Issue 1 August 2012

Editors:

Meredith Davis Lisa Andrews Chris Butler Lisa Andrews

Art Editor and Advisor: Production Editor:

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Table of Contents
Fiction
Heirlooming by Sue Ann Connaughton........................................................ Happily Ever After by Candice Carnes.......................................................... Shes by Lauren I Ruize...................................................................................... Exploration by Duncan Whitmire................................................................. Heroin(e) by Vincent Wood........................................................................... Happily Ever After by R. M. Cowling............................................................ May Day by Hall Jameson................................................................................ They Never Tell You by Molly Bonovsky Anderson.................................. The Conversations of Angels by Arturo Desimon...................................... One Question by Dorene O’Brien.................................................................. 1 2 4 5 6 12 13 40 42 51

Nonfiction
A Drab and Wretched Afternoon by Ray Scanlon...................................... Blood Magic by Natalie Vestin....................................................................... 36 37

Poetry
[somehow] by Sean Beld.................................................................................. Watching the Clock by Joseph Lisowski....................................................... The Clanks by Michael Constantine McConnell......................................... The best way to live the quiet life of the home by Teresa Schartel.......... Terrestrial Illumincation, No 86 by Duane Locke...................................... Sudden Eclipse by Ben Nardolilli................................................................... Some Lines for Narcissus by Askold Skalsky................................................ Skirt by Antonio Vallone................................................................................. 15 16 17 18 19 21 22 23

Poetry
Shot in Brooklyn by Peycho Kanev...................................................... Picking Over by Barbara Brooks........................................................... Mixed Media by Mark J. Mitchell.......................................................... Midnight, Midsummer by Anne Britting Oleson.............................. March 19, 1983. It’s a Girl by Teresa Schartel..................................... Lobsters and Hipsters by Dan Hedges................................................. Dear Tomorrow by Pat Smith............................................................... Gemini by Ethan Grant.......................................................................... Indian Summer by Ethan Grant............................................................ Being the Other Woman by Jennifer Donnell.................................... Colorful Memories by Joseph L.M. Sturm.......................................... Bread Lust by Askold Skalsky................................................................ Waxing the Waning Moon by Dr. Ernest Williamson III................ Untitled by James Sanchez..................................................................... Violet Lightning by John Ritter............................................................ 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33 34 35 47 48 49 50 56

Photography
Melanie McIntire: A Perfect Day Reclaimed by Nature, Slow Turtle Monochromatic Flowers 9 10 11 20 29 29 30

Christopher Woods: Driving into the Fog

Stephen Pohl: The Blue Mosque in Istanbul Turkey The Gershwin Hotel in NYC The Francis Scott Key Bridge and Baltimore Harbor at Dawn

Sue Ann Connaughton
I began a quilt to chronicle my son’s life by tossing fabric squares from a box, letting them drift like miniature kites, but one square overturns in flight, changing from blueberry to thick cream, the cream swooping tri-cornered under the blueberry, bending the square into a triangle. Others stack like sheets of sticky notes, before reaching the carpet. My unborn son kicks hard; I stroke him with a swatch of velvet. Later, when he cries in his crib, I hang mobiles of fabric strips. The strips quiver above his head and his eyes follow. “Mine, mine,” he babbles and he grabs, as I untangle threads from his fingers. I pull a length of cotton thread through beeswax, to strengthen it for quilting any fabric—even denim—slide it through a size 10 needle, and stitch a freehand pattern through three layers: top, batting, and backing. Then I flip the quilt. On the back of every block, I write a date and memory. The tide ebbs and flows, always the circadian rhythm, and the days multiply, as my son’s garments multiply. I study each block, and see his linen christening cap fall lopsided on his brow and hear his taffeta superhero cape crinkle when he flies, and I remember when I cut the fabric for those blocks. Now, without a second glance, my son discards something he has lanced from the carpet. What is that? A nubby remnant—I reach into the wastebasket to retrieve it. I want to keep it intact, but it shreds and shreds in my hand. Far off, I strain to hear my daughter-in-law. She claims it clashes with their master bedroom wallpaper, this quilt that captures one hundred moments of my son’s life. I’ve lived one hundred lives. I squint and contemplate my son’s quilt and find it’s faded here and there. The thread has frayed. My sewing basket holds no more beeswax. Time to rest, I tell myself, and slip beneath my son’s quilt.

Heirlooming

Sue Ann Connaughton writes from an old perukemaker’s house in Massachusetts. Her most recent work appears in thickjam;The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts; Barnwood Poetry Magazine; The Linnet’s Wings; The Meadowland Review; and Boston Literary Magazine; and is forthcoming in You are here: The Journal of Creative Geography. 1

Happily Ever After
Candice Carnes
I have a friend who collects lunch boxes and books and records and CDs, so many of them that he and his wife live way out in the country, south of Albuquerque, surrounded by shelves made of cinder blocks and pieces of wood, holding all the things that mean something to each and both of them. I could tell you how much I want my own version of happily ever after (perhaps something like that house way out in the country full of shared interests that mean something to each and both of us). I could tell you how I collect relationships, which never quite work, but continue in their own ways. I collect their memories and their postcards, their letters (stamped from all over the world), their IM texts, their emails— that pop into my box out of nowhere (to see what I am up to), their late-night phone calls, their apologies, their sympathies, their uninvited drop-ins, and their friendships— eroded down to something benign with the passing of time. I could tell you about the soccer referee, who you could say is my friend. He lives in-between the spaces of my failed relationships. He weaves through cars on the highway, meeting me, between traffic jams and hit-and-run accidents. Through the years I love him in whatever way I can. Sometimes I forget about him, and sometimes he forgets about me, and sometimes I will instant message him, hoping to see him, only to find that he is on the road again, in Nevada, or California, or Oregon, or Philly. All places he goes and I don’t follow. I am rooted to the land and he is constantly moving across it. Sometimes we don’t understand each other, and sometimes he is playing poker, and sometimes he is living in town, and sometimes we are lovers. I could tell you about the dentist who ran away to Colorado, and then moved closer to Santa Fe. He makes promises he never keeps. He has plans he never follows through on. He wants everything from me and nothing from me. He wants what we had and what we never had. We were together for two years and apart for even more, but the truth is we were never really together, and we were never really apart. Sometimes I wait for him, and sometimes I run from him, and sometimes he comes to see me on Christmas, and sometimes he sends me letters, and sometimes he doesn’t return my phone calls, and sometimes I don’t answer the door. I could tell you about the eighteen-year-old-boy who I met when I was thirty. How he smiles and laughs so brightly that being around him is like swallowing mouthfuls of sugar. There is so much of him everywhere that I forget about myself and almost drown in him. He has so much more time, at his age, than I do, at my age, that it is like we are moving at different speeds meeting only perpendicularly at one point across the page. Someday he’ll be a poet, and someday he’ll be a man, and someday he’ll buy me dinner, and someday he will hear my voice painting pages with his scent. I could tell you about the musician who plays the guitar in dark nightclubs and sings vocals in crowded bars full of smoke. His thick Brazilian accent is like clay forming words of stone that you can almost touch. He asks if he can “crash” at my “pad” between “gigs” and despite his reputation, he never once tries to sleep with me. He is loud, and he is popular, and he is so quiet when we are alone that when he sings to me it is like poetry dancing with my soul. In the stillness of early mornings before we sleep beside each other, fully clothed, barely touching, he says he plays music for me, and he says he writes his lyrics for me, and he says he sings for me, and he says he breathes for me. I could tell you about the legend, which was not really a man, but a shadow. He tells so many different stories to so many different people I am not sure what to believe. He is erotic, and he is erratic, and he is so emotional that everything makes him cry. He has long hair, and he crosses his eyes when he blows strands of it from his face. He can say all the right things at all the right times and never mean any of it. He is addictive at times, and he is uncultivated at times, and he is messy at times, and even though he is psychotic at times, I love him at times, and I miss him at times. 2

I could tell you about the engineer who collected Catholic saints. He collects them in little boxes like little boys collect action figures. He has tiny soldiers to fight with Joan of Arc- martyrs like superheroes with little moving parts. He is so passionate about everything it is easy to get lost in his eyes. He listens to my favorite modern-day composers and brings fine wine to dinner and thinks I am intelligent, and worldly, and classically beautiful. At night when the wind is blowing in the trees outside my window, and he and I are naked in my bed I forget that he wants to get married, and he wants to fall in love, and he wants to have children, and he wants none of these things with me. I could tell you about the artist, whose vision was like my own. He paints my thoughts into his pastels as if they belong to both of us. We want things to work, but we are too much alike. When one of us is cynical or sad we were both cynical and sad, when one of is happy we are both happy, our brightness or darkness is too sharp and painful. One day he laces the fingers of our right hands together and they are identical. He is an air sign like me, with fire hands like me, with long warm palms like me, and short fingers like me, who creates with his hands like me. I could tell you about the tourist vacationing from Europe. In his eyes, New Mexico, the land of my birth, like me, dull, ordinary and dusty, became something mysterious and fresh. He says he can smell me in the weather, and see me in the land, and hear me in the people. He mails me letters from France, birthday cards from Italy, poetry from Spain, photographs from Ireland, postcards from England. He wants to know about the sunset in my hair, the smell of the mountains on my skin, the red clay beneath my fingernails, the taste of the weather on my lips. I could tell you about the man who taught the second grade. He likes fairytales and happy endings so much that he sees me as an image blurring my edges. Once upon a time he thought he would find a princess in need of rescuing from some infinite loneliness. He wants to slay dragons with bright shiny silvery swords, and break evil spells with his magical kisses, and he wants so much for me to have his version of happily ever after that he asks me to marry him without ever really knowing me. He wants a home together, and children together, and a life together and I can’t get who I am out of the way to be together. I have friend who collects lunch boxes and books and records and CDs, so many of them that he and his wife live way out in the country, south of Albuquerque, surrounded by shelves, made of cinder blocks and pieces of wood, holding all the things that define them separately and together. They have been happily married almost their whole lives and they didn’t do it because anyone expected it of them. They did it secretly and so quietly that no one even bought them a toaster oven. I could tell you how much some people love their toasters ovens. I could tell you how people covet them like trophies. I could tell you he married his wife even though he doesn’t believe in happily ever after. I will tell you this, and do with it what you will. He is old enough to be my father and fistfuls of his long grey hair smell like desert monsoons in my hands. He tells me that it is foolish of people to think one person could bring total happiness. He tells me that I must be open. He tells me to write my own stories and listen to my own words. He tells me not to believe in happily ever after and to believe in myself instead, and his hands are warm, and dry, and soft, like freshly baked bread.

Candice Carnes lives in New Mexico where she is a caregiver at a local hospital. Most of her work is influenced by twelve years of patient care. She is currently writing on an experimental memoir about her own illness, hospitalization, and the loss of her right kidney. She is the recipient of the 2009 Leo Love Merit Scholarship in Fiction from The Taos Writers’ Conference. Her work has been published in Adobe Walls: an Anthology of New Mexico Poetry. She is currently completing her BFA in creative writing at Goddard College. 3

Lauren I. Ruiz
She existed so much, she didn’t exist. There were the shes inside her head that fluctuated between extremes: restraint and indulgence, affection toward a lover and unabashed criticism of the same. There were the varying degrees of these. There was the eloquent she in written language and the she that stumbled in speech. Then the eloquent she-speaker and the ineffective she-writer. There were the shes that others perceived, constructed of the characteristics that their unique thems chose to amplify. She existed so much that she didn’t exist. Her over-existence nulled itself—collapsed into itself. In that way, she was like a star, part of the galactic, and she was glad to be in abundance—but that was just metaphor, and she was grossly fragmented. She was infinite and indefinite: the only certainty being that, at least for now, she was.

Shes

Originally from the tropical island of Dominican Republic, Lauren I. Ruiz is currently a New Hampshire-based poet and writer. She is fascinated by pre-sleep phantasmagoria and anything else that blurs reality’s borders. She loves running her editing service, Pure Text. 4

Duncan Whitmire
Day 17: the surfaces of every wall, floor, and ceiling had been mapped with the detailed cartography of the over-caffeinated and insane. Dreaming of oceans we sat without windows, our ships moored and silent; our eyes, so accustomed to scanning horizons, focused instead on the small figure of a young boy whose mysterious interior eluded us in ways dark continents and hidden river sources never had.

Exploration

Duncan Whitmire lives and writes in South Portland, Maine. His fiction has been published online and in print in such journals as Flashquake, 322 Review, and 34th Parallel. Please visit at www.duncanwhitmire. com to learn more. 5

Heroin(e)

Vincent Wood
It was beautifully sweet, painful, fucked-up love. I knew it was love because I hadn’t fucked her yet, which is what I did to everyone I didn’t fucking like. If I hated you, I fucked you, because I hated myself. I tried to fuck with her head to compensate for the lack of fucking fucking, but she turned that right round on me. The only thing Daddy ever taught me was how to fuck with a woman’s head: “Fuck ‘em in the head before you fuck ‘em in the bed.” Ha-Ha. Sick old man. But this was something else, something far more than a sweet and simple fuck. Mummy always said I wouldn’t find love because I had no soul, but she was wrong because, Mummy dearest, this was love and this went far deeper than the soul; this transcended hearts and souls and gods and demons— this was beautifully sweet, painful, fucked-up love. Not that I could have fucked her anyway; once you’ve crossed the line from user to addict you lose the desire to fuck and, most of the time, the ability as well. I think that’s because once you take up the needle it replaces everything else in your sick, sad little world. You don’t need anything, not substance, not sustenance, not sex. You just need to know where your next hit is coming from. It reminds me so much of sex—but on a whole different scale. There’s the preparation, or the foreplay if you like. Both need all of your attention, a lot of focus, because if you make a mistake you know you’ve ruined it. You kiss a neck or stroke a leg in the right place. I measure out a hit and warm up the hob to the perfect temperature. You say the right words, throw some meaningless compliments their way and watch them melt. I heat up the spoon and watch the golden brown powder melt. You gotta cook it for just the right amount of time; too little and you get lumps that you just can’t get into a syringe—too much and you might as well be injecting fucking tar into your veins. You’ll get no fucking hit whatsoever out of it. It’s this part of the preparation, the seduction, that I’m particularly good at. When it comes to cooking up I should be on fucking Masterchef. “And on tonight’s show we have Nathan Clay preparing the perfect skag hit.” Ha-Ha. After preparation comes protection. You scrabble around for a condom. I pluck the carefully placed needle next to me between my thumb and forefinger. You wrap up not knowing where they’ve been, not knowing who used them before you. I take the bleach and soak my works in them knowing damn well where this needle has been before and who has used it. You don’t want a disease passed through bodily fluids and neither do I. You get them to tantalise and titillate you one last time to make sure the blood is rushing to all the right places. I get a belt and wrap it round just above the elbow and then starting hitting the crook of my arm to make sure the blood is rushing to all the right places. You check one last time that everything is a snug fit because you don’t want any of your little swimmers getting through because you don’t want a baby. I fill the syringe and then squeeze the tiniest bit out just to make sure there’s no air bubbles in there because I don’t want to die. After protection comes the actual act. I locate my spot and, when I’m certain it’s the best one, I penetrate the vein. I draw back the plunger, taking in a little blood, and I watch it mix with the substance in the tube. Finally I push down, plunging in. And then comes the orgasm—except this is far better than any orgasm you’ve ever had because, truth is, you can have a bad shag but I cannot have a bad hit. Take the best fuck you’ve ever had, multiply that by a thousand and you’re still way, way off from what I’m feeling. I let the ooze seep through my veins, filling my whole body from head to toe with an indescribable feeling. It relaxes your whole body, letting any stress or anxiety or anger or any negativity at all evaporate out of you, and makes you feel...cosy. Not warm slippers and a biscuit with tea cosy, but almost... safe. Like when you were a child and something in the world just seemed so wrong that you had to scream and thrash at the perceived injustice of it all, then your mother 6

just seemed so wrong that you had to scream and thrash at the perceived injustice of it all, then your mother comes over and holds you so tight that you can’t move any of your limbs and she doesn’t say a word but just holds you there until all the anger and all the fear is gone, because in your mother’s embrace you know that everything will be fine. So, in effect, heroin has replaced my mother. Ha-Ha. I’d like to say it all changed when she came along, and it did, but not how it should have. I became more twisted, more deluded and was using more often. If skag could kill all other emotions surely it could kill this. I used to think that there was no such thing as love, just hormones and geographical convenience and so I thought if I could fuck up my body enough the feelings would stop. Simply change the chemicals rushing around your body and you change the emotions they produce. It was a science experiment I was only too happy to indulge in. Of course it didn’t work, and by the end of it, I was certifiably crazy. It’s hard to say which did more damage to my already fragile mental state; the copious amounts of shit surging through my body, or her. Most people would probably say it was the drugs, but I’d like to think it was definitely her fault. But then I don’t know what I think because I’m mental. Ha-Ha. She was always there for me, as far as I can remember. Not that I can remember much. My head was as broken and as battered as the rest of my body, everything was just white noise now. I couldn’t sleep because of it, the noise constantly buzzing in my skull. I used to be able to form thoughts and ideas and they would just fly around my head like they would with any other person. I could create images and see things in my own mind, but now it was just noise; fucking white noise. It would start off like an un-tuned television, just that fuzzy sound in the background lingering somewhere at the back of my head, never bothering me but always there. Then I stopped dreaming. The first sign that I was losing my mind. Once you start losing your dreams you know you’re losing your creativity, your ability to have subconscious thought. Then the white-noise started getting louder, no longer just a background noise but a piercing howl echoing through my brain, screaming, screaming, screaming. The only way to stop it was to shoot up, and then I’d be fine for a couple of hours but it would always come back. Louder than before, louder than ever. It must have been around then when she asked me to stay with her. She knew I couldn’t take care of myself. All she asked was that I didn’t bring my habit home with me, which I agreed to because we both knew that once I was out of that door all bets were off. Her sister was not very happy with her bringing me back to their flat since she openly despised me. I didn’t hold this against her because that’s what everyone does. No one sees a human being, they just see a junkie. I was no longer the boy who smiled at dogs just because they always looked happy, no longer the boy who could recite all the lines to the Dirty Harry, no longer the boy who laughed at his own jokes before he had even told the punch line. I was now just an addict; this was how people saw me and they were right - Just an extension of my own addiction. This is how her sister saw me. She’d call me every name under the sun and tell me I was a liar and a waste of space. Sometimes I fought back, showing flashes of my old sense of humour, pointing out that she was a civil servant yet had the nerve to call me scum. Ha-Ha. But more often than not I’d lie there on the sofa and take the abuse because, for the most part, she was right. What really annoyed her, really riled her, was when I woke up in the middle of the night screaming, which I did habitually. Screaming at the screaming going on in my head and she would burst in also screaming, but she would be screaming at me. Screaming for me to leave and never come back, and on several occasions I came close to actually doing so. On one night when I woke up screaming she stormed in with a kitchen knife and threatened to cut my useless junkie throat to which I replied I wish she would in order to put me out of my misery. She said she was serious but I didn’t believe her so, grabbing her wrist, I held the cold steel against my throat and, for a brief second, I imagined it. The blood gushing from my jugular, one giant surge of blood and adrenaline, a bit like one last hit to go out on and all it would take is one little flick from her. Of course though, my beautiful saviour calmed the whole situation down, telling her sister to go back to bed and she would sort everything out. When her sister had retreated from the room she took me by the shoulders and turned me towards her, training her eyes on me like dark gems boring into my soul and shrouding her in mystery, like a riddle that needed to be unravelled. She said nothing to me but wept silently, all the while touching the scars on my arms, letting her tears fall and run down the tracks forever burned into my skin. There we lay on the bed together staring at each other. She was so fragile and dainty that I wanted to wrap her up in my damaged arms and never let her go. There I fell asleep wondering how someone so physically delicate could have a spirit so passionate. There I slept, and, 7

for the first time in my life as an addict, I dreamed, and I dreamt of her. After that night I knew what I had to do. I knew what she wanted me to do. She wanted me to give up, for good. She wanted a real human to love because it’s not easy to love a silhouette of humanity, it’s not easy to love an empty husk that walks and talks like a human but thinks of only one thing and acts only to obtain this one thing, and this person is just one thing. Just a junkie. I’d tried giving up before and knew I couldn’t suffer that again. The sickness, the shivers, the twitches, your skin itching, your bones grinding together, being too tired to sleep and too hungry to eat, just craving one thing and one thing only and you’re prepared to do anything to get it. I wasn’t going to go through that again. I would have tried, for her, but what was the point? I knew I would have failed. I just wasn’t a strong enough person and, sometimes, knowing your own weakness is what makes you strong. At least, that’s how I wanted to be seen. I wouldn’t have been able to cope with the disappointment in her eyes. I could cope with the scars I gave myself, but the hardest scar to bear is one that isn’t yours. I wasn’t ready for that burden. She would see my failure as her failure to save me. This was definitely the best way out. I was saving her from me. So there I was, thinking that this wasn’t how things were supposed to happen. Thinking that the thought of dying at sea had always appealed to me. Being washed gently away, no fuss, no need for a burial, just drifting away being taken by the tide to my final destination. It wasn’t how I was going to die, but I’d be thinking about it while I was dying. I had managed to get my hands on enough heroin to kill a small rhino, so it should be enough to see off a dangerously underweight smack head. Ha-Ha. I wrote her a note—not to explain anything or to justify myself. Truth is I don’t need to justify myself to anyone. People always ask why would I do heroin, and they always seem to be surprised when you say, “because it’s fun,” but that’s the truth. She’d be reading the note now, “I’m sorry I’m such a letdown.” I melt the powder gently. She’d be reading, “I’m sorry I ruined your life,” now. I fill the syringe, no need to bleach this time. She’d be reading, “I’m sorry I could never say sorry,” now. I tighten the belt and tap the crook of my arm. She’d be reading, “I’m sorry I don’t make any sense but the drugs have gone to my head,” now. I take the needle and plunge gently into the raised vein. I’m thinking of dying at sea. I’m drowning. The first wave crashes over me and I am pulled under, but the wave breaks and I force my head up for air. Another wave comes and pushes me down once more but again I struggle to the surface to breath. As I swallow in the air another wave comes and engulfs me but this time it doesn’t break and I don’t return. I drift off slowly, this is how I wanted it to be, drifting off slowly out to sea. She’d be reading, “I’m sorry I never told you I loved you,” now.

Vincent Wood is a graduate in Creative Writing from the University of Greenwich, London. This is his first foray into short story writing outside of education. 8

Perfect Day by Melanie McIntire

9

Reclaimed by Nature by Melanie McIntire

Slow Turtle by Melanie McIntire 10

Monochromatic Flowers by Melanie McIntire Melanie McIntire has owned and operated her own photography business since 2006. She loves being creative and photography has been an outlet for her since she was a child. She enjoy’s the versatility of taking photographs professionally and for personal enjoyment. She stretches her boundaries and does not limit herself to any one genre. In her spare time you can find her painting, sewing, crafting, hiking, or relaxing at home with her husband and friends. She loves action movies and heavy metal, but you will find that she is a mellow and easy going person. You can follow her work at Retrospect Designs.

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Happily Ever After
R M Cowling

Nine months after our best friends’ suicides, their Ellie and her Hello Kitty backpack came to stay. For good. We hadn’t realised, but our life was full of sharp edges, gruesome books, salmonella eggs, TV bombs. “No,” we said all the time. “Don’t.” Her face. We resolved to do better. We blunted scissors; dug out rollerblades; counted ducklings; sang meandering songs about girls who flew to the moon and rode unicorns. For her part, Ellie kept her parents’ picture in a box under the bed. Together we stood at the edge of the hole they’d left, denying it was there, our faces ruddy with courage and a kind of innocent hate.

Born and brought up in northern England, R M Cowling now lives in London, where she reads and writes full-time. She has an MA in Critical Theory, but survived with her love of books intact. Her poetry and prose has appeared in a handful of journals in the UK, and is forthcoming online at The Waterhouse Review. 12

Hall Jameson
The doorbell rang early Sunday morning. “Margaret, can you get that?” my mother yelled from the kitchen. I opened the front door and discovered a basket overflowing with wrapped candies and homemade cookies, tucked below a colorful pinwheel. When I lifted a ring of daisies from the basket, a small, white book tumbled out. “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, by Beatrix Potter,” I read. A giggle drifted from the corner of the house and I gripped the basket protectively, craning my neck. “Hello?” Our neighbor, Mrs. Getchell, dashed toward the apple tree, as much as a woman her size and stature could dash: squat and jolly, the plump cushions of her cheeks hot pink, she wore wire-rimmed glasses that magnified her pale blue eyes. Today, a crown of daisies, like the one in my basket, circled her white curls. I took chase and we ran rings around the apple tree. When I caught her, she pointed to her cheek. “Happy May Day!” she said. “A kiss is the price for a May basket.” Her cheek was warm beneath my lips. “Come over for a treat, dear. They just came out of the oven.” We breakfasted on warm cranberry muffins with butter, fresh strawberries, and orange juice. I read The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin to her in between bites, pausing to examine each illustration. When I finished reading, I spread the contents of my May basket on her kitchen table, and placed the crown of daisies on my head. I blew on the pinwheel, giggling when my daisy crown slid down my forehead and covered my eyes. Dr. Getchell shuffled into the kitchen to fill his coffee. He frowned at me, and left the room without a word. “Dr. Getchell does not like foolishness or carrying-on,” Mrs. Getchell said. “He is such an old grump!” “He looks like the owl in Squirrel Nutkin,” I said, opening my book to show her a drawing of the stern bird. “He does!” We erupted into giggles. Mrs. Getchell washed our breakfast dishes, and I excused myself to use the bathroom. The tank emitted a curious clank when I flushed, so I lifted the cover, and pulled out a flat bottle, half-filled with caramel-colored liquid. I unscrewed the cap and sniffed, recognizing the sweet tang that had surrounded Mrs. Getchell since we first met, two months ago. I returned the bottle to the tank, feeling guilty for looking in her secret places. * * * I rang the bell three times, each time scooting around the corner of the house, but Mrs. Getchell did not come to the door, leaving my May basket unclaimed on her front step. I picked up the basket and went inside. I had spent hours in this house since moving next-door eight years ago, and we had exchanged May baskets every year. I was now fourteen. The house was quiet. “Mrs. Getchell?” There was no answer. The drapes were drawn in the living room, a curious thing, because Mrs. Getchell liked to watch her bird feeders in the morning. I pushed a drape aside, jumping when I heard a groan. Mrs. Getchell slumped on the couch, dark circles under her eyes, the right lens of her wire-rimmed glasses, a starburst. “I didn’t know you were coming over today,” she slurred. “It’s May Day, remember?” I said. “We always exchange baskets on May Day.” “May Day...I’m so sorry, dear. I forgot.” She sighed. “Dr. Getchell is angry with me again.” I retrieved the spare pair of glasses she kept on top of the breadbox in the kitchen. “Why is he mad at you?” I noticed a bottle wedged between her thigh and the arm of the couch. It was nearly empty. 13

May Day

“Because three days ago, I stopped drinking,” she said. “I threw all the bottles in the house away so I wouldn’t be tempted, even the one in the toilet tank.” She fixed me with a long look. “I thought he would be proud of me, but instead, he gave me this.” She tapped the bottle. “He said I would always be a drunk, and I shouldn’t try to be anything else.” She paused, her lips pressed into a thin line. “And I took a drink, then another. He’s right, I am a drunk.” She shook her head and lifted the bottle, but I snatched it and hugged it to my chest. “You’re so much more than that,” I said. I retreated to the kitchen and emptied the bottle. When I returned and placed the May basket in her lap and kissed her cheek, she began to cry. * * * I had not seen Mrs. Getchell for fifteen years, yet she somehow looked the same; the way she used to look when we napped together on her brass bed after making a batch of chocolate chip cookies for the church supper, the tang of rum on her breath replaced by the dark smell of chocolate. Years ago, she had traded the rum for hot tea, and The Owl for a jolly old Irishman named Kevin. I did not go to church anymore, nor did I make chocolate chip cookies, but I did own every book by Beatrix Potter, and every year I left a May basket for my daughter on our front step. I hoped someday she would do the same for her own daughter. Or her neighbor’s daughter. The basket I carried today overflowed with candy, cookies, and trinkets, my beloved copy of The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin tucked into the shredded grass. I placed the gift on top of the casket and kissed her face. Her cheek was cool. I heard murmurs behind me as I draped a string of daisies over Mrs. Getchell’s forehead. I turned and dashed down the aisle, giggling, leaving startled murmurs in my wake. Pushing through the doors of the funeral home, I lifted my face to a sweep of spring rain, the gentle kiss of May on my cheek.

Hall Jameson is a writer and fine art photographer who lives in Helena, Montana. Her writing and artwork has recently appeared, or is forthcoming in, “The Monarch Review,” “Bartleby Snopes: Post-Experimentalism”, “Redivider,” and “Fractured West.” When she’s not writing or taking photographs, Hall enjoys hiking, playing the piano, and cat wrangling. 14

[somehow]
Sean Beld

“Because she fell asleep first, she doesn’t know what the other two did. Possibly they fell asleep on the tracks. Anything’s possible. Sometimes young people do foolish things. What they were doing, we may never know.” -Sheriff’s Spokesman
300 feet north a pair of aqua-blue sneakers and some clothing, closer, out of focus, two blue tents perched on the rails, the girl and the boy not visible, the tents just big enough to hang your head in. Imagine knowing what those figures were, seeing one leap away at the the last second. Imagine leaping away at the last second. These things demand attention, cry out for you, for your eyes, like aquablue sneakers, somehow finding each other a football-field away.

Sean Beld is currently studying in the MFA program at Oregon State University. He previously studied creative writing with Gary Young at UC Santa Cruz.

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Watching the Clock

Joseph Lisowski

Light fails under the weight of dead leaves falling brown against gray sky, sorrow This silence of a sixth decade of grace like rosary beads over thumbed prayers mumbled, slurred, skipped, then unremembered.

Joseph Lisowski: From 1986 to 1996, Joseph Lisowski was Professor of English at the University of the Virgin Islands. St. Thomas serves as the setting for three of his detective fiction novels Looking for Lisa, Full Body Rub, and Looking for Lauren. He is now teaching at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina and directing The Center for Teaching Excellence there. 16

Michael Constantine McConnell
In your arms, gravity turned off, a storm that burned so quickly it left fingerprint stains on the wind, furious passion between lift and fall reflecting the entire else. Your hair whispered about a slightly older man, about holding the red barns you painted on the wall closer to his heart than blood, then warned to leave breadcrumbs in the hallway to guide us back. When you stepped naked into my mouth like a scaled, eight-breasted Gomorrah, flayed for the crime of being too pretty, a million glowing bird eyes circumcised the mute darkness with crude tools. You granted me a wish to succeed, whiskey to salve the enormity of parting, the wordlessness of a forgotten name in a vertigo of syllables, delirium trapped in a porcelain egg. Tomorrow will be day one. Again. The bug-bitten sunrise and stiff pronouns will dig snow angels against our mattress.

The Clanks

Michael Constantine McConnell poems, palindromes, and short stories have been published or are forthcoming in such magazines and anthologies as Father Grimm's Storybook and Electric Velocipede. His personal essay, "Alleys," from the anthology Solace in So Many Words, has been nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize. A semi-retired furniture mover and former Experimental Word Forms Editor for Farrago’s Wainscot, he currently teach various levels of college writing and sing in raucous Scots/Irish bands after sundown.

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The best way to live the quiet life of the home[1]
Teresa Schartel
Cherry Hill, Mercer Street. 2 a.m., Mom woke me, wanted me to come downstairs to meet Dad’s new girlfriend. Sue leaned against the radiator in our kitchen, to her left slouched her daughter. Dad decided to wait outside on the front porch. Four women stood around in the kitchen, we had what felt like “girl talk,” but it was girl talk about Dad. “You had no idea he was married?” Mom pieced it together then, he hadn’t brought Sue as a way of being honest, she came to meet the woman she thought her man was sleeping with. “Can we talk outside for a minute?” Dad called to me. We sat on concrete stairs, while he told me that he didn’t know what to do, he got himself into a mess, “I really love your mom, it’s just that we had you when we were so young.” We sat in silence for a few minutes. It was midsummer. Sweating, I tried to blow a tuft of hair from my forehead. The smell of fresh cut grass and rain crept through the air. Lying in bed, I could hear Sue’s car engine, the house had fallen silent. I wondered if Dad had left with her. I listened for a while. Listened for conversation, cabinets opening, shutting. Listened for yelling, the slightest rasp. I heard nothing, but a dog’s yelping, the gentle glide of my parent’s bedroom door shutting, a single drop into their bed. [1] From I Have No Clue by Jack Wiler. Teresa Schartel earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Elimae,Wheelhouse Magazine, The Monongahela Review, and Cuento Magazine. She resides in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Terrestrial Illumination, No 86
Duane Locke
No one, no one can balance on a frosted-glass table top their entire body on one extended finger, but a person did. It required pain, boredom, required many hours a day, many years to learn how to balance one’s body on one finger. Now the balancing is done wearing a tight white body suit, with silver chips that sparkle from ankles to hips. As the contortionist looks out from his upside-down position on an audience, he does not see people, but sees a forest, a forest of discolored trees, trees colored the wrong color. The contortionist is sad, feels himself a weakling. No matter how long he can balance his whole body on one finger, he cannot restore this discolored forest to its natural color, green.

19

Duane Locke lives in Tampa, Florida near anhinga, gallinules, raccoons, alligators, etc. He has published 6,640 poems, includes 29 books of poems. His latest book publication, April 2012, is Duane Locke: The First Decade (1968-1978) Bitter Oleander Press. This book is a republication of his first eleven books.

Driving into the Fog by Christopher Woods

Christopher Woods is a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Texas. His books include a prose collection, Under a Riverbed Sky, and a book of stage monologues for actors, Heart Speak. His photo essays have appeared in Public Republic, Glasgow Review, Deep South and Narrative Magazine. 20

Sudden Eclipse
Ben Nardolilli
The world is struggling to label this thing, a stay in bed, allow it to be called nothing more than a dream, a fantasy, but the world shuffles and digs through every stamp, die, and tool to find the sign this thing will wear as its pet. I can name what goes into my breakfast, but I just prefer the immediate touch and taste that these commodity bodies make while I let the sun shine through, no matter how long the meal needs to cook, all I need is a clean napkin for the ashes.

Ben Nardolilli currently lives in Arlington, Virginia. His work has appeared in Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, One Ghana One Voice, Caper Literary Journal, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, fwriction, THEMA, Pear Noir, The Minetta Review, and Yes Poetry. His chapbook Common Symptoms of an Enduring Chill Explained, has been published by Folded Word Press. He maintains a blog atmirrorsponge.blogspot.com and is looking to publish his first novel. 21

Some Lines for Narcissus
Askold Skalsky
The insolence was terrific. To have sent that knife, cool jeweled haft and blade of finest Delian bronze on which you almost saw your reflection. Who would have thought the kid would use it? The longer it stands, the old seer told him, the more dangerous it is. I suspect a woman, maybe one of the Muses, slipped him her serene face, gave him a new regard for images. Roil it with the fingers. Drink it. Even that hellish boat with the reeking ferry-slave glaring at another batch of desperate shadows couldn’t keep his eyes away from the sooty surface of the Styx. I have been a snake. I know myself.

Originally from Ukraine, Askold Skalsky has appeared in over 300 numerous small press magazines and online journals, most recently in Permafrost, Stoneboat, and Tulane Review. He has also published in Canada, England, Ireland, and mainland Europe, and has been the recipient of two Individual Artist Awards for poetry from the Maryland State Arts Council. His first book of poems, The Ponies of Chuang Tzu (Horizon Tracts), was published last year. 22

Antonio Vallone
I’ve always loved the word skirt— and everything inside it— its snake-like hiss before the strike, curt hidden within it and the echoing of hurt, its mammalian grrr of girl at its heart, and the finality of that t— as if someone spit on the ground at your feet, drawing a ragged line in the dirt like a hem fringed, unraveling, daring you to cross it, prepared to snap at any moment like a white thread after the knot pulled tight by the seamstress’s scissorsharp teeth.

Skirt

Antonio Vallone, associate professor of English at Penn State DuBois, is also publisher of MAMMOTH books and poetry editor of Pennsylvania English. His collections include Golden Carp, The Blackbird’s Applause, Grass Saxophones, and Chinese Bats. Forthcoming are American Zen and Blackberry Alleys: Collected Poems. He can be reached at avallone@psu.edu . 23

Shot in Brooklyn
Peycho Kanev
The sun goes up. They sit on the rusty fire escapes and smoke reefers. Laundry and sighs on the wires, hung there like shot birds. Everywhere is nowhere right here. The sun goes down. Their black faces are looking up as the smoke is clearing over Manhattan. 40oz. of freedom is all they can afford. And the night rolls up her dirty sleeves singing silly songs of success.

Peycho Kanev is the Editor-In-Chief of Kanev Books. His poems have appeared in more than 600 literary magazines, such as: Poetry Quarterly, Evergreen Review, Hawaii Review, The Monarch Review, The Coachella Review, Black Market Review, The Cleveland Review and many others. Peycho Kanev has won several European awards for his poetry and he is nominated for the Pushcart Award and Best of the Net. His poetry collection Bone Silence was released in September 2010 by Desperanto Publishing Group. A new collection of his poetry, titled Requiem for One Night, will be published by Desperanto Publishing Group in 2012. 24

Picking Over
Barbara Brooks
On the dead oak, a committee of black vultures roost, wings outstretched as if in prayer. They wait for sun to dry night’s dew, then kettle on thermals to scavenge. When they find a deer carcass, the wake begins. A dog has already opened the belly and taken the choice parts. I can’t wear any of her clothes except the one sweater that she didn’t knit. We took the rest to Goodwill. My brother took the monogrammed Polar Tec throw I gave her; she always told me how it kept her warm. She wanted me to have the ivory dogwood bracelet with gold in the center even though she knew I didn’t wear jewelry.

The wake continues, twenty or thirty jostle. A few scraps, skin and bone remain, the crows will clean the bones, dogs will carry them into the woods. Long ago, she had given me her porringer, a game of pick-up-sticks, her mother’s Limoge china. Not much left at the house now, flour and sugar canisters, old measuring cups and spoons from long before they made ones for wet and dry.

The full moon glints on rib bones while I sleep on the moonlit mattress.

Barbara Brooks, author of “The Catbird Sang” chapbook, is a member of Poet Fools. She has had work accepted in The Oklahoma Review, Blue lake Review, Granny Smith Magazine,Third Wednesday, Indigo Mosaic, Shadow Road Quarterly and on line at Southern Women’s Review, Poetry Quarterly among others. She is a retired physical therapist and lives in Hillsborough, N.C. 25

Mixed Media
Mark J. Mitchell
These streets run like a kinescope that’s been scratched and exposed again. When we were here before the sun was a different color and the sky was smaller. Our imagined legend Was enough to feed us both. On this bright day The streets are cross-hatch marks Etched in acid On my copper grief.

Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last thirty five years, as well as the anthologies Good Poems, American Places,Hunger Enough, and Line Drives. His chapbook, Three Visitors will be published by Negative Capability Press later this year and his novels, The Magic War and Knight Prisoner will be published in the coming months. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the documentarian and filmmaker Joan Juster. Currently he's seeking gainful employment since poets are born and not paid. 26

Midnight, Midsummer
Anne Britting Oleson
Like tiny ghosts, honeysuckle blossoms hang pale in new-moon dark and I, restless, sleepless, glide across the grass, barefoot, diaphanous, haunted by the heady fragrance, the heavy air.

Anne Britting Oleson has been published widely in the US, UK and Canada. Her two poetry chapbooks, The Church of St. Materiana and The Beauty of It, came out in 2007 and 2010, respectively. Another book, Counting the Days, is scheduled for release in November 2012. You can find her blog at, http://anneboleson.wordpress.com. 27

March 19, 1983. It’s a Girl.
Teresa Schartel
Written in her first cry is the hand burned by an iron, flesh bubbled where the dimples singed, the scar under her left eyebrow where the car key sliced as she fell downstairs while holding them, the realization that she and her mother have freckles in the same places: an inch above the right knee, center of left wrist, between breasts, and knowing that having the same shaped hands as her father means that rose-petal knuckles pale as her fists clench in frustration or fear, her body bruised by softballs, corners of coffee tables, Pottsville and Pittsburgh ice, New Brunswick sunburn. In that waking cry, she is telling that skin is a kind of home,[1] where every pore and wrinkle holds a secret, that when smoothed back reveals all that we can bear. [1] From Writing Toward Home by Georgia Heard. Teresa Schartel earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Elimae,Wheelhouse Magazine, The Monongahela Review, and Cuento Magazine. She resides in Pittsburgh, PA. 28

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul Turkey by Stephen Pohl

The Gershwin Hotel in NYC by Stephen Pohl 29

The Francis Scott Key Bridge and Baltimore Harbor at Dawn by Stephen Pohl

Stephen Pohl writes from Baltimore, where he has worked as a Baltimore police officer, insurance claims adjuster and background investigator. He holds a degree in Theater Arts from Towson University. His articles, essays, poetry and stories have appeared in regional and national publications and online, including The Chronicle of the Horse, The National Catholic Reporter, The Business Monthly, U. S. Catholic, Urbanite, Crime and Suspense and The Right Eyed Deer. He has upcoming poems in Bete Noire magazine and the anthology Trust and Treachery. 30

Lobsters and Hipsters
Dan Hedges
Some male birds sing doggedly to claim territory. Lobsters monger power pinch by pinch. Literary control mongers select ‘works’ from pools of hipsters who compete by being cool, cooler, or coolest. At one point in the continuum, Macramé skills were the ‘twin of aces’, in the arena of competitive zeitgeist.

Dan Hedges teaches English in the Sir Wilfred Laurier School Board of Quebec. He has also taught at Sedbergh School, and the Celtic International School. He has lived in international locales, including Spain and Mexico. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Monarch Review: Seattle’s Literary and Arts Magazine, Ditch Poetry, The Maynard, The Camel Saloon, Wildflower Magazine, Rigormortus, and many others. Dan is the editor of a literary collective called Humanimalz. 31

Dear Tomorrow
Pat Smith

Dear Tomorrow, I am thinking of you and join in the hope of your full recovery. Here at the Halfway House Motor Court we are beset by overlapping structural problems. Our gang has plans to machine gun the Bankers Trust, or maybe we skip the bullets and just do the ether. Though the game may be table tennis I say move the table and let’s get down for they also serve who stand and wait with a red plastic shampoo bottle for a paddle. I vacuum and vacuum the gritty corners, though the dust is really us, on the slow march back from Whateverland, where the mothership has long sailed leaving us the Pleasures of the Harbor Tattoo and Tanning Brew Pub, and a faint whiff of liberation that comes with learning that if nobody cares what one thinks one can think whatever one likes.

Pat Smith’s play Driving Around the House has been produced in theaters around the U.S. and is published by New Rivers Press. Recent work has appeared in Psychic Meatloaf and Haggard and Halloo. He curates a Brooklyn Reading Works poetry program at Brooklyn’s Old Stone House in the fall.

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Ethan Grant
Sometimes it takes a change in perspective for us to consider scales of distance anew, to see stars above not as ensigns or tales, but luminescent dust hung about the heavens like motes stirred from curtains some August afternoon. It’s true these parallactic pictures live only through us, inspired by our senses, our cares; yet even in this enlightened age we still peer up on cloudless nights to trace the lofted points of universal patterns rising on the pastures and frost-strewn fields. From there we draw comfort, and there I find in Gemini the shape of two unabashed lovers stretched supine upon a black bedspread of sky, knowing that somewhere, beyond these measured hours of earth, she sleeps—that soon she too may rise and stare up at this same starry pair, alone with her own secret, skyward thoughts. And so I feel love: love for her, for the night, and perhaps it is love which drives us to maintain our gaze on these glistening planes of collective kinship above earthbound mankind, to know that while the mortal creature sleeps, our twin lovers embrace on their bed of blue darkness, heedless to time; and stars may die a thousand, ten thousand years before their light ever fades from the face of our sky.

Gemini

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Indian Summer
Ethan Grant
Autumn, I do not sigh, and not for you, though you’ve ushered sighs from some, not for you do I sigh, not here, and not tonight. Enough are the sounds from the field where the children play by firelight, where they and the crickets chatter away, and they do not sigh, autumn, nor do they spare one thought to the silence you’ve brought to the fields and the yards, to the shocks of corn which wither and dry, and without a sigh for the wind, though it plucks at them so. They have stood over-long in the standing rain, and they are still, they are still to the storm and the gray. Give to the fence-posts their portion, to the stiles their pay, we cross them the same, we cross them each day into day into day and call ourselves keepers of the call and reply, though we sing of summer and autumn the same, we have stood over-long in the standing rain, we have stood, and wept, and have suffered to sigh. Autumn, the children play in the fields tonight, they run through the shadows of planets and stars, they dance in the lanterns in the dim waning light, and they are the singers of the song on this night. Though your wind is steeped in ghosts and rain and the ring of the moon sinks broken and white, do not, sad autumn, come to cherish this cold— I’ve seen fire in the fields and the sky tonight.

Ethan Grant is currently an in-transition graduate of Valparaiso University. He has previously published works in Bowling Green's undergraduate literary journal, Prairie Margins, as well as Valparaiso's home journal, The Ligher. He was also the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Award in 2011 and 2012. The notion of cycles, of liturgy, often preoccupies both his mind and his writing. 34

Being the Other Woman
Jennifer Donnell
The next time you decide not to love her for a year, a day, or an afternoon in the heat of summer— when you find the sweat prickles your brow, my image burnt into your mind— then hide your heart under a rock atop the tallest mountain, across the most deserted plain. Sketch my image with the tip of your pinky where it will harden into the wet clay and she won’t find it. Don’t stare at your toes wishing they were my eyes. When you look into hers, do you sometimes wonder, “what if”? The wind through my open bedroom window howls. It tries to forget you like the night sky forgets it was blue— it turns as black as ash, as dark as the things we’ve had to wash away. Down the drain, the others, before me, washed off easily, it’s only a matter of time, you tell yourself, year after year. You scrub the back of your elbows. Your feet submerge into the bubbles. You imagine me handing you a towel— I’m naked and you reach for me, my mouth finds yours but your eyes open to the silence. You begin again. You wash yourself until the bubbles shape into the small of my back, you long to pull me tight against you. Your hand swims against your body like a fish, it accelerates the bathwater into a wave. Every lover is their own song but you can only hum mine into the night. I see a shooting star and make a wish. I listen to the crickets play your blues song.

When Jennifer Donnell was small, she read Harriet the Spy six times and decided she was a writer. She also realized that, if Harriet was right, writing was a dangerous job. In addition to being published in an assortment of journals and anthologies, Jennifer’s recent/upcoming work appears in The Scrambler, Bohemia Journal, Tin Foil Dresses, Marco Polo, Borderline, "Slut", and A Few Lines Magazine. Her first full length collection of poetry is set for release in 2012 through New Sins Press. 35

A Drab and Wretched Afternoon
Ray Scanlon
Some days just can’t be bothered to deal me an idyl with my grandchildren. On the other hand, seldom can I chalk up a day as a total loss. Today is cool, grey, and drizzly. It dovetails seamlessly with my mood: a good start. I expect only what the world owes me—you know what that is—so I’m primed to be pleasantly surprised by small things. At my doctor’s office a receptionist asks a milling group of patients, “Are youse taken care of?” My standards are slipping. Once I would have reacted with teeth-gnashing, prodigious oaths, and blazing prescriptivist indignation, and I devoutly hope I may regain that high ground. Though “youse” still sounds outlandish, and at first blush, ignorant, I find I appreciate its logic. Until I regain my senses, I take comfort in guessing there’s a high probability that she would spell it with an apostrophe e-s-s. In the exam room I warn a nurse of no little experience and wisdom, that others have a hard time taking my blood pressure (and later, I’ll revel in the opportunity to indulge in litotes). She tells me, “Palpate first, then put the stethoscope under the cuff, so you don’t have to touch it, and all the tubing is hanging free and untouched,” even as she does so. This reduces ambient noise and often makes a positive reading possible. The price of this nugget of knowledge is that I am having my annual Urological Procedure of Unusual Loathsomeness. My urologist has an unbreakable deadpan, and God knows I’ve tried. That is disconcerting enough—really, if I can’t joke with someone, do I allow him to stick his finger...? Also, he wears a white shirt, rolls its sleeves up to high forearm, and tucks his necktie into one of its inter-button gaps. It’s unfortunate that this reminds me of my grandfather, standing at his lathe in the jewelry factory, except—also disturbing—Gramp wore a bow tie. Though a legitimate retro look, as a doctor’s getup there’s something just not right about it. The rolled-up sleeves cry out for a shop apron and imply an unseemly gusto. They’re just too much, since my prostate has no dangerous moving parts that could cause a horrific industrial accident involving unsecured clothing. On my way out I hear a nurse ask a gentleman, “How are you?” The geezer replies, “Better than nothing.” It strikes me that I know only one other person who answers thus. Perhaps it’s a New England thing, a phrase of men of a certain age and of a cynical and fatalistic disposition. It may just be a failure of imagination, but I can’t for the life of me picture a woman saying this. I have the attitude, but until I’m old enough, I’ll content myself with my usual answer to the question: “None of your *@#% business.”

Ray Scanlon. Massachusetts boy. Has grandchildren. Extraordinarily lucky. No MFA. No novel. No extrovert. His work has been published in more than one place. On the web: http://oldmanscanlon.com/ 36

Blood Magic
Natalie Vestin
The vinyl is 51 Australian dollars. I have never bought anything from eBay. I know I have to buy this record for my mother just to watch her face when she opens the gift. She will stare for a moment at the man who saved her life when they were both in their twenties. * * * A cousin is some strange sort of magic. Connected by blood, yet neither brother nor sister. A bonded creature who shows up frequently in your young life to play, to create whole worlds, as your parents nurse coffee upstairs. Someone whose childhood is different from yours, but known as if you inhabit each other’s worlds in slices of your selves that come together and drift apart, tracked and compared from year to year. Like your siblings, both you and not you at all. But here is the magic in the unknown of this powerfully known child. A cousin is what might have been, a trajectory matched with yours, but always slowly diverging. A mirror image, half in shadow, pieces missing. What mystery in this being you’ve known since infancy, a promise that this life will always be wound with yours, only because it has always been so. * * * My mother doesn’t talk about her family. It’s as if they are each too heavy to hold, made of cast-iron, as if talking about their shared vein of mental illness will mar how beautifully they blazed. My mother is the same. She is, unawares, a balance between depressive agony and joy that seeps from holes poked into that daily suffering. When she laughs, she seems surprised, her laughter a startling foreign body. When she laughs, she often cannot stop. * * * Will’s album cover photo shows him slouching on long legs. It was 1969. His pants are green-checkered, tight then flared, ridiculous and stunning. At first glance, he is wearing a normal button-down brown shirt, but a closer look reveals flared wrists and a long collar like a lizard’s fringe. He looks like my mother. It’s the hair, I think. Dark, wavy and coarse, way too much hair for such a skinny man. He’s recognizable as one of us instantly – wiry curls, deep valleys in his otherwise youthful face, eyes set so deeply they’re only visible as dark holes, and a wide, crooked nose. * * * My mother grew up in a small house in which her parents continue to live. One level, mint-green siding, a low red roof. Green and red, absurd on a road lined with wooden houses, a road that stopped when it turned to a wide field. When I was a child, my cousins and I played in the basement of this house. It was unfinished, concrete and metal, and my mother’s toys and books had been preserved in cardboard boxes. My grandfather’s work bench, where he tanned his furs and hung his button-downs from the oil refinery, was off-limits. A curious man’s world of animal traps and work for pay. We dragged my mother’s toys out of storage and brought them upstairs on afternoons spent with our grandparents. I wonder what my mother thought, watching us dance her spindly-limbed cow across the carpet, hurtling the red and yellow fire engine into the rockers of chairs. How funny and sad, to watch your lovely toys mocked for their heavy mid-century paint jobs, usurped by a younger version of yourself. In the basement, metal poles supported the ceiling. When no one was around, I pressed my nose to them and let the metal tang wrap around my tongue into the nerves of my jaw. They held the smells of the house: steel peeling with rust, a small constant natural gas leak, blueberry pie, cranberry juice, mildewed fabric and paper, polyester. They smelled like the 50s. I pretended to be my mother with the smell of this basement metal filling my face. My cousins and I wrapped hands around these poles and swung ourselves around as quickly as we could, letting the force of our extended arms bear our bodies’ momentum. I spun with closed eyes, being my mother playing in this basement, my child mother, my teenage mother, free of pain, nothing but her cow and her fire 37

engine, later her tool boxes full of oil paints. She came downstairs once, for a cigarette, as I was spinning. “I used to do that,” she said, sounding surprised. I thought she’d yell, mention my recent tendency to forget safety and open my forehead in falls. But she smiled and giggled as she lit her cigarette. “It’s fun, isn’t it?” * * * The only sure things I know about my mother as a child or teen are things I imagined spinning around basement poles, breathing in the air she used to breathe. I know there were hospitals, bloodied wrists, electroshock treatments in the 60s. The cause, the reason, the head of the screw from which everything later spun down, these details I can’t know. But always, there was art. Artists in a family are something apart, gifted and unpredictable. Will chose music, psychedelic folk and bluegrass. My mother chose paint, a dark mixture of siennas, russets, umbers, turpentine, and linseed to reconstruct her dusty town, the faces of her family, and men from the reservation with dark faces like hers. She related to Will through their mutual dedication to art, the idea that they could remake a world each was struggling to understand. * * * My mother and Will barely knew each other. Some relationships can only be explained by magic. Families know this, as much as they conceal it by saying that family can’t be chosen, that family sticks with you forever. Sometimes, in the middle of all that choosing and sticking is magic. The magic of blood that knows itself, connects to something it remembers without memory. Knowledge without thought or instinct. Not a connection, but a pulling. * * * It is a dusty day in northern Minnesota. The town looks the same as it does now, a long highway leading to the rural hospital at the top of the hill, the bridge over the St. Louis river, the gas station on one side, the diner on the other. My mother is several years out of high school. She sits in the front seat of a pickup truck parked on the shoulder of the highway. Her blood is soaking the seat, her blood mixed with that of some ghost of a sister. Her husband has forgotten to buy gas. He was not planning for the miscarriage, and he walks up the highway to the station with a plastic can in his hand. Four-wheelers dart out of the woods onto the road; they don’t care about the law. It is 1975, and no one cares about the law in this small town, and there is a woman bleeding in a truck on the highway, and she will be my mother. A man knocks on her window and asks if she needs help. He took her to the hospital, stopping to pick up her husband wandering the highway with a gas can. She was not the type to leave a man wandering the highway. This is how she knows him, through legend and blood. The musician, the cousin, so much like herself, but an absence in her life until the day she needed him to rap on her window. She knew him enough to recognize him, to understand that family had appeared to help. What did she think about why he was there, two hours north of his home on that highway where a car holding his bleeding cousin had stalled? She probably thought very little of it. My mother believes in blood magic, believes in the deep, unusual vein of it that runs through her family. * * * My belief in magic is less secure, but this record cover might convince me. My face is my mother’s, prominent features and bones, dark bouncing off light. Will’s face jumps out as belonging to me, even when it is tilted toward his guitar as it is in many concert photos. It is my face in the past. How odd, to find a photo of a man you never knew and claim him as family, as certainly yours. How odd, to want ownership of your blood and a link to your mother’s past, to realize it had somehow gone missing and could only be found in a man long dead. * * * The person my mother was in her twenties is lost. Perhaps this happens to everyone, and the hospitals, the medicines that tamp down fear with sleep, the onward onward onward progression of the mind’s disease, are nothing to do with it. 38

In her twenties, she lived on a farm in Iowa and dug her bare feet into the dirt and watched lightning roll like an unspun ball of yarn across the sky. As the black clouds moved closer, she would have ignored the sirens and laughed at the wind beginning to move in two directions at once. In her twenties, she worked jobs at a mink farm and a dental office, and she ate microwaveable pot pies from the co-op for dinner. She went to parties and listened to music, only the hard stuff, no pop, no hippie shit. She anchored herself to her family, her small town, a life she was building from years through which she had struggled, dragged her own self out of a bad way. She lived in a parentheses between dark times. In ten years, there would be more sadness, more cutting, more breaking, more screaming, more fear. But in her twenties, a dormancy, an ignorant and confused world where some happy thing was possible. * * * Here is the thing with blood magic: it never quits. Once a line is drawn, it stays taut as long as the blood is passed down. And, one day, you may find yourself paying $50 for a rare vinyl owned by a woman in Australia so you can stare into the cardboard face of a man you never knew, his face your face. You will wrap him up in tissue and a bow, and re-tie him, with all those lost young years, to your mother.

39

Natalie Vestin is a writer and health researcher from Saint Paul, Minnesota. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Alligator Juniper, Chautauqua Literary Journal, Sonora Review, Identity Theory, and the anthology Open to Interpretation: Water's Edge. She was a 2010-2011 Loft Literary Center Mentor Series winner in creative nonfiction.

They Never Tell You

Molly Bonovsky Anderson

We needed a garbage barrel to get up on the roof. I’d had it in my head, the whole drive over in his Datsun, that there’d be green metal garbage barrels just hanging out everywhere, and we’d be able to roll one over, the two of us strong, tan teenagers—our constant smoking of Kamel Reds too new to burn our lungs and make us wheezy—but there were none and I needed a boost. I had dog-shit on the bottom of my Docs and it smeared into his palms. He would smell dog-shit all night and think of me and my lithe calf in striped tights, hoisting me onto the abortion clinic roof, and it would be poetry. I put my boot in his linked palms and he said, “Alley Oop” and I was up there. Then he came and didn’t even struggle. A boy. That’s what they do. Climb up on things. If they pull a groin muscle and ache for days after they never tell you. The city looks like a whirlpool up here. It’ll suck you in and drown you and you’ll never leave. That’s good. That’s what we want. Because we wander around smoking and wishing ourselves elsewhere and calling each other with nothing to say on the telephone. We breathe in each other’s receivers and call that conversation. We’re lost. Up here we see it’s home and we can’t do a thing about it. I dangle my legs over the edge. The first police car rolls by slowly. We’re not afraid. I’m ready to stay up all night. I will tell my boss I’m sick in the morning. “Would you ever do it?” he asks. He means under our feet. The clinic. I tell him I would, but not his. Unless I had to. It depends. He blows out smoke in a way that says, “How romantic.” I might be imagining it. He spits tobacco off his lips. He is all bone and sinew and could run for miles. This is how we are. I make the barrel of a gun with my fingers and point it at his temple, pressed into his curly black hair. “Go ahead,” he says. “It’s pretty up here. Kill me now.” The streets run down alongside us diagonally and we fall forward into the night. Some kids are calling each other cocksuckers on the corner and everything is perfect. I slide the barrel up a sideburn and say, “click.” Not loaded. I squint in the dim and look closer. His temple is gray. There are no curls. He turns to me in the dark. The moon-yellow streetlight illuminates his jaw. His beard is gray. I put my hand on my thigh. My eyes travel down my leg. I’m wearing loafers. Khakis. My dress clothes. A blouse. What the fuck? He grabs my hand. Our rings clink together. My pants are tight. A Dockers button brands a pink whorl into my belly. There’s nothing inside. “We’ll keep trying,” he says. What are you talking about? I’m young. I’m in a Pearl Jam T-shirt and a flannel. In Doc Martens and barrettes. I have—this many years. I count on my fingers—look at my hands. They are my mother’s, and white. He looks at his hands. They are clean and he’s cut his nails. They smell of dish-soap. I remember we must get home and feed the dog. We have to work in the morning. I have a meeting. We couldn’t get on the roof. He couldn’t hoist me and he grunted when he tried. We are heavy and afraid. The cops will see us. It’s cold outside. I don’t smoke. My breath makes white clouds. We sigh and turn around. I shuffle towards the clinic door, put my palm on the glass. “I would never,” I say. 40

Never now. “It’s alright,” he says. He takes my hand and we walk back to the parking lot. We unlock our Honda and I try not to look at the empty booster seat. The kids on the corner yell something at us, but I can’t understand what they’re saying.

Molly Bonovsky Anderson is from central Minnesota. She studied Philosophy and Art History at Northern Michgian University. Her work has appeared in Passages North, Flashquake, FortyOunceBachelors and other publications. She currently resides in Marquette Michigan where she walks around town taking photographs of interesting lawn ornaments.

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The Conversation of Angels
Arturo Desimone
I was unstoppable in my truck. My heart was a cylinder and turbine engine; petrol and caffeine and amphetamines ran through my blood. I would have liked to run over people. I wanted to. I had run over dogs and cats and crates. My truck trampled them like a bull trampling over a slow Spaniard in the running of the bulls. Not that I would last in the running of the bulls. I’m too fat. I remembered my father and one of the fights I had with him. I ducked from his punch and his fist broke through the door. Boy would I like to run him over. I sped my truck across an old industrial landscape in the Ukrainian countryside, this stretch now reduced to a goddamned wasteland. The factories ate up all nature here. Miles and miles of black dust and ghostly abandoned factories with little cracked dust-darkened windows. I had a hole drilled through the partition of my truck into the cargo compartment. When I was parked or stuck in traffic I could look through the hole and see the whores or whores-to-be that I often smuggled. Sometimes I would masturbate. Often they were nice-looking with torpedo-tits and thick lips. Hungarian harlots, Rumanian whores, and of course, my favorite, the Russian ladies of the White Night. (I call them Ladies of the White Night because of the White Night in St. Petersburg during the summer. Isn’t that clever?) But today I wasn’t transporting tarts, instead just a bunch of stinking Rumanian immigrants. I tried not to think of the chore of emptying the bucket and hosing off the cargo-hold. I looked through the hole and saw thick-browed Rumanians, one of them an older man with a fuzzy broom-like mustache and an accordion hanging from his neck. There was a gypsy woman who made me think of soothsayers—not because she looked like gypsies in the old movies, she just looked like a middle-aged brown woman, sweating and scared shitless like every other immigrant I ever hauled. There was also a gypsy boy, with amber eyes. He spat in the bucket. I don’t know why but he got my attention. I could easily imagine the little bastard with a switchblade in his hand. Something dangerous slithered like a garden snake under his young surface. While staring at him I felt a little shooting star pass through my testicles. I rolled a cigarette with one hand, while with my other hand I dipped a key into a baggie of speed on my right knee and snorted the speed off the key while I drove with my left knee. An hour after crossing borders I met the Croats with their vans. The whispering wind blew through and in some places parted the tall grass, making the field resemble a roiling nocturnal sea. “Bok,” I said. “Bok,” they answered. I unloaded the trash and indicated to the Croats where I had hid the pack of Russian acid papers. They looked like stamps; they depicted a cartoon man on a bicycle flying through space. I prefer smuggling psychedelics, which are only attractive to smelly, lazy, pathetic hippies (we get a lot of those in Amsterdam)—if I smuggled the good stuff, the speed and Russian coke, I might be tempted to dip into it myself, which would mean lousy business prospects. One of the Croats, a bald ape (whom I called Ape-face) ripped the old Rumanian’s accordion from his stubby little hands and smote it onto the ground. Ape-face stamped on the accordion with his steel-toed work-booted foot, making a foot-sized hole in it. I chuckled. The Rumanian folded his hands without raising his head. The Croats herded the immigrants into their vans, paid me, shook my hand—which I then wiped off on my jeans—and it was done. A few nights later I was in Amsterdam and my mother, Renske Kiegote, was taking me to bible study. I didn’t want to go to church on my off-day. I wanted to stay home and read Stephen King. He should win the Nobel Prize, or be president of America, because he’s a genius, a great man. I remember this movie called “Trucks”—I don’t know if he wrote it or if it was based on one of his books—about trucks that have a mind of their own and terrorize a town of American rednecks. A masterpiece. But no, I have to go to that stinking congregation with the moaning retards and the wheelchair-vegetables and the old ladies. Who the hell ever heard 42

of Dutch people being religious? I have three words for my mother: absolutely fucking insane. She was a messianic Jew for a year, even though she didn’t have a single drop of Jewish blood in the family. She was a Jehovah’s Witness too for some time, always talking about how Satan is the ruler of the world (I think Stephen King should be the ruler of the world) and how the Roman Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon. (I know the Whore of Babylon, this Thai whore I poked in Amsterdam. “You ouch me,” she said. For forty euros I damn well better ouch you, you saucy kutwijf.) She was even New Age for a while, Feng-Shui’ing everything she could get her hands on, doing yoga with these damn crystals and making me hold them to feel their energy—all I could really do was look at them and imagine they were cocaine-hydrochloride crystal. Talking about angels; hugging me and telling me I was a caterpillar who would one day metamorphose into a beautiful butterfly—and the stink of that incense. I wore a tie with little carrots on it and walked with my mother along the canal. I hadn’t slept for forty hours but that was OK because the speed was keeping me up. With her permed, puffed-up red-dyed hair and her long, thin pasty white body and long dress she resembled a toadstool. I decided to walk because I had just sniffed so I had a walking kick and besides my mother claimed her bone problems made it difficult to climb into my truck. I observed the patterns of the cobblestone and enjoyed tracing them with my eyes—I liked doing that after sniffing—as my mother yakked away about God. We took a tram at De Pijp and got off at the Rokin. We wormed through crowds of young stoned tourists smelling of diverse breeds of marijuana, entered a side street and got into the church. The retards, the vegetables, and the old ladies were there as usual. My mother took out her white-jacketed bible from her handbag and we shared it the way schoolchildren do when one of them has forgotten his textbook. “Today we are going to discuss the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah,” the discussion-leader said. His eyes were bloodshot. “Two angels came to Sodom in the evening; and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said: My Lords, turn aside, I pray you, to your servant’s house and spend the night….” Basically the angels wanted to spend the night in the street, but Lot convinced them to stay at his house for a game of dominoes or whatnot. “But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house, and they called to Lot: Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may have intercourse with them.” I imagined these rapacious homosexuals dressed in S&M gear and carrying a stereo playing techno music. “I want to have intercourse with them”—that’s a good one. Don’t waste any time. “Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said: I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two virgin daughters, let me bring them to you, and do to them as you please….” This business was finally getting interesting. “….only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof. But they said: ‘Stand back!’ And they said, ‘This fellow came to sojourn, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door” The preacher went on about how the angels struck the Sodomites with blindness and told Lot to flee from the city because the angels were going to destroy it. Lot and his family ran away from the city; it went up in a mushroom cloud under a rain of fire from the sky, and I imagined the angels in an invisible jet like Wonder-Woman’s napalming the city flat. Lot’s wife looked back at the city and turned into a pillar of salt. Then Lot and his daughters found shelter in a cave, Lot got drunk and impregnated them. The end. Preacher-man looked up from his bible at the spectators. “Sodomy is an abomination! A gross sin, worthy of death!” he screamed. The retards and old whores nodded their heads; the veggies moved whatever they could to show how excited they were. “Today’s sodomites will be cast into the Lake of Fire on Judgment Day!” My mother nodded. The amphetamines, tobacco, and coffee were affecting my stomach, and I abruptly farted. At this the discussion-leader had a puzzled expression on his bearded face and looked about with shifty blue eyes. “That concludes our Bible study tonight,” he said nervously, perhaps sensing my intestinal emanations violating his sacred space. “Thank you all for coming.” 43

I walked out of there with my brain turned upside-down in my head, like a tortoise fallen on its back. All I could think about was homosexuals. Gays. Roman Catholic priests are gay. That discussion leader is probably gay. Everybody’s fucking gay these days. My mother and I took the tram back to her neighborhood. Sitting in the tram, stuck in this metal caterpillar, I thought of prison. Every prison is a goddamn Sodom City. If some good-looking angelic males went there, they’d have a conga-line of fruits lining up for a piece of ass. At mama’s house I rolled a fag on the kitchen table. “Mama, ever since my father died you’ve been obsessing with this religion crap. It’s starting to scare me.” “Why do you always say “my father”? Why don’t you say “Papa”?” “He never deserved to be called that. The man was a pig.” “He was an angel!” my mother yelled. “He was an angel on earth. He smuggled immigrants from the Soviet Union into Western Europe. He saved people from Godless communists!” “He was a bitter old drunk.” “At least he wasn’t a drug addict like you! Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, I can tell when you’re high, and can see your pupils dilated. I know! I don’t know how you could make all that money, how you could afford a Harvey Johnson motorcycle—“ “Harley Davidson,” I corrected her, as I finished rolling the cigarette. “I know you’re doing something wicked to make all that money.” “I support you with it, so stop complaining. Without me, you would be on welfare. I support you, not Papa,” I spat out the last word with vicious bitterness. “He was an angel—and you used to be like him in so many ways, when you were young….” her voice quieted down and she stared blankly at the table, lost in her nostalgic state, like a seer gazing into a fire. “You, Donald, you are a fallen angel….” I slowly walked out of her apartment and down the narrow, steep staircase with the cigarette still burning between my fingers, occasionally taking a drag. My father, he used to tell me, “You’re not my son! You’re The Devil’s son!” My heart was beating fast. I threw the fag into the canal and saw the water turn red. I felt sick. I saw penises wriggling like caterpillars on the sidewalk. I began to run. People in the street were staring at me. I wondered if they saw the blood. I saw a young Moroccan with the sides of his head shaved, his hair cropped on top and long in the back. I tried to talk to him. “What color is the canal?” I asked him. He ignored me and kept on walking. I hurried home, anxiety under my frigid necklace. Once I got to my apartment I watched TV for a few hours—the blur of images, leaving their tracks on my brain like the tail-lights of a speeding motorcycle leaves a trail of light in the eye—and finally managed to fall asleep. Some days later I got a call from Mama. “Don, I’m calling you to announce that I am no longer a Christian.” “What? That’s great! I’m so glad to hear that you finally—” “I’m a Muslim now, I’ve become a Shiite Muslim. I go to the mosque and the Imam and the other Muslims are so understanding. We sing suras.” Imam. I got yer Imam right here, lady. “I read the qur’an,” she said. “Did you know that before the coming of Mohammed—peace be upon him—” she added with motor-warm relish, “his coming was prophesied by soothsayers. Soothsayers obtained this knowledge from demons who had overheard it by spying on the conversations of angels. Islam has been so misunderstood by the West, you know.” While I was on the phone, I cut myself a line of speed and started sniffing through a rolled-up 10-euro bill. In my coke-mirror I saw a sparkling shooting star, a comet of Sodom-incineration. I looked up at the skylight over my head but the stars were not visible. “But it is really a wonderful religion,” she went on. “Did you know—” I hung up. 44

The Turks are muslim. They stand on street corners, smoking and spitting, singing suras or whatever and trying to get into Dutch people’s nightclubs. John Walker’s muslim, Middle East is muslim, Indonesia is muslim, my mother is muslim. Everybody’s fucking muslim these days. A week had passed since my mother called me. I was driving a human cargo of Turkish illegal immigrants from the Croatian coast into Germany when I began to see spots, little squiggles in my field of vision like the dangling hair that comes on the screen of an old cartoon. I was seeing small, black creatures darting around: horseflies or something like that. It went on for five minutes. I felt I couldn’t drive like this. I parked in the back of a gas-station, closed my eyes for a moment or two and looked through the hole in the headboard. Some young men sat on the floor, staring at the metal walls with their beetle-black eyes. The older men were praying. There were some women as well who wore headscarves. One of them had bright blue eyes—which I thought was rare among Turks—and full lips. The other one had high cheekbones, and teeth that were dun like a flock of sheep. The two women spoke to each other in Turkish. I took a hit of speed. I had been up for thirty hours. Then it occurred to me that the women were not speaking Turkish but rather some angelic language. “He is a fallen angel. He is a demon,” I heard them say. “God will give him one last chance. God will entrust him with His angel.” I walked around the truck, my steps scraping against the gravel, opened the storage compartment and climbed in. The smell was that of a circus elephant stable. I walked up to the two girls, shoe-soles scraping against the pebbles and making the metal floor clang. “Are you angels?” I asked them. I imagined haloes pin-tucked under their larval cocoon headscarves. They stared at me. They somehow reminded me of the female martyrs depicted in statues I had seen in German cathedrals. I looked in the blue eyes, irises with a hue I had never seen on Dutch or Germanic people, they were of such a beautiful color that one would try to guard them with sunglasses lest some cruel thief try to steal them and sell them. Her eye-color conveyed some kind of tranquility, the way the melting, sunset clouds must have looked before they rained manna over the desert in the verses the Bible Study lector recited described, serene, no cokehead hurry or impatience, no childish struggle or hysteria or resistance, like clouds as they accept the fading sunlight and pollution which adorn them with psychedelic tie-dye streaks of color. I saw heaven in their eyes, and I cried, because I knew that I was in hell, driving on the winding freeways of the bottomless pit and the highways of Babylon. They said nothing and I left the storage compartment and went back to the steering wheel. “What should I do?” I thought. “It is not time yet,” I heard them say, and I started the engine, which roared to mechanical life. A few nights after smuggling the Turks and the two veiled women who I believed were angels, I called my mother. “Mama, something is happening to me.” “What is happening to you, Donald?” “I’m like Alice in fucking wonderland here. I’m hearing beings speak to me.” She paused as if to reflect serenely, like some patient bhuddist. Then she said, “Mohammed, Peace be Upon Him, heard the voice of the angel Jibril.” “But I’m not Mohammed,” I blurted, my voice breaking, almost crying. I felt ashamed that she could hear my anxiety. “Are you lost, Don?” She sounded empathic, but there was something odd about her empathy, it was like a mechanical wind-up animal. “Yes, I am lost, godverdomme.” “Let that God be your barometer in the black forest you have blindly wandered into. Let His Word steer you towards fulfilling his mandate. He put you in my womb to perform a mission for him.” In the past I would have been annoyed at her chatter about God or Allah, but now I thought that perhaps Mama was communicating to me on some more profound wavelength or level of consciousness she had attained while meditating and singing suras from the Koran. My heart and jugular veins raced and my palm sweated against the telephone’s plastic. I nodded, thinking perhaps she was speaking to me from some mystical plane of wisdom and insight, some windy afterlife field where she’d stroll amongst the flowers and singing 45

nightingales. This last sentence of hers echoed in my brain. I decided I must perform my mission. I had my car parked on the side of an East European highway by a ghost-town of abandoned factories while some men who worked with the Croats filled up the haul with a new bunch of migrant aspiring prostitutes. When they finished loading the truck one of the men gave me the thumbs up sign and I drove off. There was a storm brewing. I drove past the wasteland, the black dust like gunpowder residue of countless forgotten wars. After a few hours of driving, I parked my truck on the roadside and looked through the headboard hole. There were mostly women, but there was a boy of about fifteen among them—he had dirty blond curls and blue eyes. When I looked at him I felt something in my testicles but didn’t know why. He reminded me of the gypsy boy I had smuggled some weeks before. All I knew was that this boy was an angel, and that the Croats wanted me to drop the boy off near the Rumanian border from where they would take him to a Western European city, probably Berlin, and Berlin was Sodom, the Berliners were Sodomites and they wanted to rape this angel just like the Sodomites the preacher spoke of. I knew that this was the test: if I protected this angel I would no longer be a demon but an angel, or at least a man like Lot, chosen by God. I turned up the music on my radio, blazing guitars and thundering drums. (I knew Stephen King had listened to metal music while penning his magnum opus, about trucks with a will of their own, a work written in blood.) I saw one of the Croats signaling me on the side of the road. I stomped on the gas, sped past them with all my might. I had a sensation that with being propelled so fast in my truck my eyes turned into sparkling flames like meteors hurled through the atmosphere, blazing with energy of Sodom-incineration. Gunshots went off. Lightning began to strike—fire from the sky. I couldn’t see the Croats in my rear-view mirror anymore. I saw some hitchhikers standing by the road. I rammed the breaks, making the tires squeal like swine to the slaughter, and pulled over. It was a young couple, both of them carrying backpacks. Adam and Eve cast out of Eden. “Which way is the Holy Land?” I asked them. “What?” Their faces were scared, sweaty and wide-eyed. “The Holy Land! Jerusalem!” I said. They looked at each other and then they pointed southeast. I turned my truck around and sped southeast, the opposite direction of where I had come from. I was going well past two hundred and fifty kilometers per hour. I saw one of the Croats standing outside of a van. I didn’t stop. For a moment a fear scurried through me, an electric wave of anxiety in my solar plexus as I knew I would likely end up in a foreign prison, a walled-in city of corrupted men who grunted and leered hyena-like in the filthy night, their neurons numb from white powder and tainted with the wine of forced love –my Sodom, my Gomorrah. Soon I was driving by a mountain range. Lightning struck again over the hills and for a second all I could see was white light. I saw a barricade of police cars blocking my way. Their sirens blinked blue and red. I imagined my truck as a doom machine with huge gnashing metal teeth in front, breathing fire and red burning eyes emanating smoke. A bullet shot through my window but it didn’t touch me. I hit the gas with all my strength and sped on, smashing through the patrol cars, a fat policeman frantically waving a sign reading “Uwaga!” as he tried to get out of the way, like a slow Spaniard in the running of the bulls. Arturo Desimone is a writer born and raised on the island of Aruba, in the Dutch Caribbean, but an Argentinean citizen of Argentinean and Russian immigrant origins foreign to the Dutch Caribbean. He is 28 and over the recent years has been living in between Tunisia, Poland and Greece in a sedentary and nomadic triangular living situation that better enables his writing and visual art. He left Aruba when he was 22 to live in Amsterdam and his short story is about both the Dutch criminal underworld and the religious experience, as the themes of criminal underworld and religious experience and ethnic identity tend to interest him the most in his art. He has much experience with these realities His poetry has been on Small Axe Salon literary journal for Caribbean writers, at the blog A Tunisian Girl and in the Brown Critique webmagazine.

46

Colorful Memories
Joseph L.M. Sturm
A display sits among the green and the fog— alone; Memories are seen by swirling pastels. Picasso, Botticelli, and little Jenny. The masters of an age and ages of subtleties and angles, of pictures and hues.

Wipe away the pain and fear, sponge the old rose, and loosen your turning wheels. The colorful chalk drips onto the green, and the earth will drink away all of your memories. A clean slate— nothing to see. An artist awaits, but little Jenny forgets why. Picasso lost his paints. Botticelli is blind. You can remember nothing.

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Joseph L.M. Sturm, Mercersburg, PA, is the author of Counting Clouds and has been published in Hedge Apple Magazine and Short, Fast, and Deadly. He has led writing workshops, taught poetry and non-fiction, and is currently seeking agents for a completed children's book. Sturm also enjoys teaching martial arts, reading, and Anthropology.

Bread Lust

Askold Skalsky
In the hell of hungry ghosts, the bread junkies, infinitized to the nth crumb, rush around with open palms begging for their gluten kick. They have been promised a perpetuity of aliment to barm their privy space, hush puppy addicts in this bialy globe of globes, the kaiser twist of nourishment in which they seethe. Give us this day our breadmobile of daily lusts, cornbread maidens, pedophiles of rye, wheat hookers with their yen-yen eyes and broad bright sash, celebrating appetites in leather boots, no end in sight, hardtack, matzo, and baguette, twenty brands of promiscuous rolls, a moola-drip of wants, insatiated and enriched down to the stone-ground bone—chapatti, cracknel, seeded rye. I knew a Greek once, who told me it’s a sin to take two bites of food successively without a piece of bread between to keep yourself in check, de-snobbed, un-grandified. I see his face still sweating on the shift from 4 to 12, emulsified among the cornucopic ovens, the conveyor belts rolling their hot iconicons, leavened and unbroken, johnnycakes crammed with potentiality under the bright packers’ lights, breadsuckers stuffing their cracker boxes to the hilt, then pushing them down the chute—pita, poori, papadam—stashed wafers, unblessed and inexhaustible with yearns, zymotic salivating mouths, ready to masticate their way to bliss—bagels, biscuits, and brioche. They gobble braided mouthfuls of infinity, the wild hair of longing baked to a transubstantiated crust, sourdough, pumpernickel, and croissant, scattering morsels au gratin, gone in one unregenerate chomp, unthreshed, unsifted, and unsaved, breadhead padres filching the sacramental flesh forever with their loaflet lumps, half-baked and zwiebacked at the altar stone. Didn’t Xerxes, the Dough King of the Persian granaries, propose a kingdom to whoever could invent newfangled bread? Tortilla, sippet, breadstick bun? In motion and dissatisfied, we thralls are trying still—chomp-chomp.

Originally from Ukraine, Askold Skalsky has appeared in over 300 numerous small press magazines and online journals, most recently in Permafrost, Stoneboat, and Tulane Review. He has also published in Canada, England, Ireland, and mainland Europe, and has been the recipient of two Individual Artist Awards for poetry from the Maryland State Arts Council. His first book of poems, The Ponies of Chuang Tzu (Horizon Tracts), was published last year.

48

Waxing the Waning Moon
Dr. Ernest Williamson III
you like me even though I’m taken aback bridals lead me downwardly lilies lie and lie like quicksand before you realize its mission; so motionless and romantic all alone with cobblestones; pockets worn sad like dead music prosaic as prosperity but like a keeper of the bees we are understood for the betterment of my seed in the land you trim and feed steadfast carefully over and under the American flag but again and again I ask do you still love me in this snag with this peppered hair with these oaks soaked in mists do you I mean I need to know sometimes everyday sometimes say the damn words! no sound no facade say it! I said it...

Dr. Ernest Williamson III has published poetry and visual art in over 380 national and international online and print journals. Some of Dr. Williamson's visual art and/or poetry has been published in journals representing over 30 colleges and universities around the world. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology three times. Visit Dr. Williamson's website: www.yessy. com/budicegenius 49

James Sanchez
Daddy smoked Camels alongside refrigerated trucks The hum coalesced with the long lost faith Hope departed Replaced with mortgage payments Intramuscular injections Wretched nights hovering over alabaster toilet bowls In the dreams You seem lighter Ethereal A wisp of sex curling around my head It is only when I wake that You plod Your heft all the dread Honey dripped on my tongue Thick with the sugar of the palliative The gardener works the earth with meaty hands Recklessly I knead my head The fruit is here

Untitled

James Sanchez holds a B.A. in English from Florida International University. He teaches English and Creative Writing at Ronald W. Reagan/Doral High School in Doral,FL. He resides in Miami, Fl. His work has been published in Poui: The Cave Hill Literary Annual and The Accentos Review.

50

One Question
Dorene O’Brien
Claude’s question triggered a cavalcade of bad memories for Corrine that began with Mike in Room 6 of the Crown Motel. After all the demands—move to the right, use your hand, a little harder—still no banana and some humiliation to boot. “Oh, you’re terrific, baby,” he’d said. “I’ve just had a lot on my mind.” So she went home and stared into a mirror at someone she didn’t recognize, a face made solemn by reassurances that it wasn’t her, the words “cellulite can be sexy” reverbing in her head. Next there was Charlie. “Guess there ain’t gonna be a party tonight,” he’d said, cowboy hat cocked to the back of his head as he leaned against the driver’s side window of his rig. “I’ve been taking these downers.” He rolled a bottle of capsules between his fingers with an agility that would have come in handy earlier. “They make me, um, lethargic.” Charlie was an over-the-road trucker, so while Corrine hadn’t taken lesson one in pharmacology, she figured the pills represented either a death drive or an excuse. “Forget it,” she sighed. “Here.” He shoved a twenty at her. “Buy yourself something.” “Don’t,” she said. Then there was Billy, who was a Deadhead in more ways than one, which meant he followed the rock band across the country like a dog in heat but lost his fervor when she spilled out of her black lace bustier as they lay on a mattress in the back of his cab. “Whoa, Mama Cass,” he teased. “What happened?” “I put on a couple pounds.” She turned away. “Aw, c’mon, sugar. I still think you’re the sweetest candy this side of the Mississippi.” Billy was well traveled, so this could mean something. “Really?” she said. “Sure.” He unzipped his pants to extract a limp and shriveled penis. “What about my candy? Wanna taste that?” After twenty minutes of fruitless stroking, nibbling and licking, Billy pulled her up by her armpits and said, “How ‘bout you just rub my back?” The next memory triggered by Claude’s question featured Max, whom she had dated throughout college. They’d made love in the lab where they researched crystallization, melted garnets. “Wait,” she called, and even today she cannot account for her response. She had not planned to call out to him; she wasn’t attracted to Claude—or to any man after her latest disappointments—yet she did. He turned, his embarrassed look suggesting that perhaps he’d forgotten his keys, and she motioned for him to sit down. “New in town?” she asked. “Just this mornin’.” “Hold on.” She brought him the Texas Two-Step, a large platter of scrambled eggs with bacon and a ham steak, two thick slices of sourdough toast and a pot of coffee. She didn’t understand that either, but she could easily justify the free meal to the morning manager, Mr. Bevel, a kind and charitable man. “But—” Claude objected. “Don’t worry about it,” she winked. “Enjoy.” This, too, surprised her. She had not meant to wink, for afterward she worried he’d think it suggested a flirtation it did not. It was some sort of maternal instinct incited by his flannel shirt, slight build, long red hair jutting from beneath a Cubs baseball cap, even the naiveté he demonstrated by coming to dine at a place he clearly could not afford. He left her a five dollar tip and showed up at Crandell’s three weeks later with one red rose, a Whitman sampler and a dinner invitation. Corrine wonders even now if he’d had a sixth sense, if he somehow knew how much time she needed to move back into relationship mode. They dated for three weeks before he even kissed her, and his gentleness and skill surprised her. Six months later she moved into Claude’s trailer and understood for the first time that physical intimacy was not a prerequisite to a healthy relationship, that, in fact, it hardly mattered. She enjoyed making love to Claude, 51

there was no doubt about that, but she also loved cooking dinner for him as he showered off the dust from long hours at the construction site, and she relished sweeping the braided rugs and setting her Corelle dishes on the kitchen table as she never had in her own place. Claude always kissed her before leaving for work and after arriving home, and he made love to her with the same guarded passion he had the first time, as if she would break. She savored his coffee kisses in the morning and the dusty ones at night, his careful caresses, his shy grin after lovemaking, his tentative “Are you alright?” Her history with men had not prepared her for this; she had been asked many questions in many beds by many men, but this had never been one of them. “Of course I’m alright,” she’d say, holding him tightly, clutching for a moment longer something so foreign and so compelling. Then came the question one Monday morning as she sat at the kitchen table chewing her pencil over a crossword. She smiled, but then Mike, Charlie, Billy, Max, and Jess marched across her thoughts like a perverted parade. “What’s wrong?” asked Claude. “Nothing. I mean, you caught me off guard.” “I’ve got my eye on a ring at Payle’s, but you don’t have to get that one.” Now Charlie was removing his snakeskin boots, Max was diluting ammonium nitrate in a beaker. “My life is flashing before my eyes,” she said. Claude laughed. “This ain’t gonna kill you, honey.” “I’m sorry. I know that.” “I just thought…things are going so well.” “That’s just it,” said Corrine. “Things are going well. Do we want to change that?” “I love you, Corrine. I want you to be my wife. I thought you’d be happy.” “I am happy. Maybe I just think it’s too good to be true.” “Okay, then. You spend the day pinching yourself and let me know what you felt when I get home tonight.” Claude kissed her and left. At work that day Corrine watched her customers closely, especially the couples. They entered together, the husbands sometimes holding the door for their wives, then sat in a booth or at a table opposite one another. After perusing their menus and ordering, they stared through the window or glanced around the restaurant at other diners. Their food came and they ate in silence. They seldom looked at their partners, and their interaction with her, a complete stranger, was more friendly and intense than with one another. These people were her parents, she thought, and suddenly found the source of her resistance to Claude’s proposal: she’d never learned how to love correctly, how to make a relationship work. Still, there was little comfort in finding someone else to blame. Maybe her parents didn’t have those lessons, either. Did that mean she should go without? “I want this to work,” she told Claude over rigatoni that evening. “Just give me some time.” “Is that a ‘yes’?” he asked. “It’s close.” Later, as Claude snored beside her, she thought of Jess and how his past was evident not as a scar or a bruise, not as something tangible but as a painful absence. This is the function of a wedding ring, she thought, a kind of inscription of a life-altering event, but without the permanence of a scar. Will it be strong enough to overcome the pull of the past and its painful memories? Just because things were going so well with Claude now didn’t mean they couldn’t turn sour as suddenly and as intensely as they had countless other times. She watched Claude as he slept, admired him in this unconscious state of perfection. “Claude,” she shook him gently. He blinked through a forest of red hair. “What is it?” “I love you,” she whispered. “Is that a ‘yes’?” “I think I’m going crazy.” He snapped on the light. “How’s that?” “Look.” She pointed to the scar on her left knee. “This is from when Billy and I were high on meth and I tripped over a curb. Twelve stitches. He called an ambulance and left me there.” “He was a jerk.” “Yeah, but he’s still here.” She tapped the scar. 52

“That was a long time ago, Corrine.” “This scar on my thumb is the encapsulated history of love.” Claude inspected Corrine’s thumb closely, as if he could read in it the pages of an ill-fated romance. “Max tried to burn his dissertation when I told him I was-” “Corrine, that’s all in the past.” “But our past is not some separate moment, Claude. It’s settled in the present, in our minds and bodies.” She waved her thumb. “Now is the only time it exists.” “If we let it.” “How can I stop it?” “You can marry me and begin a new past.” The next morning she tucked a note under the sugar bowl and walked to the bus station, dragging her wheeled suitcase behind her. “West,” she told the ticket agent, and he pushed a ticket to Yuma at her. “This all right?” he asked. “It’ll do.” Corrine hoped as she ascended the metal stairs on the old Flyway that she would not be traveling alone. She invited all of the men from her past on the trip, freed them to say what they wished and to relive history, so long as they were all gone by the time she stepped off the bus back in Palestine. If they stayed on, she couldn’t marry Claude; if they left, she would be free to begin anew. Claude’s question had forced from her subconscious the details of memories so old they felt dusty to her, felt as if they were being viewed through gauze, and as the bus pushed forward on its westerly path she pushed inward to further contemplate the experiences she felt kept her from moving on. She recalled Mike’s sweet face, the cab of Charlie’s purple rig, Billy’s tie-dyed tee shirts, Max’s flaming dissertation, Jess’ MIA penis. She found herself contemplating her college days at MIT, thinking that it had all started there, at a place where she was always deliberating, always uncertain. She’d been near the top of her class, but was painfully aware of how tenuous it was. High IQs don’t guarantee confidence or discipline—those things come from upbringing—and she knew she was in trouble when she lost interest in mica flakes and grew bored with theorems. She knew she was a cliché when she fell into the bottle, though she was impressed by her ability to perform reasonably well while drunk. This, of course, convinced her that what she was doing did not take that much talent or concentration, that any idiot with even a double-digit IQ could fill her class ranking with little training. Max told her he’d kill himself if she left, but she had watched him stare lovingly into his crystal aquarium many times, and she knew that his passion would save him. Her advisor had tried to reason with her, offered to accompany her to AA, threatened to call her parents. She laughed, as her parents didn’t even know where she was, didn’t know she’d earned a scholarship to one of the most prestigious universities in the country, and probably wouldn’t believe him if he were able to pull them out of the bottle long enough to explain to them that their daughter was throwing off a promising future. She said goodbye to Max, then trudged down the marble steps of the chemistry building and headed toward the Greyhound station, leaving Boston with few possessions: two pairs of blue jeans, an MIT sweatshirt, some underwear, a toothbrush, a pair of leather boots, a comb, the knockoff Nike tennis shoes she wore and $149 stuffed into a worn duffel. She wasn’t happy to be leaving, or sad, just empty. She thought that if she were robbed or roughed up outside a greasy spoon for her duffel, or even raped and killed by some lunatic preying on young women who traveled alone, that would be all right because it seemed like the next logical step in the course of her life. Instead she made it to Texas uneventfully, disembarking randomly in Palestine, where she 53

“But our past is not some separate moment, Claude. It’s settled in the present, in our minds and bodies.”

hefted the bag onto her shoulder and stepped into the dreary night, a night so clear and close to her now that she wondered how all the days and months and years before Claude arrived in her life had actually fit in. Corrine was shaken from her reverie by a woman stumbling down the aisle, dropping loose change and cursing as she knelt to rub her hands along the floor’s rubber grates. That’s me, she thought, staggering through life, losing valuable things while being unable to part with worthless ones. The bus droned on, past Cleburne, then Sweetwater, and she grew tired of waiting for her former lovers to materialize like they had so many times before. So she waited. And waited. But when Mike, Charlie, Billy, Max and Jess finally floated into her thoughts, their arms hung limp at their sides, their eyes were vacant, their mouths neutral lines. Corrine said goodbye to each man in turn, and she tried hard to imagine them waving and smiling, wishing her well, releasing her, but their movements seemed stiff and unnatural. With a start she realized that these men had not come freely, willingly, but were pulled from a dark prison within where she had been holding them captive and allowing them admission to her thoughts through some unconscious gate keeping that she herself did not understand. “Go then!” she yelled in response to this epiphany, and several passengers stared at her before turning back to newspapers or traveling companions. It’s not their fault that I’m indecisive and afraid, she reflected. It’s mine. I’m the one who trapped and guarded these memories. I’m the one who allowed them to seep into my thoughts in bits and pieces, out of context. When she thought of marriage, of Claude, of happiness, the sharp edges and broken shards of these jagged memories are what cut her, and she understood that only she could recast or release them. She slept on a cracked bench at the Yuma bus terminal upon arrival and later that same day boarded the first eastbound Flyway back to Palestine, feeling in her heart a slow and heavy opening. * * * They would be married in the small Catholic church in town, Claude in a rented tux and Corrine in a bridal gown borrowed from a co-worker whose fiancé was arrested on a B&E the day before they were to be wed. A small reception in the church basement afterward would be catered by Crandell’s, compliments of her manager, Mr. Bevel. When Corrine, touched by his generosity, asked him to escort her up the aisle, she thought he was going to cry. Calling the florist, scheduling a manicure and buying shoes pulled Corrine’s thoughts from the past and anchored them in the present; she slept a dreamless, luxurious sleep. The morning of the wedding she woke early and did a crossword while drinking her decaf. Claude, romantic and old-fashioned, had spent the night at a friend’s apartment so he wouldn’t see her before the wedding. “Aren’t you worried I’m going to hop on a bus?” she’d joked, but she could tell by his expressions he’d already considered that possibility. He kissed her gently and left, his tuxedo cocooned in plastic and folded over his arm. Corrine kept herself busy until it was time to step carefully into the beaded dress, slip on the high-heeled pumps and push the flowered comb into the side of her French twist. Mr. Bevel picked her up an hour before the service was to begin, and they sat side by side on a stiff bench in the church basement admiring the swanshaped ice sculpture, the three-tiered wedding cake, the linen tablecloths. “Are you ready, dear?” asked Mr. Bevel as he offered his arm, and they ascended the stairs to the vestibule, where they stood before the heavy oak doors to the church proper. The building was hot, and the lull of the pipe organ made Corrine drowsy. She stared at the doors and noticed how the stain had brought out the richness of the wood grain, how the small colored windows in them blurred the images beyond. “It’s time.” Mr. Bevel placed his fingers on the metal handle, and he looked nervous as she gripped his arm tightly. They proceeded through the doors and began their slow, awkward steps, unable to synchronize their strides. Moving forward with resolve, Corrine looked up to see Mike, who sat in a pew on the bride’s side, proffering a thumbs up. Charlie, perched on the hood of his rig, tipped his hat and smiled down from one of the stained glass windows, and Billy sat at the organ banging out a funky version of “Here Comes the Bride.” He ceased playing when she halted the procession to close her eyes and breathe deeply. “C’mon, sugar,” Billy called, and she opened her eyes to see him motioning her forward with a flourish of his arm. He resumed playing and they resumed walking toward the altar, where she then saw Jess in priest’s robes, a bible in his right hand. Behind Jess, Max mixed the water with the wine in a beaker before pouring it into a chalice, and he raised the cup to her. 54

After slowly unwrapping the wrinkled handkerchief from around the stem of her bouquet, she wiped her forehead, then pushed forward, nearly dragging Mr. Bevel the remaining several feet to the altar. Corinne shook her head, as if to dislodge any discomfiting thoughts, and the music suddenly stopped. She turned to search the sea of faces in the rows of wooden pews, but what she saw behind her was a clean white train, and before her Claude, smiling, reaching, unblinking.

Dorene O’Brien’s work has appeared in the Connecticut Review, Carve Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, Clackamas Literary Review, New Millennium Writings, Detroit Noir and others. She has won the Red Rock Review’s Mark Twain Award for Short Fiction, the New Millennium Fiction Award, and the Chicago Tribune Nelson Algren Award. She has also won the international Bridport Prize and have received a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her short story collection, Voices of the Lost and Found, won the National Best Book Award in 2008. Her web site iswww.doreneobrien.com

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Violet Lightning
1. Violet lightning pulsed between the clouds. I wondered how much electricity was trapped within my ribcage. 2. Pulse, flash; pulse, flash. Thunder roars with pride and it starts to rain. 3. I have never seen a soaked umbrella look so shapely before. All black coat, bright hazel eyes that scream so softly under dripping mascara. 4. Our first date is traditional, which is odd because I’ll soon find that neither of us are that type. The dinner was too cheap and the movie: too expensive. 5. We held hands the whole time; she kissed my cheek in the cinema’s private artistic darkness. 6. When she finally took me home, the only things I noticed were: her modern art stuck to the wall with thumbtacks, her classic rock on a neighbor’s stereo, her her.

Jonathan Ritter
7. We just talked in her bed, I didn't even use the condom lost in the far back of my wallet. It was wonderful. 8. I'm wearing a tux with a bright red rose. She looks perfect in her white dress and bright red lips. 9. We haven't decided on a name for him yet. He has such strong, pudgy little fingers; we hold hands the whole time. 10. It's his seventeenth birthday, the cops have only come to our house once because of him: curfew; he's a good kid. We got him his own car, it sounds like a mudslide when the engine jumps, perfect. 11. The police said it was an honest accident. Nobody had been drinking. Nobody would ever be drinking. 12. I hate all these flowers, nothing is beautiful, this isn't beautiful.

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13.

14.

18. We've been holding hands this whole time. I still miss him, but at least I have beautiful her. It's so good to not be alone. 19. She looks at me as mascara drips in front of her eyes; private artistic black lace flowing into the concrete. We are both covered in storm. 20. I have never seen such a shapely umbrella walk away without hearing a single soaked word from me. 21. The crosswalk drops its bright red light. 22. Pulse, flash; pulse, flash. Thunder roars with pride and it starts to rain.

15. I had my first real fight with her today, she threw a glass against the wall and it shattered like the windshield. All I saw was bright red. 16.

17. She decided that we needed to go do something traditional; her aging bright hazel eyes were screaming again. The dinner was so expensive and the movie was so cheap.

Jonathan Ritter is an 18 year old poet and writer from Portland, Oregon. He enjoys sushi, bad movies, and city streets at night. You can reach him at emailthejon@yahoo.com . 57