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Pea River Journal

Volume 2 Fall 2013

Trish Bodiford Harris, Founding Editor

all uncredited images: Trish Harris intertext: John Keats, from a letter to the George Keatses, March 19, 1819 The Pea River Journal is published once a year by the I Describe It Trustees at P. O. Box 7061, Dothan, AL 36301. Volume 2, Fall 2013. For submission guidelines and other inquiries, please visit


CREATIVE NONFICTION Timothy Kenny. FOLIO Rita Patel. POETRY Jeffrey Aler.! Greg Brown. Lauren Camp. Cindy Anderson. Jonathan Callies. Valentina Cano. Tobi Cogswell. Rob Daniels. Ab Davis. Cheryl Dumesnil. Laura Esckelson. John Grey. Mary-Kaylor Hanger. Mark Jackley. Steve Klepetar. Al Maginnes. Ricki Mandeville. Louis Maraj. Nicci Mechler.

Suzanne McWhorter. Ken Meisel. Corey Mesler. Michael Miller. Anthony Butts. Rodney Nelson. Jose Padua. Ken Pobo. John G. Rodwan, Jr. April Salzano. Tiffany Tavela. Caitlin Thomson. Sara Walton. Eric Webb.! Heather Hallberg Yanda. PHOTOGRAPHS Christopher Woods. Sam Mills. SHORT FICTION Matthew Dexter. Ed Hunt. Matthew Kabik. Bradford Philen. Robyn Ryle. CONTRIBUTORS



Just eight months ago, we released a little animal, Pea Rivers rst issue, into the wild. It was wounded and healed, loved and discarded, fullled and yearning. Lost. And found. And here is its companion: stories of people who might be confused or deluded but emerge tempered and, as it sometimes goes, wiser. Images like literal layers of perception. More than 70 poems. It is not an easy read, but then again easy is not what we promised. You write it as you read it, remember the details as your own, see the houses and cars and porch lights and tail lights and know we are both waiting for you and already gone.



Timothy Kenny

Buying Time
A serial killer hunted down women and killed them beginning in the fall of 1968 in Ann Arbor and neighboring Ypsilanti. John Norman Collins murdered a friend of mine named Alice Kalom in June of the following year. The FBI came to talk to us about Alice, asking who were her friends and did she know anyone with a motorcycle? Police said the goodlooking Collins may have offered her a ride on his bike. Alices naked body was dumped in a eld off Territorial Road and Michigan Route 23; she had been stabbed twice in the chest and raped and shot once in the head. She was 23 years old, a University of Michigan graduate student with a Christmas birthday. The FBI interview came months after Collins stalked my girlfriend and me on his motorcycle one fall evening as we walked down Geddes Avenue on the edge of the Michigan campus. At least I believe it was Collins; I can never be certain. A four-foot wrought-iron fence ran along the sidewalk to our left; a sharp wind slapped a chain methodically against a metal agpole across the street. A motorcyclist rode past up Geddes as we walked toward an entrance to the arboretum, his helmet visor pulled across his face. It was clearly a man, bulky in cold-weather clothing, not especially tall. He glanced over at us, walking hand in hand. A driveway entrance into the arb opened up half a block ahead and I thought wed turn around there and head back down Geddes and go over to Oxford House where my girlfriend lived. The motorcyclist pulled onto the apron of the driveway, his bike pointed toward the arboretum, his left foot on the ground. He looked over his shoulder at us, staring for long seconds as we walked toward him. I stopped and looked at him. Something wasnt right. Lets head back down, I said. We turned around and began to walk downhill. I heard the metallic click 13

of a motorcycle stepped into rst gear and the motors low hum as the bike moved slowly down the sidewalk. I thought at rst that riding on the sidewalk made sense, that it was simply an easy way to get back to the street. I heard the bike coming closer. My body twitched with adrenaline; I scanned the ground for a fallen tree limb or a rock, something I could use as a weapon. The motorcycle was still behind us and I could hear it moving slightly faster, picking up speed as the rider dropped the bike into second gear. I couldnt tell how close it was when he veered sharply across the strip of grass on our left between the sidewalk and curb. He was soon several yards away, heading down Geddes. The rider glanced back at us after he passed, the bike moving quickly as he disappeared downhill. That was it. Nothing had happened. A motorcyclist had stared at us, perhaps in a threatening way, and followed us for a short time, then rode off. We never saw him again. Collins is believed to have killed nine young women from 1967 to 1969, but the number could be as high as fteen. For months it did not occur to me that he might have been the motorcyclist who had followed us. Now I think its likely. Now I think we disrupted what could have been a nasty outcome, perhaps with a turn of our heads, a shift in body language, a glance in the right direction. Somehow we had bought time. This happens to all of us. We drive through a red light into an intersection and nearly collide with another car but emerge unscathed; we pause before stepping off a curb, avoiding the bus that ies past, a foot away. I was touring the Mashal Institute of Higher Education in Kabul in May 2010 when my guide suddenly stepped through a large open window that ran down to the oor and onto scaffolding constructed along the outside of the building. I followed directly behind as he walked briskly on wooden planks supported by a rising network of iron pipes. Four or ve others in the tour came after me, single le. We were three stories in the air. There was no net under the scaffolding or other safety precautions that I could see. This was Afghanistan. The three-planked scaffolding gave way around the edge of the building to two planks and nally to one lone board that was open to the air, straddling a gap of about six feet between the scaffolding and a brick balcony in an older part of the building.


Our guide, a man in his twenties, apparently used this shortcut often during the construction project. He crossed the lone plank in two steps and waited on the balcony, smiling. Bricks, boards and other construction rubble cluttered the ground below. I paused for a second, sensing the danger in a misstep. I almost stopped but knew I would over think my options if I did and so kept walking, following him across, as did the man immediately behind me. A third man, middle-aged and thin, was wearing black leather dress shoes. I stood near the end of the board that sat at on the balconys edge. I felt his brief hesitation rather than saw it just before he moved onto the plank. His foot slid on the rst step, just enough to force his shoulders forward for an instant. I thought he would fall three stories into the detritus of an Afghan construction site and I stuck my arm out, even though he was too far away to reach. He did not fall. He found his balance, took one more step onto the plank and landed safely, grabbing my forearm as he walked onto the balcony, his face ushed crimson with fear and relief. We looked at each other but said nothing; both of us knew. He had bought time. We tend to think little about these moments. They slip quietly between the cracks of our ordinary, time-keeping days. We shrug them off, as if what had happened was unimportant, a simple misstep. When I spent a few days in Sarajevo in 1992 covering the war there, I was shot at several times, usually while driving down Vojvode Putnika, the four-lane boulevard better known as Sniper Alley. I tried to be as careful as possible, but realized there was often little I could do once I left the relative safety of the Holiday Inn. And if there was nothing I could do it made little sense to be frightened. I was either going to get hurt or I was not, a simple equation that dictated life in a city without rules. During the year I lived in Kosovo in the early 2000s I often walked a street full of shops in Pristina that sold things people did not seem to buy much, like the bell-shaped white felt hats that only old men wore, called a plis. Along this street one day a young woman pulled the pin on a hand grenade and threatened a man she knew who was sitting in a nearby car. News reports said later she was angry over a property dispute, but the gossip in my ofce said it was a lovers quarrel, that the woman was pregnant and the man was her boyfriend and that she ew into a rage because he refused to marry her. Either report is possible; both could just as easily be wrong. It was hard to determine the facts of things in Kosovo, but people I knew seemed to think the lovers quarrel caused the attack. 15

If a Kosovar did not own a weapon in 2002 when I was there it was because he did not want one. Hand grenades were the weapon of choice for settling personal disputes. After the conict against Serbia ended in 1999 Kosovo was a storage bin for the small arms of war; guns and grenades were cheap and easy to nd. A young man I worked with said he could get me a grenade for $2. Its easy, he told me. I can buy one at lunch time. He may have been bragging, but I dont think he was lying. The woman who may or may not have been pregnant apparently found the hand grenade under the front seat of her lovers car. Rumor said he was a former member of the Kosova Liberation Army. She was not a KLA member, however, and was unfamiliar with handling weapons of war. When she pulled the pin and threw the hand grenade it bounced off the car and rolled backwards, settling at her feet, where it exploded. She was, of course, badly hurt; three people in the car and a bystander were lightly wounded, according to news reports. The front windows of nearby shops were blown out. I often rode home on a crowded bus that ran down the same street. Typically I would step off early, near the place where the grenade explosion occurred, anxious to walk the remaining half-mile to my house. But not that day; that day I stayed on the bus until it dropped me near the bottom of my hill. I was safely home when the grenade went off and heard nothing. And nothing happened to me when black marketeers rolled a grenade under a car parked just over a block from our Pristina ofce. In a pub called the Kukri across from UN Headquarters in Pristina one night I met a British soldier. It was June of 2002. He and a colleague dismantled landmines they found along the trails in Germia Park just outside the city; occasionally they climbed into trees to pull down cluster bombs left dangling from NATOs 1999 Kosovo air war against Serbia. I told him how Id gotten turned around on the trails during a recent hike in the park. After I found my way back to the main path I stumbled onto a sign urging hikers to avoid the area Id just walked through. Yeah, thats our sign, the Brit said. Stay off any paths but the main ones. He asked if I knew what a landmine looks like. I said I knew what some looked like but had never found one buried with the intention of exploding. Be careful up there, he added. Not much shows on a buried landmine, you know. Soldiers say it is the inexplicable randomness of combat violence thats most disturbing. People turn left and an IED explodes and a leg is lost; 16

someone bends down to adjust equipment and the sizzle of a bullet passes through the space occupied by his head moments ago. We dont buy time in the same ways. Sometimes its purchased wholesale; at others, its more like a time-share arrangement. When I was three years old my Aunt Maxine saved me from falling into the swollen spring waters of a creek that ran through Bloomer State Park in Rochester, Michigan. Family legend says she grabbed me at the last moment and stopped my headlong rush toward the running water, skinning her knees badly. My son was playing near the end of an escalator when he was not quite three, running his small hand across the last metal step just before it tucked into the bottom and disappeared. I sat on a bench a few feet away, watching him, when a man next to me asked sharply, Hey, is that your kid? I said it was and he said, Well you better get over there. He could get his ngers ripped off by that thing. He was right, of course. I was ashamed of myself and shaken for not recognizing the obvious danger and thanked him repeatedly. When I was six I ran around the corner of a house in my neighborhood and fell fully onto the pointed end of a picket that was part of a low, white fence surrounding juniper bushes. My left eye ground to mush. Dickie Haines held my arm and steered me down Lincoln Avenue to our house just around the corner. My older brother Johnny ran ahead to the Connellys house where my mother was talking with a neighbor. I recall crying and saying repeatedly, Dickie I cant see. The accident changed the way I see the world but could have been far worse. I feel fortunate it was not. It seems I have always been lucky, buying time over and over. Not everyone can.




Rita Patel

Framing the Book

In January 2012, I worked on a sketchbook that went on tour in 2012 as part of the Sketchbook Project. This piece of conceptual art explores the idea of framing. How we frame an idea colors what we actually see and how others words, thoughts, ideas and feelings is another layer of inuence on that framing. We do not always know what we do not know and in knowing just that I believe is stepping into awareness of self, of others and of the world we live in. It allows for acceptance and growth essential for our overall health and wellbeing.

















In color, at the Sketchbook Project:



Jeffrey Aler

Motor City Christmas Eve

The late sun that threads the dusk-lit city yellows the face of a rising moon. A rescue mission van trundles down Dix and Dragoon where the Norfolk Southern railyard has gone the quiet of a tideless sea. As the van reaches city center, a mission worker steps out, hunches her shoulders and burrows into her thick coat. The twilight streets are near vacant. She searches for a legless man who rolls his wheelchair over the ice-stung pavement, on past the few still-lit windows and on down to frail-bone winter trees in Cadillac Square. Shes come to know him as a sparrow falling homeless through the eye of God. Gusted from out behind Shelby Street, papers glide above her on the breadth of air as she turns into the blade edge of wind. The lights of loading docks shade to dark in the depth of the alleys. The days last remaining shoppers pass each other by, like those whose friendships have cooled. The legless man thought he heard his name shouted-out, looks behind him, then upward at the sky, as if it were a lost, distant country of wide, unfailing streets.


Thursday Morning at Norms in Lomita

A woman Id never seen smiled at me from where she sat in a booth with two workmen eating breakfast. Her rings sounded an uncertain trumpet shiny stones that could catch the eyes of the ravens circling camphor trees outside. The hostess touched my arm, said Ill sit you over here, in the booth by the window. From her smiles, I knew that every face before her was a regular from down the street. I myself could recognize no one. Spanish voices sang their Latin over the speakers. Old patrons, bent or huddled by habit, a few heads bowed to prayer, hung like long and failed attempts to absolve the past. Men sat with women once beautiful, tempered now to middle-age years, salt dancing across their plates and on their lips, the red anointing of ketchup or Cholula. The waitress relled my coffee, thinned and heated my sweetened mix, darkening the cup like eyes.


Angelinas Flower Shop on February 14th

The low sun spreads itself over the barred windows and deadbolts of Anaheim Street, corners yielding depth to the new light. Through her storefront glass, the profusion of Angelinas blossoms entreats passersby, a spectrum of petals ung outward like lights from a carnival carousel. Praise her stucco and brick, the plain concrete oor, praise all forms of simple, the wind-worn calls of shorebirds, their notes tolling in a minor key overhead where Angelina sets the dressed torsos of mannequins on the sidewalk out front. Areglos de Flores is misspelled on the marquis, but this street has forgiveness built in, its sweaty air emanating through the timeless rhythms of machinists, merchants and tired ancianas who come to Angelinas with desiccated tales of wild poppies they brought to aged fathers in a vanished Mexico. Angelina knows bouquets are chosen late each year on this day. Her bright greetings meet the jingle of the opening door, a smile for every halting word, blessings for each footfall that exits homeward, every rose holding fast to red.



Inheriting the Earth on Avenue F

The squinting eyes of wanderers on the streets look like creases in maps, or just decades of harsh news as they pass bars that hold all the regressive darkness of Hoppers rooms Pats Place where the barmaid will ask if house whiskey is okay or do you want something better, just a couple hours after youve shared a coffee with those wanderers this early Thursday, nding you love most their sadness, the slipping in and out of the world, each time returning a little less of themselves, regulars who must get their Marlboros or Kools at Fernandos Liquor where the aged owner rubs the well-earned pain screaming in his shoulder, one more pained alleluia of survival, the Palos Verdes hills ascending through laments of soft gray light, the wind in its cold purity driving sea fog shoreward, the labor of high contrails passing overhead always someone going home, and your new love who tells you each day that you are her very heart, is on your front steps now, shielding her eyes against the wild morning light.


Claiming November Sundays

I dismiss the front door behind me and step into midday. Streetlights slumber above fallen magnolia leaves even wind makes no regard for, as bougainvillea oods the dull spectrum of a house whose aking shutters speak an urban dialect of desertion, its wooden garage door a relic as obsolete as the tv antenna toppled above it. Another house, for rent forever, fronts a bay window that keeps company with voided space. Further downhill, in the neighborhoods smallest house, an old man persuades no one but himself that his singing is worth an audience beyond his doorways. At a bend in a long sweep of pavement marked by the castoff tiara of some Halloween princess, I scale a street that ows uphill toward a fabled coast, rest on a bench Id thought ornamental as it exes in rot beneath me, my pulse outpacing church bells that pound a hymn to the hour. When I rise and start homeward, I enter a seam of desire lines, foot-cut through groundcover, pass a pickup game of hoops that relives for at least one man a playoff game lost to a buzzer decades ago, my feet stumbling over an ancient tree root that shoulders the sidewalk up like a truth buried too long.


Greg Brown

Child of the Southwest, red dirt in your blood, you leave home and drive over highways which haunt the railroads, themselves ghosts of rivers, following rain. Grown among scrub oak and prickly pear, deep rooted and lean, something in you moves as water moves, seeking level, seeking the sea. From the high plains you descend into mountains, cross borders and climb down further, into the delta, where trees crowd out the sky, where water hangs in midday air like smoke. As a child in the Southwest, burying treasures in creekbottom mud, reading and making maps, you learned the secret of water, how it moves all together, constantly in contact. You called your creek a river, and your father scoffed, knowing what a river was, and was not. Your dry trace, despite the heron, was no river, barely a stream, but you knew that the West Winter


Creek joined the East, joined the Washita, owed into Texhoma on the Red, and from there made part of the Mississippi. Maroon capillary to the mud-brown main artery, your water too

Sought the world ocean. Something in you woke to waters motion, longed to cast itself away, a bottled message, knowing only to ow from known to unknown, following rain.


Middle-Class Blues
I have been plumbing with my brother, all morning, from darkness until now, lunchtime, and all I want is food and clean hands--the last call was a stopped-up toilet-but I'm standing here in the diner's bathroom and this tall, old, skinny man in a nice suit is stufng paper towels down his pants and standing in the way of the sinks, and I wait, not really looking at him in that public bathroom fashion, so I don't realize right off that he's giving himself a bath. In the diner. With his clothes on, with handsoap and paper towels he's taking a bath, in a suit that is old-fashioned, I see now, and shiny at the elbows, knees, hem of the coat, and he's not really looking at me but wears an odd expression like puzzlement and pleasure in an unstable ratio. My brother pushes past him, startles him, and he says sorry, sorry, and then I wash. We go and eat. I eat and don't think of him, go back to work and if I think of him I am unkind. I fear him. In the mess of paper towels that lie scattered on every public restroom oor is his asscrack, pubes, and whatever errors brought him there: his crazy is contagious, I think, but


what I really don't want to catch is his luck, whatever the grace of God has spared me from, hasn't spared him and it wakes me up, this bastard's fate from the wonderful mattress we bought on credit and grips my heart in icy ngers while through the screens I see my safe and healthy children play in a mortgaged yard.


Mississippi State Highway Eight

Late Monday night and we're driving down to Delta State for a poetry reading where the crowd will chant poet, poet in love with words and in love with sounds, even the barkeep Will come to the edge of the bar, hands down, the towel over the tap to listen. A person will appear like car lights in fog, travel through the lane to the microphone. But we aren't there yet. Parchman Prison, Peter says, pointing. Three miles away you can see the lights and there the signs begin, emergency stopping only. Houses still appear sporadically out of the darkness, and I wonder what it is like to live in that blaze and shadow, searchlights every day of the year; I wonder out loud Whether everyone here keeps a gun beside the bed, and Peter says, mostly just the guards live around here. The prison makes prisoners of everyone, because I know I would keep a gun, because I know if I could escape, through the ats and sloughs and lights, dogs and sirens possibly already, I would do anything to never go back. Out along the delta, where a distant eld burns clear of brush and cottonstalks, the windbreaks mingle with the motion of the car across the ocher smear,


These wooded lines drawn not to stanch erosion, but to carve up the territory of the eyethese trees keep vision from stretching farther than the heart can stand.


Unnatural Disasters
It's not the the snakes under every other step that will get you in the north Alabama woods. Worry instead that some clear night a breeze might lay a pine down across your tent. A widowmaker is a dead limb hung high overhead, and the Sipsey is a wilderness of widowmakers, man made. " " Something's going to fall

on us, people. Southern pine beetle is our fault and has turned forests into vaults of dead and dying pines standing in ten story columns, shot through and rotten. North along the Appalachians, whole mountains are blasted apart and forgotten. Gas elds fracked, tapwater on re. The world frays at the edges, an erosion we're too driven around to notice. The windshield's a TV: just another screen. We don't seem to learn. We've got carp in the rivers and tarballs on the beach. It's too much to say the earth creaks under our weight, but the part we're on, it seems too small. Ash borer and chestnut blight, little extinctions we have just gotten used to. An eruption of oil is no act of god, and the sin is ours


whenever we twist a key, fork or switch. I'm wearing clothes made by machine, so I've fed the beast, felt its vomit rise in return, its bile pours from the Louisiana seaoor.


Lauren Camp

Church Street
He ried through photos of Poland and children at stages and haircuts. Twenty years of catching up on house color and new bathroom cabinets. Tall crosses in doorways. Were these here when I lived here? I remember the valiant language of trains at rare and round hours, my street-sited white room, the rst time I approached grief in this city. How each morning I stood at a corner surrounded by honest adulthood, beside my laundry in baskets, next door to the meat shop. Took the train through a map on the wall. No matter where I looked, there was always sky gristle and veins of grafti on unnished alleys. And now, Im lit by this mans wide smile, unwavering. When I moved two blocks over to a room caption-colored and lighter than seaweed, I looked from the bay window toward steeples and the temptation to stop. I cant recall ever being languid. As the fog rolled on, I mumbled to forks and took out my pencil, moved east eyes open, eyes closed.


Kachina auction, tone mutation, tangled juniper roots in the back yard: the continuous nettle of repose. That year I peeled away from collapse so silently no one knew which layer was fastened down. I watched a clock without time. Each hour, days passed. I sacriced reading myself aloud. Squinted through a bottle of pills, turned my pages in the dark. I offered halves and doubles to simple questions: my life in fractions, two sides of truth. I lied then moved in for a closer view. When the sheriff came to the door I was tallying large circles of smoke, rehearsing a short song of pauses. So loyal to my breaches and infractions, I hardly heard the interruption. A red-light week. I wore a green robe. My wet hair threaded across my scalp in black lines. Hope was sick in a chair beside me. My shadow was the exhibit, the hypotenuse of desire and anger. What was in me what ravage, pulp, what sticky language? The pion-scented public servant stood in the rough weather of our kitchen as wind ared and spit, as I sat silent, knees locked together. In a specialized study of trauma, there are no shortcuts. Descanso, gypsum, arroyo, saffron sky at sunset: all the same. A perpetual calendar. The mans words pulled like oars, sweeping through me. I dont know how he did it. How he secured me, lifted me out.


Visit to Iraq
She will not know why she sits by the water turning wide brown eyes to heavy blossoms of light why she watches the salty runoff of the dijla that runs with tamarind pods wrung from the sky or why she loves the long-handled musk-pulse of language robing the streets What if she stays here a place chiseled from traces and fragrance where she shook out her heart



Cindy Anderson

The Sky Turned Yellow

The sky turned yellow the day it began. The cattails were waving in the eld, and Mother was in the house cooking a beef roast, with carrots and potatoes and gravy, and Father was working in the hardware store, where he spent most of his time catering to the summer people who spent a lot of money when they were around, and I was in the backyard watching my brother and sister ride their bicycles. Most days were ordinary -Mother read us the Bible every day, before we went to school, and Grandma Ivah made sure we said the Lord's Prayer every night, before we went to sleep, and we gathered at Auntie Nona Greens house for dinner every Sunday after church. There were 14 of us cousins and we rode our bicycles to each others houses every day, making sure to look both ways before we crossed the big street. On sunny days, Mother packed a lunch of bologna sandwiches slathered with butter and catsup, 55

and potato chips (the good old-fashioned greasy kind)and we went to Lake Michigan with the cousins, and Shelli and I spent our days lying in the warm sand, pulling up blades of grass, and talking, as girls do, and listening to the sounds of waves lapping on shore, and the long call of the herring gulls, swooping overhead, waiting for us to toss a chip their way. But one day, that day, when the cattails waved in the eld, And mother was cooking pot roast, And father was working in the hardware store, And I was watching my brother and sister, The bike came racing out of nowhere And then my brother was lying on the ground And there was a tire mark on his head And he was crying And she was smiling And the sky had turned yellow.


Jonathan Callies

Kendal, 1957
God was surely around in 1957, hidden in corpses Which were mistaken for small bundles of clothes. At the very least he was prophesized to be By a trembling priest. Dene portent: The terrible gaze of 100 criminals? The substandard maintenance of brake equipment? An all day excursion to Montego Bay? The newspapers read: The Worst Rail Disaster in Jamaicas History, Which augurs translated roughly to: Local Parish Provokes Gods Wrath. The bodies on the railway lay destitute, Looted, while a man in a black duster Scattered myrrh hoping to diminish The smell of rotting esh.


The Last Prayer of an Atheist

As the bed warms the last parts of me, Makes me comfortable for the last time, I turn to Wallace Stevens, who, with mind On orange orchards and summer morning Orgies, questions the transiency of God: What is divinity if it can come Only in silent shadows and in dreams? And my bed appears to me now as overgrown Weeds dressing a sepulcher, and I nd This analogy cozy since dust returns to dust And even silent shadows must have a body To return to, and even though I rarely dream I can still imagine home as a place of comfort.


Hortus Conclusus
Although much has already died, The garden still lives. Its tendrils, trapped no longer, Untangle toward Persephone, That cold, voiceless daughter Of Earth and pomegranates Who has long forgotten such Small anatomies of embrace. And wafting across that bloated River, Charon nally sees The viridescent grass Off his dreary coast. Paradise, too, comes to the dead.



Valentina Cano

Childhood Encounter
She could see the boy hed been, hair in cobwebs, feet continuously wet. She could see his eyes used to be lighter than they were now, stones lit from the inside. Coal learning its worth.



Tobi Cogswell

The Color of Forgiveness

The shade of blue on his tattoo was the amethyst of bruises and missed directions, of billowing factories, sump pumps and lunchpails, and the river, soiled and lovely. The amethyst of pounded knuckles four days later wrapped in ice, so blue it turns white, color that has witnessed its share of events in a city turned bad but still beautiful, in the way that Old Jim, shufing and clumsy, buys one rose on Sundays to take to his wife, her eyes greyed-over with age and tired, to see her smile, in her jewel-toned sweater, the color that always made him happy to know he was coming back from a back-breaking day, the color of midnight guiding him home.


Expanse of Solitary
I went back again at sunrise, watched the blush creep across the valley. It got colder rst, then warm, my hands dulled with nature no steaming mug from any diner could soothe. Where snow paints mountains I can name but do not travel to, the plains bisected by one road, its yellow line the brightest color in this prism of desert but for the odd cottonwoods lining a cutbank - boundary indicators of earthly explorers. The occasional small white ower, more weed than bloom, traces steps to nowhere. This land of street signs without streets, graves of desiccated cars, wrecked and torn, no way to tell how or when or why they came to sit on land, rusting axles and shredded steel that used to be red, now ox-blood and desert baked. At sunrise, defeated buildings stand posthumous and white against new light, there is no sound, numbness gives way to the need to run for visible life, to escape this dead beauty captured only by photographs and silence.


West of the moon, she prepares for night. Her pale beauty hangs opalescent in the light like a discarded wedding dress hanging in a thrift shop window, the clean glass pierced by headlights of strangers waiting for the red light to release them. Her night, where all men are judged by touch, not sight. Skies burn with stars, her nameless presence, her preference ... A geography lesson in patience and greed, she traces maps of cornelds and highways on her lovers backs, softly gives sends them on the road to wander forward, not back. An evening of unanswered elegance, this she prefers to the bold day, when eyes look into eyes, the connection of the heart before the dance begins. The scent of her once she is gone, more remote than graves and changed by stillness, even lack of echo. She dresses quietly, like a held breath, lonely as a pin pulled from a grenade and three times as deadly. Unspoken speech says mercy, lover, go back from where you came. It is not my place to leave, but it could be yours. He wakes to relief and sadness, passes that very same thrift shop window as he goes home to his life, the dress now drooped with more stories to never be told in the rising light.


What We Dont Know About Jonah

Each morning Jonah packs templates and paints in thoughtful order in the bed of his grandfathers old truck, a daily memory of tough but loving He drives at slow pace through neighborhoods where curbs were bruised by swollen waters and roughened sticks, house numbers no longer visible, not even in the broadest brush of sun. For 10, 15, maybe 20 dollars he will paint a numbered masterpiece on the naked curb for residents who forget his name the second they close the door, turning back to lovers or laundry, whatever people do in mid-day when theyre at home. Jonah is an excellent draftsman. Born to be outdoors, he had learned a skill to serve him well, turning in the 4x6 cards lled with alphabets and numbers each Friday at school. Hed practiced his lettering week after week, the concentration blocking out his parents shouting in the kitchen, his little sister playing dolls by his feet to keep her from toddling into the war zone. Nothing as satisfying as a daily routine: ip through the mail, unload pockets of crumpled bills and order them in the same careful way he packs his paints, grab a $20, put his brushes to soak and head on down to Wileys place, a beer always waiting, a woman always curious and loving his paint


splattered clothes, a real artist to make her feel beautiful after an ordinary day, to go outside with her, watch the neighbors lights coming on in the windows.


Summer-Laden City
A captive of inertia, she cant even move a hand through syrupy air, weather humid enough to soak sheets at night. A man walks with her, eyes blue as amulets, with artists hands, and the heavy black frames of artists glasses. He cups her cheek in his palm, turns her face to his, wipes a tear with his wide thumb and tastes it. An ambulance urgently splits the air, vibrations almost visible in the apricot heat of sunset. They cringe into Tuesday, seek the sting that lives just beneath.



Rob Daniels

Hands dialing phones, praying for a connection to Dan. Hands folding cardboard lidspackaging foreclosed lives from Come stay with us, uncles to What do you need? step- mothers. Hands removing wedding rings, and taking up smoking. Hands, red tipped to match her hold- it- together mouth- making money music on metronome typewritersnever asking, never receiving helping hand promotions. Waving good bye to children hands, as they grow smaller down halls, called by hands, beckoning them to universities and the navy. Hands that wring and pinch themselves, and hold back tears. Hands to give sink baths to grand- children, mistaking freckles for mud smudges. Hands reading picture books, building with blocks, holding my hand, conducting me across the street like needle- point pillow cases or family histories written in the back of our leather- bound Bible. Hands, folded. The doctor said her smoking had a hand with her emphysema. Slight of hand to distract us from her dying lungs. Hands folded in her lap, silently praying for a family circle of hands giving thanks. Hands, like deated Styrofoam balloons- white string wrists. Hands that grow cold. Hands that never again have to cover her cough.


Ab Davis

Homeless Man Found On the Railroad Tracks With a Bible and a Beer
Sing a rabbit further on down the road. I forget, how does this go? The white tail explodes threads through the trees. Gone. Lickity split. A dogs panting tongue at sunrise the pink river laps the shore. Now the little kids come by the busloads. Snakes laugh by the baked trails invisible. How was that? And here under a railroad bridge colder than a well diggers wallet. Someone will take a photograph of my old feet in my old shoes. Paths of slate, Eocene pages, how old is this walk? My mica skin every molecule peeled, replaced , reshufed, my Skip to My Lou lost. I have written the address for the American Atheists. I have taken note, Homeless man found on the railroad tracks


with a Bible and a beer. A drop in the bucket. Dear Lord. Never mind. Ill just wait in line, wait my turn. Ill know when like Tonto I can put my head on the rails, know when the next commuter train is coming. I will want to sing songs on the way home.


Cheryl Dumesnil

Love Song for the Drag Queen at Little Orphan Andys

Your painted-on eyebrows arched like a bridge toward starlight, your make-up an artistry Id never dare hope to match, especially in that two a.m. diner, raccoon-eyed by a break up, stubbing my cigarette on the Saint Pauli Girls breasts in the soot-black tin ashtray on the scarred Formica tabletop. Two steps away from a cliff-dive into despair when you sauntered over to take my order and said, Girl, your hairId have to pay four hundred dollars for a wig like that. Your eyelashes butteried when I looked upWhat can I get for you, hon? and something shimmered on my horizon like a streetcar approaching ahead of schedule, headlights tunneling toward me through fog.


Its not the Holy Spirit

letting up out of an oil-slicked puddle between the tracks on 9th Avenue, that manic, feathered ashing toward the N Judahs windshield. Its only a rock dove, tail fan splayed, pewter wings spread wide, reversing direction mid-air. But tell me, what better prayer than this: the near miss, the heart shocked awake, that bird rising over soot-drenched buildings, gated doors.


When Theres No Money Left

None for killing the termites lunching on the rot-thinned barn siding, none for painting the weather-eaten porch, or righting the rain gutter that sags like a half-paralyzed mouth, say it again: We are lucky to have a house. Under Job Skills, list: balloon animals, roller disco, alchemy of opposing truths. Under Personal References, write: After the night of a thousand lightning strikes, ask the rst bird who calls out for dawn.



Colossal Failure of Human Design, We Celebrate the Hundredth Year of Your Death
What no god could sink sunk, and so we trace our ngers along the ligree of your demise, imagine Wallace Hartleys eight musicians dragging notes out of their instruments, like soldiers begging their dying comrades to breathe. And the band played on, not because of some contract loyalty or ethic of bravery, but because they knew the only way to enter death is as the cellos body reverberating the bows nal stroke.


Still Life, Ocean Beach

Ring-billed gulls pick at the leather " of twin dead seals, chipping ivory " " skeletons out of esh-rot, sculpture emerging from stone: jaw line, " ribcage, an intricacy of n bones " " looking too much like human feet. Fog holds the death stench close. " Up ahead, a silhouette of a woman " " toeing yellow foam left behind by the retracting tide. She could be " surf shing, except she holds nothing " " but a tremble in her hands. Forenger pressed to her closed lips " like shes forgotten something " " and cant decide if she wants to go back. Paint-spattered " work jacket, salt-crusted " " knuckles, black hair hanging like kelp fronds slick with water " or grief. Neck craned downward, " " she studies the sand as if those ground up bits of shell could " spell out an answer, or even the right " " question, in a language she might know.


Laura Esckelson

Yesterday, grass crackled underfoot, now green rises like an elderly musician revived by the songs of his youth, connected again to the light. Is hope in our nature encoded, a way for sts to open? What rainfall could do that for us, reluctant to let go of the known.


on his last, best day

the hollows in the felled ash made way for wind buoyed birds on the song of empty, long cradled in the eggshell of unbecoming. unhusked, the trunk crawled with what had been hidden, enough for the unnested to feast.


John Grey

Death of a Blues Singer

There's many a day when the music dies. That's its charm. Six feet below on a Wednesday in July but by ten o' clock at night, I'm in the club again, sweat to sweat with strangers. But, earlier than that, I icked on the radio and a pop song played, hardly a match for her blues and yet, a whiff of Polyhymnia for all that. Just like a Harlequin romance is Dickens with a lobotomy. It's still the printed word, still a way of breaking open pages and weeping no more for Hemingway or O'Hara or even Tennessee Williams. And the graveyards feast on dead voices. Tombstones can't wait to hold a good tune down. Look at those lush green cemetery slopes and low slung willows. Maybe they want the heart-song for themselves. Could be they're jealous that a woman with guitar sings huskily into a microphone while men like me celebrate the beauty of our mutual pain. The act ends with two encores. What's hummed on the way home soon settles for sleep and dreams. And the newspaper merely prints the bare-bones of a farewell. Who knew she had a drug habit? Who cared that her sister tried to wake her but she didn't respond? The music dies like owers die. So the next time can begin, the next rose ride up on the soil and air. The booming bass is her. The caterwauling karaoke singer is her. That golden oldie on the radio is her. She could die ten thousand times and a singing dog would still be her. It's three a.m. I leave the club. Wet streets. Full moon, the wailing kind.



Mary-Kaylor Hanger

How to see Monets Agapanthus, Museum of Modern Art

Start in the top left corner, full bloom lavender bud. Move diagonally down to the thrush, where the whiskered petals fray. See the sea in the emerald grasses; smell the salt of the coast, the brine of morning. Conjure a seacaptains view of the shore. Listen to the sway of the eld. Pretend it is the lapping of waves. Feel it in the ribs. Feel it scratch the skin. In the center, where grasses are not parallel cyclone into their own greening blossoms. Do not lose control. Do not notice, until the very last, maroon soil, the earths crust. Imagine it is everywhere beneath this agapanthus. Imagine it is damp, abuzz.


Letter to a Fifteen-Year-Old Self

Let the sting of saltwater be. Do not make it metaphor for scrape or burn, do not make its pulse your pain. Let it be its own guttural rough and when it leaves you, dont think of it as your mother leaving, her son just like her. Dont you dare think it wants to go. You will try to cauterize the sea but youll failit will bleed open and sting you again. Let it. Let its salt settle in your raw and tired feet.


Bedtime Story
The boy reads Beatrix Potter though he is far too old. His small sister follows Peter Rabbit, meets the eastern meadowlarks too. When she asks about this bird, the song of this goldenbreasted friend, the boy whistles one low, mournful note. The boy turns to the next page, the one where they follow Peters travels to the swale by the riverbed, and watch the osprey as it stands sentry, waiting for prey. Peter Rabbit witnesses the death of a sh.


Sam Mills Fast Car


Mark Jackley

I pledge allegiance to the ag of my own existence and to the absurdity for which it stands, especially February days as dark, inscrutable as the ock of starlings I watched this afternoon suddenly split in two and form a perfect pair of angel wings that did, I swear, ascend over the Cowboy Church three or four asphalt miles past Warrenton, Virginia, whose sad marquee spoke in missing letters, reminding me of careless dentistry and human suffering everywhere, though it gladdened my heart somehow to know I didn't know the secrets of this world. I pledge allegiance to the numbness that gives birth to spring, to faith that's holding fast or unravels stitch by stitch, to one nation under clouds, divisible as the soul, with liberty and the justice of bird poop for all.



Steve Klepetar

A New Dream
In winter moonlight I awake to a new dream ooding my eyes with mist and wool. Somewhere a church bell chimes. I havent been out of the house for three days, and of course its snowing now and I nd wolf tracks on the snowmobile trail. I follow to the frozen lake, shining, a pearl inside a ring of dark woods where shadows sprint for perilous underbrush.



Al Maginnes

Spinning We Turn Into Songs

If I could bypass sleep and drive for 36 hours, I could, legs still vibrating from the ride, stand in that other ocean, the one Ive never touched, the one friends on that coast write rhapsodies about. In the same stretch without sleep, I could read hundreds of pages of Emerson, whose soul is so big, his thoughts so endless, they might be an ocean. The life outside your window, the one so slow you need last years calendar or the length of your hair to measure it, whispers that you should change. But change is always more than the few coins, the cost of a bowl of soup, you placed in the curled hand of the man on the corner. You knew he wouldnt waste that money on soup but knew those coins would have more weight in his life than they ever would in yours. Once everything I owned except my record collection would t in a backpack, a few boxes. So it went for years till I needed a car, then a truck, then a rented van to move. I moved those records until I realized Id gone for years without hearing them, the songs carved in their surfaces retreating into the dust and silence they were born from. Once those songs were immortal as the motion of wheels had been for the rambling heroes of my youthKerouac, Ginsberg, nameless actors in a hundred movies about motorcycles and drifters. All silenced now in the great drive forward. Before I knew that any journey arrives at its impulse, all the spinning, the tally of miles becoming, nally, the broken and endless litany of a man on a corner, reaching empty-handed and calling for coins he tucks away like secrets, little passages


not meant to be seen or heard beyond this room. In a restaurant I heard one man tell another that today he would share all he knew about a colleagues ring, a companys collapse. Nothing I needed to know. We have enough information to drown in, books and maps, screens burning to deliver endless les of revelation, yet our greatest joy is born in motion, in spinning we turn into songs because, like us, they go everywhere and are endless.


How Things Break in This World

Because nothing returns to dust entirely, I did not believe the story one writer told around the table that night, about nding the baby teeth his mother had saved and slipping them out of the house. Under a moon the color of bone, he set them on the slick rails of the railroad track and smashed them with his fathers framing hammer. Like dust, he described them. Like gold. And the noise of his anger, his teeth breaking on that makeshift anvil, ringing for miles. But I have learned something of how things break in this world. And I say splinters. Shards. Imperfect angles, like the scraps of broken pottery I scraped from the sand, labeled and led during my summer on an archaeological dig. Fragments. Like the poems pulled from the printer and mailed off again. Not the sudden absence of the tooth, the anger that wants anything broken. The splinter I pulled from my hand. The soft wound closing. The little pain that becomes healing.



Ricki Mandeville

Sitting With Blank Paper at 12:07 A.M.

My metaphors would not be lovely now anyway. If it rained, I would write only it rains. Birds on a wire would not be sleek black knots tied at intervals across the sky. Having lost my skill as a poet, I cannot chronicle my midnights: the purgatory of your company, the crazed china gurine of a wife vague shadows that rise from the corners. I cannot describe the ghostly stain of your face in the mirror, dark rustle of wings from the eaves, the slight salt of starlight in the street, nor, a mile away, a sea drowning the moon. Stripped of my words I cannot explain why I keep remembering the length of your shadow joined to mine by a slant of sun as we walked the hills just last October in a dry yellow rain of leaves.


I Kneel in Dirt
although the clouds threaten to make mud of it by evening. I tear at the earth, gouge holes in the wide owerbed when what I really want is to tear at summer, rip it from the calendar, slash it to shreds like a bad script, delete the scenes in which you are gradually written out of the story which would, of course, change everything. The rst drops land on the back of my neck but I keep digging until the holes are big enough to hold the tangled root balls of potted dahlias and chrysanthemums already blooming in thick clusters of purple and gold. Its too late for bedding plants, much too late for seeds and autumns only weeks away but I think if I dig deep enough, let this rain gentle the bruised roots into their new home they might just make it.


Louis Maraj

When dandelions walk west,

a reluctant moon is the one grey eye of the clouded beast stretching orange limbs across evening skies. Love, leave your headtired but aware in my chests waiting elds. Brimmed cautious, please, dont fear the thundering gruff succession beneath but settle. Listen, realize the way rise and fall of huffs converge, gust along one thick psalm christened at the softened ear of God. Stare above. In holied awe, let my body under you, become brave hands to hold you warm, gloved sound; and feet slight eet and unencumbered. You are safe here, to traverse seamless hours shifting atmosphere, to walk with owers.


How I Knew Id Never Possess Her

When the lake, having iced over, had become the clean ush polychrome of a pastoral meadow, how youd imagine one, Anna accepted our foolish 3am dare and ventured toward it. We, friends, watched her tip-toeing, barefooted, across the white and waited for the sound, the cracking that no one not even my then girlfriend who hated her for how pretty Id said she looked under moonshine wanted to come. Anna though, was unustered, and whether it was the fault of wine, of her constant bogarting of that nights many joints, or her own penchant for self-defeat, her wary approach became a steady walk. Now, she stood where she thought the lakes center was in smiling triumph and then, the angel I dreamt she was, laid her back against the cold, stretched her arms out for wings and slept, pinned under stars and above the still menacing water, until we agreed she was dead.


Suzanne McWhorter

Innite questions follow a look that broke through the aftermath of saturated battles fought waist deep in liqueed loathing awake in the unltered orescent lights that bounce across the imperfect encounters and dirt streaked walls where heads came to rest leaving cracks in the foundation I tried to build upon Your Voice scrapes across every surface slowing time not spent disclosing the proper frequency to decipher the truth wrapped inside the not so secrets of the universe travels toward obscurity hindered by a shifting center of gravity created by scales that dont know the difference between obesity and really trying To Breathe in the particles of patience that oat through the unkempt air passing between sentences that never reach maturity springing from our lips in a suicide dive and one day without thought of consequence I ask you why you love me the room hums in simplicity and you match pitch when you reply someone has to



Ken Meisel

There you are on the bed, curled up, legs crossed languidly like rope sensually braiding itself, reading your book about photography in the 20th Century in the city landscape, the cashmere sweater robed around your body, holding the whiteness of it in, lips red, the soul blood of you, pure as owers, and pearls spilled down into your cleavage making you resemble a concubine out of Manet, one of his models stretched out on a divan, ready for the painting, and heres me, standing over you, my quick instant camera in hand, snapshots while we are young. Your smile, an enterprise of bright light. You think this was years ago. No, it was just last week, and the plum trees were full in bloom, the birds hiding there in pines were out of breath with singing, the street noisy with children riding their bicycles, all the world around us, crazy with spring. Even the neighborhood, so quiet all winter, had come to life again. People, faces pale as turnips, coming out to say hello again, the root tubers of people, men and women stretched alongside open doorways, talking, drinks in hand, cigarettes dangling, laughing, and the Polish man with foreboding in his eyes sitting there on his porch, smoking, talking to himself again about Krakow. About a life there, and a woman planting a garden full of red and white owers. Her eyes wide awake with swallows. You there on the bed, a bouquet nude. The voice of a man, you ask? It is a broken


string full of unbearable literature. This is what he would tell me as I drank there in the dense summer evenings with him. And a woman, you ask, she is a salvation, yes? She is the richness of the upturned earth, her eyes wide awake with sudden swallows. She is your garden, yes? smile on his lips. She is your earthly delight, yes, your how do you say it, pearly everlasting, and you are the light, what she will see of herself, yes? Take pictures of her, he said to me, his eyes mixed and incongruent, foreboding, dark. The dangling arms stretched over legs, blue squiggly numbers inked there on wrists. Eyes the color of coal in outdoor ovens. You are young once, just once, raising the liquor to his opened mouth, sipping it. Me, lighting up another cigarette for him. Take many pictures of her, many, he said. The world is rabid, yes, but it is good, it is always good, and hungry just once, your gut so tense with the hunger of it, and your wife, yes? she is how do you say it, enchanted? yes, she is that word, that, yes.


Nicci Mechler

Roadside Souvenir ! on annual road trips with my father.

I collected marbles made in the mountains of Tennessee, each handful a memory gone missing. Two decades later, I nd them caught up in a drawstring pouch. There must be hours of us, miles of road, trapped in see-through bits. I swallow them one by one; these drops of glass persimmon-smooth against my tongue.


Beauty Tastes Better During a Power Outage in Prospect, KY

Its 2:30 in the morning when the lights blink off. Vents go still, no heat on an ice-hung Friday morningtoo cold for Coyotes children, the elds outside stay quiet. These chambers grow still like my fathers heart, a dusty jar sealed underground. Field mouse curls up inside shredded tea towel, ventricle stuffed full and shaking. There is no black like the black of a farm eld on a moonless night. A screamtwo bedrooms down. No sound so full as silence after.


Propitious Arrangement
" (for Wendy Creekmore, with her rst line.)

Theres a river nearby, its banks lined with braided grass. Sunowers oat past, petals catch on the curve a does wet nose. She leaves nothing but a hoof-print behind, a warning fat grey toad drinks up crushed yellow bits in his belly. I watch him hunker down, want to eat him raw and wriggling, like Coyote would, whole, cool guts sweet and dark and possible.



Corey Mesler

The snail trails in the garden resemble silver thread passing through rocks & leafmold to sew the smock the new peris wear for their coming out.


A Small Simic Afternoon

A small Simic afternoon settled around us. We knitted a caul for such things. You put your arm over my ames. I stood up and watched my head fall forever toward you.


Michael Miller

On summer afternoons here, nothing calms like the red sundown twisted and splayed through glass in the kitchen, the aged wood door left open for air and the clang of screen doors as tag and politics wind down, this street an open house before the locks go on. Here, even the gardener slides in like family, pounds the red dust from his weekday shoes on the mat and bears his battered cup in, his hair combed to hide the bald spot and his speech coaxed from memory about the parched eld back home that could bloom for soccer, yes, bloom for soccer with just enough topsoil and bleachers for the fans on afternoons too hot for tag. With care he slides out the Polaroid of his sister, his sister with the baby pointing over the eld, how parched it is too hard to tell from the Polaroid but his skin, dry and cracked, puts parched in the air. Can his speech fail here, in the kitchen, with parched in the air and so much wetness, the tea glasses sweating and lemons overripe and set to drop on the tree out front? If lemons can drop and wet can overow, then so can coins, spare bills, the last scraps of allowance that clatter in the bends of the cardboard cup, too small now to save up for a car and too small for anything but a parched smile and godblessyou, one more grasp at grace 109

here in this kitchen with the sun splayed red through the chandelier, the tea glasses damp and screen doors clanging, before the locks go on.


Meeting the page under plastic in the family history, the eye centers rst on the rooster, its wings ailed out like a splotch of stray white paint before the grainy-black legs of the men in the second row. For this image, the only one in the album of the second generation on the farm in Texas, they have rounded the household up even the migrant boys, labeled hands in the felt-pen caption, line up wary-eyed between the ones with names. In the bottom right corner, two of them clutch the rooster, the stronger arms around its middle and a slimmer one grasping a foot. When the shutter sounds, this pose will come undone, the rooster winning the battle with the hands and the mens coats hung, sleeves rolled for the mornings tasks. Is this their one shot at preservation, this portrait that tells nothing but who was there and who was not? In the center stands the father,


his granite eyes squinting under parted hair as if deducing whether the camera were a trusted friend. One hand in his pocket, the other holds the Bible, tight against his hip with its title facing out. To his left, the mother regards him sideways; two of the boys glance up at her. The chain starts with God, then the father, on down, each one seeking approval from eyes greater than their own.


Rodney Nelson

whatever the skirr in an oak meant believe the medium it came on keep leaving the town of heretofore to nd a river beyond the wrong take in its January cumber without a slung word or an action be glad to have known the white so well to have left no print around an oak whatever the skirring might have meant keep on to the woods of any time take them in and believe the air however cold and dry it may sound


A Stranger
I see the part of country in gray not white if I am looking at it through my eye of yesterday before the snow came which it did overnight " the open waiting eld and the grove are familiar even though I am not quite here so maybe the eye is anothers and Ive connected to rememberings that are not mine " but I know who and what the people that live in the grove have been to me and wish I could name them and walk up to the ranch house " " maybe nd out why " every cottonwood gets bigger the more diminutive I am and how much more it would take to be here


Jose Padua

Gin and the River

If the river could speak like gin, the greater the ow the more the woods that surround us would sound like stray dogs, the more the water ooding the banks would warm us rather than chill us like a scene in a scary movie. If the river could speak like gin, the closer wed be to Asia, the continent, not the Italian actress, but maybe her, too. Wed be close enough to walk to the Great Wall and then wed walk the Great Wall, gazing out at the hills of northern China and southern Inner Mongolia, walking and gazing until our feet get sore or until someone calls us and tells us its time to come home. If the river could speak like gin wed come to the river more often with juice and tonic and lemons. Wed bring the knife and wed cut the lemons into wedges right there, savoring the sting of lemon juice on our ngers, then licking our ngers and making funny faces that last as long as the wait between the lightning ash and the thunder. And then wed drink the river, even though it isnt really gin, because the river spoke to us, because it acted like gin. Because when the river speaks to us like gin we believe it more. We pull our glass tumblers down from the top shelf and we walk through a darkness so thick we have to


push it aside with our hands and kick it away with our feetto the river, ready to go crazy like static on the radio, ready to drink until everything in space is dark again, until our ngers feel numb with the power.


Civilization and Its Discontents

Have you ever stared, for a moment, at the food on your plate and considered how, despite your rened tastes, informed opinions, and ability to provide nuanced readings of the texts of Theodor Adorno, you still need to shove things into your mouth like an animal in order to live? Have you ever wondered if there were a less primitive path toward sustenance and survival? Centuries upon centuries have passed in what we refer to as modern times and Ken Burns with a ten year old boys hair explains to you during the course of several lms what your culture and history mean. Was it not more honest when Chuck Barris declared before a commercial that he would be right back with more stuff? When dinner is over you slide toward the future like a bald tire on an oil slick road. When you go to bed you lie awake for a moment, believing that somehow youre still moving, that this is simply you saying goodbye from your room.


Still Life with Uranus in the Chapel of Love

Be still like a knife on the table after late dinner with rice and lamb and grapes. The curtains are not yet drawn over the breezy spring windows and lamplight from the street illuminates dimly the faint yellow of the stucco walls. Listen: the star tangos accordion vibrates through blue smoke. We breathe in the smoke and sound until our lungs hurt, until when the storm covers the city center with rain and electricity, and our arms tighten as if struck, and our backs bend as if breaking, and our mouths are pried open with indelicacy and the neighbors pound on the walls with their hands as we sing.


Ken Pobo

Quick Cuts
Mom says, Benny, you need to be more serious. Bear down. Get your head out of those clouds into some geometry. I know life is poison lemonade. Bear down? Bear up? Dad says the world is made for those who grab the bull by the horns. Bulls stink. Why touch their horns? Im 15 and love hits me often. People turn love into a Sudokuthey look for the right number combinations to solve the puzzle. Gary Boosky tells the American History teacher, Mr. Conner, not to call on me because Im a faggot. Mr. Conner calls on me. I dont want to know about Ulysses S. Grant, just the kind of man my parents admire, though he drank and smoked. Robert E. Lee was handsome but too gummed up with honor. Oh Virginia, oh honor, oh I must be true to my state. How many died with all their seriousness and honor, love? If I could exhume both generals Id say, Hey Ulysses, hey Bob, lets dance well samba on top of a stream and oat on a barge into the History Channels backwaters. Jobim will play softly. Even in death, Ill bet theyre still debating strategies. I try to put a pane of glass between death and me. Easily breakable. Will the pieces dance? Will they, in their joy, hold me close on the danceoor, not realizing they are cutting me to pieces?


Accepting Brevity
The epiphyllum blooms, only lasts two days-a coral thread sews the world together.


John G. Rodwan, Jr.

What Makes Detroit Detroit

If you only see the trainless train station, the neighborless neighborhoods, the peopleless People Mover, the functionless factories, the tenantless towers, Then you miss whats essential: the unreal resourcefulness, the unrivaled resiliency, the undiminished dedication, the undying devotion, the unimpeachable pride.



Our Mighty Projects

We build things. As if transmuting our hopes and aspirations into steel and stone will make them real, make them come true. We protect what we build. As if locks on the doors, bars on the windows and barbed wire surrounding thick walls do something other than testify to our insecurity, announce our fears. We build things. As if doing otherwise would mean admitting defeat, abandoning our dreams.


The Path Is for the Traveler

Navigating a maze through worn reminders of people who passed through these same streets long before Taking the hints not as sure evidence of aching absence and not as anything but facts right now Circling the curves in rough patterns of geometrical joy in new tracks untaken until then the child nds her way.


April Salzano

For the way you call out to me in the dark because I am ame of oil lamp in power outage. For the way you pinch loose skin of armpits elbows stomach because I am sensory input, because my body, map of knowns. For occupied hands. because rage not otherwise specied because uorescent light because grocery store too loud too bright. Because I am needed because shadow. For the way you push and pull. For my hair because rope to stop from ying off the at face of the world. Because umbilical cord never cut. For your language because words you cannot pronounce misring from stem to throat because swallowed dysphasic, because gumballs whole, choked down. For the sound bites you rewind repeat replay because sixteen mechanisms destroyed because you commit effect to memory because photographs audible.


For the trampoline net ripped through because tangled web no match for your crash. For the antique Christmas ornaments smashed because cause and effect. For the random hysterical giggling just because. For what no one else can see because they are not looking because they do not know how. For light at just the right angle because perfect squint. For squeaking unpredictable noises. For bursting out for tearing through because I could no longer hold you in. For movement constant as energy. For pictures because on walls. For dancing because in public. For eye contact because brief. Because full of meaning, because painful, because beauty. Because my heart beats across the room because across town. Because you bring me home. Because you wait for me. For love. Because you always have. Because you always will.


Caitlin Thomson

I planned for quiet, the dust beneath shelves, family a plane ride away. Plenty of time to sweep rooms into order. I had silence there, a day where I ate a box of Clementines, unpeeling them as the snow fell. There was coffee shop anonymity, a gym of silence, no one to swipe my card, just a key in the evening. If I ate out, the food was to go, and I would sit in parks, read library books, between mouthfuls.



Heather Hallberg Yanda

The Neighbors Beautiful Daughters

I dont fantasize about beaches anymore, not sunlight mirroring across waves nor shells collecting along a shoreline. I dont imagine the speed and sound of a city, not neon lights lisping along the widest street, nor the precision of shingle and brick, house after house. Not when I have this: top of a hill, trail to nowhere but sky. My dogs and I have walked this so many times even a good winter doesnt erase our footprints. Here, a ring of maples like the neighbors beautiful daughters bows to a clearing, takes in the forests deep breath. They lean inward to tell a joke, to mend a disagreement, to whisper a secret. I stand among them, eager to learn the lessons they teach: grace, imagination, commitment. Together, we revere the honest shadows and lift our arms toward the darkening sky. 129

Dreaming in Counterpoint
Even in darkness " " Even in his mind's window Bach felt the Alps' presence -" " he felt the dominion, the strength of snow, of craggy rock, " " of sunlight over Leipzig's streets, felt the weight of history -" " its layers of story and story, stone and stone, " " year and year like snow. One at a time, mountains " " speak in stillness, call to one another, " " meet, then part ways as only Bach can hear-" " He searches for the notes in his mind's window " " and questions the lines on the staff for the land he promised music to: " " How quiet is night's diminuendo? How long is a cloud's rest? " " In what rhythm is the mountain path? In what key is the wind?


Anthony Butts

The layers of mental illness are not like an onion, crying at the more celestial nature of disease more like the layers of a solar system of discontent, each orbit of every planet and planetoid necessarily mapped out before the suffering might even relent repeatedly until it nally gives in: the red planet radiant in our minds, as vibrant as the diskshaped lollipop licked by an aficted child, our other neighbor voluptuous in the morning sky, as yellow as the Corvette coveted by the homeless man who cant seem to understand just why it is he memorizes license plates obsessively. It haunts us who suffer. It haunts those who dont. Its the foreboding sky which releases rain before it arrives. Its the grasshopper grossed out by its own spittle, opaque as any brain thats examined by a psychiatrist. Its the stop sign stolid as the steel-clad faces that pass in the assisted living facility, oblivious to the rain in their lives that from above and that from within. These are the trials of the trapped, yet untapped their stories like campres burning in the nighttime of an unfamiliar state park like a multitude of eyes peering back from what only seems to be alien and obscene.



Tiffany Tavela

Red Delicious
Woman, you were the rst apple to dispute the resilience of his teeth. Be not scorned my moon fruit calls him from present sleep.



Sara Walton

My Fathers Mother
Did I really feed her applesauce that day with a fading aluminum spoon... sometimes I wonder if I dreamt that memory or if it somehow grew like a weed in the mind of a nine or ten year old girl. I do remember walking into the uorescent room of the hospital (-- or was it a hospice?) the red-white of her hair splayed across the dingy white pillow, un-brushed for days. This is your Grandma Annabelle... the introduction that I remember - muddied in the pre-adolescent eyes that I struggle to see out of, still. Almost ten years into my life it took to meet my fathers mother. The woman that every relative compares me to You even walk like her... I still dont know what that means since the only time we met, her legs lay old and tired underneath a yellowish afghan. Im almost sure I fed her applesauce. I remember her searching my face for some glimmer of recognition - In her senility and confusion, I hope she thought she was looking into some mirror of some different version of herself. The reddish hair, sorrowful green eyes that I take with me everywhere like a coin of sobriety. She died a few months later. That is the only memory I have. We didnt go to the funeral but I carry a photograph, sepia tone and lovely, from the 40s. In the photo she is 28, as I am now. And with no children or heirs of my own, I have to wonder and imagine whether anyone will be around to feed me applesauce when I cannot speak to their recollection.


Maternal things I inherit

" " " taste for gin and sorrowful songs that rock me against the paint chipped walls

The things burning me: " " " too many minutes in hours time that seems to laugh at my ignorance and then

What I see in you: " " " stolen things like quarters and soothed heads against breasts, woman to child. Maternal

Things I inherited: " the wish to never be a mother.


I found a gun in the kitchen cupboard when I was twelve. Daddy said dont touch. He said it was just in case. I used to lay in bed imagine the thing in my small hands. Or at my side, Western style. John Wayne. Duel. O.K. Corral. I used to want to be a cowboy. But the gun in the cupboard made me want to be a man.



Eric M. R. Webb

The Bottoms at the West End of Kentucky

where we drive down the narrow road, out to the small farm, stack cans on a fence rail and nail them to the air with a ftyyear-old bolt-action .22, which kicks gently against the shoulder, shoots straight, smells of gun oil and powder and whiskey. The last mule in the barn shifts when we arrive and we say hello to him, the poor sterile thing, and feed apples into his grasping lips and giggle at his whiskers grinding our palms. But my favorite memories are all shing. The little drainage pond behind the barn that Grandpa keeps stocked with trout, and they never grow big, so we always toss them back from the slipshod wood pier. Their slippery skin makes them hard to hold and get the hook out from their jaws, so sometimes they end up dead anyways. Fishing was always something we did, when we visited Grandma and Grandpa. Load up the row boat into the back of the truck, aluminum hull banging off the bed, throw the tackle box and rods into it. All four of us in the cab: Grandpa, Dad, little brother, me. The rst stop always the little bait shop on the way out to the Mississippi bottoms. The ride punctuated by old-timey southern gospel music hymns, and theres the old house where Grandma grew up in,


clapboard and on public lands now, still farmed by god knows who. Gravel roads pinging the trucks frame, followed by quiet when we stop to let some oncoming truck pass by, and always the friendly wave to the other guy, whether or not we know him, and the gravel punctuation again as we move back onto the road. The Forestry Service keeps the elds clear of trees, but lets the grasses grow as they will, tall in swampy earth, cattails starting to show at the tree lines, the light from the sky grey. This is how I remember it, the four of us driving into the swampy bottoms near the river, driving through the duck hunting grounds and the deer hunting lands where Dad used to go with that same .22 bolt-action, looking for critters to poke holes in. Now, were driving to this little swampy lake which meets up with all the other unnamed lakes beside the Mississippithey swallow all of her ooding-over anger in those seasons, but not now, the water isnt high or low. Its just right for our truck and the boat we scrape out of the bed and oat on the still water, climb in with the tackle and rods and paddles, ask Dad to thread worms on our hooks while we watch Great Herons climb from the river bottoms.


For three days outside my apartment building a goldnch lay dead on the ground. Its green-gold feathers bright, its black feathers black. Its black-skinned legs clutched into little commas pausing the air for moments. One wing angled as if to y off on its own. And each time I passed it I thought of my wifes empty shoeboxes in the apartment, and her bright metal garden spade to open the earth, of how she too has angled off to a different city for work, left her hangers empty as apostrophes, left me pausing in the air gazing on the fallen goldnch. Which at least is present not a voice on the phone or skype camera timed for convenience. It was there three days, that goldnch, until someone else picked it up. I could not bring myself of her empty shoeboxes, to bury it, to use one dirty the bright spade,

because she will need those things again. Instead, I cradled the little bird in my hands its lightness, its soft feathers, its quiet beauty, lled my palms for a moment until I placed it back onto the earth.


Matthew Dexter

National Car Rental

We are vacuuming the weed and Styrofoam McDonalds containers covered in shoeprints, the paperboard Burger King boxes and red straws with white remnants of breakfast beneath the front seats of a Pontiac covered in ostrich feces, when it dawns on me that National Car Rental is not the greatest of employers. Donovan says this is the best gig around. We get to drive and shoot the shit most the time. What more could we ask for? I think of our safety, those on the streets around us, pedestrians, and everything between us and these projectiles we sit within, so sweaty with the zealous condence of terrorists in a cockpit. Paradise beyond the Emerald Club and area adjacent to the four vacuums and cleaning stations where elderly drivers hover around the break table next to the time clock and microwave. We watch skulls bobbing, bloodshot eyes through a rectangular window, trapped like rock pigeons in tinted glass, broken capillaries summoning strength to sip stale coffee and clench keys in calloused sts. Every key is attached to a chain with a white piece of paper, upon which the name of the vehicle is scribbled in blue penmanship. Sure, we have decent perks: changing the oil, yanking the emergency brake, inhaling the aroma of burning tires, smoking cigarettes while driving, stealing cool shit people forget under their seats or in the trunk, ooring late-model vehicles from Emerald Aisle all high on cocaine back to the service station at a hundred miles per hour. Tucson International Airport is our background and the asphalt is our playground. East Valencia Road is a speedway for degenerates earning seven dollars an hour. We swerve across the heat haze as saguaros and sombreros dance the mariachi in rear-view mirrors to rap music blasting through speakers, at full volume with the bass turned up. Service agents are the ones who wash your car after you drop it off at the airport. We race down there in a clean whip, put that one on the line, ght for the keys to our favorite lthy return low on fuel, and race them back to the service station where we vacuum as fast as our muscles will allow--untangling hoses with the stoic athleticism of reghters battling 142

a warehouse blaze. Oakley sunglasses on the brims of our sweat- rimmed green hats, we spray windows and doors and wipe the dashboards down with damp towels. Sweat drips from the blackheads and zits on the bridges of our noses, into our hairy nostrils. This is not a career; it is a lifestyle. We are teenagers for a few more months, and things could be worse. They always can. I spray the coconut perfume into the oor carpets. Climb into the Malibu and crack the drivers side mirror off upon entry to the carwash because of excessive velocity. I have performed this maneuver dozens of times, but all vehicles are maintained immediately and the mirror is replaced before my next shift. Better to be fast and keep the line clean than waste precious seconds making sure the mirrors are able to withstand the impact of humongous brushes that embrace us with bubbles. I turn up the volume as the track gains control of the Malibus tires and takes over. Soapy foam engulfs me. The drive-through car wash used to be something special, a cathartic cleansing of sorts, but after the rst few months it becomes monotonous and at this point only a small prerequisite hit of marijuana makes it half-worthwhile. I pull the key from the ignition and do a bump, and then another, camouaged by an atmosphere of orbiting soapsuds. We are slammed today. Bartholomew is sprinting with walkie-talkie in hand. We have not yet had time to toke. We all call him Bart and hes not much older than we are. He is much more mature, and he is our boss. Bart is an avid motorcyclist. It is his ass on the line if customers have to wait for their chariots. My stomach has cramped twice in my rst thirty minutes into the shift. We cough up blackened wads of phlegm from burning lungs. I park the Malibu in the corner lot with the other repairs--about a dozen cars--some of them totaled--others just waiting for some simple maintenance. I write a quick note explaining the situation to the garage: A customer knocked off this mirror. I swagger past the employee vehicles beside the barbedwire fence, these beaten vehicles of defeated employees. We will not end up decrepit drivers with wrinkled foreheads, respecting goddamn Draconian speed limits with exhausted eyelids. Obeying stop signs covered in grafti and stickers with stomach ulcers is not on the menu for us. We are valiant service agents addled in addiction. We will die with cigarette butts burning between purple lips before we are reduced to ashy full-time work behind a cowhide wheel. We are not animals. This is just a job for beer money and weed and cocaine--nothing 143

more; nothing less. We could be ipping burgers and picking our rotting nostrils at one of the fast food joints, or sitting in some hospital--but were breaking trafc laws with brazen indifference instead. Bartholomew pulls up beside me in the van. Donovan hollers to get inside. He is sitting in the back seat with his head out the window. I jump upfront. Earning time-and-a-half is not enough to endure interminable crack head jokes by Bartholomew, who controls the ow of cars with his clipboard and an ability to walk faster than most of the pothead employees. His pace is that of an Outward Bound instructor and his face is that of a freckled cherub. Hey homey, you hear what happened to that crack head at the Tucson Boulevard Jack in the Box? Bartholomew asks. No, I say. What? Bartholomew is a good guy. Unfortunately, he has this obstinate tendency to dismiss crack heads as being unreliable. Thats bullshit, especially because here I am sitting right next to him in the van, his six foot six inch frame hunched over the wheel with white knuckles as we pull through the gates to pick up two Grand Ams. Bartholomew is an avid observer of cocaine smokers. Though anemic, he is the same height as Darryl Strawberry. Some men watch birds, but not Bartholomew; he is looking for the dirty anemic with sunken cheeks feigning for rocks. And so am I. Bartholomew can smell a crack head a mile away, yet not realize that since donning the green uniform, I have been working solely to support my edgling habit of cocaine and baking soda. I look innocent. You can get away with tons of thefts and shit when you act decent and wellintended. After work I speed north on I-10 West toward my apartment on Silverbell Road where we smoke crack. Freebase we call it, and indeed the quality of the cocaine is the nest in Tucson. Tupacs Changes is playing as I drive and smoke a pre-rolled joint, that song about black and white, and both smoke crack tonight. You knew it better than the boss, but still, you sat there and smiled and laughed at the standard crack head jokes, and some of the new ones were funny. Nobody ever pays a crack head his due reverence. I can tell you that there are crack heads that are ne workers and can work for months or more without being red or fucking up. I only freebase at night. It is not as if we are blowing lines on the steering wheels.


I crash around dawn and the next afternoon, at two sharp, punch my time card into the machine that feeds me, head over to where Bartholomew and Donovan are doing inventory. Were headed to Phoenix today, Donovan says. This is one of the perks of National Car Rental. Every week or so we make the one hundred mile journey to Sky Harbor International Airport to pick up our cars, race them back 1-10 East to the service station in Tucson. The speed limit is seventy-ve mile per hour. We often do one hundred and ten for a few minutes if the conditions are ideal. Nice, I say. Bartholomew bids us farewell with a rendition of a familiar crack head joke. I can still taste the cocaine on my lips. I spit up a blackened tar ball full of freebase. It lands inside the rim of the plastic garbage can at the front left service station, drips down the plastic into the candy wrappers and Coca-Cola cans. I have not been able to breathe like a normal person for years. We hustle toward the cars with the elderly drivers already behind the wheels. You might think that one who drives forty hours every week for a paycheck might prefer to relax and allow one of the service agents to drive, but not at National Car Rental. The steering wheel is their lifeline, and listening to rap music for almost two hours while staring at the back of the head of an aging juvenile delinquent is not something senior citizens yearn for. Sure, they could take a nap, but then they might wake up with their glasses slamming against the window, careening a hundred and thirty miles per hour through an orange desert. In any case, one old man sits behind the wheel while ve younger employees pile into the backseat and the front rows of the vans. I am sitting next to Jessica, the goddess from the rental desk inside the airport. The mango and coconut from her shampoo and body lotion exude an enchanting aroma as it mixes with the sweat of her blonde arms and smooth amber legs in sunshine. On the other side is Dawn, who works inside the shack at Emerald Aisle. She is a vampire. I lean closer to Jessica. We pull off the lot and onto East Valencia. The drivers do these drives almost daily. It is a sobering journey, as it often is. It is better than busting our asses cleaning cars. Greatest thing is we get to race them back to Tucson. When we arrive in Phoenix, we sit in this parallel universe: National Car Rental of the valley of the spun, almost identical to our own, only lacking that feeling of home and hopelessness. The employees are wearing the same uniforms, yet look at us as spies, half- sibling inferiors. 145

When we get those keys we sprint to our cars and speed to the nearest Circle K to buy a couple forty ounces for the drive back to Tucson. Some of the girls prefer to stop for ice cream at Dairy Queen. I hit the fast lane and swig from my bottle. The interior lights are bright red, glowing brighter by the minute. I pull over after the rst forty and a can of Budweiser and piss by the side of the interstate, the drone of passing engines and the fear of being noticed by an approaching police ofcer makes the experience less enjoyable. Honking and bright lights pulsing and a cigarette butt, lit and orange, is projected from an open window onto my shoulder. Donovan laughing demonic between blasting gangster rap. I zip up my y and sprint to my cherry illuminated Grand Am--and hit the road again. Within minutes, I am passing the elderly drivers, glancing at their hands in the nine and three positions on the wheel, their green National Car Rental caps so perfect. I offer the nger to my fellow youthful service agents as I speed with reckless abandon into a crimson desert with the sun sinking low. Beautiful employees with their ponytails sticking through their green hats are eating frozen yogurt in the slow lane with the cruise control on. The horizon engulfs the vehicle, my spirit rising from the second Budweiser as a rabbit has its skull crushed beneath a brand-new restone tire. I can feel its brains bouncing into ether as the purple rides the ripples of the cacti and the beer trickles down my throat. The transition into drunk driver is something that the bosses will never admire. National Car Rental is one of the few agencies that do not drug test their employees. Budget does. So does Hertz. This ensures that many of the National employees are stoners. This is a good thing, an added bonus. This is why we work here. Donovan tosses his Budweiser out the window and it smashes against the asphalt and the glass in my headlights vanishes like evaporating snowakes as it succumbs to darkness. I toss mine, except the wind must have picked it up because a truck begins honking and ashing his lights. Our veins pump blood three times the legal limit by the time we pull into the service station. Me and Donovan nish rst and second respectively, with enough energy and time to smoke a roach and a cigarette beside the gasoline tank before the responsible drivers show up. I drive home to Tupac across the lighting-soaked desert. My wipers are broken. I stick my head out the window in order to avoid an accident. Better safe than sorry. The maid is gorgeous, drop fucking dead, and looking at her is the best


part of the day. She is a quarter inch shorter than Dwight Gooden. She is taller than I am, and thinner and cleaning bathrooms and kitchens and oors. She is much too beautiful for such a job, but you know life fucked her, like it does us all. National Car Rental is full of fuck-ups. We are the ones who service your vehicle, clean it, smile, hand you the fucking keys. Take these, you sick bastards. Anyway, Hanna, the maid, asked me for weed last week. I deliver it to her in the parking lot right from my pocket as if it is a demerit and she freezes, paranoid of cameras. I hit the emergency brake and do donuts. The best time to be an employee at National Car Rental is during lunch. We eat in shifts to make sure that at least two people are always able to remain at the service station to clean cars. Donovan takes the orders and he drives to the fast food joints while I light the weed. This is nice because we are allowed to cruise beyond the parameters of East Valencia Road, into real trafc, thumbing the cigarette lighter till it turns bright orange. The freedom of this job is the appeal; the novelty of driving new cars never wears out. Like an animal injured in battle, unable to keep up with its herd, the eet thins itself. By the time the interior loses that new car smell--it has too many miles--and we stand outside the perimeter of the service station with tobacco-stained hands in green pockets observing the guy who drives the truck that carries all the cars that lose their aroma and he loads the vehicles onto his magic carpet. We wave at the chariots destined for used car lots. The brake lights of the machine on re descending into the desert and the sea of orange illuminated asphalt. Donovan pulls up next to the Carls Jr. drive-through window and drops the change into the palm of the employee. He asks me if this is where I want to work instead of National Car Rental. We hit three or four different places, but do it fast--so the food stays warm--as does the rubber on our tires. We dream of winning the Monopoly McDonalds game because the idea of free food makes us enchanted. Sometimes we win a soda or fries or a Big Mac. We have been eating McDonalds for weeks, Donovan and me, collecting our destiny with each calorie-infested meal. We peel out of parking lots and try to leave skid marks in front of fast food joints to mark our territory like animals. When the shift is over, we vacuum and drive our own shitty vehicles through the car wash. There is a transformation that occurs to the employees as they are forced to deal with no air conditioner, no radio, no automatic windows, cigarette burns on the console and the seats: the


normal working conditions of a poor bastard who gets to drive chariots though the castle but must return to the slum before midnight.


Christopher Woods

Photographs Roofs, New Hampshire House, Rockland Farmhouse Near Brenham





Ed Hunt

Golden Needles
He turned off the main road onto a dirt path that ran along the edge of the corneld, driving towards the river. The corn had been cut a few weeks ago, the stubble still erect in orderly rows. The sky was blanketed with soft gray clouds, the air warm for the time of year. He stopped at the end of the path where it met the river and got out of the car, knowing where she would be. He crossed the eld; the ground was dry and had compacted under the weight of the tractor tires. The imsy weeds were no barrier as he made his way toward her. The river ran clear, the water moving with a sure and steady purpose. The river made a sound the closer you got to it. Submerged rocks and fallen trees disturbed the water and made the sound that was the voice of the river. Johnny and Clare had spent the past summer trying to hear what the river was saying to them. They left for school without any answers. The visit home was unplanned and his reason for coming back so soon had to be carefully crafted for Johnny's mother. If you looked at the river long enough, you could see trout or carp. There were minnows in shallow pools and translucent craysh closer to shore. She had her back to him, looking and not looking at the river from the edge of the cut eld. Despite the warm day, she crossed her arms tightly to her chest, as if to stop herself from dissolving into a shallow pool on the riverbank. Between the edge of the eld and the bank of the river there was a discreet outcropping of rocks, surrounded by scrub. He walked up to her slowly, noticing the length and varied hues of her hair, the shape of her body, and he remembered her. He stopped when he came up to her side, and wanted to, but did not, look at her face. He looked in the direction of the river and said to the early autumn air: "So?" "Yes." "Okay, then."


"No Johnny, it isn't." The words hung in the languid air like an accusation. Shame gripped his lungs and he couldn't breathe. His mind was a cataract of conicting thoughts. "I mean, now that you...." She turned to him with a wet face and a trembling mouth as she spoke. "This isn't about you." "So you don't..." "No. No. No." she said softly, shaking her head from side to side. She snifed, wiped her face with the sleeve of her sweatshirt. "I am going to Corby tomorrow with Grace. I'll be back at school by the end of the week." Johnny could hear the river, and silently pleaded with it to tell him what to say or to make sense of what was happening. He strained to hear the voice of the river. He realized his body was taut and that his back and legs had begun to ache. "Good bye, Johnny." She looked at the pile of rock on the shore. She turned and walked upstream. Johnny stood on the edge of the eld for a moment until, with his stomach burning in his throat, he walked stify to his car, the weeds getting tangled in the legs of his jeans. Clare continued along the curve of the riverbank until she came to a grove of tamarack trees. The ground was a carpet of golden needles, looking up she could see the gray clouds overhead. He emerged from a pile of boulders that had been thrown up on the shore last winter during a storm. "You told him?" "Did you see him?" "Yes." "Then I did, then, didn't I." "I just wanted..." She turned on him. Her eyes were dry and her mouth set. Her gray eyes ashed at him, her mouth barely open as she spoke in a threatening whisper. "Stop it. I did it, okay?"


Silence lled the grove. It got harder to talk the longer it lasted. Finally, Donavan said, "So we're going...." "We aren't." She looked at the golden needles on the ground. But we..." She looked at him with a steady gaze. "No, we aren't. I'm going to Corby tomorrow with Grace. I'll be back at school by the end of the week." Donavan turned away and looked at the river. His jaw was tight as he struggled to swallow down the burning in his throat. "You stay here in town, Donavan. It's where you belong. I'm going back to school." Her words were boulder solid in the heavy air. "I guess revenge is unpredictable." He looked at the river. "Not really." She stared at the golden needles on the ground.



Matthew Kabik

In the Orchard, in the Field

Harry lived in a farmhouse his family owned since the hard times, bought out from under a senseless, desperate apple grower. Not a farmer he had nothing to do with cultivation. He sold the farm to Harrys grandfather like W.C. Fields may have: drunk and comical for anyone not directly involved. Harrys grandfather was quick to turn over any forgotten bottles of liquor and scrub every interior surface with boiled water and hard soap. He wasnt a man to waste time. He didnt wait for signshe made them from tenacious, bulldog dedication. His hands looked like rusted iron when they found him in bed fty years since signing the deed. Hed never held a single apple grown from his own soil. Something like a W.C. Fields movie in that, too, though Harry knew better than admit any humor in it at all. Harrys father, who received none of the monks stubborn faith his own father was known for, left Harry the farm and moved upstate to live with a woman. Harrys mother wasnt alive since his birth, so he could only nd fault in his fathers ightiness and not much else. Harry guessed by now his father was dead. Maybe not, but probably. It was all together unimportant. Harry cared for the orchard and farmhouse alone, never seeking out a wife and never having need to. When the want struck hed go into any of the three towns nearby and get as close to drunk as his convictions allowed. Sometimes hed try to irt with the lonely women desperate enough to irt back, but he was aware of himself and left before any conversation led to what was next. Most days he waited for a sign. Peaceful but expectantquiet and hopeful. What he felt wasnt quite boredom, he was happy in the waste. Harry found things in it: memories from his kin, the tilt and uneven lines made of hastily planted trees, the boot carved porch. Walking through the orchard in the evening was as close to God as Harry expected to get, in a way. The Garden made of useless, crooked plants.


He was inside when the truck pulled up to the house. He heard the doors open and close, both sides together. It made him think it might be an ofcial, but when he looked out from the front door he saw a man and womanboy and girl, really, given the age. The boy was oily, a yellow Tshirt and arms too long for the growing body. The girls clothing clung grotesquely. Sexual and lewd. It made Harry feel sick and attracted all at oncesuch an unpleasant feeling to walk with as he turned to the young man reaching out his hand. Abe is the name, sir. I sure would be thankful if you could give some help for me and Sarah, Abe said, nodding over his shoulder to the woman near the truck. Well, what sort of help are you needing? Thank you mister, were in a spot. Weve been traveling from a few states over to here. The old girl is having a hell of a time with it. Who? Sorry, sir. God Im sorry, I have a sailors mouth and should speak more clearly. The truck, sir. The truck seems to be giving up the ghost. Looks about time for it, Harry said evenly. He tried to smile, but he was afraid it may come out more like a grimace. Instead he rubbed his palms together absently and walked towards the truck. Youre right. Shoulda gave up on her a long time ago. But I guess things just turn out the way they do, Abe said through over-smiling teeth. Harry nodded to Sarah as he got closer, who smiled and stood next to Abe. Harry allowed himself to notice the way she walked. A girl who just gained the hips of womanhood. He focused his eyes back to the truck. So. You see, I think the alternator is shot. I had an old Pontiac that was doing the same thing, Abe said quickly. His voice sounded strained to Harry, maybe rehearsed was a better word. To be honest with you, Im not much of a mechanic. I thought all farmers were. Not much of a farmer, either, Harry said dryly, smiling more to himself than anyone. Oh, well I was kinda hoping for something else, Abe said from behind. Oh?


I was hoping you would be willing to put us up for a night, just one, so we could rest and decide how to deal with this. Well, Harry sighed, looking at the orchard and his hands, I dont think I could turn you out and sleep well with myself. Thats truly kind of you, sir. Very good of you, Abe smiled, tapping Sarah with a grease smeared hand. Thanks, Sarah whispered. Her voice and manner reminded Harry of a dog thatd been hit too much or a Starling hanging to a branch in winter. It made him feel useless and sombre. Harry nodded and walked both inside. He showed them the bathroom and fetched towels. When he was clear of Abes repeated thanks he walked downstairs to prepare supper. Sarah came down rst. She stood in the kitchen door, distracted by the smell of ham steaks and boiling potatoes. Without the sun or truck to distract him, Harry saw the overworked teen body, the bony shoulders holding up what may have been beauty sometime before now. You dont have any other clothes? We werent expectingI mean, Sarah stumbled, wrapping her arms around her body, We werent planning on going this far. What were you planning? I dont know. Just going I think. Sit down here if you like, Harry said by way of dismissal, pointing to the kitchen table. Sarah sat quietly, her back to the door and her eyes immediately focused through the window. Harry caught glimpses of her calves as he nished making supper, trying to gure out what he was feeling: pity or attraction. Are those orange trees? Apple. I dont think you can grow oranges this far up. Do you make a lot of money on apples? I surely do not. Then why do you do it? Sarah said carefully, turning her head towards Harry but keeping her eyes on the window. It made her look like a painting or a staged photo. Because I like looking after the place. I need to do something I guess.


Sarah turned her head back towards the window and breathed out deeply. Harry nished making the food and put it in front of her. Do you have any of your apples, to try I mean? I havent seen a single apple grow from any of these trees. Not in my whole life. Oh, Sarah said, pulling herself up in the chair and smiling at Harry. I think it has something to do with the soil, He said as an explanation, though she just nodded at him. You think we should wait for Abe? I dont know why hes taking so long. I think we can go ahead, shame to let the food get cold. Ok. Sarah piled her plate and went to it. Harry ate slowly, nding he enjoyed the sound of someone other than himself at the table. Where do you folks gure youre heading? Sarah shrugged, anywhere, I guess. Just an adventure away from home, then? Could we go out in the orchard later tonight? Sarah asked, nally looking at Harry directly. It made his heart jump. He thought the food on his fork might drop off. Sure. Its nice on a night like this, Harry said. Id like that. I dont think Ive ever been in an apple orchard. Ok, then. They sat without talking until Abe came in wet and smiling. This is some home youve got here, Mister. You wouldnt think it from looking outside, but its some home. Thank you. Here, Harry said, standing up and patting the backrest of the second chair. Abe nodded and sat, pulling a plate towards himself and lling it up. He ate like what Harry thought a king might: huge pieces of ham and potatoes disappearing into his mouth, a careless sort of eating that suggested there was always more to be had. Sarah looked at him while he ate, smiling whenever he took a moment to look up. So, Abe said after drinking half a glass of water, you think its the alternator? 160

Oh, well, maybe. Yeah. It might even just be your battery. Wouldnt that be good? It would save you a whole heap a bother, thats true, Harry smiled. How much would it cost, you think, if it were the alternator? Oh, I dont know really. Depends on if they have the part, how much they charge for labor. maybe two hundred or so. You dont say. Yeah, Im sorry to tell you, but thats what it could cost. But, you know, it could just be the battery. How much is the battery for your truck out there? Abe asked, pointing blindly at the window with his fork. I think about sixty or so. Wow, Abe said, looking at Sarah with wide, embarrassing eyes. Everything in a truck costs more than what youd expect. I guess so. Thanks for dinner, Mister. I havent eaten in a while. How much did you eat? Abe said to Sarah. I am full. You sure, we havent eaten this good in a while, baby. You sure you dont wanna muscle a little more down? Ive got plenty for you, Harry said to them both. No, no Im ok. Ok, sweetheart, Abe smiled. I wont twist your arm about it. Harry went out on the porch while Abe nished. He breathed in the summers cooler air and let his mind wander out to wherever it wanted. He gave a few thoughts to Abe and his easy-going brashness. The only visitors Harry really ever had was the postman and the occasional state electrician. While he didnt mind the solitude, he found the comfort in hearing movement other than his own to be pleasant, at least for tonight. Harry heard something hit the oor, a plate. He stood with the shattering of it. Oh God, Abe yelled out for Harrys benet, I went and made a fool of myself. Ill get this cleaned up right away Mister. God Im sorry. Harry stepped back in to see Abe holding the pieces of a plate awkwardly in his hands, looking for a trash can. Harry smiled away the


nervousness in his eyes and helped sweep up the oor. Sarah didnt move. She sat mute and staring out the window. I gure well go to bed now. Well be out of your hair by tomorrow morning if we can be. In the morning Ill drive you into town Which way is that? Abe interrupted. Just down the road to the left of here, maybe ten minutes or so. Ill drive you down there and see about getting someone from the shop to look at your truck. Thatd be very good of you Mister. Which bed do you want us to use? Well, take the one closest to the bathroom. Its got the biggest bed in it. Ok then, Abe said nodding. He turned his face to Sarah, come on. I dont want to go to bed, she said quietly. Sarah, dont you be difcult now. I said come to bed. Sarah and I are going to walk through the orchard, actually. I promised her we would, Harry said a bit more loudly than he intended. Oh. Alright. When Abes footsteps disappeared Harry realized Sarah was crying to herself. He went to the sink and lled a glass with water to give her, not knowing quite what else to do. She took it and held it against her chest, not looking at him and not drinking from the glass. Harry tried to gure out how to make whatever happened better for her, or at least make her feel better in spite of it. Listen, if Can we go to the orchard now? Yea. Let me give you a coat. When the two reached the middle of the orchard Sarah sat down. She looked like a child in Harrys jacket, pulling her whole body into it like a baby in its mothers T-shirt. Why do you keep the orchard, the farm? For something to do, I guess. That isnt it, Sarah said. What? That isnt why you keep the orchard.


Harry looked at her paleness, brought out more by the darkness. He wanted to tell her she was beautiful but knew it could sound frightening to her. Instead he looked past her at the silent apple trees and distant lights of neighbors. Ive been waiting. For what? Hell, I dont know. Yeah, Sarah said, breaking eye contact and standing, Yeah, alright. Im not saying it right. No, I understand what you mean. Thanks for taking me to the orchard. Im sorry I dont have any apples for you to try. You shouldnt be sorry for that. I dont mind. After ten minutes of silence, Harry walked her back to the house and let her go up the stairs alone. He crept into his own room an hour later and shut the door. He fell asleep quickly and didnt dream, though he expected he would. He woke up just before sunrise and crept past the creaking oorboards to get breakfast ready. Harry noticed the missing boots rst. He stared at where they should be, knowing what happened but creating a dozen other reasons why they moved. He walked back up the stairs to the bathroom, nding the soap, towels, and safety razor missing. It wasnt anger that Harry felt. Whatever started in his stomach and moved cool and snakelike to his face wasnt anger. Regret maybe. The unfamiliar sensation of being used, perhaps. Whatever he would eventually decide it to be, he ignored the sensation as he walked back down the steps and through the porch door. The hood of his truck was propped open. As he got closer to it, he realized the battery was missing, and Abes own battery was sitting in the drivers seat. Well, Harry said, pulling his hand over the back of his neck and feeling the warmth of the morning sun begin its steady summer heat on his face, well I guess thatll have to do.



Bradford Philen

Memories of Batad
Alfred and Gertrude, hiking poles in hand, descended from the towering Cova de Paul in Cape Verde. The mighty sea was slightly in sight, but from where they stood, the harsh surf was still, like in a photograph. They were exhausted and running out of water. Visions of their dehydrated trek through the rice terraces of Batad, Philippines kept reappearing in Gertrudes mind. Her usual pale face was beet-red after that day and Alfred couldnt rid himself of the swelling in his hands for days. That was a tiring day and one to be forgotten, not repeated. The rugged island of Santo Anto was a gift of the sea, a mere salvaged spittle of Senegal and the Cap-Vert peninsula. Islanders live a cautionary life as if they are aware of the gift of land that was granted by the sea. Cradling this gift with great care and diligence, they are cognizant of their borders and boundaries, penetrating the waters only with purpose. They arent an indigenous people, rather a people coined half-caste. Mtis. Mestio. Mulatto. Mixed race. Tan-skinned. Indifferent to a solid shade. Tainted. A people of deportation. Auction. Importation. Assimilation. Latte skin, thick and dark hair, and hazel-blue eyes. Where did we come from? Sweat. Chains. Ropes. Metal. Guns. Stew. Privilege. Riches. Grub. Slop. Sty. Red. Black. White. They were conceived. It is a story true and real, but neither all true nor all real. Love and peace dwell among the islanders, as does cynicism and optimism. Shyness and confusion. Laughter and diligence. Worry and hatred. They live. They, too, are West African. They are complex beings, just like the Chinese and Portuguese of the world, just like the Americans of the world who view Africa as one place, just like the Senegalese who dance the Tazen Baax. They watch the sea and wait on Mother Nature to turn, move, provide, and grant another day within the borders of the wrecking waves that strike their shores. Gertrude, plump and freckled, stopped and sighed, and Alfred, husband of 27 years, reached for her. Come, take my hand, he said. Im feeling quite tired, darling, Gertrude said.


Me, too, Schne. It cant be far from here. According to the map we should meet the main road just below here, Alfred said. He pointed to cliffs as sharp as broken glass. Alfreds face was square and his nose was pointed. This was their rst time to Santo Anto and rst excursion to West Africa. They were much more accustomed to Asian excursions and adventures, falling in love rst with the Southeast Asian massages and then the hiking. Yet, Alfreds colleague Martin convinced Alfred to head to the islands, where the only disappointment was the serving size of a bottle of Super Bock beer, the national beer, a mere 25 cl. Alfred, with Gertrudes hand in his, led them along the path, which fell to a fork. Left meant a walk down Alfreds hunch towards the main road while the right ascended. They stopped and sipped the last of their water. Gertrude waited. Alfred looked both ways, uncertain. His throat was dry and thick with saliva. The valleys and villages of Paul are far from the staggering sea. Children from Paul sit in awe and wonder, and gaze at the waters when they rst visit the sea that they have only heard of from friends or family. In the valleys, the sea is not heard; rather the sway of sugar cane stalks, the cackling chickens, the creaking crickets, and the ow of mountain springs pulse through the air with the echoing mountain conversations and the occasional passing vehicle. Life there exists not as it would with an island people, but as it would with a mountain people, who look as rough as the landscape, but are as sturdy in their way of life as the stubborn mountain refusing to submit to the seas force. Sturdy though the islanders may be, unaffected by the sea they are not. Hot and humid air, sent from the Sahara, passes through Dakar and the Cap-Vert peninsula, building strength, until a tropical storm forms and strikes, soaking the West Indies and the Americas with rain, thunder, and uncontrollable winds. Cape Verde, the West African island nation, sits in the middle of this seasonal phenomenon. On Santo Anto, the tiny village of Drogeiro waits. Rocks tumble. The month of September, the month of erce rain, brings the most devastation to Drogeiro. By October the rains virtually quit until the following August. Alfred and Gertrude halted at the fork in the path, which was lined by mud-brick and tin structures. These were Drogeiro homes, strategically built upon the terraces to the very edge of the cliffs. Terraces of sugar


cane, coffee beans, and sweet papaya surrounded the area. The trails nestled against steep mountainside. Is there anybody here, Alfred? Its so quiet, Gertrude said. Frustration and worry suffocated her. She was tired, passing her years in retirement, traveling the world with her husband, and attempting to ease the pain she felt in her heart for the loss of both of their children. The farmers must be resting. Its hot out. Its probably the siesta now, Alfred said. Traveling for them had become the least worrisome way to pass their time and to spend their money. Alfred rarely spoke of their children, but longed for the exuberant laugh the love of his life lost some years ago. Traveling, at least, brought out a carefree serenity in Gertrude, Alfred thought. His heart beat a bit faster when he heard his wifes snorting laughter. Alfreds hard and determined German heart had years yet to travel at full speed, but Gertrude did not. Alfred knew it. Batad had been a breaking point for her. From the doorstep of his home that sat right on the path, Jo curiously watched the foreigners. Pasty skin, bags strapped to their shoulders, walking poles, boots tied so tightly it looked like they couldnt breathe. Jo had just eaten lunch with his father and older brothers, who were now sleeping. Alfred and Gertrude didnt notice Jo for several breaths. Lets ask him which way to the main road, Alfred said. Do you think he speaks Portuguese? Gertrude said. I would assume a bit. I will ask him. Alfred approached Jo. Jo didnt understand Alfreds words, but knew what he wanted. He responded in his native Kriolu. Go right, Jo said. Elbows and arms skinny and angled almost like a puppet, he was shy, but assertive. His body language was clear. He stepped in front of the path that led left, the path that descended, the path that Gertrude and Alfred desired. Do you think he understands what we want? Gertrude said. I dont think so. I really think we must go left, Alfred said. He had become increasingly condent with his sense of direction. Left is really the only logical way towards the main road.


Jo sensed the couples urge to walk left. He repeated again, go right. Jo had seen many foreigners pass and was always mesmerized by the items they lugged. He gured there was some merceria in Praia that sold such gear, but having only traveled as far as Coduli, some 30 kilometers from Drogeiro, he wasnt sure. He wondered about the photos they took, about the languages he heard, about the footprints they left. So many questions passed through his mind, but the day that Alfred and Gertrude passed was not a time to dither with the foreigners. He was intent on protecting Kima. They will not go left, he thought. Alfred and Gertrude began to do just that. Weary, Jo looked to his sandy feet and ip-ops with the Brazilian ag on each tong, and back again to the couple. He stepped in front of them. You cant pass this way. You must go right, today. Now, now, Jao said. He pointed towards the other trail. He stood his ground and leaned again to block the path to the left, which was indeed the closest and quickest route to the main road. What Alfred and Gertrude did not know was a group of women were bathing at a fountainhead just along the trail that descended. Alfred, Gertrude said. I cant walk up anymore. My leg is just throbbing and I can feel my hands swelling again. Do, lets go down. Alfred knew he could not persuade his wife to hike up any further. He, himself, was growing tired of the steep climbs. He just wanted to reach the main road and then ag down an aluguer and get to their hotel in Vila da Pombas. This boy didnt know what he was talking about, Alfred thought. Love, lets go down this mess of a steep place. Well be ne, I promise, Alfred said. He took her hand again and moved past the boy. Jo tried once more to block the path, but he was simply too scrawny. He was raised on papaya and afternoon sugar cane and was little match for Alfred, burly and beer bellied, who had enjoyed three to four hearty meals a day for the last 57 years. Please, dont walk this way, senhor, Jo said. Escusa, pardon, Alfred said. With Gertrudes swelling hand in his, Alfred shoved Jo. Jo stumbled. The tong of his right ip-op broke. Alfred and Gertrude walked steadily though the suns crippling heat soaked their skin.


After turning a few bends along the dusty path, Gertrude noticed Jo was still near. Honey, you know the boy is following us, Gertrude said. I hope you didnt hurt him back there. He may call for someone to help him. He probably is following, but hes just a boy, dear. Just a young, dumb mulatto. Lets keep walking. Were almost there, Alfred said. Jos pitter-patter quickened. He thought to run past the couple to alert the bathing women. Afraid of the creole child, Gertrude inched and jerked her hand from Alfreds. In one swift movement, Alfred turned and glared at the boy, who still ran. He raised his hand and slapped the boy in his face. Parate, Alfred said. Jo had never been struck before. His body fell limp to the ground. The hot ground felt cold against his burning chest. He lay in fear and waited for the trekkers to leave. He wondered when the ground would be warm again. Alfred, why would you, Gertrude said. Stop talking, Alfred said. He cut her off. The saliva in his throat moistened. Dont talk now, dear. Lets move. He grabbed her hand and continued descending down the path, abandoning the boy. The women sat by the watering hole. Some bathed. Some washed and dried clothes on the smooth rocks that lined the pool. They laughed and teased one another. Gossip and advice owed with the running water. Kima sat aloof and distant. She had been sullen and awkward for several months. She feared group gatherings and Kima would have certainly been left out had it not been for Jo. You must take care of her, he told the women in his village. She was in physical and emotional pain. Her neck and shoulder never really healed. Scabs still bled. She found it difcult to sleep. The scars ailed her, as well. She looked and felt different. Inadequate. No boy will ever look at me, she thought. Jo yelled to the women from the steep descending trail. Alfred and Gertrude took the cries to be little more than a young boy calling for an adult. Their greater concern was their well- being, their elusive security, getting to the paved road and nding an aluguer.


Just as they rounded a second bend in the path the bend that made the bathing pool quite visible Kima stood. Her auburn skin shone. Gertrude noticed the tan body. She saw the scar. How awful, Gertrude thought. It looked heavy, as if she carried it. It was red, black, blue, white, and full of pus and yellow discharge. From her collar bone, across her chest, deep through her breast, and down her side, it penetrated her rib cage, the scar, like a growing bacteria. How awful it was, Gertrude thought. The she remembered Batad and how tired she was. She remembered her daughter. How tired she was when she found out. The creole girls scar looked like Umas scar. The seat belt had sliced her still childish, jugular veins and ended her adolescent life. The jugular scar that wasnt her fault. Gertrude stopped. It wasnt her fault, Gertrude said. What, darling? Alfred said. He, too, saw the girl. Look. The girl there. Ive seen it before. Its like. No, its not. Dont say that, Gertrude. Shes nothing like our girl, Alfred said. Gertrude screamed. The dry cries echoed through the mountainside. It was too tangible, too close. Too real, like the day she received the phone call. Like the day she had to identify her daughters scarred body. Kima, too, screamed. I am ugly, she thought, they see it. The rocks werent supposed to tumble on anyone. It was too steep. The rocks were supposed to fall to the valleys. Jo ran to Kima. On the trail he pushed Alfred out of the way. Dont cry, my sister, dont cry, he said to Kima. Alfred grabbed his wife and held her. He didnt understand what was happening. The women grabbed Kima and covered her scarred body. They looked at Gertrude, who was crying, too. They wondered what happened to her. Jaded, Jo pointed past the pool. Go right, he said. Alfred said nothing. He led Gertrude, who kept her face in her hands. They tiptoed by the women who sat caressing Kima. Gertrude sobbed. Jo went to his sisters side and washed his hands in the pool. They were just scars.


Robyn Ryle

It was the right thing to do. It was a bad situation, but I handled it with integrity. " She stared down at the notebook in front of her. The paper was thick and textured, rough in the blank spaces. Running her hand over the surface, she could feel the slick spots where he had colored thickly with crayon. " " Thats all? What else would you like for me to say?

" They sat in the kitchen, framed by a large window that looked out onto the street. In the dim light, there was a quick movement in the window. A person, maybe. Or a cat, making its neighborhood rounds. " It was early morning, and everything looked softer than it would in the bright glare of afternoon. Their voices were quiet. All their features blended together. " I need to leave, she said. " No. Listen. Listen to me. What would you have done? he asked. In my place? " She ipped through the pages of the book. A black dog in a eld of green. A house on top of a hill. A spaceship ying past blue and purple planets. " I dont know. " No, you dont. You dont know, but you think you do. And you think you would have done something different. " He watched her hand, slowly turning each page. She held onto the edge of the paper for a moment, rubbing her ngers together in the corner. The picture on this page was of a boy, riding what might have been a bike or a skateboard. The sky above him was lled with Mshaped birds and blue clouds.


" Outside, a mourning dove began its cry. A long pause, and then the same gentle coo, quieter and farther away. In the window, there was more movement, the brief sound of voices coming closer and then fading away. " She let go of the page and placed her hands on the table, palms down on either side of the open notebook. " Im just not sure what to say. I think maybe I should leave. " Dont leave. His leg moved under the table, shifting in his seat. He rubbed his hand across his face. Dont leave. Lets talk about it. Lets process this. " Process this? " Yes. He placed both hands in his lap beneath the table. You know I love you. " I do. " There was a sudden burst of laughter from outside the window, and they both turned to look, but the sound was already gone. It was almost eight oclock and time for early mass at the church next door. The ow of people down the street would begin like this, slowly at rst. The morning quiet would be broken at long intervals by whispered conversations and hard-soled shoes on concrete. " " " " " " Tell me again, she said. Again? Yes." He looked toward the ceiling. I dont remember his mother, he said. Not at all?

" I think she was a geology major. I think she wore shorts all the time. And boots. Boots with shorts. " " " Thats all? It was twenty years ago. But still.

" He closed his eyes. Her name was Laura. We had sex once. She graduated. Ten years later, a social worker calls. " " 172 You didnt know before then? I didnt know before then.


But you said yes.

" I said yes. He had no one else. No relatives. He was staying with a foster family. What could I say? " " You said yes. I said yes.

" In the picture on the table, horizontal lines radiated out from the wheels on the skateboard or bike. The universal symbol for speed. She traced a nger along one of the lines. Outside another group of heads bobbed by in the window frame. She could see the little clouds their breath made in the cold morning air. " " " I think its over, she said. No. No. Thats not fair. It doesnt matter whether its fair. Its over.

" You need time to think. If you think through this, youll see. Youll understand. You need to give me a chance to explain. " " " " me. " Explain what? We werent a good match. I wasnt ready. He was your son. Biologically, but, Anna. He was nothing like me. Nothing like What do you mean?

" He was so.... He looked at the table, the oor, the wall behind her, the bright blue sky out the window above the heads of the people walking by. The mourning dove cooed once in the silence between groups of churchgoers. " He was so...He didnt like any of the things I like. I could never leave him alone. He needed you to be talking to him, paying attention to him all the time. " He was a kid. " Your niece is a kid. The neighbors next door have kids. Theyre not like that. He wasnt like that. " " I cant hear this. He was angry. He was so angry.


" She lifted her hands up and placed them over her ears, slid them down to the back of her neck, and pushed her elbows together across the front of her chest, becoming smaller in the chair. " He would get so angry and yell and throw things at me. He leaned into the table. I was scared. I had to call the police once. " " " " " " He tried to hurt you? she asked, still staring down into her lap. I told you, he threw things at me. Ive thrown things at you. Its not the same, Anna. Its not the same? I love you. Dont you see that I love you?

" She could see the sun coming through the window behind him begin to move across the top of his head, a few white hairs shining almost transparent in the light. She looked at those. " Tomorrow? someone asked as they passed outside the window, but the response was lost as they moved away. The people came more quickly, the space between their voices growing shorter. Listening closely, she could hear the sound of the heavy church doors opening and closing. " " " " " How old was he?" And when he left? He was twelve. And where did he go? " " " Eleven. He was eleven when he came.

" He reached up and brushed his hand through his hair in the spot where the sunlight hit. She closed her eyes tight and then opened them. She looked into his face. " Where did he go? she asked again. " The social workers came and took him. It was a trial period, so they came and took him. " And where did he go? Where is he now? " He stared at the drawing, a mass of chaotic color when seen upside down. I dont know. He bowed his head. " When she rst found the notebook that morning, hidden far in the back of the closet, she had barely been able to tell the difference 174

between his face and the dark space of the room all around. She had stumbled blind down the hall to the kitchen with the notebook held in her hand. Now, the edges were all sharp in the bright light. Objects around them became sharply detailed as if the lens on a camera were being focused. " From outside came the sound of running feet, a latecomer sprinting for the church door. " " " " " " You were wrong. It was wrong, she said. How can you say that?" Its the truth. But it wasnt working. We werent a good match. It wasnt a marriage. You have no idea what it was like, Anna. " " "

" I dont. I cant imagine how hard it must have been for you. But whatever it was, it was better than giving him up." " " " You dont know that." I do know that. No one wants a twelve year old boy. No one. He might have been adopted.

" But you dont know. You dont even know. Her voice fell off to a whisper on this last sentence, and her head fell forward, the interval between each breath becoming longer. She grasped the edge of the table in front of her. " It was wrong, she whispered at last. Tragic. A tragic thing. I have to leave. " She pushed the chair away from the table. " No, I dont accept that, he said, his voice rising. I dont accept your moral high ground. How can you? How can you just say its wrong? You dont know. What kind of moral absolutism is that? What I did wasnt wrong. It was best for him, and yes, best for me, too. Im sorry if that seems so tragic. " You know it was wrong. " No! No, I dont! he shouted. And if you think Im going to apologize, or break down weeping, youre wrong, Anna. Because I did the right thing. The best thing. The best thing for everyone. And it was hard. Dont you think it wasnt hard. As soon as I told the social worker, they came and took him away. The same day. They packed up 175

everything he had in half an hour, and he was gone. And he was screaming at me the whole time. Angry, at rst. Screaming, I knew all along you didnt want me! But then he was begging. Begging me to keep him. Begging me to let him stay. And then he was gone. And dont you think that wasnt hard, Anna. You cannot even imagine how hard that was. But it was the best thing for him, and the best thing for me. I know I did the right thing, because that was not an easy thing to do. But I did it with integrity. " Outside, a dog began barking. There was a rhythm to it, a staccato pattern. Just as quickly, it stopped. " " " " You hid the notebook, she whispered. What? You hid the notebook. No, I-

" Yes, you knew what it was before I said a word because youd hid it back there. You hid it in the very back of your closet. " The patch of sunlight had moved across his head and onto his face. Now he had to squint against the glare to see her and this contorted his face into an expression of pain. From the church came the distant sound of an organ beginning to play. The notes swirled into a crescendo and then stopped. For a moment there was complete silence. Then the sound of many voices singing burst across the space between the church and the kitchen where they sat. " She moved her chair back farther, and using the table for support, pushed herself up. In standing, she was like an old woman, uncertain of her ability to remain upright. She began to turn away, and then looked down at him once more. " Why did you keep it? " He looked at her and then at the notebook across the table. I dont know. It was all that was left after they took him. It seemed wrong to throw it away. " " " " " " Yes, she said. She nodded. As she opened the door to leave, a small child ran past her on the sidewalk, up the stairs and into the church. On the street, she could hear the organ and the voices through the open windows. There was a long silence as they nished the rst hymn. The last thing she heard before she turned the corner was the sound of priests voice. Welcome, everyone.





Jeffrey Aler
is a ve-time Pushcart nominee and the author of The Wolf Yearling (Silver Birch Press, 2013) and Idyll for a Vanishing River (Glass Lyre Press, forthcoming). Recent work appears or is forthcoming in New York Quarterly, Louisville Review and Arkansas Review.

Cindy Anderson
is a poet, performer, and award-winning songwriter.

Greg Brown
was born and raised in Oklahoma. He learned the rivers and swamps of north Mississippi in a second-hand canoe. Now, Greg lives in Erie, Pennsylvania, with his wife Christina, their two boys, and a big yellow dog. He works at Mercyhurst University and belongs to Poets' Hall #1136.

Anthony Butts
Author of The Golden Underground (Wayne State University Press 2009), Anthony Butts is a native Detroiter who has resided in Charlotte for the past ve years and whose book Little Low Heaven (New Issues 2003) won the 2004 William Carlos Williams Award granted by the Poetry Society of America.

Jonathan Callies
is a graduate student at the University of Chicago, specializing in early modern literature.

Lauren Camp
is the author of This Business of Wisdom (West End Press, 2010) and a new collection, The Dailiness (Edwin E. Smith, 2013). She hosts Audio Saucepan, a global music/poetry program on Santa Fe Public Radio, and writes the poetry blog!Which Silk Shirt at


Valentina Cano
is a student of classical singing who spends her free time either writing or reading. Her works have appeared in Exercise Bowler, Blinking Cursor, Theory Train, Cartier Street Press, Berg Gasse 19, Precious Metals, A Handful of Dust, The Scarlet Sound, The Adroit Journal, Perceptions Literary Magazine, Welcome to Wherever, The Corner Club Press, Death Rattle, Danse Macabre, Subliminal Interiors, Generations Literary Journal, A Narrow Fellow, Super Poetry Highway, Stream Press, Stone Telling, Popshot, Golden Sparrow Literary Review, Rem Magazine, Structo, The 22 Magazine, The Black Fox Literary Magazine, Niteblade, Tuck Magazine, Ontologica, Congruent Spaces Magazine, Pipe Dream, Decades Review, Anatomy, Lowestof Chronicle, Muddy River Poetry Review, Lady Ink Magazine, Spark Anthology, Awaken Consciousness Magazine, Vine Leaves Literary Magazine, Avalon Literary Review, Caduceus,White Masquerade Anthology and Perhaps I'm Wrong About the World. Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Web and the Pushcart Prize.

Tobi Cogswell
is a multiple Pushcart nominee. !In 2012 and 2013 she was short-listed for the Fermoy International Poetry Festival. In 2013, she received Honorable Mention for the Rachel Sherwood Poetry Prize. Her latest chapbook is Lapses & Absences, (Blue Horse Press).! She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (

Rob Daniels
is a playwright and poet from Cleveland. He likes his bicycle and comic books.!

Ab Davis
with publishing credits including San Pedro River Review, Big River Poetry Review, Buddhist Poetry Review, Illyas Honey, Han Shan Poetry Initiative, and Loch Raven Review. She is just nishing Unraveling Red, a novel. She writes with a small group of practicing Buddhist women in Sacramento, California.

Matthew Dexter
lives in Cabo San Lucas, where he survives on a hunter-gatherer subsistence diet of shrimp tacos and!smoked marlin, like nomadic Peric natives before him.


Cheryl Dumesnil
Winner of the 2008 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, Cheryl Dumesnil's books include a collection of poems, In Praise of Falling; a memoir, Love Song for Baby X: How I Stayed (Almost) Sane on the Rocky Road to Parenthood; and two anthologies, Hitched! Wedding Stories from San Francisco City Hall and Dorothy Parker's Elbow: Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos (co-edited with Kim Addonizio). She is a regular contributor to Hufngton Post.

Laura Esckelson
reads Pema Chdrn late at night. Hopes to spot an owl this winter during an unprecedented series of snow days.!

John Grey
is an Australian born poet, recently published in International Poetry Review, Sanskrit and the science ction anthology, The Kennedy Curse with work upcoming in Bryant Literary Magazine, Pennsylvania English , and Nerve Cowboy.

Mary-Kaylor Hanger
teaches and writes in Pittsburgh, where she received an MFA from Chatham University. !Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as!Weave, Lines + Stars, Stoneboat, and Blast Furnace.

Ed Hunt
is interested in themes of redeemable betrayal and loss, trying to show the complex emotions that are a necessary part of deep human connection.

Mark Jackley Matthew Kabik

has other published stories linked to his website at Follow him on Twitter @mlkabik.


Timothy Kenny
is a former newspaperman, non-prot foundation executive and journalism professor. His narrative non-ction has appeared in The Louisville Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Kenyon Review Online, Irish Pages, Green Mountains Review, and elsewhere.

Steve Klepetar
has recent collections Speaking to the Field Mice (Sweatshoppe Publications), Blue Season (with Joseph Lisowski, mgv2>publishing), and My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto (forthcoming from Flutter Press).

Al Maginnes
is the author of ve full length collections, most recently Inventing Constellations (Cherry Grove Edition, 2012) and Ghost Alphabet (White Pine Press, 2008), winner of the White Pine Poetry Prize. He has new or forthcoming poems in Georgia Review, American Literary Review, Cave Wall, Sierra Nevada Review, River Styx, and many others. He lives in Raleigh NC and teaches at Wake Technical Community College.

Ricki Mandeville
has poems in various journals, including Comstock Review, Texas Poetry Calendar, Stone Highway Review, First Literary Review East, and San Pedro River Review, and she is the author of A Thin Strand of Lights (Moon Tide Press, 2006).

Louis Maraj
holds an MA in English/Creative Writing from Texas Tech University and currently studies Renaissance poetics at The Ohio State University. His recent creative work can be found in New Texas, Rock & Sling, and is forthcoming in paper nautilus.!

Suzanne McWhorter
is a graduate student in Creative Writing at Cleveland State University where between her studies and focus in ction, her job slinging coffee, and her rekindled love of making music, she still makes time to nurture her passion for poetry.


Nicci Mechler
(MA English & BFA Studio Art) splits her time between writing poetry & speculative ction, editing the lit. mag. Sugared Water, and drawing girls with inky tattoos. Shes hard pressed to go anywhere without a sense of wonder and a pair of red shoes.

Ken Meisel
is a poet and psychotherapist, a 2012 Kresge Arts Literary Fellow, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and the author of ve books of poetry, the most recent being Scrap Metal Mantra Poems [Main Street Rag: 2013] and Beautiful Rust [Bottom Dog Press: 2009]. He's been published in over 80 national magazines including Cream City Review, Rattle, San Pedro River Review, Boxcar Review, Birdfeast, and Muddy River Poetry Review.

Corey Mesler
has published in numerous journals and anthologies. He has published 8 novels, 3 books of short stories, numerous chapbooks and 3 full-length poetry collections. He has been nominated for a Pushcart numerous times, and 2 of his poems have been chosen for Garrison Keillors Writers Almanac. He runs a bookstore in Memphis.

Michael Miller
is the publisher of Moon Tide Press and the author of College Town (Tebot Bach, 2010) and The First Thing Mastered (Tebot Bach, 2013). He organizes the poetry series at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center and oversees arts coverage for the Los Angeles Times' Orange County community papers.

Sam Mills
lives in Lansing, Michigan. His most recent book, 4 Against the Wall, which includes the works of three other poets from Lansing, is available on Amazon.

Rodney Nelson
published poetry in journals long ago, but he turned to ction and did not resume writing poetry until the 2000s, so he is both older and "new"; and some of his publishing history, early and late, may be found on his page in the Poets & Writers directory.


Jose Padua
has poetry, ction, and non-ction in Bomb, Salon, The Weeklings, and many other places. He was a featured reader at the 2012 Split This Rock poetry festival. He and his wife, the poet Heather Davis, write the blog Shenandoah Breakdown,

Rita Patel
is a CPA turned self-taught artist, designer, and wellness strategist.

Bradford Philen
author of the novel Autumn Falls,!Bradford is a teacher by day and writer by night. He resides in Beijing, China with his wife Jasmeen and new puppy Bear.!

Ken Pobo
has a new chapbook coming out soon from Eastern Point Press called


John G. Rodwan, Jr.

author of Holidays and Other Disasters (Humanist Press, 2013) and Fighters & Writers (Mongrel Empire Press, 2010), lives in Detroit.

Robyn Ryle
started life in one small town and ended up in another just down the river. She teaches sociology to college students when shes not writing. The rest of the time she spends with her husband and step-daughter in their 140-year old house. Find her at or on Twitter, @RobynRyle.

April Salzano
teaches college writing in Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband and two sons and is working on a memoir about raising a child with autism. She serves as co-editor at Kind of a Hurricane Press.

Tiffany Tavela
will trade a humble turn of phrase for a coffee and a bent ear. She lives in Philadelphia. 184

Caitlin Thomson
writes about absence, usually in terms of the apocalypse. Her work has appeared in numerous places, including The Literary Review of Canada, A cappela Zoo, The Liner, Going Down Swinging, The Moth, Labletter, and the anthology Killer Verse.

Sara Walton
lives in Cleveland with her husband Alex and their dog Jack. She attends Cleveland state university where she is pursuing a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing.

Eric M. R. Webb
is a poet, teaches literature and writing at Northern Virginia Community College, and will soon begin a regular reading series and parallel 'zine near where he lives; nd him at

Christopher Woods
is a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Texas. Gallery at

Heather Hallberg Yanda

teaches in the English Department at Alfred University, in the hills of upstate New York. She has work published in Spiritus, Literature and Belief, The Able Muse, among others. Her rst collection, Waking in Darkness, is looking for a publisher.





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