing more than to shed his human skin and let his legs roam wildly, his mass was definite and unable to transform. All he could do was put a pen on a page and tell a sinuous story about a sinful sin-ect. He began softly: “The spider lives in my whitest room, under my tallest stair, in my darkest corner of my pleadingest heart. It is tall in scale and painfully clever.”


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On the walk between my internship and my next class I listened to Metallica on my headphones. I’m inconsistent. I wanted to listen to The Velvet Underground or Yo La Tengo or Sonic Youth, whose music I usually love but sometimes is really crappy, but I felt necessary for a change. In class a lot of people read a lot of things, and I thought a lot of things about those things, and I said some of them. Mostly, though, I just sat there pretending to cross my eyes inside my skull and drawing wings on the back of my paper. Sometimes I would flick my hands like spider legs on the paper when I was speaking, because I could not think of the words to make the sayings. Flicking my fingers on the paper did not help the wordmaking, but it did make me seem crazy. Afterward I went to the bathroom for the first time all day. I looked in the mirror for a while and the raucous image on the other side made me laugh. I can’t understand the fascination other people have with dead little things, like cigarettes or bitterness. I want all my breaths to get me high. I want all my breaths to taste like sugar. And then I want to giggle like a little girl with a gun who just killed her only pet rabbit and is going to make a fur coat out of him and wear it to seduce her imaginary friend, Jesus. I make myself laugh. While his right hand moved steady on the page, westerly his heart went wild. There were things that existed that Easton was not ready to accept: ideas, places, realities that splattered all outside his sanitary sandbox mind. While his little spider was enthralling, it was also the prime terror of his tidy life. And then I felt shitty as I walked home alone along the alloy sidewalk. It’s winter now and I don’t like the feeling of cold. I got back to my room and opened the window because the radiator was stuffing my nose with the smell of burning marshmallows. Instead of doing homework, I read all the comments on all my blog posts, ever. Then I looked in the kitchen, finally ready to compromise, and ate peanut butter


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from the jar. I sat in my bed for two hours thinking about possible diseases I might have based on hypothetical symptoms I was making up. Then I felt really afraid. Who knew the missteps it made, propelling itself with freakish intensity around the room. If the spider had an expression, it would always be set on a grimacing smile. I thought about cleaning my room, but I didn’t do it, I thought about taking the nail polish off my nails, but I didn’t do it, I thought about calling my Grandma like I was supposed to, but I didn’t do it, and I thought about running down to the Hudson River in short-shorts and dancing to the music in my head, but I didn’t do it. “Once I placed a glass of water on the floor. The liquid spilled over the edge as I set it down. At the instant the fluid rushed out of the cup, the spider descended, like flying, to the spill. Being predatory, it is always wanting something more. “It finds the spot of temptation, and it dips its tender ends into the pooling liquid. After feeling the visceral pleasure rise up its antennae, it gives the water a languid lick. Its self is immersed in indulgence. The water raps and waves.” Instead, I stayed up late at night because I had a lot of homework to do. And also because my lover gets back late at night. I can’t ever go to sleep without having pet his beard at least once, sometimes twice, three times on weekends not including once in the morning or twice in the shower. And after the affair I walked barefoot back to my room and wrote this story. Striving too much for control, measuring his being by the things he cannot do, Easton strains to put every substance in his center, he bears the weight of every mass. Being of no divine exemption to physics, he can do nothing but


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explode. At that moment, the spider presses its body flush to the wall and gives birth to a flood of tiny spiderbabies. At once everything in the room is alive. Then I drifted into sleep and dreamed about a fight between two halves of an orange. And somewhere, in a chapter I have yet begun to write, I am crying and dancing simultaneously, licking my losses, laughing as a tritone rings in my head. Some things exist in perfection harmonically.


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A J Ma re c h a l . “ St i l l S o Fa r To G o.” Co l l e g e o f Ar t s a n d S c i e n c e ( 2 0 1 0 ) .


love me the description exactly Jake Fournier the immense loneliness above a discarded train ticket to southern Jersey raises two of the ticket’s whitened corners. it’s not the first feeling within or around an object to command the love of the description exactly, but the upward lift lends the scrap a special yearning. how much like a very flat man, his arms upraised, his mind reduced by homesickness to only offer nominative signs of his hometown and his home state? “remember—” he says, “you don’t have to. you sure as hell don’t have to.”

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Contributors’ Notes Kayla Atherton is in her final year in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. She was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and she currently lives and writes in Brooklyn. Her favorite book is The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. Tara Bedi is a senior in the College of Arts and Science. She loves reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s work. “A Temporary Matter” from Interpreter of Maladies is probably one of her favorite stories. Katie Blakely is a senior in the College of Arts and Science. Her favorite book is The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. Aaron Abbott Brown is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Science majoring in English. His favorite books, for now, are Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger and Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (R.I.P.). Keith Cagney is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Science. He writes stories and poems about relativity and faulty brainboxes, and he is not above self-promotion. His favorite book is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, for its strong objectivist overtones and its hard life lessons. Michelle Chen is a freshman in the College of Arts and Science. “Enthogen” is her first poem officially published beyond the realm of high school literary magazines. The poem was in part the result of an assignment for a seminar class that required her to respond to the poetry of T.S. Eliot. Eliot, coincidentally, is Michelle’s favorite poet.


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Andrew Colarusso is a junior in the College of Arts and Science studying Comparative Literature. His favorite book is the first edition run of Hooper Humperdink...? Not Him! by Theodor Seuss Geisel. Jake Fournier is a third-year senior in the College of Arts and Science majoring in English. He has a website, www.swashbookler.com, and he is currently working on a chapbook that will be available in June 2010. Stephanie Gallagher is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Science majoring in English. Her work has appeared in The Minetta Review. In high school, she had a poem published in a collection entitled “The Colors of Life.” Her favorite book is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Sam Goldsmith is a senior in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development majoring in Jazz Composition and History. He has an essay forthcoming in the Historian. After graduation, he plans to teach English to middle-schoolers in Istanbul. Amy Greenberg is a sophomore in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. “Pinus Pinaster” is her first published work. Todd Hasak-Lowy is the author of the short-story collection The Task of This Translator (Harcourt, 2005) and the novel Captives (Spiegel & Grau, 2008). He received his PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. He is presently an associate professor of Hebrew Language and Literature at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he lives with his wife and two daughters. Ashley Imery-Garcia is a freshman in the College of Arts and Science. Her work has previously appeared in Voices of Art Magazine. She hasn’t read her favorite book yet, but in the meantime she likes Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan.


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Jason Jiang is a senior in the College of Arts and Science. His poem “Striving for Heaven” appeared in the second issue of West 10th (2008-2009). He was born Niles, Ohio. His father made his living in the nearby steel mills of Youngstown, Ohio. Growing up, Jason had a strict Jesuit education at the Colegio del Salvador in Zaragoza until he was expelled. He began writing poetry at an early age, discovering the work of Kenneth Patchen, Kenneth Koch and the films of Luis Bunuel in his teenage years. After graduation, he plans to find a way to bring clean water to developing countries. Amanda J. Killian is a senior in the College of Arts and Science. Her poem “Huis” appeared in the second issue of West 10th (2008-2009). Her work has also appeared in The Broome Street Review. After graduation, she has plans to fear the unknown. Mallory Locke is a senior in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development English Education program. When she’s not reading the books she’s teaching to her students, she spends her time relishing the Southern Gothic wisdom of Flannery O’Connor. After graduation, she plans to continue writing—both stories about Ernest Gale and daily lesson plans. Marcine Miller is a junior in the Tisch School of the Arts. She is a cinephile currently studying in Paris. When she is not buried in celluloid, she often may be found stuffing secret notes into overdue library books. At all other times, she is engaged in her great search for worthwhile literary beards. Tom Mooseker is a senior in the Tisch School of the Arts. He has written some music video reviews for a local music blog. On his poem “Haiku #19,” Tom writes, “I’d like to point out that dolphins are the most intelligent animals on earth next to human beings. Smarter than chimps, in fact.”


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Christy Tomecek is a senior in the College of Arts and Science. Her work has previously appeared in Mannequin Envy, an online literary journal. After graduation, she will attend Queens College to earn a graduate degree in Library Sciences. Vanessa Victoria Volpe is a junior in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. She is studying Applied Psychology. Her favorite books are The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and anything by John Ashbery or Elizabeth Bishop. Andrew James Weatherhead (Winner, 2009-2010 West 10th Editors’ Award in Poetry) is a senior in the College of Arts and Science. His work has previously appeared in Her Royal Majesty (www.heroyalmajesty.ca) and Paris/Atlantic. Steff Yotka (Winner, 2009-2010 Westh 10th Editors’ Award in Prose) is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Science. Her favorite book is Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.


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Ka re n Yi . “ Re v i s i t i n g t h e D a y.” Co l l e g e o f Ar t s a n d S c i e n c e ( 2 0 1 0 ) .


Masthead Editor in Chief Sara Lynch Managing Editor Miriam R. Haier Poetry Editors Liora Connor Lucas Gerber Mary Murphy Phillip Polefrone Marianne Reddan Max Sebela Soren Stockman prose Editors Kristin Ennis Julie Moody Samantha Neugebauer Briana Severson Wendy Xu Anna Zucker Layout editor Sara Lynch

Community board Chelsea Carbone Frannie Demapan Abigail Dunn Lauren Kuhn Copy editors Miriam R. Haier Julie Moody proofreaders Lauren Kuhn Phillip Polefrone Marianne Reddan Max Sebela Wendy Xu Executive Editors Matthew Rohrer Darin Strauss staff adviser Scott Statland

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C h a r l o t t e H o r n s b y. “A u g u s t .” T i s c h S c h o o l o f t h e A r t s ( 2 0 1 1 ) .


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West 10th is a nonprofit literary journal publishing poetry, prose and photography by New York University’s undergraduate students. It is edited and produced annually by the NYU Creative Writing Program. The ideas expressed in West 10th do not necessarily reflect those of New York University or of the Creative Writing Program. The NYU Creative Writing Program faculty includes Breyten Breytenbach, Anne Carson, Junot Diaz, E.L. Doctorow, Jonathan Safran Foer, Yusef Komunyakaa, Jonathan Lethem, Sharon Olds, Matthew Rohrer, Charles Simic, Zadie Smith, Darin Strauss and Chuck Wachtel. The Director is Deborah Landau. The Creative Writing Program has distinguished itself for more than two decades as a leading national center for the study of literature and writing. West 10th New York University Creative Writing Program Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House 58 West 10th Street New York, New York 10011 Copyright: All rights revert to the author upon publication. Reprints must be authorized by the author. Designed by Sam Potts Inc. Cover photo: Sara Lynch Copyright  2010 West 10th The Literary Journal of New York University’s Undergraduate Creative Writing Program ISSN: 1941-4374 Printed in Canada


Profile for Laura Stephenson

West 10th no. 3: 2009-2010  

Issue no. 3 of West 10th, undergraduate literary journal of New York University's Creative Writing Department.

West 10th no. 3: 2009-2010  

Issue no. 3 of West 10th, undergraduate literary journal of New York University's Creative Writing Department.

Profile for west10th
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