The Big Windows Review is a publication of the Writing Center at Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor, MI, USA. We publish poems and short (500 words or less) prose. For this issue, design and photographs by Tom Zimmerman. The works herein have been chosen for their literary and artistic merit and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Washtenaw Community College, its Board of Trustees, its administration, or its faculty, staff, or students. Copyright ÂŠ 2017 the individual authors and artists.
The Big Windows Review Website thebigwindowsreview.wordpress.com Email email@example.com Editor Tom Zimmerman Assistant Editors Meera Martin Simon Mermelstein Erica Morris Elizabeth Shillington
The Big Windows Review Issue 9 | Fall 2017 Contents Michelle Brooks Yuan Changming Michael Chin Salvatore Difalco Jen Escher Carol Hamilton Gail Hosking Seth Jani Stephen Mead Bob Meszaros Daniel Edward Moore Dan Nielsen Sergio Ortiz Margaret Potts Charles Rammelkamp Arushi Singh David Spicer Aden Thomas Contributors
Vacation Bible School American Dream Anagrammed Spread Manhattan Wayfaring Morning, Green Tea, the Efforts Wasson at Mid-afternoon Transmigration Blues Menthol Mrs. Matilda May Fishers of Men Beryl and Ned Live in a Tiny House The Problem with Traveling Happiness Men The Last Breath Elegy to a Poet Whose Entire Oeuvre I've Read Since His Death Hunchback
4 5 6 8 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 20 22 23 24 27 28 30 31
Michelle Brooks Vacation Bible School Before the puppet show, Melissa and I split a stolen Valium. As the children gathered, a dreamy feeling descended on the eighth grade me, benevolence for all I saw -- the cheap hand puppets, a mouse and giraffe who became Jonah and the whale. I put my mouse into the mouth of Melissa’s giraffe while God waited for Jonah to get himself right. He’d run from Ninevah only to suffer. Brother Buddy complimented us on our performance, telling me that longsuffering was my fruit of the spirit. I didn’t sound good, even medicated against harm and boredom. I didn’t know then that you didn’t have to be swallowed whole, that you could swallow the whale and not know you were trapped by what was inside you.
Yuan Changming American Dream Anagrammed yuan changming : a canny nigh mug listen : silent â€“ this is the introduction:: donald trump : old damp runt make America great again: i am a[n] egg mania caretaker [or] a cage earmarking tea america first: a racer misfit As freedom turns into a dorm fee Democracy to a car comedy, and Human rights to harming huts A ram cairned me In a crammed era [where] Cameramen raid A dire cameraman [or] Arid cameramen [Becoming] A creamed airman [or] A carmine dream A minced ram ear [a] maniac rearmed
Michael Chin Spread When the Knicks lost to the Bulls, but only by two, my old man clapped his hands. Vinnie and I looked at him, wondering if this were one of those times he was being antagonistic for the sport of it, or if he’d misread the score. But he tipped his tallboy back, leaning back in his La-Z-Boy, and explained the spread—that when you bet, it wasn’t about wins and losses so much. No one would bet on the Knicks to beat the Bulls, but to come within six points? That was the point spread they needed to cover. Vinnie said he’d bet on the Knicks. Just the same, Vinnie’d bring up the point spread logic, talking Cara Joyner and the homecoming dance sophomore year. I invoked the easy sports metaphor first. “You’re not in her league.” He argued no two people were equally attractive—equally good looking or funny or smart. “There’s a spread.” But Vinnie didn’t beat the spread for Cara. Wouldn’t beat it with Valerie or Jenny either. Had to rethink the whole thing. My mom and pop split up about that time. Because he was betting too much. Because of a lot of things. Mom said the gambling was representative of all the reasons she had to go, of the way my father thought. I watched them split their things. Mom got the practical pieces. The cookware, the couch, the Encyclopedia Britannicas. The house. Dad, he got the baseball cards, the big TV from the living room. 6
Iâ€™d stay with Mom most of the time, but got split between the two of them, spending time with Dad across weekends, and certain weeknights. Spread thin. And Vinnie changed around his theory. That my old man covered the spread for a time, but the margin of difference grew larger and larger until he couldnâ€™t anymore. Until he lost his bet. I lived in that margin.
Salvatore Difalco Manhattan 6 am: adjacent man in bad wig snaps like a slug. He’s too ugly for us, skin like canvas, an ancient egg his skull. He eschews the relic airs of the neighbour, Mr. Dust, rabble of the hood, age-spots his calling card. Folks, this is no new found land, wearing out its greenhorns—decrepit rules even in its shiny zones of tony brands. Nothing would survive the flat, expired robes he wears for breakfast in his musty nook, rotting man, no smile to spare, so toothless. He wears earplugs for myopia, plays phone tag with his God in a red psychedelic sweater. I’m just saying, nothing like Manhattan in the morning, even when you’re rotting, even when you don’t know that you’re dead.
Jen Escher Wayfaring These flip-flops cost me $7.99 at Aldi’s, the Whole Foods for broke folks, where I shopped that summer I wasn’t contributing. Farming for fennel then burning it up in a slick of generic olive oil. These embossed, beige soles have felt the soft red soil of Rocky Ford, Georgia where I paced and smoked and cried and draft dodged because I’m a liberal witch who drinks Dad’s friends under the bar to make him proud. They have marched and slapped through backlot truck stops in Bemidji, Minnesota where I screamed myself mute, and the isolation of going straight to voicemail provided self-reliance. They have skipped over the broken asphalt and petroleum rainbow puddle pools in Chattanooga, Tennessee where Mom laughed tears to the notion of us walking away from the action flick explosion caused by my discarded cigarette butt. They have shuffled quite anonymously through the infinity mirror hallways of half a dozen hotels from Knoxville to Milwaukee where night sweats, love, and guilt 10
are collected every morning and soaked in bleach for a false sense of purity. They have clopped through ethnic restaurants -vintage, thrift, coffee, and record shops. Tapped the ball of my foot from barstool heights, and been tossed aside for backyard fire nights, or pretzel-leg sits or beach wave crashes, tomato sauce lessons or rash sex sessions. Vâ€™s are branded into the tops of both feet from cold beer on the balcony sun burns which are fading away like the length of the days.
Carol Hamilton Morning, Green Tea, the Efforts The quiet places hide in the space where important papers gather. They are drawn, as I, to that spot of sunlight on maple floorboards, the space all around the mobile only touched with bright blue, magenta, green, orange, yellow. It is not the lifting but the dropping things off into forever that is hard. But there you go, flutter up in spring warmth like the wakened monarchs of Michoacรกn, you with important documents gripped tight in imminent approach to the grim-faced immigration officer. But I don't have to cross borders. I can sit here in a pool of light until the sun is high at last
and all the fists open, the silenced voices speak, and I am ready.
Gail Hosking Wasson at Mid-afternoon On the front porch swing you could see dust flying from an old Ford truck headed your way so you stare and stare for one large minute because you are lonely, so lonely you might melt into one of those tractor tires filled with marigolds. You might run away with one of the wandering mutts hungry for your grandmother’s slop bucket she left in the barn. No fans. No bathtub. Nothing sweet or cold. Who could stand it? Not you singing the top ten buzzing on the radio from far off St. Louis. Not your sisters down at Kenny Miller’s to use his phone as you grow dizzy and dizzier from the heat. Not a friend in sight. Not an invitation to count. Not even a river to wade through. Just miles of cornfields, the sound of your grandfather’s demands for another cup of coffee. As the truck passes in a dirty cloud and the temperature rises, your powder blue culottes and seersucker blouse grow wet. A pregnant cat comes to the stairs. It was like this: sometimes you disappear and not a soul knows. Long before you have a right to imagine so, you want to leave this earth, leave it now before anyone notices.
Seth Jani Transmigration Blues Donâ€™t forget me Because the moon Is the radium Of a split orange And I too, am one Unraveled light. Coming out of love, Or going in, We fall asleep In the fragments Of fireflies. Their wings drift Over us like snow From the Carpathians, From ranges that donâ€™t exist, Dream tectonics. And whoever you are, I feel the ribbon Of many lives holding us Against the wheel. As stars are born, Collapse, and transform Into ghosts, I think many indescribable days Have passed between us. So many that even the soul Loses count in its index Of obsessions. 15
Stephen Mead Menthol White car, white curtain & snow is falling past the white sill, its chipped paint, these misted panesâ€Ś Should your ghost show up now wrapped in veils & smelling of the weather, the scentless ether fog & as still as the parked white car whose headlights are wolfâ€™s eyes yet on the prowl, then it shall be just another scene written in blank script, the sound on mute, but for one flake & the next, that gown hush, & both of us swallowed, Director, take note, by the next exhaled drag.
Bob Meszaros Mrs. Matilda May 1869 -
Here, among the pockmarked tombstones of the poor, below the sycamore that drapes its ancient limbs across the graveyard sky, (its thin bark peeling like old skin, day after day, month after month, year after year) the dirt laneâ€™s wide enough for just one car. Born in eighteen sixty-nine, the absence of a final date keeps her mystery alive. Childless? Forgotten? An old woman dying in the house alone? Are her ashes mingling with the ashes of some other man, or were they caught by a gentle wind and carried throughout the world, without end? Here, where the sycamore bends and twists its mottled limbs into the sky, above the neatly chiseled letters of her name, before the heartwood rots, I carve her initials in the living tree. No need that death be writ in stone.
Daniel Edward Moore Fishers of Men I will not cast a line, not anymore, not when regardless of where it lands I’m still bent on a bridge at dawn waiting for my failures to jump. I’m the LED bulb on the fluffer’s face making his tackle box shine, the last inch spinning off the rod’s hot reel, the farthest distance from feel. Now do you see how lies take me down like a fish belly up on the river below? The brighter the sun, the bigger the bottle. Yes, he’s a fisher of men, and yes, violence is hunger with a hook, and porn technology’s axe in the ice on the frozen sea of me. I am a bucket flopping with men, a study in gasping for air. Someone throw me back quick.
Dan Nielsen Beryl and Ned Live in a Tiny House Beryl was a famous flautist. Ned was an unemployed florist. They met on Absurd Criteria, a dating site that matched partners based on how similar their professions sounded. Beryl, still in bed, sneezed for the fifth time in less than three seconds. “I’ll get it, honey.” Ned, arranging imaginary flowers in his mind, made his way to the pull-down bathroom with the medicine cabinet just slightly larger than the generic Dimetapp it contained. Beryl sneezed again, this time so loudly it nearly ruptured her eardrums. She’d worn protective plugs earlier, but previous sneezes dislodged them completely. Beryl needed her ears to hear. She was first flute with the altcowgirl/retro-trance dance band Ten Gallon Pyramid-Shaped Hats. But Beryl’s real passion was The Charismatics, a Christian improv group that took its sketch suggestions directly from God. “Here.” Ned handed the medicine to his wife. “Thank you, my love.” Beryl tool a swallow and made a face. “What is it, darling?” Ned stroked his beard in what appeared to be a thoughtful manner, but it was merely a nervous habit. “The generic isn’t as good.” Beryl took another swallow, and, to prove her point, made the same face again. Ned read the label. “The ingredients are identical, sweetheart.” “I didn’t say it isn’t as effective.” Beryl quibbled. Ned changed the subject. “Honey, you’re not wearing socks.” He saw her pink toes sticking out from beneath the blanket. “Your feet must be freezing.” Without getting up, Beryl opened the top drawer of their dresser. The room was the size of a walk-in closet. It was the largest room in their Tiny House. The kitchen was a regular sized closet. Beryl’s music room and the place where The Charismatics practiced was a space under the sink. The drawer had a divider. One side was her socks and the other side was his. Beryl chose a fuzzy pair of his. 20
“Honey?” “What!” “Nothing.” Ned didn’t care about the socks. Tomorrow was Beryl’s birthday. He’d hidden a package of hot-pink pipe cleaners in his side of the drawer. He ordered them directly from the factory in Formosa. They weren’t even pipe cleaners. They were chenille stems. “Now the inside of my skin itches.” Beryl didn’t bother scratching. Ned looked at his phone. “That could be liver disease, cancer, a thyroid condition, celiac disease, kidney failure, anemia, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, shingles, or pinched nerve.” Beryl patted Ned’s arm. “Baby, it’s just a side effect of the generic you bought.” Some people think there aren’t enough hours in the day. There are, in fact, too many.
Sergio Ortiz The Problem with Traveling Every time I'm at an airport, I think I should change my life. Behave according to my numbers, set fire to disorder & crawl below the radar like a Pitbull ― digging a hole under the fence. I’d be woven up to my neck, beautiful beyond purchase, trusting the creator, fixing my problems with prayers & property. I’d think of you, at home with the dog, a field full of purple buds― we are small & defective, but I want to be who I am, going where I want to go all over again.
Margaret Potts Happiness I could, I really could, I say. I could sit down while you re-paint the porch and sip coffee until I die today. Because the caffeine in the morning and because the morning in your smile. Because it took me such a long while to be, here, sitting on a porch with you, rooted. Is this how it feels to be a tree among trees? A vine of ivy draped across similar vines? Community: when I complain that I do all the talking and you toss me a scowl. Because you speak through deeds, and me, incessant vocabulary made verbal. Does the ivy not climb? See: one tree, desiring sun, shooting past another unforgivingly. Isnâ€™t the Earth complex? A solitary, living planet spinning in a cosmic mess, and yet â€” brothers with Pluto. And you, and me, and we. Respecting boundaries, are able to co-exist: together and separate.
Charles Rammelkamp Men I admit, I always had to bite my tongue when I walked past the elementary school at the corner of Beech and Berry, no cars in sight save for the lone yellow schoolbus beached at the curb like the carapace of some prehistoric sea turtle, and Caroline, tricked out in her neon lime crossing-guard safety vest, told me it was “safe” to cross the street, granting me permission, on my way to the post office. Who did she think she was, Cerberus? But I knew who she was, the jilted middleaged wife of that cad Brent Alford who’d dumped her for a younger woman, leaving her with a shitty alimony and a kid with serious disabilities. Caroline, formerly a housewife, needed this job to supplement her income, and even if she drove me up a wall, my heart went out to her every time I saw her standing at the crosswalk, holding the snotty hand of some little kid who needed to get on the schoolbus. We lived in the same neighborhood, had known each other for years. There’d been rumors that her son-in-law, Ray Lawson, had lost his temper and slugged her on more than one occasion. Ray married Brent and Caroline’s daughter Elizabeth, and for a year, before they moved to Tennessee, they’d lived under the same roof with Caroline. Caroline had sported a shiner for a while, but she’d claimed she’d “fallen down,” even though the neighbors had called the police when the shouting and sound of breaking furniture had gotten out of hand. So on this day, ambling down Beech in a stylized manner that looks rehearsed, if not choreographed, comes a young guy in a wifebeater, cigarette tucked behind his ear, a long greasy curl of hair shading the filter. Pimp-shuffleskip … pimp-shuffle-skip…I’m behind him about fifteen paces on my way to the post office. Wifebeater steps off the curb without looking around, lost in his head. Pimpshuffle-skip. Caroline blows her whistle, bleats, “Wait a minute!” In her uniform of faux authority (I always think of it as a “costume”) – baggy navy trousers with a wide blue stripe down the legs, a shiny badge that looks like it came out of a cereal box, 24
a cap with a stiff plastic bill – she looks more “bureaucratic” than “powerful” or “intimidating.” Startled, Wifebeater stumbles at the curb, loses the rhythm of his pimpshuffle-skip. “The fuck?” he shouts, glaring at Caroline. “Who the fuck are you, granny? Mind your own fuckin’ business, you old fuck!” And then he resumes his dance across the street, no cars in sight. Pimp-shuffle-skip … pimp-shuffle-skip. Caroline looks offended, then kind of crumples. She looks around. Nobody but me. Sure, I’m a retired old guy but not decrepit, and besides, I don’t need to do anything physical to come to her defense. Maybe a stern word of warning? But I don’t do anything. I try looking sympathetic, but I only feel like yet another man who has failed her.
Arushi Singh The Last Breath in the lungs the smoke rolls itself into itself calls itself a room a man escapes it looks like the gasp of the little child stuck to the end of your gun he escapes in a run don’t be afraid call yourself a patriot and they won’t wound you with reality remember to step into the mind of your gun it bleeds dry to bleed dry my darling what life would that light and the lungs hold the room like the sun holds the moon you hear the last man escape break into another run remember to whisper as he passes the most beautiful part of the skin is where it’s wounded
David Spicer Elegy to a Poet Whose Entire Oeuvre I've Read Since His Death Thomas Lux, 1946-2017
Over four hundred poems in three months— books, magazines, a few broadsides. Funny, I didn’t read your work when you graced the world with poems, one of which had insulted my own poetic hero by calling him a dumb fucker for shooting himself three times. Others employed hackneyed tricks learned at a midwestern Mecca that scores of genius writers flock to like sheep nibbling the ambitious corn. I forgot your poems existed, ignored them like an arrogant fool. Then, when you died, I asked myself what I had missed. Too much: surreal bodies of water, mischievous boys fishing, arcane facts about cows and lichen, trees that shined like jewels, a brilliant heart. Dead poet, I’m sorry I snubbed your poems like so many peppermint jawbreakers bad for teeth. My loss. 28
I missed too many gems in the necklace, but now I thank you for those rivers of diamonds that will flow forever.
Aden Thomas Hunchback Teased for silence inside of silences, he never raised his hand. He slumped when walking under moonlight. He noticed details others lost. Roots grew under sidewalks and lifted the concrete. Ants appeared then disappeared in the cracks between the spaces. It happened--the smallest of things. While others talked and pointed, he saw the intricacies of interactions of the tiny, more than roots and insects, but those of people, who carried with them a gravity inescapable, the beginning of a crack smaller than sound, unheard at midnight, growing by the hour, something only a bell-ringer hears. It was the narrow beating of their hearts, a spiderâ€™s sorrow crawling through their veins, weaving a single tiny thread. 30
Contributors Michelle Brooks has published a collection of poetry, Make Yourself Small (Backwaters Press), and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy (Storylandia Press). A native Texan, she has spent much of her adult life in Detroit, her favorite city. Yuan Changming, nine-time Pushcart and one-time Best of Net nominee, published monographs on translation before moving out of China. Currently, Yuan edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver; credits include Best of Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Threepenny Review, and more than 1300 others. Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York, and is an alum of Oregon State’s MFA Program. He won the Bayou Magazine’s Jim Knudsen Editor’s Prize for fiction and has published work in journals including The Normal School and Bellevue Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter @miketchin. Salvatore (Sam) Difalco lives in Toronto. His work has appeared in print and online. Jen Escher is an adjunct English professor and a writer of memoir, poetry, and thinly-veiled memoir touted as fiction. She lives in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin (in a quickly emptying nest) where she cheerfully writes about the dark, dense, and complicated human magic that is love, sex, and self-destruction. Carol Hamilton has recent publications in Paper Street, Common Ground, Louisiana Review, Pontiac Review, Sanskrit, Louisiana Literature, Off the Coast, and others. She has published 17 books, most recently, SUCH DEATHS. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma and has been nominated seven times for a Pushcart Prize. Gail Hosking is the author of the memoir Snake's Daughter: The Roads in and out of War (University of Iowa Press) and the poetry chapbook The Tug (Finishing Line Press). Her essays and poems have been anthologized several times and appeared in such places as Camera Obscura, 100 Word Stories, Upstreet, Elipsis, Post Road, and Consequence Magazine. She holds an MFA from Bennington College. Two recent essays were considered "most notable" in Best American Essays of 2014, 2015. Seth Jani currently resides in Seattle, WA, and is the founder of Seven CirclePress (www.sevencirclepress.com). His own work has been published widely in such places as The Chiron Review, El Portal, The Hamilton Stone Review, Hawai`i Pacific Review,
VAYAVYA, Gingerbread House, Gravel, and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. More about him and his work can be found at www.sethjani.com. A resident of NY, Stephen Mead is a published outsider artist, writer, maker of short-collage films and sound-collage downloads. In 2014, he began a webpage to gather links of his poetry being published in such zines as Great Works, Unlikely Stories, Quill & Parchment, etc., in one place: Poetry on the Line, Stephen Mead. Bob Meszaros taught English at Hamden High School in Hamden, Connecticut, for thirtytwo years. He retired from high school teaching in June of 1999. During the 70s and 80s his poems appeared in a number of literary journals, such as En Passant and Voices International. In the year 2000, he began teaching part time at Quinnipiac University, and he began once again to submit his work for publication. His poems have subsequently appeared in The Connecticut Review, Main Street Rag, Red Wheelbarrow, Tar River Poetry, Concho River Review, and many other literary journals. Daniel Edward Mooreâ€™s poems have been published in journals such as The Spoon River Poetry Review, Rattle, Columbia Journal, and others. He lives in Washington on Whidbey Island. His recent book, Confessions of a Pentecostal Buddhist, can be found on Amazon. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Visit Daniel at Danieledwardmoore.com. Dan Nielsen plays solo ping pong, which is like Tai Chi, but fun. His flash manuscript Flavored Water was a semi-finalist in the Rose Metal Press 2017 SHORT SHORT CHAPBOOK CONTEST. Recent work in: Birdâ€™s Thumb, Minor Literature[s], Cheap Pop, Random Sample, Spelk, and The Dirty Pool. Dan has a website: Preponderous, and you can follow him on Twitter @DanNielsenFIVES Sergio A. Ortiz is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in FRIGG, Tipton Poetry Journal, Drunk Monkeys, and Bitterzeot Magazine. Ortiz is currently working on his first full-length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard. He lives in devasted Puerto Rico. Margaret Potts graduated from DePaul University, Chicago, with a degree in Philosophy and French. She's published poetry with After Hours, a Chicago literary journal, and won 2nd place in the South Dakota State Poetry Society's annual contest. She currently lives in Oakland, California, where she works with at-risk youth.
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, where he lives, and edits The Potomac, an online literary journalâ€” http://thepotomacjournal.com. His latest book is a collection of dramatic monologues called American Zeitgeist, published by Apprentice House, which also published his collection Mata Hari: Eye of the Day. A passionate writer and literature enthusiast, Arushi Singh has been experimenting with free style poetry for a few years. She is from Delhi, India, and is currently studying literature Mount Carmel College, Bangalore. She has had her poetry published in magazines like Page and Spine, Literary Yard, One Sentence Poems, Fourth and Sycamore, and others, and her first poetry collection, Deviant: The Obscenity of Truth, is now out on Amazon. David Spicer has had poems in Chiron Review, Poppy Road Review, Mocking Heart Review, Alcatraz, Gargoyle, The Drunken Llama, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. He is the author of Everybody Has a Story and four chapbooks, and is the former editor of raccoon, Outlaw, and Ion Books. Aden Thomas grew up on the high plains of central Wyoming. His work has appeared in The Blue Mountain Review and The Inflectionist Review. More of his work can be found at: www.adenthomas.com.
Brooks Changming Chin Difalco Escher Hamilton Hosking Jani Mead Meszaros Moore Nielsen Ortiz Potts Rammelkamp Singh Spicer Thomas The Big Windows Review Issue 9 Fall 2017 Washtenaw Community College Ann Arbor MI USA
The literary magazine of the Writing Center at Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.