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MISSION

AT
TENTH

MISSION
AT
TENTH
VOLUME
FIVE

PHYLLIS BRAMSON
Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground, 2010, collage

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MISSION
AT
TENTH
VOLUME
FIVE

Editor Randall Babtkis
Contributing Editors Ryan Albright
Melvina Hayes
Nicole Henares
Collette McGruder
Gerardo Medina
Jeffrey Scott
Tiara Shafiq
Research Assistant Collette McGruder

SUBMISSIONS

Art Director Neil Freese

We accept submissions online only, June 1 through October 15. Artwork and other
nontext formats should include a brief description and digital link to the referenced work.
Manuscripts sent by mail cannot be returned and will be destroyed unless accompanied
by a stamped, self-addressed, return envelope. For further details and to submit work,
visit our website at missionattenth.com.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Mission at Tenth was launched in April 2009 with Volume 1: The Leaky Pen Issue. The
magazine is produced at California Institute of Integral Studies by students enrolled in
the MFA course in Editing and Publishing. We wish to thank CIIS President Joseph L.
Subbiondo, Dean of Faculty and Academic Vice President Judie Wexler, and Carolyn
Cooke, Chair of the MFA, for their vital support.
Special thanks to Toni Alejandria, Ahmunet Jessica Jordon, Yael Villafranca, Lisa
Denenmark, and Nye’ Thomas. Also Dr. Cindy Shearer for her founding support and
inspiration. Additional thanks to the 2014 MFA cohorts of the Writing, Consciousness
and Creative Inquiry program at CIIS for their dedicated work.

EDITORIAL CORRESPONDENCE

Our mission is to publish innovative work by emerging and established writers and other
artists whose material tests the boundaries of the page and taps into the energetic
culture (emotional, intellectual, civic) radiating from San Francisco, the Pacific Rim, and
beyond. We are most particularly drawn to experiments in form or language, to works
that arouse and expand notions of self-awareness, surprise, humor, anger, honesty,
spiritual inquiry, and political thought.
© 2014 by Mission at Tenth Inter-Arts Journal. All rights revert to authors and artists upon
publication. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise – except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical
articles or reviews – without prior written permission.
Mission at Tenth Inter-Arts Journal is published annually by California Institute of
Integral Studies, 1453 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103.
Cover: “Made of Iron” (2010), by Mary Lou Zelazny 34” x 46” acrylic, collage, oil on canvas.
Frontispiece by Phyllis Bramson: “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground.”

Address all correspondence to: Randall Babtkis, rbabtkis@ciis.edu.

ISBN Number: 978-0-9834154-4-2



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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Carolyn Cooke

Welcome to Mission at Tenth Volume 5

1

Josip Novakovich

Novi Beograd

2

Mary Lou Zelazny

Devil’s Lake
I  I Go
Fourchette
Fortunato

14
15
16
17

Assaf Gavron

An Excerpt From Hydromania

19

Gabrielle Watling

Australians All, let us Rejoice

24

Burn

32

Toaster

36

Jack Rabbit Goat
Raven
Diamond Doves
Possum

40
42
43
44

Ben Ailing

47

Trash Wars

49

Ballad

51

Divinity Architecture

56

R.

64

Burned Bones

70

Paysage 6
Portrait 55

74
75

My Lucky Cat
Secret

77
81

Valentine’s Night

84

Hassan Riaz
Alvin Orloff
Bobby Neel Adams

Dave Barrett
JJ Amaworo Wilson
Patrick Dacey
Sarah Van Name
Stephanie Golisch
Zarina Zabrisky
Mona Kuhn
Zarina Zabrisky
Dominic Viti

MG Roberts

Stephanie Vernier
Dominic Viti
Phyllis Bramson

This Refracted Failure
Incipiency::
Brightly::

86
87
89

Tennis Lessons

94

Professionals

98

The Spider Came a Call’in
The Good Companion
Between the Falling in Love Parts
Still Life (Tabletops)

102
103
104
105

Feeling, Better

107

City of Brotherly Love

117

Ricky Fishman

On Walls and Healing: Israel, Palestine, and the
Search for Wholeness

124

Antonio McAfee

Counter Archive - Regions of Skin and Ink (Work
in Progress)
The Trickster (Faded)
The Trickster
Mourning the Abrupt Unmaking... (Work in
Progress)
Unmaking Clyde

Jason K. Friedman
Hillary Tiefer

Wingless Sommer
Brave Walk

167
168

The Beast
Fist and Wall

169
170

The Half-Dead Live Oak
The Lunch Boxes
Doves

171
172
173

Hungry For My Slavery
North Side of Anything You Need
Kiss the Lunatic and Win a Prize

174
176
177

Ivan de Monbrison

Three Poems Without a Sound

179

Ha Kiet Chau
Peycho Kanev
Sandra M. Gilbert

Scott Wannberg

Six Poems

182

Naomi Shihab Nye

Common Funeral Myths

185

131

Richard Kostelanetz

Ambiguities

186

Kurt Cline

Permutations

187

Lamp Stand

190

Kari Wergeland

Ponderosa in Sequoia National Park

192

Valentina Cano

Rejecting Domesticity

193

Kyle Hemmings

Zombie Awakening

194

Changming Yuan

Moving
Seasonal Stanzas

195
196

Tracking Gala Apples
Dog Days

198
199

Sticky Fingers
Parent-Teacher Conference/Weekend Monster
Movie

200
201

133

Adam Cameron

To Sylvia, Beside Me

139

Clangor Trick Against Axhewn
Buoy Loungers Rack the Tailspin Nearby
The Bulb Reflected

140
142
143

The Tips of the Rake
Gift for the Flies
Indelible

144
145
146

Float
Epiphyte
Pet Protection Spell: Long Life for Small Pets
Playing Dead

148
149
150
151

Elaine Pawlowicz

153
156
159
161
165

Barbara Maloutas

9 of 12 (Brief) Moment
To Shorten Our Words (To Sho Our Wor)

Alex Greenberg

Driving to the Vigil of Richard Chavez
Boy in the Vineyard
The House that Richard Built
Opening Prayer
The Horsemen

128
129
130

Michael Swaine

July Col

Nicholas Belardes

James B. Nicola

David Kern
John F. Buckley and Martin Ott

Joshua McKinney

The Department Meeting

203

Última Cita
Last Rendezvous*
Niño Y Sombras
Child and Shadows*
Antes, Me Asomaba Al Mar
Before, I was Leaning Over the Sea*

204
205
206
207
208
209

2:00 AM
Containment of Royalty

210
211

The Hulk VS. 544

212

The Role of Humanism and Sustainability in
the Next American Dream

216

Heart of Darkness: Odyssey on a Bicycle

221

Chemtrails Miami
All Access

230
231

Guides

232

owlmouthsucculent

233

Marcella Kroll

Gayatri & Durga

234

Rorro Berjano

Cristo, Wild Style

235

Teenage Euphoria
Room after a room

236
237

Brittany Powell Parich

Moss Stripes
Moss Stripes

238
239

Steven Johnson Leyba

Hollie Alchemical POORtrait
D. Faust Mini Alchemical POORtrait

240
241

Beatrice Wanjiku

The Strangeness of my Madness
The Strangeness of my Madness II

242
243

Lori
A Choreography of Painting

244
245

Contributors

247

Concha Mendez
*Translated by
Christine Rosakranse

Ahmunet Jessica Jordan
Bobby Neel Adams
Nikita Nelin
Joe Donohoe
Maya Hayuk
Heidrun Schmidt
Kelly Allen

Patryce Bak

Rachel Youens

Open Mission at Tenth Inter-Arts Journal at your own risk. Anything might
happen. You , you go. A pair of diamond doves turn up, underwater. A
figure disappears down some stairs. You look for clues, find the depth within
the surface, reflecting glass and steel, gray and yellow, your neighborhood.
Your soul, you realize, is made of clay. Your conscience, bone and teeth. A
stranger arrives, her veneer chemical, citrusy. You want to know why, once
the relief wears off, you itch all over. These answers must be withheld. That
is what desire is about – the possibility that each narrative in which you find
yourself is not the whole story, merely a suggestive Page One.
Welcome to Volume 5 of Mission at Tenth, which opens with Mary Lou
Zelazny’s spiny cover, “Made of Iron,” and loosely explores themes suggested
by Phyllis Bramson’s erotic and evocative collage, “Dark Was the Night, Cold
Was the Ground.” In these pages, you’ll meet the real would-be assassin of
a revolutionary puppet dictator in the once-upon-a-time place known as
Yugoslavia. You will encounter the early reception of abstract art procured
with public funds Down Under. And you might just fall under the influence
of some of the drugs we take to sleep, to wake up, to live. In this issue we are
also proud to present new works by program alums Stephanie Vernier and
M.G. Roberts.
Many thanks to the editorial staff of this issue - to the student editors from
the MFA program; to Collette McGruder, our talented Research Assistant,
for her redesign of the Mission at Tenth web page; to Neil Freese, whose
brilliant art direction brings dark visions to bright life; and to Randall Babtkis,
our intrepid editor. The world we confront is cold and dark, and relentlessly
evocative. Every morning you rise and walk in that light.
Carolyn Cooke
Chair, MFA Programs
California Institute of Integral Studies
San Francisco

NOVI BEOGRAD
Josip Novakovich
Fiction (Based on a real person – Nikola Kavaja – may he rest in peace!)
THE AMERICAN BAIL system is a wonderful thing. While waiting for the
trial, which would get me at least 20 years in prison for planting a bomb at
a Yugoslav consulate, I was free to wander for a few days. A friend of mine,
a good patriot, used his restaurant and house as collateral for the bail, and
while I ate a polish sausage, I contemplated. What should I do? Go to prison
and come out 20 years later blind and dumb or do at once what I was meant
to do? What does a good Serb do? He follows a good leader to battle, and
if he doesn’t have a good leader, but a tyrant, he aims to kill the tyrant.
Assassination is our national patent. This was my last chance to kill Josip
Broz. Anyway, it was a matter of belated blood revenge. Well, for blood
revenge, it’s never too early and it’s never too late. He was responsible for the
death of my two brothers and dozens of friends. I was going to be free for only
24 more hours, the last free 24 hours of my life. I had to make it to the airport
and get over to Belgrade. And once I got to Belgrade, how would I approach
the Central Committee building with the high security of snipers and body
guards? What could get through them? An airplane. That Croatian, Busic,
hijacked a plane. Why couldn’t I?

I took a cab home, got my plastic grenades, and went on to LaGuardia.
I looked around and had to choose a flight, and an airline, but that was easy.
American Airlnes. What beautiful aluminum shine... some genius designer
decided not to color the metal, and the part that was colored could just as well
be the Serbian flag, and of course, I made sure to fly AA whenever possible.
There were X-ray machines in use already but they were pretty crude. I put
explosives in a hair-drier and an electric razor and a tennis ball. So I walked
to the security gate with my home-made hand-grenades in the inside pockets
of my black leather jacket, and a bunch of reserve rounds for my gun – an
old German luger, 9mm. If they stopped me, I’d lose nothing – I was going to
jail anyway. If I passed through, my life would be fulfilled. I kept the Luger
ever since I pushed a thirsty German soldier into a well in my village near the
end of the Second World War. He’d laid the pistol on the stone at the edge
of the well, and as he leaned deep-over to drink from the bucket, I grabbed
him by his boots, lifted him, and pushed him down headlong. Now I looked
for the stupidest looking sleepy inspectors in a busy line, people who would
not bother to look carefully. In front of me were a bunch of hippies with
backpacks, flashlights, and all sorts of other useless little things. A flashlight
could make a good cover for a grenade. After their luggage was completely
2

taken apart and assembled, the controllers let me through, barely glancing at
me and my fake passport. Of course, I didn’t travel using my real name, but
Preradovic. I had a short haircut, was dressed properly, and remained polite.

I looked around the plane. A couple of shrieking kids, several chubby
women, one set of plastic tits, several shaved businessmen, their cheeks still
red from the blades and eau de cologne, red-eyed hippies with brown beards,
a group of German beer-guzzlers, Polish tourists. Predictable for a flight to
Chicago.

What would you like to drink, asked a stewardess as soon as I took a
seat, number 23. That was always my lucky number. Michael Jordan later used
it. The stewardess had frizzy hair, which she emphasized with red lipstick.

A shot of whisky. What kind do you have?

She kneeled and rummaged in the bottom drawer. Jameson, J&B,
Chivas. Fantstic thighs. But then, from that angle they all look good. Chivas,
please. On the rocks.

She opened the mini bottle and poured the contents into the glass
with ice.

That’s so little, I said. Can I have another one?

Of course, Sir. She smiled revealing misaligned teeth. Mine are
spaced out and that’s why they never rotted, and they are a bit misaligned
too. I detest the perfectly corrected teeth. If they hop around the mouth every
which way, I get ideas; far better than the caged mouth of perfect teeth.

She opened the second bottle, and the aluminum ring cut her skin and
she bled. Ouch, she said, and licked her thumb. Is there blood on your bottle?

Never mind. I am not scared of a drop of blood, I said. I like it.

Would you like another whiskey instead?

Not yet. I might misbehave if I get drunk, I said. I looked down her
neck, between her clavicles and further down, making out the rib-heads
along her breast bone, despite taut and glistening cleavage leading into her
white bra, chipped, lace-edged like a dinner mat in a fine Serbian restaurant.
I was going to die soon, so why control my eyes?

I gulped the shot. Chivas was Tito’s favourite drink. Funny that we
shared tastes in some of the essential things in life. Maybe Tito was sipping
Chivas at the same time and gazing into a bosom. How the hell did he manage
to rule over Serbia? Zivili! I said. (It might be our last Chivas, for both of us,
Tito and me, I imagined.)

What’s that? she asked. What language?

Just a Serbian toast, meaning the same thing as L’Chaim.

Oh, God, she said. What I have to put up with in this job.

Don’t worry. It will get worse.

Sir, you are right. You need to pace your liquor.

She walked on. I leaned to the side to check her figure as she swayed,
partly from turbulence, partly from having classic broad hips and narrow waist.

I stood up and walked to the front of the plane. The shaking of the
plane in turbulence knocked me from seat to seat and I steadied myself like a
skier with hands in front of me. She was much better at keeping her balance
than I.
3

Sir, please sit down! Haven’t you heard the announcement?

Sedni mi na kurac, I said, in Serbian.

Sir, that’s reserved for the first class, the stewardess said as I walked on.

My dick is first class. I walked to the cockpit. It didn’t open.

The stewardess was right behind me. You can’t go in there!

That doesn’t sound very threatening. I can, I am a pilot. Give me
the key!

I can’t.

Yes, you can, I said, and showed her the wide Luger pipe. Her lower
lip quivered. I was tempted to lean over and kiss—the lips were so delicate,
alive, like salmon wiggling in the arctic white waters.

I’ll blow the lock with a bullet. Or I could just shoulder my way
through this plastic cardboard. The key would be nicer.

She gave me the key from her side pocket. Her hand trembled; her
nails were long and painted scarlet.

You have nothing to fear. Can you unlock it for me?

She fumbled with the key missing the hole before managing to open
that plastic piece of shit.

Hello, brothers, I said. Now be good and don’t move.

What kind of joke is this? said a tall pilot, with a big nose. I don’t know
why so many pilots are tall—this one must have been six-and-a-half feet.

I have a couple of hand-grenades on me, and the gun has 12 rounds,
plus I am a great shot. I’ve killed 17 people in my life, only one with bare hands,
a couple with knives, and the rest. . .

I don’t doubt you, said the co-pilot. That’s an impressive resume. So,
what do you want?

Fly this plane to Chicago.

That’s where we are going anyway.

Yes, but that will be just a stop-over. After that we might fly to Peru
or somewhere else that’s interesting. (I of course planned to go to Belgrade
but I had to delay announcing that because if the FBI found me out it would
warn the Yugoslav government, and Tito – the paranoid genius – would
figure out that he was in danger, and would escape me once again.)

You mean, you are hijacking?

What does it look like?

Just like that Croatian idiot, Bruno Busic? Have you planted bombs
all over Grand Central Station? You are in the same club or something?

This is very different, I told him.

How different can it be if you are imitating him?

I am imitating nobody, I am a total original, you dickhead.

According to the co-pilot, there was a new problem to consider. In
Chicago, even if we refueled the plane completely, we could get only as far as
Mexico City.

And from there, the co-pilot advised, I am not sure you’d make it to
Lima without needing another load. If you want to go abroad, I could suggest
Montreal or Toronto, that’s about it.

Is that so? We’ll have to get a bigger plane afterwards. We need to go
to Chicago, I am picking up a friend there.
4

He’s hitchhiking at the airport?

No, he’s in Federal prison there. You’ll have to help me get him out.
Call the control tower, and tell them that they need to get Kajevic to the
plane, or I’ll blow us all up.

Why do you need him?

He’s a priest and before we die, he can talk to God for us, put in a
good word, so we could get some preferential status in hell.

I’ve never heard of that, hijacking with a priest.

You might appreciate it when the time comes. I am also picking up
my lawyer.

Really? Hijacking with a lawyer and a priest? How about a doctor?
You need a whole team? What kind of terrorist are you?

An original, I told you. In the meanwhile, give me a little flying lesson
here. I am not familiar with this kind of plane – only with MiGs.

The two pilots looked dejected. I could tell they had military training
before joining civil aviation and this hurt their military pride. All the better. I
bet at the end of the destination, in Chicago, they were going to have a good
time with the stewardesses. I could imagine, an oyster bar, Hilton, lots of oral
sex so they could get it up, and some missionary evangelism afterward.

So I opened the door, and called in my stewardess, and said, A round
of Chivas for all of us. Five.

Why five? She said.

Pilots, you, your pretty blonde colleague from the other aisle, and me.
An odd number makes for a good party. You know why? Because someone
must be left out, it’s a Russian roulette. No party without the threat, without
torturing someone.

Whatever you say, Mister.

Don’t call me Mister. You can call me Gospodin, Lord in Serbian. Or
for that matter, just call me Bog, God. I am gonna be your God for a while. I
decide your life and death. By the way, all of you, that’s true for you too. I am
your God in the skies now!

So, on the way to Chicago, I took a lesson and became familiar with
the plane – enough to fly by myself. But I would keep the Condor.

At Midway I let most of the passengers go. The fewer passengers,
the smaller the potential for someone tripping me up. And, I actually didn’t
relish the prospect of bringing people to death with me. I was tempted to
let go those who I liked most and to keep only the fat and ugly ones, but I
was selfish and rational. The lighter the plane, the father it could fly without
changing fuel. This was going to be the last party of my life, so I better be in
good company, I thought. The Palestinians, when they blow themselves up in
Israel, imagine they will go to heaven with a bunch of virgins. I didn’t believe
in heaven and hell, although I believed in God. So for me there was no such
posthumous delight. I’d better live it up now.

I should have been more nervous than I was. I almost fell asleep. I
sort of nodded off and was surprised that the pilot hadn’t noticed. The booze
made me sleepy. So I said to the stewardess, Lisa, Bring me a pot of crappy
coffee!
5

Why crappy?

That’s all you have on the plane.

We have good coffee for first class.

Oh yes? Thanks. I am finally first class!

The coffee was still weak. What kind of coffee is it, if you can drink
half a gallon of it? Anyway, I drank at least a quart. If nothing else, it would
provide the placebo effect.

I got Kajevic on the line after going through several FBI agents.

Sta se desava? he asked and we talked in Serbian so nobody would
understand us. You’ll get me out of prison, and you have a whole plane
waiting for me?

Yes, isn’t that something? You are lucky to have friends like me.

So what do you need me for? I am sure you aren’t interested in prayer.

Believe me, I am.

That doesn’t bode well.

You spent a lot of time in the Communist Central Committee
Building in Belgrade, so I need you to come along and identify it for me. You
can help the plane fly to it.

To do what? Drop bombs?

That’s a good idea, but hard to do from a passenger airplane. No,
we’ll just fly the whole damned thing into the building during the plenary
session and get Tito, Kardelj, and the whole crew of criminals.

And you’ll eject out of the plane?

No, they don’ t have such gadgets. We’ll just die on impact, instantly,
and end our lives gloriously, freeing Rodni Kraj.

You are fucking insane. I’m not coming along.

You’d rather die in the damned prison?

Yes. I have only five more years to go. I still hope to see my
grandchildren in Prizren.

Come on, don’t be silly. Remember how we swore we’d rather die
than...

I am not coming along. And you plan to bring all those people to
death with you? Give it up.

How will I recognize the building?

I am not your tour guide. Call Atlas Tours in Belgrade, and let them
describe the high-rise to you. Good luck.

Just come along. That will be the easiest.

Centralni komitet sits near the river bank where the Sava and the
Danube meet, on the Novi Beograd side, and it’s all glass and aluminum, the
tallest building on that side of the river... it would be hard to miss it.

What if I fly into another one?

By the way, how do you know Tito will be there when you fly in?

It’s the yearly communist congress. Their sessions last for ten hours,
three days in a row. I just have to get there after 8 a.m..

But you’ll kill a lot of innocent people.

I’ll get that gangster, that’s what matters. And if I don’t get him, he’ll
kill more innocent people – he’s killed hundreds of thousands. And who’s
innocent in that government?
6

How about the cleaning ladies, the porters, the stenographers... You
better not do it. You’ll go to hell.

I don’t have the time to chat.

You are about to kill at least two hundred people and you call this
chatting?

On what floor are they meeting?

How would I know. Just go to hell.

That’s some blessing.

And the line was cut.

Shit, now I’d have to do the whole thing alone.

Anyway, I kept the pilot, Lisa, my lawyer joined me just in case I ran
into more trouble, and two University of Chicago students – sort of a little
harem. If I am going to have hostages, I might just as well enjoy looking at
them. I let all the fat passengers go. One thing about me, I always hated lazy
people, and America is full of them. All the technology is geared to eliminate
work, so you can stay in bed and a La-Z-Boy all day long, microwaving your
meals and macrowaving your ass.

I could have changed to a bigger plane at Midway, but I figured, to get
as much gasoline in a plane for crossing to Europe, it would be better to fly to
JFK and upgrade there. That complicated things, two landings, two airplanes.

I knew there were all sorts of agents at the airport waiting to shoot
me, so I made the pilots give a call to the control tower, and then I got on, and
said, If you shoot me, I’ll shoot a pilot... I’ll have enough time after I hear the
shot to pull the trigger. And just remember, I am loaded with highly reactive
bombs. If I fall to the ground, I will explode and everybody around me will
be dead. So even shooting me in the head won’t help save people. Plus, you
should be glad that I will take down Tito. CIA approves of this mission.

Of course, CIA didn’t approve of this method, although earlier they
hired me to assassinate Tito when he visited DC. But Tito must have gotten
the intelligence about it, so he never left the building at Camp David. He flew
there and back in a helicopter. I’d waited for him disguised as a state trooper.

So we walked to a bigger plane, full of fuel. I walked alongside Lisa,
with a gun to her head, my head against her head, so if they shot through my
head, they would shoot through hers, in case they hadn’t quite bought the
story of my sensitive explosives. With one arm I kept her body close to mine,
and we walked in waves, in sync, her hip against mine as she wore mediumhigh heels, blue heels. It was very comforting. If they managed to take me out
from a different angle, at least I would die with a hard-on. Tears flowed down
her cheeks, but she didn’t whimper.

What are you crying about? I said. If you survive, you can write a
book about this, go on talk shows, become a celebrity. This is the best thing
that has ever happened to you.

My consolation didn’t work for her. Now she whimpered and her
hot tears sprinkled over my hand. I couldn’t be distracted. We went up into
the new plane. The tall condor-like pilot pulled the heavy door shut and slid
the lever over it. I walked up and down the aisles to make sure no agents were
planted there. I checked the bathrooms. It was tricky to run this as a one man
operation. My lawyer was useless. He was reading The Gulag Archipelago by
7

you know who. I had to watch him too. He had no idea what plans I had for us
all. He was trying to persuade me to fly to Shannon, Ireland, and to surrender
as there was no extradition there – to get some kind of good deal. Well, that
was Plan B if it turned out that Tito wasn’t attending the session and I found
out about it. Though in that case, I could fly to Dedinje. But he was like a
mole – he had bunkers everywhere, and if sensing any danger, he’d be deep
underground. I didn’t get this far to compromise, and I wasn’t doing all this
just to save my ass. I had a higher mission, to free Serbia from Tito. I used to
think Tito was a Serb, that he was related to Peter Karadjordjevic, despite his
strange name, but then, my name is strange and not Serbian, so that didn’t
matter. And just to think, for years I served Tito, without knowing that he
was a foreigner to us, a Croat and Slovene, but by the way he spoke, I am not
sure he was that either. Probably a Swede.

Anyway, we flew to Belgrade. It was pretty boring and I kept drinking
coffee. Third night without sleep. My lawyer read Quiet flows the Don, Lisa
slept and then read Love Story. I said, Why read about love?

Because in real life it’s always disappointing. I usually fall for creeps.

Where are you from? You have a bit of an accent.

You should talk. From Lyon, France.

That’s great. I’ve had a German wife and a Russian one. I should try
French. But I guess I am out of time for that.

You are a strange guy, always threatening.

No, I am trying to be pleasant and charming. What can I say, I am not
good at it.

You call this trying?

Have you ever been to Belgrade?

No, only to Rovinj when I was a teenager. That was great, though I
stepped on a sea urchin and had needles sticking out of my foot.

Look at the city, do you see the fortress? I said. She leaned over. I
went back to the cockpit.

It was a cloudy day, but the clouds were high and once we made it
below them I could make out the rivers, the Sava and the Danube. I hadn’t
been there in twenty years, and I felt nostalgic. How do I go back? In flames,
dying in an instant? It would be great to take a walk on Kalamegdan, but that
was a selfish thought. Surviving at the expense of keeping Tito alive, after
all this work, was out of the question. Now it was 9 a.m.. Although Tito had
a reputation for early rising, what if he actually wasn’t there yet? Maybe he
got drunk last night? And what if that idiot Kajevic informed him of my
intentions? In that case, wouldn’t there be MiG jets already on my tail? How
would I know there aren’t? Well, I would give him a few more minutes to
get there, and I would make sure the glass building glittering in the morning
light, with some streaks of the sun hitting it under the clouds, was the right
building.

What are we doing? Where are we landing? asked the pilot.

Make a couple of circles above the city, and we’ll figure it out.

I shouldn’t get distracted, I thought. This is for my brothers. Our
family was hounded and harassed because of our Chetnik history. He even
got rid of Rankovic suspecting him to be a chetnik. It amazed me that this
8

hater of Serbs was ruling over Serbia and Yugoslavia, beloved especially by
most of the Serbs. And we aren’t stupid people. Tesla was a Serb. How did
Tito manage to do this? It was not normal. He was a devil, one of them.

The stewardess brought me another shot of Chivas. I downed
it. Despite the previous coffee that shot affected me and when I walked I
staggered. I looked at Lisa. She had purple circles under her eyes, which made
her blue eyes look a little purple as well, like Sophia Loren’s eyes. And she was
reading about love. She wanted it. Probably not with me, but who else was
there now?

Will you kiss me? I said.

If I don’t, you’ll shoot me?

No. Just before we die, I’d like to have a kiss, that’s my last wish. I
know, it sounds silly, and you think I am too old for you.

OK. She came over and kissed me briefly, fleetingly. Her lips were
wet.

Longer, I said.

She closed her eyes. That’s all right, I said. You can keep your eyes
closed, I have to keep mine open. And I did, and I brushed her hair away
from her left ear so I could see above it, to make sure nobody was taking this
opportunity to grab me.

Where are you taking us? she asked.

I pressed her to my chest. Her breasts comforted my ribs, ribs which
had been broken many times, and which still hurt when the weather changed
or when I coughed. I just have to make love to her, I thought. Could I do it
in front of everybody? No, you have to have certain kind of exhibitionism,
like a porn star, to enjoy it in front of everybody. I was always shy with
women, and with everybody, really—sort of thinker and observer, and only
because I thought so much, did I decide I needed to be a man of action, but by
temperament I was an introvert.

Her fabrics were emitting static. And there we were, circling
above Belgrade, the clouds were clearing, and I saw Belgrade laid out
like a topographical map, with the sunlight turning the Sava river into a
shimmering... it looked like a glowing iron coming out of a furnace, and next
to it, the glass building with all the communists drinking Radenska vodka
and talking in their incredibly tedious jargon, while Tito sat, frowning in his
dark glasses, his hair painted red, his face blotched. He’d looked terrible when
visiting Jimmy Carter just a couple of months before. He was eighty-six or
eighty-seven already, and probably had not much time left in him. Suddenly
I thought that Tito might die soon even without my action, that all this was
too late and in vain, only a vain statement, which would make him look
larger than life, to be assassinated by a beautiful airplane... He deserved to die
but this was a little too late. Ten years earlier in Mexico it would have been
excellent, but he never showed up in the streets. And at Camp David, twice,
Tito limped when visiting Carter. Supposedly he had diabetes, and perhaps
the limp came from his left leg rotting. Maybe he’d soon have – or already
did – gangrene. There were rumours that he no longer ran the country, that
he was under house arrest, that his wife Jovanka and the generals ran the
country. Why did I bother? Why didn’t I think of all of this before? Did I
9

need the revenge just so I could say I had revenge? Wasn’t this better, for him
to die in pain, slowly, miserably, for years? My blowing him up would put him
instantly out of misery – it would be a mercy killing.

Will you marry me? I asked the stewardess.

What? When? Why? How?

Good questions.

I thought you told me we were going to die in an hour.

Did I tell you that?

You want to be married for an hour? What would be the point?

If I save the plane and everybody on it, will you love me?

Do our lives depend on it?
Yes.

Then what else can I answer? Of course, I will, and I am sure I would
be so thankful that I would.

That sounds very conditional. Well, I have a lawyer here, he could
marry us.

I told the pilot to make one more circle over Belgrade.

My lawyer overheard me, and said, My friend, you talk a lot of
nonsense. You told me you needed me for your surrender at Shannon, so why
aren’t we at Shannon?

At this rate, we’ll run out of fuel, the pilot said, just circling and
circling, and you getting married and all.

Don’t tell me you are jealous, I replied. We have enough fuel to make
it to Shannon, Ireland, don’t we?

Yes, if we go straight there.

OK, fly to Shannon. We might refuel there and come back. That will
give us enough time to...

So we flew northwest toward Shannon. I got married up in the air.
Lisa giggled and we drank first class champagne. She seemed to be happy. It
was hard to tell whether she rejoiced because she was going to live or because
she would marry me and live with me. I believed the details for our life
together in Southern France could be negotiated in exchange for the freedom
of the passengers. Everybody was in a great mood. I wanted to have this hour
of illusion, of happiness, a new life, although I planned to, at the end of the
little jaunt to Shannon, still fly back to Belgrade and end it all. Obviously, I
wasn’t very direct in pursuing my plan.

Tito would certainly be at the Central Committee Building in the
afternoon. But would he? Was he ever? Did he even attend these meetings?
Or had Kajevic already alerted him? And weren’t all the conversations with
Kajevic recorded and although they were in Serbian by now they would be
translated by the FBI, and Tito was probably informed. The building was
probably evacuated. I would have flown into it like a fool. The only way I
could have made it was without talking to anybody, without raising so much
fuss. Didn’t Yugoslav intelligence officers watch American television? This
was big news, a Serbian terrorist who was in the habit of planting bombs in
Yugoslav consulates and embassies stealing an airplane? I was sick of the pros
and cons. When did I start to shilly-shally? Whiskey and women turned me
into a skeptic.
10

So the thing now was to get to Ireland and strike a deal – no people
dead, me free in Ireland, married to Lisa for real... well, I already was married.
I had a Russian wife in the States. So what! I could be a bigamist.

But just to think of it, I’d failed repeatedly to assassinate Tito. I was
a bad Serb. A good Serb kills his bad leader, the tyrant. I was a horrible loser.
20 years, and four attempts, and nada. I blushed thinking of it. It was a shame.
I had grown up on blood revenge, my family killed 300 years ago, we hid to
avoid blood revenge, we changed the name to an Albanian name, although
we were Serbs, and yet we were bloodied by Tito and his agents. The agents
were not related to the Montenegrins to whom we owed blood. But somehow
it worked. Maybe in the scheme of things, everything was even. But it wasn’t.
Tito killed my brothers, and he owed me his blood, and I couldn’t spill it.
Maybe I should turn around and – even if there was only a 20 percent chance
that Tito was there – fly into and smash the damned place. And even if there
was only 20 percent chance that he would live more than a year, judging by
his looks...

So I was still undecided.

I announced to everybody on the plane that we were going to
Shannon, they would all be free, and maybe I would be too. So don’t make
any shennanegans while Lisa and I consummate our marriage, I said. I have
the explosives, the gun, so don’t mess with me. And Lisa and I made love,
standing in the toilet. Man, this was more fun than dying. I could have
already been dead, but instead, I was making love. I didn’t change the course
of history; I was merely a hedonist loser, after all.

At Shannon, it was a whole circus when we landed. I gave the
explosives to my lawyer who walked out first and negotiated with the
authorities. I planned that to be merely pre-negotiation, and I would follow
with my plan to ask for a house in Lyon or anywhere else in France.

The Irish police, of course, had lots of experience with explosives.
They took mine to the side in a clear space and blew it up. The explosives
were weak, like crackers. The cops laughed. Of course, I didn’t need much
firepower. It’s all in the mind. The main thing is everybody believed me and
I could have flown away. I laughed too. I was glad everybody was alive. But
in general merriment I gave away my gun too soon and was separated from
Lisa, and before I knew it, I was in the back of a police car, and flying again, on
the way to trial and prison in the States. I’d believed the lawyer and the nonextradition bullshit.

A few days later I watched TV and, according to the reports, Tito
had not even attended the central committee meetings. He must have known
of my flight. And Lisa was in the news, promoting a book already completed,
and talking about the power of love, how love can even defeat terrorism. She
claimed she wasn’t really married to me, that it was a way to save hundreds
of innocent people, to marry a terrorist. That will teach me, to make so much
noise before doing anything, and for having relied on friends and women to
do anything. Just a good map would have been better, but then, how do you
get Tito? I ended up in prison, and I didn’t care. I did my five-hundred pushups a day, and once I got out, I’d make love to Lisa from behind, for sure. Tito
died a little more than a year later. He had literally rotted away, and his left
11

leg was amputated, and then his right one, and so on. Strangely, I didn’t feel
happy at the news. I think I had still hoped to get out, ten years later, and to
kill the guy, who would be one hundred years old. And he was going to hell
for sure. And what if I went, by strange chance, to heaven because I was so
nice to the passengers? I imagine how it would be if I met him in hell, whether
I could kill him, and he’d come right back to life, and I could keep killing him,
and he would keep coming back to life. Well, I didn’t need that kind of hell. It
seems to me I’d already been there.

MARY
LOU
ZELAZNY

12

13

MARY LOU ZELAZNY

AN EXCERPT FROM HYDROMANIA
Assaf Gavron
Part I: Eternity

DEVIL’S LAKE
2008, acrylic, collage, oil, canvas, 63.5” x 44”

I  I GO
2006, 27” x 24”, acrylic, collage, canvas

FOURCHETTE
1993, 34” x 26”, mixed media, collage, paper

FORTUNATO
1993, 22” x 15”, mixed media, collage, paper

18

SHE WAKES UP thirsty, as usual, but this time it’s harder, as if there is sand
in her throat. She straightens up in her bed and strokes her throat, trying to
transfer saliva from her palate so the swallowing won’t hurt. Then she moves
the same two fingers to her arm, halfway between her left elbow and shoulder,
and touches a tiny nodule under the skin. I have no money here, the thought
crosses her mind. I have nothing. This piece of Silicon-Titanium might as
well be used as a toothpick. Then she remembers what Dagi told her.

She gets out of bed and climbs the internal ladder onto the roof. It is
crowded with Ji-Ji containers, receivers and sensors, and a Cloud-Watching
Tower, but she has managed to clear a corner, and from it she now observes
the long sand dunes, the sea with the aqueduct and Herod’s harbour. Beyond
it the floating neighbourhoods and the old Russian destroyers are visible, and
further north the Caesarea metropolis and the communities surrounding
it. To the East, the sun is already high, its haze hiding the mountains,
brownish-gray outlines at this time of day, looking as far off as they really are,
unattainable. The sky is completely clear, as always.

She likes her roof, but this morning she hasn’t come up here to enjoy
the view. She checks her private storing containers, the Ji-Ji, to see whether they
caught some of the morning dew, whether there is anything left. She moves
from one container to the next, knowing by heart the lock combinations,
taps them in, turns to open the lids, and opens the last fingerprint-reader lid,
with her small finger. She knows what she is going to find. After all, last night
didn’t produce liters of precipitation, so she is not going to discover a secret
reservoir of fresh water. She is nearing the end. She will dry up. The next rain
is expected in December, and that is three months away. She will not hold out
until then. She has no money to buy enough water for herself, and not only
for herself. She will need – they will need – more water than ever in the near
future.

She sinks a cup into the container. The display on the water line
shows 9.3 liters. She feels hot, and she touches her arm and requests the
temperature: 32.6. Requests the time: 8:12. Lucky there are still a few free
services. With the cup, careful not to spill a drop, she returns down the
ladder to the apartment. She drinks slowly from the small cup, sip after sip,
swallowing with decreasing pain, holding the liquid in her mouth, wetting all
the corners, sucking it through her teeth, finally swallowing the thin trickle.
She touches her arm and requests a voice conversation with Dagi.
19

“Maya,” he says, in her ear. She fastens the straps of her sandals
above and below her ankle. “Dagi. Tell me once more about this chip.”

She hears him smile. She isn’t smiling. “Yesterday you said you were
not interested.”

She puts her Toyota C shades on the bridge of her nose, smoothes
her short hair back and closes the door behind her. “Now I am,” she says. He
says, “Come to breakfast.” She touches her arm to disconnect.

She loves walking in town, but the densha is free if you don’t want
to pay and you’re prepared to watch ads, and she prefers not to sweat. She
gets on at South six and touches the map at North three, Dagi’s stop. She lets
the scanner read the chip in her arm and transmit ads to her Toyota C. “Ya
Maya, Ohiya—dive into life.” The drops in the hologram look so real and cold
that she puts her tongue out and tries to catch them. Come on, she shakes her
head. Exactly what she needs now, that the biggest water corporation in the
world will invite her to dive into her life. Actually, maybe it is what I need to do,
she thinks. By the time she arrives at North three she sees ads for Gobogobo,
promising a once-in-a-lifetime deal, and for Vizi. Other ads are not for water:
Honda communication booths, chips by Chinese Express. Finally she has
enough, lowers the volume as much as possible, and shuts her eyes.
Dagi gestures “one moment” from a distance. He is talking. His big Toyotas
are on the edge of his nose, and he has white speaker-earrings by Boss. She
stays away but can hear his worried tone, the shoulders are a little droopy.
She thinks he says, “Yes, today, I will take care of it.” The black clump of hair
on the top of Dagi’s head looks strange. The last time she saw him, a few days
ago, his hair was long black curls which lay on his back. He touches his arm
and comes over.

“How are you, auntie? You are pretty today.”

“I’ve had better mornings.” She kisses his cheek and touches his
shoulder.

“Thirsty?”

“Of course.”

“Let’s go inside.” He leads her to his apartment. North three is a
pretty neighbourhood, built on what was once a golf course, overlooking
Wadi Zarka. The apartments here are spacious and well equipped. He walks
over to a 100 liter Gobogobo machine in the corner of his kitchen and pours
her a cup. The display on the water line shows 98.2. He can see her eyes widen.
“They have an incredible deal on their 100 liters at the moment,” he says. “I
know,” she says. “Once in a lifetime. I saw the ad.”

“You’re not happy to see me?” he takes his shades off and smiles at
her, his arms wide open. The scar on his cheekbone looks better, but this
hair, she thinks. “How many times will I tell you that I could be your mom?”
He puts his arms down. The smile and teeth disappear behind his lips. “I just
talked with your man.”

“Yes?”

“Wanted to make sure the chip was still available.”

She waits for him to go on, slowly sipping the good water. It has been
a long time since she bought water from the corporations. Even when she
20

could afford it, she had sworn not to give one Kuai to the water corporations.
She’d rather support small, local companies, but they are expensive too, so she
collects. Prepares before rainfalls, makes sure the containers are ready, filters
the shower rations, looks for cheap deals with independent water dealers. But
this time she’s left out in the cold, like many others. She was counting on
rains that were scheduled for the end of this month, adapted her reservoir
and her money, and then the forecast was cancelled. The next rains will only
come in December, a full week of nonstop rain, that’s what they said in the
Ohiya News (dive into life). This is good news, they promised. Their scientists
managed to preserve the water that was expected in September and hold it
until the next wave, and this means that the next wave will be several times
stronger and will yield a year’s worth of water. She knows not to believe them,
that it is another manipulation forcing people to buy their water, take loans
from their banks, invest in their shares. She has been left with no money, no
water, and soon she will need them more than ever.

“His name is Eternity,” Dagi makes her jump out of her thoughts.

“What? Who is?”

“The previous owner of your chip.”

“It isn’t mine yet. Tell me about him.”

“I told you everything I know already. It is a guy who was killed.”

“When?”

“Does it matter when? A few days ago.”

“How?”

“In the sea. He fell from a Cloud-Watching Tower in one of the
floating neighbourhoods.”

“Which one?”

“Sea eight,” he replies, looking at her. Sea eight is a good
neighbourhood, this much she knows.

“Fell off a CWT? Just like that?”

Dagi shrugs. “I don’t know if it was just like that. He fell. My people
tell me he is totally kosher. A good guy.”

“Eternity,” she says.

“That’s his name.”

“And there’s a lot of money in his chip.”

“They don’t know how much exactly, but his job, his apartment. He
had money.”

“How do I know he is totally kosher?”

“My people are reliable. They are never wrong. This is why people
buy chips from me. There is some risk, but it is small. You have known me
long enough. You know I’m looking after you.” He scratches the black clump
of hair on his head. He is thin and dark, and the contrast between his skin and
blue eyes could deter some. It doesn’t deter her. She always liked his honesty.
She trusts him.

“How much do you charge?”

“Ten thousand. Fourteen thousand if my surgeon does the doi.”

She laughs. The wrinkles besides her pretty eyes, crow’s feet.
Wrinkles of laughter, not age. “If I had such sums...”

“Don’t forget I’m paying the people who removed the chip from the body.”
21

“What if his chip doesn’t contain this kind of money?”

“The signs show that he has much more than that. Other than that I
can’t promise. As I said, there is some risk.”

“And what do I do then? If there’s no money, how do I pay you?”

“In the rare cases where this happens, I charge less. Expenses, doi, a
minimal sum for the middle men. Because it is you, I will absorb some of it.
We’ll sort it out, don’t worry. This is not a reason for you not to go ahead with
it.”

“So what is?” She takes a final sip from the Gobogobo and places the
cup on the counter. She remembers he said something about breakfast, and
maybe something in her expression reminds him too because he says, “Hold
on, I promised you breakfast, didn’t I?”

Over toast, olives, and figs they try small talk: the cancelled rains of
September, Ohiya’s real motives, the possibility that there will be rain this
month despite the forecasts, the possibility that the Palestinians will take over
the next rainfall... But Maya is not interested in talking politics right now, and
she has questions about the doi, after all she is a paying client, so she steers
the conversation back there.

“What if I want to return to my chip after a while?”

“Why would you want to do that?” asks Dagi.

“To return to my identity, no? I’ll transfer this Eternity’s money to
my account, and go back to being myself.”

He shakes his head. “You can keep your identity with his chip. You
will be Maya, you will sign Maya, ads and people will address you as Maya.
These are simple preference changes. Only the chip’s license will remain in
Eternity’s name, but there is no reason it should interest anyone. Besides,
money is only part of what you get with his chip. There’s his apartment in
Sea eight. And all the services he’s subscribed to. These are available only to
the person who carries the chip, so if you doi back to your chip, you will lose
them.”

“Hold on. If the chip is registered on Eternity’s name, won’t the
police ask questions?”

“Only if they decide to check. But why would they? If you get arrested
for something... Is there a reason for anyone to arrest you?”

“Of course not.” she puts a fig in her a mouth. The olives are good,
but she doesn’t want to get thirsty. “But in case I do want to doi back to my
poor chip...” She caresses the chip in her arm and sees the main menu in her
shades. She has an idea. “You have Eternity’s address?” Dagi checks and sends
it to her. She checks the site: a young man, smiling, an international trade
lawyer, single. A few blocked links but the basic information is sufficient.

She blinks to disconnect. “...Where would my chip be?”

“With you. There’s no problem. You can always go back if you decide
to do so. But from my experience, very few return to their old chips. They
enjoy the new ones too much.”

“Didn’t he leave a will?”

“He didn’t. It was checked. He was single. Even if there was a will, we
would have sorted it out. There are ways to change a will, it’s easy. Maya, you
will be alright.”
22

They eat in silence. She drinks more water. Her throat feels much
better. Eventually she gets up. There isn’t much to think about. She knew this
moment would come.

23

AUSTRALIANS ALL, LET US REJOICE
Gabrielle Watling

IN THE EARLY 1970s our parents moved us to North Queensland, the land
of head lice and Ross River Fever, in Australia’s languid tropics. We were
originally from Sydney and, had we stayed there, might have read Greek, or
taken up the cello. But, once in the “Mississippi of Australia,” our parents
should not have been surprised when we instead developed an interest in the
bloke down the road who had fifty snakes.

After having made the decision to move, Mum and Dad carefully
selected an illegally erected two-room shack with beach on one side and
criminals on the other, and encouraged us to think of outdoor plumbing
as a gesture of solidarity with the working poor. Our windows were flaps
of plywood, propped open with lengths of “fourbetwo,” and we shared a
bedroom with a nest of speckledguts – a species of indignant tropical honeyeater. Although our parents suffered some lingering doubts about the effects
of this dramatic cultural shift, they relaxed somewhat when they realized
we were happy to be fed, roam around in feral packs, and have our stitches
taken out at regular intervals. But as Australia’s metropolitan cities began to
mature, hosting string quartets and exhibitions from the Frick, they reverted
to indecision. Our Sydney relatives were dropping names like Braque and
Rothko into their Christmas letters. And when one uncle reported that
Australia now owned something called “Blue Poles” by some bloke called
Jackson Pollock, it was clear he didn’t mean our part of Australia. As “Blue
Poles” was touching down at Sydney Airport, we were trying to get Anthony
Morris to steal two packets of Marlboros from the local shop.

But amidst this cultural vacillation, we understood that we were
expected to identify with the wilder aspects of the tropics (yes to hippies,
geckoes, experimental driftwood installations), and resist “normal” North
Queensland (no to hope chests, guinea pigs, and I Dream of Jeannie). This
other side of the region – the suspicion of anything metropolitan, unmarried,
or flourless – was exemplified for us by the solid, middle-class Bolger family.
The Bolgers did not live on a crooked sandy lane between the beach and the
bush, did not live half an hour from the nearest usable tetanus shot, did not
have to hose their children down at the end of each day. The Bolgers lived in
town and were as unlike us as a spoon is the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Mr. Bolger was a Mason and a trustee at the local Methodist Church.
Mrs. Bolger had won prizes for her “Useful and Decorative Household Items,
Handmade” at the annual agricultural show. They had three children. The
24

eldest, Russell, was a healthy, robust bully who rode an underwhelming
motorcycle that the family waggishly christened “the Green Hornet.” Simone
appeared after a respectable pause and became a sweet-tempered, generous girl
with modest ambitions and a flair for home hair-styling. By all appearances,
Mr. and Mrs. Bolger had intended to stop with the matched pair. Kylie didn’t
appear until a good seven years after her sister and never quite fit the vision
that the adult Bolgers had of family life. Mrs. Bolger was large, graying, and
maternal with a permanent apron and cats-eye glasses, and seemed more like
Kylie’s grandmother than her mother. Mr. Bolger was a shortish, balding man
whom I never saw smile, or display any emotion other than moral outrage.

I met Kylie Bolger in grade three, when she and Susan Veaslan were
assigned to show me around Cairns North State School on my first day as
a “new girl.” They breezily pointed out the tuckshop, the girls’ toilets, the
sick room and the library. I learned about “frozen cups” (paper cups filled
with frozen cordial) which you could buy from the tuckshop, and the cry of
“Sir!” with which you addressed male teachers when you were volunteering
an answer in class. Our teacher was a woman, Mrs. Martin-Fletcher, who
looked somewhat mystified as to how she’d ended up in front of thirty largely
shoeless, lice-prone brats, when she was clearly more suited to the verandah
of a tea plantation on the Malay Peninsula.

Later in that first week, during “art,” Mrs. Martin-Fletcher showed
us how to make a Christmas angel mobile. We were to make five individual
angels from paper cut-outs that we’d colored and stuck glitter to, and attach
them to string which was hung from lengths of wire. Kylie Bolger finished her
Christmas angel mobile in two afternoons. I made one angel and then lost
it. When I saw Shane Jones (shoeless, lice-prone son of a racetrack janitor)
putting my angel on his mobile, I asked for its return. He told me to get lost. I
timidly appealed to Mrs. Martin-Fletcher, but, unwilling to expend any more
energy on the angel question than she had to, Mrs. Martin-Fletcher wrote
a number on the back of a blackboard duster and said, “number between
one and ten.” This was some sort of foreign language to me. In Sydney, the
angel would have been returned and the question wouldn’t have been asked.
And we wouldn’t have been making stupid angel mobiles anyway. I said four.
Shane said nine. Shane got the angel. I got a lesson in North Queensland
justice.

Mum and Dad knew the adult Bolgers through ham radios. Dad had
come to ham radios via a childhood crystal set. Mr. Bolger had come to ham
radios via a stint in the Army Reserve during WWII. Dad could talk for hours
about capacitors and valves. Mr. Bolger could have his transmitters ready
for vital military communication at the first sign of Indonesian restlessness
(“they’ll go through us like a hot knife through butter” he once predicted at
a Volunteer Emergency Services meeting). Mr. Bolger worked at the Cairns
Regional Water Board, where he had risen to Director of Billing. Kylie was
terrified of him, and rightly so. I once received a rare invitation to spend a
Saturday at the Bolgers’ which delighted Kylie (who wasn’t allowed to come
to our place – she might see cubism, or Anthony Morris). An excitable girl,
she suggested that we should dress up for her mother’s amusement. Kylie
put on a bridesmaid’s hat that Simone had worn at a recent wedding and
25

pranced into the living room. Her father lowered his newspaper, and in a tone
somewhere between disgust and outrage, growled “get that stupid thing off
and start acting your age.” Kylie’s age was 11 and a 1/2. What Mr. Bolger meant
was, cease being visible. If you were a (girl) child in that house, you were
expected to stay transparent until you were engaged. Mrs. Bolger gestured
toward the bedroom that Kylie and Simone shared, and we spent the rest of
the afternoon behind the closed bedroom door playing I’m Margot Fonteyn.

Kylie was not deprived though. Her bedroom was a wonderland of
girly things. She did something called novice dance, and her side of the room
was decorated with pictures of ballet slippers, ballerina dolls and pink puffy
things with no apparent function. Simone’s side of the room was decorated
with grown-up versions of Kylie’s trimmings. Simone was a junior typist at
the Lands Department. She had pictures of Victorian women in pale blue
crinolines and parasols, wall vases full of artificial roses, and souvenirs
from her friends’ weddings. Outside of the bedroom, the Bolger house was
formal where it needed to be formal (the claret-colored velvet “Ascot” dining
room suite), feminine where it needed to be feminine (Mr. and Mrs. Bolger’s
bedroom—ivory quilted bedspread with pink floral detail; matching goldtrimmed laminex wood grain bed head, dressing table and wardrobe; framed
photo of Mr. and Mrs. on their wedding day, Mr. in his Army Reserve uniform,
posed and formal, Mrs. focused on the artificial sweep of her wedding gown
and elaborate bouquet of white narcissus), and neutral where it needed to
be neutral (kitchen – cheerful lino, “Greetings from The Gold Coast” tea
towel; matching canister set in “basket” patterned plastic – flour, sugar, tea,
cinnamon, allspice). Downstairs, Mr. Bolger would park the Holden Premier
in the same spot every night and talk to other ham radio operators in his neat
radio nook before going upstairs for tea. The Bolger children had attended
(Russell and Simone), or were currently attending (Kylie), Sunday School and
never, ever attracted controversy, unwelcome attention, or ambulances.

But it was getting harder to be Bolger in the late 20th century tropics.
It had been challenging in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, when all the respectable
had to do was battle the heat and the humidity in gloves, hats and ties. But
when the ratbags and hippies started to move in from “down south,” a plate of
homemade treats no longer bought entry to the elite circles. Mrs. Bolger had
been raised to cook and sew, and baked goods were her specialty. Kylie never
bought her lunch from the school tuckshop. She would bring two piebald
tarts (pastry shell, half chocolate, half condensed milk filling), folded into a
sheet of waxed “rainbow wrap” for little lunch, and walk the 400 yards or
so home for big lunch. On Fridays, she was allowed to wear her own clothes
instead of the school uniform. And although our State School Uniforms were
bought at Harris Bros. in Tennyson St., Mrs. Bolger made all of Kylie’s other
clothes using Cindy Brady as her inspiration. Kylie’s other clothes therefore
featured Peter Pan collars, colorful heart-shaped buttons, Western-style
lace-up yokes in neon satin, puffed sleeves and carefully finished appliqués.
Kylie wore these clothes with the misplaced confidence that her family met
society’s expectations precisely, despite growing evidence that the average
local citizen now looked like Janis Joplin.
26

Kylie believed she had a duty to put the rest of us on the right social
path. To that end, she would lead us around the school grounds, delivering
pronouncements on who was fulfilling their moral obligations (Susan
Veaslan, Debby Lewis and Colleen Frank), and who was not (Belinda Temple,
the Aboriginal kids, boys). Susan Veaslan, Debby Lewis and Colleen Frank
could be left to follow their own good example. The rest of us – me, Maureen
Mueller, Gursimrah Singh, Kay Feeley – fell somewhere in between and
could not be trusted to find our own way to respectability, not as long as we
kept bringing lunch money to school instead of piebald tarts.

Kylie set about fixing us. Maureen was a nascent lesbian, but she was
happy to climb the trees that Kylie settled us under for our tutoring. Gursimrah
was from a Sikh sugar cane farming family, so naturally she wouldn’t know
anything about being normal. Kay’s parents were d-i-v-o-r-c-e-d so she was
in on compassionate grounds. I knew some boring stuff (“The Marseillaise,”
photosynthesis, Easter Island), but nothing about matching florals with
florals or the correct way to address the Mayor. Kylie knew about both the
public and the private worlds of women. We marveled at her knowledge of
feminine hygiene. Before any of us had reached that point, but not before
we’d built up a healthy curiosity about it, Kylie was explaining how to pin a
pad to a “feminine belt” so that it didn’t bulge under your netball skirt. We
were not surprised when Kylie wrote and produced a play about a young girl
who used good manners to defeat a dastardly plot. She made a special project
of renovating Belinda Temple, the scruffy child of hippies who was placed
in the very back of the school’s cheering crowd on the day the Queen was
driven through the city. After the royal visit, Kylie gathered us around the
drinking fountain and, holding Belinda under the tap, demonstrated how
much difference a bit of cold water and a clean handkerchief could make.
Belinda submitted to Kylie’s splendid authority with bewildered grace.

Although Kylie gained considerable satisfaction from stamping out
our cultural ambiguity, outside of the school playground, a battle for the
ideological upper hand was escalating between urban and rural Australia.
Russell still worked at the bank, and the capable Mrs. Bolger planned Simone’s
approaching wedding to a nice boy from the City Council office. But the
region’s slow, conservative suspicion of newness was dissolving. The signs
were subtle at first. We learned an “Aborigine” song in Music. The Cairns
and District Little Theater cancelled its production of My Fair Lady and
replaced it with Equus. Then came Gough Whitlam and the Labor Party,
and then came Jackson Pollock and “Blue Poles.”

Normal Australians were suspicious of Art – the capital A version
that is – with its abstract concepts and ironic depictions. For the Bolgers, “art”
still meant easily interpretable narratives or identifiable subjects: paint-bynumbers kittens and English country gardens that Simone did in the school
holidays. There was real art of course – the Mona Lisa, stuff like that – on
cushion covers and grown up jigsaw puzzles. If the subject was a recognizable
human, animal, or vase of flowers, it was art. But individuals who called
themselves “artists” were rarely taken seriously. Were they really “artists”?
Or were they just some over-educated ratbags who were taking the piss? You
could tell what the Mona Lisa was. But a few blobs of paint in a frame… well,
27

pull the other one mate. But despite the Aussie battlers’ attempts to keep
Australia normal, capital A Art, like cane toads, got into the country anyway.

My mother was responsible for this collapse of traditional Australian
culture. In 1972, she voted Labor and helped elect Gough Whitlam, a refined,
left wing intellectual and natural Bolger enemy. Gough immediately set
about dismantling 23 years of stodgy conservative party rule by promoting
contemporary culture and expanding the nation’s definition of human rights.
Full of vigorous optimism for the nation’s future, Mum would regularly drill
us on Gough’s reforms. We learned how to use terms like “recognitions
for women and Aboriginals” in a complete sentence. If we didn’t finish the
washing up by the end of the News, she made us read press releases from the
Australian Council of the Performing Arts. And it was because of Gough’s
support for the brainy, ratbag Arts that in 1973 the country spent $1.35 million
for the purchase of “Blue Poles,” a 16 x 7 foot slab of dribbled paint and random
splashes that my delighted my mother, enraged Mr. Bolger, and pushed “the
tax payer” to the forefront of the national conversation.

Mum, who disapproved of television, became mesmerized by the
mid-evening current affairs programs and their promotion of the “Blue
Poles” controversy. We sat rolling our eyes (mostly because we were missing
Matlock Police), as startled men and women on the street were set upon by
pushy young reporters. “Giddaymate, Jason Baddle, Nine News. This is ‘Blue
Poles,’ the painting that the government paid a million dollars for. Whaddya
reckon? Worth a million dollars?’

“Reckon my 7-year-old could do better than that.”

“Apparently, its real name is “Blue Poles: Number 11.” Whaddya
reckon about that?”

“True? Yeah well, I reckon the first 10 must of been no good.”
In response, Mum set up the Cairns Contemporary Arts Society and sent
weekly letters to the Daily Mercury expressing her outrage at the treatment
of “Blue Poles.” But even other artists were skeptical. Sir William Dargie,
portraitist (the Queen), and beloved WWII painter (“Stretcher Bearers in the
Owen Stanley Ranges”), told an interviewer, “we could have had a Rembrandt
for that money.” To add insult to injury, it was a bloody Septic1 painting, and
it looked very much like the bloody Septics were having a bloody lend of us.
If there was one thing Australians hated, it was Septics. And being had a lend
of.

After this reception, and in an attempt to show Australians where
their art dollar had gone, Gough decided to exhibit the painting around the
nation, with special emphasis on “regional and isolated areas.” Much to our
delight, this meant a school fieldtrip. “Blue Poles” would be transported to
wherever a 16 x 7 foot painting could be set up without someone putting their
bloody boot through it, and we “regional Australians” would be allowed to
commune with it for as long as it took to turn us all into human beings. That
was how we got to see “Blue Poles,” and that was how Jackson Pollock killed
Mr. Bolger.
1
28

As she signed the permission form for the field trip, Mum made
sure I understood the significance of this moment for the people of North
Queensland. But once we were on the bus, our teacher, Mr. Ryan, framed our
expectations with the weary cynicism of a State Education Department lifer:

“Sit down Jones. The rest of you, what are we going to see?”

“Sir, Sir, my dad says that bloke was drunk.”

“Which ‘bloke’ Jones – the artist of Blue Poles?”

“No Sir, the government bloke who paid a million dollars for it.”

“Shut up Jones.”

Now mostly habituated to Art’s right to exist for its own sake,
I was ready to defend “Blue Poles” against my classmates’ ignorance. “It’s
Modernism, Sir,” I offered confidently, as if I knew what that meant. But
my attempt at art criticism was drowned out by a rising chorus of alternative
terms, two of which were “schoopid” and “rubbish,” and none of which Mr.
Ryan attempted to refute.

Mr. Ryan was a paradox. On the one hand, he rode a motorbike, had
a beard, and appeared to be a hippie. On the other hand, he lined us up at
the bottom of the stairs every morning and barked orders in military fashion.
“A-te-n-SHUN… Stand at EASE… Shut up Jones.” He was a member of
the National Party, the right-wing, pro-business, anti-intellectual branch of
Australian politics, and he was the only one of our male teachers who didn’t
wear shorts. He loyally adopted the new national anthem in 1970 (the turgid
“Advance Australia Fair”: “Australians all, let us rejoice/For we are young
and free/We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,/Our home is girt by sea”), even
though the prosaic “God Save the Queen” was much more to his political
tastes. Kylie Bolger loved him.

Once we were at The Cairns School of the Arts and Mechanics
Institute, and in front of “Blue Poles,” Mr. Ryan stood against the back
wall with his arms folded and told us to get the hell away from it at regular
intervals. There was nothing in the Queensland Education Department
Teachers’ Handbook about connecting the nation’s youth with the mysteries
of Abstract Expressionism, so we were left to interpret “Blue Poles” for
ourselves. It was blue and it was huge and our only response to it was to giggle
nervously, as if we’d heard a teacher fart. The piece of white cardboard next to
it said,

Jackson POLLOCK
United States of America 1912 – 1956
Blue Poles [Number11, 1952] 1952
Enamel and aluminium paint with glass on canvas
OR 367
212.1 (h) x 488.9 (w) cm
Signed and dated 1.1., “Jackson Pollock 52”;
(originally inscribed with a “3,” and subsequently painted over
with a “2”)
Purchased 1973
NGA 1974.264

In the tradition of Cockney rhyming slang, “septic tank” = Yank. “Septics” = more than one Yank.

29

We looked for the glass and aluminium, but couldn’t find any. Somebody
asked where the Poles were. Kylie Bolger reported that the Mayor had been
at the Official Opening the night before, and her dad’s Lodge was invited,
but they didn’t go. I told Kay Feeley that Jackson Pollock died when his car
crashed into the Statue of Liberty. Mum had said, “somewhere in New York”;
the rest was logical extrapolation on my part. After 20 minutes or so of this
cultural enrichment (about 3 minutes of which was spent actually looking at
the painting), we re-boarded the buses.

On the way back to school, Kylie Bolger was keen to get an
authoritative opinion on the outing: “Sir, what do you think of ‘Blue Poles’
Sir? Is it any good Sir?” It had become clear to us over the course of the outing
that Mr. Ryan belonged to the “waste of money” camp vis-à-vis “Blue Poles,”
and was therefore no more supportive of this field trip to see the bloody thing
than his employment contract required. “Well, if you want my opinion,” said
Mr. Ryan, addressing the bus generally, “it’s a joke that tax payers’ money
was used to buy that piece of rubbish. If you think that’s art, you must be one
of those filthy hippies that spread disease and bludge off the government.”
All Mr. Ryan’s rants ended with some socially disenfranchised group who
spread disease and bludged off the government. But I had been interested in
Mr. Ryan’s response until he opened fire on the hippies. In our house, one
aspired to be a hippie.

But despite Mr. Ryan’s attempts to downplay it, “Blue Poles”
changed everything for us in North Queensland. This was especially true for
the Bolgers and their quiet Cairns Street, Cairns, world. The day “Blue Poles”
left town for Mt. Isa, the Cairns Regional Water Board changed its name to
the Far North Queensland Utilities Corporation, and Mr. Bolger died of a
massive heart attack on the front steps of the main office.

After that, Kylie’s certainties about the shape of the world started
to fail her. Russell got a girl pregnant and a hasty civil ceremony followed.
Simone’s wedding, although slightly delayed, was a spectacular parade of
perfectly matched white-dotted-navy-blue-silk-satin bridesmaids (of which
Kylie was one), and meticulous cake decoration. However, shortly afterwards,
it was revealed that Simone could not have children – a fact that her parents
had known all along because the poor girl had been born without what Mrs.
Bolger called “down there.” None of the trappings of feminine authenticity
could help Simone, or substitute for the biological imperative. Despite the
matching bridesmaids and four-tier, flower-entombed cake, the marriage
quickly failed.

If 13 matched bridesmaids couldn’t guarantee security, what could?
Kylie unraveled. Plans for an apprenticeship at David Jones fell apart. There
was no Bolger entry in the Baked Goods, Selection of Iced Tea Cakes, at that
year’s Show. And we’d only just absorbed the disappearance of My Fair Lady,
when a gelding called Diana Ross won the Spring Racing Carnival Cup. By
grade 10, Kylie had joined Kay Feeley and me in the poorly monitored dressing
rooms at SportsGirl, where the 3 of us were caught stuffing embroidered
harem pants into our school bags.

Meanwhile, “Blue Poles” went on felling victims. We were behind
the swimming shed, trying to get Gursimrah Singh to say something in
30

wog, when Maureen Mueller breathlessly arrived to tell us that that Gough
had been sacked and the Conservatives were taking over until the proper
elections came. Mum cried, and then raged, and then formed a committee. It
seemed like a set-up to us. Someone said the Septics were behind it. Mr. Ryan
agreed, but was quite happy for the Septics to get involved in the Australian
democratic process because, he argued, Gough’s real objective was to “make
the place communist.” Mum badgered friends and enemies alike with
a petition demanding Gough’s reinstatement, but for all her efforts, the
Conservatives won the proper elections anyway.

Some 10 years later, when the dust had settled everywhere but in our
kitchen, we gathered around a new color TV to watch the Queen officially
open the National Gallery of Australia, Gough’s long-treasured vision of the
nation’s cultural awakening, and now home to “Blue Poles.” Had we stayed
in Sydney all those years ago, we might have shared this national event with
our genteel cousins, some green olives, and a good sherry. But as it was, we
marked Australia’s proudest moment slapping at mosquitoes and howling
with raucous delight when a Conservative government underling parked the
Queen in front of Woman V, a particularly unsettling de Kooning that not
even our mother could love.

31

BURN
Hassan Riaz

STOP WATCHING THIS trucker. He’s a goner. Maybe before the verdicts he
used to be someone but now he’s a goner. Stop watching the same blast of brick
against the same macerated skull.  Stop.  Think about Marlene instead.  Picture
her driving on 96th in her hatchback with a trail of shredded rubber beneath
her, eyeing two different pay phones, the tagged one in front of the laundromat
and its stickered cousin on the other curb near the liquor store.  Turn off the
television.  Stop flipping through six channels of the same footage, the same
visual play-by-play of this same trucker, this same inevitable outcome, this same
lack of response.  Think about her phone call instead of watching this goner.

But don’t think about this weekend. While getting the bunch of keys
from off the bookcase shelf, remember that women have lives away from their
husbands: karaoke with college girlfriends, margaritas afterwards, a videotape
of a movie they watched in college but will watch again at a girlfriend’s twobedroom in Leimert Park. Three years of marriage aren’t always enough to
cement a bond. So don’t think about the weekends apart.

Instead focus on Marlene parking her car in the cracked asphalt lot
of the liquor store, choosing the stickered phone over the tagged one because
it doesn’t require that she make a left turn.  Remember her voice, the tremor
beneath it, the waver in her words.   Picture her. Concentrate on her tensed
jaw while she chews and talks. Look at the karat on her finger while she twists
her wrist and scrapes her hand against the already scratched up steel of the
phone vault. Friday night is not important. Saturday night is not important.
All those weekend nights with her girlfriends are not important anymore.
Women need time with women. Today is Wednesday, and she is usually home
on Wednesdays.  Remember that.

Be unflappable, the incarnation of calm, because nothing has changed
in Los Angeles, and things are going to burn now just like they did 28 years ago,
back when Moms and Pops moved here. So forget about the surface streets. Don’t
force yourself into someone else’s business, someone else’s disillusionment,
someone else’s revenge on this city. Take the 110 instead, because even though
it’s a Wednesday, the freeway will move. Most people will stay at home. Most
people will watch this goner trucker. Remember that Marlene is worried, more
shook up than her voice revealed. She likes to be in control of her life, but while
the city rears up for retribution, she is in her hatchback with a flat on Western
and 96th. Turn off the television, get the keys, and leave the house.

Drive down Slauson. Drive by the fast-food joints, the 1/4-pound
32

burger peddlers, the vendors of deep-fried chicken, the franchised profit
centers for this country. These places will still be standing when the Guard
inevitably takes over and restores the status quo. They’ll still be paying that
$4.25 an hour.  (Moms and Pops were right when they said that the city zoned
this neighborhood to cardiac death; they were right about a lot of things.)
Drive down Slauson. Glance at the liquor stores. Even though some of the
brethren of this neighborhood will inevitably launch themselves against the
barred doors of these places, don’t join them. The purveyors of 40 ounces
of placation will protect their city-approved investments, their positive cash
flow situations, their eighteen-proof profits. Drive down Slauson. Pass by this
neighborhood’s one bank, the beat up, bulletproofed shithole that is supposed
to connect this neighborhood to the rest of the world.  Sneer at it, laugh at it,
but drive by the joke that is the Small Business Administration. Drive down
Slauson. Behold this neighborhood’s version of beauty: the nail salons, the
human hair wig shops, the 5-for-$10 T-shirt stores. Pass by the check cashing
and payday advance spots that serve as this neighborhood’s true financial
sector, the just-opened carnicerìas, the rotting brown motels, the clientele of
weekly and hourly inhabitants, the clunker Caddies and Corollas on chrome
wire wheels, the tracks on the left that line the concrete industrial plants, the
straggle of Five Percenters preaching their knowledge of self outside the gas
station. Remember that no gods live here anymore. Drive down Slauson until
the 110, and then take the south onramp. Remember that Marlene is waiting
with a flat in her hatchback on 96th.

Crack the windows and smell the metallic odor of this city. Tomorrow
the city will stink from ash and rubber but tonight it’s still waiting to be
torched. Stay calm, watch the speedometer, and maintain an even speed. No
night is a good night to be pulled over, and tonight is a worse night. Tonight,
before the exertion of arbitrary police power is committed deeper into
concealment, is the right night for the cops to mix another violation in with
history, an opportunity for one last, good old-fashioned profile. So maintain
an even speed, because even though the rest of the 110 rushes home, bowed
over steering wheels and car radios, feeling from a distance the anger of this
city, they don’t fit the description. (I do, though.  I did two years ago, and I do
now.)

While exiting the 110, review the plan of action for Marlene. The
pastor said that marriage serves the human’s need for physical and emotional
togetherness. The courtship felt natural: an introduction by the church secretary
at the Sunday potluck, dinner at a supper club in Baldwin Hills, weekends at
the movies and church, a proposal eight months later at a piano bar. The pastor
blessed the engagement. But he never commented on the appropriateness of this
specific union. He didn’t judge the potential for longevity, the propensity for
this blessed matrimony to deteriorate into constant weekends apart. Judgment
wasn’t his job. His job was to cement the spiritual connection between two
like-minded members of the congregation. His goal was to complete the union
that God had already determined was to take place between a then-27-year-old
teacher who’d been involved in the congregation since his own youth and a
22-year-old graduate of UCLA whose family had been part of the flock two
generations before her own involvement.
33

But last Saturday night is no longer an aberration. The relationship
lacks joint experiences, things that a young couple can use to deepen their
commitments to each other, such as conversation over dinner at a new
restaurant on a Friday night or a jog together Sunday morning before
church.  Even the joint experience of worship has vanished as going dancing
with her girlfriends on Saturday night usurps waking up early for Sunday
service.

Moms and Pops say that she is still young, that she will start to gel
with married life, just like the two of them did, when she feels more grounded
in her career and looks toward the future instead of staying in the past. They
say to maintain a vision for this relationship.  They say that when she figures
out her life, she will skip after-work drinks and come home for dinner.  She
will let her girlfriends find their own men with whom they can spend their
Saturday nights.

A bond is formed in marriage that never dissolves. Even though she
has her career at the management company and nights out with her old college
roommates, she didn’t rely on her coworkers or friends tonight.  Remember
that.  Remember who she called when the tire shredded. And remember that
that this bond is shared.  When the cops busted into the learning center two
years ago in another case of mistaken identity, she provided the soothing voice
and gentle touch to make the anger at the LAPD fade. Instead of heading that
week to mixers and happy hours for new hires, she came home straight after
work every evening so that dinner would be curative, a bond.  So remember
that reliance in marriage is mutual. Marlene is waiting in her hatchback on
96th.
        After exiting the 110, drive down Manchester Boulevard. Tonight the
basketball playoffs go on, and the suburbs trickle in. Traffic is easier than on
other game nights, though, because people who’ve never really trusted this
part of town have watched that goner trucker and stayed home. Tonight,
locking the doors and rolling up the windows won’t suffice. Inglewood is just
another part of Florence and Normandie for them, and they are just another
goner trucker waiting to happen.

At Vermont, make a left and head away from the chest thumpers who
support their team no matter what may happen to this city. A variation of
the same repeated neighborhood of this dying city opens up: fast-food joints,
motels, dilapidated strip malls with boarded up shops. There is nothing to
burn here, but it’ll burn anyway. Drive though the residential neighborhood
on 96th, past the waist-high chain-linked fences, the closed front doors, the
driveways crowded with couches and cars. The liquor store where Marlene
sits in her hatchback will emerge on the edge of this neighborhood on the
right.

Locate her car, angled away from the phone booth, and try to
visualize her form. Park next to her. Turn off the engine. Unlock the driver’s
door and then reach across the passenger seat and unlock that door as well.
Marlene is waiting in her hatchback. Step out of the car and go to her.

Look at this woman, your wife, with her tangle of dark hair and cautious eyes,
through her streaked car window, and think not about the past three years
34

and where your relationship has not gone but instead think about the next
minute as she pushes her door open and reaches her hand out to you.  Think
about the next 20 minutes as the two of you ride home together, both of you
listening to the unrest on the car radio, you switching from news station
to news station, her asking you how bad things are going to get this time,
whether the city will finally bleed itself into oblivion or be reborn. Think
about the next 4 hours, as she sits cross-legged besides you on the couch at
the darkened house in the District, letting the edge of her foot touch your
hip while the two of you feel the shaking of the city and hear the popping
of burning concrete and brick around you. Neither of you have needed to
watch six channels of the same coverage to know what’s happening in this
city. Think about the next 10 hours as she and you sleep in the same bed,
with the same level of fitfulness, both of you wondering about the future
of this neighborhood – this place where you both have grown up and gone
to school and met and gotten married and chosen a life together – and how
this neighborhood will look tomorrow and next week and next year and 10
years from now, long after the camera crews leave and people forget about the
verdicts and that goner trucker and the inevitable burning.

I think I can still do this.

35

TOASTER
Alvin Orloff

“IT’S FAST MONEY,” says Nick, a cocky 24-year-old barfly with short black
hair and a face midway between handsome and Frankenstein. “And it’s not
dangerous like people think.” I can barely hear as we’re at the Stud, a dark,
crowded, noisy bar, and he’s speaking in the hushed voice suitable for matters
of subterfuge and intrigue. “Nobody’s gonna dismember you and leave your
body parts in trash bags all over town or anything. You just make a lot of
lonely old guys happy. I work, like, two, three nights a week, and I’m always
flush.”

The promise of short hours intrigues me almost more than the
money. My current job, selling popcorn and candy at the Strand Theater,
swallows thirty hours a week I feel could be better used drinking cocktails
and reading movie-star bios. “But how do you meet the, er… johns?”

“Ya run an escort ad. Just costs a few bucks a week. After a while you
get repeat customers and you don’t even need that.”

I’m only 22, a sexy age, but I’ve never considered myself sexy. Surely
hustlers need to be sexy. “You really think I could? I mean, would anyone
want me?”

Nick dismisses this fear with a wave of his hand and a noise that
sounds like “ffwoou.”

“What about my hair?” I’m working a modified Mohawk.

Nick thinks for a moment. “Well, you’d be a specialty item. But that’s
good. Gets you a readymade niche market.” He gives me an appraising look, his
massive eyebrows furrowing. “I just hate to see a kid like you going to waste.”


Over the next few weeks, I thought a lot about Nick and my other
hustler friends. They definitely earned more money than my service industry
friends, plus they got to revel in the glamor of being Wild Boys and Outlaws.
Sure, some hustlers probably got dismembered now and again (or else why
would Nick have brought it up?) – but people behind counters got shot in
holdups. And wasn’t serving popcorn starting to feel like a Living Death
anyway, the endless repetition of butter and boredom slowly crushing my
spirit?

I took out an ad in the back of the Bay Area Reporter stating my age,
physical dimensions, and proclivities, under the billing “Punk Hunk,” and
waited. The moment the issue hit the streets my phone began to ring. My
first client was a businessman with the physique of a manatee. The sex was
36

unpleasant, but it only lasted 20 minutes and paid as much as three nights at
the popcorn stand. My second was a shoe-fetishist specializing in Converse
All-Stars who’d rigged up a complicated system of pulleys and mirrors in his
garage. Fascinating! The third was a doddering Englishman in a three-piece
suit who, on seeing my messy bedroom, sniffed, “Oh my, how disorderly!” He
was so ancient, all he could do sexually was just sort of marvel at me, which
was perfect. Most johns, unfortunately, wanted actual sex, which was awful.

Toward the end of my first month, I got a repeat customer, a generic
ruddy-faced, silver-haired businessman in his late 50s: Clarence. After our
third tryst, Clarence asked me if I’d help serve at a party for his oldest and
dearest friends. Same pay, but no sex. All I had to do was pass around hors
d’oeuvres. The proposal made me slightly leery (would the party turn Satanic,
dismember me, and leave my body parts around town in trash bags?), but I
said yes because I always say yes to everything.

I arrived slightly late at Clarence’s blandly furnished apartment in
Twin Peaks (aka The Swish Alps), and found it full of men in business suits.
Not having asked what to wear, I was in jeans and a tight T-shirt. Clarence
didn’t seem to mind and set me to work passing around pigs-in-blankets
and Ritz-cracker canapés. The men discussed nothing but business, sports,
blockbuster movies, and cars. What exquisite tedium! I’d never encountered
gay men so utterly bereft of sparkle and pizzazz. Sure, they’d all come of age
back when homosexuals needed discretion to survive, but this was 1983, for
crying out loud. Couldn’t they all just loosen up? Toward the end of the night
I got my wish when a pair of squiffy fellows got into a spat that concluded
with the following exchange:

“Oh what do you know, Karen?”

“More than you, Mildred!”

Clarence, face flushed, pointed at me and hissed to his friends, “I
don’t think our young man here needs to know about our girl names.”

So the party guests weren’t as boring as they pretended! Learning
that the men hid feminine alter egos made me like them more, but it also
made me sad. In donning mannish facades, they’d squelched the creativity
and self-expression that could have made them interesting. Tragic! Also
tragic: Clarence never called me again.

I’d been in the life for a couple of months when I found myself in
the studio apartment of a john I’ll call “John.” As per standard operating
procedure, I asked for my fee up-front. John, slender, hairy, beady-eyed, and
pale as a white crayon, was already stripping out of his clothes.

“I ran out of cash but my friend’s coming by with some money he
owes me. He’ll be here any minute. Let’s get started.”

“No,” I said, “Let’s wait.”

John sat his tiny body down on his lumpy brown sofa. “He won’t be
long. Have a seat. You know, I’m sure you have stuff to do later. Why don’t we
just get started so we can finish up quickly and you can do your stuff?”

I sat gingerly on the opposite end of the sofa. “Thanks, but I’ll wait.”
I knew I should’ve left right then, but after a decent first month (everyone
wanted to sample new boys), business had slowed way down. Plus I sort of
needed the money. My toaster had recently developed the bad habit of setting
37

bread on fire, and I wanted a new one.

“I swear my friend’s on the way. Why would I lie? Do I look like a
liar? Let’s just get started.”

I folded my arms petulantly. “I’ll believe you have a friend coming
over when I see him.”

“Soon.” said John. He looked and sounded utterly sincere, probably
could’ve passed a polygraph test.

“I’ll wait 15 minutes,” I said.
John smiled. “You won’t even have to wait that long. He’ll be right here.
Really, we might just as well get started.”

Obviously, this dreadful scene had played out before. The “just get
started” mantra was the tried and true ploy of a serial cheapskate. After 15
minutes of sitting peevishly on the sofa, I stood and barked: “OK John, you
have totally wasted my evening and I’m leaving.”

John turned frantic. “Noooooo! He’s coming!”

I’d been ready to leave empty-handed but this brazenness infuriated
me. “And I demand compensation for my wasted time in the form of…” I
looked around. His apartment was downscale. No espresso machine. No fine
china. Just a lot of mismatched furniture. But in the kitchenette…

“Your toaster!”

Indignant and adrenalized, I marched over to the appliance and
pulled the plug.

“Don’t take that toaster,” whined John. He slithered into the
kitchenette and knelt before a cupboard. My blood froze. Was there a gun in
there? “Take this one.” He stood up holding a second toaster. I was floored.
Who owns two toasters?

“How do I know that toaster works?” I asked suspiciously.

“Test it,” said John, with a docile grin. He wasn’t scared of me, or
even embarrassed. He wouldn’t deny me my booby prize.

I tried to sound icy and commanding. “Bread please.”

John retrieved a slice from the fridge and handed it to me. I plugged
in the second toaster and popped it in.

“My friend is coming,” said John. Still hopeful. Still naked.

I didn’t say anything, just glared. While waiting for the toast, my rage
turned to humiliation. This was not the glamorous career of my imaginings.
This was sordid and annoying. I decided to quit hustling. I was a bad hustler.

“Seems OK,” I allowed when the bread came up golden brown.
I unplugged the toaster and looked at the door. Was it really moral to go
through with this? Yes, I decided, most definitely. I was teaching John a
valuable lesson about honesty, good manners, and not wasting people’s time.
I tried to pick up my toaster but the sides were still hot. Wishing John weren’t
watching me with his beady, and inexplicably still hopeful eyes, I took off
my jacket and wrapped it around the toaster. Then, with what little dignity
I could muster, I stalked out of the apartment into a befogged San Francisco
night.

38

BOBBY
NEEL
ADAMS

39

MORE AWESOMELY GENERIC IMAGE TITLE

40

41

42

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BOBBY NEEL ADAMS

BEN AILING
Dave Barrett

JACK RABBIT GOAT
2014, 18” x 12”, high quality inkjet on etching paper

RAVEN
2014, 12” x 18”, high quality inkjet on etching paper

DIAMOND DOVES
2013, 12” x 18”, high quality inkjet on etching paper

POSSUM
2014, 18” x 12”, high quality inkjet on etching paper

46

BEN AILING SAT hunched over the wheel of his Chrysler Gran Fury,
inching his way down a long gravel alley in a rundown section of the Republic
South Hills – past boarded-up brick houses and junked washers and dryers
– looking for sign of something familiar – wondering how in the hell he’d
wound up here of all places. He’d thought it had something to do with his
boys. But then he’d remembered that all three had left town for the winter:
Will finishing his senior year of college across state, Ben. Jr. trading futures on
the Nikkei market in far-off Singapore, and, Jerry, his youngest, playing guitar
with a rock n’ roll band somewhere in Texas.

It was the second time in as many months he’d “gotten lost” driving
around Republic like this. And he felt a little wave of panic welling up with
the realization he might be experiencing the same early onset of dementia
that had plagued his mother near the end of her life.

Ben hit the brakes midway down the alley, and backed up the
Chrysler. Something had caught his eye through a gate hanging wide-open
at the back of one of the houses. Leaving the engine idling, he stubbed his
cigarette and stepped out of the car to investigate.

“I’ll be damned!” Ben muttered beneath his breath.

In the waning light of a December afternoon, Ben identified the
strange scurrying blotches of movement on the inch of fresh snow that
blanketed the little backyard lawn and had first caught his attention.

“Pups!”

A half-dozen or more newborn puppies were littered across the yard,
blindly nosing through the snow like survivors of a plane wreck.

Ben stepped up to the open gate, looking for the mother, when a
frail old woman wearing an oversized man’s parka appeared from behind a
wooden shed and called out to him.

“Can you help me, mister? The mother refuses these puppies... she
bares her teeth and snaps at me... she’s right here in the shed....”

The old woman’s eyes were glassy with tears.

Ben entered the yard, and told her he would help.

He asked her where she wanted the dog to be with the pups.

“Right here in the shed,” the old woman answered. “There isn’t any
room in the house....”

The bitch was lying on her side on a tattered sleeping bag just inside
the open door of the shed. Ben thought she was a cross between a Lab and a
47

Doberman. She bared her teeth and growled at him.

Ben spotted an old San Francisco 49ers sweatshirt atop a stack of
boxes and asked if he could borrow it.

“Yes,” the old woman said. “Use anything you like....”

Ben wrapped the thick sweatshirt around his left hand. Scooping
the nearest pup out of the snow, he allowed the bitch to clamp down on his
wrapped hand while he forced the first pup onto its mother’s teat. He waited
patiently until the dog slackened her bite on his hand, and then repeated the
process until all seven pups were reunited with their mother.

“That’ll keep you busy,” said Ben.

When he stroked the top of the dog’s head with his unwrapped
hand, she no longer growled back.

The old woman left the yard, and returned with a small change purse
in her hands. She offered to pay Ben – her gnarled fingers fumbling with a $10
bill. Ben refused her. She asked him if he would like any food, something to
drink, and he refused that as well.

“I’d best be going,” Ben said. “Forecast is for a good three inches of
the white stuff tonight.”

Ben returned to the idling Chrysler. The first swirling flakes of the
forecasted storm were already drifting out of the darkening sky. He’d intended
on asking the old woman for directions, but his own sense of direction had
returned while working with the pups.

As he drove toward downtown and the work awaiting him there
– the restaurant accounts to balance, employees and customers to placate,
deadlines to meet – Ben’s mind wandered back to those pups worming
through the snow in search of their mother.

And he thought that while it is not without joys, this world is indeed
one struggle after another.

48

TRASH WARS
JJ Amaworo Wilson

MAN IS A rag doll. Guts of shredded felt. Marbles for eyes. Hair made of
twine.

As the men and women began to pour in from the countryside in
search of work, the town of Favelada suddenly had 4,000 damnificados with
nowhere to live. The newcomers found pieces of land and built on them using
whatever was to hand: stones, bricks, wood, mud, iron. The houses began to
sprout. Patchwork cubes with a hole in the roof for a chimney. A damnificado
called Lalloo showed them how to steal electricity from the pylons to get light
and heat, and some of the families found old television sets abandoned in the
dumps or on the sidewalks and took them home and hooked them up, banged
them around until they got a channel working. Thus did lives begin and end
to a constant babble, a 24 hour cycle of game shows and soccer and news and
assassinations and telenovelas and white noise, parrot chatter, jibber-jabber,
canned laughter.

The towns spread, but no governments recognized the new areas.
Sanguinosa, Fellahin, Blutig, non places for non people. No roads were built,
for why would you build a road to nowhere? Mountains of garbage appeared
– rotting food, plastic, paper, broken glass – until the smell insinuated itself
into the hems of the damnificados’ clothes, the nooks of their rooms, their
dreams.

One day the damnificados of Favelada rounded up their donkeys
and carts, loaded up the trash with pitchforks and shovels, and took it to the
wastelands. Some months later, a group of men who had found work, pooled
their money and bought a truck. Every Saturday they would fill the bed of
the truck and drive 10 minutes south. They dug massive holes in the ground,
threw in the garbage, and after some months, covered the pile with soil.

But then other damnificados began to live in the wastelands. A small
community of addicts, escaped convicts, and vagrants appeared. After a while
they saw the truck was bringing piles of trash, so they moved the trash back
and dumped it in the dead of night on the very doorsteps of the houses of
Favelada. In retaliation, the truck brought more trash. And then an incident
occurred. One day the driver of the truck and his crew unloaded the trash, as
normal. On their return to the cab, they found a beheaded doll on the seat,
and in the doll’s plastic body, goat’s blood still warm. A sign.

And this is how The Trash Wars began.
49

The truck from Favelada roared into the wasteland the following
Saturday, its bed piled high with garbage. The place seemed deserted.
Suddenly a woman’s voice rang out:

“Kami ay labanan sa dulo!”

The truck driver applied the brakes but left the engine running. All
around them, makeshift houses. In front of them, one woman, tiny, ancient,
skin and bone, hair tied in a scarf. Her fierce eyes widened and she screamed
it again, higher, almost ululating:

“Kami ay labanan sa dulo!”

The driver turned to his crew.

“What the hell is that?”

“It’s Filipino.”

“I don’t give a fuck what language it is. What does it mean?”

“It means ‘I will fight you to the end.’”

The driver smiled, turned the key, killed the engine.

The three men in the cab looked around. Figures emerged from
the wasteland as from hell. Dirt-smeared ragmen waving sharpened sticks
and tomahawks. Youths with helmets made of chicken bones and wire.
Madwomen in filth-encrusted aprons, yelling in Arabic, Latvian, Tagalog,
French. A swamp pirate, lank hair down to his hips, open waistcoat revealing
a necklace of six blackened human ears on a string.

The driver, an ex-farmer with a vicious streak, opened his door, got
down, reached back into the cab and pulled from the floor a metal chain.

“Kami ay labanan sa dulo!”

“Be my guest, little lady,” said the driver, and suddenly the mound
of trash on the bed of the truck flew up in piles. Twenty men burst out of the
junk, stinking like the devil’s latrine, vaulting the side of the truck, armed to
the teeth with chains, belts, bottles, whips, clubs.

There on that desolate plain, damnificado slaughtered damnificado.
Hand-to-hand thrashings, medieval batterings, skulls pulverised, ribs
smithereened, arms lopped off. The groans lasted long and loud until a freak
storm exploded through the clouds and drenched the battlefield, damping
down the dust, tamping the blood, ringing a tattoo on the tin roofs of the
houses.

The truck driver lay dead in a shallow grave of rain-spattered plastic
bags and fraying ropes, his arm sliced off at the elbow 10 feet away, the hand at
the end of it still gripping the key to the truck. His fellow crew member, one of
the six survivors on the trash-bringers’ side, now prised open the dead fingers,
took the key, and ran through the rain. Jumping into the cab, he sparked the
engine and sped home to Favelada.

50

BALLAD
Patrick Dacey

OK SHE’S GONE let’s get set up amp cord guitar now this is romantic this is
a gift D C G yep way out of tune needs a good tuning can’t remember how to
tune just listen listen it all makes sense if you just listen that’s what Miles
Davis once said I think maybe it was Mingus turn the keys thumb the E and A
and OK we’re in tune music first then lyrics a mix of dark and light of high
and low nothing too dark nothing too light it’s her birthday she doesn’t want
a slit-your-wrists song and she doesn’t want some loopy gumball sing-along a
ballad of course ballad in D too light ballad in E minor too dark ballad in C C
to F to D C to F to G something’s missing C to F to A minor to G that’s it that
makes sense there’s a balance there OK C to F to A minor to G for a while and
squawking squawking why are you upset buddy why are you hiccupping now
and that cute-as-hell laugh can’t miss that laugh got to take a picture if I time
it right though you never do it when I got the phone pointed at you guitar rest
camera phone on hiccup and you’re looking at me like I’m some creature from
Mars wide-eyed scared shitless considering the size of your world for the past
10 minutes little stuffed monkeys and parrots and lizards and then this giant
indigenous freak from across the river comes stomping through the bush into
your perfectly unreal world wanting to strip it bare take you away turn it into
a resort which think about it little buddy think about living your first couple
years in a beautiful resort no bugs or scary animals just people like your
mother all there to serve you while you relax under an umbrella with the sun
on your little toes doesn’t that sound nice sound like something you could
appreciate later on in life if say you were to make a bunch of money and then
lose a bunch of money at the point your future wife is 5 month’s pregnant
surprise and already has you in a convertible crib on credit without considering
the possibility of and we moved all the studio equipment into the garage
where mommy says it should be anyway considering I haven’t recorded a
thing since 1992 and what was that just a little number called I Do and I Don’t
just a song that put her in the cream colored Mercedez she rides into Boston
to have lunch with Karen and Odessa and Hilary like they’re the goddamn
New England version of Sex and the City like they’re impressed by my
20-year-old Benz she says I have to take the train in from Haverhill for Christ’s
sake well at least you have a car and you’re not some poor Mexican walking to
work along Route 1 OK OK no sad time daddy talk I get it come here spit up
on my shoulder get rid of those hiccups OK I didn’t mean to bring you down
let’s go out to the living room and you can help with mommy’s birthday
51

present there you go buckle you into your little rocking chair and here’s your
giraffe Sophie and your winkle and let’s clean the drool off your lip OK ready
no don’t squeeze Sophie Sophie doesn’t have the right voice for this kind of
song she’s more a Mezzo-Soprano not what we’re looking for here OK squeeze
Sophie we’ll work around her not like I haven’t had to deal with my share of
aggressive background vocalists maybe I can cut her out of the master tape
and that cough and that sneeze and don’t cry pal nothing to cry about I’m sure
Sophie is a good vocalist or maybe you’re just not interested in writing a song
but if I could afford a present for mommy I’d get one though it wouldn’t even
be a present more like a debt and she’d see it in the checking account probably
return it claim it’s too extravagant just some earrings or a bracelet I don’t
know something to make her feel pretty but what’s more important she’d say
me looking pretty or some diapers for the boy yeah no brainer diapers but
every once in a while something nice maybe and for the life of me I can’t
imagine what we’d do if I didn’t lift your vitamins and formula and those
stupid plastic toys well not lift as much as use the sweet Korean girl who runs
the self-check line at Stop and Shop claim confusion with the machine tell
her I like her green eyes and her hemp necklace but 40 bucks for formula
organic formula ’cause it has to be organic or else what you might end up like
OK let’s sort of cradle you take off the guitar strap OK get this underneath
your butt and put your arms up here on the side and rest your chin there in
the curve how’s that better feel better feel sleepy all right sleepy is good this is
going to be sort of a sleepy song anyway now what was that chord progression
G to no C to F to A minor right then G OK C C C C C fucking A buddy you
almost fell out of the strap don’t make that face I know that face all right OK
look at me look at daddy it’s smiley-time right isn’t it smiley-time do you even
know what the hell smiley-time means it doesn’t mean anything that’s right
that’s right keep smiling for smiley-time because smiley-time is a world that
only exists in my mind and you won’t ever remember that you used to love
smiley-time until you have a baby and then you’ll probably call it something
different some inane phrase that gets stuck in your head and you’re walking
around thinking about a world where people have smiley-time at some point
during the day standing still wherever we are smiling at each other and not
with some condescending coffee house how-you-doing smile but a real
genuine smile that can crush your heart the way it does when you see true
happiness on a person’s face like when they’re on a rollercoaster or sledding
down a hill whatever it is that makes them forget about themselves for a few
minutes maybe not a good idea to have you resting your head on the wood so
back in the rocker OK now let’s get to work take mommy into the past ’cause
that’s what a good song does takes you back in time sets you down next to old
friends and lovers well hopefully not her old lovers especially not that
Australian dude the two of them out in the wild looking at kangaroos taking
peyote can hear that stupid accent in my head picture Greg Norman with
mommy’s face in his lap while he keeps saying ’oy ’oy ’oy but what’re you
going to do that’s the risk you take with a good song a good song brings you
back in time a great song brings you to a place you’ve never been and you feel
good being there you Jesus you little bugger you were so relaxed there during
smiley-time you went ahead and dropped a load right as I was about to reach
52

the nexus of this song for your mother how it has something to do with our
past and present and future and how they can all work so perfectly together if
you never think about time at all if you erase the concept of time from your
being and just be OK that’s ripe here we go put the guitar down gently diaper
wipes a bunch of wipes and all right it’s up your back Jesus how long has it
been since you took a dump your mother never keeps me in the loop on your
dump cycle we need a dump calendar or an eraser board guess we’ll have to
get you in the tub the tub is a good thinking place I’ve gotten a lot of thinking
done in the tub over the years of course a lot of that thinking got lost once I
got out of the tub because I never remembered to bring a pen and pad into the
bathroom with me so let’s clean you up and get a pen and pad and run the
water and start thinking of lyrics for mommy’s song all right listen to the
sound of the water listen to everything around you that’s music everything’s
music have to make sure it’s not too hot too hot and you’ll get that pumpkin
head screaming like a cat caught on fire all right me first got you up Jesus I hate
the tub I look like a washed-up seal what a body no wonder mommy turns off
the lights and my nuts cauterized 47 year’s old don’t want to risk another well
not a mistake no you’re not a mistake but well we weren’t planning on doesn’t
matter you’re here you’re beautiful you ready for the tub ready for the water
OK here we go legs first yeah feels good doesn’t it now your back and your
arms don’t worry I got your head I won’t let you go under we’ll just float you
around OK it’s warm isn’t it you’re gonna love the ocean maybe you’ll be a
surfer or maybe you’ll build sailboats or maybe you’ll be one of those guys
who fishes in the summer and smokes dope in the winter and never really
minds what happens around him because he’s generally satisfied with his life
and doesn’t expect too much and never gets his hopes up and hasn’t a clue
why everyone’s always arguing about what’s fair and what isn’t come on pal
not in the tub well at least it’s clear means you’re healthy and you’re smiling
because you think you got away with something well OK we should get out of
the tub not much thinking done after all but it’ll come to us I mean you can’t
stop yourself from thinking it’s impossible even wrapping you up in the towel
and the tag says MADE IN CHINA and where in China it’s so damn big
though you have to think some factory where they’re pumping out towel
after towel all day it’s towels or it’s clocks or it’s Elvis Presley key chains whole
factories producing Elvis crap and not one of those Chinese kids probably
knows who Elvis is or was or how if he didn’t stop in at that little recording
studio in Memphis or if he didn’t shake his hips on The Ed Sullivan Show or
die on the toilet or have this myth about him still being alive and all these
whackos visiting Graceland like it’s some kind of church then none of the
Chinese kids would even be working the Elvis factory and it might be the
only factory in their town so without Elvis they might’ve lived a happier life
working a farm or fishing doing something outdoors where the air is clean
and no one’s breathing down your neck about printing a thousand of those
Jailhouse Rock T-shirts by noon your skin’s soft too soft maybe hasn’t had to
take a blow yet except that time you tumbled out of your little rocker but you
knew to keep rolling and finally pressed up against the TV stand what’s this
spot on your belly spider bite do we have spiders fuck I hope not it hurts when
I press no good that’s good probably bitten a few days ago spiders crawling all
53

over the house can’t see ‘em maybe they hide until night come out in packs
crawl into our bed down our throats that’s why mommy’s coughing at night
coughing on spider legs and what if they’re pregnant what if they’re delivering
baby spiders inside us oh god OK let’s zap those spiders out of our minds OK
zap no more spiders get the diaper on your onesy your little sweats and how
about one of these sweatshirts a little chilly in here right can’t turn the heat up
past 64 heat’s expensive if we hugged each other all day wouldn’t need heat at
all zip you up looks like you’re ready to get back to work are you ready to get
back to work good little smile stick your tongue out make that fart sound all
right buddy ballad in C for your mother haven’t written a song a real song
since I don’t know when tried to get the band back together but Dan’s a
financial consultant and Randy works a farm in Montana and Caesar’s been
cleaning toilets at Logan guessing drugs brought him there or maybe he’s off
the drugs and that’s why he’s cleaning toilets maybe he’ll be ready to join up
again in a year you only really need two founding members who am I kidding
you won’t ever know your father the rock star you’ll probably see me as some
old know-nothing like I saw my father until I got older and got interested in
what his life was like before he started wheezing and coughing all the time
and we needed to hook him up to an oxygen tank ’cause all I knew of him was
that he was a finish carpenter he’d talk about staircases and mantles and
window trim whatever but later he told me how he dropped out of high school
and flew to Madrid and from there trekked through Western and Eastern
Europe and to Egypt and down to South Africa and over to Chile up through
Southern America Panama Guatemala Mexico basically travelled the world
except Asia said he wished he could get to Asia and I asked him why there
were no photographs from his travels and he said because it’s all in my mind
it’s for me not for anyone else and I came to respect my father more than I ever
had before and then well he died died before he got a chance to see you or
even known you were coming said how he wished he had a grandchild all the
men in our family, since the dawn of time failing like it’s a birthright to dream
big and touch greatness and then crash hard I’m not sure your grandfather
ever even went to the places he claimed to visit maybe he was dreaming up a
more adventurous past for himself maybe I should too who am I who was I
who should I have been for you going to that dark place again try to stay away
from the dark if we can so what was the point of right well you’ll see videos of
me when I had long hair and purple suits and you’ll think where’s that guy he
was famous he was weird he was cool but things change buddy people change
and you’re my world now and maybe I dream of getting the band back dream
of me and Caesar at the Paradise but I know that’s not going to happen too
many mistakes band’s got a bad name I got a bad name put down the booze
and coke put up all that dough in a vegetarian restaurant called ROOTS
which your mother said was a terrible name and I went with it despite her
thinking if it stuck with me then it’d stick with others but it wasn’t the name
no one was willing to pay $14.95 for a plate of raw vegetables and even after
selling the house and most of my old guitars and pumping the rest of our
savings into a self-published memoir printing off 50,000 copies and only
selling about 20 mostly to your mother’s family with her thinking I didn’t
know and a few to collectors of one hit wonders and becoming sort of a
54

laughing stock on the local news during a where are they now segment
claiming to have a connection with the spiritual world which I don’t but I
thought it might drum up some interest in my music again and maybe kids’ll
look up your last name find out who your father was make fun of how I used
to look the music I played but you take out the synthesizers and you have
some pretty lovely anyway it won’t matter shouldn’t matter ’cause unlike their
fathers and very much like my own father I went for it and I did it and no one
can take that away from me just like they can’t take it away from you and I
know sometimes I talk down about your mother but she’s been with me
through it all rich and poor and she deserves some slack deserves a break and
she’s a good mother to you and good woman and she’s still the only girl I
know knows how to give a decent foot massage and maybe that sounds like
it’s not a lot but trust me it’s hard to meet a woman you can love all your life
and when you arrived it seemed to make us love each other even more and I
guess that’s the point why it’s so hard to write a song I don’t have any songs
left maybe you were my last song and maybe all your mother wants is a deep
kiss and a warm bath and to be here with us a family our own little world just
beginning.

55

DIVINITY ARCHITECTURE
Sarah Van Name

literature, so I want to make sure I understand what you want before I start
designing your house. If you could give me a direction or any design elements
you want incorporated, I would very much appreciate it. For example, I was
looking at the line “the golden sky, your favorite impossible mirror.” Would
it be too literal to incorporate mirrored glass into the design? Or something
with gold? It also might help me to know why you chose this particular poem.
Were you close with Mr. Lane, and do you know what he meant when he
wrote the poem?
Sincerely,
Tyler B. Lukowski
P.S. I could refer you to a different architect if you want.

WHEN ANDREW PARK hired Tyler Lukowski to design his retirement
home, he offered little creative instruction. Tyler was used to clients giving
him vague and impossible demands, but rarely did he receive a request as
unusual as this.

“Your inspiration,” Dr. Park had written him, “is to be the poem
‘Last Long Song to Veronica,’ by Owen Lane.”


Tyler researched Owen Lane in an attempt to gain some measure
of context. There wasn’t much to find. Lane had been born and raised in
Cincinnati, far from the Virginia mountains in which Dr. Park wanted his
new house to be built. He’d worked as a bartender at night, floating in and
out of teaching jobs at creative writing workshops and university poetry
programs. He quit to do some writing and traveling—it was not clear where—
and came back to bartending when he ran out of money.

He was published in various minor poetry journals and managed
to put together one chapbook, which sold a few copies at bookstores in the
area. Locally, he was more known for his excellent Manhattan than for his
writing. Nationally, he was not known at all. Near the end of his life, he would
disappear for weeks between appearances at the bar. He died in a drunk
driving accident at the age of 34, one month after writing the poem, two years
before Dr. Park commissioned the house. Lane was the drunk driver.


Tyler had discovered even less about Veronica. In a combination of
awkward phone calls and online searches, he found two Veronicas connected
to Lane: Veronica Tremont, who had lived in Lane’s neighborhood growing
up, and Veronica Gardner, a student in one of Lane’s college English classes.
He contacted both. Both replied, promptly and kindly, that they had never
had any kind of romantic relationship with Lane.


So it came that a month after he had accepted the commission, he
found himself at his drafting table writing a letter to Dr. Park. A real letter,
not an email, like the one Dr. Park had first sent him. It took him half an hour
to start. He wasn’t a strong writer, and he wanted to make a good impression.
If he managed to design the retirement home to Dr. Park’s satisfaction, it
would be more money than he’d made in the past two years combined.

Tyler crossed out the postscript and recopied the letter onto a new
sheet of paper.

One week later, he received Dr. Park’s reply. Like the commission, it
was brief and to the point. His stationery paper was as soft and elegant as the
cursive that covered it.

Dear Dr. Park,

I’ve done some research on Owen Lane and “Last Love Song to
Veronica” and I have to admit, I’m a little confused. I’m not an expert in

Disgusted, he crammed the sheet of paper into an already overflowing
drawer of reject notes and turned away to cook dinner.

56

Dear Mr. Lukowski,

I trust your interpretation of the poem. Surely an architect is a kind
of an expert in literature. I want the words to inspire the house in any and all
ways possible. My relationship with Mr. Lane was of a personal nature, and
I don’t want to influence your interpretation by delving too deeply into our
history. All that should matter is that I admire his work. I find a lyricism in
your buildings that I also find in Lane’s poetry. I hope you can understand the
connection between the two.
Sincerely,
Dr. Andrew Park

Needless to say, Tyler did not understand the connection between
his architecture and Lane’s poem. But Dr. Park was paying him handsomely
to understand, so he tried his best.

His notes after one week boiled down to this:
Glass houses – too literal? Yes. No. Definitely not. Maybe yes
Mirrored walls/floors/ceilings
Windows
Trees – forest – oak walls?
Vulnerable – glass is thin?
Tough – forest = thick?
Curvature?
Straight lines
No straight lines
Spirit (Poetry + alcohol? Pun? Owen = bartender)

57

That night in bed, Tyler folded his arm under his head and turned to
face his wife.

“Sara,” he said, “if you were given a poem and told to make it inspire
your work, what would you do?”

She slid a bookmark between the pages of her novel. “I don’t
understand the question.”

Sara was the financial manager for the office of a large technical
firm. She bought software and desks and did the cost-benefit analysis when
they wanted to move to a new building. Tyler couldn’t comprehend how she
found beauty in the cool numbered lines of Excel spreadsheets. But she did,
somehow. Or she found it somewhere else.

“I guess managing money isn’t so much about poetry.”

“Not as much as architecture is, at least.”

They’d been married in the first building Tyler designed, a small
and simple church out past the edges of the suburb. To gain the commission,
he had told the future church’s minister that he’d gone into architecture to
design buildings that celebrated the glory of God. It was a lie. But by the time
he was finished, and later, standing nervous and young at the altar, he was no
longer certain of his atheism.

“But, I mean, what if you got a crazy new exec,” Tyler persisted, “and
he said that all the financial management had to be guided by a poem?”

Sara looked at him with dark grey eyes. “I’d figure out a way.”

Tyler sighed and curled his body around hers as she reopened her
novel and continued reading. Sara was not a boring person; she loved art of
all kinds. But she had no tolerance for complaints. She figured out a way,
every time without fail, and held others to the same high standard.

And it was a high standard, Tyler thought. Making it work is harder
than we think.

When Tyler woke up the next morning, Sara was already in the
kitchen rinsing out her breakfast bowl and getting ready to leave for work.
For one slow moment, the world seemed easy. September light flooded the
room through the thin white curtains, and from the kitchen Tyler could hear
the water in the drain and his wife’s quiet steps.

Then he remembered Dr. Park, Owen Lane, and Veronica.

Sara walked in and kissed him on the forehead. “Have a good day,
babe. I’ll be home for dinner,” she said.

“You too. See you later.”

When he heard her car start, he sat up and grabbed his laptop from
where it lay on the floor beside the bed. He paused for several minutes with
his hands on the keyboard. Then he started planning the trip.

He and Sara used to go on roadtrips all the time, before she got
promoted and when he still had a normal office job, so their weekends lined
up with each other. They’d make a budget and take off in the early evening on
Friday to drive late into the night.

Recently, there hadn’t been so much of that. In some ways it would
have been easier now: They had more money and a car with better gas mileage.
And with no office job, Tyler could take off anytime. But Sara often worked
58

weekends and Tyler hated traveling alone – no one to take pictures with, no
one to join him singing in the car, no one to talk to through the long hours of
the night. They rarely took roadtrips anymore.

This one, though, was for work.

Tyler had hoped to be further along in the project before he visited
the site. In the past he’d had basic sketches done before he’d really spent time
in the place. But he was thoroughly discouraged by the enigma of Owen Lane.
His crumpled list of ideas had transformed into a Word document that read
like a bad list poem:
Repetition
Transparency (skylights)
Oak walls/accents
Curvature/flow
Yearning
Windows

The words didn’t mean anything. They created a vague idea of a
building in Tyler’s head, something formless and ultimately impossible.
Poetry was supposed to mean something more than its words, but how those
feelings could be translated into a building was a mystery. Tyler looked down
at “Last Love Song to Veronica,” which he’d laminated for safekeeping. The
three stanzas rested patiently behind the glossy plastic. Not for the first time,
he felt an urge to cut it into tiny pieces and forget about the commission
forever.

His hope was that a visit to the Virginia mountains might help. Tyler
always worked with photographs, but he hadn’t drawn much inspiration
from the pictures Dr. Park sent him. They were of benignly beautiful hills,
fields, and trees on a rainy day, and they were unhelpful. He planned the trip
for two weeks later.

Tyler reached Divinity, Virginia, in 7 1/2 hours. The air was crisp
and the sun shone with a superficial warmth left over from summer. The
town came upon him slowly, farmhouse by farmhouse, until the country
transformed into a set of shabby suburbs and he found himself in the city
center. It was the kind of place where the historical district is synonymous
with downtown. There were 3 churches and an Italian restaurant and a bank,
plus a second-run movie theater and a grocery store that looked like it had
been constructed in the seventies. He booked two nights at the only hotel in
town.

As the sun played hide-and-go-seek with the hills, he got takeout
from the Italian place and sat cross-legged on his bed, reading Killjoys and
Other Birds, the Owen Lane chapbook. He had to special-order it from
a small Cincinnati bookstore, where it had been buried in the back of the
poetry section. It did not include “Last Love Song to Veronica.” In the month
before he died, Lane sent “Last Love Song” to a few literary journals who
had published him before, and one had accepted it. Tyler had a copy of the
journal. It offered no clues to the meaning of the poem.

Killjoys and Other Birds was a collection of drunken, frustrated
59

poems to women who had spurned Lane - or, possibly, Tyler thought, women
who had never even known he loved them. The writing painted a picture of
Lane as a sad, excitable man. But there were some good lines. Reading all of
the poems, cover to cover, Tyler was transfixed. Over and over again, long
after the sky was dark and the pasta dish was empty, he watched a man grasp
for love and fail. How good I could be, Lane wrote, how loving, if loving you’d
allow.

He woke up with the blankets tangled around his body and took a
shower in the clawfoot tub. The window was open, the sun coming in through
the screen, and the mountains rose green and cloudy into the sky.

Dr. Park’s property was a broad swath of land to the west of Divinity,
outside city limits. Tyler had calculated it and the doctor had enough land to
create his own town if he ever wanted to. A thin gravel road ran through the
middle of the property, dividing it roughly in two. It looked like a length of
red thread on the map. Dr. Park had sent Tyler the map when he accepted the
commission, and on it his assistant marked five possible places for the house,
three in the northern half and two in the southern.

Tyler drove to the northern side first, to the site farthest from town.
He had to walk five minutes off the road on a dirt footpath before he got to
the clearing that Dr. Park noted, and he couldn’t help thinking what a pain it
would be to get any kind of building material through. The path opened on a
gentle, grassy slope that tumbled into a serious hill on the right. On the left,
it was maybe a half hour’s walk to a low mountain. Recently Sara had been
talking about kids, and Tyler imagined sled rides down the hill in the winter,
family hiking expeditions, a tire swing on a sturdy tree. But Dr. Park was old,
and Tyler wasn’t certain if his daughter, who had lived in Divinity for a time,
had any children.

And then there was the “Last Love Song to Veronica.” He reread his
favorite stanza:
Yes, you’ll grow old with dark dirt on your feet
and alone, walk the scoop of the earth
and I will be with you, tipping my face
to the golden sky, your favorite impossible mirror.

Tyler looked at the landscape in front of him, the sweet-smelling
grass, the perilous hill. A house here would feel as if it were on a precipice,
something exciting on one side and soft on the other. It might be two levels.
He began to sketch it in his head before he looked back down at the poem in
his hand. The place would do, but it was wrong. He turned and walked back
to the car.

Both of the two other sites in the northern half of the property also
felt off to him. “Last Love Song to Veronica” was different from most of
the writing in Killjoys. The women Lane spoke to in that book were people
with whom he had been infatuated, obsessed, insanely devoted. The words
were furious and pleading. “Last Love Song,” though, had no such edge of
desperation. Behind the sadness, it was all love.

And these places didn’t have the same sense of unity and loss
60

combined. They were beautiful, certainly, and Dr. Park’s assistant had been
thoughtful when he marked them on the map. From an architect’s point of
view, they were all eminently possible positions for a house. But they weren’t
right. Each had its own version of the precipitous hill – an enormous dead
tree, or not enough space. Tyler knew, logically, that these imperfections
could be fixed, and he took copious notes on each place. But when he left
the first southern site, having been through all three in the northern half, he
felt disheartened. He had read the poem over and over, and he was certain it
didn’t connect with any of the places Park’s assistant had chosen.

The sky was darkening into a satiny blue as he drove to the last dot
on the map. The footpath to the site was long and winding, but it was the best
kept of any on the land. The air itself seemed to be purpling and thickening
from the ground up, sketching the forest around him into a dark web of lines.

As he was reaching to pull his flashlight from his bag, he walked
out into a clearing. Before him, the sun shimmered, perfect, in the sky. The
mountains were low in the foreground, and behind them the sun glowed
round and red. The sky flamed with orange, filtering into a pale golden yellow
that stretched up and back until it blended with the starry blue in the east.

When Sara still painted, she used to make wild sunsets when she
got tired of her hyperaccurate still lifes. She would use all the colors she had
made that afternoon and blend them together with her fingers, paint dripping
down her pale arms. Tyler thought the sky looked like that.

Below him, the ground dipped into a bowl, a valley no larger than
a football field, before it rose up again. Patches of timid wildflowers were
scattered at the edges of the valley. In the middle stood a cabin.

Tyler walked down toward it, the steepness of the hill compelling
him to run. The cabin was decrepit. Its front porch, a shaky apparatus of
unfinished wood, was rotting at the edges. The door was locked. Tyler peered
through the windows, clouded with dirt and age. He saw the dim outline of a
cot and a desk. One room.

But there was a chair on the porch, and Tyler was exhausted. He sat
down to watch the sunset and read the poem one more time.
No, the lace of the earth cannot be a dress
but yes, I will love you as wide as this place and wider,
it began. Tyler read through it absently. When his eyes got tired from the
light, he scanned the ground. Wildflowers speckled the earth in front of the
cabin, dandelions and Queen Anne’s Lace. He looked to his left and right.
The valley seemed broader from the middle than from the top. And then
he looked up: the golden sky, your favorite impossible mirror. With the east
behind him and the west ahead, from his position on the porch, the sky was a
tremulous gold.


Suddenly he felt sure: this was the place. Not only the place where
the house should go, but the place where Owen Lane had written “Last Love
Song to Veronica.” He had gone on long trips in his last months of life; he
must have come here. Perhaps the other sites had a similar view of the sky, but
Tyler doubted it. Besides, the flowers, the seclusion – it was flawless. He could
61

feel the building forming in his mind. Not just a house but a home, cradled by
the valley, kissed by this sunset on every clear Virginia night.

Simultaneously, he envisioned Veronica, who must have been
stunning to be a woman who belonged in a place such as this. He imagined
Owen coming back to her every time he got a chance, giddy with reciprocated
love, watching her walk towards him silhouetted by the sunset’s light. They
could have stayed here together, talking late into the night and waking up to
explore the hills.

But why was it the last love song, if it had been so wonderful? And
where was she?

Tyler had found the place, he was certain, but the question of
Veronica still nagged at him. He considered emailing Dr. Park, but the man
had always been distant in his gentility. He walked back to his car, flashlight
scanning the ground, both elated and dismayed. The hardest part of the job
was done. Such a place begged for a house. But he had no idea who Veronica
was, and try as he might to focus on the architecture, all his sketches that
night felt empty. He slept restlessly and dreamed of a tall and faceless woman
walking in the valley.

The next day, Tyler woke up tired. He waited while the young
woman at the front desk went through the process of taking his key. The
wall behind the counter was papered with photographs of people laughing
and posing – guests, maybe, but Tyler thought more likely they were locals
attending events in the hotel’s spacious lobby. He recognized a couple faces
from walking around the town.

“Hey,” he said suddenly, “is there a woman around here named
Veronica?”

The girl looked up from the computer. “Not that I know of.”

“Is there a woman who used to live here named Veronica?”

“I don’t know anyone, sorry,” she said, typing. “And I’m pretty sure
I’d know. Not a whole lot of people live here.”

He sighed. “Thanks,” he said. She handed him his receipt. “So you
really don’t know any Veronica who used to live around here? Or does still?”

“Nope. Well, wait,” she said. She cocked her head to the side. “That’s
not what you asked at first. There’s little Veronica. The baby. Veronica Park.”

Tyler almost jumped. “Can I see a picture?”

The girl gave him an odd look. She turned and plucked a photograph
from the collage on the back wall. In it, a woman in a party dress held a baby
and smiled. The woman was blue-eyed and blonde-haired. He recognized her
from an old family portrait on Dr. Andrew Park’s professional website – Park’s
daughter, Kathleen, or maybe Katherine. She held the baby, Veronica, on her
hip. Veronica’s eyes were dark and round. Even in the face of an infant, they
were unmistakable copies of the eyes looking out from the author picture on
the back of Killjoys and Other Birds.

“So, this woman, this is Kathleen Park, right?”

“Katherine,” the girl corrected him.

“Right, Katherine. Right. Just wondering, is the father around?”

The girl shook her head. “No. He used to visit sometimes, but
she made him stop coming right after the baby was born. She said he was
62

unreliable.” She shrugged. “I don’t know. It seemed like they really loved each
other for a while there. I forget his name. I’m sorry, but is that gonna be all
today?”

“This is great. This is great,” Tyler said. The girl at the counter
was starting to look annoyed. “I’m sorry, it’s just, I’m doing this thing for
Katherine’s dad, I’m building his house, and this is really helpful.”

The girl turned and started typing again. “Cool. Before you ask, I
don’t think they’re in town this week. Off visiting family or something.”

Tyler left the hotel and drove back to the valley. In the daylight, it was
a lush mixture of greens and blues. The cabin rested in the middle, broken
and peaceful. Tyler imagined Owen Lane sitting on the porch, holding hands
with Katherine Park, imagining their child’s future together – the way they
might rebuild the cabin, how they might live there as a family. He might have
watched the grass rustle in the wind and seen Veronica in his mind’s eye,
crawling and walking and growing. She would have been just a few weeks old
when he died.
Tyler sat down on the ground, pulled out his pad, and started
sketching. The house would have tall windows to let in the sunset, golden
wood to echo the cabin, and a wide sturdy wraparound porch spanning two
tall stories. It would be a home designed less for an old man and more for new
life. But Tyler thought that Dr. Park might understand.

63

R.
Stephanie Golisch

MY FLIGHT FROM O’Hare was delayed due to high winds, and I was
desperate for distraction. I wandered into a bookstore and started flipping
through every magazine on the rack. A familiar face suddenly stopped my
fingers from turning the pages. A photo of him at a trial. I read the caption.
He was prison-bound.

R. looked much the same as I remembered him from almost two
decades earlier, except the wrinkles around his eyes and the gray at the temples.
Same strong jaw, sly grin, and dimples. After all those years, the sight of him
still jolted me.

Suddenly suffocated in the little shop, I fished out a crumpled 10 from
my pocket and went up to the cashier. Finding the nearest empty gate, I sat
down, reopened the magazine, and stared at the photo. Streams of people
passed by me but I didn’t register features or conversations. I read and reread
the paragraphs, stared at the photo. I had pictures in shoe boxes that I preferred
to this one. Stacks of photos from our days together, deep in my attic.

I arrived in the new country on the 5th of September in 1994. Water
and electricity were not dependable. The campus guards carried machine
guns, though by then the worst of the civil war had passed. Everyone back
in the States still thought I was crazy for going. But work on my master’s at a
quiet state college? Never. I’d nabbed a plum gig translating for the fledgling
country’s national museum instead of having to be a teaching assistant.
Everything started splendidly.

After quickly acclimating myself to the pervasive chaos, I started
listening hungrily. All of life is political. I needed to find or forge alliances.
Being one of the few Americans there made relationships particularly delicate
to negotiate. I heard talk, a rumor stirring throughout my dorm floor. Those
of us from countries farthest away didn’t register a certain family name, but
apparently someone infamous was among us. I had to meet this guy.

My desire to meet R. was soon fulfilled. One night in my first week
there, drenched in insomnia, I wandered out to the back of the building to
smoke. After settling on some wooden crates, I fished for my lighter and
cigarettes. A voice spoke from the dark, nearly causing me to fall over with
shocked surprise. I dropped my cigarette into the tall weeds.

“You’re one of the Americans,” a male voice pronounced.

“How did you know? How does everyone know?” I asked.
64

“The shoes. That brand is expensive here. Watch for thieves.”

I glanced at my North Face hiking boots. “Thanks.”

“May I offer you a cigarette? I caused you to lose yours,” he said.

“Yes, thanks,” I said. He handed me a long, thin cigarette. When I
leaned into his lighter, cologne redolent of airport duty-free shopping lounges
tickled my nose. The expensive woodsy, musky stuff. I took a long drag of the
cig. Smooth. Not the harsh Russian cigarettes.

He rattled a small bottle in front of me. “Want some? Local specialty.
Potent, but not too rough,” he said.

I took the bottle and poured the fire down my throat. “That certainly
hit the spot.” We paused for a minute, smoking. “Tell me. You must be the
campus celebrity.”

“How did you know?”

“The watch. That brand is expensive everywhere,” I said. I was not
willing to admit that even in the weak light over the back dumpsters I could
tell he was a magazine ad sprung to life. They’d said he was handsome and
rich. I hadn’t seen any others that fit that description on campus. “You’ve got
people in a tizzy.”

He elegantly snorted, which until then I had not known was possible.
“Doubtful. Just idle talk. Exaggerations.”

“Why are you in school?”

“I want to be a student. Isn’t a university where that happens?”

“Just thought if you’re really Mr. Money Bags, not sure what you’d
be doing puttering around here. You can’t even get through a movie, the
electricity’s so spotty.”

“I needed a change of pace. They will figure out the electricity.”

“Some of the talk about your family is rather accusatory, I mean
about the war.”

R. paused. “Let’s leave it at the fact my family found the war
profitable, and not always in the ways people assume. An army needs food. It
needs clothing and shoes. We have factories that make pants and some that
make yogurt.”

My ballsy approach paid off. We finished the moonshine and
burned through the cigarettes. No kissing that first day. It created a delicious
anticipation. When I finally crawled into my bunk bed near dawn, I felt
disoriented and giddy. For the next two days I didn’t sleep. Slouching through
the perfunctory orientation events and mixers, I always hunted the crowd for
his square jaw and dark hair.

During a break in orientation, R. showed me a formal family portrait
on the wall in his apartment. It was a glossy black and white. Late ’70s haircuts
couldn’t hide the family’s beauty. In the picture, R.’s insouciant mouth was
stuck in a grin. The glamorous photo family chewed its secrets in silence
behind a tasteful glass frame. He didn’t go into any details. But we finally
kissed. He got me good. Soon we were inseparable.

R. tried to play the part of starving student to fit in, but holes rent his
façade. I told him playing rich is easy when you’re poor, but the wealthy do
an awful mime of poverty. He smoked to blend in. Everyone else bought the
separate packages of tobacco and rolling papers, most forgoing filters because
65

they cost more. R. bought royal blue French cigarettes. He’d halfheartedly
take a few shallow puffs on the slim cylinders and crush them out. The other
students stared greedily at the discarded sapphire halves.

The city was starkly bifurcated. Most of the students kept near the
newest downtown blocks on the west side, where the diplomats and the
entrepreneurs were busy hiding the skeletons of war. In the west, the creamsmooth new sidewalks, a rollerblader’s delight, were lined with garbage cans
and streetlights. Shopping arcades, spangled with familiar logos for Nescafé,
Burger King, and Mövenpick, set the exchange students at ease. The market
stalls and grimy cafes on the squalid east side of town suited R. and me
best. R. gambled on horses and inhaled cocaine. He tipped generously and
occasionally bought the house a round. I tucked in under his wing, watching.

The day I discovered the truth about R. began normally. I woke
alone in his apartment. He left no note, he never did. I stopped asking what
he was up to. It was always the same vague reply. He ran errands for the family
business, this nearby factory or that. The bathroom mirror reflected a poor
job of removing my makeup from the night before. Stubborn black eyeliner
and mascara still clung to my lashes and the tender patches around my eyes.
My head throbbed dully and the stench of ashes was in my nostrils. I’d gotten
carried away with the champagne and grape liquor the night before. I picked
up a stray sweater on the floor and breathed in R.’s cologne. Underneath the
musk was his own skin scent, the bracing, saccharine tang of paperwhites.

I forced coffee, dry toast, and a painkiller from R.’s personal doctor
down my throat. The work piled up, regardless of my extracurricular
activities. After hours proofing a monograph for the museum, I needed a
break. I glanced around me and I remember the room looked normal. The
eggplant glass ashtray on the nightstand spilled over with soft ash and butts.
A bouquet of calla lilies mummified on the bench by the foot of the bed. A
snow of letters, magazines, and advertisements lay by the front door. It was a
beautiful, light-filled apartment, but diminished with clutter and neglect.
One Pierre Cardin sock and a Gucci shawl covered with dust
bunnies slept on the wood floor near the bed. I had promised myself I would
not tidy up after R., but I couldn’t bear such luxurious items disintegrating
like a newspapers stuck on a rooftop. I crouched on my knees to search under
the bed for the sock’s mate. I spotted a metal box and eagerly reached for it,
thinking it had some sentimental gewgaws. I was always hungry for more
clues into R.’s life. The box was locked, but the key was not hard for me, a
natural snoop, to find in its hiding spot under a desk lamp.

When I opened the box, it was full of American dollars. Stacks and
stacks of hundreds. Under the money were about 100 tiny packets of white
powder. I snapped the box shut, locked it up, and shoved it back under the
bed. Though I did long to hear the truth from his own lips, I was willing to
overlook much. He was the best of the string of bad boys I’d known. To hell
with everything else, as long as he was sweet to me. But I was scared.

I immediately headed to a bar R. frequented, hoping to find him
there. He was not around, but I decided to have a drink or two. I was already
there and the bartender recognized me. The place probably hadn’t changed
66

much in the last few decades. Ratty maroon carpet and linoleum with dark,
gummy splotches covered the floors. Tattered patrons spread themselves over
formica tables and vinyl bar stools. Pinball machines bing-bong-binged and
blinked, while a jukebox glowed weakly in the corner.

I slid onto a red vinyl stool at the front bar, under the bartender’s
nose. He constantly placed fresh vodka tonics in front of me. He brushed off
my efforts to pay. Suddenly, an old woman grabbed my arm and shoved a flier
in my face. “My grandson, these are pictures of him. Seen him around?” she
asked.

The bartender waved his finger in her face. “Come on, lady. This is a
bar. People are here to forget all that for awhile.” He looked at her sternly, but
raised voices drew his gaze. A scuffle had broken out at the pool tables, and he
rushed off.

Seizing her chance to speak to me freely, she let the words spool
out of her. She was from the deep countryside and her whole village had
been destroyed in the war. Her accent was thick and her many missing teeth
distorted consonants, but I understood her stories. She told me about the last
time she heard her grandson’s voice before an explosion swallowed it. Her
words came to life in my imagination, the deep boom-boom-booms that got
ever louder, ever quicker as the soldiers came closer. The sickening silence
after the tanks and planes finally moved on. After the cottony quiet, the
volume slowly rising again with voices searching for their jolted bodies after
the attacks.

The lotto machines, the cheesy synth-heavy folk music, and this
woman’s voice all converged on me. A wave of nausea rushed from my throat
to my stomach. I stumbled off my stool, away from the old woman. The vodka
had reached my feet and they were now heavy and cumbersome as ice blocks.
I gripped the edge of a nearby table for support.

The bartender darted over and held me upright. “Are you alright,
Veronica? Are you going to be sick? Love, it’s okay, you wouldn’t be the first,
but I’d rather not have you do it right here,” he cooed. He knew I slept in R.’s
bed.

I shook my head. “Fresh air. Can you take me to the back alley?”

He was already leading me out. “Of course, of course, dear. Terrible
old biddy to bother you like that. We’ve kicked her out, you don’t have to
worry about seeing her again tonight.” Once outside, he propped me up on
some banana boxes and pressed a glass of soda water to my cracked lips.
“Finish this, Lady V., and then we’ll smoke.”

I got back from the bar late that night, but I still beat R. home. I
pretended to be asleep when he slumped in. Even after he’d settled next to
me, I could not sleep. The old woman’s voice poured out story after story and
they kept looping and echoing in my mind. The knowledge of the stash also
wormed around in my head. R. fidgeted. I reached out and touched his back.

“An old woman in the bar on Kalka Square told me war stories,” I
said. “I can’t stop thinking about it.”

R. sighed and reached his hand over to the nightstand to check the
time. The Rolex glowed blue, and I saw it was after five. “She’s some crazy old
woman in a bar. Nothing unusual.”
67

“That’s not what bothers me the most. I found your stash under the
bed. Tell me the truth. What are you doing in this city?”

“You violate my trust, and now you demand answers?” R. angrily
jumped off the bed and started pacing the floor. Suddenly, he started stomping
toward me. Instinctively, I leapt back to the headboard and shielded my head
with my forearms. He’d never laid a hand on me before, but I waited for the
inevitable for a tortuously long minute. It never came.

When I lowered my arms, I saw tears flooding down his cheeks. He
reached over, enveloping me in his large arms. “I remember what it’s like. I
remember too, I am like you. We are ugly all over. Others can’t see our scars,
but we have always seen them on each other.”
He didn’t hold me for long. He picked up his cigarettes and his
lighter. The pungent smoke soon snaked around the bed.

R. had given me an emerald ring. Being filled with doubt, it didn’t
feel right for me to keep it. “Take back the ring,” I said. “It’s too valuable.” I
pulled the ring off my finger and held it out to him.

He closed his hand over mine, pressing the ring into my fleshy palm
with my own fingertips, cementing the ring as my own. “It was a gift. I meant
you to have it. Keep it.”

Though I hardly smoked in bed, I joined him for something to keep
my nervous fingers busy. Just because I was in love with him didn’t mean I
trusted him. Men are capable of everything.

“You are ashamed of me,” he said quietly. “But remember that none
of us decide when and where to be born. I can’t walk away, even if I wanted
to.”

The next day, he suggested we split town and travel. The men
in his family didn’t reach old age. R. wanted to see the world before being
sequestered back in his small corner of it. We hastily packed. I wrote polite
letters declining to continue my scholarship and my job at the museum. Part
of me was wary, but a trip around the world was too enticing. At that age, I
was compulsively reckless.

R.’s grandmother, who seemed to know him the best, sent a box.
There were Eurail passes and airline vouchers for both of us, and a large
manila envelope full of traveler’s cheques. There were two passports for him,
one Spanish for “Rafael de Soto Marquez,” and one Canadian for “Richard
Trentham Smythe.” For three months, we raced across the globe.

One morning in East Berlin, I woke up alone. His things were gone.
There was a fat envelope and a neatly wrapped present on a chair next to the
bed. I suspected he’d leave me like that. Preparation didn’t stave the cold grief.
It pooled, silver and thick, in my stomach. Inside the envelope was enough
money to set me up for a frugal year and a farewell letter. R. wrote I was never
to contact him, for my safety and his.

“My grandmother was impressed when I told her how much you like
Blake, and this book is also her favorite,” he wrote. I meticulously unwrapped
the present and discovered a crumbling copy of Williams Blake’s Songs of
Innocence and Experience. I gently opened the frail pages and inhaled deeply of
the delicious ancient tree pulp, moldy rot, and yeasty smoke. If it wasn’t the
first edition, it was damn close. “Now that is more your style than jewelry, am
68

I right?” That was the last line of the short note. No words of love or longing.
Nothing about forecasted days of missing me.

In a nondescript airport terminal, I recalled the taste of cherryscented pipe tobacco that R. and I smoked. And the places, all the many
places over the continents. The hedonism in Ibiza, the scent of cardamom in
Bangladesh, the sway of palms in Manzanillo, a traffic jam on the MoroccoAlgeria border, raves in Prague – all of our adventures haunted me. I couldn’t
knock the ghost of R. out of my head.

I recalled my photos of R., my permanent archives of our smiles and
sunburns. Records of moments in my life now irretrievably lost. As fun as our
time together was, our abrupt end soured the memories. I was left friendless
and joyless. Slowly after he left I began putting back together the pieces of my
life. I returned to the university I had run haphazardly away from. Eventually,
I got my job at the museum back. After many years, I went back to the States,
found a husband, and had two children.

R.’s prison sentence was for life. Drugs were the least of the offenses
linked to his name. I would have been ready for damnation with him. Though
I knew of his family’s dirty business and what it led to in the end, I’d never
have left him. What did it say about me that I accepted R. for who he was?
That I wanted my children to have R.’s jaw, my husband his gambler’s
heart? I didn’t want to be stuck in O’Hare waiting for a plane to get me to a
meeting. I wanted to be with R., purple hollows under our eyes, sticky hands
intertwined, hungover, boarding a plane to the island of lotus eaters.

69

BURNED BONES
Zarina Zabrisky

THERE WAS A meat factory next to where we lived. We couldn’t see it, but
we could smell it – especially in the morning. The air was thick like sauce,
thick with the smell of burned bones. Mother said they burned cow bones at
night at the factory, and that’s what smelled.

Some mornings I woke up from the smell – that’s how strong it was
– but that only happened when the wind blew our way. I was afraid to look at
the two pipes and the black smoke in the colorless sky. Other mornings I slept
through and didn’t want to get out of the warm bed. I got used to the smell
and liked our new place.

Before that my grandmother, mother and I lived in one dark room in a
basement and had to share the bathroom with six other families. The bathtub
was black. Not because it was dirty. It was just worn out. And there was a fat
woman who always walked down the hallway drunk, naked, and singing. Her
breasts looked like giant onions – purple and bulbous. In the new place we
had two bedrooms and our own tiny bathroom. Our new bathtub was white,
and the fixtures shone.

Every winter morning mother would wrap me in the layers of woolen
clothes, sweaters, tights and scarves. One scratchy scarf always went over my
nose and mouth, but when we stepped outside, I still could smell the burned
bones. I couldn’t speak, but Mother would say, “Don’t speak. You’ll catch a
cold.”

The walk to the kindergarten was short. All I could see was a long
line of old women in dark fur coats. The women lined up in front of an icecrusted cistern with milk – fresh, they said, just milked from the cows at the
meat factory – waiting, empty buckets in hand. The women always stood
there, their shawls covering their noses, so only eyes showed. They reminded
me of the black-and-white photographs in books about the Siege. My
grandmother always showed me the photos of gaunt women in big shawls.
They carried empty water cans or dragged kids’ sleighs with dead people
through the snow. Grandma was telling me stories about the Siege all the
time: How there was no food, no water, no heat, and everyone died, and there
were dead people everywhere in the streets. That was a long time ago, though,
when Grandma was young. We had water, bread, and even milk in the store,
so I didn’t understand why the women with water cans stood outside in the
snow, grey-blue steam coming out of their mouths. The line looked like a
gigantic smoke-breathing monster.
70

We crossed the street, over the tram tracks and snow piles, and arrived
at the kindergarten. I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to stay at home alone
and listen to records – fairy tales about Alice in Wonderland and Pinocchio
– and look at my beautiful books with colorful pictures or draw horses with
soft, thick pencils in my album. In the kindergarten, they didn’t let us do any
of this. They made us play, march, and sing even when we didn’t feel like it,
and if we didn’t, they punished us. They also punished us if we didn’t want
to nap. The teachers would put girls and boys in the corner, naked on a stool,
and everyone pointed fingers at them and laughed. They also forced us to eat
mashed carrots. The carrots were all slimy with clots.

The only good thing about the kindergarten was telling stories
between lunch and naptime. I didn’t like to play, but I liked making things
up. Once I started to tell a girl next to me at the table a story about a fairy
land where fireflies carried children to lighthouses during stormy nights, and
other kids started to listen, and then the teacher. I feared the teacher, Maria
Ivanovna, an old woman with stone eyes like the women in the milk line. I
stopped talking as she came over.

“Here,” she said, “Rozanskaya!” – the teachers always called us by
our last names – “You sit on this stool.” She pointed at the stool that I stood
on naked the day before, and I shrank away. “We’ll put it in the middle and
you tell a story. Children, listen to Rozanskaya. I am going to step out now.”

And that is how it happened that every day after lunch and before
naptime I’d tell a story while the teacher smoked in the hallway. I started
thinking about my story the night before, falling into the dense world of my
own fairy tale, a mysterious, a bit frightening and exciting enchanted forest
filled with The Firebird, mermaids, fair maidens, flying horses, talking cats,
and huts on chicken legs. Every morning I’d wake up in the wintery darkness
– sometimes nauseous from the smell of burned bones – and try to remember
my dreams and my stories. And every day I would tell a story – different each
time, woven from the night dreams and spiced with invisible towers and
towns made of flower dust, dragonfly wings, and stars.

And then one day I didn’t eat my mashed carrots at lunch. The
carrots were cold and covered with something greenish.

“Eat it,” said Maria Ivanovna. “In Leningrad, we don’t waste food.
We don’t play with food. People died without food. You forgot about the
Siege?”

“No,” I said. I meant to say that I didn’t forget about the Siege, that
my Grandma’s mom and dad died in the Siege and that I didn’t want to play
with food, but she decided that I had said “no” to eating it.

She came over and forced the aluminum spoon into my mouth. The
spoon cut my lips. The carrots tasted like garbage. I spit them out.

“No spitting,” cried Maria Ivanovna, and dragged me to a mattress
closet, by my collar, the plate with the carrot in her other hand.

She pushed me into the dusty room and onto the rolled mattress
pyramid that smelled like old urine and put the plate on the floor.

“Don’t come out until you eat it,” she said.
71

I heard the key turning in the door and her steps disappearing down
the hallway. She probably went to smoke, I thought. I looked out the window
at the snow and black crows pecking on something. I was jealous of the crows.
They were free.

Then I heard some noise, screaming and bumping, and pressed my
ear to the door.

“We want Rozanskaya,” cried kids’ voices, “Maria Ivanovna, please,
please, bring her back! We want our story! We can’t sleep without the story.”
Then, more stomping and Maria Ivanovna’s steps.

“Krasnov, you tell a story,” she said. “Here, on the stool.”

I felt tears coming. The mattresses were big, like mountains, and I
imagined climbing them all the way up to the ceiling, finding a secret door to
the attic and then turning into a bird and flying away from the kindergarten,
from Maria Ivanovna and the carrots to a planet made of milk chocolate.

And then the door opened and Maria Ivanovna came in. This time
she was not alone. Our cleaning lady Auntie Lena came with her. They
had faces like the women in the milk line and they didn’t say much. Maria
Ivanovna grabbed me by my wrists and held me down. Auntie Lena shoved
the cold carrots mush into my shut mouth, hissing, “Eat, little bitch, eat when
I’m telling you.”

I rocked my head but they were big and strong and the carrot got
smudged all over my cheeks and hair, smelling so terribly bad. I opened my
mouth. The sweet slime felt like glue on my tongue and a little salty from
mixing with my tears but I did try to swallow it. Instead, something inside
shuddered and I threw up, the carrots flying out, followed by something warm
and pungent, and the bright orange slush poured out of me – more, more,
more – until there was nothing left inside.

I don’t remember the end of the night, only feathery darkness
growing from black crows, covering the skies and the world. Mother came,
the ambulance came, and they rushed me to the hospital. I just couldn’t stop
gagging, mother told me later. I kept talking – fast, deliriously – about black
crows in the snow, mashed carrots, and dead people.

MONA
KUHN

Mother didn’t send me back. She took me to another kindergarten. It
was 10 minutes away, and on the way we still breathed burned bones, but we
had to take a tram. It was bright yellow and blue, like a parrot, lit inside, and
jingled merrily. I imagined that the tram was speeding like a plane – taking off
the ground, lifting above the tracks, above the snow, above the milk line, and
above the meat factory with black smoke coming out of the pipes and flying
me, mother – and grandmother – far, far away to a planet made of birthday
cake and dragonfly wings.

72

73

MONA KUHN

MY LUCKY CAT
Zarina Zabrisky

PAYSAGE 6, 2011
2011, from Bordeaux Series

PORTRAIT 55, 2011
2011, from Bordeaux Series

SHE ARRIVED AT midnight.

Uncanny eyes – eyes that green only burn in the dirty snow, in the
midst of Moscow winter, in the darkest corner of a backyard. She looked at
my fiance once, and the rest just happened. John – a homesick American
expatriate who counted days till his flight back home, crossing out numbers
on the wall calendar with a thick black Sharpie – forgot all about leaving
Russia for good, pressed her to his chest, underneath his red woolen scarf,
and brought her to me.

“Look, kitten,” he said.

“You’re drunk off your ass,” I said. “We’re going to America. Where
do we...”

John passed out on the couch, his scarf still on.

The kitten was as polite as the English Queen. She sat in the corner
and cleaned her white face, then rolled into a ball and fell asleep.

“What’s that?” asked John in the morning.

“I’m going to work,” I said. “And you sort it out. You brought her.”

“I have a kitten now,” I told our accountant.

“I thought you were going to America,” she said. “What color?”
She sounded like an ER doctor.

“No particular color, gray, white, and red, little black.”

“Don’t even think of getting rid of her,” she said. “She’s lucky. Your
lucky cat. You throw her out, you throw your luck away.”

“I wasn’t going to,” I said.

When I came home with milk and herring, the kitten was sitting
outside the front door back in the blue snow starring at me with those pharaoh
eyes. Calm. Elegant. Discreet.

“Look at you. He just threw you back out. Never trust a man, kittie.
Come on in,” I said. “Bring me some luck.”

And thus, she stayed. My daughter gave her a name, Lisa. She taught
her to walk on hinder paws, taught her to catch digital mice on Discovery
Channel programs and sang “Three little mice, see how they run” to her.

“Speak English,” she explained to Lisa. “We are going to America.
Everyone speaks English there.”

Lisa jumped high like a kangaroo, and used a toilet like a human.

76

77

She killed our only plant – my daughter renamed him “Fred” from “Fyodor”
– tearing him out of his pot. She slept with us. She ate with us. And when the
time came, she went to America with us.

Like us, she needed a passport. To obtain it, I went to a vet.

“Emigrating?” asked the vet, looking at my tanned knees with hatred.

I pulled my miniskirt down. The year was 1998, and the financial
crisis had just hit Moscow. Everyone wanted to emigrate.

“Well, you can go,” said the vet. “She can’t.”

Lisa looked at my knees, too.

“Why?”

“The shot.”

“What about it?”

“She doesn’t have it.”

“Well, give it to her,” I said. “Please.”

“Impossible. She’s supposed to have two shots: one six weeks ago,
one the day before the flight, today.”

“But I called you eight weeks ago and you only told me about today.”

The vet squinted at his bitten nails. Then at the door.

“It’s a new rule,” he said. “Next!”

The vet was looking past my shoulder into the hallway filled with
coughing dogs and hissing cats. I noticed that he hadn’t shaved for a few days.
I closed the door.

“Wait,” I said. “I really need to take my cat. My daughter... she can’t
live without her.”

“Next!” cried the vet. “Take your cat!”

“Listen,” I whispered. “I have something, right here. Help me!”

That year, 1998, everything in Moscow was for sale. To get anything
done, you bribed. To get garbage out, you bribed the janitor. To pass the
company audit, you bribed the Pension Fund Inspector. To get a job, you
bribed HR. I pushed 20 dollars toward the vet, over the sticky exam table. Lisa
touched my hand with her soft paw. Maybe she thought it was a mouse.

“Citizen, are you kidding?” cried the vet.

In 7 years of my business career in Russia, I’ve never seen anyone
decline a bribe. And people stopped calling each other “citizen” 10 years ago.

“Sorry,” I said, and pushed a 100 dollar bill his way.

“Take your cat, young woman. Veterinarians are not to be bribed,”
said the vet, shuffling out of the office.

I shoved Lisa in the cage, ran back and forth across the street in my
heels—Russian uniform—trying to catch a taxi, and finally went to another
vet clinic. Then another, then another. After five clinics, I found out that
veterinarians were the only Russian professionals immune to bribes.

“Animals,” I told Lisa, wiping my tears. “It’s 8 p.m., all clinics are
closed. Do I traffic you in America?!”

I trafficked heroin from Ukraine, but cats into America?!

“We’re screwed.”

“Meow,” said Lisa.

“What’s wrong?”
78

A black Mercedes stopped by. The window rolled down. A red face,
a blue Nike track suit, a golden chain with a crucifix the size of Lisa’s head.

“Kitty sick? Need a ride?” A red hand emerged from the window.
“Oleg.”

“Anya. Thanks.”

Gypsy taxis were common in Russia. So were mafia Mercedes. Men
giving free rides to women “just to chat” were also common. I was tired. I
spent all my money on taxis. John flew off to New York the day before, taking
my daughter and three suitcases with him. I was to leave my motherland
the next day. Lisa didn’t have a shot. I plunked down into the soft leather
seat, took a Marlboro from Oleg, and told him about Lisa, America, and the
scrupulous vet.

“No way,” said Oleg. “Did you go to clinic number 22?”

“Just stepped out of the damn place.”

“Whaddaya know,” said Oleg, shrugging. “Here, we’re going back. I
take my puppy there for shots. Had his teeth cleaned a month ago. Did you
see the Jew vet or the old witch?”

“Excuse me?”

“The vet was a Jew? Big glasses, shnobel? Or was it an old...”

“The Jew.”

“He’s my buddy. A good Jew. You sit here,” he said, getting out of the
car in front of clinic number 22. “I go talk to the dude.”

Outside of the car, he looked like the Terminator.

“Do you want the cat?”

“Naah. You just smoke.”

I saw the gun bulging from his track suit pocket. Guns bulging
from pockets were common in Moscow in 1998. I worked as a liaison
between American businessmen and Russian – well – the euphemism was
“authorities.” Americans you could discern by their hungover blood-shot
eyes and big scarves. The authorities had guns bulging out of their pockets.
And tattoos, reading “Mama” on their bulging biceps. So did the mafia. I
didn’t care if Oleg was the mafia or an authority. He probably was both.

“Hey, girlfriend, what’s the kitty’s name?” Oleg’s red head popped
out of the Staff Entrance door of the Clinic number 22.

“Lisa.”

Five minutes later Oleg sat next to me, patting Lisa’s head with his
sausage finger, the golden ring sparking in the dusk.

“Good girl,” he said. “Good Russian kitty. Going to America. From
the Moscow dump. Lucky bitch.”

“Mrrrrr,” said Lisa, rubbing her ear against the red finger.

I stared at a small blue document named Passport.

“How did you get it? I mean, what did you—”

Oleg scratched the back of his head and spit out of the Mercedes
window.

“Nothing. Just said, ‘Hey, bro, that chick needs help.’”

I opened the blue book.

Name : Lisa. Last Name: Svenson. Gender: female. Age: 1.

Five stamps and a signature certified that Lisa had all shots in
79

accordance with something indecipherable.

“I don’t know if I can thank you enough,” I said, dreading the answer.
In Moscow, 1998, the payoff would be simple and quick, in the back seat of the
black Mercedes. Bulging guns and all.

“You do love your kitty,” laughed Oleg. “Relax, sis. Where do you
stay? I’ll take you home, you gotta pack. I just love animals.”

We hugged each other in front of the gloomy building at the Garden
Ring.

“Good luck, there, sis,” said Oleg. “You show them. And remember,
Russians don’t surrender.”

He hit himself on the chest, and his crucifix bounced up and down,
the malnourished figure on the cross flipping.

“I’ll remember,” I said.

I flew to America on Aeroflot. A beautiful blue-eyed stewardess
allowed Lisa to sit in my lap.

“Lucky kitty,” she said, her kind wrinkles smeared with blue mascara.

Lisa sat in my lap for 11 hours, purring and starring into my eyes with
her green quiet stare, her warm body working against my thigh: up and down,
up and down, as the plane took me away from my home – forever.

80

SECRET
Zarina Zabrisky

THIS IS HOW I make a secret: I dig a small hole in the soil, in spring. The
soil smells rich, and it is moist and slippery, smooth on my fingers like black
butter. The snow is just gone, but the very first green grass is already here and
it is lettuce green and thin, like the hairs of alien baby animals.

Then I get a crinkled chocolate wrapper out of my pocket. I already
licked it clean once, but I lick the shining gold foil again – just in case – tracing
the crinkles and dents. The tinge of chocolate is still there, tingling my tongue.
I lay the foil in the hole, flattening it with my fingertips. The wrinkles and
angles sparkle in the sun. Then I get my treasures out of my school backpack,
from a special compartment I only use for secret things: a mother-of-pearl
button with a missing eye I found in the snow; a 2 kopeck coin smashed by
a tram, edges smudged; a bright blue bead I stole from Mom’s jewelry box;
an L shaped shard of broken mirror; a ballerina doll I made from telephone
wires; a piece of redwood I polished in my pocket for the whole winter during
boring history classes; a seagull feather I found on the embankment the last
time I went for a walk with Dad. It could be really anything. Rocks, postcards,
dandelions, notes I wrote to my imaginary friend Marquise Zelinda, a chip of
a porcelain poodle’s ear, a love poem, a hairpin.

We are lucky. We have a dumpster from the metal shop across the
street in our schoolyard. It overflows with copper and nickel spirals, sharp but
beautiful and shiny like the curls of foreign movie stars. Also, every spring,
strange glass droplets appear under the poplars. No one knows where they
come from. They look like cosmic ants’ bellies, only they are transparent.
Each has a blue core under the yellowish surface. Each one is the size of my
tear. Nina told me they hatch monsters. Nina always makes stuff up. The glass
droplets disappear in summer, so they are just right for making secrets.

I pour a handful of silky glass all over my treasures and lay bronze
spirals all around it. Then comes the lid. Sometimes I use the wine bottle
bottoms, emerald green and glossy. The school yard is full of them. Drunkards
start drinking by the fence as soon as we leave school. This time I pick up a
piece of a window glass. It’s flat and clear. I place it on top of my treasures,
pushing the secret down.

Then I throw the soil back on top. Green grass flickers in the slippery
blackness. I sit for a second, look up at the light blue sky through the branches
of poplar tree, waiting, counting, watching leaves tremble in the breeze. I want
to count to 20 but stop at 18 and start digging with my index finger, making a
81

round window into the earth.

This is why I do it, for this moment. My treasure is shining in the
sun. It looks like a color TV screen. It’s better than the kaleidoscope that
my dad brought for me from his last business trip, just before he left. Fiery
orange, creamy gold and cobalt blue melt into each other and flow like a lava
lamp Dad gave to Mom. I used to imagine that Dad was a submarine pirate
and got the treasures in a dark underwater cave after slaying a sea monster. I
now imagine that I’m a pirate princess and that I found an ancient chest in the
ship’s wreck on the old island, under a tall palm tree.

I always do a secret alone. Some people do secrets with best friends,
but I don’t have a friend good enough to do a secret with. Nina would tell
other girls. Julia puts stupid things in her secrets – she told me – like her old
piece of bubble gum that her dad brought from abroad. She chewed it for a
whole month.

One day, I think, I will make a secret with a friend. Maybe it will be a
boy. The boys I know don’t really make secrets. The boys I know like to fight
in the yard or throw rocks at us when we walk from the school to the tram
stop. I don’t like the boys in our school. They scream things like “Boobs” and
“Dirty Jew.” They pinch in the hallways.

I don’t really know any other boys because I don’t go anywhere except
for school. But I read books all the time, on the tram to school and at home all
afternoon and evening when I’m alone. My mom is at work and doesn’t allow
me to watch TV unless it is a good movie and only if she is around. So I read
and read. In books, boys are different.

The book boys feel and say things I feel and say. They don’t torture
small animals. They are sometimes afraid of the dark or like to draw or want
to become captains. I like the book boys, so I’m dreaming that one day I will
meet a boy like this and we will make a secret.

I’m reading all the way on the tram. I walk back to our building and
step into the puddle because I’m still reading. I’m still reading on the way
to the elevator. I probably would read in the elevator, but I hear footsteps.
Someone walks in at the last minute. The door closes.

It’s a boy. Much older than me, taller, bigger, almost adult but not
really. He is probably in a vocational school or a military school because he
has this olive-green jacket uniform with golden buttons on it. He stares right
at me and pushes the top floor button. We have 14 floors. The elevator is slow.

I want to say that I need the sixth floor, but I’m afraid. My mouth
won’t open like in a nightmare. I turn away from him and try to push the “6”
button but it doesn’t work this way. If you don’t press your number on the
ground floor, you have to go all the way up to the roof first.

He jumps on me from behind. His arms are around my neck,
strangling me. He pushes his hips into me. He puffs into my ear. I start seeing
it all as if in a movie. In a silent movie. We fight but we don’t say a word. I see
myself kicking and jabbing him with my elbow. I still hold the book in one
hand, my middle finger inside at the page where I stopped. With the finger
still in, I hit him with the book. It is Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues
Under the Sea. It is thick. With my other hand I try to unclasp his arms from
my neck tugging on his sleeve, but all I get is his button. I clutch it in my fist.
82

With this fist and with the book in my other hand I hit and hit. One moment
he loosens his arms. I wiggle out and turn around. His cheeks are red. I feel
the wine on his breath. It’s all sour. I can see that his pants are unzipped. I
look up – right into his chest – and hit him between his legs with the book.

“When a man attacks you,” Mom always says, “hit him between the
legs and run.”

He doubles over and whimpers. The elevator stops. The door opens.
I push the “1” button to send him down and jump out. The elevator doors
close and he is now gone. I run to the back stairs and, jumping over the piles
of poop and broken glass, down six floors, I am home. My key is around my
neck on a rope, but my fingers shake so I can’t open the door for a while. I keep
hearing puffing in the long dark hallway—someone keeps stealing the bulb in
the hallway so you can never see anything.

When I do get back and lock the door, I sit on the floor, still in my
blue spring jacket and rubber boots. There is a tiny puddle by the heel. I
squeeze my book to my chest and close my eyes. The phone rings, once, twice.

“Hi, Mom,” I say.

“Here you are, my little bunny,” says Mom. She always calls me her
little bunny. “Did you eat? Did you remember bread and butter?”

I’m not hungry but I say, “I did, Mom. I’m fine, Mom. See you, Mom.”

I unclench my fingers and look at the button in my hand. It is really
beautiful: It has a star and a hammer and a small ship on it, and it is shiny. I’m
thinking that tomorrow during recess, I will go to the hidden corner of the
schoolyard. There, behind the old poplar, I will find a small hill, slowly dig the
soil out and add the button to my secret.

83

VALENTINE’S NIGHT
Dominic Viti

I DOWN A bottle of happy, get sad, and bike downtown, fast through the
cold dark. Wind pulls complex shadows across scarred avenues. Bats strafe
midges. Streetlights drain. My cellphone buzzes against my thigh. Cops
raided my friend’s place. Plan B: basketball courts. Vacant. Smooth pavement.
Fenced in. 10 guys, 10 fixies, plaid shirts vs. tattooed skins. Playing cycle polo
under the pale moon.

Listen. Heavy breaths, the hiss of stale bus exhaust, the mechanical
drizzle of spokes. Tires burning figure eights on scuffed court. A red glowin-the-dark ball ricocheting like electrons. Ambulance sirens screaming
past a writer, a lawyer, a plumber, a mechanic, a college dropout, a painter, a
bellhop, a bartender, and a stranger—blindly windmilling handmade clubs in
the night.

The stranger, that skinny kid with skinny jeans and knotty hair,
catches one in the face. He flies over his handlebars and plants the ground
hard. Rock dust settles. We stop in a halo around sounds of him spitting on
the sideline. His tooth in a bloody puddle looks computer-enhanced in the
glow of traffic lights. He staggers to his feet. Shrugging into his jacket, barechested, the stranger mumbles, “7-Eleven.”

We know what he means. Grind a handrail and the crew buys you
booze, a first aid kit. We pass a flask, toke some blunts, form a line along these
graffitied stairs, wait for him to roll up. Stranger jumps the gap a few times.
Checks distance and angles. Circles back. And starts casting himself and his
fixie to the bar in a shuddering clang, trying to slide his right peddle down the
top of it.

Fall after fall. Stranger has road rash, head to Converses. He fights to
peddle up the walkway, drops his fixie, splits his polo club in half across the
frame. That ringing sound hits us. We all have coldness in our hearts. Plumber
lost his business. Locksmith’s hooked on pills. Bellhop lives with his parents.
Mechanic’s out on parole. Painter’s buried in student loan debt. My girl left me
on February 6. Been writing six line paragraphs since, yoked to the number.

Cops show up and kick us out into the streets. Newspaper scraps
whirl above sleeping cars and worn shops with barred windows. The moon,
lit only on the chin, looks like it’s telling a ghost story, then hides behind a
thick fog gaining on us. We weave up and across sidewalks and parking lots.
Glide in and out of traffic. Hop curbs and manholes. Scatter like broken glass
into a pitch black neighborhood.
84

The locksmith’s apartment. Beer bottles. Stained carpets. Sinks with
dirty dishes. Death metal. Teen girl breastfeeding a naked baby. Coffee table
scattered with stems and seeds. Polluted burble of water pipe. Shot glass
crushing Xanax into powder. White lines shooting through rolled up dollars
into skulls. TV blaring. Pit bull barking. Locksmith punching its ribs. Me
walking out with my head down.

The bike ride home. Rearranged and weary. Body aching and
thoughts vibrating. Twenty-five years old, still doing this shit. Makes me sick.
Losing my girl by running with wolves. Shutting my eyes against the truth for
so long. A sad kind of happy, realizing your flaws. Facing who you are instead
of who you could be. Being human isn’t easy. Chasing purpose at the speed
of now.

Pulling up to my stoop, getting off my bike, I smoke a cigarette so the
devil inside me falls asleep. Across the alley a light in a window comes on. The
shadow of an old man moves back and forth, yelling a woman’s name, telling
her to please wake up. The man’s voice splits into cries and the woman says,
“I’m fine, I’m fine.” And the man says, “You weren’t moving. I thought I lost
you. I never want to lose you.” Seeing clearly in the cold dark, I call my girl.
Hello.

85

THIS REFRACTED
FAILURE

INCIPIENCY::
MG ROBERTS

MG Roberts

A diagnosis is a moment of inexplicit clarity, blurred identification hemmed in
by bones. Bones resembling anything but beauty produced on film.
How can I make things any clearer here? Can I say the making of important
things is like an axis, the study of tectonics? The making. Make.
I want to define elegance. I want to examine the arrangement of its letters, its
violence before you. Are tulips elegant? I mean redemptive. Transferable.

Are red tulips elegant?
The thought spills out, everything spills out of it, everything spills.
Today the ospreys are building nests in cell phone towers and all I can think to
say is those are not trees.

a prayer counted on linked plastic beads, pale lilac gripped in palms to locate
devotion

or the beginning of something: to begin, began, having begun

three Hail Mary’s pass-first-pass through lips then dust

::
one truth: the rosary petitions favors to engulf even name

i covered my ears with hands to avoid guilt and sang, “blah, blah, blah,” into the
future interior

the space between threaded spines touching everything all at once

::

86

87

BRIGHTLY::

a recurrent body of syllables orbiting throat, beginning to develop or exist

MG ROBERTS
a becoming of pollen to iris

prayers to eat the surface of

sea foam laps against curling toes, hello from this shore to that in aquamarine

bubbles form on whorled triangles of surf—loosen memory—a marring on
bank’s watery roots

previous to root word previous to wing, the arrangement of things in historical
context makes it harder to fly in some cases

::
a palm’s fleshy tissue extends suddenly in pores of darkness much like the way
Martial law is introduced through a mother’s ringed fingers pressed firmly over
a young child’s lips

we watch as the soldiers saw horizon—aiming machine guns at our round
faces—so shiny, metalizing even breath

::
never cry in public

::
88

89

::

tears mother says are bad luck

stars pass above our heads in stop motion

::

vibration towards, for example, then around, then away

stars pass above heads in pink bits

here are cold cuts of sound

::
::

ratatatat / rat-a-tat / bratat/ ratatatat / rat-a-tat / bratat/ ratatatat

::
the root of devotion holds directions shown only through the deepest scarring

when my mother was a child she was made to beat herself with a whip at the
end of Lent

tell me how to root in sentence form, to distinguish pain from sacrifice

::

departure is the song i give to you

the priest tells me we are reinvented by sacrifice

she feels, she felt, she has feeling despite failure

to cleanse a soul across waters or a back

::
roots fuse to surfacing tide, ocean molting

if watermarks measure prayers i am a disgrace, text me to say it hurts you too
415-465-2401

tell me where to dissolve?
90

91

::

ash to ash to ash to ash to ash against the rectangle of chest bones

as in the state of gasping, sound too can hold the intention to ghost

what is a girl?

::

::
mother reads finger lines, gauges the sun against mercury

she is of before scars, of container

::

here lies the possibility of prosperity: a cut oval in skin to carry

stars pass above heads in orange then blue

mine is lacking

::

::
the same measurement used to measure the amount of water needed to cook
rice, an inverse of divination

what’s the opposite of belief?

::
this is compression where striations flow both in and out of a pre-rhizome,
where a girl pleads at the feet of a plaster-cast virgin robed in blue, guarded by
asp

::
shoot edges of alms from bird’s wing from shape of holey space

92

i select myself from an algal bloom on a surface of scum, liquid meeting sand

::
the priest says guilt is very becoming of me

93

TENNIS LESSONS
Stephanie Vernier

IT WAS THE summer the potato bugs arrived. They were like creatures out
of a horror movie: massive, nasty, and everywhere. That night in John’s barn
was when we first spotted them crawling up the walls.

It was an invasion.

John was the one who convinced the entire JV tennis team, which
was me, Sunny, and Claire, to find the grave of our chemistry teacher/tennis
coach – the recently deceased Mr. Janovick. The 4 of us shared an entire joint
in the high elevation of John’s hayloft, and we all agreed that looking for a
corpse in the cemetery was a brilliant way to spend the night.

Of course John bailed at the last second, and the 3 of us girls got
locked behind the iron gates. We were stranded and toasted, somewhere in
the back field where the fresh graves were dug.

Gary, the cemetery groundskeeper, was a lazy bastard in the
summertime.

John said, the casket would only be a few feet below ground and easy
to find because the backhoe was out of commission this week. And Gary
hadn’t touched a shovel for decades, so, in addition to being lazy, he was out
of shape.

We had a loose plan of action to mess with Mr. Janovick’s weird
control over our egos. We would burn sage and release his wicked memory
into the troposphere – which was about as far as we figured Janovick could
rise, before plunging to hell.

No one was sad or surprised when Mr. Janovick choked to death on
his nightly cigar. It was an odd way to go, his wife found him out cold on
the porch, smoke still snaking out of his mouth. He was easily riled up, and
that could’ve caused a fatal coughing fit. But, I imagined one of his former
traumatized students shoving that fat smoldering stick down his throat.

He screamed at the tennis team all year long. I’d watch the vein on
the side of his neck bulging like a cartoon character and the redness of his face
matching the clay of the tennis courts. Every year he picked a new freshman
to go on a tirade against. This year it happened to be me.

Each afternoon at practice he chose me. Never Sunny or Claire. I
would be his Rapid Fire Victim. Which meant that the entire varsity team
stood on one side of the net, and I held my racket, ready, shifting back and
forth, feet shoulder-width apart, on the other side.
94

Mr. Janovick would blow his whistle and the tennis balls would whiz
by me hitting me everywhere and leaving these lovely purple welts that would
be fully formed by the time I sat down for dinner. There was no way to return
those simultaneous shots. I’d mostly just held my racket up for protection,
not practice.

As it happened, Adrianna Keho gave me a black eye (in the same eye!),
twice in one week. She hated me in a way that was visceral and enigmatic. Her
eyes would lock with mine, and she’d flip her shiny blonde hair behind her
shoulder, throw the tennis ball into air, and slam it from the center of her
racket with a pop. She aimed it directly at my face, without pretense.

Funny that in his last week alive, Mr. Janovick held me after class.
Literally. His hand shot out and clamped down on my wrist as I sauntered by
his desk.

“Sit,” he said.

I had been tardy all week. We only had a few days left before summer
vacation and with the warm weather everyone was skipping class.

Mr. Janovick watched me over the insects in the frozen blocks of
amber that framed his desk. “You’re not a crybaby. I like that,” he said and
released my arm. My fear of him was primal. He leaned down till I could
inhale his sour breath.

“Adrianna is all she’ll ever be, you see that, right?” he asked. I didn’t
know what that meant. He was the one who handed her the tennis balls that
gave me two blacks eyes. I waited for him to write me a detention or give me a
turn at clapping out the erasers for the chemistry department.

He began to cough, and turned his head.

“But you, you are...” he said without finishing his sentence. He
reached for me. I leaned back, cringing as his fingers touched my skin. He
grabbed my neck tightly; I froze. With his other hand he tilted my chin up.

“Your eye is healing nicely,” he said.

For a good moment I couldn’t breath and wondered if they’d find my
body, crumbled and bruised, dead under his desk.

I might have lost consciousness, but Adrianna burst through the door.

“Mr. Janovick! I’m... I...We’re all waiting for you,” she finally said.

Adrianna stared at me, demanding to know what I was doing. Then
she seemed to take it all in and looked at Janovick in a way that was utterly
perplexing in it’s tenderness. He released me and quickly exited with her. I
took a deep breath, amazed to hold that freshness in my own lungs again.

But that’s not what this is about.

I still don’t know how Adrianna ended up at the cemetery that night.
John swears he didn’t tell anyone we were there. We were too high and too
paranoid about getting caught. She would rat us out. We never even asked
her after that. Not why, and certainly not how she got inside. When Gary
woke up the next day, he’d finish Mr. Janovick’s grave and lay down the sod.
This was our chance.

Sunny had a wooden stake in her bag, and Claire brought sage to burn.
95

They were going slightly overboard with the pagan worship. But
after John planted seeds of doubt, suggesting that even death wouldn’t stop
Mr. Janovick from wrapping his hands around my neck again, we spread out,
determined. We were each investigating a portion of overturned earth.

“Sunny, where’s that shovel?” I asked, stopping at a pile. None of us
attended the funeral. Even though the whole school was invited, the turnout
was poor. There were dozens of dirt piles back here, and none of them marked:
Here lies Janovick. Nope, none said that. He could be hiding anywhere.

“Here.” Sunny held up a hand shovel; we hadn’t really thought this
through.

Time was running out, so we just went for it, searching blindly in the
dirt. The cold soil was therapeutic on my hands that ached from gripping my
tennis racket too tight all week. Touching earth made me feel connected to
the knowledge of the soil, like I could read its thoughts and access its memory.

The sun was setting, and the light played tricks with our eyes, or
maybe it was all the weed but Adrianna seemed to pop up from behind the
trees like a wood nymph. She floated toward me. I can’t recall her feet moving.

Now that I’ve said it, this probably sounds like we’re a bunch of
deadheads ourselves, out there on our hands and knees, digging through dirt.
None of us had ever seen death before. Maybe it was just that few people
seemed to actually die in our town, even though the graveyard grounds
always appeared freshly tilled.

My eyes were locked on Adrianna. For a moment, I forgot I was still
digging – until my fingernails scratched the slippery surface of Janovick’s
casket.

I fell back, throwing my hands in the air.

“I found him!”

There was a collective silence. Sunny hopped up, and ran over to me
and gave me a hug. Claire dug through her bag for her supply of sage.

Adrianna shoved me out of the way with genuine anger. Her hands
moved across the mahogany box with a desperation I’d not seen before.

For my part, I was in tune with the universe now. Probably the pot
helped. And I realized Adrianna’s hatred for me stemmed from her love for
Janovick. Possibly involving sex, which was too disgusting to picture. But it
made sense. She was always lingering outside the chemistry lab or sitting in
front of the bus with him when we had away games, and he’d rub out the
cramps in her calves.

There was no breeze that night. Or maybe just none in that graveyard.
Sunny and Claire, both freaked at the sight of the actual casket, retreated into
the twilight. I pulled myself up, sitting close to both Adrianna, and Janovick
now sealed up in his casket. My senses were heightened. Janovick might say it
was from a quantifiable, chemical combo of adrenaline and weed. I could hear
every inhalation from Adrianna; she sounded like her teeth were chattering,
as if death had reverberation. Then another sound, like little splashes of rain
hitting the windowsill.

“Get the fuck out,” she whispered.

I backed away.

Then I stopped. Tired of her commands, I took a swing hoping she’d
wake up with a purple mark over her eye to match my own. She had 3 years
and 20 pounds on me. Her arms pinned my shoulders to the dirt, and my fist
connected with the open air. Somehow my body lay perpendicular across the
casket. Sunny let out a yelp from behind a tree. I didn’t know the specifics but
was sure I was violating some pagan law about crossing the dead. This was a
bad omen.

Then I felt something terrible, beyond terrible even. Whatever it was,
it was scratching around my ankles. Mr. Janovick reaching out from beyond? I
scrambled to my feet to get away, and Adrianna did not try to stop me.

The light had faded and the moon had risen. Adrianna’s expression
blurred in the shadows of darkness, and her watery eyes were visible when
she moved to be closer to his casket.

This is when the earth opened to the sky and they came out of the
ground. Like an army on night patrol advancing en mass, the potato bugs’
hard bodies gleamed in the slivers of moonlight covering Mr. Janovick’s
casket. I could imagine them inside as well, on all fours, as they scampered
across Janovick’s still body. Adrianna didn’t appear to notice when they
crawled up her bare arms and legs. This infantry of tiny dead babies, they
danced.

Adrianna’s tears baptized Janovick’s casket. But it was too late to save
him, we had other plans.
96

97

KIM: I masturbate to killing you.

PROFESSIONALS
Dominic Viti

DEB: We must drive retail. Price points increase ROI.
CARL: There’s vodka in my water bottle.
DEB: We know. Your breath could sanitize a wound.
STEVE: Does anyone know what this campaign is about?

CARL: Any thoughts on the campaign’s creative direction before we pitch to
the client? Deb, care to start us off?
DEB: Yes, thank you, Carl. The campaign’s economy of art and writing shows
obvious merit and reflects the thoroughness of this agency.
STEVE: Very thorough.

CARL: Burger King.
STEVE: Are you sure?
CARL: No, but I’m fucking starving.
KIM: I was born a man.

KIM: Brilliant stuff, Carl.

STEVE: At my desk I hold my hand on my head like I’m thinking, but really
I’m crying.

DEB: Your idea about us not being an advertising company but a business
metrics firm that happens to do advertising—that resonated very well.

CARL: You’re crying now.

STEVE: Very resonant, Carl.
KIM: Incredible.
CARL: Thank you for such positive feedback. I lied on my resume to get this
job.
DEB: My only concern is the client may not like such stylistically aggressive
content. I cheated my way through college.
KIM: Well-said, Deb. These concepts, while adhering to brand standards,
may push the envelope too much. I keep a gun in my desk. It gets me through
the day.
STEVE: But consider breaking through the clutter of competitors to build
the brand over time and sales overnight. This morning the intern snorted
cocaine off my boner.
DEB: David should weigh in on this.
STEVE: My penis is still numb.
CARL: David’s shooting a TV spot in LA. I masturbate to his wife.
98

David enters.
DAVID: Making progress, people?
DEB: Thought you were in LA.
DAVID: Nope. Vegas. Gambled away my kid’s college fund.
David exits.
CARL: I like David.
STEVE: A real go-getter.
GARY: Guys, can you keep it down?
CARL: Gary? What are you doing in the ceiling?
GARY: Crack. You and Cindy coming over for dinner tonight?
CARL: Yeah, Cindy’s bringing onion dip.
GARY: I hate Cindy and her onion dip, Carl.
99

CARL: I hate you, Gary.
GARY: I’ll eat your children!
STEVE: Great point, Gary. And to secure Burger King, we must focus on
storytelling. How we can connect customers to their brand through authentic
content and conversations. How we can genuinely capture their voice. Kim, if
you’re gonna jerk me off under the table, put some wrist into it.
KIM: Carl doesn’t complain.
CARL: Working on the Vaseline account did wonders to your hands, Kim.
KIM: Thank you, Carl. It’s important we use our client’s products.
STEVE: Let’s serve Burger King at the pitch meeting.
DEB: Then burn each other’s nipples with matches without a safe word.
CARL: Yes, yes. Good work. I hate all of you. You are the reason I see
therapists. And that about wraps things up. The social department has a
meeting here in five minutes. Any closing thoughts before we meet the client?
STEVE: I make 6 figures.
KIM: I make 4 figures.
CARL: It’s a beautiful country.
Gary falls through the ceiling.

100

PHYLLIS
BRAMSON

PHYLLIS BRAMSON

FEELING, BETTER
Jason K. Friedman

THE SPIDER CAME A CALL’IN
2013, 36” x 36” mixed media and collage on canvas

THE GOOD COMPANION
2013, 36” x 36”, mixed media, oil on canvas

BETWEEN THE FALLING IN LOVE PARTS
2013, 70” x 60”, mixed media, oil on canvas

STILL LIFE (TABLETOPS)
2014, 41” x 28”, mixed media monoprints

THE DAY BEFORE I took my first dose of Lexapro, I began keeping a little
record of my intake of relevant substances. It was the kind of thing I should
have started months earlier, when I was trying to regulate my consumption
of booze and caffeine in order to sleep. I turned my body into a haphazard
science experiment that, not surprising, yielded few results. I had been
experimenting with Ativan, which helped me get a little sleep. But I was still a
welter of dark thoughts. After much agonizing and research, I finally yielded
to spousal pressure to take an antidepressant. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to
regain my equanimity; I just didn’t want to lose myself. But my friends, all of
whom turned out to be or to have been on antidepressants, encouraged me
on this journey, and now I was just working out the details. Lexapro has the
known side effects of sleeplessness and sleepiness—I had to decide whether
to take it in the morning or at night. I was trying to figure out the right dose of
caffeine, wine, and Ativan at the same time.

Logs are scientific, but this one reads like a scientist’s nightmare—
sloppy record-keeping (two entries dated 5/14!), no controls.
5/14
1 cup tea at 9
1 cappucino (sic) at 11:15
2 oz. wine at 8
1 mg Ativan at 11:10
SLEEP: 12:30 – 6:30


6:45- 9

}8:15!

5/14
1 ½ cups tea at 9:30
5 mg. Lexapro at 3
9 3 oz. wine
12:30 1 mg Ativan
1:30 – 6:30 – sleep
7 – 9 sleep
5/15
1 cup tea – 9:30
107

1 cappuccino – 12:30
5 sips Ohm tea – 6:00
5 mg. Lexapro – 6:15
3 or 4 oz. wine – 8
1 mg. Ativan 1:00 AM
1 mg. Ativan 2:15 AM
Sleep: 2:15 – 7: 30

8 – 10
5/16
2 cups tea – 11 12:30
1 mg. Ativan 11:15
1 mg. Ativan 12:15
5/17
1 cup tea 8
5 sips weak coffee 10:30
5 mg. Lexapro 6:15
½ mg. Ativan 10:30
That first full-night’s sleep I managed to get from the milligram of sedating
Ativan – part of the anti-jetlag cocktail I had taken en route to Paris and since
sworn off, as responsible for messing me up in some way, jolting me into the
predicament in which I still found myself – was something new. (So much is
expressed in that simple exclamation point – 8:15! – although it’s not repeated
in the second entry, also dated 5/14, when I did almost as well. You cannot get
used to insomnia, but sleep, apparently, is easily taken for granted.) As a way
to figure out what to ingest to make me feel better, all this record-keeping was
futile; the mess of this log reflects the mess of my life. I was finally sleeping.
But not only was I still thinking the terrible thoughts that had plagued me
since Paris, I was also feeling them in my stomach and fingertips. My blood
seemed to spurt and stop whenever one of them came on.

It was beyond me to take the same dose of anything at the same time
for two days in a row. My lack of rigor exasperated my doctors and friends. I
was trying to be good, to play by the rules—I just didn’t know them. I dutifully
wrote down whatever I took and when, as if this would serve some purpose
– the immediate one of learning when to take the Lexapro, the more distant
one of feeling right. I cannot look at a glass of wine and tell you whether it has
two ounces in it or three – but apparently I could during this period, when I
drank two ounces one day, three ounces the next, and three or four the day
after that. Despite my good intentions, I simply couldn’t assume a scientist’s
dispassion. Even for the sake of the experiment, I wasn’t willing to forgo
espresso or tea or wine if I felt truly awful. But I would show restraint – a
single rather than a double, a few sips rather than a full cup or glass.

As for the Lexapro, did I really skip a dose on 5/16? I don’t think so,
because I was committed to the drug once I decided to take it. I have a friend
who, complaining of a dry mouth, gave the pills up after a day. Another friend
108

took them for a week and decided they weren’t for him. Perhaps it was my
faith in Dr. White, the sexy psychiatrist my psychoanalyst friend sent me to,
but I was unusually rigorous about taking the pills. I sensed that I wanted to
take them at night, and so I dosed myself later and later in the day. I wanted
the magic of taking something and falling asleep. I ended up taking them
before going to bed, and soon they felt as if they were putting me to sleep.

But before they made me feel better, they made me feel even worse,
though I could never have imagined such a thing was possible. I continued to
have some of my old symptoms, with new ones as well:
... a feeling of tightness in the head, a feeling that something was going to
happen, and though I’ve never fainted in my life, I felt I was going to pass
out. A feeling that no matter what I did, I would never be able to get alert,
though the Ativan I was taking to sleep had something to do with that. Other
symptoms—not wanting to eat. Hard to come, low sex drive—this one seems
like it’s going to last, which is what’s going to get me off these fucking things in
the end. And I had a lot of anxiety, and weird tingling in my forearms that
seemed related to anxiety.
I called Dr. White’s cellphone a lot during this period. The very fact that he
never called me back right away comforted me. I felt as though I were going to
explode or something, but he knew I wasn’t.

I had been taking 5 grams of Lexapro for a week, and now it was
time for a full dose. I was nervous about this. I had been cutting up the pills
and storing them in the pretty little dish where I had previously placed my
Trazodone, a mild antidepressant and sleep aid that didn’t work on either
count; I had written down the times I took the Lexapro until I finally settled
on just before bedtime. But whatever elements of ritual I had incorporated
into taking the half-dose were nothing compared with my preparations for
taking the whole dose. My husband, Jeffrey, and I went up to “the country”
– our friend John’s suburban-style house backing onto a Korbel vineyard in
Guerneville, an hour and a half north of San Francisco. When we crossed the
Golden Gate Bridge, it felt like a crossing into something new and unknown.

At the back of John’s yard was a hot tub under an apple tree. On
either side of the tree was a one-room wooden structure transformed into a
guestroom, toolshed turned into love shack. The one Jeffrey and I liked had
swaths of pretty fabric draped over the ceiling beams and a candelabra on
the rough shelving along one wall, and colorful drapes around the window
looking onto the vineyard, like a window out of Bonnard. There was always
a heap of comforters and quilts on the bed – the shack had electricity but no
heat. John was a pale, thin figure who glided from room to room in the main
house. When Jeffrey and I retired to the cabin for the night, the candelabra
had been lit and a vase of roses from the garden placed next to it.

The whole day I felt lousier than ever. That night I took the pill and
we went to bed. I lay there trembling, a virgin on his wedding night. It was
cold and Jeffrey held me. We woke up a couple of times together, and each
time, before I could panic, he told me it was all right. I started to feel it, too
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– it was lovely waking in his arms again and again with the candles still lit
all around. I felt very safe, without the dread that had been hanging over me
since Paris, that I could chase away when I wrote but that kept coming back.

I got up in the night and peed in the bushes. Jeffrey met me on the
path that goes around the garden – he was coming back from the bathroom
in the house. We kissed and didn’t say a word. I stood there shivering
uncontrollably, and he held me. When I woke again it was daylight and the
curtains had been pulled open onto the fallow vineyard and the fir trees
climbing the mountain in the distance. Did I really sleep? Jeffrey confirmed
that I had, that he was the one who had been up. He had seen the pink mist
settled on the field at dawn.

Over the next few days I started to feel better. I believed that the pills
had “started to kick in” but that I hadn’t yet reached the other point friends
had told me about, when you “wake up one morning and the dark cloud has
lifted.” That milestone actually alarmed me. I was waiting for it with a kind
of dread.

I brought this up with Dr. Green, the brainy psychologist with
horn-rimmed glasses whom my psychoanalyst friend had sent me to first. His
patients on antidepressants don’t really have personality changes, he assured
me, “as much as they might want it.” He had this wonderful way of frowning,
cocking his head, then bursting out laughing whenever I said something
preposterous, and apparently my fears of becoming a happy zombie fell into
this category. I almost felt like smiling.

I started to have a little hope that the pills could do something for me.
It was an educated guess based on the two things that, I had found, worked
on the obsessive thoughts: booze and 5-HTP, a favorite drug of club kids
and the shyster-ish self-help guru I had sought out after reading her book.
These agents offered an imperfect relief. The booze worked only when you
were drinking it or had drunk enough of it. The pills had the icky side effects
of making me feel as though my head were floating away and causing me
to panic and flee public transportation, sometimes leaving me stranded far
from home. Still, as I wrote in my journal, I believed that taking 5-HTP and
drinking wine gave me glimpses of what the happy pills could do for me. “A
sense of dimming of obsessive images and dark thoughts,” I scribbled down,
“a sense of seeing them, if I see them at all, as if I’m in a place and they’re
down below, somewhere on the ground.”

In my journal I didn’t struggle nearly as much describing the obsessive
thoughts as trying to categorize them. Were they thoughts, images, feelings?
They were all of those, and my failure to come up with a classification
better than that says a lot about the mutability of the thoughts themselves.
But when I wasn’t drinking or taking the 5-HTP pills, and before I started
taking Lexapro, these things crowding my brain, demanding to be noticed,
seemed like thoughts. I thought about a mother stoning her kids. My college
friend hanging from a meat hook. A razor, guided by no visible hand, making
sashimi of my tenderest parts. I could, I suppose, see these things, and sort of
feel them—but they seemed more like thoughts than anything else.

When I was gaining control of them, however, they suddenly
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seemed like images. Or else the cure somehow involved changing them to
images. Looking at them through the wrong end of the telescope seems so apt
a description as to not be a figure of speech at all. When I was feeling good,
the thoughts had become much-reduced images that I could see only dimly,
from far away. This was important for me to realize, because it offered me a
way out of the logical impasse I had, when I believed that forgetting about the
thoughts was the only way to cure myself of them. I had become a living radar
device, constantly waiting for the thoughts to come into range, and they were
augmenting their numbers daily. There was no possibility I would wake up
one day having forgotten them. But if they could shrink, if they could (I dared
dream) even fade from view, then there was hope I would one day be well.

In those first days when I was taking a full dose of Lexapro, this hope
was still theoretical. But the very fact that I had some hope was a good sign,
for it had been 2 1/2 months since I felt any hope at all.

Two weeks after starting on Lexapro, one week after my first full
dose, I was sitting in Dr. White’s office staring at his tie. It was the Romanruins tie he had worn in our first session, and I was lost in speculation about
who might have bought it for him, did Dr. White like Italy, did he like Italian
men, and so on. It was the same tie and the same reverie I had had the first
time I laid eyes on the gorgeous Dr. White, but this time the reverie seemed
deeper and lasted longer, and felt, yes, pleasurable. It was turning into a fullfledged fantasy in which the dimming thoughts played no part.

It was at this point that Dr. White said he was different from other
shrinks in that he wasn’t really a fan of SSRIs.

A stone hurled into the placid pool of my daydream!

“So why did you offer to prescribe me one so soon after we met?” I
asked.

He grinned his melting boyish grin and said he thought I needed it.
Then he went on about how I should monitor myself for lack of affect, lack
of emotion, a blunting of emotion – this is what he felt these SSRIs could
produce.

I sat there across from him sweating, my heart racing and indicating,
I hoped, that I did still have some feelings.

The ability to feel joy, the doctor went on like a train with no end,
was important, and so was access to one’s despair.

It was even worse than I had imagined. Dr. White was telling me that
in the next day or so, I would become not a happy zombie but just a plain
old one, a zombie of the conceptually possible kind. Why hadn’t he told
me all this earlier? Why hadn’t I brought up the happy-zombie thing with
him? Why hadn’t either of us brought up our fears about the pill, when they
apparently were on both our minds? I didn’t ask any of these questions, for
anyone who believes in the importance of having access to one’s despair, who
says those words with a straight face, wins me over.

This was, it seemed, our pattern. He makes an alarming and
alarmingly timed remark, I freak out, he resorts to lyricism and makes me
swoon. He calls me psychotic – in our first session!—and then tells me the
project is to tolerate myself in the depths of my soul. He tells me too late
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that I’m heading for zombiehood and then urges me to stay in touch with my
despair.

He wasn’t trying to talk me out of the pills – too late for that – but
he was warning me to be on guard. I thought of my psychoanalyst friend
who had not hooked me up by accident with this Dr. White, this believer in
the soul, this lover of the human in his dark defeat, this philosopher-poet of
shrinks! Five minutes earlier I said, in essence, “What the fuck?” But now I
was giving myself over – I may already have been gone.

“It’s like someone who watches a tearjerker,” he went on, swooping
down to the material world, handing me a metaphor to help me get it. He
was relentless, this person, and I felt as though I were on an amusement-park
ride without any pauses. I was clutching the seat of his expensive chair and
holding on for dear life. “I’ve had patients say they can see there’s big emotion
on the screen, but they just can’t feel it.”

I noticed, as I wrote in my journal, that “you can’t cry when you’re on
these fucking pills.” The icky symptoms had passed, but this one, I knew, was
going nowhere. Shutting off the tear ducts satisfied so literally the patient’s
demand to feel happy that it was like a fairy-tale wish granted outright to
someone who just hasn’t thought the whole thing through.

When I caught my breath I said, “It was only before that I couldn’t
feel joy. And now I’m starting to again.”

He said he was glad.

I said, “I’m not sure that what I was feeling before was despair and
not just panic, deadness. Maybe now I’ll be in an even better place to feel
despair.”

His brow furrowed, his eyebrows slanted down—he was not at all
convinced. He made this “hmmm” sound that I was to learn was characteristic
of him. Sometimes it was followed by “That’s interesting.” This time, by
nothing at all.
A New Yorker cartoon shows two therapists seated across from each
other with a confused-looking patient lying between them. The shrink on the
left says, “Face your demons.” The one on the right says “Take a pill.” The
caption reads “Good Shrink, Bad Shrink.” I should have been even more
confused than the patient in the cartoon, for my good shrink and my bad one
were the same person. But when I left the session, I didn’t feel confused at all.
Dr. White freaked me out, but on the whole, I was feeling too good to stay
that way. I’d only begun this journey; I was going to forge ahead, without fear.

The pills had already kicked in.

I never had the experience of waking up one morning with the dark
cloud lifted. But the images faded as I thought they would. I was impressed
by the pill. I understood that it worked by making more serotonin available to
the receptor neurons in my brain. What this had to do with controlling the
dark thoughts I was having was a mystery, but one in which I was content to
dwell. All I knew – all I wanted to know – was that these pills were gradually
restoring me to myself.

I didn’t think I was going to become a zombie – but the jury was
still out. Here was the evidence to date: I couldn’t cry. And I had the well112

known symptom of delayed orgasm – it took me forever to come. I thought an
interesting essay could be written about antidepressants and fluids. For me
it was hard or impossible to express sperm and tears. As for the magic fluid
serotonin, whatever its efficacy in traversing the synapses in my brain, it was
as a metaphor that it truly became powerful for me. I thought of serotonin as
champagne bathing my brain. I believed something like this was happening,
though I guess I knew better. I had a pleasing, streaming sensation before
my eyes that I continued to experience even after deciding that it too was
a metaphor. “This streaming feeling is completely imaginary – if a feeling
can be imaginary,” I wrote in my journal. “It’s somehow prompted by this
fantastic image I have of my brain being bathed in serotonin.” Hey, whatever
works – and I was sleeping too.

I thought of people I knew who, I now saw, had brains bathed in
serotonin. Whole families too, for Dr. White had confirmed what observation
suggested – like mother, like daughter or son. I had had a friend in graduate
school, a beautiful redhead, who told me her mother once woke up the whole
family in the middle of the night to serve them pancakes on the roof. Now
how fun is that?

For some of us, this is not a rhetorical question. My mother falls
asleep with the television on and in the morning wakes up zonked. She would
have been in no shape to pull such a stunt. And if she woke us in the dark
of night for this strange purpose, we would have looked at her blackly, and
continued blaming her into our adulthood. But my friend’s story was just
one example of the kooky things her family did when she was growing up. (I
believe the family dog was named Fart.) She understood that the story was
unusual enough to be an example of the off-beat. But her family tree had
roots in great unseen rivers of serotonin, she was its golden and dewy fruit –
and she could never understand how the thought of her midnight breakfast
could make me shudder so.

In this period of intense self-monitoring, I thought a lot about writing,
and myself as a writer. I was writing personal essays about when I worked in
high-tech in Silicon Valley. I had never written anything like these personal
essays; normally I wrote fiction, and not in the first person. The pieces had
emerged when I was in a state of extreme emotional turmoil, but even as I
calmed down, they still seemed pretty raw, expressing something agitating
and true that I felt when I first moved to the Bay Area, though calmed by the
passage of time. At least I thought so. The problem was confirming it.

Very rarely over the years, something I wrote would get me – I could
read it again and again, and each time I would feel it, deep in my body. In midJune, three weeks after starting on Lexapro, I wrote in my journal:
Going to have to get used to the fact that everything seems a little different.
The tearing-up feeling that’s always made me feel I’m connecting with a
character, that little catch you get at the same place in a story that makes
you feel it’s OK – that feels different now. So maybe it’s just a matter of
recognizing these things.

I was trying to put the best spin on the fact that I could no longer get
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that tearing-up feeling, that I no longer had what I called the catch. But the
very next sentence of that journal entry shows how little I bought my own
PR:
Oh this is pathetic, I wish I was still drinking coffee at night, I wish I was still
a normal mildly depressed person – but at least I’m better now, and we’ll see
what it’ll do for my writing.

We’ll see what it’ll do for my writing – not to, but for. Amid the
self-pity, the mourning for my lost imperfect self, that one little preposition
expresses a genuine hope growing inside me. I understood it was unlikely
that a writer could produce anything worthwhile without the ability to
have a feeling or worry a thought. And yet I was starting to believe that this
condition might even be good for my writing. My publication record couldn’t
get much worse. More seriously, I was starting to think of my shortcomings as
a writer and how the happy pill might help me address them.

There’s an optimism about great novels, a sense of possibility, of a
world opening up, that I felt I had always lacked. Maybe this is because I come
from a family without much in the way of positive character development or
happy endings. In my grandparents’ and parents’ generation, on both sides
of the family, same-sex siblings stop talking and then decades later ... die. In
graduate school, I scoffed openly at the idea that a character could change,
especially in the space of a short story. The short fiction I most admired was
experimental, challenging the very idea of character. I hated stories in which
characters were opposites. I liked tales in which characters could barely be
told apart and by the last page budged no more than a step from where they
had begun.

But maybe a little character growth and change in my work wouldn’t
be such a bad thing. A fictional world that offers possibilities to its inhabitants
might even be a nice antidote to a real-life world that doesn’t. Maybe this is
the whole point of fiction. I had been hopeless these last few months, and it
was going to be wonderful to have hope again. This best possible outcome,
this sole possible good outcome: Maybe I would be a better writer.

Once all the startup symptoms that were going to go away had done
so, I stopped seeing Dr. White. I continued seeing Dr. Green twice a week.
The two doctors knew about each other – and yet the first time I saw Dr.
Green after finishing with Dr. White, I felt guilty. It took a while before I
could look Dr. Green in the eye, but I ended up scrutinizing him as closely as
he was regarding me. Had he been jealous? I couldn’t tell from his expression,
but I did think his tone had changed a bit. I told him I was loving Lexapro,
but that what bothered me a bit was my inability to be bothered by anything.
Of course, having lost the ability to feel anxious, I couldn’t say I was anxious
about not being anxious. Still, I was –

“Why can’t you just say you don’t feel anxious?” Dr. Green snapped,
sounding more exasperated than I had ever heard him.

I loved that he said this. It was such a rude thing to say, not to mention
that he had cut me off! He sounded exactly like someone who knew me very
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well – my sister, say, or a good friend. Someone who enjoyed the way my mind
worked but occasionally felt compelled to stop me from building a hall of
mirrors out of a pane of glass.

Yes, Dr. Green had been jealous. And I looked at him with eyes full
of feeling, as if to say I’m back. I’ve had my fling with the glamorous goy, and
now we’re together again. Be as bitchy as you want and I’ll understand where
it’s coming from.

But I couldn’t take Dr. Green’s question as rhetorical. I had to answer
it. There was nothing glib about my formulation that I was anxious about
having lost the ability to feel anxious. It really was unsettling, like losing a
family member or childhood friend, someone you don’t even like but have
gotten used to having in your life. Most dramatic, my lifelong phobias were
gone.

Now I stepped into empty elevators and leaned on the Close Door
rather than the Open Door button. I was more interested in getting where
I was going than in the possibility of escape. I no longer needed company to
help me through the ordeal. Sometimes I tested my newfound cool by letting
the doors close before I had chosen a floor. Once during this period I went
into my office building and saw the lobby full of people. The building had
had a power outage, the security guard explained, and only one elevator was
running, on a generator, which could go out at any second. With a sinister
smile, he pointed to the open doors and said be my guest. I walked right
in, happily joining my few fellow lionhearts. On the way up I imagined the
thing lurching to a stop, going dark – even plummeting earthward – and it all
sounded thrilling. Nothing could bring back that terrible old feeling in the pit
of my stomach as the doors closed, then later as the doors threatened not to
open at my floor.

Now on airplanes I looked around at all the people who seemed to be
enjoying themselves and I no longer found them ignorant or insane. Flying, I
saw, was sort of fun.

Reason hadn’t been able to shake me out of my terror—but a little
pill could.

My point, I went on with Dr. Green, is not that I’m incapable of
feeling anxious anymore (and this was a fact, not a point) but rather that losing
the ability to feel anxious might not be all it’s cracked up to be. A caveman
finds he’s being tailed by a dinosaur – good time to feel anxious, right? And
now let’s fast-forward through the aeons to the case of an aspiring writer who
at the age of 40 finds himself with a home office crowded with manuscripts
of novels and scores of stories, all of them gathering dust – should he just
chill out and have a drink? You, Dr. Green, presumably possessed of a Jewish
mother yourself, isn’t anxiety, or dissatisfaction, or an itch, or whatever you
want to call it – isn’t something like this what drives you to succeed? How can
you attain without a keen and constant attention to what you lack?

I could already see the results of not feeling anxious and I didn’t like
them. I was still writing my essays but I wasn’t spending as much time on
them as I should have, especially considering I lost my job – an event that
barely registered in my journal or my life. One day I had the job, the next day
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I didn’t. I went on unemployment and that was it for work. As for writing, I
normally felt anxious about not getting it done. My ex once said, observing
how bad I felt on days I didn’t get a chance to write, that I depended on being
a writer for my identity. Now I occasionally had the feeling I could live this
way all the time – for pleasure – not working, not writing.

This feeling was, I told Dr. Green, what I thought it would feel like to
be dead.

He gave me a serious look. Here we go again.

But I don’t feel dead at all, I told him. I feel just fine.

CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE
Hillary Tiefer

I LOOK AT the photo Richard took of me with Father Youssef and his
family at the Coptic Orthodox Church during Easter mass: memories of my
old apartment in Philadelphia. Roasted lamb, incense, and the heavy taste
of sweet hot hibiscus tea. My life 40 years ago, when I was still hopeful, not
knowing I would learn one hard lesson: Never feel certain about the future.

August of 1974.

Richard, my husband of two months, moved us both from Southern
California to Philadelphia. He was starting his first semester at Temple
Dental School. Since we knew nothing about Philadelphia, we asked the
woman at the car rental desk in the airport to recommend neighborhoods
in our search for an apartment. She told us not to look anywhere near the
school, in North Philly, a slum. She suggested the “safer” area, northeast.
We found a furnished affordable rental in a redbrick apartment complex
called Summerdale Garden Apartments. The apartment wasn’t particularly
nice, and even in the summertime I saw no gardens. But it was conveniently
located near the subway.

So Richard could get to school.

Old sneakers and gym shoes dangled from telephone poles along the
sidewalk. Altogether there were eight low rectangular units, each consisting
of two apartments with a shared entry hall. On one of these paths we saw a
black-robed patriarch who reminded me of a character in a Dostoevsky novel.
The man was followed by a middle-aged woman, two teenaged girls, and a boy
who looked around 10. We said a shy hello as we passed them on the way to
our apartment. I smelled lamb cooking from our neighbors’ apartment.

Richard unlocked the door and we stepped into the living room. I
began to feel ill – a reaction to having to live in this new place. Or, perhaps
it was just the stifling humid heat, a profound change from the Southern
California home I knew.

Richard yanked open a window. Indoors, the side tables and coffee
table were all a beige-colored plastic. The crevices were black. The burlap
couch (also tan) showed cigarette burns and holes. The nap-less gray carpet
was dotted with orange stains. The kitchen wasn’t more promising: metal
cabinets painted white, with rough brushstrokes. The old stove was too rusty
and greasy to be reclaimed as vintage. And in the bathroom, chipped tile,
missing grout, and a toilet seat off its hinge.

I thought of the image of my future lovely home: A landscaped lawn,
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117

10 rooms, including a bedroom for each of our three children, an atrium in
the entryway, marble floors, a library filled with books on mahogany shelves,
a guestroom, and our grand master suite with a Jacuzzi in the bathroom,
all tastefully furnished with the help of an interior decorator, and wiped it
quickly from my mind. Richard grasped me in his arms and said, “Sure, this is
a dump, but I bet the bed still works.” He took my hand. “Let’s try it out.”

That evening we heard taps on the door. The woman I’d spotted
earlier stood outside with her family. She was smiling and showing gold
in an upper tooth. She had a lovely face, smooth olive skin, and slick black
hair pulled into a bun. She handed us a square tin pan containing a pastry
with an oily surface – honey. “Baklava,” she said. “For you. To welcome. I
am Nadia, your neighbor.” She gestured next door and pulled us along, into
her apartment. Her husband was a Coptic priest. Nadia told us we should
call him Father Youssef. Her two pretty teenage daughters, Elham and Eman,
smiled at us. They both had lustrous black hair to their shoulders. Nadia’s
son, Ahab, grinned.

This was the beginning of our friendship, Jews and Egyptians
together in the City of Brotherly Love.

A few days later, Father Youssef asked Richard to help him purchase
a camera. We drove Father Youssef and his children in our clunker, a green
1964 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Father Youssef suggested we go to E. J. Korvette’s,
a discount department store. People stared at us, which wasn’t surprising
considering that Father Youssef was a noticeable man, over 6 feet tall and
wearing a black brimless cap and a black cassock with which he swept the
linoleum floor. Father Youssef found a Kodak model he liked. Nadia insisted
we come back for dinner. I was eager to eat exotic food, and had two helpings
of the lentil dish called koshari.

After Labor Day, we all took off for school. Richard left for dental
school. I began a new job working with disabled children, Ahab attended fifth
grade, and Elham and Eman, were in high school. Nadia and Father Youssef
needed me to tutor their children. I tried to explain that my training was in
special education. It did not matter. The girls were intelligent and amazingly
adept at English. They had only been in the country for a year. They learned
their English in school back in Egypt. I understood them well enough,
switched tenses, and confused pronouns and all.

Sometimes I had to explain the point of a story or rephrase their
history text. I was shocked when Eman asked, “Who is this man Hitler? Why
did he start a big war?”

“Haven’t you ever heard of him before?” I asked.

“No – never.”

“You didn’t learn about World War II? That Hitler killed 6 million
Jews?”

She opened a magazine written in Arabic and flattened it to a black
and white photo showing rubble and gutted buildings, bombed. The windows
stared at me like gouged eyes.

“Israel does this,” she said.

“Did,” I corrected her. “War is terrible.”
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Tutoring had its challenges.

The Ghalis were particularly worried about Ahab.

“His teacher tells me he has a bad attitude,” Nadia said. “Can you try
with him? He does not want to read his books.”

“I hate them,” Ahab said. “They are bo-or-ring!”

Father Youssef pointed a long finger at him. “That is no way for my
son to talk.”

The next day after work I sat with Ahab on folding chairs in the
bedroom he shared with his two sisters. Our apartment had one bedroom,
theirs two.

Ahab dropped his book, Johnny Tremain, on my lap.

“This was one of my favorite novels growing up,” I said.

Perhaps a book about Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Pan-Arabism
would have interested him more.

“Do you want to read a story that takes place in Egypt?”

Ahab made a sour face.

“No way!”

“What do you like to read?”

He glanced at the open door and then cupped his hands to his mouth
and whispered, “I like stories about motorcycles.”

Getting permission to bring Ahab a motorcycle magazine from
Father Youssef seemed daunting.

“Only if he will read his school assignments.”

One time when I had just returned home from work, I opened my
door to Nadia, who looked flushed and ready to burst into tears.

“You come, please,” she said.

Father Youssef was hidden behind a newspaper. The children stood
in the living room, awaiting my arrival. Nadia instructed me to take both girls
to the bedroom. When Ahab followed us, she snatched his arm and said,

“You stay here.”

Eman opened her book to a chapter titled “Human Reproduction.”

“Are you sure your parents want me to discuss this with you?”
I was surprised that Nadia and Father Youssef had given me this heavy
responsibility.

The girls nodded in unison.

I quickly found that I was glad to spend afternoons and evenings
with the family because I was seeing less and less of Richard. He was tense,
even miserable from the pressures of dental school curriculum: physiology,
anatomy, dental anatomy, microbiology, histology, statistics, pharmacology –
among other nightmare classes. Richard rarely slept. Once, at 3 a.m., I woke to
hear him sobbing over his books at the kitchen table.

“I can’t do this, Karen,” he said.

In the morning he’d composed himself, smiled and said he would
absolutely persevere. He also announced that “unwinding” would help him –
which meant joining the dental fraternity and “spending time with the guys.”
He was under so much stress I couldn’t object.

We were not the only ones with troubles. The next day just past
midnight I woke up to screaming next door.
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“What the fuck!” Richard said, sitting up. “I’m going over there and
telling them to shut up—I’ve got an exam tomorrow.”

“We shouldn’t interfere,” I said.

“I don’t give a shit about interference,” Richard hollered, “I’ve got an
exam at 9 a.m.”

The shouting next door stopped abruptly.

For almost a month the Ghalis made no contact, though I knew they
had survived. I’d glimpse them going and coming. I imagined they were too
aware that we heard the racket.

One evening, I heard a familiar tap on my door.

“Come enjoy sweet hibiscus tea with me,” Nadia said. “I want to tell
you about our quarrel.”

“Please don’t feel you have to explain,” I said.

“I am to blame for so much shouting,” Nadia said. “I told Youssef I
am not happy here. America is a nice country but it is not my home. I am a
stranger here.”

“It must be very difficult for you, living among people with a different
language and customs.”

“Yes, this is true exactly. I miss my country. We have a beautiful
house and garden there. We are not poor like many people in Egypt. My
husband was a lawyer before he was a priest. I was beautiful – I won a prize for
my beauty.”

Nadia suddenly blushed and ran her fingers through her hair, now
loose and flowing just beneath her shoulders.

“I thought priests had to be celibate – you know, not have wives.”

Nadia smiled. “In our church priests must marry. My husband had to
teach me many things. “My family is Christian too, but not so strict.” A cloud
came over Nadia’s face. I want to see them – my mother and father and my
sisters and brothers.” I thought Nadia might cry.

For a moment, there was silence.

“Do they live in Cairo?”

“No – we are from a village called El Kosheh, about five hours south
of Cairo by car and close to the Nile River. Both our families live there. My
father has a shop and sells cloth. I love my village. I miss it. I made Youssef
promise.”

Nadia bit her lip. “I cannot say all is good for us in Egypt. Since
Nasser came to power, we have more problems in our country. That is why
people from our church left to live here. They needed a priest, so we had to
come. But they will send a new priest in a year, and we will go home. I am not
afraid to live in my own country.”

Nadia pointed to the dish filled with squares of light brown cakes.
“Please, you must eat a mamoul. It is very wonderful.”

“Delicious,” I said, helping myself to several.

Nadia, turned the conversation.

“Karen, where are your parents? Do they live far away?”

I sipped my tea.

“Yes. I miss them, too. And my younger sister.”

“And you have friends here?”
120

“Yes,” I said, “your family.”

Suddenly, my throat burned and my eyes felt wet.

“I wish I saw more of Richard. He’s so busy with dental school.”

“He should spend time with you.” Nadia pressed my hand. “Spring is
here and you must go to Longwood Gardens. Tell him I say to take you. The
flowers are lovely. You always speak softly. Shout at him so you know he hears
you. We won’t mind.”

Nadia smiled, the gold glinting in her tooth.

That night Richard came home after midnight and flopped into bed.

“You never kiss me anymore,” I said as loudly as I dared.

Richard lifted himself over me. I smelled the alcohol on his breath,
but I appreciated his wet kiss.

He flipped over again and said, “Good night, I’m beat.”

I propped myself on my elbow and looked at his back. “You should
make some time for me, Richard.” I wanted to shout this but couldn’t muster
the courage. Nadia would be disappointed.

“Christ, Karen,” Richard turned and faced me. “I told you this year
would be hell and we just have to get through it. Go with Nadia if she loves
flowers so much.”

“I want to go with you, Richard. Do you even remember I exist?”

“I can’t believe we’re having this conversation.” Richard swooped up
his pillow and one of our two blankets. “I’ll sleep on the couch.”

But Richard did agree to attend the Ghalis’ Easter celebration at their
church in May. Father Youssef invited us because he said, “God brought you
to be our neighbors so you can help us here in America.”

I wore my new spring dress. With some reluctance, Richard put on a
jacket and tie. We drove Nadia and the girls in our car. Red azaleas blooming
everywhere, in front of apartment buildings, row homes, and storefronts,
transformed the city.

St. George’s Coptic Church was gray stone and of Gothic design,
perhaps once serving another Christian denomination. But this was the only
church I knew that celebrated Easter in May. The women were told to sit
separately in the back – not an entirely new religious concept to me, having
visited Orthodox synagogues. We could still witness the event, the grand
entrance of Father Youssef down the aisle toward the front altar, a king to his
throne. Father Youssef wore a gold and red mitre, vestment, and a massive
gold cross on his chest. He held a brass lantern called a thurible, which puffed
smoke and incense. Father Youssef was followed by a procession of an allmale choir.

Back home, nothing was spiritual about our complex – even with
Father Youssef next door. Among the tenants was a gang of adolescent boys
who liked to torment me. They sometimes waited in the parking lot for me to
return from work and made obscene gestures. One of them swung a tampon
toward me.

When Richard came home late that night, I cried and said I couldn’t
bear living here.

“Quit complaining, Richard scowled, “I just fucked up my anatomy
exam.” He walked by and slammed the front door.
121

The next day Richard said we would look for a better place to live as
soon as the semester ended in June. He was true to his word.

I felt sad when it came time to say farewell to the Ghalis.

“Don’t forget us,” Nadia said with tears in her eyes.

“Of course we won’t,” I said. “Maybe someday we’ll visit you in
Egypt.”

“No,” Father Youssef said, somberly. “That will never happen. No
Jews will come to Egypt. Even with Anwar Sadat’s peace treaty.”

“Surely there’s a possibility in the future,” I said.

“No, it won’t happen.” His words were final on the subject. I shook
his hand then hugged Nadia, and Elham and Eman. Ahab turned scarlet
when I placed my arm around him.

I visited the Ghalis over the summer, but when school began I
received no calls asking me to tutor the kids. The last time I saw them was a
few weeks before Thanksgiving. The girls were mostly in the bedroom and
bathroom making preparations to meet friends. Ahab was outside playing
with another boy. I drank hibiscus tea with Nadia and Father Youssef.

I received a Christmas card from them in December. Enclosed in it
was the photo Richard had taken of me with the Ghali family at the church
during Easter celebration.

The next Christmas, during our last year in Philadelphia, an
envelope arrived from El Kosheh, Egypt. Inside the card was a photo of the
family smiling in front of a stucco house surrounded by palm trees – they
were home.

I was lonelier than I had ever been living next to the Ghalis and was
too aware of Richard’s absence. I forced myself to make contact with the wife
of one of Richard’s frat brothers. I met Sue at a party and didn’t like her much.
The guys were making crude jokes about the only woman in dental school
with them.

“Rita’s fucked Nick, Steve, and Dave, and they’re all comparing
notes,” Sue’s husband, Neil, said. “And now she’s making a play for Paul. I
think she plans on fucking every guy, and she just might do it by graduation.”
He glanced at us and said, “Oops.”

Sue turned to me. “I’m sure our husbands would be happy to oblige.”

“They’re just really wasted,” I said.

But over lunch, Sue continued on this theme.

“It’s not just one slutty female dental student. They also notice
the dental hygienist students as well as the pretty dental assistants.” Sue
shrugged. “If Neil can give me a nice house, wads of cash, and a Jaguar – heck,
I can overlook flirtations.”

I stared at Sue.

“You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Wake up, Karen,” Sue said.

It took a long time for me to wake up. Two years after Richard
graduated from dental school. He woke me to it himself. The late nights
hadn’t been at the dental offices, but at various motels – with an assistant
named Gina.
122

Richard told me they wanted to marry and so, of course, he had to
divorce me. He left me our condo in California.

Fortunately, we did not have any children to complicate the breakup.

123

ON WALLS AND HEALING:
ISRAEL, PALESTINE, AND
THE SEARCH FOR WHOLENESS
Ricky Fishman

AS SHE SCANNED my passport, the teenage Israeli soldier stared through
the bulletproof glass that separated us. Looking down at my photo and then
up again, she finally waved me through.

On the other side of “The Wall,” taxis waited. I picked one out of
a clump and haggled over the fare. (“It’s fucking hard here man” my driver
said, as he demanded an exorbitant price. I bargained it down, all the while
assuring him that I could see it was “fucking hard” here). He drove me to my
hotel, The Paradise.

“Separation,” “apartheid,” “security” – The Wall has many names
depending on which side of it you are on. Whatever one calls it, most would
agree on its physical impressiveness: 25 feet high, watchtowers regularly
placed with armed soldiers, and rows of lights to illuminate potential
nocturnal “terrorists.” On the Israeli side, the surface appears clean and
smooth – like the walls of San Quentin or Folsom prisons. On the Palestinian
side, at the edge of the ancient city of Bethlehem, it is covered with political
graffiti, testimonial posters, and revolutionary art. In Israel, The Wall speaks
of power; in Palestine, of resistance.

After I settled in, my taxi driver took me the few blocks from the
hotel into the Aida refugee camp. I saw a group of eight teenage boys with
rocks in their hands. A Palestinian Authority policeman was talking to them.
The scent of gunpowder was in the air.  I looked up and saw a burned-out
guard tower. My driver explained that a Palestinian boy had been shot with
rubber bullets a few days before by an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldier and
was now in the hospital. In response, some Palestinians had fire-bombed the
tower above. The boys were looking for a place along The Wall from which
they could safely throw rocks at the Israeli soldiers. This cat-and-mouse game
had been going on for many hours, the lingering gun smoke its residue.

A few days before, I was strolling on a Tel Aviv beach. It was a perfect
sunset. Golden clouds hung gently over the Mediterranean. Joggers, babystrolling parents, and lovers of every persuasion were savoring the warm
winter breeze. Earlier that afternoon I’d walked through the city, enjoying the
city’s cafes and Bauhaus architecture, and the beautiful faces of khaki-clad
124

Israeli soldiers; young men and women carrying Uzis in the thick of bustling
rush hour crowds.

From Tel Aviv I took a 45 minute taxi ride to Jerusalem, where  I
wandered the ancient winding streets.  I went to the Western Wall and
watched bar mitzvah after bar mitzvah; young men in full temple regalia,
led by marching bands, followed by proud mothers and fathers, all joyously
singing the praises of the “One and Only Lord Our God” and celebrating
their return to the “promised land.” Nearby, Muslim prayers blasted from
minarets overlooking Al Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, while
kneeling pilgrims in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre wept at the Station
of the Cross where Jesus was crucified and Roman soldiers gambled for his
clothing.

On the West Bank, I traveled to places I’d read about in Hebrew school
– and in today’s newspapers. I walked through desert canyons to 5th century
monasteries built into cliffs
where monks still live in tiny cells
and pray in silence. In Ramallah
I visited Arafat’s tomb. And in
Hebron I passed by pimply-faced
IDF soldiers guarding the Tomb
of the Patriarchs – the biblical
burial site of Abraham, Sarah,
Isaac, and Leah – and through
the cobblestone alleyways of the
Muslim quarter, where a thick
wire roofing had to be installed to
catch the garbage thrown down
by Jewish settlers living above the
markets where Arab shopkeepers
sold freshly butchered meat and
olive- oil soap. I saw barriers erected to separate the walking areas of Israelis
and Palestinians, and a wall spray-painted with the words “Gas the Arabs!”

Israel is a sad and beautiful place. From the lush fields of Galilee to
the fig palm groves of the Jordan Valley – and the desert where both Jesus
and Abraham spoke with God – the magnificence of creation calls out. At
the same time, driving on roads through the occupied territories, I passed
bright red signs that warned of the mortal danger facing Israelis who enter
Palestinian areas. I was rarely out of sight of The Wall. Like a raised scar
snaking through the Holy Land, it cast an ominous shadow.

My travel agent in Bethlehem had arranged a visit to one of the
settlements that had sprouted in the West Bank since the 1967 war. I wanted
to understand why these fellow Jews had come, at great risk, to live in this
internationally contested area.

Ardie, the settlement representative, met me and Iyad, my Palestinian
guide, outside the compound gates and drove us through the guarded
entrance. I was a little nervous, having heard and read so much about these
outposts, home to “extremist” settlers. We entered what appeared to be a
lovely suburban community, complete with a recreation center, a shopping
125

mall, and a synagogue. There were
rows of Mediterranean homes with
perfectly manicured lawns and
views of Jerusalem in the distance.
We sat in Ardie’s living room.
He was an affable, familiar figure
– someone I might have grown up
with back in Queens, New York.
He came to Israel from Chicago to
make aliya, the traditional “ascent”
to the Jewish homeland, in 1982,
and had lived in this settlement
since 1985. He grew up a secular
Jew but had become orthodox over
time, and was happy to be living in

this troubled, but sacred landscape.

As we sipped tea, I watched Iyad squirm while Ardie described
Palestinians as foreigners in the West Bank, how they needed to submit to
the fair laws of a democratic Israel, how lucky they were to be living in the
only democracy in the region. Ardie referred to the West Bank territories as
“Samaria and Judea,” the Biblical names for the land – never as Palestine. He
said he wanted to live peacefully, but separately, from his Arab neighbors.
I thought about the pain of dispossession that Iyad must have felt, and about
the barbed wire and armed soldier we had passed to get into the settlement.
I imagined the hate and the fear and the suffering of those living in and
outside of those fences. I wondered if healing was possible in a world of such
separation.

126

ANTONIO
McAFEE

ANTONIO McAFEE

9 OF 12 (BRIEF) MOMENT
TO SHORTEN OUR WORDS (TO SHO OUR WOR)
Michael Swaine

COUNTER ARCHIVE - REGIONS OF SKIN AND INK (WORK IN PROGRESS)
THE TRICKSTER (FADED)
2013, archival pigment print

THE TRICKSTER
2011, archival pigment print

MOURNING THE ABRUPT UNMAKING... (WORK IN PROGRESS)
2011, archival pigment print

supplies:
scissors

something soft to drop them upon (a few sweaters)
notes: I had just learned the sign (language) for the word or idea “metaphor”
(while group comes in don’t speak
hold scissors in hand
kind of fidgety, shaky hands
like when a high-wire walker is about to fall
then start balancing scissors on back of hand
when everyone is here
pass out scissors
wait for people to join
tell them to imagine the rope
later ask people to pair up
hold one pair of scissors above hand and one pair of scissors below hand
like the hand is a mirror)
(begin speaking)
to shorten our words:
(note: words inside***OUR***asterisks are spoken together like a choir with
audience)
Encyclopedia Book – number one: ABB-COF

UNMAKING CLYDE
2012, archival pigment print

the abbreviation of the word theory
if we were to shorten these long words
that is the idea
here use our scissors and shorten words
theory might be condensed to THE
word will become WOR
133

and abbreviation will be condensed to ABB
It is about the need of telling important things quickly
sometimes things take so long to wiggle out of your mouth using your tongue
syllable after syllable
that is my definition of communicate
this fidgeting of your tongue
the tongue moves and moves and
the meaning is lost
important things
things we want to share
we have many words to wiggle and shake out
we have many words to share and they are often too long
and they get in the way of making a point
or connecting the points
for example: I put several nails in my coffin
coffin will be condensed to COF
please everyone cough together
together we:
***COF***

written in them but they take up so much space
when important things need to be said
with wiggling of our tongues
when they are big ideas that barely fit in our mouth
big words that you want to say quickly
this is wherein lies the problem
our written and spoken language is too slow
big words are slowing our thinking down
what we need is to cut the words down to size
shorten our words
it will be as easy as taking scissors and cutting off the end
one letter words are important too such as “I” or “A”
two letters for when they want to talk to ‘us’ or ‘we’ want to talk to each other
three letters for “you” and “mom” and important things
but most of our language is choking on 4,5,6,7,8,9 or more letter words
language SHO to LAN
choking SHO to CHO
everyone say:
***LAN IS CHO***

Encyclopedia Book – number two: CON-ENC

Encyclopedia Book – NUM FOR: LAN-MOU

the concept is about speed and time
the small accurate stop-watches have been handed out
hold your watch as demonstrated in the beginning
(grab the scissors)
so we can all see how much time we waste with our long words
you and I will save many moments
to do as we see fit
saying important things with long words
take too long
they fail us the words make us try to run faster and stumble
or we just don’t get to the end
or the audience falls asleep
or gets out of their chairs and leaves
(don’t let them sit down, don’t give them chairs)
so for this important essay we will shorten the long words
so we will shorten encyclopedias
shorten will be SHO
encyclopedia will be ENC
repeat our goal
SHO ENC
Everyone together:
***SHO ENC***

number of one letter words = i can only think of a few
number of two letter words = 101
number of three letter words = 1015
i think one two and three letter words total 1,118
there are 5,526 four letter words, let’s not say four letter words
and the number of total words in the english language is about 1,013,913.
over a million
let’s shorten shorten to SHO
we will shorten about to ABO
so that is we SHO about to ABO
let’s practice SHO ABO
my above numbers are calculations are from the on-line scrabble calculator
SCR CAL
Everyone repeat:
***SCR CAL***

ENC BOO-NUM THR: ENC-LAN
encyclopedias have important things
134

ENC BOO-NUM FIV: MOV-PRO
to fix our mouth problems we will cut our language using science and math
but lets start talking about the moment our mom gets confused and mentions
the word context
moment is shortened to mom
and the first moment we get we try to sell our encyclopedia set to our mom
AND THE FIR MOM WE GET WE TRY TO SEL OUR ENC SET TO
OUR MOM
context is SHO to CON
135

and concept is SHO to CON
and our shoe is also shortened to SHO
and we remember shorten is also SHO
remember will be REM
and we will understand the context when shortened
AND WE WIL UND THE CON WEN SHO
everyone say:
***AND WE WIL UND THE CON WEN SHO***

let reh
learning is often about repetition
learning would be lea
repetition will be rep
often is sho to oft
LEA IS OFT ABO REP
everyone together:
*** LEA IS OFT ABO REP***

Encyclopedia Book – NUM SIX PRO-QUE

ENC BOO NUM EIG: SHO-THI

yes this problem that i have solved will help so we can make smaller
libraries
SMA LIB
smaller shelves
SMA SHE
architects will get paid less and use less concrete
ARC WIL GET PAI LES AND USE LES CON
less trucks moving concrete around the world
LES TRU MOV CON ARO THE WOR
yes word and world are both shortened to WOR
but we will know which is which by the context of the sentence
less new tires for trucks moving concrete around
yes less pollution and less greenhouse gases
LES POL AND LES GRE GAS
kids won’t have to carry big backpacks
they will burn less energy and need less carbohydrates
THE WIL BUR LES ENE AND NEE LES CAR
the outcome will touch every part of our life
but as you will see the spoken
will soon let important moments not slip away
WIL SOO LET IMP MOM NOT SLI AWA
language will be SHO to LAN
becomes will be SHO to BEC
speed will be SHO to SPE
when we shorten our language we speed toward important concepts
WHE WE SHO OUR LAN WE SPE TOW IMP CON
concepts will be understood quicker
CON WIL BE UND QUI
and we will have less questions and more time for new thoughts
AND WE WIL HAV LESS QUE AND MOR TIM FOR NEW THO
Everyone together say:
*** AND WE WIL HAV LESS QUE AND MOR TIM FOR NEW THO***

helen of troy, to show your thigh
you will be objectified
you might show your shoulder
or open your mouth and show your tongue
but only speak with coy short words
everyone:

ENC BOO_NUM SEV: QUE-REH
let’s rehearse
rehearse will bec reh
136

***HEL, TO SHO YOU THI
YOU WIL BE OBJ
YOU MIT SHO YOU SHO
OR OPE YOU MOU AND SHO YOU TON
BUT ONL SPE WIT COY SHO WOR***
ENC BOO-NUM NIN: THI-UNI
so many things to describe with long words
many words for boats that helen launched
SCIENCE is SCI
scissors is SCI
remember is REM
theory is THE
universe is UNI
let’s all say universe:
***UNI***
ENC BOO-NUM TEN: UNI-ZOO
the UNI is at walmart
walmart WIL BEC WAL
do they have a cage for mosquitoes at the zoo?
DO THE HAV A CAG FOR MOS AT THE ZOO
i forgot to take my malaria pills
I FOR TO TAK MY MAL PIL
this becomes contagious
THI BEC CON
everyone say:
*** THI BEC CON***
137

other words to remember to shorten
***OTH WOR TO REM TO SHO***
loophole: LOO
millihelen: MIL
ostracize: OST
computer: COM
synesthesia: SYN
metaphor: MET
funeral: FUN
coffee: COF
punishment: PUN

TO SYLVIA, BESIDE ME
Adam Cameron

beside me, the curtains, grey and wide
as pearls and breathing. like a set of lungs
tied – not too tight but coiled, blond,
and white like the rain from out our mouths.
and who is leaning forward – young
and bright – and why? on our knees, grey, wide,
wide as bone, three seeds of string tight as
my three letter heart. why do we say it hurts
and cry? a clump of hair inside a ball of lungs
and a little pinch of skin.
pink through the soft white lens of iron,
lying, scratching. and resigned
to something undiscovered, wild
and pumping out my hands
onto the floor.

then why, all young and grey – all mine
and mine. A canvas packed with letters
pumping rain in clumps of grey and balls of blonde
grinding a string of pearls strung up and reaching
like my three little hearts beside me,

138

139

CLANGOR TRICK AGAINST AXHEWN
July Col

trough and assfuck. Lurking tin.

Roofless hayloft dares

a wormed forest: “Red trees and why

they’re no longer with us.”
With sky a seep

for the baby queen who’s looking—
Today every rock
hatches fat eggs.

the opportunities were cloudfold.

Chances were goat-leapt.

In clouds

were
gnarling dolostone faces

tooth sculpted ranks
banking on the wild melt—
So elements argue over
who gets to drive the car

who
gets to steer—

Water says well a lot
in a stark way
not shirking


this water said

well
if you’ve got all

day you might try asking
a sporophyte
for the time
But a brass band
meanwhile
guides the murder pasture—
We wave ratty
crow-feather fans—
“Furbearers cut all our benches!”
and a little lipstick
fumbles on
high toward
the last whitefields—
Every fly’s got at least a couple
140

jewels
141

BUOY LOUNGERS RACK
THE TAILSPIN NEARBY

THE BULB REFLECTED
July Col

July Col
head up in salt spray elephant seal it’s flung doll fling
it circle a tower wet
doll drown it
to splash mercy
on swimmers mercy on rogues latched refractive luck
on the bias stars skeined
doll stain it
you know
the feelings that “loop night” “to bind you”
earth keeps a very close relationship to “the sky” dolls
elbow dinosaurs
in the quantum
boat I built for you
fix
a fast lapper the last runner ground
doll crown it
green some new leaves beyond begging froze water bursts
bottles breaks mercy on twigs on dirt graves
on twigs on sharp doll slap it sometime say
how things were “names” for ideas sold doll leave it
blue will never stop calling your tongue is a lip tapper a
plural maker mile licker milling spit where dirt sweats
more than raptors
it’s wound
doll found it head up in salt spray how sunlight bellows
how sing lassos singe dropped bights I sting mercy
on the “more and” “more unwanted” doll mercy
doom bright here doll hire it hold it hold what
you can imagine
meaning more so someone it does

I looked down. You could see the bulb reflected.
Swollen knuckles slid over the shining veins.
Blood down his pants leg was like the piss, like the spit.
Her cunt was like a small hole full of cold snot.
My t-shirt was cold now—Hogg’s piss, so I didn’t care.
I looked down. You could see the bulb reflected.
It stank down there of pussy and three kinds of shit,
the two big crusted warts back near the base.
Blood down his pants leg was like the piss, like the spit
bubbling through my nose. His belt was wet
all the way to the red crotch, to the clotted hair.
I looked down. You could see the bulb reflected.
I peeled off the sock. It stuck to the sole of his foot.
A piece of bad meat you say, hell I’ll fry anyway.
Blood down his pants leg was like the piss, like the spit.
Seen a cat do that when it was scared to death.
It was hard to tell their sound from the sound of the fire.
I looked down. You could see the bulb reflected.
Blood down his pants leg was like the piss, like the spit.

All text in this villanelle is lifted from Samuel R. Delany’s novel Hogg (FC2/Black Ice Books, 1995).

142

143

THE TIPS OF THE RAKE

GIFT FOR THE FLIES

Alex Greenberg

Alex Greenberg

Kneeling on the gravel road, with scores
on your legs like clay, you were

The poor are the only ones
who know how to suck dry a bone,

the youngest mortician in Baywood.
Coiling out the spines, taking off, arm by arm,
the orange furs of the dead, autumn leaves.

how to leave not even the marrow
of the dead animal for God

You were such a gentleman too.
Folding together the parts
that had blown and scattered in the storm
in a way that when the family comes,
by air and by breath,
the picture they bring with them
will be comparable to the body in candlelight.
Every few hours, god shakes the great shoe
in the sky and the leaves spill over us.
God like a great owl in the vivid dark of his prey:

to bring to its family in heaven.
Slavering over the bone,
with knives like torches,
ready for the grand opening-up
of the animal’s cave
and the hopeless suppression
of its red-rock blood which will fizzle
through the dark like a shiver.
When the lips of a person
are the only feature that can be made out,

Men have snapped their necks
trying to maneuver the way he does.

we try and match them to a pair of eyes,
a hair color, a story. They could be anyone

A truck coasts down the block,
roaring up the leaves from their
black body-bags.

we think. Under a blanket we used our nails
to lift. Cradling the cold in their arms like a young child.

Trying to push them to the air
before they drift back down again
like a ballon tied to a child’s wrist.

144

145

INDELIBLE
Alex Greenberg

I want somebody here
to wait with me:
To hold the vases,
so that when the roses die,
they wilt over the crystal lip.
To gloss the dirt years after
I’ve sunk back beneath it.
I want this burnt tongue of mine
to rest,
velvet & perennial,
on the ear of a young child.
And my wife to carve out
the dead stems from the box
like leftovers: keep them,
warm in the house,
in case our children ask about me
for tomorrow.
You can go out in a month
for new roses
to plant next to my empty vase.
Find a way downstairs when its dark-chalked breath frosting the glass
and you won’t know
which of us has died & which one
has kept you here.
You can still scent me,
your iris tinged red.

146

ELAINE
PAWLOWICZ

ELAINE PAWLOWICZ

DRIVING TO THE VIGIL OF
RICHARD CHAVEZ
Nicholas Belardes

FLOAT
2014, 36” by 36”, oil on canvas

EPIPHYTE
2012, 4’ by 3’, oil on canvas

(July 31, 2011)
i.
Jane drives toward Delano. Northward, Highway
99, toward Forty Acres.
Train tracks on our right carry angels, god-dreams,
firebirds in cages, waiting
to pour into the sky. Boxcar graffiti sprays holy
images of sacrifice only
gangbanger shaman can read. I imagine farm
worker scrawls on railcar

PET PROTECTION SPELL: LONG LIFE FOR SMALL PETS
2011, 48” by 48”, acrylic on canvas

PLAYING DEAD
2014, 36” by 36”, oil on canvas

ribcages; Hieroglyphics of umbrellas, descending
planes, drifting clouds,
ii.
stars, hot white suns over withered bones in the
Central Valley heat;
burning images of fruit, souls and wheelbarrows
on fire. Giants in
the dust. “You know what I always wanted to do?
Train jump,” Jane says.
I imagine her on boxcars, old, rusted hearts, tugging
on each other, pulling
out from behind the high school, slipping past the
station where Kerouac
153

iii.
sat on a crate, with Cassady, on the road, just up
from Union Avenue

shares in the suffering. “I can’t help it. It’s how
I grew up,” she adds.

and forgotten bus rides. I’m thinking about poets.
Dead poets. Alive poets.

vi.
We’re just poets now. The sky turns dull . . .

Poets drinking the blood of grapes from vines right
before they die on rotted

We’re just poets now. Delano on the horizon.

trellis. I pat Jane on the shoulder. “Brotherhood of
poetry—this is what it’s all about.”

We’re just poets now. We near 40 Acres.
We’re just poets now. A CHP blocks our entrance.

“We’re part of history,” Jane says. We pass exits to
farm labor rows.

We’re just poets now. We try to find another way.

iv.
We see trees hiding ghosts of poets and priests.
It’s muggy outside.

Barely.
His eyes give away his disguised heart.

And though the day began as a deep grey shadow.
It’s no better now.

We’re just poets now. Another CHP lets us in.

We’re just poets now. We pass derelicts of homes,
Broken patios. Smashed barns. Plastic chairs.

Butthole Surfers are on the radio as I text Matt
Munoz. He can’t make

We’re just poets now. We pull over in the dust; Thick,
dry dust. The paste

the vigil. He and I remember those 2006 marches.
Down through Bakersfield

of the earth—just add water. Across the street, grapes
hang from tethers.

parks, along the riverbank. Stages were alight with
red-flag fire.

Dirty, lovely grapes. We’re just poets now, remembering
every image as we

v.
Eagles ascended. An AP news photographer
captured our spirit,
arm in arm, as if forgotten heroes remembered.
We stood on the stage
where Dolores Huerta danced with Gonzalo Santos,
laughing in

walk toward the procession for Richard Chavez.
We’re just poets
now. People are gathered, lighting candles, saying
prayers, holding
onto memories of grandchildren, grandfathers and
priests in the dust.

merriment. Now our spirit is for the vigil. Jane
drives. Says she

154

155

BOY IN THE VINEYARD
Nicholas Belardes

his grey hair a feathery mess on his high

forehead, sprinkles holy water, declares, En
el nombre de padre! Men and women say,

“Amen.” It is a tiny “amen.” Squawking
blackbirds could drown such an impasse.

Children, always the first and last to declare
God’s righteousness, echo, “Amen!” While

the boy in the vineyard, last of them all,
whispers, “Amen.” Oh, and he’s not done.

Young boy peeks across Mettler Avenue.

Between dusty porches of farm workers,
rattlesnakes trails and red globes. You know

the rows.
Long, dirty, loamy, brown, broken rows in

summer dusk—where earth of valley meets
soil heaven. Starlight planted above horizon.

Somewhere in long bands of Central Valley
sky-dirt, stretching from Arvin to Stockton,

sprouting celestial clusters—yellow wine suns.
And below, yes down at the boy’s dirty feet,

Señorita zinfandel! Ma-ma-mia! California
Crybaby red globes, flame seedless, nobody

even knows, cause grapes come from every
little vineyard on every California flatland

and hill there ever was. And down, down,
just above the boy’s black, vine-thin hair—
arches. Starlight arcs. Leafy grape rows.

Playhouse doorways. Eden gates. Look there!
Leafy spaces! Between the globes. A mystery!

The boy eyes people gathering across the hot
roadway, he eyes colorful blankets ready to

cover the day with red, orange, yellow, black.

“Hey!” the boy yells. “Is that you, Richard?”
No one hears the boy. Children across the

road stir, feel candlelight spirits. The priest,

156

He swallows the idea of grapes, glides
through dirt, kicks more life into rust-colored

sunsets, sees men in white shirts pull casket
from hearse, watches men lift heaven vessel

onto cart, watches women and men lift
candles skyward. Sees a man holding two
candles, wax pouring over fingers. Watches

Dolores Huerta wipe her eyes. Watches
cameramen, family, friends, poets—me in

straw cowboy hat—red flags, held in dying daylight. If flags could
speak, would they say,

Si se puede! Would they hold entire

conversations of flag-waving days? “Did you
see us march in 2006 along the Kern River?

Through parks? Through American streets?
We trampled rusted spirits. Climbed fences

into destiny. Danced in a waltz on old stages.”
Would flags unravel, cradle the dying and the

Dead? The boy in the vineyard knows. He is
illuminated by the drowning sun. By the

lantern light of grapes. The boy in the vineyard
watches people of the valley marching toward

sunset, down Garces Highway, around a dirt
canal bank, toward the entrance to 40 Acres.

The boy doesn’t leave the vineyards. He
watches the procession. He sees casket

lift from cart, turn toward the sun. He
157

sees men and women floating into the sky.
He sees casket spin into infinity. He sees

its striped blanket blend into bands of
atmosphere. He sees a man joining his family.

He’s been there too. The boy smiles and smiles,
dances back down rows of grapes, singing only

THE HOUSE THAT RICHARD BUILT
Nicholas Belardes

a song he knows, ripping at leaves and vines,

playful humming. Hum hum humm hummm.
Grape lanterns fall behind him onto powder.
They crash into dust. Lights out. The boy, if

we were to see him, smaller now in distant
orchards. A sun unto himself. Disappears in
green flash shadow, as sun whirls fiery down

beneath the arc of earth. Just in time. Just in
time. Just in time. Just in time. Just in time.

A. The house that Richard built is an invisible memoir hanging on the tree
of life, a pomegranate, savory and tasty with elixir.
B. The house that Richard built is a sliver of Central Valley sun creeping
between branches of November ash on Buena Vista and Myrtle Streets.
C. The house that Richard built calls through floorboards, “Time to add
another nail. Time to add another coat of paint. The walls above me are
weathered and peeling.”
D. The house that Richard built looks over Tehachapi Mountains, L.A.
forests, Delano, Wasco, Shafter, Arvin, Lamont, and acres of tules where
tired ducks fly.
E. The house that Richard built waves flags for farm workers every day, not
just when the poisoned go home, or when bombs fall in orchards and fields.
AA. The house that Richard built gathers in San Joaquin parks to play
soccer, in cemeteries to say goodbye to abuelas, birthing rooms for mijos, in
living rooms, around dining room tables alive with the aroma of Mexican
chocolate, and church parking lots for prayers and anointing with oil.
BB. The house that Richard built was made with strong hands—hands that
can hold babies, weave starlight, and cast javelins through nebulae.
CC. The house that Richard built stands in a purple twilight over the
Bakersfield skyline, pink mornings between almond and cherry petals, and
blazing afternoons swirling in topsoil dust and machismo.
DD. The house that Richard built stands on a foundation of dreamers
who’ve held hammers and books, who’ve juggled cherries, grapes and carrots as if the main attraction at a carnival. They’ve put a wet cloth to the
fevers of boys vomiting in fields, and led the way for immigrants who need
to find their way to two homes.
EE. The house that Richard built is on a street of dusty gold on a hidden

158

159

heavenly plot of land, a cielo surrounded by layers of rocks and skeleton
bones. His neighborhood has open doors, and is a place where children’s
laughter rings from delicate white angel-wing trees and jungle gyms born of
virgin paradise. His is a place where ice cream trucks melt and vanilla lingers
in the sweetened air.
AAA. The house that Richard built is a genealogy of constellations, all
moving through the skies around us, for all to see, but not for everyone to
understand. The stories woven in the sky tell of art in parks, marches toward
heavens and cosmos, of dusty dances with coats woven of shells on days of
the dead, and simple dinners where daughters tell of loves, and boys dream
of red flags lined like volcanoes along the Pacific Rim of sandboxes.
AAAA. The house that Richard built is a city on a hill in many Californias.
In many Mexicos. In many valleys. In many hearts. In many cities. In many
fields. In many.

OPENING PRAYER
Nicholas Belardes

I.
Listen to our prayers for our servant Richard...
Count him among the saints in your glory.

From Mexico City alleyways to south Central
Valley almond orchards, to the back bathrooms

of Delano markets, Tomas, you carried a gun.
You hid from ghosts of mud serpents creeping

through topsoil; scales and skin slithering just

above the god-eye. You imagined the last goodbye

on your father’s face. When you left him playing

a trumpet, brass dying near the Zócalo, penniless.

You turned away, gave money to angels. The kind
of money that makes wings grow, you said.

You later shot your rival in the valley dirt by

the pesticide bath water, watched him collapse in

gangland colors. He wore the mask of a chameleon.

He was an American. A Californian. You peeled his

costume like skin from bones. You saw the drunk,

his valley-borne illness. You said, “He’s the demon.

What had he become? His father was a farmworker.

Why did he put on colors?”

Do you remember when you and the demon
drank at the bar in Edison, California? You called

it Gremlins, because you knew its water would also
change you into a devil. The best you could do was

not remember, you said.

But sin has its way of creeping back into dreams.

Demons in red-lit closets, cutting hair, possessing

girls. You wake in a cold sweat, screaming and

shaking. Only God could keep you safe, you said.

160

161

II.
Listen to our prayers for our servant Richard...
Count him among the saints in your glory.

IV.
Listen to our prayers for our servant Richard...
Count him among the saints in your glory.

There was the time you prayed for money, Tomas.
You saw spirits in dollar bills. You saw god-light in
coins. Imagined plastic in your wallet building entire
farms for travelers. And oh you loved the poor, said
they were magical. They pulled asparagus from eyes.
They dropped green beans into the hair of giants.
But when you cut the poor off, they starved. They
crawled through dirt, into Lamont streets, begging.
They grew angel wings. Their skin turned to pink
ash. The end of the world was near, you said.

There was a miracle on Chester Avenue in Bakersfield,
Tomas. Really close to 34th Street. Father Garces came

to life. You know the statue. He had a machete, gun belts,
an old machine gun stolen from a two-story bronze of Al

Capone. Garces stood in front of Golden State Highway.
You said you saw him shoot up buses, cars, the taco stand,

the adult bookstore where the Cancer Center took over.
Give porn some chemotherapy, you said.

III.
Listen to our prayers for our servant Richard...
Count him among the saints in your glory.



Tomas, who are you that I cry for you tonight?
Did God save your soul? Or was it a miracle? A
miracle from your battle with the demon? A miracle
from surviving gunshots? A miracle for surviving

MDMA, heroin, painkillers, cocaine, LSD, acid,
alcohol... A miracle for surviving fields, education,
foremen, fistfights, language, freeways, surgery,
firestorms, trumpets, raptures, preachers, professors.


A miracle for surviving tomatoes, potatoes, onions,

oranges, cartels, drive-bys, drug-lord shoot-outs in

hotels with sheriff’s deputies and homeland security

vampires of the ghost-orchard nights. Prowling red

lights. Bloodsucking Tasers. Jail cells like vats of
shaman dreams.
And the counselors of the streets? The pastors of
your soul? The men who built your conscience? The
men who destroyed your temperament? Your ego.
Your joy. Your honesty. Your sobriety. Your dignity.
Your lost loves. Your mission was to glorify, you said.

162

Everything has been taken away from you, you said.

Your mother, your father, your cousins who died in

prison drug wars. Your cousins who were in the fields

with the Oaxacans. They traveled the Silk Road. The

99. The Almond Road. The Potato Road. The Cherry

Road. The Grape Road. The Cotton Road. The Lettuce

Road. The Petroleum Road. The Ancient Road. The

Petroglyph Road. The Fertile Road. The Bullfrog Road.

The Cowboy Road. The End of the Road. The Novel

Road. The Poet Road. Zora the Magic Cat Road. The

Juan Adrastos Road. The Tulare Lake Goddess Road,

The Lee Herrick Road. The Raindog Road. The

Andre Yang Road. The Bryan Medina Road. The Alan

Kaufman Road. The Tim Hernandez Road. The Jane

Hawley Road. The Jorge Guillen Road. The Yokut

starmap road. The blue giant god-eye road. The Lamont

Road. The Farm Worker Road. The Marcos Reyes Road.

And that statue, Garces? His big cement elbows swung
in Super Bowl machismo as it climbed the Padre Hotel,

waiting for a football pass from the blue giant, a touchdown
Hail Mary Jesus catch-me-with-my-pants-down catch. As

he swatted at biplanes carrying pesticides. As he grabbed
the only girl he ever wanted. The Tulare Lake Goddess,

with her river arms. She did nothing but beg for forgiveness.
And cry his tears. And the padre? Missiles shot upward

at the great warrior. The lake goddess slipped from his
grasp, fell to her death, you said. The Padre is fine, you

said. They’ll make more just like her, you said.

163

V.
Listen to our prayers for our servant Richard...
Count him among the saints in your glory.
And then tonight we remembered one other. And that’s

why you and I are here, Tomas. We talked about this. That

life is no coincidence. How did we both know we would

make the same prayer seconds apart, worlds apart? Like two
Geminis estranged, you said. We must have said the prayer

for Richard together, you said. And I agreed as we said it

again. Listen to our prayers for our servant Richard...

Count him among the saints in your glory, we said. Amen.

164

THE HORSEMEN
Nicholas Belardes

In a grape vineyard.
David Allen Gordon is here painting.
I’m listening to the buzz of machinery,
water draining into
a sump. Nopales line the eastern banks.
Take a piss in the
burnt shadows of cactus.
Walk, or should I say, limp down
rows on my bad foot.
“I came for healing,” I say.
Look. DO NOT ENTER in red letters. Petroglyphs of bleeding
shamen, twisted and broken into words. Are those almond trees
a mile in the distance?
Hedges and trees grow around power
lines.
Twisted dancers swinging hips in the sky.
And that column of smoke. Black entrails of the earth.
Flames
leaping and licking at the bellies of imagination.
Flames,
popping orange hands,
reaching one by one into atmosphere.
Into leaning
poses.
Figurines.
Smoking girls tilt southward. And then crimson
on the horizon,
mouth agape in horror of all this beauty.
They scream above treetops:
“I’m on fire! I’m on fire! I am the
Alpha of Agriculture!
I will strike the quiet with flames and
smoke!”
Until she is only a leaning wisp. A pirouette and
gone.
Fragmented.
Now I see shadows.
Memories of distant landscapes layered
onto this conscious view of Past & Present.
We are entangled.
This isn’t even where the memory takes place.
That was Forty
Acres. A dozen miles away. Two years ago.
But oh I see you
plainly. Vineyards and The Horsemen.
Oh you want to call them
a comedy? The crewcut adolescent on the Pinto horse?
Pedro
Quixote de la Manchismo, holding his lance, aiming it at a single
grape, ready to explode juices over the blessed lanscape.
His
sidekick on a Pinto miniature horse
—its brown mane like an
’80s glamrock wig.
That boy’s got a mustache and
black-and-white-striped shirt,
long legs scraping the earth
while two German shepherds and a yellow mutt
follow
with drooping,
panting tongues.
Oh Pedro Quixote de la Manchismo,
that grape is no dragon.
Tell your sidekick not to twitch his tiny mustache,
nor burden
his miniature horse with the prophecy of your appearance.
You
cannot grow a beard. But one day when you can,
you will

165

twist it like so in your fingers, and wonder why the procession
across the canal, and all of the mourners,
and the casket on
the cart,
were not headed to your castle to eat your mother’s
salsa
and sit on your
father’s plastic patio chairs.
Are you really so afraid of a little grape?
Are you afraid of
Richard Chavez
rising from his casket and spooking your
dogs into singing
birthday songs
for all the abandoned
puppies wandering through the vineyards,
looking for milk?
Do not cross the canal,
Pedro Quixote de la Manchismo.
Do not look upon us mourners with such a tragicomic eye,
nor with contempt, curiosity. Nor wonder.
Do not threaten
the grapes.
They are not the eyes of dragons.
Neither will we write of you as
the comedy on this mournful
day.
Neither will we mock you for your posse of purgatory.
Yes,
I see you in these vineyards today and wonder if you
Will be in Señor Gordon’s
painting of this bleak noon sky.
He is behind me with oils.
He is behind me splattering
canvas with gore.
He is behind me stabbing memories with
paintbrushes.
The Pond Road vineyards. Pandol property
Sump
and
sky.
Are you there, two horsemen? Pedro Quixote de la Manchismo?
I am afraid to look. Are you there,
two horsemen? I am afraid
of your comic shadows holding lances in the dusk,
lurching
on the backs of burdens. Are you there, two horsemen?
The
procession is making its way past. I am with them,
though
not today. I see myself pass.
Are you there, two horsemen?
The mournful want to celebrate you as well.
So throw down
your
lances and
gallop
into the sky.

WINGLESS SOMMER
Ha Kiet Chau

If she was a seagull she would’ve
changed her mind,
escape death before hitting
water, ripples of salt.
Halfway down, she’d flap her
impaired wings,
muster strength to survive,
fly skyward, shoot right back
up like a NASA rocket into
the cotton blue, but
Sommer didn’t get to change her mind.
Troubled and high on suicide bridge,
she pictured herself as a bird
when she flew off the lower deck,
a facedown plunge, 240 feet
into teal waters.
A chilling splash resounded
across the shivery bay
and life was over instantly.
Sommer didn’t have wings to save herself.
Seagulls were the only eyewitnesses,
swooping down to the stony coastline,
squawking loudly,
commotion-crazy.

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167

BRAVE WALK

THE BEAST

Ha Kiet Chau

Peycho Kanev

a fusion of grey and black clouds,
ready to pop like water balloons,
leak rain all over town.
the midway point on our journey
is here and the path in front of us
is rutted and jerky, earthshaking.
trees and foliage wilting brown,
the horizon lacks an orange zest.
road blocks up ahead, a slit of
lightning, a brewing storm—rain
hounding us like barking coyotes,
but we don’t run, we move forward,
soldier on in the face of fear.
we take tentative steps towards an
uphill climb, legs mounting heavy
as logs, feet leaping over puddles—
and when i trip to my knees in mud,
you don’t leave me rotting next
to earthworms.
you lug me back up from the ground,
brush the dirt off my cheek with a hankie,
stick a dinosaur band-aid on my knee,

The angel is a scary monster disguised
as a bird. One of its wings pulls him
towards obedience and the other one
wants freedom. Maybe that is why he
is bipolar. But he loves, just like a cat,
to play with two huge yarn balls –
one is white and the other one is black.
What else to do during those quiet summer
afternoons? Staring in the future he leaves
the present to slip into the past without
being written into the divine notebooks. And
of z he suffers of visions dressed in red
but when that happens he flies to Istanbul,
where he sits at the nearest café, sucks at
the hose of the hookah filled with dark clouds
and gets high on black tea and black thoughts.

and out of nowhere, the words
you’re very brave flows like water
out of your mouth and i know we’ll
survive this walk home.

168

169

FIST AND WALL

THE HALF-DEAD LIVE OAK

Peycho Kanev

Sandra M. Gilbert

Reality bites
like a pit-bull fights.
I sit here and drink this six pack (tall)
and my arm hurts and my fingers hurt:
my dreams are something wasted like
spring flowers in September;
and my feet reach Russia in my nightmares.
My sadness, my sorrow:
please give me more of your stamina;
this night is something that I can’t drink away.
The snakes crawl on the drapes like some hellish
creatures and the pigeons suffer outside in the
dim light of the world,
of this page,
of this bitterness.
Outside
it’s raining.

its roots straining under a coffin
of concrete
at the bottom of my garden,
its scabrous branches
heedlessly hosting greenish
lichen, its leaves
sparse & prickly & twisted
as if with self-contempt,
dangles odd threads
of yellowish stuff
& leans toward my deck
in its devastating neighborly
way, shadowing
the baby plum I planted in
memory of my dead beloved.
Under its cracked bark
it seems to want to move & speak
its absurd geriatric
desire:
               Look, he’s gone
& has left behind a slender
fruitless image—
but I—I—
why don’t you notice me?—
I’m still pollinating!

170

171

THE LUNCH BOXES

DOVES

Sandra M. Gilbert

Sandra M. Gilbert

inside the hello kitty
the calico critter the spiderman
backpacks

live in the wall
along with weeds & words
crammed into cracks

next to the parkas
inside the slidingdoor closet & the
 
mac’n cheese carefully
spooned into
the thermos jars

head-scarfed women hug
the wall press themselves
flat against its

next to the apple juice
boxes the tangerines the chocolate
chip cookies inside

& the dry weeds
motionless   the doves
babbling in their own homes

the lunch boxes
inside the backbacks
hidden behind the closet

peace to the wall
the baffled children
the snap of wings

doors scored by
deadly additions &
multiplications of

when the birds suddenly
escape into emptiness
into

banging of crashing
of “a wild animal”?
scaring the bloody

the ambiguities
of a sky too tall
to name

rag dolls on the floor
                 
                                             [Newtown, CT, December 2012]

        

172

pondering stone then
back away as if nerve-struck
though solemn

—Jerusalem, 2009

173

HUNGRY FOR MY SLAVERY
Scott Wannberg

There’s history wobbling on one working foot
claiming it’s able to lead.
In which direction, anybody might hazard a guess.
People are hungry and demand they become slaves,
at least we’ll know where our meals come from.
The ballerina almost broke her left leg.
Instead, it was better than anticipated; she merely lost her mind.
The cop assigned to her case seems human.
They let you do laundry here up until nine.
I wish I remembered your birthday.
The field men asked me about your habits,
it took me too long to respond.
I’m trying to stay on my diet.
I’m trying to keep that necessary sense of humor.

You learn to second-guess all tunes you are capable of carrying.
My campaign manager gets arrested every morning.
My heart just got traded to a new expansion team.
The spider builds a complex and beautiful web,
all ages are permitted.
October 26, 2008
Listening to Steve Goodman
Somebody Else’s Troubles

The town crier I feel cries a beat too long,
it’ll land us all in some trouble.
You and trouble hit it off so well once,
you both looked more than good.
The attendant by law here must pump your gas.
He does it so well,
other things not so much.
You’ll find my remains in a rocking chair on the hotel veranda,
I won’t be saying all that much.
Once words trusted me,
once the battle line held.
Now the eagle soars some other place,
the hallucinations unfortunately, a lot less.

174

175

NORTH SIDE OF ANYTHING YOU NEED

KISS THE LUNATIC AND WIN A PRIZE

Scott Wannberg

Scott Wannberg

Don’t eat the thermometer,
we gotta know how to dress up when the seasons come.
Want to tell you this real good story I heard
but the words fell out of my mouth on the way up.
Let me find your surprise in the Cracker Jack box.
Let me walk your dog.
I just need to make the North Side of
Anything You Need.
I hear they got good places to sit there
and the barbeque is very, very real.
Don’t put your knife in me right now
sharp things bore the shit out of me.
I got the antidote everyone feels they need.
I just got to create it
in the moments when the house lights come up
and the owner is going over his books.
Does it matter if we lost the magic box?
You never truly lose the magic.
Let me be your dog.
Let me live in your Cracker Jack box and be the surprise.
I’ve been waiting kind of long
on the North Side of Anything You Need,
and one of these days they might
think me a vagrant.
And that would be
something indeed.

176

The ocean went and got stupid and haphazard
just when you figured all ships would love you
the neighborhood children are all vacant-eyed
you have to get in their faces to make yourself understood
does anybody really ever understand anyone else?
you need to graduate from some room
where the air is a little bit thick before
the end of day
where the walls are not your best friend
you go out for air
what passes for such
you go out believing in your fellow man

then you see all the empty fools

standing around empty condos where
ugly murder got done

as if by their standing in front of

such

some kind of magic

would begin to

wave its scaling hand

from the back of the world

you figured that all armies
would let you go

through
no matter what name

the wars wore

around their necks

all in the name of some

higher cause and effect
death really isn’t small enough to get hung up
on ethnic ethics
it takes anybody it damn well pleases
does anybody really believe the majors will
work out their strike problems with
management?
some fellow with a mandolin

177

will keep standing
after it all falls
some fellow with a heart
will be there through the fallout
his playing will get you through the
moment
no doubt pain and more doubt
will be waiting on you
but you are nothing more than
a wilderness of moments
and we all can cry on key with
the best of the wounded and missing
in action
love is an active verb
they’re pounding on the door right now
but the music is so right
but the music
is how we take our temperature
even as the holes grow wider
and the possibility of landing
grows even more remote

178

THREE POEMS WITHOUT A SOUND
Ivan de Monbrison

les couleurs uniformes
placées côte à côte
la roue qui les déplace
le cercueil ouvert
le mort peut en sortir
à tout moment
l’horizon enfumé
ce que le vent emporte
souvenirs et regrets
et la porte se referme
dès que l’on est sorti
à l’aube
dans la rue désertée
quand tout le monde dort
les gestes oubliés

the uniform colors
placed side-by-side
the wheel that moves them
the coffin opened
the dead can get out
at any time
the horizon smoky
what is gone with the wind
memories and regrets
and the door closes
as soon as we come out
at dawn
in the deserted street
when everybody sleeps
gestures forgotten

179

un cahier où ‘s’écrivent les paroles
calque des sens
les images trop raides
où se glisse le souvenir
le temps incertain
appelle au meurtre sûr
parodie de soi-même
on balance
son choix entre deux univers
entre la certitude de mourir
et celle de
connaître son devenir
j’allume l’unique lampe
la nuit laboure mon corps
comme un couteau sans lame

180

a notebook where lyrics are written
layer of the senses
images too rigid
where the memory slips
the uncertain time
calls for sure murder
parody of oneself
one weighs
his choice between two worlds
between the certainty of death
and that of
knowing one’s own fate
I turn on the single lamp
the night plowing my body
like a knife with no blade

un morceau de nuage
dans une nacelle
le cortège qui s’attarde
un sein
une femme ou une statue
c’est la même chose
la plage aux pieds mouillés
où l’on marche
sans laisser de traces
mais bientôt
il fait froid
les heures courent
il faut oublier
les paysages mordus par le vent
dans les arbres
et les corps déchirés

a piece of cloud
in a nacelle
the procession that lingers
a breast
a woman or a statue
it is the same
the beach having wet feet
where we walk
without leaving traces
but soon
it’s cold
the hours run
we must forget
landscapes bitten by the wind
in the trees
and the ripped off bodies

181

SIX POEMS
Barbara Maloutas

One

Two

Three

Four

heat and electricity
electricity because of heat
no air | not enough | suffocate
no air moves | he moves
now air moves | now he moves
now air could move | moving
take the shower first | leave
shower first | water at first
time for a shower | time now
time for water washing | wash
washing heat | radioactive
sweat out of heat | washing
sweat away
swear away water

subsiding water | turn off
the cage conducts | his brain
the cage of metal | contraption
for birds maybe | men’s
man in a cage | my cage
for him | less electricity
less burn | how fast
less burn | more water
piddling | of water
a puddle | off

all the mixture | of | of | of
of metal and words and water of
counting his words | of
counting on them
in the monastery | in the convent of
a convent of | of | of
to the point | words garble
the bubble | bubbling
washed with water
babbling of men | of women
I have too much time
he | none now

nothing so steady
a whole monastery shut
electricity shut
a modern monastery shut
the monks around the world
his interest in others
the other | the surge
the surge into him
not slow | now at once
and burning | black figures
dark digits | the smell
the smell wafts | wafts
around the world | I smell him
his sweat | his burned body

182

183

COMMON FUNERAL MYTHS
Naomi Shihab Nye

Five

Six

1. You need to say goodbye to this person.

there is a through line | his
life in a line
now broken | the unfairness
of his burning | it was his
heart that stopped | his
bald head | no hairs on
end | my hairs on end |
take a look at his pate
his hairs on end | like
friction | my friction from
counting on him and his
life | before the covenant
counting the hairs on his
head | someone has

look it’s an H | an
hallelujah panel | in gratitude
that he was | three across
him and me and the
horizon we share | where
everything speaks | that there
is a horizon | his horizon
and mine | and where I
am now | hello | there is
no T in H | together although
I can still count on his
abacus | his writing | words

2. Each of you is mourning the same individual.

184

3. The peace which eluded our departed on earth will now be readily available
to him/her/anyone/all of us.
4. The conversation is over.
5. Your dreams will vibrate with scenes of this person.
6. The beloved departed wrote you and only you a secret farewell note
which you will find in a couple of years.

185

AMBIGUITIES

PERMUTATIONS

Richard Kostelanetz

Kurt Cline

Time flies.
Stockings in women run.
Past tense.
I can’t digest baloney.
Superior fortune cookie lines these are.
Cooks waffle with certain recipes.
Killing time in emergency rooms.
From the judge the crook heard his sentence.
Swindlers took thousands.
Bacon cures.

there is nothing outside his madness scream that is not impermeable. the
human heart is not unwritable. our town is littered with dark eyes unconcealing the nearly unthinkable. your sorrow brings me to my knees. you
have discovered another way to commit suicide. fire returns everything but
events. my dear friend with whom i wept. stars are not the weight of unshed
tears. the city is everlasting, until the day after tomorrow. voices on the
telephone are not quite sufficient. mold spores shooting craps, the historical record of myself. a land of moss & concrete slabs. a few days after the
end of the world, beginningless beginnings again begin. another dream says
“thank you” but the earth seems uncertain. rain teletyping the rhythm of
an arrhythmic heart. rectangles of light smeared color. things happening to
me as they happen to people in books, or movies. dreams are not impermeable. memories are quite a gone song. as crazy is as crazy does. as crazy as i
ever was. he is a man of many masks & never asks the postman to ring twice.
motorbikes going by; workmen standing thigh to thigh. as one of his guises
is a rabid love song. i can see how a man might think that way. pornographic
guttersnipes cluster like monarch butterflies. a kind of mass suicide, for
which i am writing a sermon which is ironic, since i will not be around to
deliver it, & no one will be around to listen. the moon’s

slow to sink
but fading fast
sky tinged pink
in a rose circlet

there is nothing that is not. laughing & crying sound the same. suffering
alone is absolute. the helicopter blade spinning. the eternal waiting for
something to change, while my life passes before my eyes. & this to my discomfiture. maybe might be able to fish myself out from under these sky dark
186

187

rain droplets; maybe too sodden. the disappointment had been like bubblegum. myself in the echo of an impossible situation. all attempts at objectivity
fail when the subjective element is ignored. the thing involves finding it. on
a gallows in a field of flowers just this side of forever situates itself before
me in peacock’s tail array. this was supposed to have been what precisely?
someway outta here. questions drill through my brain the story of me, the
aroma to feed. synaesthesias spinning out of control, suspending any moral
judgment.

the parabolic paradox:
while materiality is made of
vibratory frequencies,
all psychic forces are material.
“I have freed myself from the sticky
medium of paint,” writes Man Ray
“& am working
directly with light itself.”

having flipped my flivver & swallowed quicksilver. to kiss the wordless
blasts, the unnamed beasts. the wiggle of the string is itself another shadow.
the birds outside everywhere the mind split. wordless seahorse tails under
the microscope. thinking back in a time-bubble, the summer of my disbelief.
& the wreckage along the thoroughfare. i face the fiercest cup of coffee that
ever a human soul has faced & down it in three satanic gulps. leads me back
to where I started again. nevertheless much less than permanent. & to forget
to forget a forged identity.

the same insanity
which still persists:
hiroshima, irag.
senses reach out
to touch our becoming
each instant again. & I
the dreammaker construct
my own rack & screw
in the idiotic forumulation
of eventualities never arriving.

i am a prisoner in a cell. a woman is in charge, but a man does her bidding.
his job is to always make everything a little bit worse. if the light’s too bright
to sleep, he increases its intensity. if it’s stiflingly warm, he turns up the heat.
later am physically tortured – skin cut into, nerves flayed. & I run away,
around a corner. wrest an axe from the guard at the window. (i am still outside. no one is forcing me to be a prisoner. can remember to tell the police
the neon batman symbol on the building down the block. so running up the
street into the oncoming traffic, screaming “help! help!” & brandishing an
axe in the air...

Good Friday finds me sleeping
in an unmarked grave.
i was just passing through

awake this morning dreaming

looking for a place to stay.

black opal. malachite, needle-like.

delayed a moment too long

darkening of mercurius senex

now can’t get away.

out of which has escaped
188

189

LAMP STAND
James B. Nicola

I learned when I was six and Sundays went
to Sunday School as well as mass, that this,
when lit, was the eternal flame and meant
that He was present in His house, that church.
No sooner had I learned this magic lesson
one Sunday morning than the Saturday
that followed, at my first confession (this
the one time that I had to make up sins,
for looking down the list I feared that none
fit me and we were all required to go
but for the life of me and to this day
I could not think of any sins that day
and so I lied in the confessional,
made up all sorts of wild infractions that
the next week I’d have lies I could confess.
Which I did. But I’m getting ahead of myself)...
On this fall Saturday, the day that marks
the beginning of the end of the world
which every day since then has, too, I think,
I rode my bike down to St. Mary’s, way
too early for confession, with my pal,
a Protestant named Harry, my best friend,
in fact. I figured I’d show him around
and at that time churches were never closed,
so I was told. What was I thinking then,
that I’d impress him, get him to convert
and save his soul? I don’t think so;
I didn’t learn till later who was damned
for not being a Catholic. I was six,
remember, and I think that what I thought
was everything about the place was cool,
and how much I too wanted to become
an altar boy when I was a big kid.
So down we biked and in we went, at 4 –
confession was at 5 – nobody there
but the huge doors were open, so I showed
him all around, the stations of the cross,
190

the vestry, and the altar where no boy
could set foot, ever, save the altar boys.
The walls pure white, the sunlight through the stainedglass windows magic his church did not have.
Then I showed Harry how to dip his hand
in holy water, cross himself, and say
I’th’name and all. We waddled to the front,
where I then taught him how to genuflect
and kneel, and concentrate, hands clasped, and pray.
When I opened my eyes a scream came out
of me, for there, the flame of God was OFF!
Now this was the first crisis of my life –
the smallest and the largest, I believe.
Tear-drenched I shouted, FATHER! FATHER RYAN!
WHERE ARE YOU?! He appeared. What’s wrong, my son?
HE’S GONE! Who’s gone? GOD’S GONE! What? FATHER, LOOK!
And this I could not fathom at the time:
he smiled! Never you worry. Who is this?
I showed him Harry, unimpressed, I guess,
since he never did turn Catholic, but then who
would after this fiasco, at age six?
Then Father sent us off to play outside.
We rode our bikes around the parking lot.
It was a great, safe parking lot for that,
with tree clumps and the parish house to circle
around. No cars in the way. We had a ball.
And when the Catholics started to arrive
to expiate, Harry waited on the grass
as I went in to fabricate my faults
and sure enough, the flame had been restored
and never since then have I seen it off
till yesterday. I’d left the church at twelve,
remember, and I never did become
an altar boy – they did away with them
before I came of age – and since have learned
about such things as symbols, but to me
that flame was not the symbol of, it was!
So when I read in the Globe that my parish
was closing and would auction off its things
and Father Ryan had been sent to jail,
I went and won myself this gaudy lamp stand.
And it now stands here, in my entryway.
I bought the oil, too, and there’s ample wick.
What do you think – light it, or leave it cold?

191

PONDEROSA IN SEQUOIA
NATIONAL PARK

REJECTING DOMESTICITY
Valentina Cano

Kari Wergeland
Puzzle bark protects
the ponderosa overseeing our campsite,
even after small fingers peel thin patches
from its thick trunk
to build a pile of varicolored riddles
for pondering.
And while it can’t compete
with the great sequoia—
in this space it takes center stage.
As I sit on a log,
as a bird chirps
and the voices of children echo,
the tree offers the last breath
of daylight—the length of it lit
by sun that will soon slip away.

Sometimes bruises overtook
her entire body,
turning her skin into
the color of fish scales.
It came on her suddenly,
like a tide of color and pain,
while she washed her hair
or swept the kitchen counters.
She’d look down at her hands or knees
and see the ebb of purple and greens.
And with them, an ache
like a sustained scream in her bones.

Rocks looking like California trolls beckon.
I head up to the granite lookout and study the softening valley.
Meteor streaks will soon replace this billowy light.
Ponderosa pokes me from the side,
and I turn back to limbs spread wide and arthritic,
curling into disjointed shapes,
like the small dragon
with a lightning bolt for a tail.
I tread down the hill with care
through the fading incense cedars,
sugar pines, lodgepoles, and white fir,
even as the ponderosa continues to hug the last rays.
Tonight I will toss a puzzle piece
into the fire and ask, “What next?”
And “When?”

192

193

ZOMBIE AWAKENING

MOVING

Kyle Hemmings

Changming Yuan

She digs you up from the ground, calls you her “zombie boy.” You figure
she needs another fix of night. She’s wearing a distressed trench coat with
rocking horse shoes. You can tell by the lost comet-tail of her sentences, the
clip of her syllables, that she’s in between boyfriends again. With the dirt in
your eyes, you’ve been so buried with her, but where to start? Traipsing in
the pale blush of moonlight, she orders you to overturn a gravestone, pull
up an electrocuted heart, make it sing. Throw it back. Whack a rock, just
for the hell of it. She says remember when we use to train spot with monkey
grease on our faces? Remember when we use to fuck on the railroad tracks?
And you’d only come when we heard that whistle. You expose the white
flesh of your miserable zombie existence, hoping to infect her with your
rotting-tooth lust, your chain-saw dread. A train whizzes by the gravesite.
She’s gone. You return to the land of the dead.

As I flopped about, not unlike a foolish fish
Thrown into a coffin, I noticed my western neighbor
Begin to move his belongings out of his dwelling
With masks and costumes of foreign gods as well
As native ghosts all left in a nightmarish mess
Then, behind my dilapidated garage, I heard
The old skeletal couple giggling secretly, saying
How delicious the grey matter they had just
Sucked from the brains of newborns, and how
Too salty some celebrities’ semen and menstruation
Wondering why everyone seemed to be moving now
I found my eastern neighbor jump wildly, busy setting fire
On their new monster house, apparently to burn or
Destroy all the aliens, robots, hygenas, wolves of war
They had been keeping as pets, which often ran astray
In the dead heart of a stormy night, I have no idea
About where I can locate my soul for some rest

194

195

SEASONAL STANZAS
Changming Yuan

Spring







like a raindrop
on a small lotus leaf
unable to find the spot
to settle itself down
in an early autumn shower
my little canoe drifts around
near the horizon
beyond the bare bay





frozen into a dot of dust
and a rising speckle of dust
melted into his face
to avoid this cold climate
of his antarctic dream

Summer









 

in her beehive-like room
so small that a yawning stretch
would readily awaken
the whole apartment building
she draws a picture on the wall
of a tremendous tree
that keeps growing
until it shoots up
from the cemented roof








 

not unlike a giddy goat
wandering among the ruins
of a long lost civilization
you keep searching
in the central park
a way out of the tall weeds
as nature makes new york
into a mummy blue



after the storm
all dust hung up
in the crowded air
with his human face

Autumn

Winter

196

197

TRACKING GALA APPLES

DOG DAYS

David Kern

David Kern

The sounds of a Saturday morning work against him, pushing numbers to the back of his
mind where they become casualties of harried mothers, dads with starter tans;
three hours’ work is drowned beneath a flood of candy requests, broadcasts for a price
check on aisle five, the exclamations of rubber soles on polished floors, the stock
boys’ sticker guns.
His eyes are a tell, an indication of the same frustration I feel when this weekly chore
dissolves into a foxtrot between oatmeal and the cream of wheat.
Still, he’s working hard at living up to the name of produce, taking on his task
with a zealot’s fervor, according to rules only he understands.
I hear him murmur as I pass, my footfalls softer upon entering the Old World Cafe.
Yet his words are in the native tongue, measured in a manner befitting the job of tracking
his shining charges as they fall, one by one, from bucket to bin.
For a moment, he controls gravity like God, using two fingers to avert collisions,
uncontrolled descents.
But he has limits, weaknesses evident from the bruised skin on gala apples
he’s been counting since this morning.

198

Oppression blows off Delaware Bay, mutes the sun, settles along the Schuylkill’s
banks, lends air a dimension that’s ingenious, revolutionary even.
A pack of Drexel students, tendrils of hair sweat-soaked to the last split end, debate
notions of God and smoke. (But, honestly, who could handle the job without a hit?)
Their leader refuses to ask, because questioning the omniscient, fucking know-it-all, has
grown to be such a drag.
On Society Hill, where houses couple under William Penn’s bronze-eyed gaze, they buy
cigarettes and Daily Number tickets at the Asian grocery/sewing machine repair
attended by the Hispanic-gypsy fairy queen with his or her taste for Russian deli food.
Corroded, a window unit drones like a wasp, interrupting the conversation of the local
girls, in various stages of undress, who hang out their sills.
As sweat pools, drops from their cleavage to the sidewalk, they chatter, count on bourbon
to render what’s merely naked beautiful.
Thirty minutes to the west, a man absently plunges his heel, injects himself into traffic
on the Blue Route,
attacks lanes like Coltrane skitters across the staff, ignoring conventions of time, tone.
He marvels at this solo, well-timed pause on a whole-note breast, the clarity in the upper
register like her eyes upon orgasm,
something he tries to replicate by cranking the air until it’s heady in his $70,000 car.

199

STICKY FINGERS
John F. Buckley and Martin Ott

PARENT-TEACHER-CONFERENCEWEEKEND-MONSTER-MOVIE
John F. Buckley and Martin Ott

Six grand buys a lot of webbing or many fly pizzas.
Perhaps the Starline Tours employee was a secret
embezzler, the real criminal, not an elderly victim
of our wall crawler swinging away from the scene.
Shirtless Superman and SpongeBob DirtyPants
led the legion of Hollywood Heroes to shake down
each Peter Parker imposter posing in costume
for iPhones and tips on the gum-studded sidewalks
of Hollywood. How many webheads had alibis?
The Spiderman that hung out on the construction
scaffolding, gripping his burrito during the escape,
sticking to his story like salsa to his spandex.
The unlicensed black-and-gold Monsieur Arachnid
twirling his mustache antennae as sweat dripped
down the innocent slopes of his square Gallic jaw.
The time-traveling Sir Spiderlot swinging on strands
of silly string, butterfly effect in full effect for flash
bulbs, his autograph seekers unsure of his return.
But J. Jonah Jameson can’t always be wrong. Some
masked menace had snatched cash away from an old
timer lacking The Vulture’s strength, and could now
be financing a crime ring or spending a week in strip
clubs, incriminating costume safely stuffed inside
the clothes hamper of a studio apartment on Sunset.
Dangers lurks in unfamiliar places as villains and heroes
swap alter egos, police posing for snapshots and shaking
down scattered believers with stars beneath their feet,
felons swinging into action on ambivalent pendulums,
saving urban predators from prey, smooth operators
from sticky spots, more than ready for their close-ups.
200

Three o’clock Saturday:
All is serene until Bobby
uses his magnifying glass
to burn some leaves.
Welcome back, my phantoms!
Here’s a message from
a newly-dead ghoul
complaining
because light sometimes
turns ghouls to ash!
Winds scream through
that gated community
as the power goes out
during these
parent-teacher conferences.
Mr. Elifneknarf grunts
regarding each
of the children, rewarding
well-behaved parents with
butter rum and vodka.
He has avoided reflective surfaces
that might invert and betray
the real name
on his adhesive badge.
201

When darkness falls
he is relieved,
until a stray lightning flash reveals
a bat-tiger
at the window!
Knock knock, boo’s there!

THE DEPARTMENT MEETING
Joshua McKinney

Bobby again, from first grade,
with asthma and a slight limp
from polio and a recent burn
hatches a plan
to defeat the hideous spawn
of the jungle.
Riding his mighty
father’s shoulders like a mahout
he cries “Frankenfile forever!”
on a bipedal elephant,

Often, in these dreadful settlements,
I hear what passes for living music—
the sawing of toothpicks,
a cawing that will never be a crow.
Someone has given consent
to make a motion
to consider debating the merits
of giving consent. I’m afraid
I’ve missed something crucial.
Outside the window, some bored trees
march off to the movies.

as the un-dead childcare assistant
launches balloons
filled with holy
water and poisoned catnip
The explosion rips the flying
hell-beast apart, knocks
everyone down.
When parents and children awaken
To the cold ground
Frankenfile is gone,
having left only his toupee.
Welcome to the end.

202

203

ÚLTIMA CITA

LAST RENDEZVOUS

Concha Mendez

Concha Mendez
Translated from the Spanish by Christine Rosakranse

No había sol, ni luna, ni noche, ni día.
Un silencio frío
nadaba en el tiempo.

There was no sun, moon, night or day.
A cold silence
swam through time.

Y tus ojos no eran tus ojos
y los míos no sé de quién eran.
Para no mirarnos miramos a un cielo,
faltaban estrellas.

And your eyes were not your eyes 
and I don’t know who owned mine.
To not see ourselves, we looked away
to a heaven lacking stars.

Y tus brazos no eran tus brazos
y los míos no sé de quién eran.
Para no abrazarnos
quedamos inertes,
faltaban las fuerzas.

And your arms were not your arms
and I don’t know who owned mine.
To not embrace each other
we remained inert,
lacking the strength.

Porque era la última cita,
no se vieron las lágrimas nuestras.

Because it was our last rendezvous,
our tears never met.

204

205

NIÑO Y SOMBRAS

CHILD AND SHADOWS

Concha Mendez

Concha Mendez
Translated from the Spanish by Christine Rosakranse

1.

1.

Hacia qué cielo, niño
pasaste por mi sombra
dejando en mis entrañas 
en dolor, el recuerdo?
No vieron luz tus ojos.
Yo sí te vi en mi sueño 
a luz de cien auroras.
Yo sí te vi sin verte.
Tú, sangre de mi sangre,
centro de mi universo,
llenando con tu ausencia
mis horas desiguales.
Y después, tu partida
sin caricia posible
de tu mano chiquita,
sin conocer siquiera
la sonrisa del ángel.
Qué vacío dejaste,
al partir, en mis manos!
Qué silencio en mi sangre!
Ahora esa voz, que vence,
del más allá me llama
más imperiosamente
porque estás tú, niño.

To what heaven did you go, child
as you passed through my shadow
leaving the memory
in my aching entrails?
Your eyes never saw the light.
But I saw you without seeing you.
You, blood of my blood,
center of my universe,
filling with your absence
my fragmented hours.
And later, your departure
without any possible caress
from your tiny hand,
without even knowing
the angel’s smile.
When leaving, what emptiness 
you left in my hands!
What silence in my blood!
Now that voice, that conquers
from beyond, calls me
more imperiously
because it’s yours, child.

206

207

ANTES, ME ASOMABA
AL MAR

BEFORE, I WAS LEANING
OVER THE SEA

Concha Mendez

Concha Mendez
Translated from the Spanish by Christine Rosakranse

y el corazón en el pecho
se me ponía a cantar.

and the heart in the chest
made me start singing.

Y cuando el mar no veía,
era la tierra el pretexto
para vivir mi alegría.
Y otras veces, era el cielo,
o una canción, o unos ojos
lo que me alzaba del suelo.

And when I no longer saw the sea,
the earth was the pretext
for living my joy.
And other times, it was the sky,
or a song, or those eyes
that raised me from the ground.

Ahora cuando veo la mar,
escucho a mi corazón 
y se me pone a llorar…

Now when I see the sea,
I listen to my heart
and it makes me cry…

208

La Habana, 1939

Havana, 1939

209

2:00 AM

CONTAINMENT OF ROYALTY

Ahmunet Jessica Jordon

Ahmunet Jessica Jordon

No.
I know you’ve heard yes so many times before
but really, this time the answer is no.
My decision isn’t waxing or waning like the crescent moon
but rather full, heavy, weighted and bright.
Quite thoughtful to be exact.
Skillful like my love for you.
And if this is broken then let me say I will attack,
like a pack of hungry howling wolves
in search of their next meal.
This is not a game of trickery or outsmarting the other.
This is as simple as my answer.
As strong as the scorpion’s venomous sting
I am ready.
No.

I imagine you
sitting feet firmly on the floor
of the subway train.
You said when the newness runs off of the city
you will have to confess
you entered a shit storm of a decision.
Leaving lavender pods growing wildly.
To not remind you of the healthy Meyer lemon tree
growing in my garden.
I waited till you came back from Haiti.
Energizing others like you always do.
Sitting with you at the airport.
I watch the beauty behind your smile.
That anxious beauty
on the verge of transformation
I watch you fly.

210

211

THE HULK VS. 544
Bobby Neel Adams

HE WAS HUGE, not an ounce of fat on him. He drove a white ’70s GTO
muscle car with oversized wheels in the rear. He took drugs and sold anabolic
steroids and crystal meth. He shaved every hair on his body except those
on his thin blond head. He spent hours in front of the mirror, preening,
grimacing and admiring his etched body. He was a male prostitute, my
girlfriend Barbara’s next-door neighbor – the Hulk.

Before the Hulk, there was Arturo, a chubby man with a mustache
and two hearing aids. I didn’t care for Arturo because he was a gossipmonger
and engaged my girlfriend in backstabbing the neighbors. Since Barbara
didn’t see it that way, I avoided the two of them when they were chattering
away, like a couple of hens.

Barbara lived in a two-story concrete warehouse on Folsom Street,
South of Market, in San Francisco. It was the early ’80s and there were
multiple leather bars and sex clubs on every block. Half a block away was the
notorious Ringold Alley. It was exactly one block long, between 8th and 9th
Streets. This was the destination for lonely men who hadn’t picked someone
up before the bars closed at 2 a.m. Over the years, enough semen was spilt to
coat the alley three times over.

Barbara loved being the only woman in her building and loved the
neighborhood too, because she was never hassled. I, however, learned what
it felt like to be ogled by horny drunken men when I rode my bike over to
spend the night. I felt like a piece of chum in a sea of churning sharks. It was
creepy and creepier still, if someone was getting a blow job in the recess of the
doorway that I had to put my key into to pass.

Arturo was responsible for the Hulk becoming Barbara’s neighbor.
He paid the Hulk for sex and soon after brought him in as a roommate,
believing the Hulk was his boyfriend.

At one point Barbara’s and Arturo’s lofts had been one. But
somewhere down the line, a wall was raised, splitting it in two. The separated
lofts shared an electric meter, and the bill was split down the middle. This
arrangement worked fine until the Hulk arrived with a stereo system that
shook the common wall. Because of his work schedule and drug intake, night
became day and day became night, which meant that disco music could come
blasting at any hour. Soon, Arturo was driven out of his loft and moved into
another one on the opposite side of the building, leaving Barbara to deal with
the Hulk on her own.
212

On the night that Barbara’s mother came to visit, the Hulk cranked the
volume. Barbara pounded on the walls and then his front door. Either the
Hulk ignored her or simply couldn’t hear banging over the beat. To take care
of the problem, she shut him down at the electrical panel. Suddenly, her door
shuddered with each of his kicks. Rather than have the Hulk take the door off
its hinges, she opened it and 250 pounds of chiseled roid-rage burst into the
room, wearing bikini briefs.

“Turn my power back on, you fucking cunt!”

Barbara knew she was outgunned.

“Move. If you do it again, I’ll fucking kill you.”

Barbara’s mother was in shock. “Shall we call the police?” she asked
after he left.

“No, that will further enrage him.”

My father had a rancher friend north of Ft. Collins, Colorado, who
had a second ranch 40 miles away in Wyoming. Every fall, Adrian drove his
Wyoming cattle overland to Colorado for the winter. Being one of the last
ranchers to do this, I asked my father to see if Adrian would let me tag along.
My dad got a nod of the head. Adrian rarely spoke unless it was absolutely
necessary. I bought a one-way ticket intending to buy a car and drive it back
to San Francisco. Barbara and I were splitting the cost of the car.

I woke at 5 a.m. and drove to Adrian’s house. We ferried the horse
trailers to the Wyoming ranch where I was given Penny the most docile horse.
Luckily Penny knew more about what was going on than I did. If a cow cut
from the herd near me, my horse would trot over to bring her back in with the
others. By lunch I was so sore I could hardly walk. Adrian’s daughter met us at
an underpass with a cooler containing bologna sandwiches on white bread. I
never insulted them with the fact that I was a vegetarian. I quietly swallowed
my first meat in eight years and, surrounded by beef, examined the irony of it.
That evening I was exhausted and told Adrian that there was no way I could
last in the saddle. He almost smiled and nodded his head acknowledging that
he was loosing his fifth wheel.

Soon after, I found a 1959, 544 Volvo and called Barbara. She left it to my
judgment, so I purchased the car and was on the road several days later. When I
reached San Francisco, I went directly to Barbara’s loft.

“Wow, it’s super cute,” she exclaimed. “Let’s go to Orr Hot Springs this
weekend.”

“Great.”

Besides being a couple, we also shared a photo studio two buildings
down from her loft. Most of the time we kept the 544 near her house and our
studio. If we couldn’t find a legal parking place, we could usually get away with
parking in Rodgers Alley, as most of the meter maids avoided it.

One day Barbara parked the 544 in the alley near the open garage. Later
we heard the rumble of the GTO. The Hulk drove his muscle car aggressively and
squealed his tires turning quickly into the alley and again going into the garage.

Five minutes went by and our phone rang. Jim, a neighbor, announced,
“The Hulk is kicking the shit out of your car. I think he clipped it turning into the
garage.”
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We ran to the alley and there was a huge dent in the driver’s side
door and another in the rear quarter panel. Jim leaned out his window. “He
went completely nuts. He was screaming curses at your car, kicking it over
and over.”

“Thanks, Jim. I’m calling the cops.”

Five minutes later, a police car rolled with a male and female cop.
Barbara explained the situation.

“Be careful,” I said. “He’s huge and unpredictable.”

“Do you want us to arrest him?”

“Definitely.”

“He will probably be released within three hours.”

“Go for it.”

Barbara led the cops to the Hulk’s door and returned to the alley
where we waited. Several minutes later they led Hulk to their car in his bikini
briefs. It took two pairs of cuffs and Hulk was completely humiliated, crying
like a baby. Arrested by a female, and not given the opportunity to put on a
pair of pants, his steroid-shrunken junk was exposed for all the world to see.

Several weeks later the phone rang. “Hi, I’m public defender Janice
M. I represent Darnell B.”

“Who’s that?”

“The man that accosted your car.”

“Oh, the Hulk.”

The public defender laughed. “Darnell is worried about having a
criminal record and is wondering if we could come to some sort of agreement
whereby you would drop charges?”

“Sure, if he pays for the repairs on our car.”

“How much money would that take?”

“I had one estimate for $800 and another for $950 – so $800.

“Let me get back to Darnell.”

Ten minutes and the phone rang again. “Hi, it’s public defender Janice
M. Listen, Darnell thinks $800 is too much money. My client is unemployed
and short of funds.”

“The Hulk may not pay taxes or have a degree in pharmacology
or massage therapy. But the Hulk makes money and none of it is legal. He
probably makes more money than you. Ask him what that beeper is for?”

“Got it. I’ll see what I can do.”

Another five minutes went by and the phone rang. “You did it. He’s
willing to pay.”

“I don’t want to see that guy.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll get the money and you can retrieve it tomorrow at
my office on Bryant Street.”

“Cool.”

The next day I walked over to Janice’s office to get the envelope of
cash. Janice was a brassy, beautiful lady. We shook hands. “You’ve got an
interesting client,” I told her.

“And you’ve got a set of cojones. I didn’t think you’d get this money.”

“I have a feeling the Hulk got picked on when he was a kid and reinvented himself so that he could do the bullying.”
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“Interesting theory.”
“Came from the back of a comic book.”

215

THE ROLE OF HUMANISM
AND SUSTAINABILITY
IN THE NEXT
AMERICAN DREAM
Nikita Nelin

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”

—Robert Browning
MAYBE I AM what’s wrong with our society today. At least that’s what the
new school of economic specialization would have us believe: that earning
power moves our society forward and wrenches the community toward
expansion, like an overfed giant, uncommitted to a concern for those spaces
it shoves itself into. I can’t help but believe that nuance, perception, empathy
and reciprocity, are essential for a sustainable human being. Where humans
are concerned, humanism is the only mechanism that makes sense to me.

Series of Episodes:

Episode 1: I wake up in complete darkness to find myself clawing
against a wooden panel and tearing down a curtain rod, along with the thin
fabric that hangs from it. The structure that houses my sleep is shaking with
the momentum of my waking.

Episode 2: I dream we are animals, and from our network of
encounters, complex structures emerge: culture, architecture, art, systems of
currency. But, a voice tells me, we have to meet. Without gathering, we only
have chaos; we are anchorless.

Episode 3: There is a room in Minnesota that absorbs 99.9% of all
sound. Without anything to grab onto, my mind envelops itself. In this
vacuum, I become the sound. No one can last longer then 40 minutes without
going mad, hearing voices in the corner, the mind tangled up in its outermost
void.

I love these episodes. They are instructive for me concerning my own
isolation and potential. They prove to me that our reality is plastic, adjustable.
I have been obsessed with transcendence ever since my mother and I
emigrated from what was then the Soviet Union. I was nine—an age just past
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when one thinks the world is an ego extension of oneself but newly coming
into that phase when one starts to draw out the topography of the world by
the familiar and the not. Simply to cross the line of the familiar, at that age, is
transcendence.

When my mother reported that we were leaving, I could barely grasp
one half of this concept. We were abandoning our family and friends forever;
“abandonment” was still a foreign word. And yet I clearly understood that
without my past, without the mirrors of home which had contoured to me
– or to which I contoured – I could be anything.

I could only look forward. And I was thrilled by this. I felt like a
young and foolish god. It was the first time I defined transcendence – I went
beyond the world’s reflection of me. And I became obsessed with the new
structures that take place on the flip side of the familiar.

As we made our way across Europe, I would wake up in a different
country every few months. For a long time, I oriented myself by the otherness
of the language around me. In America, we eventually stayed long enough
for a sense of abandonment to take hold. Along with an understanding that
my past lives on in me (even if it is thousands of miles away), I was confronted
with a new idea: the American dream. It was an idea perfectly shaped for my
constitution, as an outsider and a dreamer. Along with the past, and the dream,
I became witness to the chasm between.

Which brings me back to Robert Browning, a discovery I made in
America.

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven
for?” A close reading of the line suggests two things. First, the action: We must
keep reaching. And then, the ballast: We must have something to reach for.

As I grew up, I kept searching for further transcendence. Without an
anchor I leaned into darker places: drugs and other subcultures that offered
themselves up as alternatives to the institutionalized dream. I wanted to
believe that I was moving “toward” something, when in truth, my movement
continued to be “away from,” as when I left the Soviet Union. Semantically, as
well as practically, I’d lost consciousness. I wanted to surrender it. I wanted an
escape from the chasm. My idols were the ghosts who occupied the Chelsea
Hotel—Sid Vicious, Dylan Thomas, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin. I reached far
enough, I almost lost everything.

In the Power of Myth, Bill Moyers asks Joseph Campbell:

“Do you think it is this denial of transcendence in our society that
has turned so many young people to the use of drugs?

“Absolutely, it is the way in,” Campbell replies.

For many of us, what we call heavy partying is not exactly a
celebration. Celebration suggests something solid and sustainable, having
a thing to celebrate. Instead, we often gather in like-mindedness to lose
ourselves—to escape the void of some dream.

Following a bad car accident at the turn of the millennium, I came
to abandon this as yet another past. With the help of a decisive circuit court
judge, I agreed to close that path.

I was cornered. To find a new path, I opted for consciousness, the search
of transcendence. This seemed a more sustainable route – one with a future.
217

I began to define consciousness through knowledge, the little I knew
versus what I hoped to learn. The more I knew of the world, the more I could
decipher its systems and the greater my consciousness. I wanted to participate.
I went back to school and slowly donned the attitude of academia. Knowledge
became my goal. I wanted to grasp the nuances of being human – that was the
job that dangled elusively before me in some ill-defined future.

Turns out the shaping of a mind is also a big business proposition.
I received some degrees, conducted research through powerful institutions,
and was given license to teach other people’s kids. More and more, I
became skeptical of academic skepticism—a thing can only be understood
when removed from the heart of the observer. As if some surgery had to
be performed to split the world down into subject and object, a witness
divorced from that which he/she witnesses. The measurements (intention
and empathy) are discarded as outliers. The principal of certainty is subject
to quarter earnings and branding, and other pseudo Machiavellian politics.
In academia you can acquaint yourself with revolutionary thoughts but if
you stray too far from the norm you are in danger of being abandoned by the
institution—the mirrors of home.

So I became an adventurer again, led by the books which shaped my
earliest dreams, Gulliver’s Travels, Don Quixote, The Little Prince, and I left
my academic home. Along the way I lost, or got rid of everything I owned: a
car, a job, a New York apartment and the possessions that filled the flat, even
a small library. Divestment made me quick for travel.

It was the summer of 2012, on the heels of the Occupy movement. I’d
been invited to work on, and write about, a large-scale art project at Burning
Man. That project was titled Burn Wall Street. Coming from the Northeast,
I’d only loosely imagined Burning Man before this moment. A convergence
of art and political thought brought me to the event.

Episode 1: I wake up in the middle of the night completely disoriented,
in a lightless box, trying to tear my way out. I bring down a curtain rod and
my fingers tear at a wooden wall. Everything is rocking with my movements.
There is a narrow strip of illumination, not from anything natural, but from
one of the 40 foot tall construction lights outside, which seep into my trailer
as I begin, slowly, to orient myself.

That’s how I arrive. Whether it is a New York apartment, a shotgun
house in the Bayou, a tent in upstate New York, or a dusty trailer in a Nevada
desert. Half unconscious, I try to tear my way out before I can understand
any new geography of home. In a sense we all do this. We grapple by will,
intellect – or some approximation with the divine – in our struggle to define
the dimensions of what we refer to as here.

The Burn Wall Street project was a three-city-block build, satirizing
key Wall Street institutions. Five large buildings were erected, graffitied,
and opened up for the Burning Man public to mount, scream at, and pin
foreclosure notices on.

The feeling of change is the University of hope, the “consciousness”
where new dreams are fostered and old ones are brought back, reconsidered.
I worked on the Burn Wall Street project for almost a month. I was one of the
first 300 people to arrive in the desert. With enough time passing, I can now
218

say what I felt. I felt outrage, as did others participating in Burn Wall Street as
well as at Occupy earlier in the year. I and others around me, seemed to feel
the nation was waking up. We felt chaos!

As with any such large installation, the project was mired in technical
complications and an exhausted crew. The site ran like an army outpost
with shouting disagreements and threats to toss anyone who abandoned the
project for any length of time. To be expelled from the desert itself – it felt
biblical.

A simple dynamic, this movement of revolutions. The disempowered
splinter from those in power, believing their outrage to be the cure. If a new
faction succeeds, it will certainly replicate the earlier model and again divide
hierarchically. Greed is the rig we need to turn away from those mirrors of
self-examination.

I watched Wall Street burn, but the sense was not of elation or
release. And when it burned, there it was, all of our anger and dissolution to
be observed, before the ash rained back down on us.

Episode 2: Watching the Burn Wall Street Project actually burn,
stood in contrast to much of what else I witnessed at Burning Man. There
is a magic to watching a society rise up from dust so quickly, an experience
strangely similar to seeing the slow emerging sunrise of the desert with a
lover at your side. Burning Man is open for everyone to have his/her own
experience, in the midst of, and along with, everyone else. It is a shamanic
journey – one finds the vision one needs. Most arrive with an intent to
engage, to give, and to openly receive. At Burning Man this deliberateness is
supported by architectural structures – the principals of the community. The
intention is also supported by physical space – the architecture inspires one
to rethink the world. The ultimate currency at Burning Man is gratitude. One
gives without loss, one receives without shame. We are animals. From our
cohabitation, complex structures emerge: culture, architecture, art, systems
of currency.

But we have to meet.

Some time after Burning Man, I sat with an artist and mother of two,
who was active in the politics of the ’60s. We talked about Occupy, and Burn
Wall Street as I understood them, and about the late ’60s and early ’70s, by
her firsthand account. She also told me about a recent conversation with an
old friend.

“Do you really want to be around to see the bloom of our ideals?” he
asked her.

Afterwards, we both sat quietly, imagining what that bloom might
look like today.

It starts with “consciousness.”

Equality, free love, community, the insistent questioning of authority,
and other idiosyncrasies of the ’60s come to mind. At times optimistic, at
times hedonistic. Stalled ideals. American society was not yet ready for what
its flower children thought, and maybe neither were the flower children.
Some, in my generation, Gen Xers as we’re called, are carefully picking apart
the seeds of that bloom. We are looking for a more sustainable future. Some
of those flower children grew tired of their struggle for change and took seats
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at the table in an established America. But some of their children grew up
with the urge to integrate many of their parents’ earlier ideals with their own.
And a new immigrant class also entered America, called here in part by a
more human-centered American dream. We are deciphering what the new
dream looks like.

That “consciousness” may be the final currency of “being” itself.
Greed, rage, love, safety, adventure, knowledge, power – these are synonyms
for the processes of consciousness. Technology, entertainment, globalization,
have fueled our imagination, as well as our discontent. They help reveal the
shape of the chasm between dream and action. We have to meet. Without
that encounter, we have a soundless void.

Something has happened in the last 13 years, and the word
“sustainability” has bloomed from its imprisonment in academia, perhaps
out of the wistfulness of the counter culture of the ’60s. Today, the idea of
sustainability is a part of popular consciousness—where politics, culture, and
economics meet. We have the word now. We have ability to question and
imagine what it can imply. Humanism was its predecessor, a foundation that
can guide our progress.
Episode 4: Episodes end.

If you really want to question reality, you’ve got to go all in. But
you need an anchor and a light to transcend the void. Sustainability is that
anchor, and humanism its light. The light reaches beyond a single generation,
beyond the limits of what we can experience ourselves. Well beyond just a
series of scribbled-down episodes. You need a new and conscious narrative.

One with a future.

220

HEART OF DARKNESS:
ODYSSEY ON A BICYCLE
Joe Donohoe

BY THE TIME we got to Pittsburg, the sun was rising over the factories
and Delta. We blinked out into what looked like an Army of the Damned.
Hundreds of people were starting their morning commute. Not a soul among
them was smiling. It stunned me how unhappy everyone looked, these
suburbanites with homes and Starbucks thermoses. The American dream
looked depressed. By contrast the three of us were smiling, pushing our
bicycles toward the parking lot. If the zombie army we were confronting had
the will or energy, it would probably have killed us on principle.

We were starting our week-long journey into the wild, bicycling from
San Francisco to Yosemite National Park. This would be a journey of 200
crow miles (probably more like 250, since we weren’t taking major highways
and had to negotiate our route around rivers and farms) and 3966 feet (with
thousands of feet of uphill and downhill in between), all powered by our
own human effort. We got going at 5 a.m... Our pretty gear bikes (we valued
aesthetics), loaded with a couple hundred pounds of gear, felt like tanks as we
pedaled down Mission Street. We had to get an early start so we could take
BART to the Pittsburg Bay Point station before rush hour, when bicycles were
banned in favor of hard-working honest people. We took the elevator down
to the platform at 24th Street and loaded our weary but expectant selves onto
the train. The train ride was about an hour out.

After clearing the tide of infernal commuters, we biked down
through the low hills, along irrigation canals and between comfortable
California “planned” communities. By around noon we were out in the great
flat plain of the San Joaquin Valley behind Mt. Diablo.

Mike had his first flat by a San Joaquin County fruit stand. He had a
couple more. The bane of a bicyclist in the valley is the “goat’s head,” a nasty
thorn weed that blows all over the place and exists only to puncture bicycle
tires. By the time Mike had a third flat, Brongo said:

“I expected you to be better prepared.”

“Jesus, Brongo, these things happen,” I said.

“Brongo, I used to make jets for United Airlines,” Mike snapped.

“And I would expect more from you,” Brongo smiled.

Later, when my derailleur broke, I got holy hell too.

After about 45 miles and six hours, we were near Caswell State Park
on the Stanislaus River, a preserved riparian landscape of oak and cottonwood
favored by water fowl and mosquitoes; we were meandering lazily across the
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pretty checkered farm land. Without my derailleur, I was only able to bike
in one gear. This wasn’t a problem in the valley, but it would be when we
needed to climb. After miles of biking, every dip in the road would send a jolt
of electricity up my arms that was an interesting sensation, although possibly
not good for me. We stopped in a local watering hole near a shooting range
and water toasted our appreciation that we were in the country. In the cinderblock tavern, everything said “rural” rather than “urban.” There were two
beers available: MGD and Coors Lite. There was also a supply of pigskins
for sale on the bar for eating. Outside of Chinatown, you didn’t see pigskin
in San Francisco packaged like that – whole boar-back deep-fried in dusty
plastic. We bought canned beans and other supplies, and biked to the park,
the sound of guns from the shooting range serenading us on our way. At
Caswell Park, Brongo started giving orders.

“Okay, Mike, get firewood. Joe, get the camp in order.”

Mike and I ignored him and worked on our bikes.

When Brongo got back, he said, “I thought I said to get mobilized.”

We ignored him some more.

To ward off mosquitoes, as the twilight hit, Brongo boiled eucalyptus
leaves. He read somewhere that it was an effective repellent. Turned out it
wasn’t.

Mike and I bought snow-rated sleeping bags since, in late March,
there would still be snow on the ground higher up. Brongo thought it was
more faithful to the spirit of our journey to wrap himself in garbage bags.

I liked Brongo. He lived with Mike in a retail space that doubled as a
theater and launched endless jeremiads against contemporary decadence. He
was like a hippie version of an AM radio talk jock, or blogger. Brongo talked
a way that few people talked anymore. No one used words like “bourgeois,”
or spoke of needing to get away from “snivilization.” Brongo pulled it off
though. Granted, I grew up in California, and was inoculated against acidinspired Ken Kesey-isms early on. Brongo was from the Midwest, and often
seemed like he was trying to out-Californicate the Californians. I should not
have been that impressed by his righteous fake-Wobblie polemics, but in an
era of ubiquitous yuppies, I was taken.

The three of us were in our early 30s. I had just broken up with my
sexy Goth girlfriend from Los Angeles. She was in advertising, and she never
had any time for me. She ended up with an earthy lesbian from Boulder, and
they bought a house together. I kept on renting. Mike and Brongo were in
similar situations. We had no girlfriends, no property, and were blessed with
flexible career paths. That’s when we decided to take this ride and make a
multimedia documentary about it with non cutting-edge technology: super-8
film camera (taped to Mike’s helmet), an analog tape recorder, and a 35 mm.
SLR. We also had camping gear, tools, food, underwear, and suntan lotion. It
was March of 2001. Our lives seemed boring and oppressive, and we wanted to
do something about it. Nobody was thinking that this particular year would
end with jets slamming into the World Trade Center. In the innocence of the
century, it still seemed possible to indulge in Arcadian idylls.

My tribe, in our naïve cynicism, wanted to see ourselves as
“alternative.” We thought that it was possible to live off the beaten path,
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but in an urban setting. I could
drive cab and write. Brongo, a
former bike messenger friend,
could cook. Mike could build
art houses and bicycles, and we
could live very well within our
means doing these things. The
economics of technology-driven
capitalism seemed to not have
room for our bohemian ideas.
We wanted to do something that
said “Here we are!”

We needed a ritual of
demonstration and discovery.
Riding bikes all over the Bay
Area and discovering little
microclimates of culture seemed
to be a way to do it. I thought
we should do something really
gonzo though. Why not ride
bicycles to Yosemite National
Park? I planted the seed, but
Brongo watered it.

Brongo liked to be in
charge, give orders. His bossy
nature was forgivable because he
always seemed to have so much obscure functional knowledge. If I needed a
kick-ass curry recipe, Brongo could provide it – down to the molecular level.
And he liked to bike, a vice that could keep him in shape rather than break
him down. He was hell-bent on doing the Yosemite ride.

We plotted for months and thought about the great historical
connections we could make, thought about the social history of the city versus
the social history of the San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Nevada. I read Rebecca
Solnit’s Savage Dreams, about Yosemite and the Far West. Savage Dreams has
a long passage about the Mariposa Indian War, a forgotten vigilante action
organized by miners against the Awahneechee Miwok tribe of Yosemite
Valley that led to the discovery of that valley, and the displacement of a tribe
from its homeland. My family had a long history of their own in Yosemite.
My grandfather was a mountain doctor who spoke Miwok and hunted with
the Awahneechee. My grandfather took the side of the Miwok over what he
described as the “English” government. Irishmen are sentimental toward
underdogs. And speaking of dogs, occasionally my grandfather ate dog with
the Indians.

Brongo, Mike, and I wouldn’t eat dog, but we would travel through time.

Already in the planning stages, there were problems. Brongo would
show me a California road atlas and ask what I thought about one particular
road. I would explain, “That’s a mountain gorge, probably not doable. I’ve
got a little over a week before I have to be back to work.” This would irritate
223

Brongo. Alternatively, he asked me about a low range of hills with a Spanish
name.

“Oh those hills are full of caves where the Mexican bandit Joaquin
Murrieta used to hide out.”

That thought excited Brongo. But I pointed out that we couldn’t do
everything. This irritated him.

“No!” he shouted. He took a marker and made angry circles on the
atlas. This happened every time I tried to plan out the route with him. Hence,
Brongo got what he wanted: He mapped out the entire route all by himself
without any more input from me or Mike. We would just have to follow him
and hope for the best.

The second day we rode out of Caswell. Brongo insisted we try a
route through the cottonwoods that proved to be a dead end.

“Everybody makes mistakes,” he said and shrugged it off.

We rode into Tracy, bought auto parts at the Pep Boys to fix my
derailleur. Neither Mike nor I let Brongo participate in the repairs. He didn’t
like being excluded. To punish us both, he set out on a forced ride due east
along the Hatch Road from the west side of the valley to the foothills of the
Sierras on the east. Then we rode up irrigation canals, past cattle ranches,
dairy farms, feed lots, and acres of fruit trees – all the agricultural abundance
of the Great Valley.

I love long-haul rides. They’re punishing but you get to feel free.
Your mind and perspective focuses on, say, the line of thunderheads above
a hazy horizon marking the not-always-visible chain of the Sierras. It’s like a
pilgrim’s quest for the Eternal City. But the purifying nature of the process is
as important as the arrival, no matter how sore you are when you’re done.

At one point Brongo decided we needed to cross a canal. He had
the idea that we should lay some discarded planks across and make a bridge.
Canals are hard to get out of if you fall into them. Kids drown in them every
year. Going Navy CB seemed a dicey proposition, but it was either that or
double back.

“Come on!” Brongo yelled grabbing a plank, his face like a Tibetan
demon.

“Brongo, calm down. Okay?” Mike suggested. I was glad Mike was
there. He had a far greater capacity for diplomacy than I did. We built the
bridge and gingerly pushed our bikes over the canal. In the town of Hickman,
we bought V8s at a small market from an attractive mother and daughter,
feeling all sweaty and spent but also really macho. The women, maybe bored,
seemed to appreciate us. “You don’t want to hook up with them,” Brongo
said. “Everybody out here does speed.”

We camped that night in a park along the Tuolomne in a bowl of
rolling hills.

“Where’s my pot!” Brongo suddenly demanded as Mike and I
returned with fire wood.

Brongo repeated himself: “Where’s my pot?”

We said nothing as he tore through his panniers. We had agreed to
not drink alcohol until Yosemite, but we said nothing about other inebriates.
224

“I haven’t touched it,” I said.

Mike’s poison was top-shelf vodka martinis. Pot was for hippies in
his book.

Brongo looked at us like we had just urinated in his water.

“Oh wait, here it is. Never mind,” he said.

The next morning, as the sun peaked from behind the summit,
Brongo came up and started trying to instruct me on how to make coffee.

“Brongo,” I said, “stop giving so many orders.”

Mike crawled out of his tent and backed me up.

Brongo took offense and flew off on his own before we could get
ready to join him. He was a much faster rider than either of us, so it was
unlikely that we could catch up. Because we couldn’t exactly just leave him,
we followed, navigating our way from Snelling to La Grange in the low hills,
seeing the occasional golden eagle and ubiquitous turkey vultures, and a
rolling, grassy country that seemed as big as any in Texas or Montana, and
following Brongo’s trail into the mountains. In La Grange, old cowboys gave
us strange looks as they discussed bypass surgery and horse auctions with one
another. Mike was wearing black nail polish, something bike messengers did
in the city to obscure the signs of grease. The cowboys didn’t get it. Just riding
bicycles around in the foothills made us look weird.

We ended up walking our bikes up the 2000-foot rise, and then rode
down the next 1,500, that separates the Big Valley from the small valley of
Bear, where Mexican-American War hero John Fremont (or opportunistic
bastard, depending on which side of that skirmish you’re on) established
a headquarters for his sprawling Mariposa cattle ranch in 1850. We bought
canned turkey chili in the old general store and were definitely in mountain
country now. Riding out to our appointed rendezvous in Hell’s Hollow, a
campsite off of Highway 49 on the Merced River that flows from Yosemite
Valley, a redneck sheriff’s deputy yelled out from his pickup, “Boy you guys
are slow, your buddy is way ahead of you.”

“Well we’re just enjoying ourselves and not trying to prove anything,”
I shouted back.

“The only exercise that motherfucker gets is shouldering a deer
rifle,” I said to Mike, smugly.

We camped on the south side of the river. Brongo, it turned out, was
freezing his butt off under a pile of garbage-bag bedding, on the north bank,
and he called to us to meet in the morning. Some friendly locals helped us
build a fire then told us about Ku Klux Klan rallies in Mariposa during the
’90s. They didn’t approve, they just noticed ’em. They were brake and lamp
specialists and were impressed that we had ridden bikes so far. One said that
the weirdest thing he ever saw in his life was in San Francisco: a gay skinhead.

The epic height of Brongo’s plan was to bushwack up the Merced
River between Hell’s Hallow and Bryceburg, bypassing the climb and descent
to Mariposa. It looked good on the Internet. There was an old railroad bed that
could be easily traversed, or so we thought. As it turned out, the route was
majorly disrupted by the flood of 1997. We met with Brongo, who apologized,
cooked up steaks for us on the spot, and produced a bottle of red wine. He
said he realized he had been arrogant. He also said that a bee had stung him
225

on the ass that morning, and
he took this as a sign from God
that he should chill. We took his
acknowledgment and report in
stride, and proceeded together
up the canyon. The route was
13 miles. We figured there were
some rough parts but we could
tough it out through them until
we came to the flat railroad bed.
That would allow us to casually
ride onto Highway 140.

As it turned out, it
was all rough patch. Landslide
and washout. We pushed
our bikes until we came to an
insurmountable barrier where
we would have to unload the
bikes and port everything over
the landslide in relays. This
happened about 20 times. By the
time we got to a creek crossing
and I accidentally tossed my
sleeping bag right into the river,
I was almost too tired to care. At
sunset we ate the last of our oatmeal and collapsed in the middle of the trail.
It was a fitful night of sleep.

After several hours next morning, we finally made it to the road. Mike
and I thanked Brongo for picking such a great route. Riding on asphalt was
heaven compared with what we had been through. By the time we got to El
Portal­—pronounced by the locals as “Elpertell” (where Carey Stayner worked
as a handyman when not moonlighting as a serial killer), we had entered a
different topography. Here the Merced River Canyon starts looking like
Yosemite Valley. Massive smooth gray granite walls loom to the north and
the south, and the wild wheat and oak/Coulter pine hills are replaced with
Ponderosa and different species of oak. It’s good country for me. El Portal is
the final town before the national park, so we celebrated with Sierra Nevada
Pale Ale and barbeque. The next morning we commenced our final ascent to
the valley, hung over.

There is a wild feeling to be had coming into Yosemite, up the river.
This is the same route taken by the Mariposa Battalion chasing the Indians.
Generations of tourists, artists, naturalists, and park workers have taken it
since. Giant white boulders everywhere, which stubborn pine and aspen
attempt to grow through. And always, above, the slick granite cliffs towering
like the pristine conscience of Mother Nature, crowned in pine. For me it’s
intoxicating. Even so, it’s hard work on a bike. Mike seemed to be suffering
the worst, and we mostly walked up the steep grade. We’d been on the road
for five days.
226

We finally made the park entrance and were greeted by a ranger.
Mike filmed the ride in, and I tape-recorded sound effects like trains in the
valley and the rushing river for this epic travel film we were making. Even
then, I suspected this film might never see the light of day. By the time we met
the famous and awe-inspiring view, riding freely across the valley floor, it was
clearly worth it.

Until Brongo rear-ended me.

“Why didn’t you watch where I was going?” he asked.

I just looked at Brongo.

We made camp and found a registered site easily – it was too early
in the year for the tourist rush. I told Mike and Brongo that my sister was
married to a ranger and lived in the valley. She’d be happy to see us, I said.

As it turned out, this was the case.

My sister is an above-average landscape painter whose heart is always
in Yosemite, regardless of where she is. She was overjoyed to hear from us
and committed to making salmon barbeque. Her husband, an uptight law
enforcement ranger, was not overjoyed to see us.

We ate salmon underneath Yosemite Falls. Later we played Star Wars
Monopoly with my sister’s kids. Every so often my brother-in-law would pop
back in (he found a quick excuse to leave when we showed up). He seemed
upset that we were still there and disappeared again.

That night we rode in the moonlight back to camp in the Ponderosas.

“You’re brother-in-law is cool,” Brongo said.

Out of the three of us, my brother-in-law would probably like Brongo
the least, but I didn’t explore that further.

One of our neighbors in camp was an Eskimo dude named Doug
who was visiting all the national parks in America with his wife. He told us
that he grew up in an underground military city in Mountain View, since his
dad was in the U.S. Air Force. When he was a teenager he got into Ecstasy
and drug dealing, became homeless, and had to flee to Missouri to get his shit
together. He never wanted to live in California again, he said. Now he was a
construction foreman, and he said that sometimes the Ku Klux Klan would
come to his work sites to invite people to White Pride picnics. They would
even invite him, because they didn’t have any problem with Eskimos.

“I’ve met some pretty interesting racists,” Doug said.

For two days Mike and I explored the valley together. We found
Brongo, now ensconced in the Awahnee Hotel bar. The Awahnee bar was
early 20th Century Spanish-deco eye candy. It became the model for interior
sets of Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining.
Sometimes in the lounge, around twilight, bats fly in from the meadow, and
deer, as tame as domestic animals, grouse outside the large glass doors. The
light turns roseate, then violet, in the long afternoon alpenglow. On our third
day in the valley, we hiked to the top of the North Rim, along Yosemite Falls.
When we reached the top it began to snow. At that altitude, the snow flakes
drifted up to our faces in the crosswinds, back-dropped by the shadowy blue
of the south wall. A range of snowy domes stood in the distance.

“I’ve never seen a landscape like this,” Brongo said. “We need to
leave! You don’t know what these mountains are like.” Of course I grew up
227

here, but kept my peace, and we hiked back down.

It’s about a 10-mile trip straight up and down. Mike was hurting,
so we stopped for him to Tiger Balm his knees. Despite his apology earlier,
Brongo needed to be in charge still. And since I was walking faster than he
was, this was exasperating. He would run off trail in order to cut in front of
me, risking a 1500-foot plunge off loose gravel doing so, before getting back on
the trail. Then he would quickly select a boulder to sit on, as I came around
the bend, like a samurai lord, as if he had been impatiently waiting for us to
catch up.

We returned via bus to train, disembarking in Emeryville, but not
before Brongo decided to challenge the train staff on the seating arrangements.
He lost that one. When we got back to San Francisco, Brongo announced that
he would ride out to Marin County and live on the beach for a few days, after
making a lean-to out of driftwood. As we understood by then, Brongo just
had to do that little bit extra, all the time.

This was one of the great experiences of my life, riding 250 miles over
five days, much of it over improvised ground. I’m glad I did it. But I never
rode with Brongo again. He was the fire that got us going, but turns out I need
more efficient fuel. And a mentor I don’t want to garrote.

228

ARTISTS
WE’RE
CURRENTLY
WATCHING

229

MAYA HAYUK

MAYA HAYUK

Chemtrails Miami, 2013, 15’ by 50’, latex and spray paint
Wynwood Walls, Miami, Florida
Photography by Martha Cooper

All Access, 2013, 50’ by 130’, latex and spray paint on parking garage
Cologne, Germany
Photography by Robert Winter

HEIDRUN SCHMIDT

KELLY ALLEN

Guides, 2011, 10” x 8”, bristol paper and black ink

owlmouthsucculent, 2013, 48” x 36”, oil on canvas

MARCELLA KROLL

RORRO BERJANO

Gayatri & Durga, 2013, 12” x 12”, mixed media

Cristo, Wild Style, 2010, 126” x 98.4”, self-illuminated with led framework.
Poliptical, mixed technique over wood and linen

PATRYCE BAK

PATRYCE BAK

Teenage Euphoria, 2010, 40” by 40”, c-print

Room after a room., 2010, 20” by 24”, c-print

BRITTANY POWELL PARICH

BRITTANY POWELL PARICH

Moss Stripes, 2013, photograph of site specific sculpture
made by removing moss from trees
Hill Trail at Djerassi Resident Artists Program

Moss Stripes, 2013, photograph of site specific sculpture
made by removing moss from trees
Hill Trail at Djerassi Resident Artists Program

STEVEN JOHNSON LEYBA

STEVEN JOHNSON LEYBA

Hollie Alchemical POORtrait, 2013, oil over acrylic over collage on canvas
with glass beads and blood

D. Faust Mini Alchemical POORtrait, 2013, oil over acrylic over collage on
canvas with glass beads and blood

BEATRICE WANJIKU

BEATRICE WANJIKU

The Strangeness of my Madness, 2014, diptych

The Strangeness of my Madness II, 2014, diptych

A CHOREOGRAPHY OF PAINTING
Rachel Youens

FRIENDS ARE HARD to catch up with, but once at the studio, it takes little
encouragement for my sitters to chat while I scratch away at the easel. Soon
after her arrival, Lori Ortiz, herself a painter, sat down and threw her leg over
the arm of the swivel chair, with her sienna hair draped to her shoulders.
Our few hours of collaboration has retained a presence in both of our lives.
Though I don’t recall this, she recently said of that sitting, “After all, you were
the one to suggest I write about art.” The art form Lori writes about is dance.
I crave seeing dance, even more than the dramatic psychology of theater. I
connect to the wordlessness of the human body, in which pairs, or groups of
dancers spin around a center point between them. Or – striding across the
floor with equilibrium – those dancers might express lightness and grace just
with the hollow sound of their slippers on the proscenium floor.

But back to the face and to portraiture. If I am a choreographer, it is
of the face. I used to be conflicted about whether to paint a portrait or to paint
a still life. After all, still lifes are dead – nature morte; portraits are alive – nature
vivant. I love having people visit me for the anxious pleasures this incurs on
both sides of performance – like seeing my first unsure blotches of tone turn
into character or standing aside when the sitter first sees his/her own picture.
When setting up a still life, I am keen to add a biscuit or a pear to the table,
which changes the character of the larger event. When such stuff is pushed
around, the incidental object knowingly rearranges itself, finding its place
despite my clumsiness. With portraiture such rearrangements are shared collaboratively.

The acts of painting a face and painting a still life have much in common. Breathing deeply, positioning the subject, placing the props, and determining distance, grasping at the differences between truthfulness and style.
All in all, the parallels of expression and arrangement draw on a sequence
of circumstances, not nature morte or vivant, but all in motion, intrinsically
alive, containing flashes of beauty between the tempos of andante and allegro
vivante.

RACHEL YOUENS
Lori, 1999, 28” x 22”, oil on linen

245

CONTRIBUTORS

MASTER of
FINE ARTS
Focus on your own practice in a vibrant, interdisciplinary
setting in the heart of San Francisco. In this two year, 48-unit
weekend intensive program you will complete one or more of
the following:
• a book-length manuscript or chapbook
• a visual arts exhibition
• an evening-length performance
• a social justice/community arts project
We offer intimate class sizes; mentoring with outstanding,
committed faculty; diverse approaches to art-making;
direct and constant access to the Bay Area art scene.

Now accepting applications
for Spring 2015.
ciis.edu/mfa
Photos: top, l. to r. Experiencing Skateboarding in Kabul, Nadia Soraya Hennrich, photo,
August 2009; Island People on Blue Mountain VI, Mildred Howard, monoprint on found
paper with collage, 2012; 1001 Black Men: # 494, Ajuan Mance, digital, 2013; middle
l. Earl, Hands, Fish, Mother Superior, Glass, Chris Sullivan film still from Consuming
Spirits, 2012, photo by Taylor Glascock, 2012; bottom l. Erika Chong Shuch, photo by
Pak Han.

246

BOBBY NEEL ADAMS recently escaped New York and now lives in the
mountains, minutes from the Mexico border, with Roy Orbison Jr. Jr., a
Spanish-speaking dog. He is known as a photographer and began writing
non-fiction in his mid-fifties. Not known for smart career choices, he is very
happy that his fourth story is being published – even though he only got paid
for one – a reprint.  
KELLY ALLEN paints, draws, and uses textiles to process the human
condition and satiate her compulsion to use her hands. She has exhibited her
work in New York, London, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. She
is represented by StolenSpace Gallery in London, and LaFontsee Gallery in
Michigan. She lives between Michigan and California.
PATRYCE BAK was born in Szczecin, Poland, and moved to the United
States at the age of eight. She received  her BFA from the Academy of Art
University in San Francisco, CA, and an MFA from Hunter College in New
York City. Bak was a finalist in Photo District News “30 Rising Photographers,”
and is featured in Photo District News May 2014 “Photo Annual.” She lives and
works between Brooklyn, NY, and Cambridge, MA. http://patrycebak.com
DAVE BARRETT was born in San Francisco and lived in the Mission
District until he was 3. His fiction has been published in over a dozen literary
journals – most recently in Prole and the Potomac Review. He teaches writing at
the University of Montana. He is currently at work on a novel.
NICHOLAS BELARDES is the author of  A People’s History of the Peculiar
(nonfiction: 2014), Songs of the Glue Machines (poetry: 2013), Random Obsessions
(nonfiction: 2009), the first “Twitter Lit, Small Places” (2008), and Lords
(fiction: 2005). Belardes is illustrator of New York Times best selling novel West
of Here (2011). He has performed at the Texas State University’s Katherine
Anne Porter Literary Center, The Beat Museum, MTV’s Rock N’ Read, The
Levan Center, art galleries, coffeehouses, pizza houses, and bookstores.
RORRO BERJANO was born in  Mérida, Spain.  Rorro is a recipient of
the  Zurbarán Scholarship for his project “New Goods, New Retables.”
Berjano also was a Finalist for the Focus - Abengoa painting prize. His work
is internationally exhibited, most recently in 2012 GRAFIKA at the Instituto
Cervantes, in Sofía (Bulgaria).

247

PHYLLIS BRAMSOM is a recipient of three National Endowments, a Louis
Comfort Tiffany Grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation
Grant, and Artadia: the fund for Art and Dialog Jury Award. Bransom
received the “Anonymous Was A Woman” award of $25,000 to be used at her
discretion to further pursue her career. She is a Senior Fulbight Scholar and
Professor Emeritus (2007), from the University of Illinois Chicago       
JOHN F. BUCKLEY and MARTIN OTT began their ongoing games of
poetic volleyball in the spring of 2009. Since then, their collaborations have
been accepted into more than 70 journals and anthologies, including Drawn
to Marvel, Evergreen Review, Rabbit Ears, and ZYZZYVA. Their partnered work
has been gathered into two full-length collections on Brooklyn Arts Press,
Poets’ Guide to America (2012), and the forthcoming Yankee Broadcast Network
(2014). They are now writing poems for a third manuscript, American Wonder,
about superheroes and supervillains.
ADAM CAMERON is in his fourth year of an undergraduate degree in
English at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has been writing
poetry for several years.
VALENTINA CANO is a student of classical singing who spends whatever
free time she has reading or writing. Her works have appeared in numerous
publications and her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and
Best of the Web. Her debut novel, The Rose Master, was released in June 2014.
HA KIET CHAU teaches art and literature in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Her poems have been published in Ploughshares, Asia Literary Review, Two
Thirds North, and Sierra Nevada Review, among others. Her chapbook, Woman,
Come Undone, is forthcoming from Mouthfeel Press.
KURT CLINE’S poems have appeared in numerous small-press magazines
such as Wilderness House Literary Review, Black Scat, Apocrypha and Abstractions,
Bicycle Review and Clockwise Cat. His full length poetry collection Voyage to the
Sun: Poetry and Translations was published by Boston Poet Press in 2008. He is
Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at National Taipei
University of Technology.
JULY COL is a graduate of the University of Montana’s MFA poetry program,
and currently is featured online in Water, CA. Cole has poems forthcoming
in the Cincinnati Review and Tammy, 2014. Her poems have previously
appeared in performance collaborations in festivals in New York and Tucson:
“Blowhole” and “Hair-O-Win” (with J Dellecave). July’s musical comedy, The
Gold Fish, has been performed in New York and San Francisco. The work is
currently in post-production as a short film, forthcoming, 2014.
PATRICK DACEY’S stories have appeared in Zoetrope, Guernica, Bomb
Magazine, Salt Hill, and the Washington Review, among other publications.
248

JOE DONOHOE is a San Francisco taxi driver, publisher of Speciousspecies
Magazine and an RN. Traditionally, he has used his personality as birth
control. He rides a bike to relax.
RICKY FISHMAN is a San Francisco-based chiropractor, musician, writer,
and teacher. He also leads groups to Israel/Palestine, and other far-flung
places. His blog, Ricky’s Riffs, focuses on health, education, and travel and
can be found at www.rickysriffs.com
JASON K. FRIEDMAN was born in Savannah, GA, and lives in San Francisco
with his husband, filmmaker Jeffrey Friedman. His work has appeared in
anthologies including Best American Gay Fiction and Goth: Undead Subculture.
Jason’s first collection of stories, Fire Year, was published by Sarabande Books
in November 2013.
ASSAF GAVRON  is an Israeli author. His fiction was translated to 10
languages, adapted to the stage and cinema, and won several awards, including
the Israeli Prime Minister’s Creative Award for Authors, Buch fuer die Stadt,
in Germany, and Prix Courrier International, in France. His latest novel, The
Hilltop, will be published by Scribner in the US in fall 2014.
SANDRA M. GILBERT has published nine collections of verse, including,
most recently,  Aftermath  (2011).  She is the author, co-author, or editor of
many critical volumes. Sandra’s latest book, The Culinary Imagination: From
Myth to Modernity, will be published by W. W. Norton in 2014. 
STEPHANIE GOLISCH writes screenplays, short stories, travel essays, and
poetry. She has spied on penguins in New Zealand and Chile, hiked the Yellow
Mountain in China, and has been in several traffic jams on the Autobahn. A
2014 recipient of an Oregon Literary Arts fellowship, she calls Portland home.
Read about her adventures on and off the road at www.stephaniegolisch.com
and follow her on Twitter: @StephGolisch.
ALEX GREENBERG is a 15-year-old poet whose work has been published
or accepted for publication in: decomP, Able Muse, Spittoon, Spinning Jenny, The
Louisville Review, and Blast Furnace, among others.
MAYA HAYUK’S paintings and massively scaled murals recall views of outer
space, traditional Ukrainian crafts, airbrushed manicures, and mandalas with
their symmetrical compositions, intricate patterns, and lush colors. Hayuk’s
work has been the subject of one-person exhibitions and commissions at
venues including The Bowery Wall, NY (2014); The Hammer Museum, LA
(2013); The Museum Of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, Canada
(2013); Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, The Netherlands (2012); Socrates
Sculpture Park, Queens, New York (2011); Musee E.A.V., Rio De Janiero,
Brazil (2011); Matucana Artspace, Santiago, Chile (2009); Democratic National
Convention, Denver, CO (2008); and Monster Island, Brooklyn, New York
249

(2005–2011). Hayuk’s work has been included in group exhibitions such as
Streetopia, The Luggage Store, San Francisco (2012); Black Light & Outer
Space, Secret Project Robot, Brooklyn, New York (2011); Rojo Nova, Museum
of Image and Sound, Sao Paolo, Brazil (2010); Contemporary Art 2010,
Ukrainian Institute of America, New York (2010); Sous l’es bombs, Musee
International des Arts Modeste, Sète, France (2007); and The Zine Unbound:
Kults, Werewolves, and Sarcastic Hippies, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts,
San Francisco, CA (2005).  Hayuk has curated numerous exhibitions, is a
member of the Barnstormers collective, the Cinders Art Collective, and she
frequently collaborated with other artists and musicians. Maya has created
album covers, videos, stage sets, photographs, and posters for Rye Rye/M.I.A,
The Akron Family, TV on the Radio, The Flaming Lips, Devendra Banhardt,
Seun Kuti, Prefuse 73, Awesome Color, Oakley Hall, Home, Animal
Collective, Dan Deacon, Bonnie Prince Billy and The Beastie Boys, among
others.
KYLE HEMMINGS lives and works in New Jersey. He has been published
in Elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Blaze Vox,
Matchbook, and elsewhere. He loves ’50s Sci-Fi movies, manga comics,
and pre-punk garage bands of the ’60s. He blogs at http://upatberggasse19.
blogspot.com
AHMUNET JESSICA JORDON is a Queer poet, writer, and performer
who descends from historic Baltimore. Her stories investigate the Black
experience, speak to the human condition, and the raw residue of lust and
sexuality. She published her chapbook, Salty, after completing her MFA in
Writing and Consciousness from CIIS.
PEYCHO KANEV is the author of four poetry collections and two chapbooks.
He has won several European awards for his poetry and he is nominated for
the Pushcart Award and Best of the Net. His poems have appeared in more
than 900 literary magazines, such as: Poetry Quarterly, Evergreen Review, Hawaii
Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Sheepshead Review, Off the Coast, The Adirondack
Review, The Coachella Review, Two Thirds North, Sierra Nevada Review, The
Cleveland Review and many others.
DAVID KERN has been writing in earnest since 2004, when he published the
chapbook Beside the Shallow Creek. More recently, he earned his MFA from
San Jose State University in 20011, and published poems in Reed Magazine
and online at Poetry Live: Voices in Verse. He has work forthcoming in
Hypothetical: A Review of Everything Imaginable. He teaches composition
and literature at Lehigh Carbon Community College near Allentown, PA.
RICHARD KOSTELANETZ’S work appears in various editions of Readers
Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature,
Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists, Postmodern Fiction, Webster’s
Dictionary of American Writers, The HarperCollins Reader’s Encyclopedia of
250

American Literature, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Directory of
American Scholars, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who
in American Art, NNDB.com, Wikipedia.com, and Britannica.com, among
other distinguished directories. Otherwise, he survives in New York, where
he was born, unemployed and thus overworked.
MARCELLA KROLL is an empathic medium, performer, and mixed-media
visual artist. She has exhibited her work in galleries across the United States
and in Edinburgh, Scotland. Kroll has two pieces in the permanent collective
of the Rhode Island School of Design Art Museum. She currently resides in
Los Angeles, and works full-time as a High Priestess Psychic Medium, and
teaching metaphysical studies to teens via the Los Angeles Public Library.
 
MONA KUHN’S intimate dream-like photographs are large-scale. The work
has been exhibited internationally and can be found in renowned collections
such as The J. Paul Getty Museum, LACMA, and the Musée de l’Elysée,
Switzerland. Mona Kuhn was selected by Robert Wilson to be part of ‘Living
Rooms’ at the Musée du Louvre, Paris, France from November 2013-February
2014 as a showcase of his personal collection. Born in Brazil in 1969, the first
child of German parents, Mona Kuhn currently resides in Los Angeles. She
has exhibited extensively in the United States, Europe, and South America.
 
STEVEN JOHNSON LEYBA is a ritualistic, shamanistic painter of Mescalero
Apache ancestry. His art is equal parts satanic, holistic, radical, political, and
extremely personal. Using various media, Leyba creates a celebration of the
sacred and profane. Paint mixes with collage, beadwork, and DNA, making
bold statements about the world we live in and constantly questioning the
very nature of art.
BARBARA MALOUTAS is the 2008 Sawtooth Poetry Prize winner for the
whole Marie. Her books and chapbooks include In a Combination of Practices,
of which anything consists, Coffee Hazilly, Practices, and Her Not Blessed. Barbara’s
work has appeared or is forthcoming in many literary journals. Her work is
anthologized in Intersections: Innovative Poets of Southern California, The L.A.
Telephone Book, Vol. 1, and Segue 11. Maloutas coordinates the book arts minor
at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Her artist books are in
private and university collections.
ANTONIO MCAFEE is a visual artist living in Baltimore, MD, and an
instructor at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. McAfee  received
his BFA in Photography from the Corcoran College of Art and Design.
Shortly after, he earned an MFA in Photography from the University of
Pennsylvania. In 2010, he was a Fulbright Student Scholar in Johannesburg,
South Africa, studying Arts and Culture Management at the University of
the Witwatersrand, from which he received a Post-Graduate Diploma in Arts
and Culture Management.

251

JOSHUA MCKINNEY is the author of three books of poetry: Saunter, The
Novice Mourner, and Mad Cursive. His work has appeared widely in national
journals, and he teaches literature and creative writing at CSU Sacramento.

,

CONCHA MENDEZ born Concepción Méndez Cuesta on July 27th,
1898, was the eldest of ten children. She was part of the Generation of ’27
and travelled extensively during her lifetime. After parting ways with Luis
Buñuel, Mendez became friends with many of Spain’s Silver Age poets,
including Rafael Alberti, Federico García Lorca, and Luis Cernuda. Alberti
encouraged her career in poetry. Her first collection, called Inquietudes,
was published in 1926. In 1931, Lorca introduced her to her future husband,
Manuel Altoguirre, a poet and publisher. To ensure the well-being of her
daughter, Paloma, Mendez left Spain after civil war broke out and travelled
around Europe. She returned to her husband in Barcelona, before the entire
family went into exile in the Americas. The war changed her poetic style from
an atmosphere of youth and optimism to darker work filled with suffering
and pain. In Havana, Cuba she wrote Lluvias enlazadas (1940) and El solitario
(1940). After moving to Mexico, she continued to write. There, she produced
three more books of poetry, including Sombras y sueños (1944) andVillancicos
de Navidad (1944). Concha’s final work would be Vida o río (1979). She lived
in Mexico until her death in 1986 at the age of 88. All together, she produced
nine books of poetry and three theatrical works. Méndez brought a female
voice to the world of Spanish poetry.
IVAN DE MONBRISON is a French contemporary poet and artist, born in
Paris in 1969. He currently lives in Paris and Marseille. Ivan has published
five chapbooks of poetry: L’ombre déchirée, Journal, La corde à nu, Ossuaire, and
Sur-Faces. His work has also appeared in several poetry magazines in France
and in the U.S., including Jointure, Arpa, Friches, Phréatiques, Les Hommes sans
Epaules, The Boston Poetry Magazine, The Coe Review, and The Germ. His visual
work has been shown in galleries in both Europe and the U.S., and appears in
art and literary magazines.
NIKITA NELIN is a graduate of Bard College and holds an MFA from
Brooklyn College. He has done research on the role of the Communist Party
in the censorship of writers for The Former Communist Archive in Moscow,
Russia, and worked as a contributor to the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics
and Humanities as a guest blogger from his post at Burning Man. His short
story, “Eddie,”won the 2010 Sean O’Faolain award, and his essay, “The Most
Current History of the Russian Jew,” won the nonfiction Prize in the 2011
Summer Literary Seminar competition, judged by Phillip Lopate. He can be
reached via nikitanelin.com
JAMES B. NICOLA, winner of three poetry awards and recipient of one
Rhysling and two Pushcart nominations, has published over 400 poems in Atlanta
Review, Tar River, Texas Review, and C. Nicola is a Yale grad and stage director by
profession; his book Playing the Audience won a Choice Award. Nicola’s first fulllength collection, Manhattan Plaza, is scheduled for release in 2014.
252

JOSIP NOVAKOVICH has written many stories, half of which have been
published in four collections of stories from Graywolf and Harper Perennial.
Last year he was a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize. Now
he’s gathering his new stories, and some old ones, for a New and Selected
collection. He teaches at Concrodia University in Montreal.
NAOMI SHIHAB NYE’S next book is a novel for 7 to 9-year-olds called The
Turtle of Oman. She has worked with students and writing all over the world.
ALVIN ORLOFF is the author of three novels, I Married an Earthling, Gutter
Boys, and Why Aren’t You Smiling? all available from Manic D Press.  He is
currently working on a memoir about his adventures in the squalid, bohemian,
underground of San Francisco during the height of the AIDS epidemic.
MARTIN OTT and JOHN F. BUCKLEY began their ongoing games of
poetic volleyball in the spring of 2009. Since then, their collaborations have
been accepted into more than 70 journals and anthologies, including Drawn
to Marvel, Evergreen Review, Rabbit Ears, and ZYZZYVA. Their partnered work
has been gathered into two full-length collections on Brooklyn Arts Press,
Poets’ Guide to America (2012), and the forthcoming Yankee Broadcast Network
(2014). They are now writing poems for a third manuscript, American Wonder,
about superheroes and supervillains.
BRITTANY POWELL PARICH says, “in alphabetical order, the things
that interest me are domestic items, the everyday, food, humor, Oregon,
and products. When I create my work, I look for the place where the massproduced meets the personalized through the methods of inventorying,
making products, and setting up environments.  My ways of working thus
far range from rendering a Mexican restaurant in contact paper to recreating
buildings in my hometown in cut-and-fold models to embroidering Ikea
furniture assembly instructions onto a quilt. See brittanypowell.com for
more, as well as lowcommitmentprojects.com, a website featuring some of my
quick projects.”
ELAINE PAWLOWICZ received her MFA in painting from the School of the
Art Institute of Chicago, and has extensively exhibited her paintings for over
20 years. She consciously develops her aesthetics within the traditions of the
Chicago Imagists, Modernism, landscape painting, graphic and textile arts,
Folk Art, and Surrealism. Her paintings are speckled with tiny characters that
are swallowed up by neon color fields. The style is a type of magical realism,
and the space is flat with an idiosyncratic perspective. She is based in Dallas,
Texas.
HASSAN RIAZ is a physician, financier, and writer. His fiction has appeared
in  Slice Magazine,  Perceptions Literary Magazine, and  Paragraph Line, among
others. He lives in Los Angeles and can be found online at hassaninla.com.

253

M.G. ROBERTS was born in Subic Bay, Philippines. Roberts teaches writing
in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a Kundiman Fellow, Kelsey Street Press
member, and MFA graduate of the Writing and Consciousness program
at New College of California, where strange tricks were added to her bag.
Her first full-length poetry manuscript, not so, sea, is forthcoming from
Durga Press and her work has appeared and or is forthcoming in GALATEA
RESURRECTS, the Stanford Journal of Asian American Studies, Bombay Gin,
Web Conjunctions, How2, The New Delta Review, and the anthology Kuwento
for Lost Things. If she were not a poet, she would be a snake handler, or maybe
just a good speller.
CHRISTINE ROSAKRANSE is a teacher, student, poet, maker, and
translator – currently a PhD candidate in the Communication Dept. at
Stanford University. Rosekranse first discovered the work of Concha Méndez
while studying at New College of California, where she also taught “Finding
Duende: The Dark Side of Poetry”, drawing inspiration from Lorca, Neruda
and Méndez. Christine’s poetry has graced the insides of many a chapbook,
with single pieces occasionally making their way into a variety of online and
print publications including Zygote in My Coffee and Beatitude magazine.”
Rosektranse has been a featured reader at The Live Worms Gallery, San
Francisco’s The Beat Museum, Bird and Beckett Books, and Get Lit @ CA
http://rosakranse.blogspot.com
HEIDRUN SCHMIDT is a recent graduate of CIIS  who holds a master’s
degree in Integrative Health. Her creative  process of drawing is a form of
meditation that tends to produce various creatures – human or otherwise.
Not only is the process a mediatation, but also the works can be mediations
on a theme, story, idea, experience, conflict, and so on. Most recently she has
been working on a tarot deck, focusing on the Major Arcana.
MICHAEL SWAINE is an analog builder of objects and interactions. He is a
core member of Futurefarmers, who recently produced a book, A Variation on
the Powers of Ten. He also started the Free Mending Library in the Tenderloin
National Forest in the heart of San Francisco.
HILLARY TIEFER received an undergraduate scholarship in creative
writing and completed both a graduate program in English and her PhD.
She has taught at several colleges, and her scholarly essays have appeared in
The Thomas Hardy Journal, The Hardy Society Journal, and in The Jane Austen
Society – Southwest Newsletter. Her short stories have been published in the
literary journals Descant, South Jersey Underground, Blue Moon Literary and Art
Review, The Broadkill Review, and Grey Sparrow Journal. She was the May 2012
featured writer for Portland Women Writers.
SARAH VAN NAME is a marketing writer and Duke alumna living in
Durham, North Carolina. Her writing has previously appeared in Cleaver
Magazine and The Toast.
254

STEPHANIE VERNIER’S fiction has appeared in Full of Crow, Fiction365,
and Instant City.  She lives in San Francisco. 
DOMINIC VITI is an editor at the Jack London Society. He has written for
Simon & Schuster, Dunkin’ Donuts, Harvard University and USA Today.
He thanks Catherine Gin for her support.
BEATRICE WANJIKU received her diploma from Buruburu Institute of Fine
Arts, Nairobi, Kenya in 2000. Her work has been exhibited internationally
at GAFRA; Pop Up Africa; Weissenbruchzaal; Pulchri Studio; The Belgian
Ambassador’s Residence; Devearts’ Meaning Africa; Colombia City Gallery;
Africa the Mother of us All; The World Bank Africa now; Emerging Talents
From a Continent On The Move; The Royal Commonwealth Society;
Paper, A Circle Art Agency Exhibition; Funika-Fufuka; Cover-Recover;
Kuona Trust Art and Graft; and Politics of Art and The Art of Politics Video
Installation. Wanjiku’s Solo exhibitions include Oneoff Contemporary
Gallery and Rahimtulla Museum of Modern Art. She is the recipient of
Alliance Francaise, the Goethe Institut Most Promising Female Artist Award,
the Robert Sterling Clark Fellowship Award, UNESCO Aschberg Bursary;
and the Lava Thomas and Peter Danzig Fellowship Award. Wanjiku is also a
Vermont Studio Center and Djerassi Resident Artists Program fellow.
SCOTT WANNBERG rode shotgun; he was a Carma Bum. A poet’s poet,
Scott never met a soul he didn’t touch. Born in Santa Monica, California, Scott
received his master’s degree in English from San Francisco State University
in 1977. He spent the majority of his life working as a bookseller and clerk
at independent bookstores, primarily Dutton’s Books in Brentwood, CA,
where he held court for 24 years until its close in April 2008. In August 2008,
Scott relocated to Florence, OR, where he passed away too soon at the age
of 58, in August 2011. He newest collection of poems, The Official Language of
Yes (Perceval Press), is due out in 2014. Unbelievably prolific, Scott became a
bit of a phenomenon, mentoring and entertaining more than 4,300 Facebook
friends. When he passed away, Wannberg left behind thousands of poems
and a legion of fans.
GABRIELLE WATLING grew up in North Queensland, Australia, where
she also completed her PhD in postcolonial studies. In 1997, she moved to
Mexico, where she failed to master Spanish. In 1999, she took up a teaching
position at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts, where she has been
ever since, aferrándose al último de sus sueños latinos.  
KARI WERGELAND has forthcoming work in Far Enough East, THEMA,
and Prick of the Spindle. She works as a librarian for Cuyamaca College in El
Cajon, CA, and lives part-time on the Oregon Coast. For more information,
please visit kariwergeland.wordpress.com.

255

JJ AMAWORO WILSON’S short fiction has been published in Afrobeat;
IC3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain; The Frogmore Papers;
Main Street Journal; and pulp.net, among others. Writing as JJ Wilson, he has
published over a dozen books about language learning and teaching, and he is
currently the writer-in-residence at Western New Mexico University. “Trash
Wars” is from his novel, Damnificado.
RACHEL YOUENS is a painters’ painter who regularly shows in the New
York area. She is a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and has also received
support from the Pollock-Krasner  foundation. Youens has received artist
residency at the Fundación Valparaiso in Andalusia, Spain. She has written
art criticism for New York City’s only arts-dedicated broadside, The Brooklyn
Rail, for several years. 
CHANGMING YUAN is an eight-time Pushcart nominee and author
of Chansons of a Chinaman (2009) and  Landscaping  (2013). Yuan grew up in
rural China and currently tutors in Vancouver, where he co-edits    Poetry
Pacific  with Allen Qing Yuan. Since mid-2005, Yuan’s poetry has appeared
in  Best Canadian Poetry (2009-12), BestNewPoemsOnline, London Magazine,
Threepenny Review, and 819 other publications across 28 countries
ZARINA ZABRISKY is the author of two short-story collections, a novel
We, Monsters, and a book of collaborative poetry co-authored with Simon
Rogghe (forthcoming in 2014 from Numina Press). Zabrisky’s work appears
in literary magazines and anthologies in six countries. A three-time Pushcart
Prize nominee and a recipient of 2013 Acker Award for Achievement in The
Avant Garde, Zabrisky is also known for her experimental word and music
fusion performances. 
MARY LOU ZELAZNY’S Chicago childhood is made manifest in the
tireless redesign of alley pickings, resale junk, and worn-out furniture, thanks
to her Polish-immigrant grandmother. This folk-nursery includes sculpture,
tailoring, jewelry, lamp making, and upholstery, among other domestic
experiments. Zelazny’s influences can be grasped in her early mixed-media
paintings and may be said to have more than a vestigial presence in her
current work. She has been on the faculty at the School of the Art Institute
of Chicago since 1990, and is currently Adjunct Professor in the Department
of Painting and Drawing. Zelazny principally remains a studio artist and has
had numerous one-person exhibitions since the 1980s, most recently at The
Carl Hammer Gallery http://www.hammergallery.com. Her work has been
exhibited in various galleries and museums throughout the U.S., and she was
the subject of a retrospective at the Hyde Park Art Center of Chicago in 2009.
A comprehensive 35 year overview is available at: www.marylouzelazny.com
Contact: mzelaz@saic.edu

256

Mission at Tenth is a publication of
California Institute of Integral Studies

FEATURING
Mary Lou Zelazny Zarina Zabrisky Changming Yuan Rachel Youens
JJ Amaworo Wilson Kari Wergeland Gabrielle Watling Scott Wannberg
Beatrice Wanjiku Dominic Viti Stephanie Vernier Sarah Van Name Hillary
Tiefer Michael Swaine Heidrun Schmidt Christine Rosakranse MG Roberts
Hassan Riaz Brittany Powell Parich Elaine Pawlowicz Martin Ott Alvin Orloff
Naomi Shihab Nye Josip Novakovich James B. Nicola Nikita Nelin Ivan de
Monbrison Concha Mendez Joshua McKinney Antonio McAfee Barbara
Maloutas Steven Johnson Leyba Mona Kuhn Marcella Kroll Richard
Kostelanetz David Kern Peycho Kanev Ahmunet Jessica Jordon Kyle
Hemmings Maya Hayuk Alex Greenberg Stephanie Golisch Sandra M.
Gilbert Assaf Gavron Jason Friedman Ricky Fishman Joe Donohoe Patrick
Dacey July Col Kurt Cline Ha Kiet Chau Valentina Cano Adam Cameron
John F. Buckley Phyllis Bramson Rorro Berjano Nicholas Belardes Dave
Barrett Patryce Bak Kelly Allen Bobby Neel Adams

Summer 2014 | Volume 5
missionattenth.com
$10

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