Apeiron Review

Fall 2014 Issue 7
Issue 7, Fall 2014
As I was sitting in a conference surrounded by other writers and writing instructors I was pumped, as I always
am, to talk about and discuss writing. Nothing new. There was a well-known speaker hired and fown in to speak
to us, and speak he did. It was interesting and enlightening. Nothing new. This speaker was introduced by the
dean of the institution’s humanities department. The dean was not a writer. He was, in fact, at one point a math
professor. He spoke of his admiration for writers and their adept ability at an activity in which he had never had
much success, but an activity, nonetheless, he does
more than any other on a daily basis. We professors
and professionals exchanged knowing glances.
Nothing new. He told us that communication and
the ability to do so skillfully was of the utmost
importance to human existence and experience. This
was not hyperbolic to this particular crowd. You
may even call the crowd a choir, and he was certainly
preaching. Nothing new. I was captivated by this
nothing new going on around me. The information
shared was new in the specifc sense, but this was no
avant-guard, system shattering meeting of artists.
And yet when posed with the editorial for the
seventh issue of Apeiron I placed the heavy weight
of newness upon my head and immediately had a
stiff neck. Apeiron is moving in new directions, and
as the humans behind the journal we have certainly
been in the midst of newness in our lives. But our
love and passion for the words on the page are
steadfast and ancient. I realized that what we’re doing
isn’t new, and that’s important. It is important to
continue to share this prophecy, as Ginsberg called
it. The prophecy of feeling or knowing something
and having that articulated in a hint in your words
that will resonate with and throughout time. Producing and publishing this prophecy is at the core of who we are,
this core of empathy, this core of what it means to be human and look to another and know, that yes, they too
feel as you do. I can think of nothing less new than this, and nothing as fundamentally important. We want your
prophecy and we want to give it to others who may not even know they need it. We know we need it, and that’s
why we’re here.
While the prophecy may not be new there are elements of newness here at the magazine. We have a staff! A
wonderful staff with wonderful reading eyes that are working hard to help Lisa and me keep up with ever growing
submissions. And I would like to single out one of those new staff members (you’ll meet the others later) for
special recognition and thanks. Xavier Vega is not only a great writer (you can read his fction “Return to Dust”
in this issue) but he has also been an invaluable asset volunteering his time, reading skills, and editing expertise to
help us comb through the beautiful mess that is the pre-published version of Apeiron. This, like many arts, is a
labor of love, and although our love is great the hours in the day are not. And so we are ever thankful to Xavier
and the others who are helping make your art a published reality. Apeiron is dedicated to its authors and the words
on the page, and that is certainly nothing new.
Editorial
Poetry
6 Dogs
Michael Bernicchi
7 Cradle 6
Judith Skillman
9 Wedding Song
Robert N. Watson
10 To a Friend a Day Younger
Robert N. Watson
19 Twice
Bradley K. Meyer
24 Diminishing Returns
Will Cordeiro
29 Simmer
Kenneth Gurney
31 Garden Party
Lauren Potts
32 Dinner with the Hemingways
Cindy St. Onge
33 Neighbor
Bob Hicks
35 Jazz Haiku (after Basho)
Mark Jones
35 Bix and Tram
Mark Jones
35 The Bad Plus Plays the Logan
Center, 25 October 2013
Mark Jones
38 Seduction at Sixteen
Kelly Andrews
The Review Staff
Editors
Meredith Davis
Lisa Andrews
Design Editor
Lisa Andrews
Production Editors
Meredith Davis
Lisa Andrews
Art Advisor
Chris Butler
Unsolicited submissions are
always welcome. Actually, we
do not solicit submissions, so
please send your work our
way.
Manuscripts are now only
accepted via Submittable. For
submission guidelines,
schedules, news, and archived
issues, please visit our
website at apeironreview.com
©Apeiron Review. All rights
revert to author upon
publication
39 The Money Girls
Peter McEllhenney
40 Calculating Rain
Matthew Connolly
42 You Have to Eat
Myron Michael
48 Burning Snakes
Heather M. Browne
55 Underemployed While Being a
Black American
Denzel Scott
57 River Canal in Fukuoka
Sarah Page
58 Condemning Colors in Pitch
Pines Park
Sarah Page
59 Fetched
Rose Maria Woodson
66 Cellophane Malaise
Kat Lerner
68 Tenderly
Finnuala Butler
69 Untitled
Finnuala Butler
76 Decency
Derick Varn
77 Ultraviolence
Vanessa Willoughby
85 Now that he has died
Ann Howells
Contents
4
About Our Cover
This issue’s cover was
created using photography
from unsplash.com. Why?
Because we wanted to use a
beautiful photo, but we didn’t
want to mar the photogra-
phy presented within these
pages with logos and text. We
thought we’d try something a
bit different. We await your
feedback.
86 At a supermarket in South
Florida
Jesse Millner
91 Quartet
Sarah Bence
93 Before We Fall Silent
C.C. Russell
99 Duende
Denzel Scott
100 Disease
Elisabeth Hewer
112 Ugly Breasts
R.K. Riley
113 Apology to Wrigley, et al.
Jean Kingsley
114 Agnes invokes the
Nightmother her syllables
made of mercury
Michael Cooper
116 Meditation on Reincarnation,
Roaches and Kim Kardashian’s
Butt
Jesse Millner
119 I have been way too careful
with my poems
Jesse Millner
120 Full-blown Sugar
Jill Khoury
121 Lifeless, Inverted
Lukas Hall
122 Midnight Picnic
Steffi Lang
123 Fog Study
Tim Buck
124 Things I Don’t Post on Tumblr
or Ars Poetica
Hannah Baggott
125 Boiled Peanuts, Out of Season
Allie Marini Batts
Fiction
12 The Challenger
Stephanie French-Mischo
20 From One Synapse to Another
Maggie Montague
25 The Game of Diamonds
Irving A. Greenfield
34 Small-Engine Repair
Ray McManus
36 Last Chance Fancy Pants
Robert Hiatt
43 Fusion
Sherry Cook Woosley
49 Metzger Haus
P.K. Lauren
60 Dear Alfredo
Rose Maria Woodson
67 Living for Leaving
M.G. Wessels
70 Evangeline of Ténéré
Matthew Donald Jacob Kelly
73 Of Gods and Curtains
Star Spider
78 Return to Dust
Xavier Vega
87 A Pocket for Taeko
Gregory App
5
94 Tokyo
Francis Davis
101 Perpetual Remnants of the
Deceased
Gina DeCagna
106 Clear Cut
Brad Garber
108 Blind Mice
Melody Sage
Nonfction
8 Words from Grandpa
Ray Scanlon
18 Knuckles
Jessica McDermott
61 There Are All Sorts of Holes
Michelle Donahue
Photography
17 Cresting the Hill
Shawn Campbell
30 Refection in My Eyes
M.I. Schellhaas
41 Fern
Kristi Beisecker
56 Figures, Cathedral,
Nicaragua, 88
Harry Wilson
72 Life Ring
Dave Petraglia
84 My Perceptive Simulacrum
Savannah Hocter
92 Looking Ahead
Shawn Campbell
107 Naked Summer
Katherine Minott
6
Michael Bernicchi
Dogs
My mother says
the dogs aren’t
smiling but sweating
and they can’t love
only obey
only once
they smelled
cancer and were
nicer to the
cat and I
wonder if
my mother
knew love
7
Cradle 6
Judith Skillman
after Erika Carter’s artwork
You must not cry for night,
a garden of blues and greens,
the fragrant stars, the little melodies
falling silent. You must not weep
for the selvage of dusk, its frame
settling against the window.
This other kind of cotton’s
made to soothe, to sweep and wrap
against your back. Your child’s
hiding within the forbidden grove,
ever restless with her dreams
of horses, her fear of wind.
8
There are words as good as forgotten through disuse and resurrected by chance, words
acquired in my fshing days when I had scarcely attained double-digit years, before I even knew
the defnition of vocabulary: Wulff, hellgrammite, Neversink. There are words that, like the
unexpected advent of a hummingbird, trigger a smile, which I will pit against cellar door and
Shenandoah any day: Kattegat and Skagerrak (always the pair, and they always remind me of
Shagrat and Gorbag), zouave, myrmidon, erysipelas. The oldest words delight me most, words with
a provenance, burnished by long service, words my grandfather taught me: peacock herl, ginkgo,
caltrop, wapiti, stiletto—as in my crudely-glued plastic model Douglas X-3 Stiletto that sat on my
grandparents’ television. Unlike its prototype, the model did not end its days in a museum.
Ray Scanlon
Words from Grandpa
9
Robert N. Watson
Wedding Song
They brought in session men to tape my wedding song—
The whole legendary Muscle Shoals rhythm section.
I sat back against a poorly lacquered panel in the church foyer
My mouth taped shut, though my tongue tested
The bitter adhesive, and after a while I found myself
Humming along. I had tried banging my head against the wall,
But that seemed just to make them laugh in there,
The bride’s side twinkling an eye across the aisle.
I tried thinking the music on the rack of the rehearsal piano,
But it was Rachmaninoff, and the frst page was mostly signatures.
In person, I was pronounced “husband” and “now the worse
For wear,” at which the younger wives whispered behind their hands
To each other, giggling, about the dust on my tuxedo tails,
The clownish lips produced when they ripped off the tape,
Mercifully all at once. And everyone said the video
Came out beautiful, and we still play it sometimes.
10
What was the difference if it rained the day that you
Were born, or on the day before, when I was born?
We were too young, our mothers were too tired, to see
The sunlight angling through the blinds, if any did.
It could have rained on Clotho and the continent
From Sacramento to New York, the land a washcloth
Held up to a shower, pale and dry one moment
And the next all dark and dripping with its purpose
Once again, and it would not have mattered much,
To us. On my birthday ten years later, rain
Had hung a beaded curtain on your back-porch door—
As good as prison-bars, your parents must have thought—
But breath and pulse pursued you hurtling to the swamp,
A maze as strange and vivid as your fever-dreams.
Your legs were small and cuffed by arcs of mud from when
You stepped between the clumps of grass. You climbed the tree
That overhung the stream: the darkened bark was sweet
Against your hands, and underneath the waters puckered
Milkily, and surged as if another urge
Were deeper underneath; your body tugged you down;
You landed willingly on hands and knees, and stopped.
You felt the spongy ground, and you could smell the life
That it was breathing, and your hair itself was running
Lines of rain, and in the momentary blur
You traded with the feld the look of curious
Surprise of people who have never kissed before,
And linger in the secret and the moisture of
Each other’s eyes, half-worldly, wondering what they’ve done.
Then you stood up and looked back at the house—a slivered
Thing between the lines of hair and reeds and rain.
When you arrived the raindrops and the reeds had wiped
The giant fngerprints of mud from off your knees,
And you were welcomed in with tokens of reproach,
But you were still the smiling of your parents’ Sunday:
Fresh as water and your infant second breath.
To a Friend a Day Younger
Robert N. Watson
11
The next day I was just another child, a creature
Tempest-tossed, but stabbing bravely at the world
With weapons new to him, to free a buried spring;
You had become the present, crisply dressed in pink;
And only when the party waned, and when the door
Swung open for a last departure, could you hear
The storm that hailed you like a thousand ticking clocks.
It seems somehow unnatural to celebrate
A single birthday here tonight; a decade goes,
But not the ghost; I feel my time becoming yours
In midnight tolls. The hour is oceanic, troubled;
Dreaming dead, and suited for the mist in coats
Of wistfulness, I travel out to meet the phantom
Of my age that sees a difference in the rain.
12
The Challenger
Stephanie French-Mischo
It’s cold and dark the morning of January
28, 1986. Icicles dangle from the A-frame
of the old swing set in the Fiorlito backyard.
Brooke, the eldest daughter, tears herself from
the otherwise fat, Central Illinois view of
her bedroom and wrests her damp hair into a
ponytail. An embroidery foss bracelet slides
toward her elbow. Only one of these woven
loops of friendship remains, and it clashes with
the black watch plaid of her uniform jumper.
In another year, she will advance to wearing
a white, robin-collar blouse with a solid navy,
box-pleat skirt—the much more sophisticated
high school uniform. But, if her parents get
their way, her little sister will be sporting the
same.
“We’re out of mousse,” Brooke says as she
enters the blaze of light and yolky paint that is
the family kitchen.
“I’ll add it to the list.” Mom folds crisp rolls
in the tops of brown paper lunch sacks. “And a
Good Morning to you, too.”
Brooke scuffs over the tile. She knows that
her parents are exchanging that look as she
takes a seat at the oval table of blonde wood
and matching boomerang-back chairs. Atomic
age, her father brags, collectible. Multi-colored
planetary models of the same era sprinkle the
curtains. He’s particular about how things look
even if all she can see of him at the moment is
his receding hairline above the newspaper.
“They’re launching the Challenger today,”
Cecilia says to her, as though she cares. A
dishtowel protects Ceec’s uniform jumper from
spills. Brooke points to an imagined something
on the pointed edge of the towel. Cecilia
knows better than to glance down; Brooke
ficks her sister’s nose anyway before placing a
napkin on her lap, like an adult. Things would
be easier if their parents allowed them to come
to the table in their pajamas, but they refuse to
listen—to this among many other reasonable
requests. Brooke reaches for a banana, the sole
alternative to the wannabe astronauts’ steak-
and-eggs breakfast.
“They’re really going to go today,” Cecilia
tells her, still stuck on the stupid space shuttle.
“We’ll see.”
The corner of Dad’s paper fops perilously
close to the grease shining on his plate. His
head doesn’t move, so Brooke is left to wonder
if that’s an accident or a response to her
skepticism.
“It’s cold even in Florida.’ Mom frowns at
the banana peel spanning Brooke’s uneaten
meal like some sort of tentacle-bearing sea
monster. “Make sure to wear your sweaters.”
“It’s about that time,” Dad says. “Coats,
backpacks, shoes.”
A shoveled walk lets the girls pass to the
drive without slipping. Exhaust plumes from
the Saab’s tailpipe. Brooke cups a gloved hand
under the door pull. As the oldest, she should
get the front seat, but Dad has determined—
out of fairness to Cecilia—that both of his
daughters should sit in the back. The car’s
cabin is warm at least, the windows already
fogging over as though they are in the clouds.
They buckle up before Dad pulls through the
crescent and into the street.
“I hope Mission Control doesn’t scrub the
13
launch again,” Cecilia says.
“Columbia was delayed a couple times,
remember?’ Dad’s voice lifts. He works as a
Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the
local campus and asks for freeze-dried ice
cream packs alongside his birthday cake. “Do
you recall why?”
Cecilia ticks off a list in her girlie voice.
“First it was an aft orbital compartment,
then out-of-tolerance solid rocket booster
hydraulics, and then problem valves and pre-
valves, plus the weather. They returned late,
which pushed the Challenger back.”
“Or maybe Tang and freeze-dried food laid
everybody up in the vacu-toilet,” Brooke teases.
Cecilia says, “I like Tang.” Brooke begins to
laugh.
Dad’s resulting eyelock in the rearview makes
it clear he understands that ’tang is vernacular
for something else. It’s surprising; her parents
seem so clueless otherwise. She glares back,
a point made that her sister, book-smart as
Cecilia may be, is not prepared for high school.
When he breaks away, she says more to Dad
than to Cecilia, “You forgot to mention the
Columbia astronauts blowing one of their
missions because they forgot batteries.”
This earns another look from Dad, a longer
one since they’d reached the stop sign at the
end of their road. It’s like she’s insulted him
personally. He returns to gauging traffc, and
she winds the slack of her lone bracelet around
her opposite index fnger then releases. Threads
near the closing knot have already snapped
out of this habit. They dangle from her under
her coat cuff like frayed wires. She could make
more of the bracelets, of course, but trades are
what symbolize the right associations. Status
is the whole point of wearing them. Dad taps
his palm on the wheel and mutters, “Go, go,
go!” to spur the morning traffc to adapt to his
speed.
Brooke rubs a circle on the window to see
the white colonial where they used to stop and
pick up Angie. No longer. Word had spread
about Cecilia being advanced, and, among
other slights, Angie had started to ride in
with her mom. A campaign of whining, door
slamming, and threats hadn’t granted Brooke
the same privilege.
“I’m sure they’ll push for the launch today,”
Dad eventually says. “It’s getting embarrassing.”
He turns on NPR for an update, and
Cecilia starts digging in her backpack. As
Dad accelerates to make the green arrow
onto Westchester, Cecilia knocks into Brooke.
“Watch out,” Brooke warns, punctuating with a
good shove to put her sister back into place.
Cecilia keeps fshing in her bag until she
recovers a mass of green and white embroidery
foss.
The outside world begins to swirl and a rush
of blood crashes into Brooke’s ears. “Were you
in my stuff ?”
Cecilia avoids answering Brooke, revealing a
strip of bracelet several inches long and about
a half-inch thick. Alternate-color chevrons
form the design. She pats it fat and untangles
the mess. “It’s like the one you wanted in
YM—only in school colors.”
“Yeah.’ Brooke caresses the work. It’s nice,
but she can’t exactly wear a bracelet Cecilia has
made without being an über-loser. However,
if she can weave bracelets as good as this, she
might incite some trades. “How’s it go?”
Cecilia fastens the safety pin to the hem
of her coat for tension and then explains the
sequence of knots as she completes a row. “I
can write it down if you want.”
“I got it.” Brooke unclasps the pin from
Cecilia’s coat and stuffs the entire project into
her pocket before Dad catches on to something
that might disrupt her schoolwork.
Brooke’s rubber-soled Keds lose their spring
as soon as she’s out of the heated car. Still,
she will not suffer the indignity of yanked-up
knee socks in addition to being dropped off at
school with Cecilia. She approaches the two-
story box of blonde brick, the sills outlined in
Parisian green.
Her homeroom clusters near the west-facing
doors of the junior high wing. Students are not
allowed inside until seven-ffty but are given
demerits if not in class by eight. A group of
pant-clad boys serve as a windbreak as Brooke
14
hovers at the outer ring of the eighth grade
cool clique, her socks fashionably scrunched,
her fst tight around Cecilia’s bracelet tucked in
her pocket.
The ffth graders are in much the same
confguration farther down the school yard.
Cecilia, though, is out in her own orbit again,
scraping a bit of frost or mold or who-knows-
what into one of her baby food “specimen
jars” before tucking it into her pack. This
sort of thing will not go over well at the
high school. And it isn’t just this or even just
this day that has Brooke concerned. Most
of the summer Cecilia had geeked around
the neighborhood with a Kleenex box, two
emptied TP rolls, and Atari joysticks taped
to her back like her very own Manned
Maneuvering Unit. Brooke had pitched the
damned thing so Cecilia would have to play tag
or something normal, but, instead, her sister
had sat and dripped melted Popsicle over piles
of National Geographic while on the front
stoop.
The school bell rings at ten ’til. The students
form rows so they’ll be let inside. Cecilia,
already advanced one grade by this time, is
a full head shorter than anyone in her class.
Brooke crosses the metal threshold into the
Junior High wing, traversing a salt-crusted and
soggy mat to terrazzo tiles. If they’d been born
boys, their father might have worried more
about the difference in age and size at high
school. Had her mother not told him or had
she forgotten the politics of breasts and fat
chests, of pervy boys and mean girls? Brooke
hangs her bag, her coat.
Perhaps things were different in the golden
days. They believed in Martians and thought
the moon was made of green cheese. Their
generation held—holds—some pretty strange
ideas. For example, Teachers in Space sounds
like a bad sci-f series. She goes by Mrs. Orlen,
the upper-level science instructor, in the hall
and concludes that moon landing nostalgia
explains the glittery deely-boppers wriggling
above the woman’s head.
First period Catechism passes by doodling in
a notebook. Then, since it is Tuesday, Brooke
faces the humiliation of PhysEd instead of the
beauty of Music, like on Monday-Wednesday,
or her favorite, Art, on Friday. In Art, she
might’ve found time to work on the bracelet.
But volleyball eats up all of PE, and, at the end
of ffty sweaty minutes, masculine-anorexic
Mrs. Monyhan claps her hands together and
says, “Line up, class. Alphabetically. Your
homeroom teacher has asked you to proceed—
silently—to the Multipurpose Room to view
the launch.”
So, it is still on. The only good news in this
announcement is the opportunity to stand next
to Angie. Brooke rolls up her sweater and does
a few knots on the chevron bracelet stashed
inside. She makes a mistake on the sequence,
but Angie takes the bait and whispers, “We
could swap when you’re through.” The
bracelets Angie creates are of a lesser quality
than Cecilia’s, but are much higher status.
Brooke agrees.
Mrs. Orlen beckons the class forward and
into the Multipurpose Room, an area about
half the size of the basketball court and with
sliding blackboards up front. The pep club
uses the attached kitchen to make popcorn for
home games, and the stale, slightly rancid odor
of the seasoning has sunk into the deep blue
industrial carpet. Sixth and seventh graders sit
in blocks of about forty, an aisle left between
homerooms. Another void separates the
students from a twenty-four inch TV atop a
rickety A/V cart. A Betamax as well as a VHS
wait beneath, red recording lights shining. Mrs.
Orlen directs, “Eighth graders behind grade
seven, please. Quietly.”
“Why are we so far back?” a classmate asks
as they fold to sit on the foor.
Mrs. Orlen responds, “Grade fve will be
joining us.”
Heads whip towards Brooke. Everyone
knows why the little kids are invited up, and she
is guilty by relation. Even Angie, so warm when
interested in the bracelet, shifts dark. Coughs
of nerd break from the boys in Brooke’s
section as Cecilia and her class parade inside.
The teachers hear nothing, as usual. They
don’t intervene even when Brooke’s blonde
15
boy crush, the one with the constellation of
freckles over his nose and cheeks, aims one
of those coughs her way. She ties a few knots
tighter than the rest. The strain makes them
appear smaller.
Cecilia helps herself to front and center. She
stares up at the static Cape Canaveral shot,
squirmy at all that potential just sitting there.
News people talk of ice on the tower and
the possibility of delay. Brooke expects that
NASA will scrap it at the last minute, hoarding
publicity. Then again, they can only cry wolf
for so long. Shuttle launches aren’t exactly the
event they used to be. This isn’t even airing on
a real network—a satellite donated by Angie’s
dad brings in CNN.
Brooke continues to weave whenever
Mrs. Orlen isn’t looking. Angie warns her
once, keeping her from getting caught. The
protection is more for the bracelet than for
Brooke, but she takes what she can get. Angie
having a bracelet means the other girls wanting
ones, too. Brooke can almost feel the silky glide
of all those links along her forearm. But Mrs.
Orlen senses trouble and camps out nearby.
She slips into the fuzzy, avocado-colored
cardigan usually stowed on the back of her
chair. Brooke pushes the bracelet back into her
sleeve before spacing out at looped footage of
the crew boarding.
Seven astronauts, yet everyone’s attention
centers on McAuliffe. The others have trained
for years, fying jets, gaining experience from
living the life, and then she comes and hogs
the whole spotlight. Classic. Brooke hopes the
crew has put her through an initiation at least.
There is the freshman feld trip—Science Day
at the amusement park. She could put Ceec on
the stand-up coaster. A tear and vomit-streaked
Cecilia might give evidence that little sis can’t
hack the pressures. Yes! Their parents will have
to pack Cecilia off to the genius school then,
or plunk her back with the booger-pickers
of ffth-grade…or ground big sister for not
looking out, regardless of the fact that it
should be their job. This last one, sadly, is the
most plausible based on experience. Brooke
begins her ritual of twisting and untwisting her
bracelet. Her fngertip purples and swells as the
countdown fnally starts.
Ten thirty in the morning, Central Time.
The teachers are jazzed, some of them
deluded enough to think they could be the
next astronaut. Her classmates’ shifting and
whispering and passing covert notes or ficking
paper triangles for feld goals ends. Everyone’s
watching now, waiting. Brooke’s rear end is
numb.
The CNN guy talks over the offcial clock
at Kennedy, and Cecilia lip synchs with him.
“T-minus ten, nine, eight, seven, six, fve, four,
three, two, one.”
The Challenger ascends on clouds of white.
It adjusts its attitude. The throttling down
of the engines is logged. Cecilia is hunched
and scribbling in one of her notebooks, likely
recording the data to graph with Dad later on.
They graph all kinds of things for fun. Brooke
looks around for signs of dismissal and fnds
none. She gets in another few knots on the
bracelet. Not a whole lot of string remains.
Cecilia has underestimated what she needs,
and Brooke worries about a snug ft on Angie’s
rather thick wrist. It’s so quiet that Brooke
thinks she’s been busted, but, when she glances
up, everyone’s still looking at the TV.
The shuttle isn’t on screen. Instead, a strange,
Y-shaped cloud blots the sky. Horns reach out
from a cotton ball body and a devilish tail.
An announcer says it is the Solid Rocket
Boosters, but Brooke has seen enough launches
to know that the SRBs don’t produce a trail like
that, not normally. Something is wrong. She
grabs and winds her bracelet as the shots of
icicles on the scaffold and the icicles on her old
swing set begin to merge in her brain.
Cecilia and the others in the room lean
forward. It’s as though they expect that at any
moment the Challenger will rise above the
obfuscating white and continue into the great
blue yonder. Orlen hugs her ugly, green sweater
to herself like a binkie, her deely-boppers a
quiver. Mission Control seems frozen. A TV
voice, soundless for several seconds, says they
are “looking carefully at the situation.” Her
parents and teachers have “looked carefully” at
16
Cecilia and her placement.
Cecilia. Still in the prime spot, trying to
absorb the static shot of sky and steam
looming in front of them. She’s catching on,
rocking back and forth upon her hands, her
odd way of self-soothing that often precedes
a monster ft. To go off like that will humiliate
them both. She needs help, but Mom isn’t here,
and the teachers stand as transfxed and as
useless in this tragedy as in the face of coughed
insults.
Brooke unfolds her stiff legs without kicking
the students in front of her. The carpet fbers
have cratered her skin between sock and hem.
She rubs her wrist against the marks, hoping
to clear the imprints on each tract, but they
stubbornly stay. Another thread of bracelet
pops from the friction. She tries to tie it to the
remaining shreds, tugging hard while keeping it
from unravelling further. Meanwhile, nothing
appears on the TV, not even parachutes.
The teachers start to see what has happened.
Brooke notices the glances between them, the
head jerks. They’ll conference before they do
anything—and even then it’ll probably be the
wrong decision.
Brooke can save all of them from it—she
sees this but hopes to be recalled by the use
of her full name followed by a sentencing of
detention as she stands. She pauses, the hide-
and-seek pressure of holding both breath and
urine holding her a moment. However, she is,
as is often the case, invisible. No last-second
reprieve comes, even as she foats towards
the disaster up front. “Obviously, a major
malfunction,” the man on TV says.
Cecilia’s face is pulled tight, like when
she’s losing a board game. Her rocking nears
frenetic, but her eyes haven’t left the screen.
She is incapable of turning off.
Brooke’s fngertips barely register the ridged
knob protruding from the TV. She gives a twist
and a push, not sure which action shuts this
particular set down. The volume of dead air
increases for a moment before the television
pop-fades to black.
Eyes move to her. This unaccustomed
attention throbs through her limbs. It takes
all of her will to endure it, to keep her head
up, and to return the stares of the bewildered
students and their teachers. Mrs. Orlen fnally
says, “Brooke, please rejoin your classmates.”
There’s a giggle as Brooke reddens, rushes
back. But the laughs are at the adults’ expense.
Her rebellion garners pats on her damp and
hunched back, a thumbs-up and wink from
the blond, freckled boy. Angie reaches for the
bracelet that fell from Brooke’s sleeve when
she’d stood. They are instructed to return
to their homerooms, Angie tying what is
salvageable of the bracelet around Brooke’s
wrist.
A look back shows the vice principal
bent over Cecilia, who remains in her curl
of motion. To touch her in that state is a
dangerous thing. The teachers know this and
will clear the other children then call their
mother. Cecilia will be taken home. A damp
cloth will be put over her forehead and the
covers pulled to her chin.
Over dinner, in hushed tones so not to
disturb the exhausted and resting genius but
no less urgent for their volume, their parents
will discuss what happened. Dad will focus
on the technical issues, hypothesizing causes
if they are not yet known. Mom will worry
about those left behind—the families, the
technologists involved. Brooke will point out
the red fags ignored. She will use NASA and
Cecilia’s breakdowns to blow her whistle all the
louder. Perhaps, in the respectful silence that
follows, they will hear her.
17
Shawn Campbell
Cresting the Hill
18
Jessica McDermott
Knuckles
A friend once told me the only part of the human body that doesn’t turn to ash after cremation
are knuckle bones—like little Jacks, small concaving squares with the durability to withstand
temperatures reaching above 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
My dad’s knuckles are fat. From growing up on a farm and playing basketball for the last ffty
years, my dad’s knuckles have been jammed in nearly every fnger. I will often notice him squeezing
the knuckle on his ring fnger, sub-consciously measuring the worst of the bunch, trying to make
sense of the pain it shoots up his hand.
My dad has had three wives now, but I don’t think a wedding ring ever went easy over his
enlarged knuckle. I imagine once he got the ring over the joint, he left it there without ever taking
it off; only removing the metal-hoop after my mother died and the other two rings after each
kicked him out, both times in mid-winter.
Maybe my dad strokes his fnger not only to ease the pain, but to touch the soft space just after
the middle knuckle where a wedding ring typically sits. Like a phantom limb still stings and aches,
maybe he feels metal where there is skin, maybe he is remembering what is left when something
ends. Perhaps there is comfort in momentarily covering what is now bare as bone.
19
Bradley Meyer
Twice
That frst summer spent drinking
with salvia for saliva & mushroom visions,
vicious in our heads
few by swiftly.
That autumn, winter & spring
passed in succession slowly.
They were only in the way of another
Summer spent drinking
with salvia for saliva & mushroom visions,
vicious again-
-No, no, no, you were standing
over there before & Tyler
was sitting there.
-Tyler’s dead.
-I know, I know, but...
We were unable to recreate it.
& the third summer, we didn’t even bother.
I don’t cross my fngers for Alzheimer’s,
Frontal lobe trauma & forgetting.
Instead, my sails unfurl,
devoid of destination to avoid
any further attempts at
a second 2007.
I burn my calendars
& hurl the ashes
over-board.
20
Maggie Montague
From One Synapse To
Another
I.
The scent of milk and golden honey flls the
bathroom, or at least that is what the label tells
me. The allusion seems out of place on a three-
dollar soap dispenser. Moses and the Israelites
trudged through the wilderness with grains
of dirt crushed into their skin. And me, with
clean hands doused in the scent of milk and
honey. The images cannot be reconciled in my
mind, and I am fooded with the urge to walk
until my shoes wear thin, to seek something,
anything, to put meaning back into the scent.
II.
I frst encountered the Wandering Jew,
an aptly named member of the spiderworts
family, outside a Subway in Texas. The spider-
like purple-leaved plant hung in front of the
window, limp in the summer heat. Tradescantia
pallida gets its nickname from the rapid rate of
the vine growth. The vines are easily uprooted
and broken off. The Wandering Jew can be
given new life by simply laying the broken off
stem on soil, and it will begin to grow again.
The name alludes to a myth said to be
invented and frst recorded in the thirteenth
century by an Armenian archbishop. There are
many different versions and names given to
the Wandering Jew, but the gist of the story is
as Jesus was dragged from the hall of Pontius
Pilate a man goaded him saying, “Go faster,
Jesus, go faster,” encouraging Jesus toward
his death. Jesus responded to the man, “I am
going, and now you shall wait until I return.” It
is said that the man was cursed in this moment
with immortality until the second coming of
Jesus. The myth also has origins in Genesis’s
story of Cain cursed to wander the world for
murdering his brother Abel.
I acknowledge its shaky origins and the fact
that it is a myth, thus inherently false, but I
also wonder where the Wandering Jew would
be today. Would he be in the midst of planting
new roots? Or maybe, he would be just about
to detach from the home he has come to know,
because the wandering heart does not allow
him to stand still for long. How many footsteps
has he taken, and how many pieces of himself
has he left in his wake?
III.
My grandfather Leo was a wandering
soul. When my mother was only nine, he
left my grandmother Esther, ten years after
immigrating to Los Angeles from Jerusalem.
But his wandering started before that, when
he was a boy in Germany, in Poland, in Egypt,
when he became a man in Prague, a husband
and father in Israel. When I was little, I
remember cramming into the van to visit him
in Los Angeles. He would beckon us into his
stuffy apartment with remnants of his over-
easy egg caught in his mustache. I would call
him Saba and he would smile. I would sit on
the rug at his feet, and he would settle into his
chair, squinting into the distance to fnd his
memories. He told tales of the ghost he had
21
seen in a hotel room in Italy. The specter sat on his
bed silent, as he grasped the wall to steady his shaking
legs. It was a woman he once knew, but could not
remember her name.
He told me of the time he gave his only
money to two young boys in Prague. He slept
in the street that night. He wasn’t a religious man, but
thoughts of God kept his teeth from chattering. He
would stop the story, look past me, past my
mother, father, brothers, and into the place
beyond the walls, where his memories escaped
him.
IV.
The Wandering Jew has been a recurring
theme throughout the centuries in art and
literature; take for instance, French artist Marc
Chagall’s painting On the Road, the Wandering
Jew, or British poet Percy Shelley’s poem “The
Wandering Jew.” Both portray immortality as
a form of punishment. To wander and to seek
used to be synonymous in my mind. Both
words hinted at a chance for adventure and
sojourns into another world, but now they
could not seem farther apart. The Israelites
sought the promised land. There was an end to
the journey, a home destined on the other side
of the travels, while the Wandering Jew cannot
settle, he must constantly uproot. In wandering,
he gains access to the world, but as one in exile,
never again can he fnd home.
I wish I had snapped a stem from the plant
hanging outside the Subway window. I could
have planted a piece of the Wandering Jew in
each of the places I went. My path through
the world could be traced by the vines seeking
a way out of their pots. And the branches
would leap from their confnes and begin
again. Instead, I left a piece of myself. My ears
remain forever in San Francisco, where they
listen to the pluck of my brother Jacob’s banjo
while leaning against foam-covered walls. My
feet continue to walk the streets of London,
catching on the cobblestones of century-old
streets. My mouth exchanges stories with my
parents between bites of spaghetti in San
Diego. My jaw clenches to keep my teeth
still in Big Bear, where my brother Jonathan
and sister-in-law Lauren teach me how to
snowboard. As for my nose, I wonder where
I left it; perhaps, it sniffs the sulfuric stench
of Yellowstone, or maybe, it seeks out the
company of fsherman in Tarcoles.
V.
My grandfather died at the age of 93 after
battling dementia for several years. The last two
years of his life were spent in nursing homes in
my hometown, Fallbrook. My mother visited
him every week writing down his stories on
a yellow notebook pad. She flled page after
page, and the lines of fact and fction were
never clear. He claimed he sat next to George
Lucas on a plane, and my grandfather spoke
of his idea about a story crafted in a galaxy far,
far away. He also spoke of the time he tried to
smuggle John Lennon into the country, and
my mother remembers walking down to the
pay phone at night because John Lennon called
collect and my grandmother wouldn’t pay.
I remember visiting my grandfather, and
he was so certain that he had thousands of
dollars hidden away somewhere. A retribution
check from after World War II. It was next to
the motorcycle in a garage he did not have.
He died, and somewhere in the aftermath, the
yellow note pad was lost.
VI.
My defnition of home narrows a bit more
each day. My brothers’ rooms have been
emptied of guitars and computer gadgets and
decorated with World Market canvases. The
rickety treadmill has been updated to a newer
model, complete with a non-slip guarantee. My
parents want to re-paint the kitchen. Change
is good, we say to each other. My address
switches to 1012 North Ten Mile Road as the
tree grows taller outside 1114 Bellewood Way.
The participants in annual family road trips
reduce from fve to four to three to two.
Change is good. Maps of places I have been
and places I plan to go line the walls of my
22
room. Picture frames are crammed into the
corner of my desk, and in their static state,
I trust them to tell me of my past. I keep
memories of kickboxing in oven mitts with
my mother to avoid cleaning the dishes or
watching the Miami Dolphins win their one
game in the 2007 season with my dad, I keep
them just below the surface. And I look to the
pictures to tell me of the red in Jacob’s beard
and the blue in my father’s eyes.
VII.
According to Israeli neuroscientist Daniela
Schiller, “Memory is what you are now.
Not in the picture, not in the recordings.
Your memory is who you are now.” Schiller
studies the reconstruction of memory and
how controlling memory can be benefcial to
patients undergoing rehabilitation or trauma
recovery. She compares the repeated access of
memory to revising a story every time you tell
it. Every time a memory is accessed, a morsel
of it is changed. A piece of reality is traded for
fction.
Neuroscientists such as Schiller or Karim
Nader seek to show that memory is malleable
and not consolidated as previous scientists
had thought. Traditional thought said that
memory once constructed would remain
relatively unchanged. Nader suggests that
the act of calling upon memory is an act of
reconsolidation, or re-construction. This
reconsolidation could be the brain’s way of
restructuring the past from the perspective of
the future. We take into account everything that
has happened since the memory and infuse
that knowledge into the memory itself. Nader
explains that this process is what could keep us
from re-living past trauma.
VIII.
My dog died yesterday. My father called and
said that she didn’t suffer. They stuck a needle
in her because sixteen years was too much
for her body to handle. Lacy witnessed three-
fourths of my life. All I could think was, if
I recall her, I would lose her a bit more. My
defense weakened when I tried to fall asleep,
and I recalled Lacy’s lion eyes and reddish
brown face framed in gray, but the light in her
eyes shifted from golden to green as I tried to
grasp it.
My defnition of home narrows a little
more. I know I can’t go back. I can’t go back
to the roof of the doghouse where Lacy and
I stood to keep away from Petey, my brother’s
white boxer, who shook his head and fung
drool in every direction. It’s fading, the story
where she ran away to another county and was
adopted from a pound, which we discovered
a week later. I walked down the aisles of the pound,
pit-bull in every cage, I saw her face in each of them.
Except, she was a mutt, pit-bull and lab, maybe
something else too. But she peed on their
carpet and they returned her to the pound. She
came home to us.
The walls of my house trembled from the 4
th
of July
freworks. Or maybe, it was the bombs being tested at
Camp Pendleton. Both shook the walls, and I held her
tight to stop the tremors coursing through her.
IX.
From 135 C.E. when the Romans exiled the
Jews from Israel to 1948 when the state of
Israel was re-established, the tribes of Israel
spread across the world with no homeland
to return to. After 1,813 years away, homes
change, people change as well. Knowledge is
gained and lost, while stories are revised from
one generation to the next.
What specters exist in the lands of Egypt?
What pieces of heritage were discarded in
the ghettos of Poland or the concentration
camps of Germany? What remains of them
on the streets of New York, or in the flms of
Hollywood? And what of them still dwells in
the temples of Israel?
People say my generation dwells in an
amnesiac culture. What have we already lost?
X.
Jacob and I decided that we want to try and
23
celebrate Hanukkah this year. The problem is
that we don’t know what that entails. We know
there are eight days, we know a menorah is
involved. My mother, the only full-blooded
Jew in our household, knows bits and pieces,
but my grandmother left all that behind in
Jerusalem. My mother didn’t celebrate any
holidays growing up in the Jewish projects of
West Hollywood, where Christmas morning
was the prime time to ride your bikes in the
street. She became a Christian in college and
married a Gentile, receiving a letter of warning
from her aunt. Don’t marry that German boy. We
need to keep the Jewish heritage going. We are the only
ones that can. She married my father anyways,
who, though not German, was also not Jewish.
“Why Hanukkah?” My mother asked, and
I puzzled over this. Why did I take a course
on Biblical Hebrew, why do I organize my
bookshelves right to left, why do I investigate
the Holocaust like remembering will erase it,
why do I seek to go to Israel and see what this
promised land business is all about? “I don’t
know, Mom. It just feels like we lost something
along the way.”
I am not converting to Judaism, though there
was a second of consideration when I realized
that if I converted, the Jewish state would
pay for me to go to Israel. I am Christian,
and I remain so. But there is something to
maintaining the Jewish heritage, and I can’t
bear to forget, even what I do not yet know.
24
My family’s written tender blah-blah notes
for years. They offer me their trust
funds. But I’ve been too busy cashing out
their checks to ever check back in.
I found this word, idiolalia, but never looked
it up. I took all I can. Took it in and got more
smashed than the guitars. What’s not questionable?
I crowd-surf, crowd-source hallucinations—
I help cover hits. I double dip blue chips
in low-cal artichoke spread, and call it a vegetable
despite the sugared processing
while sound checks iron out the static, feedback.
The lights gel. We tool with covers before redressing.
—Old card. We’re called “Nervosa” now. No,
I just work merch. Y’know, I bang my head
while the markets and the spliffs
get rolled. Most days I need a lift, like if
the gig’s in some exurban hole. I listen
to the air reports. News says your model’s
been recalled. I tell the kids that punk is dead.
I tell the old-timers you never can know what
is being said on them old records, golden junk.
I hatch up Ponzi schemes for blue book quotes,
take stock of gonzo marginal value theorems
as the squirrels scratch up their patchy treasures
buried in the pay-dirt everywhere; blonde rows
of slow rotisseries in discount tanning beds—
it’s all screwed up my heart, like some halfway
transformed Transformer, not quite starship,
not quite Decepticon, ok… So far, so what?
Yo, shit-tards, I tell ’em, I need your bottle-
opener, a’ight? I’ve paid my dues. This piece of
work ain’t a twist-off, jeez. Hey, fuck it bros,
I’ll whip something out my old bag of tricks
you gotta see: here, hold still, I can make it
pop like nobody’s business, getting purchase
against the gristle of my good eye socket.
Diminishing Returns
Will Cordeiro
25
Fathers tend to teach their children whether
or not they want to. Some do it because the
son or the daughter will someday take over
the family business, or perhaps the child
accompanies the father to “the job,” whatever
it might be. That particular educational practice
reaches back to the time when man was a
hunter, and it was imperative the son learn the
skills of his father.
In time the “apprentice system” created a
surrogate “father.” There are still skills that
require years of apprenticeship. But more often
than not, high schools, junior colleges and
regular colleges take the place of patriarchal
teaching.
When I was younger—say, in my twenties—I
would argue that my father never taught me
anything. It was a stupid statement, and could
have only been made by someone in the
foolishness of youth. Because I believed it, I
looked for, though not consciously, a surrogate
father. And every time I bonded with a man
older than myself, I was disappointed. I was
mistakenly looking for a father I never had, or
rather one of my own creation rather than the
man who was my father.
There are numerous situations in which a
surrogate father plays an important role in
the life of the seeker. But my search led only
to disappointment and disillusionment. The
experiences—there were three of them—were
teachers of another sort. From them, I learned
not to trust individuals who praise easily, and
just as easily discard you as if you were a piece
of trash.
The fault was as much mine as it was theirs’;
I should not have allowed myself to be seduced
by their verbal blandishments. But in my
defense, which is really no defense but rather a
statement of fact. I was hungry for their praise,
starved for it.
The distance between my father and me was
more than forty years, light years in terms by
which we viewed and understood the world.
Born in 1885 in a small town outside of
Vienna, he came to the United States when he
was six months old. There’s strong possibility
that he was illegitimate, not an uncommon
situation when immigrant parents have been
separated for years. From what little I was told
my father hated his father, who, according
to the family mythos, was a cruel man and
beat my father mercilessly. Oddly, given the
hatred between the two, I was named after my
paternal grandfather.
I don’t ever remember my father being
young, though I had a photo of him when he
was in his forties I would guess. But my sister,
Roselyn, appropriated it. I have another of him
at the piano but he looks like the old man he
was. He appears to be deep into whatever he’s
doing. I don’t believe he could read music, but
he might have been playing by ear. He seldom
laughed, and when he did it was usually the
result of having witnessed some slap-stick
event. A stocky man, he was shorter than my
mother. He was handsome, and grew dignifed
as he aged. He had a shock of beautiful white
hair.
My father seldom spoke. Though he was
Democrat, his newspaper was the Daily News.
I am not sure he was capable of writing much
Irving A. Greenfield
The Game of Diamonds
26
more than his name. He never wrote a letter to
me while I was in the army. But he did append
a very brief sentence or two at the end of my
mother’s letters.
He lived in a world of “dasants.”—must not
do. He seldom raised his voice, but pushed to
anger he could and did out roar the best of
them. He struck me only once. I interrupted
him while he was speaking to his friend,
Benuzia.
My father would rather avoid an argument
than engage in one. I have no idea what he
thought about. He never shared his thoughts.
But he did teach me things. He used his own
hands on method. Though on one occasion,
it could have been a disaster; I could have
drowned.
This took place in Coney Island; he called
it Cooney Island. It was his summer joy. His
hangout was Giant Racers Bathhouse on 8th
street, where the Aquarium is now located. Off
the beach, going straight out into the water,
the Atlantic Ocean, there was a man-made
breakwater of huge rocks and approximately at
its mid-point was another man-made structure
of creosoted pilings that ran perpendicular
to the rocks for some distance, together they
formed a small artifcial cove with the ocean
on one side and a protected area between the
pilings and the beach on the other.
Though people fshed off the rocks, or went
crabbing, or just sat on them, they were a big
“dasant” for me. They were dangerous. It
was easy to slip on the seaweed that grew on
them and in places the rocks were razor sharp.
Moving from one to another often required a
leap of some distance either up or down, and
amiss could easily mean a broken arm, leg, or
worse, a broken back.
So, when my father beckoned to join him on
the rocks, I was surprised. But
I made my way to him and we moved slowly
out on the breakwater. My father, as usual, gave
no explanation for being on the rocks or why
he wanted me with him.
I was familiar enough with the tides to be
aware that it was low tide, and much of the
breakwater and the pilings that formed the
artifcial cover were considerably above the
surface of the water. The day happened to have
been a blistering hot Sunday in August and
there were thousands of people in the water
and tens of thousands more on the beach.
The small cove held its share of the multitudes
trying to escape from the heat.
When we reached pilings, my father did
something even stranger than going on to the
rocks; he led me on to the pilings. Despite the
low tide, seaward side was white water as the
waves crashed against the pilings. It looked
dangerous, and I knew it was.
Suddenly, without any warning, my father
picked me up and threw me into the placid
water of the cove.
I was under water; I was terrifed. I didn’t
know how to swim.
“Swim,” he shouted when I surfaced spitting
water from my mouth and trying to clear my
eyes. “Use your arms and legs.”
I swam, while he moved down the rocks
toward the beach shouting instructions to me.
He never learned to swim.
I swallowed a lot of water before I found my
footing and, exhausted, made my way back to
the beach where I promptly vomited. But I did
learn how to swim.
I don’t think it ever occurred to him that
I might have drowned. It surely occurred to
me several times that day, and for some time
afterwards.
Though it was a “hands on” way of teaching,
I wouldn’t advise anyone to use it. There are
more benign ways to teach a person to swim,
or learn an athletic skill. But my father must
have thought it was important for me to learn
how to swim, otherwise his action would have
been inexcusably cruel.
* * *
There were things my father wouldn’t teach
me: card games, though he was an excellent
poker and rummy player, shooting craps, pool,
and discussing anything having to do about sex.
He was most certainly a prude.
What then did he teach and how did he do it?
My father was inveterate walker, and when
I was a boy I walked with him. By doing that,
I learned about the city, about the harbor and
27
in the days before World War II, about the
transatlantic liners berthed along the North
River, another name for the Hudson River,
and the Brooklyn waterfront. He taught me
recognize the colors of their funnels, and
thereby know the name of ship and the
company who owned it. He taught me how
to be psychologically comfortable no matter
where I am. Together we roamed the city. But
never did he say, learn this or that. My learning
took place almost by osmosis. That said, I have
to add there was exception—that exception
had to do with diamonds. He was a diamond
dealer, a jeweler by trade. Exactly how he
became one, I have no idea. But what I do have
is an apocryphal snippet. After the Triangle
Fire, he was hired to sweep out the premises
at Eighty-two Bowery, which was and still is
part of the downtown Diamond Exchange,
on a daily basis. Eventually, he was hired by a
man named Joe Rose, who I understand died in
prison. After working Mr. Rose, he worked for
George Harris & Sons. My father learned about
diamonds from Mr. Rose and Mr. Harris. He
worked for Mr. Harris for at least twenty-fve
years, and was let go in nineteen-thirty-seven, at
the height of the depression. He was ffty-two
years old, and I was eight.
He never again worked for anyone; he was
a “freelancer.” He didn’t have a show case. He
operated out of a black leather change purse
which he kept in the right hand pocket of his
trouser. All of his customers came to him by
way of recommendation. His usual place was
in eighty-six Bowery, at the counter of one
his friends where he often spent hours playing
poker or gin-rummy. Years after he died, my
mother told me the from time to time he was
also a fence, which might explain his rapid
departures for parts unknown and the visits
from detectives, often late at night.
To teach me how to judge the purity and
therefore the value of a diamond, he invented
his own game of pick and chose. He’d put
a piece of black velvet down on the kitchen
table; then he’d empty his purse, or remove
stones wrapped in tissue paper, and place them
on the black velvet. Sometimes the diamonds
were in settings, but often they were not. Then,
he’d hand me his loupe and tell me to pick out
the best diamond from the lot.
Of course I made mistakes. I went for the
biggest stone frst. But the under his patient
tutelage I became discriminating and found the
gem stone even if it was less than karat.
He worked gently and without coercing me
until I developed the kind of expertise that
pleased him. He did this without wanting me
to follow him into the business; it was his way
of giving me something that no one else could
give me. It was his special gift to me. It has
stood me in good stead many, many times.
* * *
Now fash forward. I’m eight-three years old.
My watch has died after I put a new battery
in it. The battery could have been defective or
something else might have gone awry inside the
watch. The minute hand still makes its rounds,
but no matter what time I set it to, it loses
an hour. Is it time for a new watch, maybe.
But I happen to be down town where there
are many jewelry stores. I do some window
shopping. I even go into a couple stores to
look at what they have in their display cases. I’
m not impressed. Most are too elaborate; they
do too many things and have more dials and
controls on them than I want to deal with. I
am impressed by the prices, which are much
more than I am willing to pay. But I fnally fnd
one, a simple watch, for a hundred dollars.I
tell the shopkeeper that I’ll be back with my
wife. I know he doesn’t believe me; there’s no
reason why he should. My wife is having her
hair done and when she’s fnished I go back to
the Jewelry store with her in tow. She likes the
watch and its price. But I know I can move the
price down by at least twenty percent. I offer
to pay in cash, but only if the price comes
down to a more acceptable level. Magically the
price drops twenty percent. I buy the watch,
but three links in the wrist band have to be
removed in order for the band to ft on my
wrist.
It’s while the links are being removed that I
begin to examine the diamond rings in a nearby
case. There are well over a hundred rings in
28
the case. With prices that range from a few
thousand dollars to well into the fve fgure
range. The settings are varied as are the cuts of
the diamonds. I see nothing that impresses me.
Yes, the diamonds sparkle. But there’s sparkle
and there’s fre. Then I see one, a very small
diamond, probably seventy or eight points. It
catches my attention. It has fre.
I point to it and ask how much it costs.
The Jeweler tells me, adding it’s a “gem
stone.”
I smile and nod my agreement. “Seventy,
eighty points,” I say.
“Seventy fve,” he answers.
I suddenly have a lump in my throat.
I turn to my wife; I can feel the tears welling
up in my eyes. I manage to whisper, “My father
taught me very well.”
She doesn’t hear me.
I swallow hard and hold on to the memory
of my father and his game of diamonds.
29
You arrive fresh baked,
cooked, steaming the smells
of the city.
Your words spray soap,
launder my wooly dog thoughts
that snooze fee-bitten in my brain.
Between us: fault lines
and pointed fngers,
maddening afterthoughts.
Martyrs. Loaves of dark bread.
A brand name penny-pinch detergent.
Our lusts co-mingling with the unwashed.
You say I wear a fve o’clock rainstorm,
a slow kiss drizzle that submits
to your gravity.
I say you are an apprentice to silence
not yet able to train your tongue
to curl quietly like a lap dog.
Kenneth Gurney
Simmer
30
M.I. Schellhaas
Reflection in My Eyes
31
Dance with me, Kansas
says an old man who still
looks
too long at women.

Drink in my hand decides and my forehead
fts tight against his fask, silver feeing
chest pocket fannel. Hard
liquor hazes him away I sway
now with late autumn, hostile earth
opposing its decay. Tires crunching
gravel—his wife in the driveway
but aging fngers leech twenty
one green Novembers from the young
veins at my wrist. I’m not
done
he says, words
whiskey thick on his tongue.
Garden Party
Lauren Potts
32
He can’t sleep
so why should you.
Lights are on
at the morgue; they’ll
unzip him for you.
The man on the slab stops at the neck.
His hand is cool between yours, and
you’re shaking when you fnd
the divot in his fnger, proof
of that last exertion.
Brown, curly hair fringes
his opened skull, the interior
exposed like the rubble
of Coventry Cathedral.
It’s catching, they say—the melancholy,
the lassitude, a germ in the tears perhaps.
You’re afraid, but
you might risk it, knowing
once you close your eyes
you could fall long into
that hypoxic darkness too.
It took a while.
After a few false starts,
putting it off and putting it off
until the time was right—when the money
and the gun met, then he fnally
lost the argument
on the drive over.
The view from the St. Johns’ bridge
is a postcard bearing bad news.
When you’re ready, go stand
on that exact spot, look through
his eyes, and try to change his mind.
Cindy St. Onge
Dinner with the Hemingways
33
Propped open in the clamp
of my thumb and pointer fnger,
it fummoxes,
this New and Selected Poems.
The poet who captures
squirming icons and mysterium treenddum
is my neighbor in the Craftsman
a few blocks away.
He is the guy I’ve seen for years
on weekday afternoons taking slow lap dog walks
in a stuttered, loopy gait
along the dawdling streets,
His face skyward then snapped down,
a hockey stick grin
nearly always hitched up,
his talent unmedaled and hid.
A puff cloud of a dog
pulls taut the retractable leash,
inhaling and cataloguing
the width of a side yard,
While the dog’s owner,
engulfed in the vermillion bloom of a snapped
tulip,
somehow fnds
his mother’s face,
A desert hermitage,
streams of black bile and ejaculate,
then fngers probing the wound
in Christ’s side,
And, of course,
a sky looming,
full of haunt,
churning some vague and awful truth.
Bob Hicks
Neighbor
34
Jeff stands, feet spread and back straight, and I listen to him tell the customer that I’m new here.
The customer nods to the mower on the sidewalk. I get it. A good mechanic is drawn to an engine.
A good mechanic is part chassis and crank, oil and water. But a small engine mechanic hovers and
grunts, fnds a way, uses pliers on rusted bolts. You borrow tools and work under the outside lean-
to, not near Rush and his Camaro Jacket, not at the shop table near the fan and radio.
We haven’t seen our boss in days. Jeff takes a twenty from the cash box, tells me to get him a
biscuit and to bring back the change. I imagine what his trailer looks like, how it could be possible
for him to have sex with his wife when she’s awake. I think about quitting and taking the money.
Sunlight refects off the showcase chrome. His hand is out. He never says thank you.
The power stroke: just before the piston and crankshaft reach top dead center, a spark. Take
what fuels us, the air we breathe and smash them together: the boss on vacation, Jeff manning the
counter, Rush pouring gasoline.
Everything that has been taken in and thrown back is tossed aside just as quickly, unlike the two
stroke principle and all of its scavenging. I’m better for it: the blow-down, the displacement, the
wrench in my hand, Jeff facing the opposite direction.
Ray McManus
Small-Engine Repair
35
Jazz Haiku (after Basho)
A series of haikus by Mark Jones
even in autumn—
bill evans scattering leaves—
I ache for autumn
commissioned cover:
the trio plays Stravinsky—
man, where is thy swing?
bix in davenport
horn pressed tight against his pillow
singin’ the blues
tram slides in
on sweet c-melody
singin’ the blues
Bix and Tram
The Bad Plus Plays the
Logan Center, 25 October 2013
36
Hold me.
You should know that I’m not an early
adopter, with the possible exception of Grand
Gestures. So listen up Mr. and Mrs. Green
Jeans. I just read that a supernova is now
visible—discovered by some kids in England—
and it happened twelve million years ago. But
here and now, on the east side of the island
where I live, no one seemed to notice.
But I noticed many things that day. There
was a distinct difference in my surroundings.
Light, shades, and perspective were all
enhanced. My toaster radiated optimism, and
I saw it from several points of view. The cats
improvised a harmonic meow chorus, and
I sipped my coffee with an awareness and
self-consciousness that informed or distorted
(depending on your point of view) my new
state of insight. I was in love with no object of
affection, no subject of attraction.
[This is where something important belongs]
The phone rang and I let the machine answer
while I went to the kitchen. I ate a banana and
thought about bicycles. I stared out the window
for a while and considered the day.
While I was pondering these things a couple
of kids spotted me watching them from my
window. One of them gave me the fnger.
I continued to watch and they moved on. I
became immersed in memories of my little
league childhood, stealing bases with ease.
* * *
Thrill me.
I decided to wait until the mail came before
I went out into the world. The mail is delivered
at an arbitrary time in my neighborhood,
and I like that. I remember when there were
no zip codes and mail was delivered twice a
day. Milkmen wore white suits and Captain
Kangaroo was administering something that
I never quite understood. I never knew when
those Ping-Pong balls would fall, nor did I
know why.
The message that was left on the answering
machine offered some advice about something
that I didn’t understand. I didn’t recognize
the voice, but I could hear music in the
background that sounded familiar. Something
about the sky splitting, planets shifting, and the
stopping of existence.
And stop it did. Or at least it seemed to stop.
I wanted it to stop, but after a slight pause,
existence continued.
After a cigarette and some more coffee, I
put the newspaper in the collage morgue, put a
bagel in the toaster, and took care of business.
A cream cheese satisfaction distracted me for a
while, and I made more coffee.
The phone rang again, and I answered it this
time. I didn’t want more cryptic advice, and I
was ready to make that clear to whoever was on
the other end of the call; however, it turned out
to be my good friend and droog, Seymour.
“I’m getting bored,” he said.
“You never get bored,” I said.
“That’s right.”
“So?”
“So what?”
“So what’s what?”
“I said getting bored. Getting, get it?”
“What’s to get?”
“I want you to get something and bring it to
my house.”
Robert Hiatt
Last Chance Fancy Pants
37
“What and why?” I said, knowing I would
not want to “get and bring” anything.
* * *
“I’m thinking of time and space.”
“Of course you are.”
“Of course,” he said.
“Time and space are hard to get,” I said.
“Maybe we should get back to where we
once belonged,” he said.
“Some would say that when you’ve got it
coming, you should get it while you can.”
“Some,” he said, “Some might say that.”
I hung up and got more coffee. The Mr.
Coffee machine was sitting in the cusp of the
morning sun and the glass pot was invisible
until I touched it. The black coffee in the black
cup was austere, but generous in spirit. I sat,
smoked, dreamed and drank. I was aware of
no purpose, only process. At that moment I
got up, and I noticed that all three cats were
positioned perfectly, deliberate as if posed by
Apollo or Michelangelo. I stood in admiration
and watched them as I walked across the room.
Each step, each movement within each step,
showed them in infnite perspectives, all in
fascinating accord with uncommon lighting and
shadows.
* * *
Love me.
Seymour never did tell me what he wanted
me to get and bring, so I bought fowers and
went to his house.
By the time I got there, I was exhausted.
Seymour was asleep on his couch, the room
was flled with fowers
1
, and a note was
propped-up on the coffee table:
“I live on an island that has no beaches,
The tides imitate the water it reaches,
In time there’s no telling,
The next thing they’re selling,
Is Truth for the sailors in speeches.”
I put the fowers on the coffee table near him
and let myself out. When I got to the west side
of the island, I turned into the preservation
area and there was no one else there.
1 ?
* * *
Tell me that you’ll never let me go.
I got out of the car and looked at the
water. The blues were in my head, and I
heard polyrhythm accents and counterpoint
harmonies that I could neither describe or
deliver.
I was dancing at a bride-less wedding. There
were laughing gulls and ring-bill gulls, and carp-
less aquarium dwellers, along with blue-green
pads and ponders. I wanted to see how fast
I could go while I was standing still. Well, it
was just as they say: the closer you get to the
speed of light, the more time slows down. And
that’s how it went for me, gradually slowing
and speeding at the same time, until there was
no time, and there was no speed, and I saw
everything happening all at once, at the same
time, as it were.
38
Beer-drawl backdrop and neon
signs light up the wood-paneled
walls. He’s mimicking my movements,
one long makeshift stare. Twenty years
my senior, easy, and I’m grimacing
through the watered-down gin,
my frst taste of something so bold.
Hold here, he says, zipper burn
on soft skin. Ice cubes slide
across the marble counter,
pool sticks pound against
peeling paint. Every mouth
is moving, mapping the night.
My back against the dumpster,
he dips down to eye level
grabs my gussied-up face
take off that skirt. And fuck
if I want it, panty hose pulled,
the cold metal on the backs
of my thighs. Stench of all
that’s rotting hovering
behind our heads. In the heat
of his hurriedness, no one
notices my pale shaking legs,
his near-limp dick.
Kelly Andrews
Seduction at Sixteen
39
Beauty is marketing to the
Money girls and they spend
With lavish precision because
Big dreams need big budgets.
Seal-sleek hair, shinning pumps,
Pearl earrings, suit and skirt,
All elegance and no sex they
Interrogate their prey with
Smooth questions; and when
Your answers satisfy they slide
Their treasured secrets from
Leather cases softer and more
Durable than fesh, click-clasp,
Showing what you long to see:
MBAs and GPAs, KPIs and ROIs.
Will they be content after they
Eat the world and don’t grow fat?
Will work and reward fll the void
Or just gild it over? I can’t say, but
The money girls will spend their youth
In acquisitive pursuit, and if those years
Go to hard waste, they can’t have them back.
Peter McEllhenney
The Money Girls
40
Reality is like our family dinners,
Ungrateful, always on the verge of madness—
Exceedingly ordinary. I have retreated many times to a wine glass,
Nearly laughing at the thick silences
And the half-charred chicken more alive
Than our teeth and jaws; not more human
Than our bewildered eyes
That connect accidentally—mutual pin-pricks
Waking knitting hands to time.
Later from our porch I watch the mayfies rise and twirl, unaware
That they are little embers burning out.
I am not sure who is more unaware
Of digesting the chicken’s limbs that fought and failed
As blood leapt hurriedly from its neck:
My mother with the house-phone to her ear,
Sweeping the bones into the trash.
She has asked me to walk the dog;
My father who is asleep and burping out the chicken;
Or my sister sitting next to me, calculating rain.
With the American fag going like it is and this April sky
(That she says could be a November sky)
She’s sure that the dog and I can reach the end of the yard
And back before the rain. There really is no point
To this contest, but she’ll come with me, she says.
She’s that certain I can make it.
Matthew Connolly
Calculating Rain
41
Kristi Beisecker
Fern
42
Myron Michael
Hunger comes with its mouth open.
When the cupboards are bare.
But the mind mass produces
and cooks up modifed food starch
(four, water, salt, and peanut butter
makes a kind of cookie).
If writing or eyeballing divine law
—one thorn of a rose to another
and so forth—I forget to eat.
(Once I was too young to know
how the moon tugs at the ocean.
It would splash through my window,
and I would swim through the streets
and stroke the plum face of a woman
hanging with every muscle
from her atrophic body, with my eyes.)
You Have to Eat
43
She’d practiced the night before, by herself in
the college dorm room reserved for this writers’
conference. Aimee found the identical twin beds and
empty drawers comforting rather than sterile because
of the dorm’s very closeness. A womb of one’s own,
Virginia Woolf with a lisp. At home, the diaper bag
was a daily test as it sat on the table with its maw
spread open to ask if Aimee was a proper mother.
That is, the opened bag asked from between its
zipper lips, will you be able to anticipate all the wants
and needs of your children? No need for sippy cups
and goldfsh crackers here, but Aimee hadn’t known
what snacks to bring instead. She’d forgotten what
she used to like.
She searches, holding the bread, fngers kneading
kneading as she passes over the whole, the fully formed.
The woman and creature meet with guttural
cries of recognition.
Susan, the poetry workshop leader, sits in the
front row wearing a bright red top. She plays with a
golden hoop earring while her head tilts to the side.
Aimee recognizes the posture, knows that her words
are being evaluated, sifted, tasted. Aimee’s hands
futter with nerves, but she continues, falling back
into the moment.
Souls struggling until the entwined spirits
rise toward the horizon on diaphanous
wings veined like palms read by gypsies.
Aimee slows the sentence to draw out the last
image. “Thank you.” She smoothes her teal
sundress, and walks back to her seat. The dress
had been bought last year, but she’d never worn
it. There had never been an occasion when little
hands wouldn’t pull at the silk, spill creamed green
beans, blow milky spit bubbles across the top of the
“Good luck,” whispers Toni, an older poet
with a strong command of prose and short,
gray hair. “Too bad your family can’t hear you
read.”
Aimee gives a delicate shrug as if to say
‘what can you do,’ but, of course, her poetry is
only possible because she’s away. She walks to
the stage and tilts the microphone down as far
as it will go because even in wedge sandals she
can barely reach. Tonight Aimee is Cinderella
at the ball and she must seize these three
minutes with both hands before she returns
home and becomes Mommy again. She looks
for her friends and fnds them—the poets—
clustered together like birds. Except Ronnie.
He’s half-Korean, half-black, and all gay. This
afternoon he sits by himself, the timekeeper,
ready to signal the one-minute mark. He gives
Aimee a wink. The lecture hall is small, seats
flled by the other conference writers. Sound
will carry without her yelling.
She sweeps her long curls away from her face
with both hands. “I’m reading the poem I’ve
been workshopping called ‘One-legged Ducks.’
It’s about the transmigration of human souls
and…oh, I’ll just read it.” Gentle laughs buoy
her and Aimee’s senses are heightened so that
she can hear every cough in the room, feel
every twitch in the bodies before her. This is
it, Aimee marvels. This is the precipice. She
takes a breath and leaps over the edge.
The pond is flled with two-legged ducks,
Two- winged, one-billed.
But, there’s a woman, frumpy and thick
like potato ladke, who looks for the stumpy
one- legged bird.
Sherry Cook Woosley
Fusion
44
shoulder that would dry to a crusty white.
Toni reaches over and squeezes her hand.
Performance giddiness over, Aimee touches
her purse. The purse is merely the container
for her phone, the connection to her other life.
Aimee folds her hands in her lap.
Of course she’d called to check in with
Bill and ask how the girls were. Two girls,
aged 18 months and 3 years, whom Aimee
loved. Bill, the husband, devilishly handsome
and unpredictable. But, she could admit in
the lovely silence of the dorm room, her
family had stolen her words. Bound it with
twenty-four minute episodes of a bilingual
child who was always looking for a map.
Pummeled it with expectations of playdates
and laundry, grocery shopping and constant
meal-making. And Bill, former poet himself,
acted resentful if she tried to get away from the
house. Coming home from a job, something
in a cubicle over at Locust Point, wrapping
his artist’s fngers around the neck of a beer,
reminding her that she didn’t have to work, but
he did.
I want to work, she had felt like screaming.
But saying, “I want to make art from words”
was like saying, “I want to be a frefghter” or
“I want to be an astronaut,” when you are a
child. And Aimee could not embrace whimsy,
not when she was the one pushing the stroller.
The last person reads and then the writers
meander out of the lecture hall and across
the grounds to the outside reception in an
open grassy yard between college buildings.
The weather cooperates, sunshine mediated
by vaguely-shaped clouds and teasing breeze.
In the nearest building’s shade, a long table
displays refreshments. Folding chairs have
been placed haphazardly, but Ronnie, the
timekeeper, waves from a table in the sunshine
where he’s “saved seats” for their group like
they are still in school.
“Just bring the bottle over,” Ronnie calls to
Aimee.
“I second that,” says Toni.
After looking to each side, Aimee grabs a
bottle of red and a bottle of white. Knowing
her friends are watching, she makes a show
of placing the bottles in her large purse and
walking with exaggerated innocence.
“Now you’ve done it,” she says to the group.
“You’ve made me either a thief or a pig.”
“Cheers to that,” they raise their glasses to be
flled. Other members of the poetry workshop
wander over and settle in chairs.
“Just pass the bottle around.” Ronnie says.
“Speak for yourself, young man. I’m not
drinking after you.” Toni adjusts her bulk in
the seat. “Aimee, that part about the woman
like a potato ladke. I liked it.”
A buzzing in her purse. Vibrations that
signal she is being called away. She uses her
elbow to push the purse away so she can’t feel
it. “I added it last night.” She shakes her curls
back, irritated. Her hair falls long past her
shoulders because there is no point in cutting
it – being shortened just gives the curls more
bounce. She wants to be a serious poet, a
notion at odds with her childlike appearance.
“I wasn’t sure whether it worked.”
“Well, I think so.” Toni shakes a ringed
hand. “You’ve got good instincts.”
The unexpectedness of the compliment
brings tears to Aimee’s eyes. It means so much.
The purse shakes, an irritated dance. Only
one person would call again and again. She
understands he is on the other end, increasingly
angry, maybe all three of them clustered
around the telephone in the kitchen, listening
to four rings before her voicemail picked up.
Automatically, she checks her watch.
When Victoria was an infant, every evening
around seven was hell. She’d start the crying,
the fussing, the balling up her hands into tiny
angry fsts, her face turning red with the force
of her cries. Aimee had tried to rock the infant
into contentment, but she felt so scared of
the baby’s enormous anger, so fustered by
Bill’s scrutiny. She’d swaddled Victoria, made
comforting sounds, and swayed back and forth
in the rocking motion that is supposed to
soothe infants.
“You look like some fey creature stealing
a human baby.” Bill said. He’d been high,
sprawled on the couch, his eyes glazed over. A
smile twisted his lips. “See how I did that? I
45
evoked a specifc image wrapped in a larger
story. That’s how you write a poem.”
Aimee’s face fushes as she comes back to the
present. This trip is hers; Bill’s advice about
poetry an unsolicited intrusion that creates a
sour taste. The poetry workshop, however,
has been four days of cerebral delight. Poetry
by immersion. They read each other’s work in
the morning, eat lunch outside, attend lectures
in the afternoon, work on their own material,
and come together at night for faculty readings.
Breakfast and lunch are provided – no grocery
or preparation – as if Aimee is a child instead
of a mother. The experience has been
heavenly and Aimee’s creative voice fooded in
the second day as if a levy had broken. Her
hunger for words cannot be satiated.
“Ronnie, I would have liked to have heard
you read.”
He shook his head, mouth pursed. “Nope.
Too soon. I don’t show early drafts.”
A toddler’s shrill scream pierces the air. The
table, as one, turns to look at the red-haired
fction writer from Toronto with a child sitting
on her hip. Her parents lived nearby, she’d said
on the frst day, thus her reason for choosing
this conference, and her husband and son had
come with her to visit. Aimee’s breasts tingle
in physical response to the child so close in age
to her own Amelia, although she hadn’t nursed
either of her girls for very long. She’d tried,
but the experiment ended in bleeding nipples
for her and frustration for the hungry child.
Ronnie shakes his head. “Why’d she bring
a kid here? Total downer. This is like our
closing ceremonies.”
Aimee smiles, but the toddler’s cry has
affected her and Aimee is suddenly aware of
the empty space where her family belongs.
“Don’t, Ronnie,” she says. “Red is educating
the next generation of writers. She shouldn’t
be hassled for bringing her child.”
Her statement, offered in mild reproof, rings
true. An ideal world of art and motherhood
blending. She wants to be that woman whose
writing is supported by family. A woman
whose daughters will admire her as a writer,
not remember a mom passion-starved like an
anorexic model.
“Writing is lonely work, the words pulled
out and then chipped away to reveal brutal
honesty.” Ronnie leans forward, dark eyes
shining with emotion. “She’s over there as if
this was a vacation. I guess they have their own
trust fund.”
“I’m jealous of her too,” Aimee said.
Heat rises in his face. “I’d like to see how
she coped with growing up gay in a Korean
family.”
“I don’t know.” Aimee swallows. “I just
think we’re all ‘trying to scrape by with a little
grace and dignity.’”
“Annie Lamott,” he says, identifying the
quote’s author. “I love her.”
“Me too.” Her heart hurts, breaking open
with new awareness. She’d been feeling
like Cinderella, escaping a life of diapers
and bottles, but other writers had their own
struggles.
His dark hands swallow hers, cradling her small
white ones. “Pain calls to pain.”
The phone, and all it signifes, presses on
Aimee. She excuses herself and walks across
the lawn for privacy. Three missed calls.
HOME, her phone identifes. The frst ring
doesn’t fnish before his voice is in her ear.
“When are you coming home?”
“We fnished the reading and haven’t even
made it to the reception yet.” She swallows
after the lie. “There’s a party tonight that I was
thinking about—“
“Mommy? Mommy? Are you going to read
to us tonight?”
A picture of her sweet girls, teeth brushed,
nightgowns on, snuggled under blankets with
their lovies, the smell when she buries her
nose into their hair right at the crown, flls her
mind. She looks at her watch again. At least a
three hour drive. She’d have to leave now, ten
minutes ago even, to be there.
“She wanted to talk to you.” Bill has taken
back the phone. “We miss you.”
Guilt makes her stomach cramp. She sees
Susan, the workshop leader, approaching
the group. Invisible hands pull her in two
directions.
46
“Yes,” she says. “Yes, I’m coming. I’m
leaving this very second.”
She walks over to the poets, only to say
goodbye, but Susan speaks.
“I’m so proud of you all; good work this
past week.” Susan hands marked papers to
the poets, but holds Aimee’s against her chest.
“Aimee, I noticed you took out the line about
the ‘strange, hissing quack melding with the
woman’s cry of greeting.’ I’m glad. I found it
distracting.”
“Thank you for this week.” Aimee says.
“I needed a chance to be away, to talk with
adults.” She tries not to trip over her words,
to hide the admiration she feels for Susan, this
poet in a red blouse who, before this weekend,
was only a name in literary journals.
Susan nods toward the refreshment table.
“Walk with me, Aimee.”
“I’ve got to go soon,” Aimee says, slipping
the paper into her purse. As she does, she sees
a fash of familiar black hair far away in the
parking lot. But, Bill wasn’t here. She’d just
talked to him on the phone. Aimee shakes her
head and follows Susan.
More treats have been added to the table:
roasted red peppers dripping with olive oil, a
shrimp ring, grilled cheese sandwiches cut in
quarters, and chocolate-covered strawberries.
Susan spears a slice of goat cheese with a
toothpick and adds crackers to her plate.
“Your poems grapple with emotions, Aimee,
and the gut-level hunger for freedom rips
through.”
Aimee swallows. “Not on purpose.”
“My son is thirteen now.” Susan’s nose is
hooked like a bird of prey. “I remember what
it was like.”
A laugh sounds nearby. Aimee looks for Bill,
but too many people are moving, as if they
are on a spinning carousel and she sees only
blurred images.
“I haven’t done much writing since I had my
daughters.” Aimee avoids Susan’s face, fearing
condescension. “Short-lived career.”
Aimee discovered writing in high school.
Her teacher had insisted that everyone could
write poetry. Mrs. Blumsky had nodded
encouragement with such verve that her
permed hair jiggled like an echo. Webs,
charts, and brainstorming exercises before
they were allowed to put pen to paper. For
Aimee, excitement built as she moved phrases,
selected images, found details that, together,
became more than a sum of their parts. Each
poem became a puzzle; the struggle for words,
to communicate, and then the fnal draft an
emotional pay-off. In college she met other
students who wrote poetry, who knew what it
was to become a magnifying glass and to sweat
over each syllable.
“Did you know that becoming a mother
physically changes your brain? It’s hard to
get that creative focus back.” Susan selects a
sardine with a toothpick. “Picasso had a Blue
Period and a Rose Period. My poems are pre-
child and post-child.”
Aimee feels something inside of her, a
possibility trying to birth itself in her chest.
Not to return to the way she was before, but to
become something new. To the left she sees a
three-year-old with blond curls duck behind a
group of fction writers. Aimee leans away for
a better view, wanting her daughter.
“We normally have a party in a hotel room to
fnish off the conference. Are you staying?”
“Um.” Aimee steps back. She doesn’t see
anyone with black hair or a little girl. “I’m not
sure.”
It seems impossible, but an hour has passed
since she’d said she was leaving.
A champagne cork pops. Bubbles rise in the
air from a sweet mist. Aimee sees the faces
of Victoria and Amelia in the bubbles, round
baby faces smiling in iridescent splendor. The
bubbles foat up and away. Aimee reaches out
her hand to catch one and it collapses with a
soft pip, leaving a wet circle on her palm like
the imprint of a child’s moist mouth.
Susan tilts her head. “I’d like to see you
submit ‘One-Legged Ducks’ to literary journals.
I jotted down the ones I thought might be a
good ft on that copy.” She gestures at the
pages sticking out of Aimee’s purse.
Aimee wants to ask if she sees the bubbles.
Instead, she says, “Thank you,” and walks back
47
toward the poetry table. From here she can
see the periphery of the party and there, just
like she knew she would, she sees Bill standing
there holding Victoria’s hand while Amelia
clings to his leg. She can invite him in, to her
poetry conference. Her new friends can meet
her children, maybe say how cute they are, and
Bill will take over the discussion of poetry
mechanics. And then Victoria, 3-year-old
Victoria, will need to go potty and Aimee will
leave the talk of enjambment and structure.
She will dig in her oversized purse and pull out
not another wine bottle, but a sippy cup with
juice.
Bill and the girls shimmer as light hits their
undulating bubble edges and makes a rainbow
on the grass.
Pop.
“Aimee?” Toni is looking at her as if this is
not the frst time she’s called her name. “Are
you coming to the party tonight?”
She won’t make it home for bedtime anyway.
Her purse vibrates again. She could tell him
she changed her mind, she’d be late. She
could say that she has left, but is stuck in
traffc. They would know. He must already.
Otherwise, he wouldn’t be calling to check.
Aimee glances around the reception, notes
the full-bodied sun sinking, her teal-colored
cloth sparkling in the fading light, make believe
artist dress. Aimee feels the possibility inside
of her, stretching wings underneath her skin.
She embraces this power inside her, of being a
strong enough gravitational force to bring the
two worlds of motherhood and poetry close
enough for overlap. Fusion.
“No,” she says. “I need to get home.” Her
purse strap is thick on her thin shoulder, the
weight of Susan’s critique digging into her skin.
There is urgency now, a need to get home,
to touch her children. To, maybe, touch her
husband. She walks away, toward her parked
car.
“Hey,” calls Ronnie. “Keep in touch, right?”
She waves a hand in response.
On the way home, before she hits I-95,
Aimee pulls over to the side of the road.
She reaches for a napkin and pen and begins
scribbling.
48
Her mind cracked
the night snakes burned.
Releasing grey smoke
to color the sky,
darken the clouds.
Her sight tilted,
like stepping off a curve.
Stumbling,
she slipped,
not able to catch
her fall.
Thoughts and voices rising up.
On the ground we lit snakes.
Freeing them from charcoal cage,
growing long streams of ashy scales.
Sulfur scented serpents slithering.
I wanted to touch one,
to hold him close.
And as I stroked softly,
his long grey body cracked,
disintegrating
into dust.
He tilted too
and fell.
Heather M. Browne
Burning Snakes
49
P.K. Lauren
That was the summer I sold clean slates. Jobs
trickled in through word of mouth and referrals,
leads passed down from my few real-estate agent
friends and their even fewer in-escrow homes.
Move-out cleans were where the real money
was. Something about people moving away, about
new inhabitants moving in, required a special kind
of clean. An erasure. In this way I think maybe
homes and lovers are not so different. Personal.
Territories of sorts. Both pretend undiscovered,
virgin states, however illogical the illusion may be.
Proximity landed me the Metzger referral. My
roommate at the time, Stephen, moonlighted as
a property manager for various vacation rental
properties in northern Arizona. I walked in the
front door one evening at dinner time and he
tossed the job in my lap.
“Just signed a new contract. Interested in doing
the clean?” He pulled a few staccato drags on
his joint, holding them in as he stirred a wildly
creative pozole concoction on the stove. The
smell of cilantro and lime mingled with the sweet
skunk as he exhaled.
“Hell yeah.”
* * *
The day I went out for the bid I drove 25 miles
from Flagstaff across blustery I-40 to the remote
community of Parks. There was no town to
speak of, just a gas station, fre house, school and
half a dozen residential roads flled with sprawling
ranch homes and even larger lots.
The Metzger residence was located some fve
more miles past the freeway off-ramp, down a
dirt and gravel dead-end. The red slatted façade
was ringed with outbuildings and chain link. The
gate was open, but as I rolled through I could
see the No Trespassing and Private Property signs
layered upon the fencing like metal fsh scales,
several of each as if the point wasn’t adequately
expressed with one. J.T. Metzger sat on the
front porch, jilting slowly back and forward in
a rocker, watching me as I killed the engine and
approached. A rolled cigarette became visible
between his teeth.
Metzger’s handshake was paper over thin
wooden planks. His eyes were hard and splintery
too, nearly indistinguishable from pupils. His
facial skin sagged at the chin and neck but
stretched taut over a bald forehead imprinted by
constant 10-gallon cover. The handshake went
on a little too long. So did his eye-contact. I
broke it and looked down. I could see his fngers
as they lowered were grey towards the tips, drier
and darker there from decades of nicotine.
“Stephen says you’re good.”
I looked up and assumed my sales pitch smile,
“Well, I do my best.”
“You should know I already have another bid.”
Hardball always did get my head hot.
Discomfort momentarily forgotten, I leaned my
hand on my hip and pulled a pad and pen from
my back pocket. Another bid my ass. If he was
in any way happy with it he wouldn’t have called
me here. I smiled wider.
“No problem at all. Why don’t you tell me what
you need done and we’ll see if we can’t get you an
estimate you’re pleased with.”
J.T. mirrored my lifted eyebrow and opened
the front door, motioning for me to enter. The
smell of stale tobacco burn flled my lungs and I
fought back a cough. It wasn’t the time to offend.
It must have been about mid-July and I was fat
broke. No way was I losing this job, even if it
would be a diffcult one. Some evidence was
harder to lift than others. Odors were the worst.
He led me through the house which was
a linoleum-wrapped, animal-corpse adorned
monstrosity. The blinds need cleaned, all the triple-
Metzger Haus
50
pane windows too, probably need a pumice for the toilet
bowls, everything dusted, vacuumed, mopped, walls
washed, stove needs a deep-clean—lots of fat build-up
there... In each room he rattled a laundry list
of tasks, explaining that he intended to use the
place as a vacation rental once it was cleaned.
J.T. Metzger was hitting the road. Said he was
done with Arizona.
My sheet had notes on both sides. I began
to get a little sticky, perspiration adding to the
heavy dark inside the house, inside my chest. I
hadn’t tallied it all up but I could tell just from
the frst few items that this was going to be a
number that even I would balk to utter.
“Can you shampoo carpets, too?”
I swallowed hard. “Sure, that will cost quite
a bit extra though.” The last time I cleaned
carpets I charged $75 per room. J.T. had two
heavily stained, large, oddly cut carpeted rooms.
He dismissed my disclaimer with a fippant
hand.
“So what’s your price?” His smile was a dare.
He stood looking at me as I ran the numbers
on my paper and then in my head.
Mouth fat as a foorboard, eyes steady, I
took a slow breath. “Four hundred twenty
fve.” Any lower and I may as well have
murdered myself with a pumice stone. Or
maybe the residual tar in the air would’ve done
it. I took the gamble. This time it wasn’t me to
break eye contact.
J.T. scanned me up and down. He started to
smile again. “Shake on it?”
The sun was fully detached and rising from
the jagged Flagstaff horizon by the time I
got to the Metzger residence on the day of
the clean. I pulled around back, coming to a
stop in front of what looked like an industrial
tumbling composter. My ride sandwiched
nicely between Metzger’s F350 and one of the
three sheds that spotted the lot. His truck was
hot and running as I sidled up to it. Just as
well. I preferred to work with clients absent.
There was something off-putting about being
watched.
Vacuum in one hand, Rug Doctor in the
other, I shuffed my way to the back door and
knocked with a free foot. J.T. swung open
the door and pushed out the screen to let me
through. I dragged in the cleaning implements
in after me as he walked back to the kitchen.
He began calling out to me in the mudroom as
soon as he heard the screen shut.
“I’m leaving some food here if you want it.
Otherwise toss it.”
I came through the wood paneled hall into
the dining room and kitchen. I scanned the
counters and saw one was full: half-empty
orange juice, cardboard milk carton with the
mouth unfolded and gaping, a few boxes of
cereal, Ziploc full of grated cheese, various
condiments. I didn’t want any of those things.
Neither did I want to bother hauling them in
the back of my Jeep to a dumpster.
“Oh. Thank you, that’s thoughtful.” It wasn’t
worth making a point of contention.
“Here’s some change too. Can you get
stamps and mail my last utility checks?”
This was worth speaking up. Apparently J.T.
was under the impression he had purchased a
personal assistant. I didn’t quote him for this
shit. But as I opened my mouth to protest,
I stopped and looked at him. His eyes were
fxed on me but his fngers were furiously at
work, rolling cigarette upon cigarette on the
dining room table. His hands were a blur. The
wood was covered with torn bits of rolling
leaf, scattered tobacco and flters. A half-eaten
bowl of bran fakes accompanied a coffee mug
in front of his cigarette tailings. Most of the
milk had sogged into the cereal, but I could see
what little remained unabsorbed as it sloshed
in the mire with the motion of the table. Still
J.T. rolled and rolled, waiting for my answer.
He didn’t watch what he was doing. He only
watched me.
“No problem.” I smiled as genuinely as
possible. Somehow I just couldn’t bring
myself to be assertive with him. Something
in his unblinking eyes, his dark doll pupils
staring me down in the poorly lit room. If I
was accommodating, he would fnish licking
those papers, rolling those leaves, suck down
his coffee and cereal, and hit the road. His car
was running and ready. In that one moment,
51
I would do anything to facilitate that turn of
events.
“That box there, that’s the good silver. I
want you to set the table up nice like it’s
for dinner before you leave.” There was no
infection to indicate that this was a request. I
shifted my weight. My legs felt stiff, my back
rigid. My palms sweat inside my pockets.
“Okay. That’ll look really lovely. I even know
how to do fancy napkin folds.”
J.T. nodded once and began gathering up the
mound of smokes he had rolled onto the table.
He put them all into a Ziploc and stood up
from the table. “Well. Best be off then.”
“Drive safe, wherever you’re going frst.”
I began walking with him to the back door.
“Montana. Then, who knows?” He smiled
for the frst time that morning, a wide grin that
seemed to more evenly distribute his facial skin.
Just as he was stepping through the threshold
he turned again to me, the tight expression still
fxed on his face. He leaned on one side of the
door jamb and shook the bag of cigs at me.
“You’re pretty.”
Adrenaline made my mouth bitter. I put on
my best fattered, shy face. “Well, thank you!
That’s awfully sweet to say!” I wasn’t able to
stop the raising tone. The last word was almost
a squeak. I glued my expression steady and
counted the seconds it took Metzger to turn
and walk to his car. One… two… three…
four… fve… six...
Seven. He stepped into the extended cab
and closed the door, already chewing on a
cigarette as he kicked the truck in reverse. One
eyebrow cocked as he began to roll down the
drive and shouted out the window. “Have
fun.”
I stayed on the back stoop and waved until
he pulled out of sight. I wanted to be sure.
* * *
Once back inside I locked the doors
and cranked Mars Volta into my earbuds. I
decided to start with the kitchen. I began
to relax. Kitchens give an immediate sense
of accomplishment once cleaned—it’s the
same way in my own home. I almost enjoy
cleaning kitchens because there is something
so comforting about pristine countertops,
a glistening stove, no sign of a single soiled
dish. An empty canvas waiting for something
delicious.
First to go was the proffered food. J.T. left
a coffer of cleaning supplies for prospective
renters. I took the liberty to open up one of
the boxes of 50-gallon Hefty bags and fll
it with the unwanted counter buffet. The
half-eaten raisin bran sludge still sat on the
table. Into the bag with that too. Fucking
slob. I was feeling a little better already, more
confdent. Wailing guitar riffs and syncopated
drum rhythms flled the inside of my head. I
bounced a little with it. I cursed Metzger out
loud to the empty house, even timed it along
with the music. “Fucking Honkey. Honkey
Ass Slob. Dickwad!” Several dishes littered the
remaining countertops. Into the dishwasher
with those. Once I had the surfaces clear, I
began my crop dusting ritual. 409 in a thick
layer over all the counters, front of fridge and
appliances. Soft Scrub for the sinks. Degreaser
for the oven and stove.
Cleaning professionally is all about effciency.
Set chemicals to pillage the crust while you
do something else. I did just that, launching
an attack on the inside of the fridge in the
meantime. From the frst shelf I was forced
to hold my breath. There was a smell there,
perhaps sourced by the globs of jam and
chocolate and onion skins as well as other
undistinguishable substances. It was a sweet,
cloying odor. I didn’t even mind inhaling the
antibacterial spray fumes as I covered the soiled
white plastic over and over and over.
I began to get nervous after 45 minutes of
scouring the fridge. Perhaps the chemicals I
sprayed on the rest of the kitchen had eaten
through not only the flth, but the Formica too.
I checked the counters, half expecting them to
squish under my probing fnger. No give, no
discoloration. I went back to the refrigerator.
At least by this point the top part was clean.
At least the smell was less present in the air;
though it still clung in my nasal cavity I closed
my mouth and exhaled sharply several times.
I opened the freezer and whatever odor
52
molecules I had dislodged were immediately
replaced by something far more foul. I got
down onto my knees to have a look at it; there
was something in there. I plucked at it with
a paper-towel shielded pointer and thumb. It
was…was it? I sat down on my heels with a
thump.
It was human hair.
For a moment I could only stare at it, my
eyes getting wider, then squinting, then getting
wider still. My heart played kick-drum on my
ribs. Long, black, curly hairs. Lots of them.
Clumps. I stretched one to full length. It was
at least a 12 inches long. There was no doubt
it was human. It surely was not from Metzger’s
bald head.
I sat on the gritty, moist, laminate foor in
front of the fridge for an entire song. My
headphones fell silent between tracks and I
took a deep breath, wrapping my hand three
times in paper towels. With an inhale trapped
in my throat, I quickly swept my hand-swab
around the interior of the freezer. Into the
Hefty with that too.
* * *
Two hours later, fat disintegrated from the
oven, images of hair fading, I made my way
into the master bedroom. Every wall was
covered with lacquered wood paneling. It
was the only real wood in the house as far
as I could tell. As such, I would need to oil
and dust it all thoroughly. Carpet to ceilings.
Cobwebs rounded out the corners and lit up
grey where the windows allowed the sun to
peek through.
My scanning vision stopped for a moment.
Rising up into the ceiling like an empty elevator
shaft was a gigantic skylight. Each one of its
sides was wide and tall, much larger than a
standard door. I squinted. One of the panels
had a row of padlocks down its right side.
Three of them. There were no spider webs
anywhere in the skylight.
I pondered the logistics of such an
inaccessible storage space for a few moments.
And why lock it? I shook my head as if the
motion could remove the thoughts. I focused
back to the task at hand. First things frst.
Chemicals for the fooring. I made a thorough
pass over the room with a Resolve bottle,
marveling at the shapes and varying shades
of tarnishes. Dark brown, greens, charcoals
ranging from dime to fst-sized in diameter
smattered the carpeting. I used half the spray
treatment in one go.
Another hour down, attached bathroom
spotless and fnally onto the excessive dusting.
Start at one corner and work in diagonal lines.
I came to the bed and remembered I needed
to wash the bedding. Quickly stripping the
sheets, I walked back to the laundry room that
was little more than an oversized pantry off
the kitchen. I tossed the bedclothes into the
washer and set the temp as high as it would go.
A glance around the closest shelves and not a
single detergent bottle to be found. I started
digging deeper. On the side of the dryer,
stacked against the wall, were two rows of
10-gallon plastic tubs. In the shadows I could
make out just a few labels. Ammonia. Sodium
Hydroxide. Lye. The last two made me stand up
straight. Maybe the hot water would be enough
to clean the sheets. They had looked pretty
unblemished to begin with.
Back in the bedroom I went straight to the
bedside tables, sliding each one from the wall to
allow the vacuum to pass behind. I put my back
into it and gave the bed a similar treatment. A
thick runner of hair lined the baseboards. I
remembered the panting Labrador in the back
seat of Metzger’s king cab. This fur matched.
With a healthy stream of lemon oil, I soaked
my rag and got wiping. The tops and sides,
all the grooves and features of the battered
nightstands shone up like Pepsi-soaked
pennies. I opened the drawer to give the inside
a pass-through. It wasn’t empty. At frst all I
saw was a tri-fold pamphlet. I lifted it out of
the drawer before I saw what the heading read.
Erectile Dysfunction: What You Should Know. My
lips pinched, my nose scrunched, a little grunt
that closely resembled “ick” escaped me.
I went to toss the brochure towards my trash
bag against the wall and stopped. There was
more. Something bright pink in the drawer
pulled at my periphery. My hand tightened on
53
the pamphlet. I stood blinking at the forescent
cornucopia, the paper in my hand strangled and
forgotten in my grip.
Monstrously long, girthy, silicone dongs.
Next to the pink was a purple too. They
nestled atop a coil of rawhide straps. Suddenly
my eyes went to the headboard. Matching
leather earth tones coiled around the leftmost
corner. I must have overlooked them, or
perhaps I only subconsciously catalogued them
before. The leather almost blended in with the
wood.
“No fucking way. No.” I unwrapped the
headboard binds and dropped them into the
nightstand along with the reading material.
Stephen referred me this job. Stephen was
J.T.’s new property manager. Stephen could
clean the sex drawer. Dildos and choke-straps
were Stephen’s jurisdiction.
“Fuck no.” I said it once more to the empty
room, kicking the drawer closed.
* * *
By the time I reached the last section of the
house, the afternoon had taken a nose-dive
into full-dark. I turned all the lights on in the
house and pulled the blinds shut, even in the
rooms I was through with. I had saved the
guest room for last, thinking the simplicity
of it would afford some solace. After a dust,
wiping the walls down, cleaning the window
panes, vacuuming and shampooing the carpet
I could fnally go home. I wanted nothing so
much as that. When I got home I could pop a
Black Butte, sit on the back porch and let my
lungs clear. I had developed a sturdy cough
somewhere during the day, no doubt brought
on by the combination of several chemicals.
Every time I blew my nose I inspected the
fallout. It was darker each time; almost black
the last tissue I checked.
Dragging my dusting implements, rags, spray
bottles, paper towels and vacuum down the tiny
hallway between living room and guest room,
I paused for a quick wipe of the bookshelf
hidden there. The shelves seemed equally
blanketed in grey and books. The complete
works of Horatio Alger and Louis L’Amour,
along with various books on warfare, became
visible as my rag lifted the thick dusty flm. Of
course. Metzger was just one big limp-dicked
cowboy cliché with a military background. That
padlocked room up in his skylight—it was the
perfect place to stash his victims. And that’s
what was up with all that hair in the freezer.
He kept the last one’s head in there until he got
sick of it. Then he threw it in that huge barrel
composter in the back yard. That’s where the
sodium hydroxide and lye came in.
It all made sense. I was completely high on
aerosol cleaning products.
* * *
I sighed. Just an hour or two more. Then
cold porter in a hot shower would wipe the
slate clean. Few things are more satisfying
than cold beer while bathing. Steam and
condensation are happy twins. I fxed the
pending reward frmly in my mind and
mustered my fnal wind.
Once inside the tiny room, the last vestige
of flth, my tired hands lost their grip on
the cleaning supplies. Lemon oil and paper
towels falling with a solid thud. For the sake
of continuity I opened my right hand and
let the other bottles tumble on purpose. I
thought briefy about picking up something and
throwing it intentionally. It seemed like it might
be soothing. But then it struck me; the sound
of impact on one side was different. I fexed
my foot and thumped my heel on the carpet to
verify. Sure enough, in the area directly to my
right, the foor was hollow. No doubt about it.
The low thrumming section of the foor
abutted a closet with sliding mirror doors.
Windex could wait. I slid the doors open and
thunked the foor inside with a heel for good
measure. It was hollow too. I leaned my top
half inside and began knocking my way around
the wall panels. Duck… Duck… Goose.
I pushed on the closet wall furthest left and
it fexed. I could see the edge bend up under
the pressure. A gap appeared between solid
wall and what now seemed to be nothing more
than painted plywood. One good pry with a
screwdriver and I could pop that left wall right
off. I could. I stood there for minutes on end,
leaning on the corner of the closet and staring
54
at the trick wall. I could open it. My IPod
battery had died hours prior. There was only a
ringing in my ears to fll the empty room.
I could have opened that hollow room. But
there are so many good reasons to have hollow
walls and foors inside a house. I was sure there
were. And my imagination is far too active.
Always has been. There were good reasons,
sound ones that didn’t involve secret burial
plots. Rationales that would make decades of
bones under the foorboards seem ridiculous.
Still, I took a quick walk into the kitchen. I
staged a fashlight search party. It was all for
show. I only looked in one cupboard before
giving up. After all, it was probably nothing.
That was logical.
My mouth flled up with a familiar bitter taste
when I got back into the room. Despite my
solid logic I was running on nothing but fumes
and hormones and fear. I cleaned that guest
room in 30 minutes fat. Including the time it
took to shampoo the carpet.
Just as I was turning to leave the space, my
index fnger poised to fick the lights off, I
looked up. I don’t know why I looked up, but I
did. There on the ceiling, above the dingy day
bed, were footprints. Grey, sporadic, human
footprints. On the ceiling. I could see all the
little toes. I started laughing. I couldn’t help it.
It was the sort of laugh that is more hysteria
than humor. I shook with it. I didn’t even try to
fgure it out. I couldn’t. I won’t.
* * *
Off with the lights. Out with the vacuum.
Out with the Rug Doctor. Lock the back door
behind. Out with me, down the dead-end,
close the gate, peel out the gravel, merge onto
the interstate. My Jeep’s speedometer stopped
at 80 MPH but my foot on the gas pedal
kept going. The weather stripping around the
windows had long since crumbled, allowing
gusts of wind to trespass between metal and
glass. Again and again the air pushed through
the tiny gaps. Again and again, and every burst
sounded just like a scream.
55
Working as a cashier
while being black
teaches you a few things,
but none so important as this:
people assume you’ve done nothing
with your life because of the job you have.
My saving grace is my wit.
But before I can speak, I
must be spoken to.
I must be acknowledged as an equal.

Without my Heidegger,
Milton, Ellison, Aristotle,
Flaubert, Faulkner, and Morrison,
I would have no shield,
being merely a black body thought
to have no brain, and thus
a lesser soul.
No customer with any real money in their pocket,
of any color or creed,
gives the beneft of the doubt that
someone like me might be cultured,
might have a sensitivity to matters
of a higher aesthetic,
might be someone a little bit more complicated,
without those books either being in my hands,
or constantly near the register.
And so a lesson I learned quite early as a child
aids me well in presenting my humanity
to the masses that I must accommodate:
To be an intellectual,
I must carry the articles of an intellectual,
and then and only then
can I astound, as nappy hair
and dark black skin,
almond eyes, and full lips,
rightfully become
the opulent embodiment
of a fervent autodidacticism
and unconquerable will.
Denzel Scott
Underemployed While Being a Black
American
56
Figures, Cathedral, Nicaragua, 88
Harry Wilson
57
Unruffed ducks sun themselves
Serene on the pier at high tide
While submerged white bags foat by—
Lethal as swarming jellyfsh
Death traps emptied of whatever
Human treasure, now just molted dreams
Bobbing in the current’s ebb and fow
As daffodils on the bank nod through
Broken tines of an umbrella
While a white heron nests in rubbish
Caught in an isle of golden reeds
And seagulls sort the rest.
When
Did we learn how to throw away things?
Just little things at frst: Bones,
Pottery shards, shiny beads and worlds,
Acres of clean air, you and yours forever
Drowning together in rivers
Of undrinkable detritus—
Watching wings over the canal, I can’t tell
If the salt stinging my eyes belongs
To sea-laced waters or originates with me.
Perhaps that is why we are always losing
With so much having, I forget all this
Salt was never mine, but
Ours to cry.
River Canal in Fukuoka
Sarah Page
58
Sarah Page
Condemning Colors in Pitch Pines Park
Pink ribbons twist around the limbs of those still waiting to die
While sweet-scented pine needles gleam green as innocence,
Thin spires scattered few and far between deciduous silhouettes.
A sign lends slaughter an air of authority, makes each clearing a victory:
Pitch Pines Park shall be reclaimed from decades of hardwood invaders
Who now blithely faunt the spectrum’s blaze on the edge of a breeze.
Perhaps the tree sparks are not so bright, but grey-laden skies frame
Each October leaf like the settings for a hundred thousand jewels
As if citrine, amber and garnet were the facets of a fading wing.
Not a single water drop has stripped the branches, yet as I tread deeper
Into groves of many-hued foliage, I count the signs of scouring:
Oaks and maples have all been hewn down with deliberate strokes.
Someone must splinter; the hardwoods shade out the evergreens,
Their broad leaves smothering young cones on the forest foor
But I wonder if there can be no co-existence? It’s all too human.
The forest won’t sound the same again next autumn:
Crunch of blanketing gold, scarlet futter and sigh—exhaled.
No eyes will ever breathe the sap and syllable of these sentences.
I can’t accept this revel of colors will never burnish another fall
That already, I am walking among the chroma of ghosts
Who have lost their time to be here, like tears before rain.
59
we are stars
driving through night
sipping breath like orange crush
something sweet &
cold is rushing
into us, short lines
short lived glorious
dust
Rose Maria Woodson
Fetched
60
Finally I have found work. Inside an oyster. I put a spin on things, little pings that piss the mess
out of you, like being one car behind the car that takes the last parking spot, paper cuts, cheap
ass garbage bags that break when you overstuff them, leaving you in a carpet of cartons and egg
shells. And worse. I wrap silk around shit like that, over and over again until it becomes. Pearls.
All the rage now. Then, again. Rage is all the rage now. The mollusk across the way keeps rain
in her heart. She’s all piss and purrs these days. But then, she sleeps with a storm. Keeps
spinning apologies around his sorry ass, waiting for some shiny alchemy to gloss over his dross.
She’s swimming in a dry river bed, dreaming strawberries, eating dust. Can’t get home like
that. I listen over coffee, serve up blueberry muffns and emotional helium. What can you do,
Alfredo…what can you do? There are nights I ride the hoot of an owl even though there are no
owls here. I hear “who” swooshing through the current and I jump on, take hold of wings not my
own and hold dear. Now I know what you knew all along, Alfredo: I had to lift one brick of a
foot after the other, one after the other. Pave my own road out of Dodge. Leave the only frefies
I’ve ever known. That’s oxygen- mask- over- your- snout scary. Scarier still when the road fzzles
in still waters. The pinwheels in my heart stopped that night. Any knights in white armor were
rust stilled. That’s when I learned to knot my own darkness. Arch my life like hyperbole. And
swing. Back and forth. Back and forth. I was a fee on a trapeze, looking for a way…and just
when I was about to unclench my rope-burned self, I saw them, a pod of photons lighting the
brink. I hitched a ride on the mångata. The rest is history. Dear Alfredo, thank you for noting
the darkness. Thank you for being. My trellis. At last I am my own magic bean.
Love
Rose Maria Woodson
Dear Alfredo
61
\ la·cu·na \
Words were always hard for me. Though
my mother said at three months old I spoke
a solid, sharp, “good,” I didn’t speak again
for months. In fact, I didn’t say another word
properly for years.
I saw this nice, old man named Dr. Borghie
for my speech impediment. We mostly played
games, while I tried to pronounce words like
noon and nook, and then later, harder words
like rock and shell. I was good at the games,
but the words just wouldn’t quite shape in my
mouth.
It didn’t bother me much. When people
couldn’t understand me, I made up my own
language. I imagined it was a bit like Hebrew.
I’m not sure why I was obsessed with Hebrew;
I wasn’t Jewish nor were any of my friends.
But Hebrew seemed magical, and once an idea
stuck inside me it never left.
I’d sing songs in my own language and cry
when my mother couldn’t sing along. I thought
I had found a secret language. I had words that
went unspoken in English. Mine was a language
of intuition, of emotion, of whooping laughs,
and gesticulations.
I couldn’t say most words at frst. I loved
bees, and when I pretended to be one I went
around saying “b, b, b, b,” because I couldn’t
go “zzzzz”. My name: Michelle, was Ma-hell,
a name which gave many parents pause. “Ma-
hell?” they’d repeat, their eyebrows climbing
into their hairline. A lot of words were “bah”
because I could make that sound. Table? Bah.
Chocolate? Bah. My blankets I carried around
everywhere with me? Also bah, although that
name stuck even after I could say blanket.
I couldn’t say beach, although I loved it and
always wanted to go on the weekends.
My favorite beach was Laguna. But that
word was hard for me. I liked Laguna because
there were rocks and tide pools with all sorts
of magical creatures like spiny sea urchins and
swollen sea stars.
But I couldn’t say Laguna. The “l” the “g”
even the “n” were too hard. It was the word I
labored over the most, as I tried to convince
my parents that we needed to go to Laguna
again this weekend.
Fitting, that Laguna’s name is one small
letter away from another of my favorite words.
Change the hard “g” to a smooth “c” and you
get lacuna: a lexical gap. A missing word in a
language.
When I grew frustrated with trying to
pronounce a word, sometimes I’d just say, bah,
bah, bah. Bah? My tongue couldn’t tap my
teeth properly or curl and bend enough to say
beach or ocean.
And as I struggled to say the words right, I
kept a list of missing words, of lacunas I found
particularly intriguing.
\ tree-eat·ing \
I frst learned of this lacuna when I read an
article about Vashon Island, in my beloved
Pacifc ocean, in Washington, over 1,000 miles
north from my home. There was a tree here.
In the woods close to the Vashon highway,
someone left a children’s bicycle chained to this
tree. As the tree grew, its hard lignin wrapped
around the rusting metal. And as the tree lost
Michelle Donahue
There Are All Sorts of Holes
62
and gained layers, it began to eat the bike. The
tree lifted it upwards and the bike few higher.
Now, if you walked through the woods of
Vashon you could fnd this tree and look up at
the rusted bike.
The news said, in 1954, a boy named Don
Puz, left his bike to the devouring-tree. His
house had burned and someone, nameless now,
donated this too small bike to the family as a
consolation present.
There is no consolation when your home
burns. Don left the bike chained to the tree.
Children understand the art of losing things.
There is no word for tree eating. A tree that
refused to be confned and devoured anything
around it.
The opposite word exists: dendrophagy,
eating trees.
In El Oriente, the Ecuadorian rainforest, I
witnessed dendrophagy. I walked through the
dark cast by thick, buttressed trees and then
came to a clearing. I was a young thing, barely
nineteen, and was studying abroad.
“Look,” my guide said, as he took a knife to
a tree and peeled back the bark. Brown ants
swarmed beneath that skin of bark.
“Lemon ants,” the guide said. He scooped
one off and ate it. “Tangy,” he said.
This was symbiosis. The tree, Duroia
hirsute, gave the ants a home. The lemon ants
produced formic acid to protect their tree
from interspecifc competition, or competition
against other species. The ants crawled into
other trees, ate the leaves and spat out this
acid. Two hydrogen, two oxygen, a carbon, an
alcohol, a ketone. So simple, yet it ate through
the trees and killed them. All trees except the
Duroia hirsuta. The natives called these clearings
the Devil’s Garden because they believed
malignant spirits dwelled there. But it was just
an insect, an acid that ate trees.
Eating trees. I wondered about the tree in
Washington that eats. Tree eating. Perhaps it
was too rare for a name.
I was eaten by a tree once.
My father and I hiked to the Bouli tree in
Sequoia National Park. My mother and sister
were tired, but I felt antsy; I never could stand
still for long.
When Dad and I pulled up to the trail,
we were the only car in the parking lot. The
trail was up-hill the whole way. I was a young
twenty-something and my lungs were used to
the smog of the Inland Empire, so I could
conquer the altitude and keep walking. My
father needed breaks; when we stopped I felt
that wonderful loneliness of nature. So many
people focked to Yosemite that few found
their way to Sequoia and fewer still to the
Bouli tree trail. General Sherman, the largest
tree in the world, pulled people toward him,
so that Bouli was wonderfully, tragically, left
undiscovered.
We walked in the hour before sunset. Not
dark, but soft light. We followed the sign that
pointed toward Bouli and came to a plaque.
The Bouli tree. The only great redwood left in
this area when the trees were cleared not long
enough ago. Left because Bouli was too large
to be cut down. Or too beautiful. Maybe even
the loggers could see this.
“Where is he?” I asked my Dad.
Even the new trees were large and thick
now, but through a sliver of space I saw him,
seemingly taller and more beautiful than
Sherman ever could be. There. Bouli was right
in front of me. We walked the path and got
right up to him. Touched his red fesh. You
can’t do this to Sherman; there are fences. I
crawled right into Bouli. A fre had burnt a
piece of him open leaving a gaping fre scar. It
was charred black inside. I touched the inside
of him and felt him wrapped around me.
Trees eating. It felt like night inside of him.
\ l’a·ppel du vi·de \
I was the frst to jump from the cliffs of
Bartolemé Island in the Galapagos. I was
somewhere very close to the equator, high up
on the center of the earth. The guys in our
group started making snide remarks about
girls, because Julia was too afraid to jump off.
The guys were talking a lot because they were
scared, too. We were a small group of biology
students studying on the Galápagos and there
weren’t many guys. So they stuck together,
mostly.
63
I had always been drawn to high places. I
liked heights or else I liked that twinge of my
stomach I felt when I was high. And I liked
falling. I really liked falling. That swift rush of
air and the precious seconds of weightlessness.
In French, l’appel du vide describes the
instinctive desire to jump from high places.
When I was on a sixteen-hour train from
Budapest to Bucharest, I whittled away time in
the dining car with a French and Belgian guy.
Etienne, the French guy, told me about l’appel
du vide on that trip as he sloshed through his
ffth Ursus beer of the night.
“I hate heights,” he said. “I don’t get it.”
I did. I’d never had the word to describe it
before.
I walked to the edge of the cliff and looked
down. Sharp, black volcanic rocks pierced the
water to my right. Tomorrow I was twenty.
Today was the last day that I could blame
stupid acts on my stupid teenage mind. I turned
back and looked at the boys, then jumped from
the edge. Jumped to the left. The air around me
rushed, my stomach shifted and for a moment
it felt like fying. I landed in deep water, far
from the rocks. As a native Californian I could
navigate the Pacifc Ocean and its dangers.
I wished the thirty-foot fall had lasted longer,
but that water felt good. That equatorial sea
turned cold from the arctic Humboldt.
Julia fnally did jump. She hit the rocks. Her
back was bright pink fesh, blood fowing into
the sea. There were sharks in these waters.
I was in search of sharks. After I jumped, I
joined the others who were snorkeling around
the island. I sprinted to catch them, knowing
that this was my best chance to see the
hammerhead. I’d seen the Galápagos sharks,
I even saw a tiger shark, but I wanted to see
a hammerhead. They were shy, so I knew I
needed to be in front of the pack.
I swam fast, with strong muscles thanks to
years of water polo. Water made sense to me
and I could move through it quickly. I pushed
my muscles until they burned.
And just as I got in front of the pack, just as
I was thinking ok you can slow down, I saw him,
coming from the depths of the ocean, a white
hammerhead. He looked like a Galápagos
shark until he swung his head around and I saw
that long, fatness. His eyes on the side of his
strange head opened as if in shock. His mouth
opened too. For a moment we just looked
at one another, both a little afraid. Then he
snapped his head around and dove down deep.
I pulled in as much air as my lungs would hold
and dove after him. I swam as fast and as deep
as I could in chase of the shark.
I swam into that empty darkness.
L’appel du vide literally translates to call of the
void.
When I retold this story, no one understood
why I followed the shark and I couldn’t explain
that inexplicable allure of deep, dark water.
I swam after him until long after my lungs
burned.
\ place·less \
I was in the darkness of underground,
waiting for the metro in Barcelona. Night had
begun shifting to morning, but I couldn’t tell
this from the sky.
I’d met Jonathan ten hours ago in the hostel
common room. I’d just showered and my hair
was strange and puffy. I wore clothes that had
been worn too many times before, because
my mind was too interested in other things—
Gaudi’s sculptures, towering sandcastles—to
worry about laundry.
We stayed out all night in Barcelona. Mostly
we just rode the metro. We couldn’t settle on
one place.
We started with a large group of people from
our hostel. We soon lost everyone. This wasn’t
something I would do normally, but I was two
days from turning 21 and I felt invincible. I
felt the lure of adventure. I had never been
in love. I couldn’t be safe or rational because
those words didn’t exist here. Traveling meant
jumping head frst into everything.
Anachronistic means out of time, but there’s
no word for out of place. Yet I was so often
out of place and this lack of place changed me.
Both Jonathan and I were out of place.
He was British and I think that, more than
anything, attracted me to him. I had these false
ideas about love and romance.
64
Later, he would be the frst person I had sex
with. I’d meet him in Wimbledon and in the
room of a house he rented, I would lean down
and kiss him.
Later, he would lie to me. Later we would try
to make a long distance relationship work. We’d
meet in the U.S., in Denmark, in Prague. Later
he would cheat on me and I would discover
this slowly, gradually.
But then we both felt the fearlessness of
being homeless. So we jumped far and fast
together.
\ ya’a·bur·nee \
In Prague people burned sugar and let it
drip, caramelized, into absinthe. Jonathan and
I drank in Karlovy Lazne, four stories high in
Eastern Europe’s largest club. The foors lit up
with neon lights as we drank absinthe, cloudy
with ice water. It burned our throats.
In Arabic ya’aburnee literally means “you bury
me”. But it really means I love you. It means
I can’t live without you, so I hope I die before
you and you bury me. Sweet, but also a little
selfsh.
As Jonathan smiled at me and whispered his
magic British speech into my ear, I felt for a
word I didn’t have. I felt us cracking. He had
already cheated on me then. Except, it was
more complicated than that. Isn’t it always. I
had promised I would never take anyone back
who lied to me. But I was young, and naïve and
I loved him. Or I thought I did.
There are so many levels within love, and yet
only one word for it. We’d walked the levels:
up, then down.
That day, we went to Kutna Hora, to the
bone church. Long ago, Frantisek Rint, artist
and wood carver, took bones from people
who died of the bubonic plague. He fashioned
their bones into art. Human bones lined the
walls of the church. In the center of the main
room hung a chandelier with at least one of
every bone in the human body. Human skulls
became pillars. Strung humerus bones formed
garlands. In the front was the Schwarzenberg
Family Coat of Arms done, of course, all in
bone. Jonathan asked around about who the
Schwarzenberg family was, but no one seemed
to know. There was a lot of mystery in the
Czech Republic.
I stood near a wall of bones. Long femurs
sliced open to reveal the marrow, the
hollowness, the star-shaped osteocytes: bone
cells. One of the few cells in our body that
does not undergo mitosis. Blood and bone;
they can’t split themselves in two. Osteocytes,
housed inside of lacuna connected together,
branching and becoming bone.
I feared that I too could not split myself in
two. I wanted to inhabit both worlds: his and
mine, home and abroad. No matter where I
was, I missed somewhere, someone. There was
no getting around that.
In Karlovy Lazne with its windows looking
out at the Charles Bridge, we drank too much
absinthe. So when we started yelling, we had
to yell louder. The absinthe came burning
from our throats and we couldn’t put that fre
out. We were on the third foor and music
blared and I couldn’t even really hear what he
was saying. Not until the music stopped and
we were smacked with that silent moment of
tension (a lacuna) and all I heard was myself
saying goodbye.
I didn’t know what else to say. Words were
always hard for me.
I was lost in the skeletal night of Prague
with every cell in my body hurting. Earlier that
day I had slammed into Jonathan on Eastern
Europe’s longest bobsled track. Every move
hurt my bruises and my back. And that wasn’t
the worst of it.
Ya’aburnee: I love you. You bury me.
Even at the time I knew it was melodramatic.
But the emptiness that had burrowed inside
me, a feeling past even grief, felt like the
ground being poured around me, my body
being immersed in earth.
\ tos·ka \
The waves licked my toes that were half-
buried in the sand of Laguna Beach. I was
home again after being too long gone (but
never long enough). I lived now in Iowa,
landlocked, locked so strictly in corn and a
65
culture that felt more foreign to me than any
other I’d known.
I liked the ocean because of the thrill of its
beauty coupled with the aching nostalgia I felt
whenever I was there. A good sort of sadness,
whole and clear, as if the ocean was all of my
memories given physical form. The soft hushed
in and out of waves. A promise always to
return. A promise to leave.
There was no word for this that I knew. In
my language or others.
The sun started falling toward the ocean,
lighting up the sky like it only could in the
polluted air of Southern California. California:
the land where you appreciate everything, right
down to the pollutants. I thought beautiful
sunsets were worth the lung cancer. After all,
bad air gave me big lungs, which helped make
me a good swimmer. I could see the light side
of things here, like I never could in Iowa.
In that middle space where water became
land, I thought of that almost spiritual feeling
you get from perfect sadness. From breathing
but not belonging.
Toska means sadness in Russian. But it means
so much more than that. Toska is bone-aching
spiritual anguish, sudden and from no known
cause, just a wave of it sweeping through you.
Sometimes I felt sad for no reason. I felt
out of place, out of my place, like I was
groundless. And this wasn’t a bad feeling,
always. Sometimes it was just a feeling I wanted
to crawl inside of and explore.
I loved California, but I was bored here. Too
much excitement, yet nothing to explore. I
always yearned for a nameless elsewhere with a
faceless someone. Sometimes these places had
names Barcelona, Ecuador, Prague and sometimes
the people had faces. Mostly I just wanted to
move, keep moving like a shark.
I watched the waves move in and out as I
dug my fngers into that damp sand.
Toska can also be a dull ache, an ungrounded
longing, an itchy restlessness, yearning. Toska
also describes apathy and boredom. And there’s
little beauty in this sort of monotony.
And here the ocean was, bone-ached,
beautiful, and me, a dull ache, bored.
The tide rose. The sun set into the darkening
sea.
66
The brittle people perch in dim cafe corners
hazy yellow diners, nightclubs frothing
our cut paper selves pile onto shelves
scatter and lose track
of our home addresses
Tumblers empty and fll, amber liquid clear
crystal, glass, waxed paper—it’s all passed around
and forgetting is a little easier
the unopened letter in her desk drawer
tucked under the dry stamp pads and stale peanuts
the ticket to Moldova, or was it Maldives
Montreal? Est-ce que se serait moins effrayant?
shake, ear to the cereal box, two-thirds empty
but before you close the cupboard, just a
peek at the jars of bitter cinnamon
that mixes with honey so sweet
empty spaces flling with
vials of vanilla, jasmine, fre yellow knots of saffron
nudging towards a breeze that leads out
a window overlooking branches bent
with swollen cherries
double breasted plums, raspberries something like
velvet thimbles—and you wonder
if I pour my hopes into a sugar crumb crust
let the edges burble and gasp
at the trickle of strawberry ice cream
a shivering pink line down its side, what if
it’s exactly what I wanted after all?
hits that sweet tooth pop and zing
and the living room grays, the telephone,
the vanity, the soap dish, the bubbles
as your lips hum in technicolor, what if
the letter begins, “We are pleased to inform you…”
or “I haven’t forgotten anything,”
and she bought two almond biscotti
at a sunny cafe in Ville-Marie?
what beastly frights lurk behind these gauzy curtains
can only be imagined, only there
could their bite gnash sharper
than the meringue licks sweet
Cellophane Malaise
Kat Lerner
67
The one time he forgets to lock the front door is the frst time he comes home to fnd their
house completely torn apart. The frst and last time he’ll see his wife dead on the kitchen foor.
The coffee is still hot in its glass carafe, and the beer is still cold in the fridge, while the television
quietly plays local news.
Overwhelming joy brings this man to tears, a new profound happiness that he can already feel.
He didn’t have to do it himself. It won’t cost him anything. On the foor, a sock remains—not his,
underneath a picture of him and his wife, the glass of the frame shattered.
He calls the police, moves to the fridge, and grabs a drink. He waits on the front porch. The TV
hums in the background.
M.G. Wessels
Living for Leaving
68
Remember mother’s hand
cupping the nectarine
as she cut with a small knife
into the sweet-silent fesh.
How I reached for the frst pieces
of newborn sunshine
and swallowed the spilt light
greedily, hoping to grow my heart
so tender a fruit.
Finnuala Butler
Tenderly
69
Finnuala Butler
Untitled
We, steam-paralysed strangers
embraced in the column of dawn
between two locked doors.
Spoke in light and dark only,
never learned each other’s names.
As such there is nothing of that solace
left on my tongue, but still
I say, “morning is breaking”
when I fall in love.
70
Evangeline of Ténéré
Matthew Donald Jacob Kelly
“You’re two blinks away from a whole lot
of nothing,” Miss DePasqual sneered before
plopping Evangeline Mudd at the metal
cafeteria table leaning against the dumpsters in
the back of Saint Simeon’s Elementary School.
Evangeline knew full well what it meant to
be relegated to the janitors’ table – a Mecca
of Lucky One cigarette butts and Styrofoam
coffee cups left behind by the school’s custodial
octogenarians, who convened around it daily
to trade jokes about erectile dysfunction and
“the old lady upstairs.” There, for the morning,
Evangeline would disappear, hidden from those
assembled for the Sixth Grade History Fest
Parade, this year to be offciated by Deputy
Mayor Stu Trudeau himself.
Participation in the parade was simple
enough – students were instructed to come
to school dressed as their favorite historical
fgures. Two years back, Jesus costumes
had been banned on account of costly legal
proceedings brought by Harriman McQueen,
the local bondsman and notary public who
independently and unoffcially converted to
Orthodox Judaism on account of not having
anything better to do. But even with Jesus
excluded, the event was a grand old time all
the same. On the morning of the event, a sea
of Escalades parked before the school and
unleashed wave after wave of prepubescent
Lincolns, Washingtons, Edisons and Cleopatras.
However, Evangeline Mudd was not among
them. As her own grandmother had said
before abandoning the family to take up with a
Pentecostalist minister who smelled of whiskey
and Vaseline, “If Evangeline thought straight
half the time, she’d be two-thirds the way to
hell and dragging us all down with her” The
sobriquet was modifed over the years through
laziness and inexactitude, but the crux of the
message remained the same – Evangeline was
a strange little girl. True to form, her choice of
costumes for the parade made heads turn: she
had made the half-mile trek to school on foot
dressed in a brown Lycra jumpsuit, gold glitter
streaked across the front, holding aloft two
humongous tree branches.
“And who exactly are you?” DePasqual
sneered, eyeing the jagged branches arching
over her desk.
“I’m the Tree of Ténéré,” came the reply.
“What in the world is the Tree of Ténéré?”
DePasqual barked, rolling her offce chair back
to clear the spiked acacia leaves.
Annoyed by the question, Evangeline
moaned. “The Tree of Ténéré was the loneliest
tree in all of history. It stood alone in the
Sahara, hundreds of miles from any tree. It
was a monument to hope and strength and
solitude.”
DePasqual blinked uncontrollably, which
happened in only two circumstances, the frst
being acute panic-induced hyperventilation
and the second a physiologic response evoked
behind closed doors by Deputy Mayor
Trudeau, whose years of roof bolting had
honed manual dexterity faculties storied among
the town’s backdoor gasbags. Squeezing her
eyes shut, DePasqual moaned. “I’ll pair you
with a Lincoln and you can be the tree he cut
down.”
Evangeline shook the branches angrily. “I’m
the Tree of Ténéré. For years, I was the only
tree in a vast stretch of desert but nobody cut
71
me for wood, no camel ate my leaves. I was the
symbol of all of life in the desert!”
DePasqual leaned forward and spoke into the
branches, her voice a gravelly grunt. “It’s either
Abe’s tree or the janitors’ table.” And that was
that.
Evangeline had been given strict instructions
to remain at the table until 11:00, at which
point the parade would have passed and the
deputy mayor with it. She was then to march
herself to the school therapist’s offce to let
her fgure out how it was that “any girl in her
right mind would come to school dressed as
an African tree when Betsy Ross was a viable
alternative.”
When 11:00 came, Evangeline wandered
into St. Simeon’s administrative offces looking
for the therapist, who as it turns out was
engaged in a roof bolting consultation with
Deputy Mayor Trudeau. So, she rambled
instead into the offce of Mr. Rugglebart, the
incalculably obese man who met with all eighth
grade students attempting to fnd internship
in the town’s local oil refneries and toiletry
manufacturing plants.
Evangeline wasted no time in getting to the
heart of the matter. “You help kids fgure out
what they want to do with their lives, right?”
Rugglebart nodded, unsure whether he was
awake, asleep, dead, or the target of some
strange administrative performance review.
She continued. “Good. I want to be the
Tree of Ténéré.” Rugglebart nodded again.
Evangeline sighed and shook her branches.
“The Tree of Ténéré was the most important
tree in all of history. It was all alone in the
Sahara, a beacon of hope and strength. And
now it’s gone. I want to be the Tree of Ténéré.”
Rugglebart nodded once more, concluding
that the spandexed sixth grader was not in fact
a fgment of his imagination. Leaning forward
and resting his hands in the droopy pockets of
his burgundy cardigan, he sighed. “It looks to
me like you already are the Tree of Ténéré. I
help kids fnd what they want – you’ve found
it yourself. Go be the Tree of Ténéré.” He
paused, unsure whether what he said was
right, wrong or legal. Evangeline processed
the words, nodded a deliberate nod, and left
Rugglebart to drift back into a confused but
happy sleep.
The little girl then marched out of the offce,
down the administrative hallway and straight
through the front entrance of the school.
Before her stood the vast Chihuahan Desert,
stretching for miles as far as the eye could see.
The Tree of Ténéré was indeed gone, downed
by a drunk driver ten years before Evangeline
was born. But with each step into the
Chihuahan wild, Evangeline became its heir,
her skin tightening, her branches lifting, until
fnally she too was a singular dot in the vast,
dry solitude. A piece of history. Two blinks
from a whole lot of nothing.
72
Dave Petraglia
Life Ring
73
My God lives behind that curtain. But it
doesn’t act like a curtain should, it doesn’t fold
and ruffe, no, it hangs so still and solid and
thick I would think it was a part of the wall if it
wasn’t striped,
white and green
and
white and green.
And when my God comes home, smelling
of pennies and promises, He will push it aside
because He is stronger than me, He is so much
stronger than me that He would push the
curtain aside even if it belonged to His Idols,
He would push it aside because He is the kind
of God who needs to know what is behind
curtains that are still.
I am not strong,
in fact,
my hands are not hands,
they are paws and I crawl along the foor.
I am His dog,
struggling, struggling to remember who I am
beyond what He has taught me.
Stupid, He says, Bitch, He calls me, and I
remember only those words because those
words are my name, because I respond so well
to his commands, sit, beg, crawl Stupid Bitch.
Sit, beg, crawl. I come crawling back on my
tired paws to greet Him because He is all I
know and making Him happy affords peace
in this small world in which I am to allowed
reside.
I salivate when He rings the bell for supper.
A supper I have cooked. My paws are singed
from the stove and cracked from the soapy dish
water. I used to play with the bubbles, I used
to watch them sail through the air because they
were so light they made me believe in magic. I
believed in magic so much that I went out to
look for it and, lucky me, I found my God. He
is all I need of magic now so the bubbles stay
in the sink.
They are tools,
only tools for the ritual of washing the dishes
of my God.
Stupid Bitch, He says, mouth full of food, I
will take you away, we will live by the seaside, all
alone by the seaside and there we will be free.
My God knows the future, He tells me
to prepare, He tells me who I am and that
everything has been written. He says we will
be together forever and He is happy that I have
given myself to Him.
He smells of pennies and promises and I
smell of nothing. Every day I scrub myself
hard with unscented soap,
scrub
my
self
hard
to remove the stain of my own personality,
to release myself into the soap and the steam
and the water so that He may fll me up.
You are evil Stupid Bitch, He told me once,
when I made the supper wrong, you are evil
but if you follow my instructions you can be
good. So I wash myself clean of myself and
try to fll up with Him instead,
hang on to His every word,
try to perfect my slow crawl across the
apartment foor,
the happy wag of my tail when He fnally
Star Spider
Of Gods and Curtains
74
comes home to be with me,
to hide all the tears that fall whenever He is
gone or hidden, hidden behind the curtain.
A hidden God.
I wonder if there is any other kind of God,
any who show themselves, who put themselves
on display so we can see them at their weakest,
when they laugh,
when they cry,
when they shit.
Or maybe those things are beyond the Gods,
maybe those things are only for dogs, only
for me. He doesn’t try to fuck me, He won’t
even hit me. He doesn’t want to touch me,
His hands are too holy and fucking is for dogs,
another thing that is only for me. I hoard those
things because so many things belong to Him,
like light and song and goodness and right,
those pure things are His and I get the others.
I keep them in a row on the foor by my bed,
those things that are mine:
evil,
and fucking,
and shitting.
I get tears too,
and sorrow.
Secret sorrow.
I should be happy, He says, I should love
myself in spite of myself, I should be happy
to know the future, to be a part of something
bigger, with Him. My sorrow is like a black
river, hidden behind the curtains of my eyes
and it fows and fows and erodes my insides.
You should be happy, He says, when He
hears me in the deep night, sobbing, sobbing,
tears of black onto my pillow. We are going to
the sea, far away from this evil place where we
can be alone together and I can teach you to be
good.
Yes, yes, I cry, I want to be happy, this is
the place I want to be, with You everything is
perfect. It’s me, I say, it’s my fault, the black
river has always fowed through me, I just never
noticed it before today.
The supper bell rings and I crawl.
When was the last time I saw the sky?
He doesn’t want me to leave because there
is evil out there, evil out there and evil in here,
deep in here.
I cry into His noodles,
His beans,
His soup.
His soup is too salty, Stupid Bitch, His soup
is so salty I must be trying to poison Him. Do
I want Him to have a heart attack, to die and
leave me forever? I can’t answer the question,
but the answer must be no. The answer must
be no but I wonder:
if
my
God
was
to
die
would I be allowed to see the sky?
No no Stupid Bitch, don’t think that, I say to
myself. Sit, beg, crawl. He doesn’t need to be
there to say the words anymore, to remind me
I am His.
I salivate when the bell rings.
I build a mask to catch my tears, a mask that
makes me blind and I burn my paws on His
soup. He is pleased that the salt is gone, but
mad that my eyes won’t stop leaking, there
must be a food, a broken pipe.
I can’t bring a Broken Dog with me to the
sea, He says.
Broken Dog is not my name, Stupid Bitch is
my name.
He drives me to the vet, but I can’t see the
sky because I wear the mask all the time now,
to soak up my tears.
Broken Dog, He calls me now,
not my name, not my name. He doesn’t want
a Broken Dog.
My God lives behind that curtain,
white and green,
white and green.
My God has been out for hours when I reach
for it, reach for the curtain, with a hand that is
not my own. A hand in the shape of the vet’s
hand, with smooth fngers and rings of gold.
Maybe the vet is a God too, a God of Broken
Dogs.
Go behind the curtain, the vet says, here, use
my hands. She lends me her hands and they
are strong enough to pull the curtain back, to
75
reveal the room beyond, my God’s room, the
place where He resides.
The walls are covered in ink,
in words,
I have stopped crying,
removed my mask so I can read.
There are stories of my life,
my history,
my psyche,
there are plans for the future drawn like
maps,
scrawled like spiders across the
white,
white walls.
My God is not a God, he is an Elephant,
with memories as long as the world. It is all
written by his hand, nothing divine, just an
Elephant making plans for the future. He is
not a God, he is an Elephant and I am not a
dog, I am a mouse. I am small and fast, but if
I stay I will be trampled.
I back up and out as my Elephant returns,
my eyes are dry and he watches the curtain fall,
back into place. But it is not a curtain, I see
that now, it is a carpet.
His eyes
are
wide
with wrath, but small, so small.
Everything is small now as my God
diminishes.
Not an Elephant or a God, just a man.
Your Idols are crumbling, I scream, you have
put them so high on their pedestals you can’t
see the cracks.
Then I run and he reminds me that I am too
broken to run, but I have borrowed the vet’s
legs as well as her hands and I am faster than
him.
Down
down
down the stairs and out into the sky.
He shouts from the balcony, I don’t want a
Broken Dog.
But it is too late.
He is a broken god,
for what is a god with no one to pray for
him?
76
Derick Varn
Decency
The swerve of headlights ahead:
something nicked and broken.
The truck moves past in a blackened
blur. Stopping my car I see the fawn
still breathing, sinew unknotted and legs unwoven,
browns eyes looking at me. There is no decency
in suffering, the nonsense grew out of careless
swerving that even my pity does not undo.
In unbelief, I took a revolver from the glove-box
and caressed its blank head. Then pulled the trigger.
Deer blood to remind me of another unkindness of heedless
speed and motion.
My grandmother prattles about the Garden of Eden
how we all fell but the sinister bit of truth
no enchanted apple can explain steel
upon fesh. It drags the ear to hear faithful talk about
the wicked tree. Like a record skipping,
the lambs bleat but we know what shepherds do
to a herd at the end. A less kind
culling comes from what we choose to believe.
In the end: no waves, no wind, no sound,
but swerving atoms collapsing and colliding. Making
and unmaking life: it’s hard to be decent
tramping down the mud and nurslings under heel and yet kindness
is careful violence and a clean end and kinder still
the care to to avoid the blind side swerve.
77
we met when Eros was looking
for a rope to hang himself.
i was simpler—
young and panting, carrying
burdens heavier than heaven’s gates.
you ripped me from the roots
and readied the nerves for the swaddling
slumber of Plath’s great electric-shock
white-heat-love-making engraved in the memory
of the scholars who specialize in shame.
mountains rumbled when you touched me,
but i dulled the avalanche to a dog whistle.
to pack a bag is to be reborn again
into promise
of blinded fight.
i don’t want a handler, a tamer, a man
who fancies himself a breaker of wild
jungle cats with shifting eyes.
you came strapped with the fear of deep sea depths
and Wonder Women who hold divine power in
the ink-dipped locks of their hair.
you are the witch-hunter who shot me down.
maybe i could have saved both of us
if trust had never comfortably crystallized
and i had bothered to turn around.
Vanessa Willoughby
Ultraviolence
78
Xavier Vega
The public library is always full of Mexicans
taking advantage of free federal outreach
programs. They come for help fling taxes or
to take citizenship classes. Some of them come
for the computer lab, and some bring their
children to borrow books or DVDs because
they have no money for cable. I tutor English,
and in my study room today is a middle aged
couple and their baby. They both have muddy
colored skin and they are very oily. The baby
looks like a baby.
They are shiny people, like little jewels
twinkling in the sun. My father told me that
Mexican bakers would rub their dough against
their skin to collect grease before kneading. It
wasn’t a disservice; they just simply didn’t know
they were disgusting. The Mexicans who came
over learned some of the American rules of
cleanliness, but some didn’t care enough to
change. A roach here or there adds crunch.
My father told me that you can’t trust other
Mexicans.
The four of us sit in a soundproof study
room with windows, but it is a cheap library
in a cheap city, so the room is not truly
soundproof. The baby cries and other patrons
stare into the room as if we were animals
in a zoo. It is frustrating to continue our
lesson, but the mother calms her child and we
continue.
“Did you understand the homework?” I said,
hoping to recap our last lesson.
The woman did quite well, but the husband
struggles.
“Yes, sir,” he said.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, sir.”
I believe they are in their thirties, but they
look like they are in their forties. The man
wears a hat and a fannel shirt with jeans. The
woman wears a thin dress. The husband fakes
his way through our lesson and he reminds
me of children I previously tutored. You
have to confront them on their issues without
demeaning them. The husband’s shame flls
the room and he taps his fngers on our table.
His fngers are calloused and his nails are caked
with dirt. He reminds me of my father back
when we lived in old tin trailers on dirt roads.
The baby works to my advantage. I give him
a man-to-man talk to convince him to stay. I
speak to him in Spanish.
“You plan to stay here for a long time, yes?”
“Yes, sir. We want to stay.”
“So the child will grow up in America, yes?”
“Yes, sir. I want him to go to school and get
smart to get a good job.”
“You won’t have to worry about him. He
will speak English. He will watch English TV
with English cartoons. He will speak English
at school, he will speak English with his
friends, he will read English books, and he will
learn with English teachers. It will all come
very naturally to him. He may even prefer
Return to Dust
79
English to Spanish.”
I pause for a moment and smile down at
their sleeping child.
“I could barely speak Spanish myself for
many years,” I said, “I could understand it a
little, but a few things never made sense. I
wasn’t very good at speaking it. My parents
wanted me to know English frst so I could do
well in school, and it worked. But what will
happen if you and your son can’t speak the
same language?”
We went over the homework again and
I showed him what he did wrong. Later, I
explained that Americans pronounce their
vowels differently; their mouths don’t open as
much, which is why they were so quiet. “No”
in Spanish puts a large emphasis on the O.
The mouth expands more and the lips stretch
out further. To Americans this is loud. They
don’t like it when people get loud because they
are quiet and tame. They do not like to strain
themselves.
I don’t tell him to ask his wife for help,
otherwise he would never come back. She
doesn’t offer him any help either, and the
husband continues to struggle. Our hour ends.
I leave the library and walk to a bar for a
drink before I go home. I graduated Summa
Cum Laude from a highly accredited University,
but I’m Mexican so I look around the bar
for men to fght. When I was young I would
take a sharp pencil and drag it across my arm
in an attempt to tattoo myself. It was not a
depressed form of self-harm, but rather a
stupid attempt to mark myself as a member
of a gang because that’s what all the other
Mexicans were doing.
Thin trails of lead marked Sur 13 on my
arm because I hated white people. I knew
some kids who dug paperclips across their
skin to draw tiny amounts of blood, hoping
to cover their cuts with permanent marker to
make a tattoo. Some of them got arrested for
misdemeanors over the years, some dropped
out and got menial jobs.
Those parents I tutored have so much hope,
but there’s no guarantee their kids won’t be
stupid. The problem with being Mexican is
that you can’t get away with stupidity the same
way that white people can.
I am dressed professionally, and I am
confdent that if I do land in a fght and if
police were to become involved, they would
take my word over that of a stupid gangster.
Part of this disgusts me, but part of me
relishes it.
I remember being stupid. We all hated white
people because our parents worked so hard
for so little. Picking strawberries is a job that
requires you to bend over for hours at a time,
and the pay is not hourly, but per unit. My
farm paid us two-dollars per fat, and so it
was about speed, but the money never added
up to enough. We all saw the big American
Pie in The Sky, but we got the tiniest slice,
and so we tricked ourselves into thinking that
white people were weak and pathetic, and
that Mexicans did hard labor because only we
were tough enough. We didn’t need breaks or
overtime. We didn’t need food.
You have to do something to not hate
yourself, and success through adversity is
the sweetest kind of success. All the good
superheroes have tragic origins. Hercules had
his Twelve Labors, and grown men cry on
national television when they win the Super
Bowl. All the shit and pain and despair vanish
with victory as a boxer fnally snatches that
golden belt and declares himself Champion of
the World.
A Warrior.
When I was young and overweight I used
to run laps around the large strawberry felds.
By the time I started, the berry pickers had
been working for several hours, and I fnished
running several hours before they went home.
No matter how hard I ran, I knew I would
never be as powerful as them. They were
warriors.
The bar is dim and quiet, and in the back
are several pool tables. Sitting at the bar, I sip
a rum and coke. I’m an odd sight, wearing a
dress shirt and slacks inside a Mexican pool
hall, but the older crowd appreciates my work
in the community, so I have a little respect. It’s
the young bucks that don’t like me, and I like
80
that they don’t like me because it means we can
fght.
A young cholo sits next me. He wears long
socks and long, baggy shorts that reach his
ankles. There are many other stools by the bar,
and he could have picked any of them. He
knows it and I know it. Mexicans always want
someone to fght.
“I’m saving that seat,” I said.
He gives me the dirty eye, and instead of
giving him one back, I give him a look that tells
him he is beneath me. In reality I am jealous
of him and his power, but I want him to think
that I think I am better than him. It’s the best
way to antagonize him.
He shakes his head and moves to the other
end of the bar, and so I take another drink.
The cholo’s t-shirt has a cartoon of a bald
and shirtless Mexican gangster in sunglasses
with a bandana around his forehead. The
cartoon wears baggy khakis, but the cartoon
isn’t a bad guy. The cartoon is on a cross with
a sad woman close to him. In the background
is Jesus weeping, and on the top of the shirt is
the caption To Love is to Suffer.
I remember that shirt because a young
boy in middle school wore that same shirt
as he lay on the restroom foor in a fetal
position, protecting himself from his fellow
gang members as they jumped him in. They
stomped his ribs and kicked him in the face,
but after a while one gangster called off the
beating. The boy got up and hugged his
attackers, and they left the bathroom and went
somewhere to get high.
It’s a strange initiation, but I suppose some
fraternities have done worse.
It doesn’t surprise me though. First we
had the Aztecs. They were all about human
sacrifce and tearing out hearts. They would
serenade volunteers with faming arrows to
the chest on top of large temples. They had
Flower Wars where the entire purpose was for
opposing armies to gain sacrifces for their
gods. And then the conquistadors came in with
a vengeful God that demanded penance and
sacrifce.
A man has to suffer to be a man. He has
to endure pain. Carlos Fuentes said that’s
what Mexico is all about; you have to kill a
man to believe in him. You need to slit your
wrists and let the blood nourish your crops.
Huitzilopochtli won’t allow it any other way.
A few men in their late teens come in.
They’re wearing blue Dickies and blue hats and
blue Nike Cortez shoes. I laugh at the irony
and decide to antagonize them.
“Nice shoes,” I said, “Nike Cortez?”
“Yeah,” said one of the gangsters, “You got a
problem?”
“Did you know that Hernan Cortez was the
Spanish conquistador who came to Mexico and
killed all the Aztecs? Stole their gold, raped
their women, gave them smallpox. And you’re
wearing his shoes. It’s cute.”
“The fuck you care?”
“Just wondering why you were wearing a
white man’s shoes.”
“What?”
“Cortez was from Spain. Spanish people
are white. Those conquistador shoes are
white. The Aztecs, the warriors? They were
something else. They were magic.”
“Watch your back, faggot.”
I chuckle, hoping for them to make the
frst move, but like nervous lovers nothing
happens. I’m worried that the Mexican people
are all dying. Mexican Americans will take
over this country in about twenty years, if the
numbers are true, and I am not a Mexican. I
am a Mexican American. I live in the space
between two worlds. I want to be professional
and dignifed, but I also want to get drunk and
scream to Tejano music.
Mexico truly is a rugged country. The cartels
still decapitate villagers and stick theirs heads
onto pikes. You don’t see that shit in Seattle.
I’m trying to get into a bar fght because I
don’t know what I’m doing with my life. My
tutoring job is funded by a federal grant, and
I might not be employed a year from now, but
even if that were certain, I would rather be
doing something else.
I didn’t want to go to graduate school
because there is too much petty academia.
Academia doesn’t reach out to the people. It’s
81
an ivory tower of supposed intellectualism. It’s
incestuous and hollow, full of people looking
for careers instead of knowledge. Academics
tend to look down on the ants who slave away
for minimum wage with nine-to-fve jobs. The
working class. The Warriors.
Academia does nothing to help people
who struggle, it just documents suffering like
someone who calls themselves an artist but
just sits around doing coke all day while having
sex with under aged models. Rich bastards
with inheritance. Inheritance bugs me. It’s like
watching a horde of cannibals eating the corpse
of one great man, taking the rewards for his
hard work without struggling themselves. They
don’t value things the way we do.
And then I remember how I’m making
myself feel superior this way, and I know I
need a reality check. In my mind I know this
is not the face of all white people. I perfectly
understand this, but I cannot believe it.
At least that’s what I think. Or maybe I was
too scared and didn’t think I could last in the
white man’s world.
A few more blue gangsters walk into the bar
and they greet their compatriots who insulted
me. They point me out and I raise my drink to
them with a shit-eating grin. They glare at me
and I wink.
I was about to get some action when a
few red gangsters walked over from the pool
tables towards the blue gangsters. None of
them want to fght me. They want to fght
each other. They want to fght someone in
the same boat. It’s prisoner envy; why should
one inmate get privileges and not the others?
Beating someone below or above you won’t
change the system, but beating someone who’s
supposed to be on the same level? That makes
you better as an individual. That makes you
special.
There was a stare down and some pushing,
but the bartender threatened to call the police,
and so everyone left. I wanted to fnd them
on the streets but realized that I would be
making an ass out of myself. I fnished my
drink and paid, and the bartender smiled at
me. He never cusses me out the way he does
with his friends. I walked towards to my
apartment and saw some chonga ladies in the
street. They wear gaudy gold bracelets, low-
rise jeans, thick lipstick and eyebrows that have
been shaved off and drawn back on. They
dance to reggaeton in the street, and I can feel
them staring at me as I pass. We both look like
Frankenstein monsters.
Sometimes I don’t feel man enough to be
with my own kind, but then I feel restricted
when I have to be around white people. I’ve
read bell hooks, Foucault, and all the other big
thinkers. I’m well versed in the social sciences
that shape the human psyche. Intellectually,
I can understand my problems, but my heart
wants something else. I want to be the Golden
Aztec who wears cheetah skin with a bald
eagle’s head as a helmet.
As I kept walking, the music began to pour
out the pool hall, and I pondered upon the
similarities between a dance club and the
jungle. Nothing important has ever been said
in a club. Loud music, dancing, a search for
lackluster sex, and the occasional fght. It’s all
very primal, full of awkward mating rituals, and
even the cleanest bars have a dim and seedy
vibe like raw meat or Mardi Gras in a bottle.
That’s not a shot at Mexicans. Everybody
turns savage when the beats are good.
I get a phone call from Sherry. Her sister is
fne. She has a broken toe but will be given a
splint and should be able to function. Sherry
apologizes for missing our appointment, but
says that she can meet me later tonight if I can
make it.
When I arrive home I turn on some jazz and
read an issue of National Geographic. Today
we are in Thailand, discussing Muay Thai, the
fghting style that inspired Kickboxing.
Some would say that it is a crude and blunt
martial art, but some say the technique is
graceful. It’s not about learning the myriad
ways to hurt a man, but mastering a limited
number of ways to hurt a man. Muay Thai,
and all exercise in general, is rewarding because
of the sweet relief from pain. Any weightlifter
will tell you how good your muscles feel after
82
you toss an enormous load onto the ground
after the struggle. For the uninitiated, think
of a nice couch or bed after a long day at the
offce. Think of taking off a heavy backpack
after school.
In Thailand, all the young men fght.
Fourteen year old boys will compete in title
fghts and retire in their late teens unless they
have the potential to become a star warrior.
Their skills require hundreds of hours of
training and repetition. Muay Thai kicks make
use of the shin and not the foot, and students
practice their low roundhouse kicks with each
other, connecting against each other’s shin to
strengthen the bone.
This country makes me so soft.
Apart from a few minor gang fghts in my
younger days, I can’t say I’ve been in any
serious conquests. The only other violence I’ve
faced in my life was from my parents, and it
was never abuse or neglect.
Very few people acknowledge that violence
is a necessity in the real world. It has its uses.
Disciplining children is a cerebral task. You
never hit a child in an emotional outburst;
you only do it deliberately as a lesson, like any
good teacher. Most kids can’t understand the
consequences of their actions. They don’t
understand the social contract or that their
actions can lead to trouble, or they’re not smart
enough to care.
What they can understand is a smack on the
arm or to the back of the head. You phase it
out once they’re smart enough to understand
yelling and shame. Humans are not as fragile
as white people believe. Discipline teaches
you respect when done right. You’re forced to
acknowledge the power of others. You learn
not to fuck up someone else’s shit because
you can end up punched in the face or with
a broken back. It’s an awareness that most
people don’t have. An awareness that can save
your life. An awareness that can become a
crippling fear.
I once read an old story where an aristocrat
couple cheated on each other with members
of the lower class. The wife tricks the peasant
woman into a trap, getting her killed in the
process, which causes the couple to stop the
cheating and live happily ever after.
It was written by Maqruis De Sade, I believe,
and that story pissed me off because the
peasant woman was disposable. For some
reason I really wanted justice for that lady. It’s
human nature to want justice. On the internet
I click on links titled Justice Porn. It’s all
about bad people getting caught and punished;
turning the tables on a mugger or bullies. It
feels good to condemn things; we love to hate
things. We’ll team up on someone if they say
something against the LGBT community or
black people. We hate Miley Cyrus and Justin
Bieber for some reason, and that’s perfectly
fne with most people over twenty one.
Hatred aimed at acceptable targets is highly
fashionable. Hatred will never die, and this is
exactly how propaganda works.
One of Hitler’s men made a series of
cowboy movies featuring villainous Jews that
would try to destroy small towns. Victorious
showdowns at high noon got all the Jr. Nazi’s
excited. Think about that for a minute, then
think about Twilight. One day there will be
a book burning, and suddenly the lines will
become blurry again.
It’s stubbornness that allows Mexicans to
thrive, but it also keeps them miserable. Hard
work can get some people up and into the
world, but an overdose will keep you cynical. It
takes away your faith and leaves you bitter and
depressed.
There are no pleasures that come without
hard work. Hard work is important. Hard
work is what gets you success. You have to
go through trauma early on in order to be
prepared. What you reap is what you sow. No
pain, no gain.
I drive into the city hoping to meet with
Sherry. I park outside a closed bank, walk past
a butcher shop, go down an alley and open an
unmarked door. Down the steps is another
door, and past that is a receptionist who tells
me to wait. Ten minutes later, I am tied up in
an elaborate torture table. I am shirtless and
fat on my back with my arms and legs spread
apart. My wrists and ankles are tied to ropes
83
and the ropes are propped up and strung
through pulleys. Sherry cranks a steel gear that
slowly pulls my limbs apart.
Then she digs her nails across my chest, sits
on stomach, bites me randomly and slaps me
around a bit. Towards the end she sits on my
face for several minutes. I struggle and shake
and suffer and scream as she squeezes her
thighs to choke the air out of me. My screams
are not screams of pain, but a battle cry. The
cries of a berserker.
Our time is up and I help her clean the room.
“How’s your sister?”–
“She’s fne. Overreacting if you ask me.
How about you? It’s been awhile. How’ve you
been?”
“Well, I’m feeling much better now.”
84
Savannah Hocter
My Perceptive Simulacrum
85
Ann Howells
Now that he has died
she moves to the mainland,
a neat white house above the river,
packs life in boxes: dishes, linens,
photos of children alive and dead.
Age rests on her shoulders,
but does not burden.
She unpacks records and cassettes,
from the forties on,
recalls a piñata she bought for Jason’s ninth
birthday:
paper machè burro, bright
with red, yellow and turquoise blue.
She hung it high;
children, blind and vicious with the broom,
left a shattered husk, dangling
paper streamers and cardboard innards.
For weeks foil-wrapped candies
sparkled in the shrubbery.
86
Whitman gazes at me through the eyes
of an old woman who wants
that last helping of pineapple
the nice Publix lady is handing out.
Even though I know the yellow fesh
is good for my infamed prostrate
I move on to other matters
of fruit and vegetables. Kale
for example, full of iron and vitamins,
a deep cosmic green that makes me dream
of acres and acres of tobacco in a Virginia sun.
It’s odd that the prettiest leaves were poison.
There’s the old woman again, standing in front
of the narrow display of free range chicken,
each package with a website that will take
me to the farm where the chicken was raised
by a nice family, and if I imagine deeply
enough, I can travel to that farm,
inhale the deep calm of those green pastures
where it feels like a man can settle down,
raise his own family with his own chickens
Maybe even have a cow or two for fresh milk.
And if I imagine even deeper I can travel into
the past of that family, see a grandpa
tilling a feld of 19
th
century radishes while grandma
sits in the kitchen reading an Old Farmer’s Almanac,
which says the coming winter will be the worst
in ffty years, how it would be best to harvest and can
all the blackberries and cucumbers so that January
might still be flled with sweetness and crisp
pickles on the white bread sandwiches that speak
of a time when plain was fne. That’s quite a website,
so I’d better be sure not to linger too long in its familiar
foreign lands, and be sure not to covet the farmer’s
daughter whose hair is faxen and whose breasts
rise and fall beneath her lilac blouse, which promises
even more fowers and a feast of white skin and nipples
so dark, I can’t help but gasp when I touch them,
which is a mistake I can’t come back from, and now
I live on the farm in the website and clean the chicken
coop each morning before gathering eggs for my new
wife to scramble into breakfast. I can’t wait
to eat them along with the hot buttered biscuits
buried in fresh blackberry preserves.
Jesse Millner
At a supermarket in South Florida
87
A man and his eight-year-old son sat in the
attic of their home. A single bare light hanging
in the center of the room illuminated the space,
but every box, suitcase and unread book cast
the room in shadows while planks of wood
and rafters melted into the darkest corners
of construction. A draft in the ceiling let the
October afternoon seep in, and wandering
sheets of dust foated through the mothball
scent of history to settle on the pink insulation
separating the yesterday of storage from the
today of downstairs. The man had climbed the
retractable ladder in search of a cast iron skillet
so that his wife, the child’s mother, could cook
her famous souffés upon her return from work
and he brought his son to assist in the search.
However, the man lost himself in a box of
college days and the child explored his father’s
chest of military souvenirs, unsure of what a
cast iron skillet even looked like.
“Hey,” the son said, holding up a green
canvas backpack with one hand while brushing
a tuft of hair out of his face with the other.
“Was this in a war?” The bag had sun-bleached
yellow spots like bad skin and the pockets and
pouches remained sealed by thick straps with
tin end caps looped into metal bits. The boy
undid various clasps and looked through each
compartment. “There’s nothing in here.”
The father lifted his head from a photo
album and turned toward the child. His taught
neck accentuated the sharpness of his jaw.
“There,” he pointed. “In the front. It’s the
bottom pouch.” The child struggled with the
pocket as his father continued. “That was my
bag from the navy. My brother got it for me
before I shipped off to Japan. No war, just
fun.”
“Oh, cool.” The child freed the straps and
opened the pouch. He pulled out frst a little
plastic toy with a string attached. “What’s this?”
he asked, and dangled the item between his
thumb and forefnger.
Even in dim light and with the pendulum-like
swing of the trinket, it was easy for the man
to identify the faded colors and shape of the
object. “Hello Kitty,” he laughed.
“Who’s Kitty?”
“No, that’s Kitty,” he said, pointing at the
charm. “She’s a character that all the girls loved
over there.”
“Why do you have it?” His voice was
accusatory.
“My girlfriend at the time liked her, so I did
too.”
“Mom?”
“No,” he chuckled. “Not your mother.”
He told his son about his small gray ship,
how they used to go to many ocean side cities
in Japan and how at each place there was a
different kind of Hello Kitty charm made.
“In Kagoshima,” he said, “they had a yam
Gregory App
A Pocket for Taeko
88
Hello Kitty, and in other towns they had other
Kitties. Whatever that town was famous for,
they had a Kitty made after it.” He went on
to tell how his girlfriend liked to collect these
things so he bought them for her whenever he
could. After a while, though, she didn’t want
any more because her phone became too heavy
and cumbersome from all the Kitties, so he put
that particular charm on his.
“Kawaii the girls would giggle when the saw
me and Kitty on the train. They thought I was
cute.”
“What was her name?” the child asked, as he
reached farther into the bag.
“Taeko.”
He explained how they would sail toward
Australia, and Singapore, and Hong Kong
stopping in little towns, big towns and nowhere
towns all along the way. There would always be
something to do and something to buy. “And
I would always get her something and place it
in that pocket to give to her when I came back
home.”
“Even this?” the son asked, holding up a
credit card size piece of paper laminated and
decorated white and red with the name Taeko
Zawa written in English. There were other
Japanese characters printed on it and a stylized
image of a kite in the corner.
“Of course,” the man said and smiled.
“That’s a lifetime membership to the Japan
Kite Association that I got for her birthday one
year.” He said he bought it before he and the
ship’s crew went on a long deployment and he
wanted to give it to Taeko upon his return.
“You few kites?”
“No, not really, but we liked to laugh about
it.”
And he told his son that while on the boat all
he did was think about Taeko, and off the boat
all he wanted to do besides smile at her was to
walk around and explore the world with her by
his side. So, whenever they were away from one
another he spent this time asking his friends
about their secret date spots and searching for
fun things for the two of them to do. And he
did come up with a great many ideas: they once
went to the Tobacco and Salt Museum where
they saw the history of Japanese cigarette
packages on display. He chose a box adorned
with two imperial Japanese fags as his favorite;
she a pack of Nile smokes with the pyramids
of Giza on them because she liked the idea
of living in the desert and she thought “the
Pharaohs had good hair on their face.” They
also went to the Ueno zoo where he saw for
the frst and only time an anteater. They went
so many places that he couldn’t remember
them too well anymore. But the one place he
would always remember is the Kite Museum.
“It was fun?” the child asked.
“No, it was kind of creepy,” he said staring
up at the roof in retrospect. “And boring.”
He went on to explain that not all of the
places they went were supposed to be fun or
terribly exciting, but he only wanted to spend
time with her – to experience life with her –
and who else would take a girl to the Bank
Note and Postage Stamp Museum, anyway?
“But the kite place was great,” he continued.
“It was spooky the way they crammed ‘em
all in there and how they were decorated like
bugs or dragons or monsters. It must’ve been
a thousand in a room half the size of this,” he
gestured with his hands around the attic. “And
the lighting was even worse, but none of that
mattered because it was the frst time anyone
told me they loved me.”
At the sound of his last sentence the
man straightened himself and stared into
the insulation. He hadn’t thought of Taeko
as a person in many years now for she had
become more of an object in time than a
living memory, but he surprised himself by
wondering what she may be doing and how he
would very much like to say hello.
“Ew, Dad,” the child interrupted his father’s
reverie by wrinkling his face and dropping the
card to the foor. “That’s gross.”
The father sighed, then moved toward his
son to pick up the card. “I guess it is.” He
shrugged.
“If you loved her so much,” the child said,
“why didn’t you give her all those kites?”
The man shook his head and hit the card
against his free hand. The cheap plastic bent
89
as it moved back and forth over his thumb.
“Well,” he paused to scratch his nose. “I did
give her one kite, but she let it fy away. She lost
it.” He shifted his weight and the foor creaked
under the new stress.
The child groaned, disappointed in Taeko,
but continued rummaging. “Was it a nice one?”
“Very,” the father said, and rubbed his jaw
as he studied the card further. The plastic
lamination peeled in the corners and fecks
of dirt and dust found themselves trapped
between the edges. “Maybe the nicest kite you
could ever have.”
“Lots of money?”
“No. It wasn’t worth very much.” He inhaled
sharply through his nose and bent the
membership into a ‘U’ shape. “But it was one
of a kind.”
“Oh,” the child said, not understanding. “She
lost your favorite kite, but you still have all this
stuff for her?” His face contorted and his voice
rose at the end of the question.
The father laughed once, then stopped
fumbling with the Kite Association card and
turned his head toward the attic fan mounted at
the top of the house. It spun slowly as a breeze
passed through the assembly of metal blades,
and slivers of a bright blue sky could be seen
between the whirl. As his son called to him, the
man said, still staring upward, “I kept a pocket
for Taeko because I wanted to forgive her. I
loved her, you know?”
He furrowed his brow and thought to
continue. He thought to tell his son about how
it felt to be away for months at a time and
what a simple, distorted long-distance “I miss
you” would do to cheer him up. He thought
to tell him how scared he would get and how
much it meant to hold her hand and watch her
smile. He thought to tell his son how Taeko
used to occupy his mind and how she let him
escape the dread and nothingness when the
seas were heavy and the nights grew long.
And he thought to explain how his absence
made her equally as scared and lonely and
how sometimes people who are frightened or
alone have decisions to make and their choices
are not always what the other person wants.
Sometimes, he thought to say, that’s just a part
of everything.
But he kept his mouth shut and his eyes off
the card and before him his child sat expecting
to hear more. The man could think of nothing
to say, so instead of stories of the sea and
romance the two passed the time by blinking at
one another as dust fell like snow in between
shadow and light. The fan spun twice.
“Oh,” the child said, breaking the silence. He
rolled his eyes with great embellishment and
began searching in a different box. “I guess
we’ll never fnd that kite up here, huh?”
“No. We won’t,” the man replied. He slipped
the card into his back pocket and moved
toward his son. “But it’s OK.” He placed his
hand on the child’s shoulder. “I’ve got a new
kite now. Your mother helped me choose it.”
The young man bent down to rummage
through the container and left his father’s hand
hanging in the air behind him.
“I don’t like kites I decided,” he said into the
depths of the box. After reaching as far down
as his arms would stretch, he returned to face
his father, spinning the wheels of a red metal
car in his palm. “But mom gives good gifts, so
she probably got you a good one.”
The man smiled, full of teeth, and nodded.
“She did. I know it.”
After staring at the child for a moment he
shook himself and returned the card to the
pouch in the bag. He tightened the straps
and placed the bag in its chest, but before he
could close the lid the sound of the front door
opening caught the duo’s attention.
“Mom’s home!” the boy lit up and hurried
toward the ladder.
From below, a woman called out, “I’m
starving. Where are my men at?”
“Hold up,” the father said before the child
climbed downstairs. “Can you take this to
her?” He moved toward the ladder, reached
into a box and grabbed the skillet they had
come in search of. Its weight was almost too
much for him to handle with one hand, but
after adjusting his grip he was in control of the
kitchenware. “Be careful, now. It’s heavy.”
“OK, Dad,” the boy said, eager to greet his
90
mother. He grabbed the skillet’s round body
with two hands and shouted, “Mom! We’re up
here.” He scooted himself down the wooden
rungs, his bottom resting on every step during
the descent.
The child’s stomping rattled decorations
as he crashed down the hallway, and the man
who now sat alone under the dim light with
his shadows, his bag, his charms, and a lifetime
membership to the Japan Kite Association
could hear the joy in his wife’s voice and the
excitement in the boy’s. He brushed the dust
off a nearby container, returned to his souvenir
box, placed the bag inside and closed the lid
with both his hands. Before rising completely
he froze with his torso hovering over the chest,
his head bent and his arms supporting him like
an exhausted athlete. He breathed deeply and
stared down at the lid where dust settled and
disappeared into the darkness of the grain, but
he was looking beyond dust and wood now.
He was looking at cigarettes and anteaters and
trying to remember the color and the shape of
his favorite kite. He was looking at the ocean
and the stars and trying to feel insignifcant
again. He was looking at Taeko’s hands and
remembering their softness, her face and its
warmth, her smile and its brightness – the lives
they would have had together if kites were not
so easy to lose.
91
Sarah Bence
Quartet
I.
We lived on hills
dreamt of pillows and quilts
other than our own
sang our songs of
love and farm animals
II.
I could be so happy
when the geese scatter
shuddering limbs and gills
of bass we reel in
solemn and early
III.
I’ve learned how to build
a fre in every size
put it out with lake water
watch white ashes wither
the hottest softest part
IV.
You can come round again
but our piano is still untuned
and you’ll fnd my red
boots on the back porch
a hornet’s nest in our attic
92
Looking Ahead
Shawn Campbell
93
One more poem, then
of legs
and the moist spaces
between them.
One more of the lives
spent near water,
the summers of waves
and the caps of light
we wore—
foraged halos.
One more
of your hair,
its sticky golden strands
stuck to your face.
One more useless poem, then,
of the time spent
on memory,
all of the heat
we squandered.
C.C. Russell
Before We Fall Silent
94
Tokyo
Francis Davis
Julia and I lived in South Philly, in what the
locals called a trinity, an 18
th
century brick
house with three rooms pancaked above
a basement kitchen where bars lined the
windows and the ceiling was low enough to
scratch the top of a tall man’s head. A spiral
staircase thumb-screwed from the basement to
the top foor. I’d taken one look at the place,
my bags still in Julia’s car, and knew I’d go crazy
if I stayed longer than a couple of months.
“This is cool,” I said. “This’ll work.”
Julia had just picked me up from the airport
terminal after my thirteen-hour fight from
Tokyo, where I’d gone to live with my banker
brother to teach English for a year and re-
invent myself only to come back, lamely, after
six short weeks. Before I’d fed Japan, I’d
caught a fever, moped around, visited ghostly
Kyoto and tribal Korea, where I’d bought a
hand-carved wooden joker’s mask, sensing that
I was leaving behind exactly what I’d hankered
after for years—a fresh start, an adventure,
a new me. Life in Japan surely would have
blossomed if I’d simply stuck it out. But I
didn’t. I couldn’t. I’d already punched my
ticket home, already told my brother I was
leaving, so I’d gone to a park and buried a note
under a cherry tree, promising myself that
someday I’d be back to dig it up.
I’ve never gone back, and probably never
will, but I like to imagine this other me, maybe
still there, settled down with a Japanese wife
and raising biracial beauties, digging sumo
wrestling, baseball, and the simplicity of tea.
I’d run into Julia at an AIDS dance beneft
a couple of months before I’d left for Japan
and shortly after my bad break with Rita,
lovely Rita, whom I’d lived with for a cozy
fve years until April 1, the day (and night) she
didn’t come home from work, my whole life
since then like some kind of hidden-camera
April Fool’s joke, and a milligram of me still
expecting even now, years later, for Rita to pop
into the room and scream “Gotcha!”
But this story is about Julia. She’d wooed
me home with a series of long, breathless
phone calls, phone calls which, because of
the thirteen-hour time difference, always took
place either late at night or insanely early in the
morning, and always, always started with the
same set of questions: “What are you doing?
Are you up? What time is it there?” as if we
couldn’t believe time could bend like that.
These calls had infuriated my brother, who’d
presented me the bill, red-faced, while we stood
in the Narita airport waiting for my departure
fight back to Philly. I’d paid him with the
last of my yen, glad to be rid of that money,
and not surprised at his attitude—this the
guy who had once showed up at my dorm in
Philadelphia, red-faced, clutching two twenties,
which he shoved into my hands, saying, “You
can’t call Dad every time you need something,
Stewart. You have to learn how to take care
of yourself.” The very same guy who, years
later, would bully me into turning away from
my father as he lay dying in the hospital after
falling down the basement steps of my sister’s
house. My father needed surgery to stop the
bleeding in his brain and save his life, a surgery
we’d refused because at the time he was also
dying (just more slowly) from pancreatic
95
cancer. I’d cowardly ceded the decision to my
older brother, letting my father slip into that
dark current as my brother whispered into
my ear, “You have to take your emotion out
of a decision like this, Stewart. Right? You
understand this, yes?”
Julia, though, saved me from all this—my
brother, my indecision, myself. She was a
sculptress who worked with clay, an artist, the
real kind who created objects of beauty, not
like me, a sad-sack writer who called himself an
artist but scribbled only nonsense, lies, no one
would ever read. She had a studio in Old City,
and actual people paid actual money for the
stuff Julia made—life-sized limbs and torsos,
quirky salt-n-pepper shakers molded into the
shapes of animals that sold for ffty bucks a
pop at craft stores along trendy South Street. I
loved her because of her art and because the
evidence of this art was everywhere—the front
of her jeans, the tips of her fnger, her neck.
And soon enough the evidence was in our
house, our tiny gingerbread house, where on
the frst foor a huge, clunky piece of clay
shaped into the form of a female torso sat
like some demented God, some sliced apart
Buddha. We used it as a side table and called it
good. The second foor was not much bigger
than a closet, but Julia insisted I make it my
study, and I threw myself into this idea with
the abandonment of a banshee, working atop
a wooden door I’d scavenged from a junkyard
in North Philly, hacking away day after day at
some new version of myself that, even then, I
suspected might take me away from Julia.

Ironically, the frst time I’d met Julia I was
with Rita at a party in West Philly. Rita was
taking one of Julia’s pottery classes, maybe
because she was sensing my frustration with
her orderliness, her perfection, and at this
party, in the middle of January, in a bombed-
out section of West Philly, there was drinking
everywhere, pierced people smoking, a thrash
band thrashing, and a back porch where all the
badass creative types hung, talking the talk,
shivering and smoking under a moonless gray
city sky.
I’d ditched Rita, and her exquisite blonde
looks, two minutes inside the front door,
and headed to the back yard, hoping to fnd
Julia, but really what I sought was myself, that
version of me that I wanted to become, the
artist, the creative man, anything but the man
I was at that moment, saddled in a relationship
with a girl who didn’t create (or drink), but
programmed computers and acted rationally,
day after day after day after day. I was twenty-
four, two years out of college, unemployed,
the frst Bush was still in the White House,
and I had no clue how to give birth to this idea
of myself that I’d been carrying around like a
secret, like a boy carrying a frog in his pocket,
but on the porch that night I spotted Julia and
felt the frst scratchings of this new me clawing
to get out. Julia had short spiky blonde hair—
pretty, but in a butchy sort of way, and she
had what looked to be an acorn pinned like a
medal to the front of her jean jacket. I saddled
up next to her in the moonlight chill and asked
for a cigarette. She didn’t smoke, but bummed
me one from some other guy, and a light too,
and we laughed at this, bonding over our role
reversals.
When she asked what I did, I said I was a
writer. And when she asked what I wrote
about, I said, “My generation, you know, how
we live in the shadow of the sixties. It’s kind
of sad how we’re not defned and all.”
It felt like the truth, and, more importantly,
Julia didn’t smirk, or laugh, but nodded like I
made perfect sense, and when I asked her what
she did, she said she was an artist, and right
then I wanted her. I remember specifcally
wanted to exchange Rita, my Michelle-Pfeffer
look-alike girlfriend from Roxborough, with
Julia, this butch-looking artist in jeans and a
denim jacket that matched mine. Rita came
outside then, wide-eyed, a little shocked at the
scene, and said she wanted to go home, so we
went home to fght about it, beginning our
mad march away from one another. So nine
months later, Rita gone, I’d spotted Julia at the
dance beneft in the city, and it seemed like
serendipity—it seemed only natural to saunter
up and speak to her, kick-starting a relationship
96
even though I was already planning to
skedaddle to Japan in two short months. What
I didn’t know at the time, or what I didn’t want
to believe (and maybe still don’t) is that there is
no one directing all of this nonsense, no man
behind the curtain directing the way; it’s just us
and our choices, our silly little choices.
Julia and I tried to make a life in that house,
and for a short time we did. At my junkyard
desk, I scribbled my lies, slowly untwisting
them, making them a little more true each
day. I’d read somewhere that if a person
could simply sit still for an hour or two each
day and write that by the end of a year’s time
the routine would have either burned itself
inside that person or that same individual
would realize the writing life was not the one
he wanted. Julia had no such questions. She
worked at her studio in Old City, molding her
funky women’s torsos, her amputated limbs,
her lumpy moon rocks, her salt-n-pepper
shakers, her single eyeballs looking right down
into the center of me, fring them in a kiln as
big as our bedroom, and when I visited her at
this studio we often took a six pack of Rolling
Rock to the tarpapered roof that overlooked
Old City.
On the roof we bullshitted about love and
art, the shiny city below ours, our future itself
roaming along the cobblestone streets, slipping
past the ghosts of Franklin and Jefferson,
skirting the shadows of the street lamps, our
talk, our words, drizzling down on them like
rain.
“Where do you want to be in fve years?”
“Published. A book. I want a book.”
“You can’t be in a book. Where do you want
to live, Stewart?”
“I don’t know. Here. There. I’m not sure
it matters. I guess I live mostly in my head,
anyway. It’s sort of the same everywhere.”
“Is that what it was like in Japan, like here?”
“Not at all. There was a whole different way
of looking at things over there, a completely
different paradigm.”
“But how does that make sense if it’s the
same everywhere.”
“Well, amend that. What I’m saying is it’s a
mindset—East versus West, but within those
broader categories things are pretty much the
same.”
“But don’t you get to defne those categories,
choose your paradigms.”
“Nice word.”
“I know. A little birdie whispered it to me.”
“Yeah, well, maybe. I don’t know. I’m
confused. I think we need more beer.”
“I can’t. I have to fre a piece in the kiln
before we take off.”
“What body part is this?”
“Ha. It’s a hand with a little bit of the wrist
attached, like someone reaching up through the
sand.”
“What sand?”
“Beach sand.”
“What’s wrong with dirt.”
“Too ghoulish.”
“I want it to be playful. I want people to
laugh.”
“Dirt isn’t funny?”
“You want dirt? It can be dirt. Come down.
I’ll show you.”
But I wasn’t ready for this life, this talk, this
love. None of it. The sad way Rita lingered
like smoke in my imagination, and around the
one-year anniversary of her departure, Julia
entertained some artist friends from New
York City, whom I think were either moving
to Seattle or had recently returned from
Seattle—this before Seattle became a cliché of
the alternative lifestyle. Cobain and his boys
were still laboring happily in obscurity and the
rest of us could only sense that some type of
sea change was in the air. Being part of it, we
were oblivious to all that young life bubbling
up from beneath the surface, life that would
eventually burst forth only to be gobbled up,
repackaged and sold as a gimmick, topped with
the bow of grunge, fannel, and Starbucks—a
cell phone in every pocket.
“They have these coffee bars there,” Julia’s
friend said of Seattle. “They drink so much
coffee, it’s kind of crazy, but I guess it’s because
of the rain. And the music scene is really rad.
The bands have this really thrashing sound, but
97
it’s not really like metal.”
“What’s it like?” I asked. We were in our
basement kitchen, drinking wine out of some
sake cups I’d brought back from Tokyo, and
Julia’s friend, like most of Julia’s friends, was
dressed in black second-hand clothing, and she
was, I thought, just a little pretentious. Julia, I
think, knew her from Ohio, where they both
had gone to art school together.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “It’s hard to
describe.”
I laughed and shook my head and Julia shot
me a look of scorn.
What I remember most about that evening
was how it ended with Julia spitting in my face
and how, before that, her friend had cooked us
an utterly delicious dinner of potato gnocchi,
feta cheese, and spinach. “This is really good
cold after you come home from the bars,” she’d
said, and it proved true a few hours later. This
was a dish I’d steal and make my own, cooking
it countless times—a frst meal for all my future
girlfriends, and the last thing I ever cooked my
father, just a couple of days before he fell on
those basement steps -- but when I scoffed at
Julia’s friend she didn’t rise to the bait. She just
stared me down and asked, “What do you do,
Stewart?”
Now, I have to stop here and tell you this
was exactly the kind of life I yearned for when
I felt stuck with Rita—the company of artists,
wine, good food, but all I could do that night
was scorn it—and maybe it had something to
do with Julia’s friend’s pretension, or what I
perceived as pretension, or perhaps it was the
undercurrent of a sexual vibe that seemed to
exist between them, or maybe the fact that
Julia hung her multi-colored bras over the
shower rod in our teeny, tiny bathroom to dry
or maybe it was just that basement kitchen,
which smelled of mildew and was always cold,
but I think it was something deeper than all
these things – this habit I had of turning away
from exactly what I wanted, this inability to
understand my own bruised heart.
“Oh nothing, really,” I said, answering Julia’s
friend’s question.
Julia paused with her sake cup halfway to her
lips, looking as if I had just slapped her. We
were toast. Though we didn’t know it yet, we
were done. We could have gone anywhere,
done anything—Seattle, NY, Europe, but I was
paralyzed and I want to know why. Could it be
as simple as the tiny black hairs that sprouted
on Julia’s nipples and occasionally got stuck
between my teeth when I sucked her small
breasts, so unlike Rita’s , which were ample,
smooth and dreamy white? Can a life pivot on
something this shallow—a hair between the
teeth? Or is it deeper? The past and future
just illusion. My brother’s red face, my turning
away from Rita, my father falling down those
steps, and me, ridiculous little me, turning away
from the old man and letting him die that way,
ankles and wrists strapped to the bedrails, his
hands covered with enormous white mittens to
keep him from pulling out his IVs.
In March, a couple of weeks before her
friends visited, on one of the frst real warm
days, we’d set up a couple of lawn chairs atop
Julia’s roof so we could sip our beers and gaze
out at the Walt Whitman Bridge that connected
Philly to Camden, the old poet’s last home.
The bridge was decked out in white lights, and
on the Philly side of the river, just a few blocks
from Julia’s studio, among the redbrick row
homes and church steeples reaching toward
the sky, stood Independence Hall, a solemn
place with marble Romanesque columns
lining its entrance and an engraved plaque out
front. The Declaration of Independence was signed
here, a document that declared the independence of the
American colonies from British rule…It didn’t seem
real, and in a way, nothing did back then, except
our own lives. It’s what youth lacks, I guess,
perspective, and though too many people have
spent too much time searching for ways to
remain young, what should be offered is what
the young need the most, a vision that would
allow them to see themselves as they really
are—brushstrokes, breaths, quivers, how they
sit so near the beginning.
That night, Julia went to the edge of
the studio’s roof and called back to me
still lounging in my chair, maybe trying to
98
remember those frst few lines of Whitman’s
epic poem—I celebrate myself and what I assume
you shall assume. Julia said she wanted to show
me something. I was comfortable where I was,
daydreaming about Whitman, my old life with
Rita—the time she and I had stumbled out of
a South Street bar near midnight and run past
the house where Edgar Allen Poe had penned
“The Raven.” Nevermore. Nevermind. Oak
trees dripped rain. The silent windows of
the house were like a rebuke. How spooked
she was, how drunk I was, and how we
had stopped running only because we were
laughing too hard. Part of me was still running
alongside Rita, still laughing and in love, no
fault lines dividing my heart like a puzzle, but I
rose that night and made my way over to Julia
and slung my arm across her shoulder. She
wore the same denim jacket she was wearing
the night I met her, and I knew we might be
together forever or we could be done in a
month.
Julia shrugged me off, gave me her beer,
and said, “Watch this,” before she took a little
running start and leapt off the roof. It was
only about two feet to the next building, no big
thing, but I still dropped her beer in shock, the
glass shattering about the same moment Julia
landed on the opposite building.
“What the fuck?” I said, my heart near my
balls. “Are you insane?”
She leaned back and barked out a laugh,
howling at the moon.
“Your turn,” she said.
“No way,” I said, thinking at the same time it
was only about twenty-four inches, you could
almost make it with one giant step. I suspected
I was years away from my own death.
“Don’t be a afraid,” she said as gentle as if
my mother were still breathing.
I shrugged, nodded, backed up, put down my
beer, and took my own breath.
“Wait,” Julia said. “Watch out for that glass.”
But I’d already started running, already
crunched over the glass, already felt the pinch
of pain in the bottom of my foot, already knew
that everything was about to change.
The day after her friend left, after we’d
argued as her friend slept one off upstairs, I’d
call the Frog and asked if they needed any help,
beginning that part of my life, the part that
would lead to my departure to Montana, but in
that dank basement kitchen of our trinity only
the moment loomed, Julia’s wine glass halfway
to her lips, and she looked over at me with a
pleading look.
“Oh, Stewart,” she said fnally, slugging back
her wine, trying to save us, “just tell the truth.
For once in your life, tell the truth.”
I am, I would like to tell Julia now, wherever
she is—after all these years, I’d like to say, I’m
fnally telling the truth.
99
Denzel Scott
Duende
Nobody loves the angel
or the muse, like they
love my nigga, the duende.
The duende
be that genius child
who is like me,
to everyone’s surprise,
with a crown,
not of laurel or gold,
but of woolly kinks
and sharpest curls.
My nigga the duende
draws Promethean
fame
out from the blood
and ancient earth
and shares it with
the kids who’ve
met the fre before
in dream
and baptism.
The duende be
that dark miracle
who loves me
and leaves me
and comes back again
with the sound of drums
and dusty black feet.
My nigga duende loves to dance
through the desert of my mind
where it’s always night
and I follow it into the darkness,
wherever it may go.
When we dance in the desert,
we dance with the luciferous moon
and the wise neon serpents
and the spinning fowers.
Then the duende goes
away from me
and I wait for it
to come again
and play with me
and love me
like it did before.
100
Make me a martyr
and I’ll teach you my city.
Dusty angels with patchy wings
singing glory hallelujahs from
the sagging rotting dockspace and
sunken-eyed Valkyries padding
warningly between lawcourts.
There’s a whole universe inside
a lady somewhere wearing a fur coat
and red lipstick. When she coughs
she hacks up stars. The bricks
feel like scales when you touch them
in the dark. This nightmare inside your head
feels as real as pain so imagine it
if you couldn’t wake up.
If the wolves from the streets
were pacing between your ribs.
If the blood on their mouths
was all yours.
Elisabeth Hewer
Disease
101
Perpetual Remnants of the
Deceased
Gina DeCagna
I. Mediation
This impressionistic poem
concerns the disparity
between past and present, memory and direct experience.
1
These copied words from a poetics textbook were scribbled on a yellow sticky note on my desk,
which was adorned with many sticky notes, with many penciled phrasings and notes.
When taken out of their original context, I’ve discovered how such words could take on new,
unexpected meanings—especially when scrambled or left isolated for some time. I value all my
sticky notes for catching the transitory bits of particular feelings. Though I may crumble and
toss them from time to time, or delete the virtual ones littered across the desktop of my laptop, I
believe the ideas held in the scribbles are worth more than anyone’s life.
Ideas may not be tangible, but they are invincible.
II. Generation
coping with death
My father’s family history in America began in a tall, tall house. My father’s mother, Sarah,
was the eldest of four children born to two immigrants from the rustic village of Tioria outside
Naples, Italy. It was 1920 when her parents, Pasquale and Alfonsina, arrived via Ellis Island. They
married in St. Lucy’s Church of Newark, New Jersey. Sarah was born two years later, in 1922.
I remember St. Lucy’s for its uninhibited gaudiness, resembling the most famboyant
Romanesque-turned Baroque church. In this same church, bejeweled in ostentatious marbles and
swirls of gold, I remember Sarah laid in a casket surrounded by her favorite roses. I remember
kissing her forehead to say goodbye one last time, and my immediate shock to feel the cold, stiff
clamminess of her powdered fesh. She died in 2007 when I was thirteen years old. It was my frst
funeral.
Sarah and her three younger brothers frst lived at the top of a six-story fat. Sarah’s younger
brother, Nick, heaved loads of coal up and down the stairs to feed the basement’s furnace every
day. At his mother’s request, he also purchased lamb and pig’s feet at the morning market on 7
th

Avenue. He sandwiched the meats between large blocks of ice and heaved them up and down the
stairs.
1 The New Anthology of American Poetry, Vol. 2: Modernisms, 1900-1950. p.233. Editor’s Note.
102
Up until his twenties, he ran small errands
for the gentlemen that clustered over cards
and poker at the local gentlemen’s social club.
He earned a shiny copper penny or two, and
sometimes, if he were lucky, a nickel. He
eventually got a job as a janitor at the local
public high school, and he saved everything
he earned for the family that birthed him in
America. In 1953, he bought his parents and
sister a three-story house on Summer Avenue
in Newark.
“This is my house,” Nick recalls his mother
saying in broken English as she held her
wrinkled fst against her heart. That house was
a symbol of pride that they had made their
dream, their purpose, alive in America.
My father was born fve years later in that
house, in 1957, and he lived there until college.
My Grandma lived in it for ffty years of her
life—until she died in 2007. Nick, today an
arthritic but strong octogenarian, still lives in it.
For the frst ten years of my life, in the late
1990s and early 2000s, “going to Grandma’s”
meant she was babysitting my brother and me
while our parents enjoyed a weekend excursion.
It had three fights of steeply stacked stairs—
some going into the basement, some going
to the second foor, and some going to the
third foor. We climbed them, swinging from
railing to railing like they were monkey bars.
Sometimes, we pretended to be spies with our
walkie-talkies. Grandma waited for her hug at
the top of the second foor stairs each time we
visited. She would hold our little bodies against
her peach-skin form as she rubbed our backs.
I haven’t been to that house in seven years—
since Grandma died—and yet, it’s one of
the most vivid pieces of memory from my
childhood. I can’t bring myself to visit the
historical landmark of my family, where my
father’s linage in America was born, where
I’m reminded of what it means to work hard.
Though she’s gone, the idea of Grandma still
lives in that house. The dream is still alive. I
think of hearing her humming—the way she
always did in a silent room.
III. Remembrance
tombs of ideas
The frst time I went to a wake by myself,
without my parents, was six years after
Grandma’s death. It was a wake for Paul
Casale, a ffty-two year old contemporary realist
painter from Brooklyn who changed the way I
approached my art. I took workshops with him
throughout high school within my hometown
of Cranford, New Jersey.
In demonstrations, he would strike a
horsehair brush against a canvas like a snake
that knows exactly where it’s going. He stood
statuesque: his legs shoulder-width apart, his
arm outstretched to easel. His light blue eyes
shifted back and forth from subject to canvas.
And then, he would turn the spotlight to me.
“Is that dark of the cast shadow as dark as
the hair?” Paul would stop and point out every
faw in value, proportion, line structure, or
composition. He was the frst instructor I ever
had who did not immediately praise me for my
work.
“Now, when you think of Sargent’s work,
you see how he simplifes the form,” Paul
would gesture to show the breakdown of light
from shadow, of foreground from background.
He watched my eyes for recognition, as he held
his prized John Singer Sargent book rich with
examples. I nodded.
He frequently criticized me for trying to get
too detailed too soon. “Simplify the form to
the basic shapes,” he would say. “Everything
starts out as an abstraction.”
He told me these things from the time I was
fourteen years old until I was eighteen.
At nineteen, I stood in a line sweeping
around the block, standing not for a painting
before an easel, but for Paul’s wake. I was
home from my frst year of college, and I had
recently received second place in the local plein
air painting competition. The only artist who
had beaten me for the frst place prize was a
sixty-fve year old veteran. I was satisfed, but
disappointed when I didn’t see Paul there.
The last time I saw him was at a
Pathmark—a chance encounter during
103
Christmas break after my frst semester. He
immediately asked me about my art. I lied.
I told him it was going great in college, that
I drew every day. He didn’t know that I was
spending months engrossed in readings for
classes not related to art, that I was taking
only one art class that was a fraction of my
curriculum. I was in the Ivy League, but that
didn’t matter to artists—it just confused them
about what I was planning to do with my art. I
didn’t know, and I felt ashamed when I didn’t
tell him I was at prestigious art school—Pratt
Institute or Cooper Union in New York—
painting along masters like he did. I didn’t want
to let him know that maybe, I wasn’t pursuing
art like him. I didn’t know if the struggle of an
artist was one I wanted to live.
bohemian rhapsody
Paul was the frst person in my teenage life I
knew independently of my parents, that I built
a relationship with because of our passions
for art as teacher and disciple. I learned how
to pencil a graphite portrait of a model under
him. I learned how to layout a Venetian palette
under him. I learned to mix fesh tones and
what types of brushes to use —round, fat, or
bright. I purchased my frst French academy
portable easel with his guidance. They were
my favorite tools, my most valued investments.
The best investment of all, however, was the
very frst workshop I signed up for with Paul at
fourteen years old.
As we stood in the Pathmark entranceway,
metal carts in hand, I could not look him in the
eye.
“I’m teaching a bunch of high school
goons over in Elizabeth,” he chuckled, as the
electronic doors swung open and closed. I
was surprised, but immediately saddened to
think that a master like him was teaching kids
who probably didn’t even care about art. He
shrugged, “Yeah, it’s another job.”
I would never fnd out how he died—a
question one of my middle-aged classmates
kept asking me when we stood on the line of
his wake. I didn’t know. The cause of death
was unknown at the time. The autopsy report
had not yet been released. And while all his
family members, painter friends, students, and
admirers pointed to the sky and demanded an
answer from God above, Heda poked me in
the chest and said, “I’m rooting for you, now.”
While I was waiting at the wake, my
eyes grazed his original paintings fanking
the passageway to the casket. I expressed
condolences to his wife and two children. I
hugged his daughter, a girl two years younger
than me, and gave the standard, “I’m sorry.”
Then, I softly added, “Your dad was the best
teacher I ever had.”
Her stained blue eyes met mine.
“He really believed in you, Gina,” she
croaked. “You have to live up to it and be an
artist like him.”
I didn’t know what to say.
if we must live
I recently found a couple of black and
white charcoal sketches Paul did for me in my
notebook. He was showing me how to capture
the model’s form. Every time I look at the
sketches, I can think of his arm sweeping in a
single stoke to get the arch of the neck. I think
of the gentle shading of tone and value that
came from maneuvers of his wrist. I think of
how Paul frst told me to stand back from the
easel an arm’s length away, to stand so all I had
to do was shift my eyes, not my head nor my
body.
Paul lives in that drawing. When I see it, I
hear his voice giving me the advice he said
before I went off to college, Draw every day.
It’s the same as the humming of my
Grandma, a memory living inside my mind
sparked by associations with tall houses.
I think of how busy I am with my academic
work, the numerous readings and writings and
other sorts of work that don’t include drawing
on a daily basis.
Draw every day.
The sketches contain the life and memory of
Paul, something, like my Grandma, that I try to
lock away because the sadness is too great. My
guilt seeps in, the expectations that I become
like him reappear, and I cannot escape it.
104
Draw every day.
The sketches are the residual traces of a life
I valued.
V. Guilt
art, writing, music
The frst time I went to my academic
advisor’s offce my freshman year of college,
I climbed up four fights of stairs to get there.
Located inside a West Philadelphia house
spotting the southwestern corner of 38
th
and
Walnut Streets, its placard read: Center for
Programs in Contemporary Writing. With each
step up those creaky, dark-stained wooden
steps, I felt like I was pursuing a path further
and further into a world of academia and
less art. It also reminded me of a reoccurring
nightmare I’ve had since I was fve.
It’s a nightmare that lays dormant for several
successive years. Then, it reemerges—my
subconscious telling me that the worry or
grief is always there. In the dream, I’m inside
a very tall house—sometimes it’s four-stories
and sometimes it’s six—and I’ve run up to the
very top only to discover I’m contained by the
roof. I cannot escape. I don’t know what I’m
running from, but it strikes fear into my lungs.
Eventually, the house starts swaying, back and
forth, back and forth, as I peer out the window
and see the greatest tornado from the state of
Kansas headed my way.
And then I wake myself up.
The house containing my advisor’s offce
was like the house of my dreams. As I sat
before my advisor, amidst auroras of déjà vu, I
asked question upon question but wasn’t really
looking for answers. I’m going to take mathematics
next semester, and psychology, and art history, and
visual studies, because those are more intellectual
than just another painting class. I thought I had it
reasoned out: I was taking smart classes for
smart people who didn’t do art. We all knew
that artists were never the brightest of the
bunch—getting lost in ideas that allowed them
to get stoned in the middle of the afternoon
and never make a dime that could buy them a
house. People who do smart things often have
successful lives with lots of money. That’s all I
really wanted, right?
I was insulting myself.
VI. Living
perpetual remnants of the deceased
I spent my frst Independence Day weekend
the summer after my freshman year of
college away from my family in New Jersey.
Sandwiched between two college friends in
Cape Cod, Massachusetts, we spent the entire
day lounging in the sand of the beach, tanning
in the golden sun. We spoke our minds on the
deepest of topics—cooing mildly as we drank
red wine and talked about the meanings of life
and death, what our purposes were, where we
went when we died, and if there was a God.
When we fnally got bored, we left the beach,
and started meandering down a wooded street.
We had no destination, but we were looking for
answers about how to make sense of anything.
We ended up in a short, pink house. It was
a colonial cottage converted into a bookstore
with stacks piled foor to ceiling. One of the
special ties of our friendship was our common
interest in literature and writing. We bonded
while reading short stories together over
dinner. We bonded over the fact that we had
the same isolating childhood obsessions for
making our own books. We had each other.
“Oh my God, Gina, look how cool this is,”
one friend held a heavy book. It was a 19
th

century publication of poems with a gold-
embossed cover like the Holy Bible. She fipped
through the pages like a mother smiling upon
an infant in her arms.
Likewise, I discovered an 18
th
century
collection of Leonardo Da Vinci’s writings
published in the seventeenth century. I
continued to jump to the next book that
protruded from the stacks. I followed a path of
books into the basement, feeling content with
each creak of the wooden steps.
Redefnition
I found a sampling of rare bound-books,
105
folios, and hand-written manuscripts. My
favorite was a small indigo volume. Its cover
was embossed with metallic swirls and
patterned letters. On its frst page, the owner,
Lillian Parter Wallace, 1715, scribed her name. I
found notes of the same types of scribbles as
the ones on my sticky notes.
Seeing I comprehend thee
I did not know the 17
th
century owner. We
were separated by two centuries. We were
separated by two lifetimes. It saddened me that
I would never know her, but it excited me that
I held her ideas in my hands. Her thoughts
were being transferred to mine, and that made
her invincible, right?
I continued to thumb through.
These books were capsules of lives that
once lived. Those individuals were gone, but
the outpourings of their souls remained. Their
ideas engulfed me. While I went down into that
pink cottage house’s expecting to fnd caskets, I
discovered immortality. Pieces of art, writings,
music—I realized they were all perpetual
remnants of the deceased, that associations
could be transferred from one form to the
next.

106
When the corn plant reached the ceiling I had to cut off its head and start a new one and there
was no sound in its decapitation just a quiet acquiescence in fate like the time the squirrel
clutched the tree for interminable moments after being shot in its tiny brain my best friend
whacking barn kittens on fence posts the long snake pounded fat with a hammer by some kid on
the front porch until the tail stopped moving the last twitch of the hanged foot the fst gripping in
pain the bubbles escaping from the open mouth and I hope tendrils of hope erupt from the cutting
which sits in a bucket on the porch and the squirrel’s children lived and the mothers of kittens
have more and the snake felt little pain for even a partial death might result in, like, partial life
which is more…but, then, what is “more” about, anyway…and the damned plant was taking up
way too much light in the room sort of like the “Tragedy of the Commons” thing and the steam
rising from my morning coffee could no longer be seen in the streams of sunlight after 30 years
of growth reaching toward a limited sky and one time flling the air with hopeful blossoms that
leaked sticky crap all over the carpet but smelled like vanilla but I certainly did not do this out of
disrespect or animosity having enjoyed the company of deep green in an otherwise gray world
for so long how I wished I could knock out the ceiling of the apartment and allow the dreams of
fight to take root out into the last gasp of atmosphere to breathe the bullet out of the squirrel’s
head to turn the fence posts to goose down and the hammer to soft strokes of a woman’s hand.
Brad Garber
Clear Cut
107
Katherine Minott
Naked Summer
108
Otto believes the children are mice. He hears
them sifting through sugar in the cellar and sets
traps. Traps he cannot bring himself to check.
Solveig had done that task, to spare him. Then
he hears the children whisper, thistle-light and
incoherent, disquieting. It has been a long time
since he has encountered other voices—years
even.
“Who is there?”
Footsteps in the dark answer him.
Displaced household objects orbit Otto. His
tobacco pipe set six millimeters to the right.
Brittle petals scattered in his underwear drawer.
The lid left open on the idle dust-furred piano.
Fresh bed sheets rumpled and undone.
Coming in from pickaxing root vegetables
from the ice, he trips over a shoe on the
threshold. Flakes of mud crust off the sole.
He holds it up. It does not span the length
of his hand. He sets another trap, taking a
special package from a locked trunk, setting it
in his lap, and pretending to sleep. They come
breathless on tiptoe. Otto remembers the pure
want he once felt, peering in through the gilded
glass of the candy store. From the faraway
vantage of age, his young self seems more like
the child he never made. He forces his eyelids
smooth. His moustache tingles and begins to
itch. When they reach into the jar of licorice,
he seizes hold of their wrists.
“Please, I only want to speak with you.”
Snorting, they fght to break free. A thick
crystal ashtray cracks on his skull. Sometime
later, he rolls over and pats the ground. His
thinning hair is wet, and there is a wet circle
on the crocheted rug. The shards of glass and
blood cling to his palms. Still trembling, he
does his best to clean up.
Otto talks out loud, as he rinses off in the
porcelain sink.
“Before the war, everyone was someone else.
I was a professor of literature. My lectures
were linked to ten thousand students around
the world, in places that may no longer exist—
Papa New Guinea, Iceland, France. I lived in
a snow globe of words, fragile and blinding.
I never saw the end coming, the fall from the
high shelf.”
From behind his back, the boy interrupts
him, curt and abrupt.
“What happened to your eyes, then?”
“I apologize. I imagine the scars must
look very frightening. I had the misfortune to
glance up from the book I was reading into
the profane light of a nuclear blast. The glare
was so severe, so bright, steam collected in my
eyeballs, and they burst from the pressure. My
wife found me and dragged me down eleven
fights of stairs. She exchanged her jewelry for
rides out of the city, leaving a sparkling trail of
diamonds and rubies behind like bread crumbs.
Solveig was a determined woman. She had
inherited this farm. In the summer, we used to
come here on holiday.”
“Where is she now?”
Otto pinches the bridge of his nose.
“She is buried in the orchard.”
They had been careful those frst months.
Solveig, always the worldly one, had prepared
for the war. They took potassium iodide and
wore masks outside. They boarded shut the
windows and duct taped plastic to the seams.
They cut and hauled brush to obscure the
driveway. Their location was sheltered, remote,
Melody Sage
Blind Mice
109
the more poignant for its certain brevity. He
is patient. He is calm. He waits for them to
approach.
He listens to static on the hand crank radio:
white noise for a white world. This winter is
ouroboros, a snake closing in to swallow its
own tail, with its own circular logic. The other
seasons are shadowed, brief and incomplete,
since the bombs dropped. The boy leans over
his shoulder. His breath is hot and biscuit-
scented in his ear.
“Can I try?” he asks.
“Yes please, I could use a break.”
“Have you ever picked up signal?”
“No news, not for a long time. They used to
say no news was good news.” They listen to the
mechanical whir.
“My father had a radio like this. He used to
be an engineer—before he got sick.”
“What was his name?”
“Peter, same as me.”
Peter turns the crank harder and harder, until
Otto places his hand on his to stop him.
“We can try again tomorrow.”
Peter can read a little, and Otto begins to
teach him and Isa more. Most of the writing
paper was used as tinder, so he shapes the
letters with charcoal on the walls and hearth,
feeling out the powdery lines. They sound out
the words from his favorite books for him—
1984, Les Miserables, The Brothers Karamazov;
troubled friends he believed long gone.
Soon Peter is insatiably devouring the entire
contents of the library. Otto periodically
crashes into precarious towers of his discarded
books. Isa is more lingering and particular in
her selections. She recites the frst sentences
quietly to herself and hesitates to see if she
can fall in love. Otto wonders if his own
son would have been so skeptical and quick
witted, if his own daughter would have been
so pensive and kind. He likes to think so. Their
displays of affection are quick and glancing,
self-consciously nonchalant—a feather left as
a token on his desk, a swift pat on his shoulder
when he least expects it, staying at the table
a little longer to listen to his stories. The
children take care not to reveal much of their
a tight nest in the mountains built for two. No
one knew they were there. They were careful,
but not careful enough. He wondered if they
had heard her playing Deux Arabesque by
Debussy on the piano for him.
“How did you fnd this place?” he asks.
“We followed the smoke.”
He nods. Of course, they should have only
set fres at night.
“You know I have plenty of food. You are
welcome to stay here, if you like.”
“We—” the girl starts to speak.
“Shut up,” the boy says.
Otto turns around. His chest bumps into a
metal cylinder, the barrel of his shotgun.
“I could shoot you,” the boy says.
“Yes, you could.”
Otto waits.
The boy gives a disgusted sigh and runs
outside.
The next day, Otto wakes to fnd a shaved
and decapitated doll head laid like an offering
on his pillow. He runs his fnger across the
bubbled rubber contours of its face.
“She’s mine, but you can borrow her,” the
girl says.
“Thank you. I promise to take good care of
her.”
“My brother says we can stay here.”
“Good, I am glad to make your acquaintance.
You can call me Otto. May I ask, what is your
name?”
“Isa.”
“Nice to meet you Isa,” he extends his hand,
but she does not shake it. He heaves himself
out of bed to make breakfast, cold glutinous
porridge with the last of the apple jelly and
cinnamon. He sets out three bowls, and the
children eat like stray dogs, fast enough to
choke. Otto starts to speak before he realizes
he is alone at the table.
It is more than a month before he learns
the boy’s name. Since the children came, he
keeps track of the days, notching them with a
knife into his cane. He feels like he did when
he used to glimpse a fox or a snow hare in the
forest, close enough to see their breath smoke,
the fash of their dark clear eyes, a blessing all
110
itinerant life before him, as if to protect him.
He has gleaned that they were originally from
the city. That their nursery walls were painted
custard yellow. That they used to have a pet
cat named Coquette. That their parents died
about three years ago, possibly from drinking
contaminated water, possibly from tetanus or
radiation poisoning, prolonged wasting deaths,
collapsing, skeletons intertwined now in the
wilderness.
Isa helps him cut blank pages from the
books into a bouquet of paper fowers, fragile
razor-edged star shapes twisted with wire. She
buries her face in them, rustling.
“They smell so good.”
“I also love the smell of old paper. It
reminds me of dust and falling leaves and
Earl Grey Tea. You have a refned sensibility
my dear.” He tweaks her nose to make her
laugh. They walk together outside past the
barn. Otto tries not to remember having to
shoot the horses pointblank, tries to think
of them instead glistening viscerally alive,
manes thrashing in the sunlight. Ash is falling
with the snow. He carries Isa with diffculty
and counts the paces in his mind. The quiet
is preternatural, no cars, no birdsong, no
chainsaws. Even now he still expects them.
Only the crunch of their boots breaks the spell.
He hits his toe on the cairn of stones. Stones
he and Solveig had brought back from their
travels, her concert tours around the world,
brought here to the place where they were
supposed to garden side by side and grow
old together. Grow older, always older than
they were. To an extent they had succeeded.
Clapping in the front row, he must have
presented her with a thousand bouquets of
roses, white, pink, yellow, violet, salmon, lilac,
silver, and deepest crimson. He brushes the
snow off the stones and lays down the paper
fowers. The best he could do.
He attempts to clear the tightness in his
throat. He had planned to say a few words,
but now cannot. Peter sniffs, and Otto pats his
shoulder. As one, they turn and go.
Springtime comes as a surprise. The children
spend the afternoons chasing each other
barefoot on the icy nascent grass, immune
to the cold. Resilient the narcissus bulbs
still bloom. They cover every surface with
overfowing jars used as vases. Otto touches a
crenellated trumpet, delicate and fesh-like, to
his lips and smiles. He imagines the blossoms
as a blizzard of golden eyed brides.
They are kneading sourdough when they
hear the engines.
“Go into the wardrobe in the attic, as we
rehearsed,” Otto says.
“You have to come too. We can’t leave you.”
“No, if they fnd no one here, they will look
until they do. Go now.”
He hears them pound up the stairs. He sits
at the kitchen table, knuckles still gummed
with four, the yeasty odor rising off him like
a sigh. He lays his hands palm up, so they will
immediately see that he has no weapon. They
have stocked a dummy storeroom with food
they can afford to lose. There are four other
caches concealed around the property and a
false compartment in the wall. They are safe,
as safe as they can be. This is what he tells
himself.
The interlopers hatchet through the door,
not bothering to knock. Unwashed and raw, he
can already smell them, the smell of a pylon
of bones in a scavenger den. Otto controls his
expression, sets it to careful neutral. There are
both men and women. He hears their raised
voices calling to one another, bantering. The
hardwood foors creak under their heavy feet.
A series of gunshots fre. Otto tries to rise and
is knocked on his back. He feels a round O of
steel emboss his forehead.
“The food, where is it?”
“There in the pantry. Please it’s all I have.”
A cudgel to the face answers him. When he
regains consciousness, his blood is crackled and
dried. A hard wind blows on him through the
banging door. He stumbles upright. He has to
fnd the children to tell them it’s safe to come
out now. He trips over a labyrinth of splintered
and upturned furniture on his way to the
staircase.
“Children it’s safe to come out now,” he calls.
His hand grips the wooden bannister. He takes
a few steps.
111
“Children?”
He trips again, this time on something soft,
yielding as bread He reaches out to feel. He
palpates the thin arms, the narrow rib cage, the
well-known and cherished nose, and the dainty
skull with its terrible small wet hole. Peter is
splayed next to her, as if trying to shield her.
Otto sucks in his breath. No tears fall from his
ravaged eyes.
Later he fnds the shotgun missing from its
hiding place, and he realizes what must have
happened. Peter took the gun. He would not
leave Otto. And Isa would not leave Peter.
Otto lays two more cairns in the orchard,
coughing up blood on his shirt. He falls
on the frozen grass and looks up into his
private starless night. He had once assumed
that death meant nothingness. Now he
sees every moment, every cup of coffee he
forgot he drank, every snowfake, every kiss,
every single confguration of molecules that
briefy comprised his body, still exists. He
has experienced his life as continuity, but
everything that ever happened is happening
now—only somewhere else in time. Solveig,
Isa, and Peter, still exist. Their lives are intact,
pure, and invincible. All the pain is there. And
the beauty. The love. Nothing in this world can
be undone.
112
R. K. Riley
Ugly Breasts
ugly words made uglier yet by the
pulsing ache of desire undisguised by a
boyish smile that never climaxed to his eyes or
snuggled deep under his tongue
laced his words like lust against
a tiny crevice in my neck that knew
his name from way back but had let
it lay forgotten in the shadows of new breasts
that left him fumbling like keys
against change in a pocket bulging
beside his reluctance that held
only a moment before his open mouth
found tender skin
the hitch caught blind inside his
moan the last beautiful thing I ever heard
113
The clouds whisper
a fne spray of drizzle—not bad
you think—but still rain.
Might be welcome on a hot day,
but in late November shrinks
the skin with cold. It’s not a matter of if
we get breast cancer, but when.
After a lumpectomy, she asked to see
the offending tissue—it looked like
an old piece of chewed gum:
gray, slick, bitten.
Jean Kingsley
Apology to Wrigley, et al.
114
Michael Cooper
Agnes invokes the Nightmother
her syllables made of mercury
O Alejandro what Sheppard
what selves what hooved-horned
what? What a time licking our neighbor’s
shingles with our toothy tongues we scrape
the shellfsh from the Sacrum Delirium! We change
as we fall
thru no-time each hinge
of us a multiplicity of
delight. Our time selling the world
records for the slowest
and the weakest
salesman sweating on the copper
throne. Her hair reigns down
serpentine wetware
her lashes rule
all who scuttle
claw handed and binary. Our time
to ignite the incandescent dark
matters beneath our mantles
and cloak gaslamps
with the dagger of slick
fngered evenings. The eclipse of
sunglasses and the closed umbrella mumble
some deep meaning. Our time long shore
man pinned to the dock
by a forklift split bodied dentures
spat out on the ground like newborn
mice[
I am bringing up my children
to be you a bent wingtip leapt up from the well
lipgloss crystallized on the crush
thrust knee of December wet hand can’t un-
clutch your iron apron without
giving up skin our tithe is 27
of our adult
teeth our sandpaper grin
erodes the under carriage
of your private jet a lock
of his hair all what’s left of we small
115
boy the day after payday I will let
you smell this burning marrow
Angel.]he still gurgles
and one leg kicks
to the tenor of the jig
saw. We are not warm
round stones. I am the sweat under[
The windows
spilled out on the kitchen foor
open for the trains
that dangled ripe cognizant
of falling through their own mouths
in search of winesmoke
her necklace I sipped
salt browed somnambulant
coffee grinders cry
out their feathered shards I
bled hands
with the circumference of all ladled
men madhatted by her perfume
spatter
patterned anointment
of bedside
alarms sniffng out the blood
trail of the honeysuckle
coughing
rose huffng unreason wedless
undertaker of my smileless days
she
woven explosion
of focked apparitions
in the grove.]your arms deer did you fy
all night to make me? We are stones. I am
the water in your lungs with what arms
have you rowed my black sea
fickering
116
Jesse Millner
Meditation on Reincarnation,
Roaches and Kim
Kardashian’s Butt
I wonder about reincarnation: What happens
when there’s no planet to reincarnate on?
If everything is poisoned and dead, and the
only living creatures are cockroaches, do
the dead come back as bugs? Whenever
I read New Age accounts of reincarnation,
previous lives involved queens and kings,
an actress or two, an adventurer, a writer
maybe, but never a bus driver or dish washer.
I guess I’m losing patience with the worshippers
of celebrity. My favorite person is the owner
of the local Mexican restaurant who worked
his way up from bus boy to proprietor. Best of
all, he doesn’t smother the enchiladas in cheese
and big bits of fresh avocado foat serenely in the guacamole.
Maybe it wouldn’t be bad if Kim Kardashian
and Kanye came back as cockroaches. Maybe
they’d fnd each other somehow in that next
insect life and make passionate insect love.
I’m sure they’d breed baby roaches
that were also so self-involved, they’d believe
from the moment they were hatched
somehow their own tiny lives were more important
than every other roach’s.
I don’t believe in reincarnation. But I don’t disbelieve it either.
Personally, I’d like to come back as a bird, maybe that cardinal
I saw yesterday fashing through the areca palms, so bright red
against the monochromatic green wall. And his tiny heart beat
so fast, his bones were so light—how must it feel to launch
oneself skyward with so little effort, to skim over the surface
of this suburban world that is a mix of strip malls and cypress
sloughs, of blight and beauty, of concrete and soft swamp
trails we follow in our squishy tennis shoes, where the resurrection
117
fern has no need of its own reality TV show, nor do the bony
knees of the pond cypress, and the siren that evades
the biologist’s trap is happy to just swim in the tea-
colored currents fringed by Alligator fag, beyond
which lies the dome itself, deep-watered cathedral
where sometimes god whispers down in the slurry
of rain and lightning. Kanye and Kim
had a baby girl they named, North West. I know this
because it was the Yahoo headline.
My students tell me that Kim began her acting career
with a porn video. Just Google it, they say. I don’t.
I haven’t. I won’t ever. But that doesn’t stop me
from asking the question, Why, Lord, why?
And it is true that last summer while trolling
the Weekly World News for writing prompts
in my creative writing class, we did discover
Kim Kardashian’s butt explodes, which I clicked
on, which immediately froze the computer, which
succumbed to a ravenous Kardashian butt virus,
which greatly amused the class, which embarrassed
me when I later had to call computer services.
I think I will name my next dog, Southwest.
I think I will spare the palmetto bugs
that scrabble across our kitchen foors
some mornings, looking for crumbs
in the dog’s bowl, and who knows, maybe
in their own ways, searching for roach
meanings in our strange world. When I frst
stopped drinking, I looked for new meaning
at a treatment center in Chicago. Some nights
we caught roaches and made them race each other
in shoeboxes where we’d carefully constructed
lanes defned by matches. We’d bet nickels
on the speeding insects and it relieved for a little
the darkness which was consuming us
as we scrabbled away from addiction, looking
for a new incarnation that didn’t include
booze. What a dark turn this poem
has taken, and it reminds me of a reality TV show
called Intervention, which I tuned on once years
ago when my wife was away, having left the dog and me
alone, so we watched a family intervene into the life
of a husband and father who was drinking himself
to death, and praise the lord, halfway through the show
118
he stopped drinking because he fnally saw the reality
of his desperate situation, and his wife and daughters
cried tears of happiness, but I knew something was
wrong because there was still twenty minutes left,
plenty of time for another reversal, which came
when the newly sober man found out his liver
was pickled, so the show ended with a picture
of the man, and the date of his death. The dog
and I hated the ending. We wanted the man to live
long and prosper like space travelers who’d been
blessed by Vulcans. In reality there was no happiness,
no long walks on the beach with the grateful family,
no slow-motion montage of birthday parties and christenings,
no fnal frame of the reformed drunk holding his wife’s hand
as they walked into the kitchen on an average morning
and drank coffee and listened to the birds singing in the backyard,
as they talked about the mundane things that make up real
reality: Maxwell House with a little cream and sugar, the broken
ice maker in the freezer, the way the man once noticed there were a few
more wrinkles around his wife’s eyes and how that made him happy.
The resurrection fern comes back as itself.
Reality stars come back as reruns in the summer.
I keep going back to the Mexican restaurant
and order the tamales verdes. Jalepenos, corn, bean—
I tell my wife I’m only missing squash and then I would have
the trinity, las tres hermanas, Maya have eaten for centuries
and who keep coming back in the Yucatan
amid the limestone cenotes and the cities
of their dead, where every spring
a rattlesnake climbs down a many-stepped
temple to fertilize the Mexican ground.
If I were a more accomplished poet, I’d leave Kim and Kanye
out of this poem and simply be grateful for the reality
of my sobriety, how I’ve been reincarnated as a man
who loves Mexican food, his wife, and the way
in early Florida spring, yellow blossoms have
already sprung from the frangipani, which
were leafess all winter, whose grey branches
looked so barren, that when I looked at them
on a wet day this past December,
I could have sworn they were dead from weeping.
119
so careful they seem like those perfectly
straight superhighways the Chinese have built
in the Congo, in order to more quickly exhaust
that African landscape of its precious metals and gems,
so they might arrive by next-day-air in Shenzhen
where careful workers will assemble raw
beauty into commerce so that next month
in California a woman’s new iPhone will
ring with Handel’s “Water Music” as she
gazes wistfully west into the sea.
I have been way too careful with my poems,
afraid of what you will think if I’m honest
enough to talk about the time in ffth grade
I was so afraid, my hands shook, and when
I tried to tell Kit Carson’s story,
the syllables tripped off my tongue
like stuttering pack mules confronted
with a New Mexican canyon where
down in the damp darkness near a rushing
creek, ghost Navajo still grew peaches.
I need to write poems the way I don’t
write dreams, the way narrative moves
down a familiar road that leads to a landscape
I’ve never seen before where California, China,
Kit Carson, New Mexico and ghost can be
fve stops on a rail line where I’m riding
in the dining car eating a hot dog.
I need to write poems that follow
the logic of ripe peaches listening
to the rippling of moving water.
Fruit with ears, canyons flled with
ghosts, the moonlight flling my bedroom
window—are no different from the yellow
patterns that disturb the perfect black
singing of a pilgrim on the Silk Road
who hears the long whispers of wind
moving sand and longs for his mother.
Jesse Millner
I have been way too careful
with my poems
120
Your lips surround the mouthpiece of the clarinet.
Burnout attenuates the sound. Spin the city—
black, hip, fame tipped, deeper than ache.
The rhythm section has dug trenches. Abdicate.
Let go the stage. (stop I said cover the mic) No smile will outshine
your opposition. Framed in one note: a warning. Their mouths
hang open smile bodies glisten. Break down the stage.
Oh yes. Full-blown sugar. Near the bridge, you sing the dark
smile soft woman: hand belly rock. Brave bombardment on one wing.
Unfurl in private electricity like a quivering waterskin.
When a woman undresses you, forget to breathe.
Jill Khoury
Full-blown Sugar
121
Lukas Hall
Lifeless, Inverted
Ribbons of white cedar swirled,
clambered over lily
pads as
children’s shadows
vanished under
the deafening
water.
The canoe, on
its tattered stomach,
felt a sting
of fsh’s scales
scraping against
its molded wood, its splinters
faking off. Teeth
submerged into oak skin,
catching the roots, snapping
them, vortexing out
chewed up
wood dust.
The canoe
grew silent, watching us,
the indifferent children
on the reeled back shore,
stare
at the black
stripped fsh
all around it,
while it tried
to regressivly fip
on its back,
but the canoe was old,
so it ended the day,
nestling the surface of
the river,
lifeless, inverted.
122
Steffi Lang
Midnight Picnic
We slip out, away from the fuorescent, sagging streets
through foxglove thickets and wisteria limbs.
The quiet night doesn’t watch us—
it is too busy guiding the fox cubs home
and following the girl as she stutters in the alley.
We do not hold hands or words.

Cars thrum far away on cold highway, their lights scrape the dark.
You become moon wisp-organza, draped in midnight
a kaleidoscope mirage beyond neon city cadence;
everything blurred blue and dark
the lights are behind us now.
We move through the browning clover of the felds-
past the dark, taut oak and the stilled crickets.
The thick scent of ragged grass and milkweed clings to your hair—
fall chills your breath into phantom gauze.


We eat fruit, nectarines, persimmons and tangy apples-thick juice
coats our chins in sugar dribble, staining sweaters.
We are careless with words-throwing pulpy red cores in the dark to rot in sticky sap.
Blue blanket puddled on ground, we nestle like foxlings—
I think you are more beautiful with grass in your hair
your apple smeared mouth ripening before the coming of winter.
123
Tim Buck
Fog Study
Conditions are best on the Mulberry River
in September, in the northwest of Arkansas.
One doesn’t have to actually go there to see
what the morning fog does when it happens.
One can—in fact should—just try to imagine.
A small, rushing river, rapid-flled and clear.
Wild wood thick, now going to autumn color.
Tumbled chaos of tilted boulders, slick rocks.
A good place to drift to in a morning’s reverie.
An insubstantial river barely fowing above the liquid one.
Cold dragon’s-smoke hangs above sounding water.
It haunts through the forest trees, going into leaves.
Those leaves are turning into a feeling like waiting,
in soft hues of reds, oranges, and darker eggplant.
One could imagine he is in Bohemia,
wandering a ways off from his village
just after dawn and before an early sun
begins to burn off dense mysterious fog.
One always thinks of a somewhere else
when banks of mist occlude real objects.
It’s the dimming of vision
that makes brume special.
When clarity is challenged
and gray vapor is hovering,
equivocal mood can breathe.
It’s the way last year’s leaves
and branch rubble scattered
appear as a collage of silence,
as pieces of a lost old puzzle
that will never be completed...
124
Hannah Baggott
you September 19
I’ve made myself sick with you.
I reblog you October 21
I’ve made myself sick with you.
Sick, yes—a resonant source— your name shows up everywhere. You’re always
sticky like jam: raspberry preserves with seeds that stick in my teeth. I fnd tuna in my
scarf and think of you and your packets of crackers, suddenly, in the back of my
car, smoking. I see your nipples through your shirt; I bite my lip hard. I think I have
made you up: sloppy memories of touching boys because they were there and they
were angry.

you November 1
I can’t stop tasting your name.
I reblog you November 19
I can’t stop tasting your name.
And it smudges my lipstick. Others ask me, Who are you talking to? I know I know I
know, and they don’t. I look at weeks as if they’re minutes and they are; no one else
knows your name when you post pictures of pierced nipples, but I do.
you December 13
Pictures of bodies.
Pictures of places.
1 note December 13
I press like
I tell you I love everything you see, but I know you’ll never go anywhere. I watch you
from across the country, fipping through imaginary pictures, and I write you down.
Things I Don’t Post On Tumblr
or Ars Poetics
125
Allie Marini Batts
for my mother-in-law, who taught me how to eat them
The vehicle that can carry a man towards nirvana
is a dusty blue Ford F-100, parked next to a 24 x 36 piece of plywood
HOT BOIL’D P-NUTS
$5
on a January afternoon
that’s warm enough to drive out to the coast—
the perfect saint is himself a weather-burnt strip of stick,
leather-tough and tan like, limbs of pine scrubs after a controlled burn.
Each arm a ropy collection of muscle, knotted from hauling a cast net
back up into the trawler, full of mullet, sheepshead, or brim
from the deep of the bending Apalachicola.
At the bottom of the bridge, a propane fame and stockpot,
20 quarts full of out of season peanuts simmering in water
as salty as the ocean on the other side.
Shoo-ee! though, ain’t today purty?
Y’all take the big bag, I ain’t got ‘em good enough today,
but these here’re the last of ‘em. Ain’t gon’ be back up till April,
so y’all enjoy ‘em, y’hear?
voice all sandpaper and Natty Light tallboys,
netting peanuts as easily as shrimp, fsh, or oysters in their season.
Bouncing from fnger to tip until they’re cool enough to crack,
spitting damp threads of their waffed husks
against the Gulf breeze, windows rolled all the way down.
Joy is shaped like the shell of a peanut,
and tastes soft and briny as the ocean
Boiled Peanuts, Out of Season
126
Kelly Andrews’s work has appeared or is
forthcoming in Uppagus, Thirteen Myna Birds,
Weave Magazine, Pear Noir, and Philadelphia
Stories. Her chapbook “Mule Skinner” is
forthcoming with Dancing Girl Press, 2014.
Recently she started an online lit journal
Pretty Owl Poetry with two of her favorite
writerly friends. She has a hand in creating the
sometimes quarterly zine “BE Quarterly”, and
like most people she knows, has an affnity for
cats.
This is Gregory App’s frst time being
published.
Nashville native Hannah Baggott, 23, is a
poet of the body pursuing an MFA in poetry at
Oregon State University while teaching writing
courses. She has received awards for fash
fction and critical writing in gender studies.
Her work can be found in Tupelo Quarterly, Small
Po[r]tions, and others.
Allie Marini Batts holds degrees from both
Antioch University of Los Angeles and New
College of Florida, meaning she can explain
deconstructionism, but cannot perform simple
math. Her work has been a fnalist for the
Sundress Best of the Net and nominated for
the Pushcart Prize. She is managing editor for
the NonBinary Review and Zoetic Press, and has
previously served on the masthead for Lunch
Ticket, Spry Literary Journal, The Weekenders
Magazine, Mojave River Review & Press, and The
Bookshelf Bombshells. Allie is the author of the
poetry chapbooks, “You Might Curse Before
You Bless” (ELJ Publications, 2013) “Unmade
& Other Poems,” (Beautysleep Press, 2013) and
“This Is How We End” (forthcoming 2014,
Bitterzoet.) Find her on the web: https://www.
facebook.com/AllieMariniBatts or
@kiddeternity
Sarah Bence has been previously published in
multiple volumes of Brown University Press’
The Round and The Dunes Review. She also works
as the outreach intern for the Kenyon Review.
Michael Bernicchi began writing poetry after
his deployment to Iraq with the Army in 2005.
Shortly after his return, he received his B.A.
in English Literature from the University of
South Florida. His poetry has been featured
in Refections, an Edison College publication.
Bernicchi currently teaching high school
English in Port Charlotte, Florida and using my
summer off to live in Brooklyn and write about
the various aspects of the borough and human
interaction in general.
Heather M. Browne is a faith-based
psychotherapist and recently emerged poet,
published in the Orange Room, Boston Literary
Review, Page & Spine, Eunoia Review, Poetry
Quarterly, The Poetry Bus, Red Fez, The Muse, An
International Journal of Poetry, Deep Water Literary
Journal, Electric Windmill, Maelstrom, mad swirl,
and Dual Coast. Her frst chapbook, We Look
for Magic and Feed the Hungry has just been
published by MCI. She just won the Nantucket
Poetry Competition and will be featured on
their website. She has been married 20 years
to her love, has two amazing teens, and can be
found frolicking in the waves. Follow her: www.
thehealedheart.net
After retiring from hardware and lumber type
jobs, Tim Buck abides as a recluse in a small
house on a gravel road somewhere in Arkansas.
He writes poems and essays about poetry and
other items of interest. One of his essays
appeared in the anthology Vocabula Bound
(Marion Street Press); a poem, “Old Jaffa”
appeared in the online journal Calliope Nerve.
Other poems have appeared in the online and
print versions of Edgar Allan Poet Journal and in
VerseWrights. He is the author of a novel, Séance
in Bi Minor. Tim is a co-editor of the emerging
poetry journal, Spectral Lyre (spectrallyre.
wordpress.com). He also maintains a personal
blog at My Dripping Brain (mydrippingbrain.
blogspot.com).
Finn Butler lives in London and studies music
at Goldsmiths University.
Contributors
127
Shawn Campbell has been published in
Chinese Combine, Silo, Construction, Flour Mill Tour,
Prairie Grain Magazine, Winter Walk, and Owen
Wister Review.
Michael Cooper is an inland empire poet,
PoetrIE member, MFA student, Veteran, and
father of two great sons: Markus & Jonathan.
You can fnd his work in Tin Cannon, The Pacifc
Review, The Chaffey Review, The Camel Saloon,
Creepy Gnome, Milspeaks: Memo, Split Lip, and
other fne (but wild) publications. Michael
would like to make you aware that the splash
zone includes the frst 11 rows.
Matthew Connolly’s poetry draws upon
experiences from growing up in New York’s
Hudson Valley, where pastoral beauty meets
rural and urban decay. Previous work has
appeared in Boston’s Burn Magazine and Literary
Matters, a publication of the Association of
Literary Scholars, Critics and Writers. He
currently reside in Columbus, Ohio, where he is
pursuing a PhD in English at Ohio State.
Will Cordeiro received his MFA from Cornell
University, where he is currently completing
a Ph.D. in English. Recent work appears or
is forthcoming in burnt district, Copper Nickel,
Cortland Review, Crab Orchard Review, CutBank
Online, Drunken Boat, Fourteen Hills, Phoebe,
Sentence, and elsewhere. He is grateful for
residencies from ART 342, Blue Mountain
Center, Ora Lerman Trust, and Petrifed Forest
National Park. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.
Francis Davis has had fction appear in Weber
Studies, Natural Bridge, The Gihon River Review,
and Ducts, among other publications. Originally
from Philadelphia, Francis has lived much of
the last 20 years in Montana, where he earned
an MFA in fction from the University of
Montana. Currently, he teaches as a Visiting
Assistant Professor of English at the University
of Montana Western.
Gina DeCagna currently attends the
University of Pennsylvania, where she is
majoring in English with a concentration
in Creative Writing and Fine Arts. She is
the founder and editor-in-chief of Symbiosis
(www.upennsymbiosis.com) a visual-literary
art magazine at Penn, an editorial assistant at
Jacket2.org, and a frequent dweller at the Kelly
Writers House.
Michelle Donahue is a current MFA
candidate in Creative Writing & Environment
at Iowa State where she is the managing editor
of Flyway. Her work has appeared in Whiskey
Island, Redactions, Front Porch Review, and others.
Stephanie French-Mischo’s short fction
appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of the Still Point
Arts Quarterly as well as the July 2012 issue (#6)
of Midwestern Gothic. In 2010, she was a fnalist
for the Santa Fe Literary Awards and invited to
read at Indiana University-Purdue University
Indianapolis’ International Women’s Day.
Glimmer Train Stories awarded an Honorable
Mention to a story of Steph’s in their May 2009
Short Story Award for New Writers. She is a
member of The Indiana Writer’s Center and
lives in Indianapolis.
Brad Garber lives, writes, and runs around
naked in the Great Northwest. He flls his
home with art, music, photography, plants,
rocks, bones, books, good cookin’ and love.
He has published poetry in Alchemy, Red
Booth Review, Front Range Review, theNewerYork,
Ray’s Road Review, The Round Up, Meat for Tea,
Gambling the Aisle, Off the Coast, Shadowgraph,
Livid Squid Literary Journal, Brickplight, Shuf
Poetry, Rockhurst Review, Penduline Press, Literature
Today, BASED, Eunoia Review, and other quality
publications. Nominee: 2013 Pushcart Prize for
poem, “Where We May Be Found.”
Irving A. Greenfeld has been published in
Amarillo Bay, Runaway Parade, Writing Tomorrow,
eFictionMag and the Stone Hobo; and in Prime
Mincer, The Note and Cooweescoowee (2X); and in
THE STONE CANOE, electronic edition.
Greenfeld and his wife live in Manhattan. He
has been a sailor, soldier, and college professor,
128
playwright and novelist. He also has had 10
OFF OFF Broadway and Regional Theatre
productions and won several awards for them.
Kenneth P. Gurney lives in Albuquerque,
NM, with his beloved Dianne. To view a fuller
biography, publishing credits and available
books visit http://www.kpgurney.me
Lukas Hall is a poet, currently in the
BFA Creative Writing program at Hamline
University in Saint Paul, MN. His poems have
appeared or are forthcoming in Aviary Review,
East Jasmine Review, Rib Cage Literary Magazine
and Souvenir Lit. He also won the Patsy Lea
Core Memorial Award in Creative Writing, for
his poetry.
Elisabeth Hewer is 20 years old and lives in
South West England. She is currently studying
journalism, media and cultural studies at
university in Wales and hopes to be able to earn
her keep writing one day.
Robert P. Hiatt lives on an island in the Gulf
of Mexico with his bewitching wife Betsie,
his young daughter Marza, and a passel of
annoying critters, all of whom he loves deeply
and expects nothing in return. His work has
appeared in The Alarmist, Mangrove Review, Youth
Imagination, and Belletrist Coterie, among others.
Bob Hicks draws his writing from the areas
he has lived in—a small industrial Illinois city
surrounded by cornfelds, a desert village in
Botswana, and the North Cascades range of
the Pacifc Northwest. He has written essays, a
novel, and poems. Hicks has been published in
Cirque, Jeopardy, Stories of the Skagit—Anthology
II, and Loyalties Anthology. He is a a two-time
Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest Award winner
and received second place in the Bellingham
Fiction 101 contest.
Savannah Hocter has been practicing
photography at an amateur level for two years,
and has been exploring various genres and
mediums to fgure out what suits her. She has
a page dedicated to her photography and other
works, which has gained a slight following that
she’s trying to grow. Her inspirations include
Salvador Dali and Henrique Frazao, and
impressionism has helped to shape her style.
Ann Howells’s poetry appears in Calyx,
Crannog (Ire), Free State Review, Little Patuxent
Review, Magma (UK), Sentence and Spillway,
as well as other small press and university
journals. She serves on the board of Dallas
Poets Community, a 501-c-3 non-proft, and
has edited its journal, Illya’s Honey, since 1999,
recently taking it from print to digital. Her
chapbook, Black Crow in Flight, was published
by Main Street Rag Publishing (2007). A second
chapbook, the Rosebud Diaries, was published in
limited edition by Willet Press (2012).
Mark Jones is an English professor at
Trinity Christian College, where he teaches a
range of subjects including Shakespeare and
linguistics. As a writing teacher and amateur
jazz pianist, he is fascinated by improvisation in
music and in other forms of composition. His
creative work has appeared or is forthcoming
in Chrysanthemum, Haiku Journal, Pennsylvania
Literary Journal, Red Booth Review, and Tenth Muse.
Matthew Donald Jacob Kelly’s prior writing
has largely been in the domain of playwriting.
Of note, his play “Homegrown Beginnings”
was nominated for the Christopher Brian Wolk
Award and the Woodward/Newman Drama
Award. Most recently, his short play “Russian
Tea” was produced by the Metropolitan
Playhouse in New York City.
Jill Khoury earned her Masters of Fine Arts
from The Ohio State University. Her poems
have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous
journals, including Hayden’s Ferry, RHINO, Off
the Coast, and Stone Highway Review. She has
been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and a
Best of the Net award. Her chapbook Borrowed
Bodies was released from Pudding House Press.
You can fnd her at jillkhoury.com.
129
Jean A. Kingsley was born in Omaha,
Nebraska, has lived in Arizona, Alaska, and
Virginia and now resides in Rochester, New
York. She earned an M.A. in Creative Writing
from SUNY College at Brockport, and an
MFA in Creative Writing from Pacifc Lutheran
University. She is the recipient of the 1995
Academy of American Poets Prize, a fnalist for
“Discovery”/The Nation and The Constance
Saltonstall Foundation of the Arts Fellowship.
Her poems and essays have appeared in Tar
River Poetry, River Oak Review, American Literary
Review, Excursus Literary Arts Journal, Quarterly
West, Eclipse, and Poetry Lore, among others.
She has recently won a poetry book award for
Traceries from ABZ Press, selected by C. D.
Wright.
Steff Lang is an emerging poet. She has
worked as a journalist for her university’s
publication and has also had poetry published
in LAMP Magazine and The Literary Hatchet.
P.K. Lauren’s work has been chosen to appear
in several literary venues, including Clapboard
House, Prick of the Spindle, Casserole, Dark Matter,
Empty Sink Publishing, and others.
Kat Lerner hails from the ever-breezy Pacifc
Northwest, where she writes fction and
poetry and teaches creative writing. Her work
has appeared in publications including Word
Catalyst Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, Wilderness
House Literary Review, Triggerfsh Critical Review,
Labyrinth, and Inkspeak.
Jessica McDermott is currently an MFA
student at the University of Idaho studying
creative nonfction, but she also enjoy writing
poetry. She has found fash a great way to
blend the two.
Peter McEllhenney has a BA in English from
Oberlin College and does a lot of writing for
my marketing company.
Ray McManus is the author of four books of
poetry: Punch. (Hub City Press, forthcoming)
Red Dirt Jesus (Marick Press, 2011), Left Behind
(Steeping Stones Press, 2008), and Driving
through the country before you are born (USC Press,
2007). His poetry has appeared most recently
in Blue Collar Review, Barely South, The Pinch,
Hayden’s Ferry, and moonShine Review. Ray is an
Associate Professor of English in the Division
of Arts and Letters at University of South
Carolina Sumter where he teaches creative
writing, Irish literature, and Southern literature.
Bradley K. Meyer writes from Dayton, Ohio.
His work has appeared or is forthcoming in
The Literary Bohemian, Parody, Hobo Pancakes,
Right Hand Pointing & others. He is the author
of a chapbook, Hotel Room (Vostok East Press,
2013). His favorite animal is: opossums.
Myron Michael is a publisher and writing
teacher. His poetry appears in Days I
Moved Through Ordinary Sounds (City Lights,
2009), Nanomajority, Fourteen Hills, Harvard
Review Online, Toad Suck Review, The Blink,
Words+Images, Beeswax, Reverie, The Revolving
Door, Spillway, Tea Party Magazine, Cave Canem
XII, Eleven Eleven, and Another&Another,
respectively. In collaboration with Microclimate
Collective, he has presented work or exhibited
work at the openings of Eidolon, Perfect
Place/No Place, and X LIBRIS. He co-
created “Vertical Horizon” as a participant in
Broadside Attractions/Vanquished Terrains.
His chapbook Scatter Plot won the 2010 Willow
Books Integral Music Chapbook Prize, and
he is co-author of Hang Man (Move Or Die,
2010).
Jesse Millner’s work has appeared most
recently in The New Poet, Real South, Squalourly,
and Best American Poetry 2013. He has been the
honorary poet for Blue Bell Creameries and
lives in Fort Myers, Florida with his wife, Lyn,
and dog, Henry Brown.
Katherine Minott, M.A. is an artist whose
photographic work refects the Japanese
aesthetic of wabi sabi— the celebration
of things imperfect, impermanent, and
130
incomplete. Her work has appeared in Camas:
The Nature of the West, New Mexico Magazine,
Visual Language Magazine, and the Santa Fe
Reporter’s Annual Manual.
Maggie Montague is currently an
undergraduate student at Whitworth University
in Spokane, WA, studying writing and art
history. She usually considers herself a fction
writer, but has more recently dabbled in
creative nonfction and poetry. Her piece
“From One Synapse to Another” is a braided
essay exploring the nature of memory and
change. This is her frst offcial publication in a
literary journal.
Cindy St. Onge’s poetry has appeared
in Cactus Heart Press, The Poet’s Billow, New
Millennium Writings, and The New Guard.
Her poems were shortlisted for the Atlantis
Award (2013), the Knightville poetry prize
(2012), and New Millennium Writings award
(2012).
Sarah Page graduated from Southern
Connecticut State University with an M.S. and
certifcation in Secondary English in 2013.
She is a 2013 recipient of Dialogue’s New
Voices award for poetry. Her poems have been
published in journals including Connecticut River
Review, Fresh Ink, Inscape, Noctua Review, and
included in the anthology Fire in the Pasture.
Dave Petraglia has appeared in Popular Science,
Popular Mechanics, Better Homes & Gardens; more
recently, or scheduled in Agave Magazine, Cactus
Heart Press, Dark Matter Journal, eFiction India,
Loco Magazine, Gravel Literary Review, Storyacious,
The Olivetree Review, Petrichor Review, Thought
Catalog, theNewerYork, and Vine Leaves Literary
Journal. He’s a writer and photographer and
lives near Jacksonville, Florida. His blog is at
www.drowningbook.com
Lauren Potts is a graduate of the University
of South Florida with a degree in public
relations and a concentration in creative
writing. Her work has appeared in A Celebration
of Young Poets and various offcial publications
of the University of South Florida.
R.K.Riley quietly writes herself real from
a small Midwest suburb. Her debut poetry
collection, “because...writings from a tainted
life,” was released last year.
C.C. Russell’s poetry has previously
appeared in The New York Quarterly, Hazmat
Review, Grasslimb, and Rattle among others.
He currently lives in Wyoming with his wife,
daughter, and two cats. In the past, he has
lived in Ohio and New York. He holds a BA in
English from the University of Wyoming and
was the editor of their Owen Wister Review for
part of his time there. Russell has held jobs in
vocations ranging from hotel maintenance to
retail management.
Melody Sage is a professional artist. Her
poetry and fction have appeared in The Best of
Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2013, Menacing Hedge,
The Dirty Napkin, and widely elsewhere. She
currently resides in Duluth, MN. To view more
of her work visit: melodysage.com
Ray Scanlon. Massachusetts boy. Has
grandchildren. Extraordinarily lucky.
Recovering assembly language programmer.
Not averse to litotes. No MFA. No novel. No
extrovert. Recently in Cleaver Magazine and Vine
Leaves Literary Journal, soon to appear in Camroc
Press Review. On Twitter: @oldmanscanlon. On
the web: http://read.oldmanscanlon.com/.
M.I. Schellhaas is a Southwestern PA poet,
abstract artist, calligrapher, photographer, and
mother of two. At the age of twenty-one, she
earned her Associate degree in Psychology.
Perplexed with what she would truly enjoy
to study, she discontinued college to devote
time to a myriad of independent artistic
endeavours. Her poetry has been published in
various volumes by Eber & Wein Publishing.
Most recently, Schellhaas’ phonoeashetic poem
“Refection” was recorded on Eber & Wein’s
Expressions CD. With a manuscript of poems
131
in process, Schellhaas’ passion for photography
abounds capturing, forever, the beauty of the
experience before her.
Denzel Scott earned his BA in English
Language and Literature from the University
of Chicago. He’s currently working on an MFA
in writing at Savannah College of Art and
Design (SCAD) in his hometown of Savannah,
GA. He is a great lover of the macabre, of the
opulent, and the dramatic.
Judith Skillman is the author of fourteen
collections of poetry. Her latest book is Broken
Lines—The Art & Craft of Poetry, Lummox
Press. Poems have appeared in FIELD,
Midwest Quarterly Review, The Iowa Review, The
Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, First Water—
The Best of Pirene’s Fountain, and other journals
and anthologies. Skillman is the recipient of
grants from the Academy of American Poets,
the Washington State Arts Commission, the
Centrum Foundation, King County Arts
Commission, and the Jack Straw Foundation.
She has taught at University of Phoenix,
City University, Richard Hugo House, and
elsewhere. Visit judithskillman.com
Star Spider is a magic realism writer from
Toronto, Canada where she lives and works
with her awesome husband Ben Badger.
Star is currently in the process of seeking
representation for her novels while she
continues to write, play and frolic on the beach.
Her work can be found in Black Treacle,
ExFic and Grim Corps and she was a 2013
winner of the Fringe Contest at Eden Mills
Writer’s Festival as well as recently winning an
honourable mention in the Friends of Merril
Short Story Contest 2014. starspider.ca
C. Derick Varn is a poet, teacher, and theorist.
He currently edits for Former People. He has
a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry at Georgia
College and State University where he served
as assistant editor for Arts and Letters: A
Journal of Contemporary Arts. He has served
as managing editor for the now defunct
Milkwood Review. He won the Frankeye Davis
Mayes/Academy of American Poets Prize in
2003 and his poetry has appeared at Unlikely
Stories 2.0, Full of Crows, Writing Disorder,
JMWW, Clutching at Straws, Xenith, Piriene’s
Fountain, and elsewhere. Originally from the
deep South of the United States. He lives in
Northern Mexico as a lecturer and teacher
on Ethics, Composition, and Intercultural
communication. He taught both University and
high school in South Korea and the States as
well. He lives with his partner, and a bunch of
books, and writes at night.
Xavier Vega grew up on a strawberry farm
in Plant City, Florida. He moved to Tampa to
attend the University of South Florida, where
he was published in Thread Literary Inquiry
while earning his B.A. in English. He’s been
published in The Bangalore Review and The
Yellow Medicine Review. After his publication
with Apeiron he became a slush reader for the
magazine. Xavier writes novels and is searching
for a literary agent. He also writes for the music
blog NoisePorn, and he has his own blog that no
one reads.
Robert N. Watson has recently had several
poems published in The New Yorker, and others
have apeared in The Antioch Review, Prairie
Schooner, Ariel, The Warwick Review, The Boston
Literary Review, and a half-dozen other journals.
He is a professor of English at UCLA, teaching
mostly Shakespeare and 17th century poetry,
and has authored books on Shakespeare, Ben
Jonson, the fear of death, and the roots of
modern environmentalist consciousness in
Renaissance literature and painting.
M.G. Wessels lives, where he studies, among
other professional obligations, in New Paltz,
NY.
Vanessa Willoughby is a graduate of The
New School. She has written for The Huffngton
Post, xoJane, The Nervous Breakdown, The Toast,
and Paper Magazine.
132
Harry Wilson is a retired Professor of Art
at Bakersfeld College. His photographs have
been exhibited and published widely. He has
exhibited at the de Young Museum in San
Francisco and the Santa Barbara Museum of
Art among others. Wilson has been published
in Cerise Press, Folio, Rolling Stone, The Sun, and
Zyzzyva among many others. He’s been on the
brink of a brilliant career for 50 years!
Poems by Rose Maria Woodson have
appeared in Foliate Oak, Magnolia: A Journal of
Women’s Socially Engaged Literature, Volume II,
Quantum Poetry Magazine, OVS Magazine, Jet Fuel
Review , Stirring, The Mojave River Review and
Scapegoat Review.
Sherri Cook Woosley has a M.A. in literature
from University of Maryland. Her fction has
been published in Abyss & Apex, Bewildering
Stories, Indies Unlimited, and Third Wednesday.
FEATURING
KELLY ANDREWS / GREGORY APP / HANNAH BAGGOTT / ALLIE MARINI BATTS / KRISTI BEISECKER
SARAH BENCE / MICHAEL BERNICCHI / HEATHER M. BROWNE / TIM BUCK / FINN BUTLER
SHAWN CAMPBELL / MICHAEL COOPER / MATTHEW CONNOLLY / WILL CORDEIRO
FRANCIS DAVIS / GINA DECAGNA / MICHELLE DONAHUE / STEPHANIE FRENCH-MISCHO
BRAD GARBER / IRVING A. GREENFIELD / KENNETH P. GURNEY / LUKAS HALL
ELISABETH HEWER / ROBERT P. HIATT / BOB HICKS / SAVANNAH HOCTER
ANN HOWELLS / MARK JONES / MATTHEW DONALD JACOB KELLY / JILL KHOURY
JEAN A. KINGSLEY / STEFFI LANG / P.K. LAUREN / KAT LERNER / JESSICA MCDERMOTT
PETER MCELLHENNEY / RAY MCMANUS / BRADLEY K. MEYER / MYRON MICHAEL
JESSE MILLNER / KATHERINE MINOTT / MAGGIE MONTAGUE / CINDY ST. ONGE / SARAH PAGE DAVE
PETRAGLIA / LAUREN POTTS / R.K.RILEY / C.C. RUSSELL / MELODY SAGE / RAY SCANLON M.I.
SCHELLHAAS / DENZEL SCOTT / JUDITH SKILLMAN / STAR SPIDER / C. DERICK VARN
XAVIER VEGA / ROBERT N. WATSON / M.G. WESSELS / VENESSA WILLOUGHBY / HARRY WILSON
ROSE MARIA WOODSON / SHERRI COOK WOOSLEY
Apeiron Review