new york university college of arts and science
new york university college of arts and science
2011 â€“ 2012
An Interview with Meghan O’Rourke 52 A Poem by Michael Dickman, Guest Contributor 56 Contributors’ Notes
Poetry Beau Peregoy
The notch of my eye
god for me
Twenty-five pounds of frozen horsemeat / Foreign salts
Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Bruises on My Upper Left Thigh
staring contest with an elephant
Sheâ€™s Got You
Art Michelle Ling
Hershey Park, 2011 9
Untitled Photograph 12
Untitled Photograph 20
New York City, 2011 23
Indian Summer 34
Christmas, 2011 35
Untitled Photograph 51
Dustin, 2011 60
Grandma Jenny 64
Untitled Photograph 65
Untitled Photograph 66
Ironing Shadows 72
Untitled Photograph 81
Danny Sweeping 87
Untitled Photograph 89
Dull Lovely Shades of Pink and Gold 94
MICHELLE LING, MANA
Editor’s Note This issue of West 10th, the fifth issue, is unlike any other. The fourth issue was also unlike any other. Just to finish taking the wind out of these statements, the third one was, too. The point, here, is that West 10th is not a magazine that can plant a flag in its unmoving aesthetic and proclaim that aesthetic determined: the magazine metamorphoses each year as it is run through the filter of a different board and a different editor. I could draw a parallel between our magazine and the American literary establishment, saying that, just as our aesthetic changes in tandem with the people determining it, so does the prevailing notion of what’s good change as the voices of different readers, writers, and critics emerge and go out of fashion. I could use words like “synecdochic” to suggest that our magazine is literature in miniature. What I’ll say instead is that the selection you see in this issue represents a tiny fraction of what undergraduate students in and out of the NYU Creative Writing Program are creating. And rather than saying that this tiny fraction is the best fraction, the most talented fraction, the fraction voted Most Likely to Succeed, I’m going to say something I can actually get behind: these are the pieces we keep wanting to read, the ones that made the majority of us sit up a little straighter in our seats and occasionally say something like, “Hot damn!” We tried to make this process as objective as possible, eventually coming to realize that objectivity is just being honest about what gets you and figuring out how to verbalize why. If we’ve done our job—and I think we have—the average of our own values will match up well with the average of yours. If the writers represented here have done their job—and I know they have—you won’t be thinking too hard about what your own aesthetic values are. I hope you enjoy this issue as much as I have. Before I shut up and let you read, I want to thank the people who helped with the hard part: Laura Stephenson, this year’s Managing Editor, for making the magazine run and keeping me from forgetting what I was sup-
posed to be doing; the poetry, prose, and community boards for being soul and body at once, and for reliably turning hard work into a party; all who submitted, published or not; Joanna Yas for taking over as our staff advisor; and Jessica Flynn for getting this year launched. I also want to thank Michael Dickman for giving us his outstanding poem, Meghan O’Rourke for answering our questions, and Matthew Rohrer and Darin Strauss for their invaluable advice and for putting us in contact with our guests. And last, Dean Thomas J. Carew for running the College of Arts and Science. I’m honored to present you with our fifth issue. Enjoy it. Phillip Polefrone
DYLAN SITES, HERSHEY PARK, 2011
SITES: HERSHEY PARK, 2011
The notch of my eye Beau Peregoy I see cities all my own all the time Matte-dull saliva gleam on cities All my own. I see cities all the time Six-dimension cities arenâ€™t clockWorking functions of space, I see them As something fresh like cucumber And I wouldnâ€™t eat these sites I see Because some affinity for them I dance For them I make platters and plans. Cucumber snap dance, cucumber platters Cucumber plans for dewed grass City grass cities I can call my own.
P E R E G OY: T H E N O T C H O F M Y E Y E
HALEY WEISS, UNTITLED
Józefów Joe Masco I believe it was somewhere In Józefów That a man tore at his Beard And wept for the voices In the wood.
Frames Justine Poustchi As Yves, a floor scraper at 68 rue de Passy, peeled the floor into fine ribbons, he listened to the postman deliver the mail along the street. His movements glided across the floor, synchronizing with the clink of mail being dropped into the bright blue boxes marked lettres. The floor scraper began on his knees. His body would unfold from the fetal position; his hands cradled a metal pick that removed the top layer of the floor. He pulled back like a cat. His muscles remembered the shape—the way his arms extended slimly beyond his head, the way his back curved softly like the side of an egg, the way his feet tucked into his chest. He fell asleep in this position each night, his body cradled by only the smooth floor of his tiny windowless apartment in northeastern Paris. Each morning as he awoke, his limbs were offered temporary relief as he walked to the house of Isabelle Benoit in the 16th arrondissement. It was here, never at home, where the floor scraper awaited the arrival of the mail. As Yves prepared for work, he witnessed Mlle Benoit walk around her house caught in that moment between sleep and wakefulness. And though Yves was confined to the salon of the fifth floor, the central spiraling staircase offered chasmic views of below. Isabelle’s face was already caked with white powder reminiscent of a Fragonard painting, the frills of her fluorescent blue sleeping gown dancing along the floor no matter how simply she moved. The floor scraper only ever saw her feet in passing. He learned to recognize them immediately as they walked along the floors he tended to. They too had their own particular sound—klumch—as the rose pink heels flung themselves across the hardwood. When she would trip and fall, it was then that the floor scraper learned her soft round face, her blushing cheeks, and the rouge painted on top of her lips, for his eyes rarely left the space between baseboard and the floor. She was jolted awake by the arrival of the mail each morning, the clink alerting both Yves and Isabelle.
Théo Roulin, the postman, delivered the mail with a sense of urgency. His deep blue uniform pulled his body together. In the evenings, he sat in a café sipping a pastis still in his uniform, the double-breasted jacket’s gold buttons pressing into his body. He wore a quiet expression—his small beady eyes gesturing only to the bartender and his wife, his nose resting above a soft golden beard that completed the square of his face. Each morning as he received the mail, he admired the letters addressed to Mademoiselle Isabelle Benoit. The paper was thicker. The handwriting slanted to the left, as if it were about to run off the side of the envelope. The emerald green stamp was always a faded portrait of Louis XV even though the year was 1887. When the postman began his daily route, he navigated the labyrinth of pale white houses whose balconies spewed curves and lines into the open air. Théo kept one hand clasped around the letters for Mlle Benoit, and when it rained (as it often did in Paris) the water would seep through his bag, the ink would smudge and he would be left with an impression of Isabelle Benoit or the court of Louis XV on his hand. Sometimes it was both. Yves had never seen the postman, but he knew the shade of blue that passed through the space beyond the window, which flooded the room with light. When the mail arrived, Isabelle descended the stairs swiftly. Her return was careful, calculated—a stilted attempt at grace. Her gown flowed energetically from her waist even if her movements were small. Her hands, painted with the same white powder as her face, clutched the envelopes carelessly. She only ever read the return address, tossing the unworthy over her shoulder. A fine trail was left along the long narrow corridor of the fifth floor. Occasionally, letters tumbled into the salon where Yves worked. He collected them, placing them in large empty pockets of his dirty blue pants. The floors in the salon of the fifth floor were a deep burnt gold. Yves claimed he could make them new again using the oldest of techniques. The moment he learned to crawl, Yves had moved alongside his father as he scraped the floors. Even at the age of seven, his small boyish frame would
slide across the slabs of wood. He never grew out of the boyish frame—it seemed that none of the other floor scrapers did. Like the two other men he worked with, Yves had long thin arms that his muscles desperately clung to; his torso was narrow and concave. In the candlelight of his apartment, Yves would peel the stamps off the envelopes. His walls were windowless, bare save the stamps that coated the walls. Each night, as he fell asleep, the floor scraper stared into the eyes of the former Kings of France that gleamed red or white or blue. In the morning, after Isabelle Benoit had eaten her breakfast, she would dress lavishly, parading slowly through her bare house. There were seventeen rooms, each one with a single monochromatic piece of furniture. The walls were a muted beige. As she moved from the first floor to the fifth, she felt as if she were painting the rooms. Her eyes, outlined in black, watched as the walls absorbed the colours of her robes. They shifted from purple to yellow to blue to beige. It was patchy. The colours ran. There was a pool of paint at her feet. She pressed her body into the walls into the bare walls —she was the only source of life, of colour. And she walked from room to room, from floor to floor, descending and ascending the staircase—the colour chased her. Passing by the salon on the top floor where the floor scrapers worked, she would surreptitiously glance over her shoulder, hoping to admire the male nude, for the men did not wear shirts. She averted her gaze quickly, never entering the room—she preferred to study and sleep alongside the Greco-Roman statues at the Musée du Louvre. Leaving disappointed, she failed to notice the way the sculptures moved across the salon of her own house, concealing their faces, avoiding her gaze. *** As Théo Roulin delivered the mail, his hat, marked poste, lay precariously on the tip of his head. When he passed by the park he liked to rustle his beard against the trees. In the evenings, he sat at a long rectangular table in a hidden corner in a café. His carrier bag was nestled on his lap,
and he drank his sixth glass of pastis. The postman’s wife, Marianne, sat to his right, nestled in the corner sipping her second glass of Crème de Cassis. The café was lined with mirrors, and as the waiter delivered Théo’s seventh verre de pastis, he would lean into his wife and kiss her purposefully. The mirrors reflected and sliced the look of anticipation in the lovers’ eyes. When he finished his glass, they went home and clumsily made love; his hat marked poste still resting on the tip of his head. That same evening the floor scraper fell asleep pushed against the voluptuous moulding forced into the walls. Before he succumbed to slumber, Yves had swept the room and then uncovered the small hands of a pocket watch. Out of his deep pockets, the floor scraper, who could not read, pulled out the letters that Mlle Benoit had rejected. Using the minute hand of the pocket watch, he began to trace to words slowly: Galerie... Nationale...Jeu...de...Paume...He wondered what the words meant and what lay behind them. He traced another. L’impressionisme. Slowly, learning to read the words discarded by the bourgeois, the floor scraper fell asleep. As Yves awoke the next morning, the flood of sunlight through the window alarmed. He began to prepare for the day’s work, and when the two extra workers arrived, they positioned themselves on opposite sides of the large band of light. Occasionally, the man to Yves’s left would cross over the ray of light diagonally as he cleared the shavings from the path of work. But mostly it was Yves who intersected the diagonal, slicing it with a sense of anticipation, the sun beating on his back. His work at the house of Isabelle Benoit was almost over. The other men eager to earn extra money wondered if she might want them to stain the floor. It was almost completely bare. Yves walked along the corridor towards Mlle Benoit’s study. He kept his eyes directed at the floorboards for that was where he had been trained to look. He knocked on the door three times. The floor scraper heard her say Entrez. He could see her robe pooled around her ankles, her bare feet
floating above them. He didn’t dare force his gaze upwards. There was a window to his right and so he stood and stared out of it, onto the courtyard at the full trees the postman would rustle his beard against. The floor scraper asked Isabelle if she would like the floors stained. In that moment, Yves caught a glimpse of marble-swirled floors, whose opulence continued up the walls, and even upon the window frame. She replied, oui. She was eating a bright coloured macaron—he knew this only from the way the bright yellow and orange crumbs fell to her pale golden feet and the smell of almonds. He exited the room. The workers kept a bottle of red wine in a corner of the salon. As Yves returned he began to work violently, he shifted in all directions: up, down, left, right, slicing the room on a diagonal. In a strange way the contortions formed a waltz and as Mlle Benoit walked past the room fully clothed her gaze was fixed. The heel of his foot hit the bottle and emptied itself all over the bare floor. The floors were now stained in red. Using his sharp tools, the floor scraper began to cut out words from the letters of Isabelle Benoit—the ones he knew from the page, whose sound matched their form. An hour later, he had reconstructed a letter that read: Je suis désolé. I am sorry. He said he would ask a friend to refinish the floors in his place. He pulled a yellow stamp from his wall, and placed it on the envelope. In the middle of the night, the sky burning blue, the floor scraper mailed his letter of resignation to 68 rue de Passy. The next morning, Yves returned to work out of respect to Isabelle Benoit. He listened carefully for the clink of the mail in search of libération. It never came. Isabelle continued her morning routine, her face full of white powder, her robe dancing along the floor, until she shouted: UNE GRÈVE! A strike. Théo Roulin would not be delivering the mail this morning, or any other morning in the foreseeable future. Instead he would sit in the cafè drinking pastis. In his verre, he would be transfixed by the swirl of his beard, the dance of the walls, the flush of his face. The floor scraper scarped the floors day and night until the damage had been undone. His letter of resignation never came. He continued to work.
On the morning of November 23rd, there was tapping on the door. To the surprise of Mademoiselle Isabelle Benoit, it was the postman carrying a bag full of all the invitations she had missed, and one pastiched letter of resignation. She did not want to see any of them. She ordered Théo Roulin to carry them up to the roof and as he did so, he passed by the floor scraper, who continued to scrape the floors diligently. As the postman filled the chimney with the letters, Yves began to scrape the faded blue roof. The tin screeched and as soon as the postman was done, he returned to the first floor. Isabelle Benoit stood with a match between her fingers; she played with it as the postman descended the stairs. He stood across from her and across from the fireplace. She lit the match. There was a single flowerpot behind Théo. The match was dropped; fire choked its way to life. The first few seconds it glowed softly, contained by the fireplace. The letters burned, collapsing in on themselves. As more and more envelopes began to fall through the chimney, the flame grew higher. The fire blazed, the flames began to pour into the room where Isabelle and the postman stood. The flames leaped from one room the next. The flower burned into the wall. Then the flames, a mirror reflecting the postman’s face, flickered as Théo attempted to pastiche his face together. He could only make out an impression of himself. The fire moved closer to his body, licking the walls from the first floor to the fifth, but the postman did not move. The blaze swirled around his beard. The flames grew taller, poured out of the windows, burned with the breeze of autumn. And you never would have thought that fire was so transparent, but the postman could see Mademoiselle Isabelle Benoit swinging daintily from the chandelier. On November 23rd, 1887, an impression of the postman was burned onto the house of Isabelle Benoit and the floor scraper moved back and forth, back and forth pulling the blue tin roof apart. u
LAURA HETZEL, UNTITLED
Visitors’ Feet Kurt Havens The basement became a lake. The darks populated, repopulated, spread thinner until sun creased and splintered the virgin surface your skin so light light hardened on it and you said, “This is morning if morning folded in on itself.” From the bottom of the lake autumn unfolded. The morphine sulfate psalms in our throats grew thick and lavender. Visitors’ naked feet splayed the surface and the flesh dangled like lures.
H AV E N S: V I S I T O R S ’ F E E T
god for me Courtney Bush is the way my grandfather thinks about jesus believes until itâ€™s just called knowing like science and directions his hands are hard as stone when water hits them in the sink washing some ceramic birds that my grandmother left him what i believe is he believes in god and he tells me on sundays washes the birds uses the word amazing it is just my grandfather talking and the cathedral is built in front of me two hands water falling from them
BUSH: GOD FOR ME
DYLAN SITES, NEW YORK CITY, 2011
S I T E S : N E W Y O R K C I T Y, 2 0 1 1
Mount Hood Peter Enzinna —Consonance, she said, playing several notes at once. He nodded. —Dissonance. Different notes. —Some things sound good together. Some don’t. He brought his fingers to the keys, feeling the grooves between them, pressing down. C, E, and G. Consonance. His leg jumped on the pedal and she didn’t notice. —Fingers like spiders, she said. Remember. He arched his palm and pressed again. E, F, and D. —Dissonance, he said. —Very good. He imagined laying down across the keyboard, playing every note at once. —Different intervals, she said, feel different ways. She played two notes. —A perfect fourth. Two different notes. —A perfect fifth. What is the difference. He played first one, and then the other, his palm miles above his fingertips. His heel hopping up and down on the carpet. —One step, he said. The home note stays the same. —Very good. Her voice dipping, rising. A fourth and a fifth, just above a third. But the third changes. Major, minor, good and bad. A fourth and a fifth are perfect. Smooth. Nothing between them and the home note. He remembered them. —The fifth is the key, she said. The circle of fifths is how you know the key. It all comes back around.
ENZINNA: MOUNT HOOD
ENZINNA: MOUNT HOOD
One sharp, two sharps, on until you’re back to no sharps. He remembered. She pressed a hand to his knee until he stopped it from jumping. Her face was small and clear. —No wiggling, she said. Focus on the playing. Nodding, looking down. —It’s important, you know. It gets to be second nature, and one day, you won’t need to even… Nodding. —Why don’t we play the carols? Looking up now. Leg moving a little but she won’t be mad. Coins in his pocket falling from on top, clanking on the stool. *** When his dad picked him up he waited in the living room, looking at her clocks. Her house smelled like his, but always a little like cookies. A pile of mail spread across the table. Bank of America, Heifer International, names and cities. All to her and her husband. Thomas and Karen Wallace. Some were thicker. He looked out the window, moved toward the door. It always took so long. At the top of the staircase he looked forward into the wall, not down the stairs, stepping down, trusting, remembering the feeling. Concentrating on it made it strange and new. The light curled around the landing with her voice and his father’s. He stepped, one after the other, deliberately. Their voices were small: only voices because he knew that’s what they were. Her voice dipping down and rising up. His father’s a straight line. He stopped before the landing. The thick carpet kept his feet from slipping as he twitched. He wanted to leave. He walked backwards up the stairs, as deliberately as before, but no more. He fell at the top, but into sitting. The voices stopped, hearing his backpack thud, the coins in his pocket jingle, all their states, the folder full
ENZINNA: MOUNT HOOD
of music slap the hard wood floor. His father’s voice, high and then low: well, we should probably. Hers, it was lovely to. His, you too, I hope everything’s. Their heavy steps across the basement floor. When you’re old the house creaks when you step, but small bodies don’t weigh on it. Quietly he picked himself up and hurried to the door. —Ready to go, bud? Have a good lesson? The doorknob cold and sticking to the center. —Yeah, he replied. She laughed, her hands at her sides. —So eager to go! His father laughed as well. —Got to watch… something, he said. She looked down. —Next week, she said. Great work, Dylan. —Thanks. —Bye bye. Two notes, high up, the same. —Bye now, his father replied, his hand guiding Dylan out the door. Low notes going down. See you soon. In the car it was still warm, but for the seats. —Good lesson, buddy? —Mhm. —What’s new. He looked out the window, his nose against the glass. —I’m getting good at the carols. She’s teaching me about the notes. His father shifted gears, changed the music. —That’s good, he said. That’s important. You have to understand it if you want to… Trailing off, low and sinking. Dylan put his hands in his pockets, played with the coins, traced the shapes of the states and the places. He wondered if he’d recognize a perfect fifth in someone’s voice, just talking. He felt Mount Hood, the year, LIBERTY at the top.
ENZINNA: MOUNT HOOD
At home they ate dinner. There was lots of noise—scrapes, clangs, scratches—all dissonant. —Did you have a good lesson? his mother asked through the fog of an uncovered tureen of mashed potatoes. —Mhm. Yeah. Getting good at the carols. Their looks bounced from the top of his head as he ate. He imagined them looking at each other as well. —How was work? His father scraped. —As ever. —I saw—I was at the supermarket, and, d’you remember that woman who lived on Grossman, with the two boys? One was D’s age and the other— —Yeah. The red car. —Mhm. Dylan looked down at his plate and pushed what was left into a corner. His father wiped his mouth and went to do work. —Do you know consonance and dissonance? he asked his mother. —Yes, sweetie. Did Mrs. Wallace teach you that? —Yeah. And about the intervals. —Which ones? —Well, the easy ones are a perfect fourth— He mumbled two notes, the home and then the step up. —And a perfect fifth— The same first note and then a hollow wider wait between them. —That’s pretty, baby. I never hear you do anything but talk. And that’s even— He nodded. —Can I be excused? —Sure. He didn’t look at her face as he pushed the dishwasher shelf and passed back through the room, by the table, but as he climbed the stairs and she
ENZINNA: MOUNT HOOD
waited, picking sharply at the plate, he could feel her thinking after him. He could feel the space between them growing and resolving, settling and fixing. *** Later that night Dylan sat at the computer reading while his father watched television. He barely noticed as his mother entered and waited in the doorway. —Lee, can I speak to you? He turned around as his father did the same. —Sure, honey. What’s on your mind. —In our room, Lee, she said. The room paused, humming. —Sure. Be right there, honey. She nodded, smiled at Dylan, and walked out into the hall. He waited, still turned around, as his father looked into the television. The hum continued. Someone said: —We’ll see if it pays off in the next round. His father shut the set off and stood up slowly. Dylan hung motionless on the chair. At a speed that seemed to be decreasing every second, his father trod across the room and out of the room. Dylan hung on the chair. Minutes passed with another hum feeling its way through the house. Dylan imagined the vent above his door, upstairs, whirring throughout the day. He imagined the hum as all twelve notes, all ruining each other and all coming to a big version of a small grey sound. His arm began to fall asleep from resting off of the chair. There were steps, down the stairs, around the corner, into view. He realized part of the hum had been his parents’ small voices. His father walked in, faster now, not heavily but at least a little heavier. He sat down and turned the set back on. Someone said: —They know how to pick ’em.
ENZINNA: MOUNT HOOD
Dylan turned back around. The hum shook slightly. His mother did not come down the stairs. He heard her dresser clack and squeak. *** Five minutes away from school the next week, the silence of those five minutes was broken by his father’s words: —Buddy, this’ll probably be your last lesson. He looked straight ahead as he said it, and shifted gears desultorily. —It’s just— Dylan shifted. —You don’t seem like it’s that much of a…Like you’re that interested, for one. —I guess. —Hm. They looked at each other. Dylan looked out the window. —And your mother and I— Dylan put his hand to his face. —Mrs. Wallace is— Dylan put his head straight on the back of the seat. His father shifted again, looking out his own window. The heat poured out of the dashboard in a vast, gushing, arrhythmic wash. —Your mother doesn’t think she’s doing a good job, teaching you. —It’s fine, Dylan said. I learned a lot. I can practice on my own. —We can always find another teacher, his father hurried. There’s plenty of them. —Yeah. Maybe I’d like that. —We can figure it out. The car hummed piercingly. Dylan imagined its noise changing. They parked and he stepped out. —Have a good lesson, will you, bud?
ENZINNA: MOUNT HOOD
—Yeah, Dad, he said, shutting the door. The window squeaked down. —Tell Mrs. Wallace I say have a good day. Just give her my regards. You know. Dylan nodded and walked across the lawn, the door opening before him. He shoved a hand in his pocket, where there were no coins. He realized then that he had forgotten them, for the first time since his grandfathergave them to him. Mount Hood, Oregon, from the previous year: a trip to the country, dinner, scratchy sheets, his grandmother’s old piano. Mount Hood, his grandfather said, was on the other side of the country. He said it smelled different there, that people weren’t like they were here. He reached for them quietly, even though he knew he didn’t have them. —Dylan, she said when he walked in. Isn’t your father coming in? —He says to have a good day. She looked after the car as it slunk away. *** As he played he could feel distinctly the space between his hands, and the smaller spaces between his fingers. They seemed to be more alive than the notes: they were the strings, resonating emptily with the chords and intervals and runs he played. *** As he packed his things his father came downstairs. Mrs. Wallace stood up abruptly, teetering on her feet. —Hey, he said, scratching at his leg. I just wanted to— —Hi, she said, quietly. —Yeah. I just wanted to say that—uh, he probably won’t—this is gonna be his last lesson. We’re gonna take a break. The room creaked. Dylan put his bag on his back and his hands in his pockets. They twitched in vain.
ENZINNA: MOUNT HOOD
—Lee, I’m sorry. I really… Dylan started for the stairs, slowly trudging up. There was no noise in between floors. —Just give it some time, he heard his father say. We can talk about it. We just need time, and we need space. Things are going to have to change. Dylan waited at the top of the stairs, straining to hear. His father’s conversation with Mrs. Wallace was different: distinct, unharmonious and edged. His empty pockets tangled around his hands. —I understand. I just…Space isn’t what I need right now. Dylan remembered Mount Hood, standing tall a thousand miles away. —We won’t be far, his father said. We just won’t—he won’t be here, every week. Their voices were opposed, Dylan thought. A diminished fifth, a tritone. Halfway. u
Illinois Jade Conlee Wasn’t the sky all combed with snow when you were born in this house, didn’t Grandma shove her pills behind the armchair and say “this is my favorite day of the year,” and didn’t you kill a chicken in the vegetable patch or was that Grandpa, and isn’t the yard different now, little tangled plants choking the strawberries, didn’t Uncle Tom have his walnut cane that year, and his forehead that sweat like cheese, didn’t you feign concern when he threw up in the hall bathroom, and didn’t you go next, didn’t it start to snow when you took the lid off the Tupperware
I remember the kitchen sink after they’d all been in the hospital for a month, crumbs drifting in the dishwater like tiny flowers didn’t you know Uncle Tom would die that winter so you’d be alone in the house with the dog and the Vicodin, didn’t the dog die the next Thanksgiving and the sadness set you running into the November six o’clock spit flakes, front door agape.
KATRINA PALLOP, INDIAN SUMMER
PALLOP: INDIAN SUMMER
DYLAN SITES, CHRISTMAS, 2011
SITES: CHRISTMAS, 2011
She’s Got You Rosetta Young Ammon was staying home from school and the authorities were coming every day and the ladies in flowered hats and pedal pushers brought fruit pies and casserole. His mother received them in the living room and sobbed openly. Ammon loped around the house, hiding from the visitors with a gnawing whining at the bottom of his stomach. The authorities slouched up to the doorway with notepads and pens, badges and questions, scratching their noses and smoothing their bellies under their belts. They accepted coffee and wrote down dates, hours, numbers, facts about them all: Lorraine, Ammon and his grandmother. He knew his mother was not innocent. He sat with the police in his living room (where they had found his father) on a velvet armchair with his hands folded across his crotch and did not say anything about how he was feeling. Ammon concentrated on pinching his whole body up and answering the authorities’ questions politely and concisely. No, he did not remember ever leaving the basement window open. No, he usually didn’t go down there. “Not even to play ball or get something for your mother?” He did not remember any strange men coming up to him as he walked home from school. “No one that looked like they might cause trouble?” *** Eventually, they took his mother away. Ammon missed more school to watch cartoons in his pajamas, spilling wet cereal on the carpet (sometimes on accident and sometimes on purpose) while his grandmother read Reader’s Digest and Entertainment Weekly. His father’s murder faced him each morning the same way his spoon hit the scratched sides of his cereal
YOUNG: SHE’S GOT YOU
YOUNG: SHE’S GOT YOU
bowl. It was plain. The murder was as monotonous and unrelenting as the sound of his own chewing and the taste of sodden wheat puffs, as stark and reoccurring as the remaining milk that obscured the bowl’s bottom. They lived in the large familiar house in eerie silence. It was the first time Ammon himself identified the house as “large,” despite people walking through and saying, “This place is huge” his whole life. There were two stairwells and an upstairs kitchen with a tap his mother used to leave running when he was having trouble falling asleep. With his mother and father both gone, the house looked the same, except for the couch in the downstairs living room, which had been taken away for forensic testing. “It had been a beautiful couch, a really beautiful couch, I don’t know if you remember it,” his grandmother said to the few people who still came by bearing gifts. Ammon’s grandmother cooked him hot dogs (she kept forgetting to get rolls, so he ate them bun-less, in their naked sadness) with horseradish, relish and mustard. No ketchup. This is what he had for dinner most nights, even though after a while it made him melancholy. At night, he imagined the police speaking to his mother in harsh voices and slapping her face. He imagined her face crumpling. Once, he and his father had watched a black-and-white gangster film. Slipping the slab of plastic into the VCR, his dad had said, “Shh, don’t tell Mom.” Ammon had not known why. But now he imagined her like the lady in that movie, with a pillbox hat and wide eyes, saying over and over, “I had nothin’, nothin’ to do with it.” There was more of this ridiculous monologue, but it made him sadder than his grandmother’s hot dogs to think of her saying the rest. In bed, he lay stiff with a paralyzing fear occasionally softened by half-sleep. He clutched the edges of his down comforter and saw men with hooks for hands and mechanical eyes that clicked open and closed like cameras. They were trying to find him, his father’s son. To finish the unfinished business. Ammon thought of a suited, slick-haired man pointing a gun straight at him. It was these times he felt something besides nothing: a longing for his mother to come lie next to him like she had done when he was small. He knew from the kids at school and the Providence Journal (he read
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it each morning with a glass of milk; his grandmother should not have let him, considering the circumstances, but she seemed to find it easier than telling him herself ) that some people thought the Mob had murdered his father and maybe his mother had helped. He did know from his grandmother their “liquid assets” had been frozen until they found out who had murdered his father. For the hotdogs and the car gas and other things, his grandmother had to use her teacher’s pension, which made her sigh in the check out line of the supermarket as she punched in her pin code with a rubbery frown. His grandmother was kind, but not comforting—he knew in the morning it would only be her at the kitchen stove, speechless, and he knew not to bury his face into her stomach. *** Ammon took to staying in the library after school let out. He would page through the oversized reference books with the vibrant, glossy pictures, sitting at one of the oversized tables meant for multiple children. This habit might lead someone to think that Ammon was unpopular. Perhaps, one might think that Ammon was one of those unfortunate children whose existing sadness was deepened by a rare and barbaric tragedy and that, even before the untimely death of his father, Ammon’s young life was one that only glimmered in solitary moments of aesthetic pleasure. Factually, this was incorrect. Even after his father’s conspicuous end, he maintained a gang of the grade’s best boys. He did not sit alone afternoons in the school library for want of those who liked and admired him. He sat there because, as he quickly found out, there is a grace period after the murder of your father, when life takes on the sheen of pretence. He attended school, lips were moved in his direction, but no one truly spoke to him or expected a response. The same girls flirted with the same pubescent wantonness, their faces only now frowning slightly, more tentative. He raised his hand in class and always had the right answer. Teachers stopped marking his compositions. When they handed work back in the class, he received none, without explanation.
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This was how it was until summer time. The weight had gone out of the world and he spent afternoons in the library, not reading, but turning and turning pages. Every so often the librarian, Mrs. Fincher, would come by and run her fingers through his hair, letting her unremarkable adult body linger next to his adolescent frame. She would sigh and pet his buzz cut. Before this might have startled him, but now he just continued turning the pages of Ghost Towns or The 1900 World’s Fair or 75 Years of National Geographic, and said nothing. He never even looked up. Sometimes, on the third floor, Ammon would masturbate into the pages of encyclopedias, causing them to stick together. Trying to be quiet, he would let out sighs of relief into their bindings. He never thought about it after the fact—it only occurred to him on those days late in the afternoon, half an hour before closing, because it was the worst thing he could think to do. He knew it would not matter if he were caught—the school would not punish him; his mother would not punish him. *** One day, a few weeks after she was taken away, a yellow taxi pulled up in front of the house and his mother stepped out. His grandmother met her on the porch, and the two women embraced for a long time. Ammon watched from the upstairs balcony. He did not know what to think. He did not come downstairs for a long while, but he heard his mother crying at the kitchen table, and then a long silence. In the next few months, Ammon saw his mother retire from parenthood. Before, she’d been a young, fine mother. Now, she burrowed down into herself and listened to the same Patsy Cline record over and over. She bought fine clothes from mail-order catalogs. The things she bought for Ammon either didn’t fit or itched. His grandmother took him to the new mall to buy spring clothes and the walk from the parking garage into the cavernous commercial center was too long. There was a meeting at the school—the modern, private school—about
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Ammon. The school was concerned; his father had just been murdered. Was Ammon all right? His mother and grandmother went to a meeting in the headmaster’s office. Ammon was only in middle school, so, really, it was only the headmaster of the middle school’s office. But he was concerned, the headmaster of the middle school. Lorraine was struck by the narrowness of the hallways and the institutional carpeting. She was impressed by the student artwork that hung in the glass display cases. “This is where you spend all of your time at school?” She asked Ammon as they walked to the headmaster’s office. “Not exactly right here,” Ammon said. “Of course,” said his mother, “of course.” When they got to the end of the hallway, the headmaster came out of his office. “You won’t mind waiting outside?” He said to Ammon, who shook his head. He didn’t care. He didn’t even like hearing his mother’s straining voice through the door or his grandmother’s consoling, shuffling tones, her sniffs and shifts of indignity. Lorraine had become loudly helpless. It was as if her mind had aged twice as fast as her body. Manners and customs and new technologies and faces were to her large and small offenses. These offenses could so often not be articulated that she expressed them physically. She spent silent hours in the living room, or gave the house a violent and thorough cleaning, or rearranged the furniture, upsetting and relocating whole rooms. Once, she broke plates on the kitchen floor, one after another, until Ammon’s grandmother swept in and caught her hands. She had always gotten herself into strange, awful predicaments. As he got older, the more he thought about his mother, the more he realized she had always been, in part, this way: leaving the gas pump in the car as she drove out of the station, burning dinner beyond recognition, throwing out important bills and letters, picking up the ringing telephone only to place it back in the cradle. Once his father was dead, she stranded herself in highway breakdown lanes, let the dogs out of the backyard without their leashes and walked down to Store 24 barefoot.
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Shortly after his mother’s return, his grandmother confided to Ammon that his mother had always been this way, even as a child, “senseless like an animal.” The two of them were driving to the mall, and his grandmother said to the windshield that, although she loved her daughter, she had been astonished that an accomplished doctor like Ammon’s father had wanted to marry her. She said that while her daughter held a certain bodily charm, she was no great beauty and had been an outcast at school. She was just glad, she said, reaching across to pat Ammon’s knee, that he hadn’t turned out like her, and more like his father, after all. *** One afternoon, as Ammon was letting himself out into one of the library books, he was caught. Mrs. Fincher rounded the corner to one of the shelves and found him, sighing into the open pages of Britannica, MA to MN. She gasped, covered her mouth, but did not back away—she stepped forward. Ammon was unable to believe that this was actually occurring, so he simply froze. He waited for her to realize what he was doing and walk away, leaving him to remove himself from the pages of the book and go home. Instead, she said, “Ammon!” Ammon did not say anything. He remained still. “Ammon! That’s school property.” He did not say anything. She sighed. “I am not going to ask you to leave the library. I am not going to tell Mr. Daylos, even. But the younger children use the encyclopedias. I won’t tell you to stop.” Ammon was shocked. He was, also, not shocked. Mrs. Fincher wore a long, purple dress and a long chain of glass beads. Her gray hair puffed into a cloud above her head. Her glasses shook on her face—she had a twitch.
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*** The police were still coming by the house every few days. They had many details on which to question Lorraine, which apparently had not been covered when she was in custody, and they went through all of his father’s telephone books, calling everyone, all the way back to his college days. For a while, they came by in the mornings, when Ammon ate his cereal at the kitchen counter—no more carpet, now that his mother was back—and his grandmother noticed how he was unable to eat when they were in the house. After that, she asked them to come by after Ammon had left for school, and so Ammon could only gauge police visits by his mother’s mood. If she was howling behind a closed door, or in bed, they had visited, but if she was, unexpectedly, in front of the stove, or lip-sticked, about to go out with her one friend (a divorcee with two boys at the private, modern school) they had left her alone that day. Either way, frantic or mournful, Ammon was not real to her, and he seldom did anything at home besides eat, watch TV, use the bathroom and avoid his grandmother. *** One day, just as the weather had brightened, he entered his home, and his mother lay at the head of the stairs, moaning lowly, his grandmother making rapid hand gestures that seemed to come to nothing. “She’s fine, Ammon. She’s only being dramatic.” His mother continued to moan, churning her backside into the carpet. She was only wearing pantyhose and a green sweater, which was her favorite. Ammon knew this as he knew her current position was what his grandmother called “behaving badly” and that there was no one’s bad behavior that vexed her like his mother’s. Ammon did not respond to his grandmother’s statement. He went up to his bedroom and turned on the TV. He watched the ABC Family nightly line-up all the way through, not even flipping channels during commercials. He watched frame-to-frame, end-to-end. At nine o’clock,
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his grandmother came into his room holding a plate of dinner and set it down on his night-side table. “Please do not worry about your mother, Ammon. She’s just having a hard time.” Ammon did not move or acknowledge her presence in the slightest; the TV cast its unearthly glow over his face, which was his only body part visible with his down comforter tucked under his chin. His grandmother’s hands were blue in the light. “She just misses your father. It’s okay. We all do. You should talk to her. You two should be able to help each other.” Ammon did not respond. “Alright,” she continued, “Please eat your dinner.” She laid a hand on his arm—even through the heavy blanket she knew where to find it—and then lifted herself off the bed, padded across the carpet and out of the room. When the nightly news came on Ammon turned off the TV and lay in the dark. He hated the anchors faces, whose lips moved so casually, their cheeks like cuts of meat. His father had loved movies and football games and popular sitcoms. He had looked over the prime-time lineup every day before heading over to his practice. He had been obsessed with the corporate goings-on at HBO and Showtime and was dedicated to several TV serials at once. His father would even watch TV shows—the type that Ammon wasn’t allowed to watch, that if he entered the living room his parents would scream and say ‘Go away!’—that his mother used to giggle were “girly.” In their house, TV time had been family time. His parents had never been like some of his friends’ parents who did everything together, but Ammon did remember Friday and Saturday nights—if they weren’t going out to a dinner party or restaurant—the two of them curled up like shrimp, right next to each other, on the couch. However, in the last year, Ammon had found it difficult to watch anything with his parents; it made him feel itchy to sit with them in silence. The presence of his parents made characters on TV shows he liked irritating; it made the silliest romantic storylines feel like pornography. He began to campaign for a TV in his own room on the basis that he wanted to watch his own shows and play video games. Ammon thought of this in
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the dark, as the milky bridge of sleep appeared before him: watch his own shows and play games. *** The next day, when Ammon went up to the third floor, before closing, Mrs. Fincher appeared a few minutes after he was deep inside a dictionary. (He had thought, maybe, the younger children were less partial to the dictionaries.) She took the dictionary from his hands, put it back on the shelf in its rightful place, and took Ammon in her hands. He was already aroused from the pressure of the book, and he did not question Mrs. Fincher’s action. A few months ago, before the murder of his father, he would have jumped, or run, but now he felt nonplussed. The way she rubbed him seemed thorough, service-like, sympathetic. He felt it to be yet another way the school was making an exception for him, and he opened himself up to it the same way he had to everything else. He accepted its inevitability. He closed his eyes and rested his head on one of the metal shelves. When he was about to finish, she pressed a tissue against the tip of his penis. The one thing he thought unsavory was the haste with which she put the tissue back in her pocket, wet though it was. Ammon turned quickly away from her and buttoned his pants. “Ammon,” she said, touching his shoulder, “I am going to close the doors downstairs. It’s about time you go home.” Ammon left the building quickly, dumbly, casting a glance over his shoulder. At home, his grandmother met him at the door, with her gray hair, her long dress, and, for a moment, he thought she was Mrs. Fincher. *** That week at school, to celebrate the good weather, there was a picnic on the lawn across the street, with all the faculty and middle school students. In the past few months, Ammon had come even more into his broad shoulders and light colored eyes. There was a girl new to the school that
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semester, with light blond hair, and the willowy body of a magazine model. Her name was Joyce and she and Ammon spoke over the sparse food the school served. She was the only student in the class who had not known him when he had had a father, or who did not remember the show-andtell on being a doctor his father had given last year on Parent’s Day. The others left them alone, running around, smushing hamburger buns into the dirt, throwing ice at each other, while the teachers told them to cut it out. Ammon’s group of boys hovered nearby, and then dispersed, when they realized he was not going to stop talking to Joyce. The afternoons with Mrs. Fincher had continued, but Ammon barely thought of this as he scanned the celebration, the adolescent and adult bodies he knew so well from repetition. Joyce placed her hand over Ammon’s knee, delicately, and drew her hand closed gently. Ammon flinched; it tickled. “It’s supposed to be one-sixteenth of an orgasm,” Joyce said. She whispered. “Kids were crazy for doing that at my old school. Personally, I don’t believe it,” she said. Ammon looked at her; she was proud, with straight, white teeth that had already seen braces, and a long, straight nose. Ammon said, “Yeah.” “Hey,” Joyce said, “Does your family belong to one of the summer clubs around here? We just joined one. I forget the name.” Ammon didn’t know if they belonged anymore. “You probably joined Agawam. That’s where we belong. The other one is Jewish.” “Oh, good,” she said, and smiled. “We can go swimming this summer. My mom said she’d drive me over whenever I want. I need to get a tan.” She held out her arm, “See? Pale!” Ammon laughed. “I bet you just burn,” he said. “No way,” she said, “I can tan. I burn, a little, at first. I am jealous of you, though. You’re tan all year around—I bet you get dark in the summer. Now, it’s, like, you have a little cinnamon in your skin.”
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Ammon didn’t know what to make of this. “I guess,” he said. “Definitely,” she said, and placed her hand on his arm. He stayed talking to Joyce until her mother pulled up to the school in a red minivan and Joyce clambered into it, shouting a goodbye behind her. *** The afternoons with Mrs. Fincher continued. She left him alone, mostly, until he would go upstairs, and then a few minutes later she would follow him. He did not know what to make of it, but he couldn’t stop the cycle, it was too fascinating. Her hands were always warm. Her face always bore the same expression of firm sympathy, and then he would stand close to her, looking over her shoulder, and could not see her face until she pulled away, work done, the expression exactly the same. Sometimes, he would think vaguely of spending one such afternoon with Joyce, far from the library and the picture books, and Mrs. Fincher. He sat next to Joyce at lunch, sometimes, when the best boy and girl groups converged, and in science class, which they had together four days a week. However, every day at three o’clock she was spirited away in the red minivan and Ammon did not know how to circumnavigate such an official obstacle. One day, at lunch, a girl with a rotten face and a notoriously rich father tapped Ammon on the shoulder. He was standing in the lunch line, alone, but his friends watched from their nearby table. “Ammon,” she said, “Do you like Joyce?” Ammon reflected and, then, replied, “Does Joyce like me?” She pursed her lips, waiting a beat, and then gave one quick nod. “Do you like Joyce?” she repeated. “Yeah,” Ammon said. At this word, she sped out of sight. Ammon ordered a grilled cheese. ***
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That afternoon, Ammon climbed the steps of the library with a stony resolve. He had not even waited for his friends to depart—kids usually mingled in swarms before the vans and sedans came up to school’s front, depleting their number. The library was particularly dead this day—all the other kids were out for ice cream, or hitching rides to the mall. Some might even have headed out to the country clubs outside the small metropolis to swim with their families. Ammon spent the afternoon in the company of picture books, and Mrs. Fincher, who nearby photocopied leaflets for a presentation on MLA citations and cataloged new books. As the sun outside dipped, Ammon returned his books carefully to the shelves, and went up to the third floor. He walked between the two farthest books shelves—for the first few times, he’d continued the pretense of the book, and then he had stopped. He examined the spines as he waited: Encyclopedia Britannica, L, M, N, O, P; World Encyclopedia, X, Y, Z. No one used the Encyclopedias anymore because of the Internet. Teachers didn’t even suggest it. Mrs. Fincher appeared at the end of the row. She smiled her wordless smile and Ammon stepped towards her. She unbuttoned his pants and began to rub him, her hands warm as usual, and he began to feel warm, a weightlessness came and went, heat flushed into his cheeks. Her pace quickened and he began to breath audibly, closing his eyes. When he opened them again, Joyce stood before him at the top of the stairs, her head cocked to one side, mouth agape, questioning. She had slipped up the stairs inaudibly, as girls of that age can, weighing nothing. He could tell, from the expression on her pretty face, that she was confused, not knowing what she saw, but knowing enough to know it was strange. All she could see, from her perspective on the stairs, was Mrs. Fincher’s back and Ammon’s head hovering over her shoulder. Mrs. Fincher had not noticed; she continued, but her work made no sound. The whole moment was silent. Ammon stared at Joyce—he dared not stop Mrs. Fincher, for then it would become clear their activity, and he dared not call out to Joyce, for the same reason. He instead did nothing, and Joyce, after a
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few seconds, perplexed, but understanding that what she saw was private, padded down the stairs as fast and silent as she’d come. *** Ammon stopped going to the library after school. He convinced his gang of boys to rove with him on Thayer Street instead, and they began their colonization of the area, befriending fry cooks for free, greasy meals. Ammon graduated from the school five years later, and Mrs. Fincher was the librarian the whole time. She worked there even after he left for college, until she retired in her seventies. Ammon only saw her occasionally after that time, because she seldom left the library, and he seldom went there. He began dating Joyce a year later, and she never mentioned what she had seen that day until nearly the end of high school. One night, very late, they strolled on the Agawam golf course. No one else was there. Earlier in the day, there had been a big sports meet between the private modern school and its rival. Ammon played soccer, and Joyce ran track. They had come out to Agawam, leaving a party with their friends, to celebrate and drink champagne. Joyce wanted to make love on the golf course, because her friend had done so over the summer and she did not want to be outdone. Joyce was full of such ideas—“Sex on a golf course,” she’d said into Ammon’s ear back in Providence, “is normal in July.” Ammon was happy to oblige, because he loved Joyce and he loved to drive. They were drunk when they got to the course, and drunker as they drank the champagne. Joyce ran toward the first hole, and Ammon chased after her. When he caught her by the waist and they landed on the wet ground, she asked, “What were you doing that day with Mrs. Fincher?” Ammon was startled. Mrs. Fincher belonged to the strange months after his father’s death. He held onto Joyce’s hipbones and said, mouth to her bare stomach, “I thought you had forgotten that.” “I almost had. I remember it was right after I moved here, and I’d just met you. Everything from then seems kind of hazy—nothing seemed
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real, because I had just moved across the country, and it was all so much different than California. But then today I was talking to Chelsea, and she said to me, ‘Remember when I asked Ammon if he liked you?’ And that’s why I had gone up to get you. I stayed after school because I was sure you’d ask me out, and then you weren’t there, and everyone knew you went to the library, so I waited around, and then, finally, I got up the courage to go and talk to you.” “Really?” Ammon said, and laughed. He put his fingers on her stomach, wriggling them into her muscled softness, and she screeched. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” “Wouldn’t believe what?” she said, gasping. “About Mrs. Fincher.” “Oh, yeah, right,” she said, pushing him off and standing up. She jumped up and down, which was what she did to keep off the cold. “I’ll race you to the next hole.” “Too far.” “Fine, I’ll race you back to the parking lot.” “Okay,” he said, but before he had even said it, she began to run. *** He walked home with a feeling of nausea. In the last weeks of school, Joyce was to ignore him, sitting next to Crosby Johnson in science class. He waited in agony for his secret to become public. It was then that the police stopped coming by the house. They stopped visiting, and the summer came, and it was from this summer he would awake cured as he ever would be. But that afternoon, Ammon came home to his mother frozen in the velvet armchair. She looked out the window, and he stood in the doorway, watching her for a quarter of an hour. Still, he simply knew by looking at his mother that she was not innocent. She would listen to old records for hours on end—to one song over and over—and the sound would fill the
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whole house. She talked to his grandmother in hushed tones. She asked Ammon to turn down the television and wanted to read him bedtime stories even though he was too old. With a glass of wine nestled against her thigh she played solitaire, or she emptied the dishwasher, whimpering. Today, he saw her guilt in the way her hand went to her mouth when Patsy Cline sang “She’s Got You.” She wore this mouth, this dried apricot, like a badge. She sat in the same spot, looking out at the street and wiping her cheeks. He knew these were the forces of exhaustion. This was the undergarment of her daily dressed grief, that tight mask of mourning, that stern bob of widowhood. She kicked off her shoes, arched her back and moaned. The dusk approached with that husky New England blueness and Ammon saw shadows—strange darks and lights—play across her face. u
ADAM GUNDERSHEIMER, UNTITLED
An interview with Meghan O’Rourke Meghan O’Rourke was born and raised in Brooklyn. She has taught at Princeton, The New School, and here at NYU; she has also served as poetry and advisory editor for The Paris Review as well as culture editor for Slate. Her individual publications and awards are too many to recite here. Her first collection of poetry, Halflife, was received with accolades; her new collection, Once, has as well. She has also recently released a memoir, The Long Goodbye, a moving exploration of grief and the death of her mother.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MEGHAN O’ROURKE
AN INTERVIEW WITH MEGHAN O’ROURKE
You had a busy 2011, it seems, with your memoir, The Long Goodbye, and your second collection of poems, Once, coming out in quick succession. Were you working on both at once? Can you talk about that process? Actually, for the most part I worked on them at different times. About three-fourths of Once was done before I began The Long Goodbye, and before my mother died at the end of 2008. I had wanted to write about two or three more poems—and I had a sense, given the book’s preoccupation with illness and preparing for a death, that the book in needed to tackle the aftermath of loss, not just its antechamber, as it were. But after my mother died, I found I couldn’t write poems—they were simply too open, demanded too much art; art I didn’t yet have at my fingertips. However, I could form sentences, which had the advantage of connecting one to the next, like a rope along a tricky mountain path. So I started writing the pieces that became the early sections of The Long Goodbye. When The Long Goodbye was done, I went back to Once, to write some poems that the book seemed to me to want—the poem “Still,” and “After Her Death” (which I had actually drafted in fragmentary form right after my mother died), and “My Mother,” and a few others. Is there any common ground between your processes for writing poetry and non-fiction? Can you characterize the difference? Hmm. The common ground is making myself sit at the desk, even when I don’t want to. Agony? Agony is common to both. But the mental/creative processes are very different—there’s a thread of continuity to prose that is extremely satisfying and less terrifying than the chaos of writing poems. With poems, there is so much indeterminacy, so many choices to engage with. And many more blank pages to face. Writing The Long Goodbye almost felt like an enjoyable vacation from that chaos: I liked that I could wake up and know what I had to work on next. When you’re writing a hefty piece of narrative nonfiction, there’s a lot of ground you know you
AN INTERVIEW WITH MEGHAN O’ROURKE
have to cover—you have a list of things you need to get to. (In my case they were all written out elaborately on index cards.) That was intellectually enjoyable, despite the book’s dark subject matter. In The Long Goodbye, you talk about engaging with the literature of grief as a means of working through and exploring your own grief. Do you see The Long Goodbye as a contribution to this literature? Or are its goals of a different order? Yes, I do very much see it as part of the literature of grief—if we’re talking about the literature of grief, and not self-help books. I mean books like C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed, and so forth—books that both illuminate the lived experience of loss and are literary in their methods, at least on some basic level. Which is to say: I thought a lot about clarity and communication in The Long Goodbye—and I chose to write it in a style that is deceptively simple, given that the book also circles around and repeats itself in various ways, in order to dramatize the instability of one’s experience of grief. But I also wanted the book to have sentences that sung for the pleasure of it. I thought about how the sentences should feel as they were read. Was your decision to write The Long Goodbye at all influenced by contemporary contributions to this literature of grief ? Joan Didion’s, for example, or Anne Carson’s more elegiac Nox, which you reviewed for The New Yorker? The desire to write The Long Goodbye arose long before I knew of Nox’s existence. In fact, I hadn’t read Nox when I wrote most of The Long Goodbye; I’d nearly finished a draft by the time I it came out. I had read Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, years earlier, but that book felt very different from the book I wanted to write, which was specifically about the loss of a parent. And more specifically, about losing a parent when you aren’t firmly settled in your own life yet—on the threshold of your own full adulthood.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MEGHAN O’ROURKE
You’ve written and edited for a number of the finest magazines we’ve got: The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Slate, and others. How has your development as a poet and a non-fiction writer been influenced by these experiences? I can’t fully address all the complexities of this, but certainly working as an editor has made me more aware of the importance of revision. It also made me realize that often I need time to see what’s not working in a piece or a poem. I think one of the best things you can do as a writer is put what you’re working on in the drawer and not look at it for six months, then take it out and rework it. The needs of the piece become very clear at that point, and you often can take a poem or a story to a new level. Having worked as an editor, I’m very aware of how much editors can help a writer—I love it when I find a good editor. A good editor is one of the greatest gifts a writer can get; they’re a kind of ideal reader, a companion in those moments when you think that no one really cares about whether or not you sit at your desk and write. And, finally, a question that is both always expected and always worthwhile in a student journal: what advice can you give to young writers? Read as widely as you can. Make sure to read outside of contemporary literature—go way back. Be a serious student of your genre, and don’t just look for the easy pleasures. Try to be somewhat systematic in your reading, to see what a writer’s strengths and weaknesses are, to get to know the habits and convictions of a given time period. Don’t just read for what you “like”—think about what it is that any given writer does well. u
A poem by guest contributor Michael Dickman Born in Portland, Oregon, Michael Dickman broke into the consciousness of the larger poetic community with his stunning debut collection, The End of the West. His second collection, Flies, was awarded the James Laughlin Award in 2010. His poems frequently appear in The New Yorker as well as other prominent magazines and journals. We are honored to present this new poem.
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: MICHAEL DICKMAN
Metamorphosis Beatbox Michael Dickman And then there are bodies that turn into other bodies We are like that Hair and fingernails still growing long after our deaths becoming trees streetlights trees Leaves Shit in the ground Some blood down in it Maybe you are made of money and burn in the dark Do you burn in the dark? Green lights! Green lights!
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: MICHAEL DICKMAN
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: MICHAEL DICKMAN
And then there is money that turns into other money We are like that Turning gold silver brass and iron into every needle falling from a pine tree at the same time Bling bling A needle in a needle stack If you do not change then change will be brought out of you in spoonfuls A spoonful weighs a ton Ready or not Here it come
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: MICHAEL DICKMAN
And then there are waves that turn into other waves We are like that Flooding every flower drowning our loved ones until weâ€™re swimming around inside them The butterfly cannonball Letâ€™s all do the jackknife and see what happens The water laps around our feet no matter what we do We do swim through bodies Belly up A plague of dead frogs
DYLAN SITES, DUSTIN, 2011
S I T E S: DUST I N, 2 0 1 1
Roller Wing Charlie Corbett It’s like cracking a walnut to see it has chambers just like your heart, you squeezed until your forearm cramped, then threw it at a bird on the sidewalk, in one long motion like you were taught— When the bird flew by the left wing pivoted in its socket, it was drawn out in pencil and labeled with narrow lines, but knowing the names of bone segments will not make flapping yours arms more useful. What you need is feathers. It’s like walking a block east, forgetting you do not speak like they do, that you have made up the conversation and nodded when possible. There was a woman selling bananas, she looked bored in all that yellow, so you bought one. There was a bird with its eyes shut in a cardboard box and it wasn’t your fault, really— You waited three days to sleep through the storm, wishing your mouth could stay clean without floss and toothpaste, or that there were better reasons to shave than to keep from going back to bed, but that is as good as any.
CORBETT: ROLLER WING
Twenty-five pounds of frozen horsemeat / Foreign salts Kurt Havens I. All the last corridors out of this facility turned their stomachs inside-out became corridors back in. If you forgot what it was like outside then you werenâ€™t meant to be out there Marlanâ€” left with an old Scandinavian joke about a horse in the middle of an aluminum room. Tiny rings of pollen around the dried eyes. Licks at the cracks in the tiles. Thinks they are wounds. Thinks they are horses. Horses cut into tiny rings of horse, tiny rings to feed the rest of the horses. I forget how it endsâ€”something about gluesticks, or something only to become undone by gluesticks.
H AV E N S: T W E N T Y F I V E P OU N D S. . .
H AV E N S: T W E N T Y F I V E P OU N D S. . .
II. You think I had nothing in New Jersey. I had, growing up, eczemaâ€”bad, uneven, it sent its skin crawling up my legs. When I went in the Atlantic I could feel foreign salts inside of me. Swelling and unswelling passed the timeâ€” half of me was sewn to the ocean; the other half flowered foam with flowers like chrysanthemums.
ALLISON ARKUSH, GRANDMA JENNY
ARKUSH: GRANDMA JENNY
PATRICK JAOJOCO, UNTITLED
ADAM GUNDERSHEIMER, UNTITLED
Otherworld Eric Stiefel These days I can’t keep faith in the earth, its tides change like whispers: The clock tower still standing in the cobblestone square, where Wayne Andrews blew buckshot through Clark Early’s jaw over a bottle of bourbon or a young bride, a handful of spades, maybe, it doesn’t make much difference. Now, I wonder whether their copper finds itself clotting beneath the soil— And these iron hands, they lie somewhere between noon and the next day, where the slugs left holes in the pavement after Andrews drew and fired two more shots on the deputy sheriff, and my heart pumped silt even harder than the cold fists inside the clock, caught between two cogs, the same close hour when the mill shut down for good, when the train stopped running and the draught drank the river dry, the men left behind with nothing but these dried veins of earth, the smoke and scotch still burning in their throats. And you would hope that the rain would find its way here before the heron closes its beak, before the men go back to refill their empty mugs, but these days lead runs through the clouds like lungs caught beating through the silent sky.
When old man Moses McCloud finds bricks from the mill wall layered in dirt, he then grinds them with his grandfatherâ€™s cold iron hammer, buries their ashes into new reds of clay, which he molds and then fires into these just bound shards of earth. I know the world shapes itself outside of his hands.
Even now, the forest keeps secrets beneath the trees—the axis and the pistons pitch themselves in soil, laying wait away from the old mill workers, torn apart the way that birds pick through bodies, the same birds I used to watch from outside the quarry walls, that sift their beaks through splintered bark and these restless furrows. They reap stories from another life, parts of souls stuck inside the earth: a set of lost teeth, a rust-colored pocket watch, the monkey wrench with the initials C.S. etched into the hilt. When Mr. Early poured whiskey instead of gin, I heard the mason cut hollows where men used to come drink the way that king snakes wait for mice. You couldn’t set down a glass too hard without catching a glance, but from where I’m standing, this might not mean a thing, unless, of course, the train and its iron heart cut through steel and find what it was doing when it caught its exodus from the tracks, its mossed wheels and closed tongue spelling out a different kind of journey, one that belongs to the earth, instead of half-dead men.
Mrs. Early miscarried her second child in the tavern’s cellar. Early and Son’s, she saw the men carve into pine, and she knew that the dead Mr. Early wouldn’t want to lie next to a second failed son. She built a cross out of oak wood, etched out in chalk, she wrote, From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead And in the Holy Ghost Here lies Clark Early, II. Some say the earth herself remains a mother, I have never seen her lay her hands like this.
Mr. McCloud claims he remembers when he could taste iron in the air, the days when rain fell like a blessing and the copperheads slept beneath the brick. Now, moonshine sends the hills crawling with sin, the same way I imagine the wind fell when whiskey dyed the men’s veins black. Once, old Moses thought that hell housed itself in the center of the earth, that the devil spun gears that made the dirt turn into clay. His house feels hollow when the rain hits the roof, and his kiln lights the village dark for a few nights. I’ve walked these streets for days, and I haven’t found anything but the scars one man left a whole world to fade into, only eight weeks after the train scared itself off the rails, when the whitetails wouldn’t let their knees touch dirt for six days straight. Now, I wonder if the crows will find a way to pick apart mortar and clay before the clouds open the sky. The mill holds tall, like ash and stone cast into monument, and the old man Moses McCloud says he’d sell his soul if only he could forge this world into something that would last across these damned seasons.
SEAN FAY, IRONING SHADOWS
FAY: I R O N I N G S H A D OW S
MIA GERARDI, MESSENGERS
Triple Take Aziza Barnes He would remember that her face looked like the oatmeal she wasn’t eating. Then he would stop remembering that. Then he would stop remembering. He’d only recall his small ugliness the night he attempted to entangle their bodies into a catapult and failed because he could not tip their balance. The night when their sacks of muscle sardined one another, wet and unsatisfied. He would remember the oatmeal face of his “girl.” That her name was Cynthia and is Cynthia and what a horrible name, Cynthia, the way it slides through your teeth like a brittle death. He’d remember then and blame that “girl” that “baby” who would cry out for him after each lost battle, holler into the back alleys of his frame, turned away. She tried so hard to make conquest out of his hoarded pleasure that it wasn’t trying anymore—it was bleeding. She had been lost in a man before, but none of them had ever made her an artist. She would make audio recordings every time he cried out his mother’s name in the most inappropriate moments; opening a jar of pickles, ejaculating into her inner right thigh (his gentle refusal to fatherhood), nicking his skin while shaving. She’d label the tapes, like vials of bone marrow and fill herself with the mama-on-his-tongue, the most passion he’d ever licked his speech with. There would be nights he would not come home and mornings that he did. He would find her naked, covered in the packaged cassettes of his voice. She’d imagine everything he wouldn’t say and place those confessions in the small pockets of nerve endings only successful lovers seek out. If he told her he’d be gone for a weekend, he’d stay in town and drive by his own home, watching her take each mix-tape, hook it up to loud speakers and feel him, loud and alert on top of her.
BARNES: TRIPLE TAKE
BARNES: TRIPLE TAKE
*** I am a simple woman. I grew up in a house full of cockroaches. I eat spaghetti with ketchup. I wash my face with Dial soap and I have never said I love you. My brother still visits in the winter. He eats all of my tomatoes, packs each one into his mouth until he can’t close himself without spilling. I know he packs his bags this way. I know he packs his women this way. One night, I watched. That night I murdered 9 cockroaches with my right boot. He inserted a small colony of himself into a woman named “Cynthia.” Her legs, locked around his soft backside, reminded me of my brother’s fist smoldering a tomato. I see how my brother is like a tomato, how they leave the same beaded juice on my countertops. I clean his room. The woman named “Cynthia” does not know this is my house. “Cynthia” shivers like an intrusion of cockroaches the night I turn on the lights in my kitchen, to find my brother tearing the walls open with our mother’s name, refusing “Cynthia,” her skin ripe, naked and red. She shatters herself into all of my available corners. I wipe her up. I boil water. I boil spaghetti. I boil. I have never even had sex on my kitchen table. I shake loose the ketchup from its casing. I haven’t had my period in 9 years. My brother shakes loose our mother’s name from his “Cynthia,” his “girl,” his “baby.” I often imagine “Cynthia” with 3 heads, just to keep all her names in one body. I clean my kitchen. I use Dial soap for the floor and my face. Both are puckered by people who don’t love them. Instead of apologizing about the mess he left behind, my brother wandered my house like a leopard’s carcass with no skeleton. I annihilate 7 more cockroaches with my left boot. “Cynthia” is very attractive. “Cynthia” is completely useless when it comes to killing cockroaches. Or purchasing Dial soap. Or saying, “I love you.” “Cynthia” fills her lungs with that phrase until it becomes a lethal mucus lining her organs. She does not consider the distance between her and my brother in that sentence, how far apart the “I” is from the “you,” how a lifetime of unreal has been buffered onto their copulation, this “love” of hers shining a rotten machine. I violently collect 5 more cockroaches with both boots,
BARNES: TRIPLE TAKE
one in each hand. The cockroaches are in my corners. The cockroaches are in my house. “Cynthia” may be this sort of cockroach; when you kill one, she leaves a small pustule of herself in its place. My house is crowded and hollow. Our mother died of pneumonia last winter. My brother and I are selfish when filling our spaces in. *** Working in the Natural History Museum is a bitch. I’d rather work in a morgue. I keep dead shit safe. But it’s dead shit no one’s ever seen alive. Working with mummies would be fuckin’ fantastic. Someone’s seen those muthafuckers alive and preserved the shit out of ’em. These fuckin’ dinosaur bones don’t mean dick to dick, they just wound up in the ground like the first dick to die, like Adam, that fucker. I don’t read the Bible anymore. That’s another dead thing I can’t stomach. Okay, yeah—someone did preserve the shit out of that shit but what the fuck do I care about an overripe fairytale? I’m big on preservation. I do it to myself. There’s enough rubbing alcohol in me to last another 50 years, even if I don’t last another 50 years— it’s probably better that I don’t last that long. I like keeping my shit to myself—that’s another preservation thing. Growing up in the Bronx does that to you. 167th and Gerard Ave is a Museum of it’s own. A bunch of people stuffed away in boxes on boxes on boxes—they never leave. They born there, they live there, they fuck there, they go to a bodega, they do laundry, they get sick, they get shot, shot up, shot down—or they stop breathing in front of a TV. And no one ever knows about it. They die without anyone seeing ’em live and there’s always someone like me to watch over the leftovers. Women are like that—pregnant ones. My sister is the luckiest woman I’ve ever met. She can’t have babies so she can’t ever be like the Bronx, like the Bible, like the Natural Fuckin’ History Museum—she won’t be the carrier of something that’s going to die. Yeah, it would’ve grown in her and yeah, someone would’ve seen the thing alive but he would’ve been a Bronx-born brown boy—who would care?
BARNES: TRIPLE TAKE
Who would’ve preserved him? Maybe a chalk lining on a sidewalk. Maybe unpaid doctors bills after his death. One thing I do love about my job is my nametag. It’d be nice if it did what it’s supposed to: make folks remember what to call me. It doesn’t. I don’t believe in girlfriends. I don’t believe in that shit. I do believe in wives, though. I just don’t believe in bullshit, to be honest. A girlfriend is a bullshit wife—just marry the broad. Marry the broad and she’ll never need a nametag to know what to call you. Marry the broad and stay in your Bronx box. Marry the broad but don’t get her pregnant. The kids wouldn’t preserve you—they out trying to preserve themselves. They won’t call you your name—you lose your name; they’ll call you “Daddy” and who are you then? It makes perfect sense to me. I met her yesterday. She was in a diner down the street from my sister’s spot. There was a coat over her oatmeal that looked like embalming fluid. She was from out of town. I liked that. She had Botox in her forehead. Probably in her elbows, eyes and knees—she likes preservation, too. She reminded me of my mom, the way she filled herself with mucus—her insides beginning to bloat on the outside—dying the fullest she could’ve been. I’ve been careful. I’ve been looking for a woman smart and full and quiet—I took Cynthia home. I was still wearing my nametag. She said my name until I forgot who it belonged to. u
Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Bruises on My Upper Left Thigh with apologies to Wallace Stevens
Rhett King I. You left a few bruises speckled, peridot and flat lavender, murky Easter eggs in their wicker of pores. II. I had thigh bruises which lay hard like four wide icebergs. III. There were a thousand excuses: I hopped a fence. I met a dog. Now there was the fact of four bruises. IV. A man and a woman are one. A man and a woman and a bruise are one.
KING: THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING...
KING: THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING...
V. The gift and sudden price were intertwined. I could not decide between the first press of bruise, or the sting as you pulled away. VI. In the throes of a pelvic exam panic attack, all I could mutter to the trim brown eyebrow, was, “It was consensual.” VII. What is the color of the blood that sifts beneath the skin? The bruise, instead, is unapologetic, matted grey, and thickly spread. VIII. Nightly we had not-so-lightly battered one another’s necks as ruffled swans. IX. When the bruises faded, a pale nothing marked the skin for your mouth to carve.
KING: THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING...
X. Lymphomas and countertops can cause bruises but are decidedly less cut with the loving selfishness of licked warm teeth. XI. The same rose bruise would be darkly blue, a velvet curtain, if draped over someoneâ€™s eye, hung by fury in a twilight bar. XII. The bruises climbed the stairs. They stung joyfully. XIII. Every kiss buried the secret argument. You were poised to crack open a something. I wanted whatever you left to bruise over the bruise.
ADAM GUNDERSHEIMER, UNTITLED
Fish Tacos Nick Chrastil I think we were all being crushed in one way or another by what we thought of as our unrealized greatness (except for Yaz, who didn’t concern herself with those sorts of things), and I think that when we took our shots, and when Stevie’s forehead hit the bar, and when Forest started slowly moving his hand up the back of the Virginia Woolf scholar’s shirt, and the way that she was drinking cranberry juice instead of whiskey, how she was helping out her pregnant sister for a month but didn’t seem too happy about it, and how I said, Talk about a fucking truism after Forest said something, I think all of that had a lot to do with something else that none of us could quite reach, something like trying to ward off hunger by eating air. When we left the bar it was still light out. There was a truck outside that said Grease Monkey Oil Removal and it was pumping the grease out of the fried chicken place next to the bar. The grease had gotten all mixed up in the air and it was like we were on a different planet, and I thought maybe it was the sort of planet that Yaz came from, where things were slower. But then I thought that was probably the opposite of where she was from, that she was probably from somewhere where the air was tight, so that it stung the outside of your skin if you stood still for too long. Then I thought again and thought that she was probably actually from somewhere altogether different, somewhere that I could never imagine, and so I stopped thinking about it. *** Nine in the morning in a hotel room in Washington D.C., Forest drank whiskey and watched the Virginia Woolf Scholar sleep. He thought he saw some smoke coming out of one of her ears. Too many cigarettes, he
CHRASTIL: FISH TACOS
CHRASTIL: FISH TACOS
thought. It must be what she’s dreaming, he thought, or maybe reject dreams being exiled out of her head. He looked at the smoke and took out his notebook. He thought he saw (he saw) a subway car filled with people who were on the verge of tears. They were all wet and the car was cold, no one was talking to each other. It must have been raining outside, thought Forest. There was one middle aged Latino man, his face covered in rain (not sweat or tears, Forest thought), in a dark red shirt. Forest looked at him (what was he looking at?) and thought he must have lost it all. Forest wrote it down in his notebook. Then he thought, no, maybe he has it all. Maybe only half the people were on the verge of tears and the others were feeling regret for making the others cry. Forest went down to the hotel restaurant. They were serving breakfast, and a few people sat around eating eggs and toast. Forest went to the bar and ordered a beer. The hotel had a nostalgic feel to it. Forest couldn’t remember if he had liked the aesthetic when he booked the room. He didn’t now—he hated it. He imagine himself seated on the hard dirt ground near a lake with pine needles mixed in with the dirt, but it wasn’t right, like putting on the wrong song, so he imagined being in space. He hated it. He closed his eyes and took a drink of his beer. When he opened them he felt a little better. He looked around the restaurant and noticed that everyone was being quiet enough. There was no music on. There are no kids, at least, he thought. No families. It would have given him pleasure to punch anyone between the ages of eight and fifteen in the face, but one boy in particular, red-faced and pulling at his fathers sleeve. *** The next morning I went to the bike shop to try and get my bike fixed. When I got back to the apartment some of the family from the first floor was outside. The fire hydrant was spraying water, and the kids were run-
CHRASTIL: FISH TACOS
ning through it like a sprinkler and shooting each other with water guns. I was holding the phone to my ear talking to my mom about my ingrown toenail or when I was going to come home to visit, and with the other hand I was trying to ward off water gun fire. One of the kids’ fathers, always with headphones in his ears, said to me, as his daughter rode through the fire hydrant on her tricycle, You know the answer to the riddle yet? And I told my mom to hang on a second, but she couldn’t hear me. He told me the riddle the night before, when I got home from the bar and he was sitting on his chair on the stairs, smoking a cigarette with headphones in and drinking out of a styrofoam cup. Maybe he was a little drunk, or maybe he just wanted to talk because living in a small apartment with all those kids and his mom too it can be hard to have a real conversation. The riddle he told was this: What came before God, is greater than God, poor people have it, rich people don’t need it, and if you eat it you will die? Don’t google it, he told me, and then he repeated himself, in case I didn’t remember all the pieces, and maybe I didn’t. I headed in the door of the building and got hit with the spray from a water gun. Hold on one second, I told my mom, but she still didn’t hear me. Just hold on I yelled into the phone. I got hit again with water, but it was hot out and I didn’t care. Nothing, yelled the girl’s dad. You get it? *** Yaz was definitely from the past, or the future, from a different planet, where she was almost definitely either a slave who had been mistaken for a princess, or a queen acting as a peasant, or something altogether different, I can’t be sure what exactly it was. ***
CHRASTIL: FISH TACOS
The first time we got off the train was at Union Square because Stevie thought she was going to be sick. She leaned over the garbage can and spit a few times, but that was all. We got back on the train and when we woke up we were twelve stops past our stop. We got off. It was two-thirty in the morning and raining. We sat on the bench and waited for the next train. Before she fell asleep again Stevie kept muttering things like “New Lots… what the fuck ’append…took the train all the way to fucking Canarsie.” I walked up and down the platform to stay awake and make sure we didn’t miss another train. I sat back down next to Stevie on the platform. A couple of girls, they looked about twelve years old, came up the stairs onto the platform. I couldn’t figure out what they were doing there. Stevie lifted her head up from my lap and looked at the girls. Fucking adorable, she said. Same age as my brother. We went back to her apartment because her roommate was gone. I made myself a salami sandwich and she smoked a cigarette. Then I lay down on the futon and she sat there. She said she wanted to smoke some weed and asked if I was falling asleep. I told her I was, but she kept talking to me. I don’t know if she rolled a joint. I think she did. When I woke up in the morning she was there laying next to me. I wondered how she got there, or why she was still there. *** I sat at the bar drinking a can of beer and watching Shaw play some guy in a vest. When he missed a shot and it was the other guy’s turn Shaw would lean on his cue and get my attention. Then from across the table he would mouth to me: “Nick. I’m fucked up.” He had these weird murky eyes, like a blind man. Maybe they only got that way when he was drunk, I thought, or maybe slowly, as he got older. Shaw lost and went outside to smoke. I
CHRASTIL: FISH TACOS
played the guy in the vest, and I lost somehow. I don’t know what happened. I hit the eight ball in the wrong pocket. When I got outside Shaw was sitting on a fire hydrant talking to someone. Victor, he told me, but some people call me Victoria. You know what I call him? Shaw asked. What? He leaned his head back and looked at the sky and said Bioooooootch. I looked at Victor. That doesn’t bother you? I’ve known that biotch since before he fuckin’ had a name, said Shaw. I was in his kitchen eatin’ cereal when his mom brought him home from the hospital. With his left hand he held an imaginary bowl of cereal and started shoveling it into his mouth with his right. He kept doing it for a while, like he forgot what he was doing, or thought he was actually back in the kitchen waiting for Victor to get home. u
MALLIKA VORA , DANNY SWEEPING
VORA: DANNY SWEEPING
staring contest with an elephant Katie Cho an elephant (what elephant?)
stares deep into her eyes le regard and Sartre claps from another room above him hangs a feather, suspended between two drafts of air unruffled everyone praises Newton here and his first law of motion: an object at rest stays at rest the elephantâ€™s not moving but neither am i
CHO: STARING CONTEST WITH AN ELEPHANT
OLAYA BARR, UNTITLED
Contributors’ Notes Allison Arkush is a sophomore in Gallatin focusing on visual arts, ranging from photography to sculpture to painting to jewelry making with a few other media thrown in. She plans to minor in creative writing and was born and raised in lovely Los Angeles. Aziza Barnes is a sophomore in Tisch School of the Arts, in the Playwrights Horizons Studio. She is the self-declared tenth member of Wu-Tang, wears bollo ties, and re-reads The Velveteen Rabbit when in need of guidance. She is nineteen, and this is her first story to be published. Olaya Barr thinks people are, like, the weirdest things ever…so that’s why she photographs them and writes about them. Courtney Bush is from Gulfport, Mississippi. She studies Romance languages at NYU and likes to make poems. Katie Cho is a senior in the College of Arts and Science. She likes to write more than she likes to draw, and she loves to eat more than she likes to write. One day, she plans on raising Shiba Inus for a living and writing children’s books. Nick Chrastil is from Minneapolis. He has two older sisters whom he looks up to and are generally interesting and loving, which is true of his parents and extended family as well. He likes to do pottery and he works for a mobile wood-fired pizza place (the oven is on a trailer). Jade Conlee is a sophomore piano performance major. She enjoys almost everything, but some examples would include opera and poetry of the twentieth century, museum going, pensive strolls in the countryside, and fine cheeses. 90
Charlie Corbett was born in Barrington, Illinois. He studies English and American literature in the College of Arts and Sciences. This is his first publication. Peter Enzinna is an English major with a creative writing minor in the class of 2013. His appearance in this publication is the first notable event of his college career. He has a lot going on. Sean Fay hails from the great state of Maine and is currently a freshman in Gallatin. In his free time he enjoys serenading his suite mates and playing with his cat, Rocky. Mia Gerardi is a freshman. Although she explored (and fell in love with) all mediums of art two years ago, it wasn’t long before she realized her true passion was painting...finger painting. In the long run she hopes to pursue a major in politics so she can one day work for a nonprofit agency abroad to satisfy her second passion, human justices. Perhaps these two passions will one day go hand in hand. Adam Gundersheimer, class of 2012, is a filmmaker, cinematographer and artist. He fell into filmmaking through his love for photography and light. Adam’s favorite things are his cat and pizza. Kurt Havens is in the Metropolitan Studies program. “Can’t Hardly Wait [Demo Version]” is his favorite summer Replacements song; “Skyway” is his favorite winter Replacements song. He wants to split a box of Three Cheese Bagel Bites with you. Laura Hetzel is a sophomore in Gallatin where she studies the intersection of visual art and language. She works mostly in black and white film and ink on paper. She has been known to spit a slam poem from time to time. She often dreams in American Sign Language.
Patrick Jaojoco is a junior College of Arts and Science transfer student hailing from San Francisco. Although majoring in English literature and environmental studies, he has been dabbling in digital and film photography ever since he inherited his first SLR camera from his father, a retired professional photographer. Patrick is interested in exploring the relationship between the individual, society, and the environment as portrayed through the arts. Omar Khan is a sophomore at the Stern School of Business studying marketing and finance with a deep passion for photography and writing. He is a second generation Pakistani-Canadian who grew in northern Maine, hockey stick in hand. He draws much of his inspiration from Jack Kerouac, WH Auden, Albert Camus, and Wayne Gretzky. The title of his photograph comes from a passage in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, “Winter Dreams.” Rhett King is a second-year junior in the College of Arts and Science. Two of her essays were published in Mercer Street 2010-2011. Joe Masco is a sophomore studying English and history in the College of Arts and Science. This is his first publication, and he’s happy to be included in this year’s edition of West 10th. Michelle Ling grew up between the cities of Austin and Shanghai. Her work centers around people: their presence and place in the context of their culture, attitudes, exchanges and geographies. The patterns found in much of her work represent these characters and take the place of words. Katrina Pallop is a drama student, among other things. Her photographs have been published by The 2River View, CALYX Journal, and OVS Magazine; her first full-length play, Breakers, premiered at Stage Left Studio this past fall. You can also find her on Thought Catalogue and etsy (of course).
Beau Peregoy is currently in his second year at the College of Arts and Science. He was born and raised in Wisconsin. Beau is a member of the NYU crew team and often draws inspiration from water and movement, accordingly. Dylan Sites is studying photography at Tisch. He enjoys working with emerging technologies and getting lost. He lives in Brooklyn. Eric Stiefel is a freshman in the College of Arts and Science studying comparative literature. His favorite books are Among the Missing by Dan Chaon and The End of the West by Michael Dickman. Mallika Vora is a junior in the Tisch department of Photography & Imaging. Visit her website at www.mallikavora.com. Haley Weiss is a freshman in the Tisch Department of Photography & Imaging. She has recently been focusing on photographing landscapes and the often-unnoticed oddities in everyday spaces. Rosetta Young is a senior in Gallatin, studying English literature, German language and creative writing. Her work has been previously published in the Gallatin Review and Hanging Loose Magazine.
OMAR KHAN, DULL LOVELY SHADES OF PINK AND GOLD
KHAN: DULL LOVELY SHADES OF PINK AND GOLD
Masthead Editor in Chief Phillip Polefrone Managing Editor Laura Stephenson Poetry Editors Lucas Gerber Eric Kim Assistant Poetry Editors Maya Lowy Maeve Nolan Lauren Roberts Anna Russell
Community Board Zonia Ali Sarah Buchanan Samuel Hernandez Kristine Swartz Stela Xhiku Executive Editors Matthew Rohrer Darin Strauss Staff Advisor Joanna Yas
Prose Editors Brittany Allen Lauren Kuhn Assistant Prose Editors Zonia Ali Conor Burnett Michelle Chen
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, E. L. Doctorow, Jonathan Safran Foer, Yusef Komunyakaa, 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, Ny 10011 Copyright: All rights revert to the author upon publication. Reprints must be authorized by the author. Designed by sam potts & erin schell Cover art: Mia Gerardi Copyright 2012 West 10th The Literary Journal of New York University’s Undergraduate Creative Writing Program ISSN: 1941-4374 Printed in The United States
Courtney Bush Katie Cho Jade Conlee Charlie Corbett Kurt Havens Rhett King Joe Masco Beau Peregoy Eric Stiefel
Allison Arkush Olaya Barr Sean Fay Mia Gerardi Adam Gundersheimer Laura Hetzel Patrick Jaojoco Omar Khan Michelle Ling Katrina Pallop Dylan Sites Mallika Vora Haley Weiss
Prose Aziza Barnes Nick Chrastil Peter Enzinna Justine Poustchi Rosetta Young
Guest Contributor Michael Dickman
Interview Meghan Oâ€™Rourke
New York University undergrad literary magazine.