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Bloodstone Review

Volume 1: Issue 1

Mesquite, by Jim Fike

Table of Contents
From the Editors .................................................................................................................... 4
Two Poems, Leonard Orr ...................................................................................................... 5
A Prayer for War, Benjamin Nathan Schachtman ......................................................... 7
Miner's Lettuce, Jim Fike ..................................................................................................... 16
Life Unfulfilled, SaraEve Fermin....................................................................................... 17
The Rock in the Middle of the Road, Edward D. Miller ............................................... 18
Shopping, Lydia Paar ........................................................................................................... 20
Angels, George Bishop ........................................................................................................ 23
Our Wantagh Bows Were Flimsy Sticks, KV Wilt............................................................. 24
Kensington Street, Robert Boucheron ............................................................................. 25
Sonic Superspeed Air Ride, Reah Kelly ............................................................................. 33
Scenes at Puget Sound, Amanda Tumminaro ................................................................ 34
London Rocket, Jim Fike ..................................................................................................... 35
You Never Let Me Leave, Sara Upstone ........................................................................... 36
Two Poems, Domenic Scopa .............................................................................................. 41
Paper Dolls, Tiffany Hauck ................................................................................................ 43
The Salazar House, Daryl Muranaka ................................................................................ 49
Devotion, Carol LaHines.................................................................................................... 50
Monkey Flower, Jim Fike ..................................................................................................... 61
Spare Ribs, Samuel Less ...................................................................................................... 62
Climate Change, J.lynn Sheridan ....................................................................................... 63
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it , Jonathan Lyon ...... 64
Everything is a Departure, Rachel E. Hicks ................................................................... 69
Coma, James Croal Jackson ............................................................................................... 70

Awake, Ty Moore .................................................................................................................. 71

Two Poems, JC Reilly ........................................................................................................... 78
Plantain, Jim Fike .................................................................................................................. 80
The Rainbow Goose, Nicholas A. White ......................................................................... 81
Hebrew Alphabet, William Doreski .................................................................................. 83
Any Rain, Connolly Ryan .................................................................................................... 84
How We Got to Here, Lisa Rhodes .................................................................................. 85
Tell Me a Story, Lorraine Caputo ...................................................................................... 86
Raise Them Wild, Adam Johns ........................................................................................... 87
Wild Ginger, Jim Fike .......................................................................................................... 94
Contributor Bios................................................................................................................... 95

From the Editors

Welcome to our first issue! It's taken us a long time to get here and we couldn't be happier. We love
the writers who appear in this issue. We love the worlds they have created with their words.
This publication is the culmination of a dream we all shared to celebrate really good writing. Writing
that puts us in a place, be it abstract or concrete, and lets us live there for a few pages. Thank you to
all who submitted and were tolerant with us through these months of working out all the kinks in
our processes. It's gratifying to know that such an amazing literary family lives in this world with us.
Thank you to our contributors for sticking with us and being patient as we finalized and formatted
and fretted.
We hope you'll love this first issue as much as we do and that you will return for subsequent issues
with as much excitement as we have for them.

Khara, Lauren, & Erin

Leonard Orr
I would like to send soft breaths through you
like a small terra cotta ocarina held in my hands;
I would like to tap you and hear the sounds
youd make, like a wooden Aztec tongue drum
(Id happily drum my tongue, drum your tongue).
Like a hurdy-gurdy, I would sound your chanters
and spin your drones until your bridge buzzes.
Id be your bass recorder, and you would
play with traditional Baroque fingering;
Id be your highland bagpipes, your own bombard,
your double-reed Turkish duduk, your Thai kaen;
your Japanese shakahuchi, your Andean panpipes.

Morning Snow
Sometimes it is so cold
everything has blue shadows
and I think of your small footprints
left in the snow by your black
fuzzy mukluks with the raised seam,
the dark, deep-ocean blue, dahlia blue,
your small feet next to my large feet.
I look for you then to arrive
across the snowfield, seeing to the horizon,
I am so exuberant, I cannot wait,
but I tuck my head into my chest
and hold my deep-carved soles in
gloved hands, bring my shoulders up,
fall forward on the ground and roll,
roll, roll towards you, a bright
white reflecting moon of snow,
tumbling towards you and growing larger,
larger and brighter, so you can see me
from miles away, see me from space,
see the groove I leave in the snow,
a canyon, and I am a gleaming cueball
in the pool-blue shadows, I stop
when I reach your feet, silent, spherically,
and you open your lips with surprise
and melt me with your pleased O!

A Prayer for War

Benjamin Nathan Schachtman
Walking up Lexington, dripping like a pot-roast, Richard Croxley III loosened his tie, blotted his
forehead with a napkin from the deli, and thought, Yes, pray for war, but plan for peace.
Peace had taken the ad out of adventure capitalism. Now the ventures were to Omaha, North
Carolina, and Texas (where Texas Instruments, once a feather in Richards cap, had given up on
missile guidance systems and had gone back to making calculators). Richard would be flying bulkfreight class to investigate all manner of boring, economical, and eco-friendly peace keepers
(missiles, planes, ships, and tanks that to add insult to injury would never be built). In his prime,
hed been in Istanbul, sweet-talking investment capital from an insomniac Georgian general, a man
who lay awake nightly with visions of T-90s and MiG-29s, of Putin astride an iron elephant,
stampeding like Hannibal over the Caucasus Mountains. Well, the Russians had come, as Richards
American colleagues had been predicting since Yalta; theyd come, but instead of the sickle and the
hammer theyd come with the expense account and the black-market caviar (and the girls, of course).
Now fat Russian oligarchs were floating in the Adriatic like funhouse reflections of Richards lonely,
long-distance-runner frame. They drank and sunned, stuffing themselves with sardines and then
selling shares in air-defense R&D to the Syrians. For kopeks on the Egyptian pound. Or whatever the
fuck denomination was being used by the few Syrians who had money (Richard was an ideas man a
Ph.D. in economics not a finance man, a distinction that was in many ways at the root of his
current predicament).
Jesus Christ, Richard thought, holding a cool water bottle against his cheek, Son of God, it
is hot for May. It was if the entire population of New York had forgotten to turn off their steam
boilers; thick, humid heat roiled out of every crevice. It was a groin-rotting heat, with the kind of
legendary Indochinese humidity that the older executives spoke about in chummy but cryptic terms:
apocalyptic, Apocalypse Now heat. The world was coming undone: the ice on Mt. Everest melting,
riots from Wall Street to Tahrir Square, the worlds credit rating falling out of the sky like a cheap
North Korean satellite. And yet, here was Richard, who had foolishly decided to walk the twenty-five
blocks to the restaurant, soaking through a freshly laundered suit, on his way to talk about peace.
Peace had snuck up and fucked Richard. In American terms, peace was premature
ejaculation on prom night; it was an audit from God (or rather, being Anglican, Richard imagined it
was an audit carried out by a bespeckled, eunuch seraphim in a starched Brooks Brothers shirt,
Metatron the Pusher of Pencils). Peace was that phantom step at the top of staircase, the one hed
been racing up, two stairs at a time. Peace was what he got for moving his broken family to America,
hoping to be healed by the American dream. But everyone knew that only Americans real
Americans got to live that dream. And everyone knew there were no real Americans, except the
Native Americans.
Turning onto East Seventy Ninth, Richard, who was in a black mood, joked to himself that
Parabellum, his firm, had come along several hundred years too late to capitalize on that particular
conflict (oh, he thought, but if the Apache people had counted amongst their sacred possessions
an Apache helicopter). He had to get this kind of thing dark humor, but also stupid puns, doubleentendres, associational jitters, etc. out of his system before drinks. Douglas MacLennan (whom
no one, least of all Richard, was allowed to call Doug) was a two-highball-before-appetizers man. A
Harvard man, his boss expected employees to drink his drink of choice and match him drink for

drink. MacLennan had summoned Richard to discuss what everyone planned on doing now that
there were no more wars (his half-brother, the film producer and family favorite would simply
reboot old wars; if only Richard could return so easily to the past, fictive or historical, Vietnam or a
galaxy far, far away).
Oh yes, there were still wars. Here and there. Threats. Megalomaniac and hypochondriacs
who couldnt get a two-stage missile across the Sea of Japan. Inbred sociopaths starving to death
daily ten or twenty thousand but never trending on news sites. Little anachronistic vendettas. Al
Qaeda goons holding bullshit sessions on garbage barges off the coast of Malaysia. And there was
the Levant. But Russia and China already had most of those contracts and Israel was a tough
market to break into. You couldnt just show up in Tel Aviv with a Savile Row suit and a rented
Bentley you chaps need some help with your war? like they did in the Sixties. Those boys had
been around the block. And they could haggle. Theyd haggle you right out of the bonus youd
already spent on braces, tutors, gaming systems, Maserati mechanics, your mistress(es), and standing
reservations at DeNiros overpriced red-sauce joint.
Richard stopped himself outside Quatorze (an overpriced foie-gras joint), MacLennans
default restaurant (he lived upstairs and would order delivery, despite the fact that Quatorze was
emphatically not the kind of place that delivered). MacLennan ordered in French and would humiliate
junior executives (like Richard) by ordering for them if they hadnt mastered the slippery Parisian
cadence. Richard did tongue exercises and thought about what to say. But what could be said? In
North Africa and Afghanistan, soldiers were fighting house to house, in and out of mountain crags.
The Taliban didnt own anything big enough to hit with a next-generation Tomahawk missile (who
even fucking remembers those things, Richard bitched to himself, after twenty years its the cigar
not the guided missile thats the icon, admittedly a bit phallic, of the Clinton years). These days,
Predator drones flew around, developing sentience out of sheer fucking boredom and hoping to get
hired by the NYPD. These were primitive times, a return to the pre-Nintendo era, in the words of
his son (Richard IV, twelve, enthusiast of funereal garments, violent video games and something
called metal-core, which Richard III had recently learned to his relief was not a type of armorpiercing ammunition but merely very loud, very fast rocknroll).
Yes, it was the Crimean War out there; the Light Brigade was getting mowed down by
homemade bombs. They were getting stabbed (Stabbed? Stabbed!). In the space age. It was like dying
from rubella. Richard tried to imagine the shock, the humiliation of watching a rusted bayonet slide
through your $50,000 dollar body armor like warm Tiffanys cutlery through truffle-butter. It was
beyond him.
Wherefore, Richard wondered, pouring some water on the last of his napkins and blotting
his neck, where-fucking-fore art my glorious, bloodless, post-modern war?
But the post-modern wars had been won, leaving only the pre-modern warriors, the megalith
builders, the stone-age Abrahamic loons and the genital mutilators. Peace meant sweeping these
ancients, the remains of the previous millennium, into the ashcan of history. And that meant, more
or less, dustpans and brooms: the New Worlds armory needed no innovation, no re-invention, no
investment, no investors, and no Richard.
A world with no Richard, he thought. A schism, brought on by corporate panic, cleaved him
in two: Richard the Solipsist, who watched from within, the captain of his own sinking ship, seized
by eschatological panic at the thought of an impossible, illogical world in which he did not exist; and
Richard the Detached, who watched from without, allowing without protest the suggestion that a
world without him a world at peace might be a better world.

MacLennan was receiving his (at least) second drink as Richard met him by the usual table
and for a moment the grander panics were usurped by a simple fear of tardiness. MacLennan
waived Richard down, appraising him quickly and allowing him to sit, sweat cooling in the frigid
dining room, for a full minute before dispelling Richards cloud of worry.
-I just finished with Hammerstein.
Richard nodded, faintly relieved. MacLennan caught him eying his drink, a rocks glass with a
neat finger of something amber hued (almost greenish: a peaty Scotch or, Richard wondered silently,
did MacLennan drink venom to inoculate himself against would-be assassins?).
-Their liquor supplier neglected to fill their order of bitters. Ive recommended a new
purveyor to them but, for the time being, its Islay neat for me.
Richard sighed. He was being let of the hook he wouldnt have to guess MacLennans pick
of poison and was thus served a backhanded insult: MacLannen lacked faith in Richards ability to
mimic (a crucial senior executive skill, apparently). Or did he? Richards eyes wandered to the upper
shelf behind the bar, recognizing two different Islay single malts: the standard ten-year-old Ardbeg
and a pricey limited edition he recognized from the liquor store as the Peat Monster. Surely
MacLannen would never be caught drinking something with a name out of Sesame Street (surely
MacLennan wouldnt even know the childrens show or children in general existed; rumor had it
he disowned his own son at five months for being insufficiently articulate, a rumor that Richard
suspected was only moderately hyperbolic). Was it a trap? A waiter, spying Richards gauche state of
drinklessness, maneuvered towards him from the bar. Fuck, thought Richard, and then, mentally
escalated to the oath du jour of his daughter (Josephine, thirteen, middle child and profoundly
Americanized), silently chanted, motherfucking motherfucker.
The waiter stood invisibly behind Richards shoulder; Richard gambled.
-Ill have an Islay, neat.
-We have several Sir. Would you like to see our full list of spirits?
-No need. I think Ill try the Peat Monster.
A pause. MacLennan narrowed his eyes.
-Another Peat Monster for the table, very good.
The waiter rustled softly and was gone. MacLennan sipped his drink.
-Its rather very heavily peated, you know.
-It is. But why else drink it? Otherwise we might as well have the Japanese Scotch.
MacLennan let out a slow dry laugh.
-Japanese Scotch. Thats vaguely clever Croxley.
Richard shrugged.
-After a drink I might be more precisely clever.
-Dont get excitable. Hammerstein, hes bordering on vaudeville. He wrote for the Lampoon,
did you know that? Theres journalism, and theres tabloid pornography, and then there are college
humor magazines. Its called sophomoric for a reason. Makes me miss the quota days.
MacLennan laughed to himself and Richard relaxed; his bosss distaste for humanity was an
amorphous evil that had to choose a form to do harm; as long as that form was anti-Semitism (or, at
least, anti-Hammersteinism) Richard Croxley or Cambridge was safe, and he promised to make
karmic amends for this Faustian pact by telling his Jewish friends (including his girlfriend) about
MacLannens barbarism. This had long been Richards standard operating procedure with
MacLennan, but he had developed the strategy through his youthful dealings with his own

grandfather Richard the First who had, like his historical namesake, voiced murderous contempt
for the Jewish people (Richard scrupulously avoided all things psychoanalytic, denying any Oedipal
root in his preference for Jewish mistresses and preferring instead to think of his libido as
The waiter returned wordlessly with Richards drink and MacLannen smiled thinly.
-Very well then, Richard, you know why were here, yes? Not just to drink heavily peated
Scotches with gimmicky names and lampoon the Lampoon. So tell me, what do you want?
-What is it you want, Richard?
The magnitude of the question what was the square of infinity? caused Richards brain
to swell against his skull. What did he want? He wanted an end to dated Monty Python jokes at his
expense (how many times could he be sent by his colleagues to find a shrubbery, honestly, before
he could reasonably be expected to garrote one of them with an Ethernet cable?). He wanted
seniority. He wanted a cartel. He wanted enough money to say, fuck you, to projects and people
that belittled him. He wanted fuck-you money and a yacht, the H.M.S. Fuck-You Money. He
wanted a mistress in the Ukraine and another in the Dominican Republic so that at cocktail parties
in Tribeca he could say nonchalant things about having mistresses, the contrasting temperaments
of women from such varying climes. Instead, at the moment, he had perpetual dampness behind the
ear and evergreen horns. He was the shunt through which directives and delegations traveled. He
had only enough money to curse beggars and buskers and even then only under his breath. He had a
beautiful and maddeningly youthful ex-wife whose latest boyfriend made Richards annual salary
every time he stepped on the AstroTurf to play American football (but, of course, she refused to
marry, lest Richard be freed of alimony payments). He had three ex-children (a term coined, or at
least popularized, by his oldest, Maxine, sixteen). He had a girlfriend living in (west) Hoboken who
used physical verbs like push in abstracted marketing terms. She went to better cocktail parties than
he did and would frequently forget to reciprocate oral sex (she had once, after five or so mojitos,
said I thought British men of your generation didnt like getting blown, leaving him speechlessly
puzzled over which part of her statement to object to first).
Could MacLennan bridge the gulf between Richards wants and haves, even with his
godlike finances? (Could MacLennan, for example, make his ex-wife look her own damn age?) And
where to even begin? Richard collected himself and started simply:
-Id like to make more money.
Caviar arrived, as if by pure force of MacLennans will. Richard watched as his boss lifted
fifty-dollars worth into his mouth on a blintz and for a queasy second wondered if MacLennan was
in bed with the Russians (in Richards mind, the metaphor literalized in the image of a porcelainskinned Estonian kneeling astride MacLennans leathery loins).
-All good Marxists do, in the end.
MacLennans snide tone alleviated some fear of a post-Soviet merger, but it still stung
Richard, who had in the ideological fray of late 80s academia written an ultra-leftist doctoral
thesis on conflict economics.
-Oh, Sir. Ive shed those foolish leanings many years ago.
He had, at least, shed his outward Marxist leanings; Richard the Detached was neutral and
amoral, neither left nor right. Inwardly, Richard the Solipsist lurched from pole to pole, schismed
(further) along those ancient Freudian lines (who even speaks publically at least of old Victorian
Freud, Richard protested, a bit too much, the rusted phonograph in the wireless, digital age?).
Privately, it was all there, the tripartite mind. There was Richards Super-Ego, his archangel of Guilt,

a philandering, Scotch-guzzling demigod who chided him endlessly Ive just seen the numbers,
why arent you making more? and preferred his illegitimate son-of-a-whore brother (though
Richards thesis had explicitly denounced Freudian thinking, he had to admit it: his Super-Ego bore
some fairly uncanny resemblance to both his father and grandfather). There was also the dark,
anarchist imp, shouting Marxist slogans up from the pit, ready to dance on the grave of the New
World Order (the imp, Richard suspected, was the source of a recurring fantasy: shoving a twopronged cocktail fork through MacLennans eye-socket and pithing his frontal lobe). And of course,
Richard himself, the Ego, a man-child cornered in the cockpit, a powerless figurehead.
-Croxley? Have we lost you? Have you forgotten why youre here?
Richard willed a shaky union of his factions.
-I expect, Mr. MacLannen, that its about the state of the art, so to speak.
-Yes, well, its hardly Star Wars these days. Good Christ I do miss that. Ron was a visionary, I
tell you. Ive hated how theyve caricatured him, like a senile Patriarch in sweatpants looking for his
jellybeans. That man saw the future. A very profitable future. Not this junior senator weve got now.
A very, very junior senator. Of dubious provenance.
Richard felt a tingle of uneasiness; the shift from waspy anti-Semitism to conspiratorial
racism while it didnt precisely threaten him represented instability. Like a drunk or a rabid
animal, it might lash out in any conceivable direction. His only option was to steer things towards
business, which unfortunately meant answering for the worlds martial lull (if he could put it so
-So, the business has got to adapt.
-Yes. Now that we are enjoying this most unfortunate pax Americana.
-Well, sir, Im sure there are still opportunities.
-Dont sit here, Richard, at this very nice restaurant, drinking very nice Scotch, and try to sell
me that starry-eyed MBA optimism. I am fairly sure Parabellum has NYU interns for that.
Richard sipped his drink. He had gambled once and it had paid off. As the patron saint of
his girlfriends beloved Hoboken might have crooned: Would luck be a lady? Richard rather hoped it
would be unlike a lady or at least the ladies he had known. Unlike his wife (who, true to the crude
saying, had not gone back after going black) or his girlfriend (at whose apartment innumerable male
models, guitarists, and neo-Hemmingwayish authors incessantly crashed, the term suggesting to
Richard that they had accidentally careened off the path to their own residences and into his
girlfriends vagina). Richard, his mind compulsively reeling from business failure to sexual failure,
instinctively lashed out at his girlfriends industry.
-No sir, Im sure Hammerstein already sold you that social media push shit.
MacLennan sipped his drink and nodded approvingly, perhaps sensing the economy with
which Richard had thrown both his co-worker and girlfriend under the bus. Richard had scored a
point, but still he cringed MacLennan, when smiling, looked particularly Mephistophelian and
there was a caustic hollowness in Richards head, nothing but willowy literary clichs: a blinding
darkness, a deafening silence, a painful numbness. But then this undergraduate poetry was pushed
aside by something concrete, something rough and real. It was an idea, a demonic idea from above
or below, Id or Super-Ego, Richard couldnt be sure that frightened and excited him. He did not
even try to contain it.
-And, well, sir, Id like to start a war.
-Oh, I think our Mesopotamian adventures have exhausted that market, Richard.
-No sir, not a foreign war.
MacLennan laughed.

-Not a war onon drugs, Richard. A war on crime? On poverty?

Richard finished his drink, nodded to the waiter, and summoning a reserve of either real
courage or a very passable imitation looked MacLennan in the face. His bosss lips curled faintly,
preparing instinctively to mouth disappointment with Richards idea as a skilled fencer is already
rotating at the hips when an attacker lunges.
-No, Mr. MacLennan, not a war on poverty. A war on the poor.
MacLennan was quiet for a moment. There was no retort, no withering dismissal, not even
an oblique insult. His boss finished his drink and, as the waiter arrived, slowly began to nod.
-Lets order some dinner. Hows your French, Richard?
Dinner itself never seemed to arrive (although Richard would later find a confit of duck leg in
his jacket pocket). Instead, there was a staggering cavalcade of alcohol: after a brief interlude of
champagne (a pallet cleanser after the Peat Monster, which tasted like tea made from lawn-mower
clippings) there were two bottles of Bordeaux (the cost of one could have outfitted his son with the
latest high-end gaming system) and then an aperitif of Sherry (I hear Spanish desert wines are all
the rage in London these days, MacLennan clucked, half-mockingly). Finally in something out of
the cyclic madness of Beckett there was a return to the swampy madness of Scotch.
As Richard grew progressively drunker, his sales pitch grew wilder, more extravagant, and
the world fell away: the disinterest of his father and perhaps crueler the phantom
disappointment of his deceased grandfather; the lingering, nettling loose ends of his divorce
settlement; the increasing detachment (if not outright hostility) between himself and Max and Jo;
the unsettling opacity of his son; the stealthy but inexorable decay of his working memory; the more
conspicuous entropy at work on his physique; the diminishing returns of keeping a neo-bohemian
girlfriend. After broaching the punt on the second bottle of wine the outside world itself
disappeared, ending abruptly just beyond the hostesss podium, and somewhere during the Sherry
Richard became aware that he was slurring some of his words and forgetting others (what, he
found himself asking out loud, is a more politick phrase for scum of the earth?). By the time the
Peat Monster returned in all its smoky monstrosity, Richard was gesticulating as if a live current
were running through him, speaking in corporate tongues, possessed. He was looking at MacLennan
through one eye at a time and although he could not be sure thought that perhaps MacLennan
might be doing the same (although he might have been squinting). But through all of this, the
shedding of faculties, memories, and all but the autonomic functions of his primordial fish-brain,
Richard clung to the guiding thread of his idea, his singular vision: the mother of all wars.
And then he lost it.
Richard found himself sitting at the table, his Scotch glass held up, one finger extended for
emphasis, his mouth open and his mind completely blank. MacLennan was staring at him, eyes
narrowed, head tilted forward, expectant.
-Well, Croxley?

Richard excused himself and stood up, shakily, and headed towards the back of the dining
room. Having cataracted himself with all manner of booze, he was forced to feel his way to the
mens room. He missed the crucial turn and found himself in the small room where the wait staff
huddled, anxiously checking tickets, organizing trays of food, and cursing quietly in their native
languages (Spanish, mostly, although Richard thought he heard khuy, an indispensable Russian
profanity that sent him momentarily into another bout of paranoid Russophobia). He looked down
sharply, to avoid the gaze of a potential Russian corporate spy and saw, on what was either three
or six silver trays, an assortment of espressos and caf Americanos. Lifting one to his mouth, he was
aware of a faint tingling sensation across his lips and tongue, but otherwise felt nothing. After two
more, he became more distinctly aware that he had burned himself, but was also enraptured by the
warm humming sensation in his stomach. Then the warmth turned some gastric corner and headed
mouth-wards, against the normal flow of traffic and with volcanic force.
Richard, possibly apologizing to the wait staff (and, also, possibly vomiting slightly on a
mousy food runner), hurled himself towards the nearest door. Without time for celebration, Richard
noted the presence of several businessmen and threw up in a urinal, happy to have stumbled into
the right bathroom (amongst men, a voice murmured in Richards head, a quote perhaps, or a
wishful thought, everything is permissible amongst men). Apologizing again, Richard made his way
into a stall and knelt before the toilet in supplication. His palms flat on the immaculate tile floor,
Richards eyes clamped shut and he felt as if a writhing demon was being pulled exorcised, along
with pea soup he had apparently eaten at some point in the meal from his lower-intestine.
And, in the darkness behind his eyes, he recaptured for one moment his vision: a gleaming
hyper-luxury building, rising majestically (and, yes, phallus-like) above the streets of Manhattan. Two
miles tall four times higher than what those small-timers in Dubai had, double even the height of
Frank Lloyd Wrights impossible Sky City and ringed by moats and check-points. He saw twentyfour hour personal guard companies staffed by male models; he saw a line of Bentley armored
personnel carriers with Sennheiser audio systems and leather seats by Prada. He saw Armani
portable anti-nerve-gas systems, pearl-handled crowd-control shotguns by Beretta in a Madison
Avenue shop window. He saw impossibly stylish Oscar de la Renta body armor for women (modeled
by someone resembling Penelope Cruz, dark-eyed and feline, rolling around in her private fortress
and purring, larmadura del amor).
He saw home security that would make the gates of Heaven seem positively porous.
He saw government housing projects belching flame from every window. He saw riots in
Detroit and Liverpool, Frankfurt, and St. Petersburg and flotillas of ultra-luxury yachts on Lake
Michigan, the Black Sea, and off the Amalfi coast. He saw himself, standing on the lawn of the
Croxley estate, framed by those flawless hedgerows, a flaming bottle of petrol is his hand
(Defending? Assaulting? Self-immolating?). And he saw his son, a hood pulled over his eyes, his
mouth covered in a bandana, an ancient Kalashnikov held over his head.
He saw the final frontier of conflict economics, the last turn in the gyre of history, the final
clash of thesis and antithesis, dream and nightmare. And beyond that.
The end.
A world without Richard.
A world without anybody.
And then, as the demons barbed hold on his esophagus was broken, he belched hot, acrid
air and fell back against the stall door. His body empty and rung out, he pulled himself up to his
feet, adjusted his tie, and stepped out of the stall. Sitting by the sinks, an older black gentleman
nodded, rose from his stool, and handed Richard a warm, wet towel.

-Would monsieur care for a disposable tooth brush?

Richard looked at him and then shook his head.
-Maybe just some mouthwash.
-Very good, sir. Peppermint or Eucalyptus?
-Oh, peppermint, thank you.
Back at the table, MacLennan was signing laddition to his house account. Richard sat down
slowly and, staring at his lap, unfolded his napkin (which had been refolded into an origami swan, or
a pirate hat, or something, Richard couldnt quite tell). Finally, he looked up at his boss, trying to
figure out why the man was smiling.
-Well, Richard, I have to say. Im not sure any of what you said tonight is actionable. Of
course, I do encourage my senior executives to think outside the box, but that was the furthest from
the box Ive experienced in some time. By several orders of magnitude.
Richard blinked slowly.
-Senior executive?
-Well, if youre uncomfortable with the term look, I know it can be difficult, yesterday you
were Hammerstiens coworker, now you are to be, in essence, his direct superior but we can work
the title into things incrementally. Well ease into it.
-Thank you? I mean, yes, thank you, Mr. MacLennan.
-Douglas, please.
-Douglas, Croxley, dont get carried away.
-Of course. Sir.
-Douglas, Richard, come on now.
-I have to say, I was dreading this. Absolutely dreading it. But you, Richard, you are quite
entertaining. Bold. A little unhinged, perhaps, but then this modern economy is certainly run by
unhinged forces. Mad captains of industry, if there are even captains anymore. But, come, Ill get
you a cab. Though, really, you should get yourself a proper car service. Get some sleep, and in the
morning well run the numbers on this little idea of yours.
MacLannen (Douglas?) stood, patting Richard on the shoulder as he passed him on the way
towards the exit. Richard stumbled shakily after him, unclear of anything. What the fucking fuck?
he thought, borrowing mentally the words of his son (who had, at ten, begun deploying fuck in
the American fashion as every conceivable part of speech). And there, standing in the fading light,
heat still radiating up from the concrete, Richard remembered his son that is, his son before the
move to New York, before the sartorial and emotional monochrome, before the obscenity and the
indifference (however pseudo-scientific, a little Oedipal hostility would have at that point touched
Richards heart). He felt guilty, for not thinking at the same time of Max and Jo (he thought, to
chastise himself, of cruel, drunken Faulkner lashing out as his girls, no one remembers
Shakespeares daughters). But by the time theyd left London his daughters had already been lost (to
their mothers post-divorce faction, to boys, to fashion, and to America, or rather to fucking
Manhattan, which was American but more so). But with his son oh, how hed hoped there was
still a chance. A chance that theyd not lose each other. He remembered his son, curled, sleep-eyed,
tucked under his flannel sheets in bed; he remembered reading Dickens to him, Bleak House and

Great Expectations. His father had read the same books to him, a chapter every night, sipping tea
between paragraphs. The comfort of ritual, of tradition: his grandfather had read to his father (ever
the anti-Semite, his grandfather had considered Dickens superior to Shakespeare and his curious
sympathies). But all this the details, the touch and smell, the tactile reality of an England now
vanished and forgotten this had bled out from his wounded mind; all he could think about, as he
crumpled into the back of a yellow cab, was this: a father reading to a son. A single image, a curio
clutched in the hand of a man thrown overboard and shipwrecked on this strange island. The cab
flew down the FDR, the gleaming towers of midtown on his right, the flickering lights of Queens
and Brooklyn, across the East River to his left. His stomach surged and ached, his head throbbed.
His son. A flutter of panic struck him. What was his sons name? He found he couldnt remember.


Miner's Lettuce, by Jim Fike


Life Unfulfilled
SaraEve Fermin
To believe you could wait for me, that our love
was train stations, a shared suitcase, prepaid tickets.
To believe that fevered whispers held the most truth.
To burrow, to look for you in all of my winter. It is
easiest to find your ghost in November, dancing
with my exhaled smoke under street lights, how can I
make you understand this, when you have cleaved me
away so cleanly? To believe that Id know the smell of a
wet cornfield, to believe that you could teach me to find
the ocean in a thousand waving stalks. To believe I could
dry myself out, salt pillar silent and forget that I am all water
creature. to believe I could burn all of this down and still
have a place to call home, that reinvention was never ending,
to believe that if I continued to do it over and over and over
you would still recognize me, even after the ugly, even
after I used the worst word and the silence, to
believe that we would ever be the same after the
silence. To believe that I could cut myself open,
see myself bleed out before you, to believe you ever
had enough bandages to save me. To believe I wanted
to be save. To believe was easier than to let your ghost go.


The Rock in the Middle of the Road

Edward D. Miller
in homage to No Meio do Caminho by Carlos Drummond de Andrade
The rock in the middle of the road
appeared one morning
when the sun burned through the fog.
Explanations scattered everywhere
along Main and Commercial Streets
to explain the rocks arrival.
Surveillance videotape revealed nothing
and no one confessed.
The Town Council held an emergency meeting.
A Committee was formed
to make a recommendation on what to do with
the rock in the middle of the road.
Two opposing factions emerged.
I couldnt take a side
even though neutrality made me unpopular.
Quarrels congregated everywhere
along Main and Commercial Streets.
Opinions swayed daily due to
impassioned oration in front of town hall.
Though illegal u-turns were no longer possible
some found salvation in the rock
but many others took offense
not only to the rock as eyesore or obstacle
but also to the views of those
who flaunted their eagerness to disagree.
Mr. Truman, for example, was looking for an excuse
to harbor resentment toward Mr. Winsome.
Truman secretly celebrated
the rock in the middle of the road
even though publicly he advocated moving it.
He used the ensuing fracas as opportunity
to make a new enemy.
And Winsome was surprised
how quickly he hated his former friend.
The community found no middle ground
on what to do with
the rock in the middle of the road.

It remained in place for one year

even though a slight majority voted to remove it
in a special referendum.
Protesters blockaded the road
when they learned a work crew was sent
to cart the rock away.
They chanted The rock is Gods will
or The rock is perfect and pretty.
I waited for the strawberry moon
to roll the rock back to where I found it.
In the morning anxiety sprouted up everywhere
along Main and Commercial Streets.
All agreed:
life without the rock
would be worse than with it.
But I suspected that
my neighbors were bereft
of the bickering.
By evening the Council announced
that a Committee had been formed
to decide whether or not
a replacement would be found for
the rock in the middle of the road.
No doubt nostalgialike the fog
would opaque the night.


Lydia Paar

(To My Brother Roy, Who Asks Me Via Email Why I Dont Have a Boyfriend)
My Dearest Bobey,
Although I live in Arizona now, and my life is quite different now than then, thinking about dating
again takes me back to all the times Id go to Fred Meyer on 39th and Hawthorne in Portland when
I knew I shouldnt, and then regretted it later. Why shouldnt you go to Fred Meyer? People used to
ask me this. Its a harmless store; not too expensive. You have to treat yourself! Its ok! But I
knew it wasnt ok. Going to Fred Meyer wasnt a treat, really, though it wasnt as damaging as say, a
string of one-night-stands in one week or an impulse flight to London. If I had wanted a treat, like,
something of real quality in my life (that also didnt bankrupt me), Id have gone downtown to the
little cute, indie shops on Northwest 23rdI guess they call it The Alphabet District to sound
more cosmopolitan, like New York, and I would have bought myself a good pair of leather shoes.
Or, I would have pretended I was in New York and I would have gone dancing at the ballroom with
deep purple curtains from ceiling-to-floor and hard Euro techno pounding through the walls. I
would go to the tiny subway car bar where people all wear peacoats, white flats, legwarmers, black
glasses, and bangs, and the DJ tries as hard as the crowd not to smile (for hipsters never smile) and
this would still become fun by way of participation. You see the keyword here? Participation: A
thing where all parties involved are engaged and interested (and you can see where I am going with
this). There was the Bar of the Gods, the Bar at the End of the Universe, Dots Caf with black
velvet wallpaper, the bar downtown that is actually under the street and you can hear the cars
rumbling above while you order your grapefruit drop. Add these options to the downtown public
library (a free good book is hard to beat!), the movie theatre painted like the coliseums, the Church
of Elvis, any number of concert halls, galleries, poetry slams and bridge pedals, and you can surely
find something worthwhile and enriching around that city to add to your life and make you happier.
But alas, the dating world is not like shopping: people are not as they seem, wrapped up nice on the
outside and all kinds of different on the inside. You could order a grapefruit drop and get a gascan.
You could order a library book and get a piece of old almond roca. Which causes me to like dating
more like going to Fred Meyer than anywhere else, where you know there are bound to be some
things of quality hanging around, but a lot of tschotske is from China, most of the food is GMO,
the clothes may look great when you put them on (and maybe theyll itch when you get them home,
or maybe not), and the act of hesitation (a downfall in any other field of endeavor!) becomes a
necessary friend.
This is what I recall about Fred Meyer: I would take the bus, the number 14, from my house near
Mt. Tabor down through the Hawthorn district, and I would be looking for something, just
something (who knows what) and the red sign would loom up through the foggy bus window. Id
ask myself, should I? Naw Should I? NawOk, well, I can geta doughnutand then go
somewhere else. So Id champion my excuse to get out of the now smelly damp-and-breath-filled

bus, walk past the five homeless people begging for change and feel guilty when I got through the
doors that I would even consider spending spare change on a doughnut that would make me fat and
tired when someone could use the money for real food or at least a pain-easing six pack of Hamms.
After all, my troubles werent so bad. But once Im inside, I have to do something (perhaps this
barrier might be like signing up for online dating? Guilt and a shakedown combined?).
So, Id put all my doubts behind me and start strolling the aisles, ask myself the death-dealing
question: do I need this? Do I need a new book? (God no, none of these books). Swiffer? No, I
never mop. How about a jug of milk? I do need milk, but then Id have to carry it around until I
felt directed enough to go back home and who knows when thatd be. So no milk (consider milk,
perhaps, the good standby boyfriend whos solid as a rock but too dull for words?).
Shoes? Any girl can use a something to carry her along with more ease and grace (the supportive
and handsome boyfriend?). So, Id find the escalator and take it upstairs to check out that
department. But once I got there it would be all cheaply made, chemical-smelling shoes that I dont
like because they look like what 15 year old mall-rats wear and 15 was a hard year for me. Then,
there it would be: a black kitten-heeled model made for dressing up the everyday capris (just enough
heel to challenge your calves a little and make you feel elegant but not enough to be dysfunctional
you know, when people look at you like youre crazy for tottering down any public street in so much
pain). But all the size 9 s have
So Id move through to the clothes, and note that I already have a ton of them except for cute
lingerie. Both my mom and gramma for some reason still buy me new pajamas every year, though,
so it seems pointless and redundant to buy anything more to sleep in when I cant possibly sleep
enough in a year to make use of it already.
What I really could use is a raincoat, Id think, but they dont have any good-looking raincoats ever,
just the fifth-grade red and forest green kind. Like, hunter green (and I imagine myself some
40-year old Midwest Republicans wife cutting up venison for her brood, and find the escalator).
Downstairs, passing the fabric section, Id catch a glimpse of an old tablecloth that graced the
kitchenette set of the 52nd street apartment I shared with Nick (my last real boyfriend), and want to
There I am in front of the doughnuts again. Would a doughnut really offer me any information I
need to make a better decision about how to spend my day? Or how to add value to my life through

the correct choosing of enriching experiences? No. Fat and tired! Fat and tired! I repeat it to
myself and head back toward the streetside of the store, like Ill make my escape without buying the
shitake mushrooms I know I cant cook properly and without the lip gloss I never wear and the
fashion magazines I cant buy because what kind of a feminist would I be, then, anyway?
But I swerve at the register, nearly at the door, and stop to buy: a Twix.
And thats what thinking about dating makes me think aboutthat Ill entertain the idea initially
because the sugar-coating of so-and-so sounds kinda nice; he has nice fingers or broke up with his
girlfriend because his feelings are for me or he has bragged about giving good head and I know
we get along in a friendly way, the same way Fred Meyer and I are cordial and casual, and Id go for
it because Id have nothing more directed to do that day and why the hell not? Im sick of the rain!
And then there Id bestuck in a relationship as giant and overwhelming as the store itself or
heartbroken again because the item I took home shrinks on the first wash or gives me hives. If
dating could be less about ending up in a position where Im not sure me and X have much to offer
one another and everything we do looks kind of generic and overdone and Id try so hard to avoid
taking the wrong things out of it but find myself, after burning more than an afternoons time,
walking away, back into the grey and still without a raincoat, and more about those other fun things
Id mentioned earlier.wellwhy dont I just do the other fun things?
You generally stumble onto the best bargains anyway.
Sincerely and with Great Hope,
Your Sister


George Bishop
for her
You know I had my own before you came along,
unpacked all those stone statues, pointed them
toward each look of loss. You knew right where
they wereforever marked fragile or bedding,
moving each blank stare from garden to garden
after we settled in, slept some differences away.
Then, theres mineangels coming and going,
warning to warning, dressed in flesh and blood
only until theyre done digging up who Im not.
One day Ill want to know names. Not in this life,
though, or the next. Soon. When were finished
dying angel to angel, dead enough to believe our
afterlives lived in us for years, picking promises
they want to keep, keeping time to themselves.


Our Wantagh Bows Were Flimsy Sticks

KV Wilt
with knotted cotton string that flipped
twigs toward telephone poles and roofs.
Our St. David bows were bamboo
and our arrows were dry fennel.
In the basement on Mitchell Field
Dad built a crossbow we aimed
at bottle caps and candle flames.
At McGuire we had muscles
enough for recurved fiberglass
bows that we aimed at apples
swinging. And cottontails whose holy
entrails stained our sleeves. Eye became
that at which the arrow aimed.


Kensington Street
Robert Boucheron
After a heart attack, doctors told Ray Walters to eat less and stop smoking. He now chews on an
unlit cigar all day. The executive director of Fair Haven Housing in New Haven, Connecticut, he is
teaching Zach and me how to measure and draw the agencys office, an old house.
We are graduate students at the Yale School of Architecture. This is a summer job, 1977. We each
sketch the plan of the first floor. Ray looks at our sketches.
Use the one with fewer smudges, he says.
That is mine, by a small margin. I hold one end of a steel tape measure and write, while Zach
holds the other end and calls out dimensions. We discover that I misjudged the thickness of walls,
made the stair too small, and missed a fireplace, blocked and hidden in a tangle of closets. I erase
and redraw. When we complete the first floor, I hand the sketch to Zach.
Did we leave anything out?
Zach stares at the paper, crowded with numbers, notes, and arrows.
Lets add a string of numbers and see if they equal the overall dimension. Then well know if
theres a mistake.
On his way to a meeting, Ray overhears this.
Good thinking. Check and double check. Ill be back late this afternoon. If you get in a bind,
ask Suzanne, the secretary. She actually runs the place. Im just here to look pretty.
Should we measure outside? I ask.
Yes. Did you leave enough space on your sketch for exterior dimensions?
Zach grins, since I did not.
Youll figure it out, Ray says, waving his cigar.
Ray takes us to Kensington Street, where a dozen houses qualify for renovation. They are rental
properties, owned by landlords who have given us permission to enter. They have two or three
stories, divided into apartments. Some are vacant with windows boarded up. The street is pleasant,
lined with trees. Until recently, this was a middle-class area.
Now the neighborhood is poor and black. Zach and I are white, as are Ray and the rest of his
staff. I once had a summer job as a day camp counselor for city kids. Zach is stiff and uneasy.
If a problem develops, Ray says, just leave. Dont argue, and dont hang around. Tell me, and
Ill make other arrangements.
The morning sun is hot, but the air is still cool in the shadows. The grass and bushes are wet
with dew.
Do your work here in the morning, Ray says.
He takes us inside a house. All cabinets and fixtures have been removed. Walls and ceilings are
stripped to the wood framing. The studs show ghost marks where the lath was.
The old plaster was cracked and crumbling, and repair is not cost-effective. This method allows
for new wiring, ducts, and insulation, as well as repairs to the framing. Floor joists were undersized,

resulting in floors that sagged. The fix is to sister the joistsadd new ones alongside the old. The
windows will be replaced. We use double pane glass with spring-loaded sash, all clad. No painting
that way. This is not historic restoration. This is affordable housing, to keep the neighborhood alive
and healthy.
We go upstairs. Workmen are installing ducts. We thread our way through electrical cords, ladders,
and construction debris. As Ray talks to the workmen, I notice as much as possiblehow wiring is
attached, the way a duct is hung, what type of insulation is used. Zach stares out a window, then
traces a finger on the dusty glass.
Construction sites and abandoned houses are full of hazards, Ray says. Tread lightly, and wear
sturdy shoes.
Zach is wearing sandals, and I am wearing loafers.
Im not saying you have to blend in, Ray says, but you can tone down the preppy thing.
The next morning, Ray hands us a key to a vacant house on Kensington Street. Zach drives, and I
ride with a kit bag in my lap. The bag contains a large sketch pad, pencils, a sharpener, two tape
measures, a camera, and a map of New Haven. The route is simple, less than two miles. It takes us
through the center of the city and west on Chapel Street. Yale is a few blocks away. Still, as Zach
parks his three-year old car among the wrecks and clunkers, we might be in another world. We lock
the doors.
I hope its still here when we get back, he says.
Lets walk through the house and see if there are any problems. Or surprises.
Such as a dead body?
For example.
After some wiggling and forcing, we get the key to work. Inside is dim and cool. As we walk
through empty rooms, I open blinds and try light switches. The power is off. There is a musty smell.
Dead flies litter the windowsills. A poster hangs on a wall, a psychedelic portrait of Jimi Hendrix.
Do you want to sketch or photograph? I ask.
Today Ill be the camera man.
I hand him the kit bag. He extracts the camera and heads outside. I sketch the first floor plan,
standing in the middle of the living room. I hold the pad awkwardly in my left arm and draw with
my right. In a few minutes, Zach returns. He has taken shots of as much of the exterior as possible,
given the obstructions. I tear off some paper.
You sketch the second floor.
Wait. Ill trace the outline first. That way our sketches will be the same scale. It may be off, but it
will be off together.
He traces with a few pencil strokes then goes upstairs. I hear his footsteps overhead as I
complete my sketch. I join him. He holds the paper against a wall as a drawing surface.
We need a clipboard, he says. He hands me the paper. Youre faster.
Once we have the two floors roughly drawn, we get out the measuring tapes. One is twelve feet
long and rigid, good for small things and verticals. The other is fifty feet long, with a little crank to
rewind. I hold one in each hand.
Inside or outside?
Its getting hot. Lets do outside first.
Do you want the smart end?

If that means crawling through bushes, no.

Well take turns.
For the next hour or more, we perform a gymnastic routine, working around and through
overgrown bushes, steps and obstacles, devising ways to get the tape against the walls. I crawl along
the foundation and get dirty and scratched. As I call out dimensions, Zach writes them neatly on the
plan. He adds the front porch when we get there, and moves a door opening that I drew wrong.
When we have done the whole perimeter, I brush myself off, and Zach darkens some lines.
We make a good team, I say.
Rah, rah. I hated high school sports. Is it lunch time?
Our second house has three stories with one apartment on each floor. On the third floor, a neatly
dressed young woman is leaving for work. I explain our mission.
No problem, she says.
In the young womans apartment, we work around furniture. If we move a lamp or table, we try
to put it back where it was. There are no dust shadows, so this becomes an exercise in memory. The
house may be shabby, but the tenant is a good housekeeper.
A family occupies the second floor. Out of school for summer, children are getting up late,
eating bowls of cereal, and spending time in the bathroom. Clothes, toys, cardboard boxes, and
unused appliances lie scattered. In the living room, two young children sit on the floor and watch
television. They ignore us as we measure. In the kitchen, a tall older boy drinks a can of orange soda,
as his mother scolds him.
Youre late for summer school, she says.
He mumbles a profanity.
Excuse me, I say. Zach and I stretch our steel tape through this domestic scene, and prop the
sketch pad on a clear patch of countertop. A teenage girl has to be rousted from her bedroom
before we can enter. The mother cooperates, but it is clear that she has her hands full.
Thank you, I say as we leave.
When we reach the first floor, it is late morning. Outside, the July sun is strong and heating up.
The tenants have gone out. Windows are shut and shades are drawn. The apartment is choked with
furniturechests, wardrobes, lamps, tables, and framed pictures. A mosaic of rugs and carpets
covers every square inch of floor. The air is close and smells of mothballs. We cant reach from wall
to wall for a clear dimension, so we take what we can and estimate.
We got the other floors, Zach says. How different can this one be?
We still have the outside to measure, I say.
After lunch. Im starving. And running out of oxygen.
The next morning, Ray looks at our cramped field sketches and the photographs developed
overnight. Taken from odd angles and against the sun, the photographs show leafy branches and
dark masses, with stray architectural details that caught our fancy.
Good work, boys. Each of you pick one house and draw it.


While we were at Kensington Street, he cleared space in the office and set up two drafting
boards. He offers an assortment of mechanical pencils, rulers, triangles, and other tools left over
from past years and projects.
If theres something you need and its not here, ask Suzanne for petty cash. Use these vellum
sheets and use them wiselytheyre expensive.
Rays cigar at this stage is full length, lodged to one side of his mouth. As the day proceeds, it
gets shorter. From time to time, he picks shreds of tobacco from his tongue and discards them. He
is out of the office more than in, visiting properties, directing workmen, and meeting lenders. The
financial side of housing rehabilitation is complex and fraught with government forms.
Ask questions. If Im not here, write it down, or ask Suzanne to call me. Ill get back to you as
soon as I can.
For the next three hours, Zach and I puzzle over our task. I add the field dimensions and
compare the sums. There is a difference of several inches, but I cannot find the error. I draft with
light pencil lines, knowing that some will be erased. Comparing floors helps, as windows and walls
tend to line up vertically. I connect what I know about wood framing to what we measured. I feel a
sense of progress. When Zach looks over my shoulder, I jump.
How do you know where to start? he asks.
I look at his drafting board and see a few doodles. I explain my method and point to my drawing,
where I added a question mark.
Its trial and error. You can do this.
Zach looks doubtful. I dont know. Youre so organized. Do you want to go across the street for
Across the street, which is called Grand Avenue, is the Grand Diner. The Art Deco interior
gleams with chrome and glass. Its a busy place, and the booths are all taken. We perch on round
swivel stools at the counter and rotate slowly to admire the dcor. The menu dates from the same
era. Zach is worried about grease and mentions his wife.
If Rosa finds out, Im dead.
Dont tell her.
What are you going to order?
A cheeseburger and fries with extra grease. What about you?
He studies the menu and looks at what other people are eating.
Is that an omelet?
Careful. It might be quiche.
No way, not here. A diner wouldnt have quiche. Anyway, Im secure in my masculinity. You
cant tell me what not to eat.
Rosa can.
I wonder if Ray eats here.
He used to, before the heart attack.
Thats what caused it, eating lunch at the Grand Diner. Should we leave?
Once is not going to kill you.
We place our orders. When the food arrives, we eat in hungry silence. We pick up our tabs and
walk to the front to pay. The cash register sits next to a glass case with a display of cigars.
Look at that! Zach says. White Owl, Dutch Masters, El Producto, Muriel. Remember the TV
ads with Edie Adams? What brand does Ray smoke?
He doesnt anymore.
Okay, what brand does he chew?

No idea. Are you going to buy one?

If you do. Its a dare.
In that case, yes.
We each choose a cheap cigar and pick up a pack of matches from a bowl. The woman at the
cash register asks if she should clip the end of the cigar.
The little hole wont draw properly.
We agree, and she clips the end of each cigar with a special tool. We step outside and try to light
up. There is a breeze which blows out our matches, so this takes a while. Zach succeeds in lighting
his cigar. He chokes.
I dont think you should inhale, I say.
No? Maybe its optional.
Turning my back to the breeze, I manage to set the tobacco on fire.
If you dont inhale, Zach says, does that undermine the image?
We could ask Ray.
We stroll across the street and through a cemetery, a relic of the eighteenth century, puffing on
our cigars. When I stop puffing, the cigar goes out.
What do you think? I ask.
I dont know. Maybe an expensive one tastes better. He examines his cigar critically, then puts it
back in his mouth.
Maybe its an acquired taste, I say.
Rosa will have a fit.
We arrive at another house on Kensington Street one morning in July. We knock on the door of
the second floor apartment, shout Hello, wait a minute, then use the key to enter. The place is
dark, with curtains drawn. I switch on a light, but the bulb is dim. Zach and I now have a routine. I
sketch, while he goes outside with the camera.
This apartment is a mess, with dishes in the sink, uneaten food lying here and there, and a
peculiar odor, sickly sweet. As my eyes get used to the low light, I notice dirty clothes on the floor
and stains on the walls.
Turning a corner, I am startled to see a young man slumped in an armchair, watching television
with the sound turned off. At least his eyes are open.
Sorry, I say, I didnt think anyone was home.
The man does not respond. I explain why I am here, but he remains silent, almost motionless. I
decide to continue. When Zach returns, in a low voice I mention the man in the chair.
Maybe hes on drugs, Zach whispers.
Zach stands beside me as I open a door. The closet is alive with cockroaches. They cover the
walls in a brown mass and scurry away. The odor is stronger here.
Gross! Zach says. He is wearing sandals and shorts. He steps gingerly in place, as though
exposed to radiation. I dont know if we should stay here.
Do you want to go home and change?
Zach considers.
If it bothers you that much, I can do this one solo.
No, Im okay. Lets ace this and get out of here.

We whip our measuring tape through the mess, scribble dimensions with no attempt at clarity,
and finish in record time. Each time we open a door, we disturb more cockroaches. We step outside.
I need a bath, Zach says.
You may be infested, I say.
Zach stamps his sandals on the concrete sidewalk and shivers. Then he smiles.
Ready for the first floor?
Some days later, we park on Kensington Street and get out of the car. It is early morning and
already hot. I carry the kit bag, and Zach has the camera slung around his neck. A middle-aged man
stands nearby, next to a lawnmower. He looks at us suspiciously.
You cant park there.
We look around for a street sign or pavement marking.
Why not? Zach asks.
Because I said so. This is my house.
Theres no sign, Zach says. I touch his arm to get his attention, as the man becomes belligerent.
This is my house, and thats my parking spot. What do you think youre doing here?
It turns out that this man is not participating in the renovation program.
Youre not going to get your hands on my property. I know whats mine, and Ill defend it. So
stay off.
Zach and I get back in the car, drive a few yards, and park. Zach exhales.
This day is getting off to a great start.
Ray might have warned us about this guy.
Which house are we supposed to measure?
I check my notes. Number 315.
Which one is his?
I twist to look back down the street. Number 319, two doors away. Hes going to keep an eye on
Did he start the lawnmower?
Not yet. Hes still standing there.
Defending his turf.
Come on, I say. Avoid eye contact, and well be fine.
We hear the sound of a small engine starting. We exit the car and get to work.
Monday morning, we arrive at the office and Ray is absent. Usually, he holds a staff meeting.
Instead, Suzanne comes to talk to us. A slender woman in her forties, she rests a hand on the carved
wood mantel of the fireplace in our room, the former dining room of the house.
Ray had an incident over the weekend. He went to the emergency room, but he didnt lose
consciousness. His doctor recommended that he stay home for a few days as a precaution. We can
phone him there. Ray never takes vacation, so it may be just as well. Do you two know what to work
Zach and I look at each other. We have measured all but one of the houses on Kensington Street.
We have drawn the existing floor plans and started drawing proposed renovations. Ray reviewed our

work the previous Friday. In his abbreviated way, he told us how to proceed. The question is
whether we have enough time to complete the design drawings before classes start in September.
Were good for this week, I say.
When will Ray come back? Zach says.
When I know more, Ill pass it on. By the way, I need your time sheets for last week. Suzanne
returns to her desk in front, in what was the living room.
She doesnt seem worried, Zach says.
Thats not her style. Is there anything we need to ask Ray?
Zach extends his arms as if to embrace the world. Everything.
It is again Monday morning. Ray has returned from a week of vacation looking pale and
subdued. He no longer has a cigar in his mouth.
I switched to popping pills he says. Im supposed to remain inactive, but what does that
mean? I have an agency to run.
The last house we will measure has been vacant for years. It was abandoned by the owner, seized
by the city for taxes, and boarded up. It is an eyesore, the target of complaints by residents and
adjacent property owners.
The city asked whether it should be demolished, Ray says. I inspected it. The structure is
sound. A roof leak went unfixed and led to rot. There are some missing stair treads and a hole in the
floor, so watch your step. Also, tramps used it as a flophouse. Conditions are less than pristine. Take
We locate two flashlights. They emit a feeble glow.
Get some petty cash for batteries. I have a week of phone calls to return, so I expect to be here
all day. If you dont return by five, Suzanne will send a search party.
With a detour to the hardware store, Zach and I drive to Kensington Street. We have a key to a
padlock attached to plywood at the back door. The padlock is rusty and refuses the key. By shoving,
we find that the hasp and hinges are loose. We pry the plywood wide enough to enter.
That must be what the tramps did, I say.
What if someone is in there? You go first.
I squeeze through the gap. Even with the flashlight, it is hard to see. Debris and clothing litter the
floor, along with corrugated cardboardflattened boxes used to lie on. There is food, paper plates,
plastic bags and piles of excrement.
Youre going to love this, I call out.
Zach enters, shines his flashlight over the scene and groans.
At least youre wearing sensible shoes, I say.
Lets get it over with before the day heats up. This place is going to smell ripe.
We step over trash and avoid the rotten spots. Our routine will not work here in the darkness. On
the second floor, Zach trains one flashlight on the sketch pad as I draw, and the other on the space.
He moves the beam of light as I direct, and we move slowly from room to room. As we measure,
the tape picks up grime. We handle the tape, and our hands get grimy.
When we get out, Zach says, Im going to sterilize my hands.
We pick our way downstairs to measure the first floor. Zach fiddles with the tape as I enter the
living room, which has a picture window covered with plywood facing the street. A hole in the
plywood appears as a brilliant spot of light. On the opposite wall, the light projects the scene outside

like a movie, upside-down. A woman passes carrying a bag of groceries, a man walks a dog, and a
car cruises by, all in living color.
Zach, check this out. The room is a camera obscura.
If you say so.
I linger and stare at the wall. The vision seems prophetic, but of what? Zach gets the kink out of
the tape and joins me. He glances at the wall of moving images.
Are you going stand here all day?


Sonic Superspeed Air Ride

Reah Kelly
Light moves faster than anything, we think
from dirt, where there is none, we wait below
wanting to be one of the higher things
the light has set free. Well smile out windows
on airplanes, noses on the glass. The wings
will glare with a kind of light that hates to dwell
on dirt, will rattle with a wind that stings,
races; we feel it in our nerves, our cells.
Paying no heed to matter, that airy
quality picks up dust: faster than time
and easy, having no means to carry
what cripples us, forgets, settles them behind.
Our fears, seeing us rise from the flowering bones,
will notice our flickering light and leave us alone.


Scenes at Puget Sound

Amanda Tumminaro
Scuttle-crabs that live below the sand,
their shells can crack like mens wills.
Sand wedged and drained between the toes,
hidden like promises in folds of the psyche.
The sand dollars are harmless.
Fuzz tarnishes their smoothness.
I collect them in my pail
like the Grim Reaper collects bodies in his wake.


London Rocket, by Jim Fike


You Never Let Me Leave

Sara Upstone
She imagines being rolled up into herself. Like a pinwheel sandwich at a childrens birthday party. Or
a common garden snail. Like a Swiss roll. Like the cotton on a metal bobbin, wound ready for the
machine. Her bones are cartilage; she will not snap. Head pushed down, chin on her chest, nestled
into her collarbone, you could roll her head forwards, tuck it in tight, and then turn and turn again,
spinning like an old 75, until you reach her feet.
She is rolled up naked. And there is no filling no frosting, or cream cheese, or jam no snail
whorls. Instead, there is the space where the curve fails. Where you cannot roll her tight enough.
Where flesh refuses to sit on flesh. These places where the body is not. The weight of air against
skin. And it is this absent body, this spacing, which makes the spiral.
She had thought about folding, but then decided that it would be of no use at all. For this act is not
to be confused with origami, or some other art form. And there is to be no harness to it no
straight edges are to be allowed. She will not be scored or pleated. She must be rolled. She must
make a curve. She must not be required to be straight. Orthodox. Square. Conventional. There are to
be no parallels, no sharp edges, no creases. No planes of projection.
And yet although she convinces herself that her intention is bound to the artistic and the avantgarde, she must admit, only to herself, that the real reason is that she is afraid. She does not want to
be flattened out, as folding might require. To be exposed like that just the very thought of being
exposed like that makes her catch her breath. She can feel her heart beating, the irregular trembling
of a pulse, not in her chest but as a fluttering in her throat. A moth (and it is certainly a moth, never
a butterfly), flitting against her larynx, struggling to get out.
As a curve, she is faceless. Her nose is pressed into the space between her breasts. It sits perfectly
there, in the gap between those shallow, uneven balls of flesh. Her lips kiss her sternum. Her
eyelashes tickle her ribs. This facelessness helps, because eye contact also awakens the moths. She
hates to meet the eyes of anyone. With her child, she has had to make a special effort; she forces
the engagement: trains herself to lift her face to meet the toddlers gaze. She knows with certainty
that if she doesnt do this, the little girl will grow up deformed. Already the child is unruly she
licks her mothers face rather than kisses her, grunts in low guttural tones rather than talks, contorts
her small, undersized body and waves her arms wildly for no determinable reason. She has read that
mothers (there is no mention of fathers) who do not make eye contact deny their children the
experience of unconditional love.
She told him this once, You are the only person I have ever looked at. She wanted him to
understand how much it took from her to do that. What a risk she was taking. Not just in looking,
but in admitting the consciousness of her behavior. She wanted him to take that look tenderly, and
with compassion, knowing it was a gift she gave to him and no one else. He said to her, You have
the most intense gaze. She thought, in these instances when they looked at each other, that
something solid passed between them. It was a clich, and so she could not tell him, because he had
told her that there was nothing worse than clich, but in those moments she felt some kind of non36

physical association between them; there was what seemed to her to be a slowing of time, a silent
dialogue in which the air between them became thick with promises. She thought he felt it too. That
the clich prevented him from saying it, but not from feeling it. But then she realized that she didnt
know. Because he was the only person she had ever looked at.
It was, for her, like sex. And so she thought, when he looked at her, that he was saying I want to
fuck you. Sometimes, she even thought he was saying I love you. Well, perhaps not I love you, but
maybe I want to love you. Or almost maybe.
But mainly he was saying I am angry or I am confused. She stood on the opposite sides of rooms
to him. She stood in hallways next to him, close enough to hear him breathe. She waited for him to
cross the floor and fuck her. She waited for him to kiss her on the mouth. Instead, he turned his
head, so that she felt the brush of his stubble on her cheek, but could not remember the feeling of
his lips on hers.
And mainly he was looking at other women and saying I want to fuck you. Women who were like
him. Women who were like his mother, or his grandmother, which amounted to the same thing. Not
women like her. Not a woman who would cry in the street and beg, and apologize for who she was,
and make excuses for who she wasnt, and offer to do anything. Not a woman who would agree to
do things that made her feel sick at herself just to keep the possibility. Women who were like his
wife his wife who had walked out one day without explanation, taking the dining chairs and leaving
him the table.
They had joked together, lying in bed afterwards, his soft, writers fingers entwined with hers, that
she had settled for a little less love, for a little more house. And now he was settling too. This she
suspected, and this he knew. It was a more balanced equation. A little less love, for a little less love.
Because if you didnt love each other very much then when she left you (because she would leave
you) it wouldnt feel so much like you were being crushed under the weight of a collapsed building,
struggling for breath in a small pocket of air surrounded by the mangled wires and rubble that was
once your life, waiting for a rescue party that was never coming because you didnt know how to
He thought that she was beautifully straight. She was an efficient administrator. An exceptional
academic. He would grant her such parochial talents, rather than the bohemian creativity he reserved
for those who had a piece of paper to affirm it a degree in drama, or art history, or music. He did
not see, as the ancient Greeks knew, that a line is a very special kind of curve. He did not see that all
curves are made of lines. He did not see that a curve can also be the right line. However much she
looked at him, and he met her gaze, he did not see these things. He did not see that she had a much
quieter artistry within her; did not see it because that art was darkness, and intensity, and things you
could not enunciate, or market, or sell at an hourly rate, because to do so was to expose the fragile,
damaged wounding that was unspeakable. Such sentiment, frankly, was melodramatic. And words
should not be this they should be sparse, and finely wrought, and crafted with a ruthless mental
So he did not see how the spiral could resolve itself. And while she believed that passion came from
the negation of negation, their backwards and forwards see-sawing erosion of selfhood, he wanted

only perfect circles. If Newton had told him that the earth was not really spherical, he would have
denied it. Watching the gentle breakdown of his emotional defenses gave her a physical sensation of
being underneath his skin. There was pleasure for her in these encounters, a kind of addiction to
seeing him raw, and without the veneer he tried so hard to publically maintain. Her honesty terrified
him; it was unruly, and wild, and coarse.
He spoke. She spoke. He repeated his words. Sometimes more slowly, or with a different emphasis,
just to give the sense that he was saying something. He wanted only a conversation with himself.
And yet he always began it. She wanted to go to bed. He wanted to talk about why they should not
go to bed. She did not care what it was. He wanted to know what it was. She wanted only animal
sounds and reactions. He wanted responses, and language. Give it a word, a name. Something that
was not love, or relationship. But it had to be something. Something that would remind her it was
nothing. He was careful to place these signs everywhere, so that she could not overlook them. He
did not hold a door, or pay for dinner, or tell her she was pretty. He never came with flowers. When
her husband left, in the very middle of things, she thought he might bring some comfort to keep her
company in the night. That he did not do this was not malicious, for he never considered such
kindnesses. And yet, he was very generous in reminding her what he did not feel. This, he thought,
was decent and honest. It was important that she understood that he did not find her exceptional in
any way. He did not want to hurt her by allowing her to think she was more significant than she was.
He could not be responsible for allowing her the illusion of feeling beautiful, or loved, or wanted.
This would be devastating for her when the moment came that he moved on. They were having
some nice times, and some nice sex and it was imperative not to make it more than it was.
Her sofa was a giant semi-circle of purple velvet. It looked like it had been stolen from a low-budget
online porn movie. She would lay on it, and he would sit opposite her, refusing to remove his shoes,
starkly upright in a worn out, beige armchair that she had inherited from her grandparents. At the
end of these conversations sometimes four or five hours long she would be (according to him)
unreasonably hysterical. Lets leave it for tonight, lovely. Just leave it, he would say. And she would
look at him when she had never looked at anyone else, and think that then he would kiss her. Then
he would fuck her. Then he would stay. That such fitting together because surely that is what it was
such exhaustion, would mean that they would fall into bed. On each occasion she was as shocked
as the first that this never happened. She was on her knees, her eyes said. She thought at the time
that she thought that she knew that he saw this. He observed her desperation and it drove him
further away from her and towards the door. You never let me leave, he would tell her. You wont
ever let me leave. He said it half pleading, half assertion. But he never stayed. He would stand at the
bottom of the slope of the driveway and turn to see her reluctantly close the front door. As the
latch clicked shut she would lean against the wall, and slide herself down, her back caressing the
small dimples of the textured wallpaper. She sat there, at an opposite angle to the door, underneath
the yellowed net curtain, staring up at the colored glass, her knees drawn to her chest. She waited for
him to turn around and come back. She was certain he could feel her imploring him not to leave her
there. Then, she waited for him to text her and say he was sorry he could not stay. Then, she waited
for him to call her from his flat and tell her he wished he had stayed. Then, she waited for him to
send her a Facebook message, or write her an email, to ask her when he could see her.
He said, You were right when you said it would be easier just to fuck you.

He said, She makes me laugh.

He said, She is a whore in the bedroom.
And now there was nothing left but to curl in on oneself. Close the body down like a clenched fist,
gritted tight, nails dug into the palm until it draws blood. She sits on her bed; it is the bed she
purchased to replace the one her husband and she had slept in, so that he might feel less
uncomfortable. The bed she bought with its wrought-iron rather than polished wood, all curves and
spaces; spaces to wrap a tie around, or a belt, or a rope. She lifts up her skirt, undoes her suspenders,
rolls down her stockings and pulls them over her sharp-edged toenails. She stands up, undoes her
skirt. Pulls her sweater over her head, so that only her underwear is left. She will roll better without
clothes to rough the edges.
Just once, she called him, crying, at three in the morning, a desperate, wailing thing more like a cat
than a woman. He told her calmly and sleepily, in his usual clipped, public schoolboy tones, with just
the slightest but intentionally noticeable hint of annoyance that of course it would get better. He
recommended that she take her feelings and put them in a box beneath the bed, where they would
be precious but not present. And because she always did as he told her to, she did this also, wrapping
the box in twine, tying the lid tight. Yet in the night the contents would dance free and spread out
across the room, a mushroom cloud of vitriol and desire. This happened however many other men
took her to bed. It happened however many times her daughter smiled at her. It happened however
much she hated him. However many days passed, or turned into weeks, or months, or years, so that
the time in which they had spoken every day had been eclipsed by the time in which they hadnt. Or,
worse, by the time in which they had spoken every day to someone else.
But perhaps, if she curled up tight enough, she could try. She could fossilize herself. Perhaps she
could forget the fact that so many times she had almost left him. That she had almost got there first.
For the words he would not give her, when she had given him so many. For the things he said, and
for the things he could not say. But, most of all, for the fact that she knew that when he was fucking
her, always from behind so that their eyes would not meet, he was thinking of someone else.
She wrongly thought that what would make the difference would be not being that someone else. If
he knew, surely, that he would never come home to find her loading the dining table into the back of
a friends car, that she would never be accountable for there being three tones in the carpet instead
of two the bleeding from moss, to laurel, to feldgrau marking the violent waltz of time in its sun
faded graduations. A stubborn child, she refused to quit. She waited for him to see what she knew
he never would see. The spiral rather than the vortex. That what she spoke was only what he felt,
and that the difference he so feared was only in the performance.
Her friend Julia, a topologist, once tried to explain to her why a coffee cup was just like a donut.
She knew she was fooling herself. She was moving nowhere. With a spiral, the curve stretches
outwards from the centre, progressively further and further away. But for distance you need a
straight line. With a spiral the end point is never far from the beginning.

Each night, she wakes to the phantom sensation of his tongue in her mouth, and his hand hard on
the back of her neck, stroking her. She wants to say to him, You never let me leave. But, as always,
he has already taken the best line.


Domenic Scopa
for my grandmother
Your opera career in photographs.
A choir. Which of them was you?
Perhaps it was your cropped pearl hair
that shed its color early.
You never dyed it.
And your neck.
Your taut singers neck strained for the audience,
your children, my breastfed self.
Then I put the photo back.
The teapot whistled
from your tacky, jaundiced
hutch of a kitchen.
You commanded me to bring Earl Grey
and mistook my name,
a sour odor seeping where you sat
with your legs propped on the velvet recliner.
I could hardly believe how irritated I felt.
You had been doing so well
with names and faces,
your memories now a half-erased
Etch-a-sketch portrait.
You always said that Grandpa
was difficult and crazy.
Either walking his Rottweiler too often
or picking extra shifts up as a janitor at Wal-Mart,
so he could get away from you.
If that was his reason, I cant blame him.
Im filled with nothing but shame for writing it,
but I couldnt tell you. Youd just forget.


Secret Cemetery
Festive colored candles
fence an unearthed grave
as if exhuming corpses
is a sort of birthday celebration.
A forensic anthropologist,
himself a native Guatemalan,
chisels calcified deposits
collected on the collarbone
of a charred skeleton.
Hes searching for his murdered family.
Where the soil breaks
in a line of coffee bushes,
two crows flap for lime trees.
The limes look like green lights.
Reagan gave the green light here,
collateral calculated.
But what was that to the indigenous child
burned alive in the village center?
To the pregnant woman hacked in bed?
An infantile skull stares up.
Its toothy grin makes it look
as though its either madly laughing,
or lamenting at a joke
the flesh has played on it.


Paper Dolls
Tiffany Hauck
When I was a child, the kids at school would sometimes ask, Youre the one with the
Chinese mom, right?
I would shrug, unsure why they bothered to ask. I guess so.
I knew my mom looked different from other kids moms, with her thick black hair and the
epicanthic fold of her eyelids, but I had no frame of reference for her ethnicity. My grandmother
was of Irish/Anglo descent (complete with a love of alcohol), and because my grandfather died
more than fifteen years before I drew my first breath and I never had the pleasure of meeting him,
my family tree seemed to go directly from Irish to Chinese in one very confusing branch, as if my
mothers Asian-ness emerged from nowhere.
My grandmother's generation believed nothing good came from discussing your problems or
conjuring ghosts from the past, and she raised my mother in this fashion. Because of this, I grew up
believing its rude to ask personal questions. Even so, my mother would sometimes supply random
pieces of information at unexpected moments. For me, getting that information felt like finding Lite
Brite pegs in the carpet you never expect to find them until, all of a sudden, ones poking into the
bottom of your bare foot. It occurred to me many years ago that maybe if I could collect enough
Lite Brite pegs, they might form a cohesive genealogical picture, an illuminated image of who I was
and where I had come from, but I have never gathered enough of them.
While I was growing up, my mother doled out the following about my Chinese grandfather:
He was my grandmothers second of three husbands, and they met when my grandmother worked
as a hostess at The Republic, an old restaurant in Portlands Chinatown. He worked as a card dealer
in a Tong House, which my mother described as a sort of Chinese social club, and he often took her
there when she was a child. They would take the streetcar from Northwest, then walk the rest of the
way down Burnside until they ducked past the dragons that guarded the red and orange Chinatown
gate. The whole time, she would walk beside him, small hand held safely in her father's, but if he
talked at all, the conversation would come in heavily broken English, fractured phrases that took too
much work for my mother to decode. Inside the Tong House, he'd prop her up on a chair beside
him while he dealt Mah Jong tiles to his customers, and she'd spend her evening watching Chinese
men smoke, drink, and gamble in a language she couldnt understand. My mother also told me that
one day, when she arrived home from middle school, my grandmother told her in a flat, even voice,
Put your things in a suitcase were leaving, and my mother never saw her father again, not even
at his funeral after he died alone in a dingy apartment two years later.
When I was in high school, my mother revealed, in another Lite Brite moment, that my
grandfather had another wife and family back in China. We were driving in the car, and I'd been
asking what she knew about concubines and second wives because I'd just read The Joy Luck Club. It
turned out my mother knew as little as I about Chinese culture, but when I explained what I'd
learned in the book, she told me about his other family.
She said, Your grandma didnt even know about them until she came home one day and found my
dad crying. Her inflection raised slightly at the end of the sentence, as if she were still trying to
puzzle through what little she knew of her parents' marriage. Hed gotten a telegram telling him
one of his sons had died in World War II. I wondered then if maybe this was why my grandmother
had left him, stung by this discovery of bigamy, though second wives and concubines were still
common in China when he had met my grandmother in the 1930s.

My grandmother died when was in my 20s and away at college, but I made the two-hour
drive home to Vancouver for her funeral. Afterward, once everyone had left my mother's apartment,
leaving the echoes of grandmotherly anecdotes in their wake like dust on a dry country road, she
started telling her own stories about my grandmother and the past. When her father snuck into her
narrative, I asked, How did grandfather die? and that pronoun felt strange in my mouth, such a
personal title for a man I never knew.
He had a heart attack, she said. He died on Christmas day. She'd been only fifteen when
he died, and when she told me this, her eyes drifted slightly to the right, and something about the
look on her face reminded me of an email meme I'd sent her years before. In answer to the
question, Who would you like to have dinner with, living or dead? my mother had written simply,
My father.
The things I knew about my grandparents floated in the air around me like dust motes in
the right light, I could see them clear as day, fleeting speckles of truth I couldn't contain, no matter
how hard I tried, no matter how many stories my mother told me in the funereal gloom of her
My mother sighed, thinking, I imagined, of her father, cold and alone and dying on
Christmas day, while the sound of firecrackers ricocheted down the street outside his Chinatown
apartment. "You know," she said, Ive always had this notion that, because your grandma left him,
he died of a broken heart."
Just like that, I pocketed another Lite Brite peg.
I convinced her to dig my grandmothers box of pictures out of the closet so we could look
at them together, something I'd loved to do with my grandmother when I was young. Before long,
we were sitting on the floor of my mother's living room with photos spread out before us, our
nostrils filled with the smell of mustiness and memories.
Is there a photo of grandma with your dad? I asked.
She shook her head. I only have one photo of him and me together, she said. She leaned
over the pile, her fingers flipping quickly through the images. I was little then, not even in school
yet," she said. "We were walking in Downtown Portland and he was holding my hand.
At long last, she found the photo half buried under a flap at the bottom of the cardboard box.
Here it is, she said and smiled. She examined the picture for a moment and then her face
fell. Oh. I guess its not like I remember.
When she handed me the print, I immediately understood her dismay. The grainy black and
white snapshot showed her walking happily down the street in the wobbly way of a toddler, her
hand grasped firmly in her fathers, but the edge of the frame severed his arm at the elbow. A
disembodied hand escorted her down the street, a hand that could have belonged to anyone.
I guess I dont have any photos of my father and me, she said, and the disappointment in
her voice saddened me.
For a moment, I found myself angry with my grandmother for taking this man away from
my mother, and I didnt know how to reconcile this resentment with my memories of the sweet old
woman who taught me how to bake chocolate chip cookies and play cribbage. But then I
remembered the way she could turn instantly cold sometimes, as whenever I asked about her past. I
remembered the vodka bottles she'd often asked my mother to pick up and how quickly those
bottles became depleted. I added to this the sliver of information I knew of her of her childhood
about her abusive father, who'd broken her kitten's neck for no other reason than that he knew she
loved it; about the way she'd run as far away as she could from his Michigan farm, until the crashing
waves of the Pacific halted any further escape, pushing her back to her final stop in Portland,

Oregon. These things my mother had hinted at over the years more Lite Brite pegs in the bottom
of my feet and now this discovery: There must have been photos once; there must have been
something. Had my grandmother destroyed them in an angry fit after their separation, effectively
erasing any proof my grandfather had existed in the same way she had tried to expunge her
childhood when she ran west? When I examined the most cohesive picture of my grandmother I
could conjure, beyond the cookie/cribbage version I loved with all my heart, I knew she might have
done exactly that.
I know I have one photo of my dad, my mother said. She got up to sift again through the
closet then returned with something resembling a passport with Chinese characters on its black
cardboard cover. I opened the small book and found a Chinese Certificate of Registration complete
with a stamped I.D. photo. I looked into the face of my grandfather for the first time, a face partially
obscured by a red immigration stamp. He looked handsome and young, maybe even a little scared
and naive. He seemed like just the kind of man whose heart could be broken by my grandmother.
My focus shifted from the photograph to the document's mostly Chinese text, and for the
first time, I read my grandfathers name: Hor Do Yee. I tried to sound out the words, and when my
mother heard the Asian syllables collide with my Anglo tongue, she said, Everyone called him
When I ran my fingers over his signature, feeling the indent made by a pen over 50 years
earlier, I felt a sudden and unexpected connection to a whole group of people Id never really
thought about before. Sure, I'd known my whole life I was partly Chinese, but that part of my
ethnicity had always been an abstraction, something easily overshadowed by the larger part of my
ancestry, which was German. I looked white, and even though my mother did not, she'd been born
and raised in America by my alabaster grandmother, and she didn't even like Chinese food. I could
have gone the rest of my life without thinking twice about where I fit into the American
"melting pot" I'd been told so much about growing up in the 70s. But looking into my grandfather's
eyes in that silver-dollar sized photograph changed everything.
Now, I had an urgent need to learn as much as I could about him, if not for me, then for my
mother. I no longer wanted to wait to stumble upon Lite Bright pegs; I wanted to seek them out on
my own. I needed to see the glowing picture they would make when I collected them all.
Online, I could access public documents, such as marriage and divorce records, through vital
records sites. I tried to find my grandparents' marriage certificate by searching nine months
backward from the date my mother had been born in 1939. Though I never found it, I did find the
record for their divorce. On a scanned copy of the original decree, in the space that asked the reason
for the dissolution, my grandmothers recognizable scrawl spelled out cruelty, and I thought, So
much for broken hearts. The decree also listed their date of marriage in 1946 seven years after my
mother had been born.
When I asked my mother if shed known this, she said, Now that you mention it, I dont
remember him being around that much.
I shook my head at how little she knew and wished, not for the first time, that I had asked
my grandmother these questions before she died, though I couldnt imagine asking how shed come
to have a child out of wedlock as the result of an inter-racial relationship in 1939. In fact, I couldn't
imagine asking her about any of this. I'd learned very early in life not to ask my grandmother about
her history and her life. Any questions were met with silence and a quick change of topic, while she
sipped from an ever-present screwdriver.

One of the first things I learned while researching Chinese immigrants is how the Chinese
write their family name first, then their first and middle names. So, even though my grandfathers
name was written as Hor Do Yee, my family name was Hor. This meant the way my mother had
always identified herself, as Sharon Yee, had been due to a cultural misunderstanding. I thought of
all the times Id answered the question, What is your mothers maiden name? She'd had told me
several times that her parents could barely communicate because of her fathers poor English, and
now I understood the full truth of the matter: My grandmother had never even understood what
her husband's last name was.
The trail that began with my grandfathers immigration in 1921 led me to a little-known
piece of legislation called the Chinese Exclusion Act. The first rush of Chinese immigrants to
America had come in the mid-1800s, when the California Gold Rush was in full swing, and gold
seemed in ready supply. But once gold became scarce, and cheap Chinese labor had been exhausted
completing the transcontinental railroad, many Americans, especially in the West, decided they'd had
enough of the Chinese. The act, passed in 1882, became the only piece of immigration law in
America to ever completely deny entry to a specific race of people my grandfather's people.
Access to the "Gold Mountain" of America, where many poor Chinese men had emigrated
to support families back home, ceased for all but a very few. Under the law, the only Chinese allowed
entry were persons protected by treaty, students, diplomats, and merchants and their families.
Students, diplomats, and anyone safeguarded by international accord would have institutional
paperwork, impossible to forge. But legitimate Chinese business owners in the U.S. quickly realized
how easily one could fake being a merchant. They capitalized by selling fake partnerships to those
who could not otherwise get into America. Thus, the legal owner of a Chinese Laundromat or
restaurant might have ten or twenty silent partners.
Once these "merchants" had legal documentation to enter the United States, they could
travel back to China and spend time with their families whenever they wished. Upon returning to the
U.S., they would report that their wife, who remained in China, had given birth to one or more sons.
Often, these sons didnt exist except on the paper records now held in the Immigration vaults. The
merchants then sold these paper son slots to more men in China who wanted to come to the U.S.
but lacked the position to do so. Once a man assumed the identity of a paper son and entered
America, he had to live by that name forever or risk deportation.
The Chinese Exclusion Act was intended to last only ten years but was not repealed until the end of
World War II, which explained my grandparents' wedding date in 1946 had my grandmother
married him before exclusion was repealed, she would have lost her American citizenship. Estimates
suggest that between 80-90% of the 175,000 Chinese who entered the country between 1910 and
1940 were paper sons. They came through San Franciscos Angel Island and Seattle, where they were
held and interrogated until their status as legal immigrants could be verified, something that could
take months. They used coaching books to memorize facts about their assumed identities so they
could answer trivial questions intended to trip them up during interviews that lasted days on end.
When I discovered the questions were often genealogical in nature, I knew I had to find the record
for my grandfather, who had arrived at the height of exclusion.
I got my first break in uncovering who my grandfather was when I discovered the National
Archives and Records Administration (NARA). As the nations records keeper, NARA preserves
government documents deemed legally or historically relevant, such as military records, ship
manifests, and immigration records, including those from the Chinese Exclusion period, many of
which remain unindexed even today. A volunteer found my grandfathers file, copied it, and put it in

the mail to me 27 glorious pages of interrogation records that covered two entries to the country
and one exit.
The information that came so slowly when I initiated my search began to arrive in a deluge
and my Lite Brite picture shone brighter and clearer than ever before. The immigration file included
three separate photos of my grandfather: in 1921, 1926, and 1930. It also included a photo of
another man, who turned out to be my grandfathers father an American citizen born in California
during the railroad construction. This meant my grandfather had been the legitimate son of a
citizen, not just one created on paper. The transcript of his interrogation revealed the names of his
wife and children, and the names of his paternal line going back several generations. As I read, I felt
a bond form between me and this man I never knew, this culture I had always been ignorant of. I
felt a piece of myself stretch out and try to grab on to this ancestry that plodded back through the
ages. I imagined a red glow about myself that grew bigger and more intense as I learned more and
I began to feel attached to my grandfathers culture and no longer spoke in terms of the
Chinese but in terms of we. I suddenly felt proud to be a Hor, so proud I had the character for
my family name tattooed on the back of my neck. While the artist worked, it seemed like every jab
of the needle, every razor sharp penetration of that indelible ink tied me forever to my past.
I wanted to take my mother to China so we could experience her fathers history first hand,
so we might walk in his footsteps under the Chinese sun, which I imagined large and red and
burning with thousands of years of history, a sun completely unlike the small cold orb that hung
above suburban Vancouver, Washington where she lived. Unfortunately, I was having problems
narrowing down the exact location of his home village. In his transcripts, the name was written
phonetically and spelled several different ways. People I met online in Asian genealogy groups told
me I needed to find the exact Chinese character for the place. They suggested I visit his gravesite,
explaining the Chinese custom to include genealogical information around the edges of the grave.
Not surprisingly, my mother had never seen her fathers grave, but she dug out a memorial
card from my grandmothers box of photos, which included a grave number penciled across the top.
We drove to a cemetery much larger than I expected in an area of Portland Id never been to. We
stopped at the office and were directed to the right portion of the cemetery, where we parked our
car under a large oak tree.
Despite the warm spring sunshine, wet dew from the morning still coated the grass. Chinese
characters decorated most of the markers, which made this lonely corner of the cemetery feel
different and more isolated from the rest. Each grave was also marked with a grave number, though
in no particular order. Neither my mother nor I could read Chinese, but I knew the three characters
that formed my grandfathers name by heart. I drew them for her and we spread out amongst the
head stones set flush into the ground. The wet grass had soaked my shoes and the bottom of my
jeans by the time I finally found the grave marked on the memorial card, but something was wrong
the name on the stone, which was written in English, did not match my grandfathers.
We drove back to the office where a woman looked through the records for my grandfather,
who ended up being listed as Jimmy Ho, an Americanization of his name. My mother and I
headed back to the Chinese corner of the cemetery, and it took us twenty more minutes to find the
new grave. This stone was in Chinese and I recognized the characters for the first and middle names
of my grandfather. Chinese contacts online later confirmed the dates of birth and death also
matched. However, I could instantly see that the character for the family name differed significantly
from the one tattooed on the back of my neck.

As I stood there on the grass in front of what had become such an enigmatic stone, I
thought for a moment about the body laid to rest beneath my feet whose identity, I suddenly
realized, likely had been forged from paper, not from the trail of family I had been desperately
chasing after. Why else would his name be changed? He had not been the son of a citizen after all
he had paid for his American identity in cash, just as the thousands of paper sons who had come
before him.
My glowing red tail of ancestral connection instantly disappeared into the ether. The Lite
Brite image I had constructed in my head burst apart, colored pegs going every which way. If he had
been a paper son, what did that mean for my mother? What did it mean for me? Were we just paper
dolls, left to deal with questions that could never be answered?
On Tomb Sweeping Day and Chinese New Year, the Chinese have a custom of burning
items made of Joss paper to send to their ancestors in the afterlife. The most common thing to burn
is ghost money so ones ancestors can purchase anything they might need, but papier-mch
couches, clothes, cars, and toiletries are also burned so the dead can have all the comforts of home.
That day in the graveyard, the soles of my shoes pressed into the earth six feet above the bones of
my grandfather, I wished I had brought a photograph of my mother and me so I could burn it on
his grave. Perhaps in that way he could know us. Perhaps he could understand what his identity
meant to me and how I would forever think of his people as my own, even if he, himself, remained
a mystery.


The Salazar House

Daryl Muranaka
On the horizon,
distant Mt. Apo,
a symmetrical shadow.
Below, a hundred houses,
rows of tiny foothills.
The smell of the rain
clings to everything.
The cold drops rattle
against the metal sheets,
an angry drummer.
Jaime works
while the rest of us watch.
He stands atop
the skeletal roof,
extra shirt wrapped around
his head and face.
The ends snap in the wind
like Peter OToole,
but the epic is gone
before I draw my camera


Carol LaHines

[medical record]
The seven-year-old infant presented to the emergency room in acute distress. Her mother
relates that she suffers from repeated, prolonged episodes of breath-holding. During these
episodes, as her mother calls them, the patient holds her breath to the point where she loses
consciousness. The child denies engaging in the behavior.
The mother reports having found the child semi-conscious, with pale, clammy skin and weak
breath sounds. She gave the child mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The mother has no formal
medical background but is certified in basic first aid and life-saving procedures.
The preliminary blood work is negative. The childs history is negative for asthma or other
condition which may have resulted in scarring of the lungs. Lung capacity is within normal limits.
There is no abnormality of the structures of the upper airway indicative of obstruction. The childs
tonsils were removed at age four with no apparent sequella.
The child will be held overnight for observation. A multi-channel sleep study will be
conducted to assess whether, and to what extent, the child suffers from obstructive or central
nervous system apnea or other condition which may account for breath-holding. In the event no
known etiology is found for the disorder, a psychological referral may be indicated.

[notes of social worker]

Dr. Fein questioned whether there was an organic basis for the episodes. The mother
appeared invigorated by the discussion, positing several explanations for the observed behavior,
speculating that the girls episodes were attributable to central nervous system dysfunction, or
obstruction of the upper airway, or even epilepsy. The mother suggested that in addition to the
usual battery of tests, the child be monitored for seizures, which would account for the strange
absence of memories, for her pallid coloring and the sudden vacancy in her eyes. Dr. Fein doubted
whether seizure activity accounted for the childs interruptions in breathing, but nonetheless agreed
to a neurology consult.
The mother recounted the childs extensive medical history, beginning with a traumatic birth
at thirty-seven weeks, following abrupt rupture of the membranes. The child was born blue and
unresponsive with low Apgar scores. Doctors posited that the mechanism whereby the brain
signaled that it was time to exhale, to expel carbon dioxide, operated erratically; in any event, the
child was prescribed an apnea monitor that would sound an alarm whenever she forgot to breathe
for more than thirty seconds. The mother speculated that the childs earlier apnic condition was

somehow related to her current breath-holding behavior. Perhaps the early, subconscious memory
of being out of breath, oxygen deprived, still lingered with her; perhaps she wished unconsciously
to relive the feeling of being short of breath, blue, on the verge of collapse, a feeling she associated
with early infancy and felt compelled to re-enact.
The mother related that during the childs earlier hospitalization (the records have been
requested by the undersigned), anatomical abnormalities of the upper airway, including a cleft palate,
a misshapen uvula, or excess tissue in the oral-pharynx or larynx, had been ruled out. The child,
according to the mother, underwent endoscopy on several occasions and was revealed to have
nothing more than inflamed tonsils, which were subsequently removed. The mother states that the
breath-holding episodes began at or about the time of the childs sixth birthday. The child enjoyed
spinning until she felt dizzy. At that point, she would fall to the ground, complaining of a sharp
pain to the head. The mother feared that the inability to tolerate spinning, the world as it blurred by,
was itself another symptom of an undiagnosed central nervous system malfunction. The mother
had heard that children with central nervous system abnormalities were unable to tolerate vestibular
stimulation, unable to contemplate the world up-ended. Dr. Fein assured her that vestibular
intolerance, in and of itself, was not cause for concern, and was likely unrelated to the current
Dr. Fein assured the mother that staff would undertake a thorough medical investigation.
The mother vowed to assist Dr. Fein and the medical team in whatever way possible. The mother
relates that the childs father is on an extended business trip and cannot be reached save for utmost
emergency. She seemed reluctant to end the meeting.

[medical record]
Lexie presented to the emergency room as seven y.o. female with episodes of breath
holding. A sleep study was ordered to assess whether, and to what extent, there is an organic basis
for the behavior.
Electrodes were placed on the cranium to assess the brains electrical function (decreased
activity in the caudate nucleus is associated with an increase in central apnic episodes). An oxygen
cannula was placed in the patients nostrils to assess air flow throughout the course of the study.
Electrodes were placed on the chest to continuously monitor heart and breathing rate.
After initial discomfort adjusting to the probes, the child was observed to have slept
comfortably for an eight-hour period with no apparent disturbance. Test strips indicate that she
suffered no breath-holding episodes, nor even decelerations of heart rate which frequently
accompany same; indeed, she appeared to have slept soundly, to be reinvigorated, with good color
and the expected energy level of a child in this cohort.
Following removal of the equipment by the technician, when she was no longer being
monitored, the child was reported by the mother to have undergone a brief, but terrifying seizure.
The childs arm turned rigid; her eyes suddenly lost focus and wandered apart; her upper lip began
sneering rhythmically. By the time the nurse arrived the seizure activity had ceased of its own
accord. The mother appeared frustrated that medical personnel had not witnessed the episode. The

nurse reported that the child appeared exhausted and recommended that she ought to be held for
further examination.

[epilepsy ward]
The patient was transferred to the epilepsy ward following a negative multi-phase study to
assess possible obstructive or central nervous system apnea.
Dr. Fein relates that the child engages in periods of so-called breath-holding, the etiology
of which is unclear. True breath-holding is unusual in this age group. Loss of consciousness
attendant to breath-holding generally occurs accidentally, secondary to entanglement in nooses or
self-induced hyperventilation. There is a reported history of central sleep apnea following
premature birth, but the history is otherwise negative.
Epileptics are observed to lose consciousness and to relinquish control of voluntary
movement; however, breath-holding is generally not characteristic of the condition. The child will
be held for further observation and for an electroencephalographic study to assess the occurrence or
potential for seizure activity.

[notes of social worker]

The mother was encouraged to call a friend or family member for moral support, but could
not be persuaded to do so. She did not want to disturb her husband, who is on a business trip.
The mother worried that the doctors would be unable to arrive at a definitive diagnosis, that
the nature of her daughters malady would elude them. Seizure activity might be fleeting, fail to
register on the brain wave tracing, or in some other way escape detection. The mother insisted on
remaining at the bedside in order to assist the doctors in their evaluation. I assured her that our
staff was of the finest caliber and would be certain to explore any and all diagnostic possibilities.

[report of child psychiatrist]

The child was interviewed by the undersigned in the childrens epileptic ward. She presents
as a well-nourished, otherwise healthy seven-year-old with reported episodes of breath-holding.
No breath-holding has been observed since admission to the hospital. The mother speculates that
the child applies pressure to her neck (the mother demonstrated same for me, depressing the carotid
vein), following which she loses consciousness and collapses to the floor.

The mother insisted on being present while the child was interviewed but was eventually
persuaded to leave by the social worker, who explained that children are more likely to open up, less
likely to dissimulate, when a parental figure is absent. Though the mother finally agreed to leave the
bedside, she remained outside the glass partition, pacing back and forth, for the duration of the
When questioned, the child professed not to know why she was being held for observation.
She maintains that apart from brief spells of darkness, when she has difficulty recalling events, she
feels perfectly well. The child denies engaging in self-strangulation or induced hypercapnia. When I
re-enacted these behaviors with the therapeutic dolls, she recoiled. During the interview, the child
frequently glanced at the mother, through the partition, as if seeking approbation.
Given the embarrassment and shame surrounding these behaviors, it is not uncommon for
the patient to deny engaging in self-harm. The mothers anxiety and intrusive behaviors in all
likelihood are contributing to the childs reticence. Follow-up recommended to rule out possible
psychological causes.

[hospital record, 1978]

Violet was admitted to the hospital following an acute attack of appendicitis. The child is
significantly underweight with associated nutritional deficiencies. She is unkempt, with unwashed
hair and dirt under the nails. The admitting doctor observed that the child has suffered at least one
previous fracture of the clavicle and one of the ulna.
Post-operatively, the child denied any pain associated with the abdominal surgery or the
stitches; indeed, she seemed happy, abnormally so, singing Skip to my Lou and playing with a doll
dispensed by one of the childrens charities. During the day, she was observed to picnic with and
serve tea to the doll.
Her mother visited infrequently (the father is deceased); when the mother arrived, an abrupt
shift in the childs mood could be observed. She became sullen, withdrawn, and reverted to a fetal
position. The mother told the child to hurry up and get well; there were chores awaiting her at
home. There is work to be done. Work to be done. When the mother left, the child once again
The child became accustomed to the routines of the hospital: night shift, day shift, morning
rounds. She learned the significance of vital signs, the bodily waveforms and rhythms. She paid
especial attention to her fellow patients, predicting, quite accurately, who would recover, who would
languish, whose signs foretold that they would never be discharged from the hospital.
The childs recovery was compromised by post-operative complications, including an abscess
at the surgical site. The abscess ruptured, endangering the stitches and necessitating extraordinary

wound care. After thorough irrigation, the abscess healed, only to strangely reappear once the
bandages had been removed. It was finally determined that the child has been picking at the
abscess, re-opening the wound, possibly in an effort to undermine recovery and to prolong her stay
in the hospital.

[progress notes]
The neurologist examined Lexie, who was admitted to the ward following an episode of
breath-holding. Seizure activity was observed by the mother following conclusion of a multichannel sleep study. Neurological examination within normal limits.
The fathers work necessitates that he be away for the home for extended periods of time.
The mother speculates that the child is acting out, trying to gain attention. She believes the child
suffers from an undiagnosed seizure disorder comorbid with, or precipitated by, oxygen deprivation
attendant to breath-holding.
The child will be observed for a period of forty-eight hours under controlled supervision.
During this period, an electroencephalogram will continuously monitor her brain wave activity,
detecting any unusual spikes or bursts indicative of seizure potential. The mother was educated to
look for signs of limb rigidity, for insidious rhythmic motor activity and strange eye movements, and
was given a notebook in which to record her observations.


She sat at the bedside, stroking Lexies hair, everything will be all right, everything will be all right.
She was familiar with the routines of the hospital: morning rounds, the long stretches of the
afternoon, blood draws and assessments, heart rate, respiration rate, check, check, check.
Everything will be all right. She kissed the childs brow.
I want to go home, the child said.
The doctors have to figure out whats wrong, honey bun. Dont move too much. The
doctors said moving too much would interfere with the results, confound the data.
Late afternoon, shift change. The transmission of information from one nurse to another,
an informational exchange, patient in bed one experienced tonic-clonic seizure at 1400 hours,
administered 5 mg. Dilantin, summarizing what had been encrypted in the chart. Everything
abbreviated, everything reduced to acronyms, from the Latin derivation.
Background activity normal.

Continuous pressure applied to the carotid vein will result in temporary loss of consciousness. Too much
pressure may result in asphyxiation and death of the subject.
Electrodes flowed from Lexies head, a viperous tangle, yellow wires and red wires, machine
I want to go home, Lexie groaned.
Youre in a hospital, angel. An important place. Theyre going to figure out whats wrong,
dont worry.

A seizure is an eruption of nervous impulses, misfirings of the neural circuitry; the sufferer
generally loses consciousness, and has no memory of it afterward; time does not progress, but is
reckoned backward, What is the last thing that you remember?
A seizure, otherwise known as a fit, an epileptic spell, is characterized by loss of
consciousness, involuntary spasms, rigidity, and rhythmic, tensile movements. The eyes roll up, or
sweep left to right, right to left, in a rhythmic pattern. It may not be possible to elicit a pupillary
reflex or to gauge the parameters of consciousness; the sufferer is trapped in his or her world,
unresponsive to ours, unable to sense or to perceive, a scorched divining rod.
It is no use attempting communication with a patient suffering a seizure. The eyes cannot
see; the ears cannot hear; the mind cannot apprehend the words.

Some children have what we call silent seizures. Often these episodes escape detection. It
may be something as simple as a vacant look.
She nodded, gripping Lexies hand.
In order to rule out this possibility, well need to perform some more tests. Ideally, well
perform an MRI of the brain structures. That will give us a three-dimensional picture of the brain
and allow us to see whether there are any areas of atrophy. Well need your consent on these forms.
The doctor left the room.
Momma, what is he going to do?
Hush, angel. Itll be all right. Theyre just going to look inside your head. Make sure
everything is okay.
Momma, Im scared.

Theres no need to be scared, angel. Im here with you. She watched Lexies heart rate on
the monitor. An increase in respiration, indicative of stress. A muted alarm.

The patient should be immobilized prior to the procedure and instructed to remain
absolutely still. Images of the relevant structures are generated via timed magnetic impulses. These
bursts of energy are loud and frequently disconcerting. Patients frequently suffer distress, ranging
from apprehensiveness and mild anxiety to panic attack and claustrophobia necessitating
intervention and cessation of the study.

Itll be all right, angel. She stroked her hair, maintained eye gaze as they strapped Lexie in,
buffering her head on either side.
Momma, Im scared. What if everything goes dark? she fretted.

Maam, you cant stay in here. Give her a kiss and you can watch her through the control

The nurse sedated her through the intravenous tubing, coils of 12 French, fed into her veins
and establishing access, pushing Valium, making her sleepy, unresponsive to the outside world.
Shell be fine, the nurse assured her.
Looking for areas of atrophy, blackened areas, singed areas, areas chronically deprived of
oxygen secondary to seizure and/or breath-holding, rule out eliptogenic potential.
Its all right, Lexie, she said, the child was already gone, secured in place, buffered, swaddled,
unable to move.

Feeling the pulses through the walls, the magnetic impulses, bouncing off her brain and
producing three-dimensional images, cross-sections, sagittal and axial images, the structures of her
brain illuminated.
Mommas here, she murmured, an assurance, a prayer.
Images on the monitor, left hemisphere, right hemisphere, the corpus callosum, a thicket of
nerves and cross-connections.
So far, so good, the technician mumbled, regarding the monitor, comparing left and right


[diagnostic report]
Seven y.o. female admitted to the hospital following episodes of breath-holding. Following
negative multi-channel study to rule out apnea, patient suffered a seizure and was admitted to the
epilepsy ward for follow-up.
Contrast MRI was performed of the brain, including the ventricles and the corpus callosum.
The structures were patent and unremarkable.
Impression: Normal MRI. No evidence of atrophy associated with chronic epilepsy or
hypoxic-ischemic event.


She wrote in her notebook. Her minute-by-minute assessments, her transcription of the
proceedings, her first-hand observations, they just didnt see, they just didnt see, the subtle roll of the eye,
the change in the scythe of the iris, the lack of expression, the twitches of the wrist, a glitch in the
The neurology attending examined the tapes from the prior night. No seizure activity noted.
He patted the mother on the back.
What about the vacant look? The stiffness in her arm? She showed them the notebook in
which she had recorded her observations, time and date, be as specific as possible when describing the
observed behavior.
The doctor patted her on the back, commending her on her powers of observation. The
seizures would be captured by the EEG. He showed her the machine, the tape spilling on the floor.
I see, she said.
Good news is, we can discharge her tomorrow. So long as she holds steady. No further
reason to keep her. The residents dispersed, moving on to the next bedside, pulling the curtains
shut around them, speaking in hushed tones.
The mother receded in the chair, far away, on the other side of the curtain, an exile, unable
to substantiate the truth of her observations, negative, negative, negative.
The light bled through a crack in the window.

[notes of social worker]


Dr. Fein reviewed the results of the multi-channel study, electroencephalogram and contrast
MRI. The tests were uniformly negative. No episodes of apnea, obstructive or otherwise were
observed; EEG monitoring revealed no spikes or other irregular activity indicative of focal or
diffuse seizure activity or the potential for one.
He was perplexed as to the etiology of the reported breath-holding and isolated seizure
event witnessed by the mother and speculated that the child perhaps had hysterical tendencies which
merited psychiatric exploration, but did not warrant further stay in the epilepsy ward.
The mother begged Dr. Fein to reconsider his decision to discharge the child. She
complimented Dr. Fein and the medical staff for their diligence, for thorough exploration of every
and all diagnostic possibilities, but questioned whether there wasnt something more to be done,
some test not yet undertaken, a more reliable diagnostic measure, a means of illuminating the
underlying cause of the behavior. She feared that the breath-holding episodes would resume once
the child had been discharged; that she would lose consciousness, without forewarning; that one day
she might never wake up, lapsing into a coma or a state of permanent forgetfulness.

[report of child psychiatrist]

The child was interviewed at nine oclock in the morning. The mother exhibited reluctance
to leave the bedside, claiming her presence necessary in the event of emergency. She relates that she
is exhausted, sleepless, and unable to concentrate. I assured her that hospital staff was on hand
in the event an emergency arose.
The child is well-nourished and alert; there appears to be no somatic etiology for the
observed symptoms. The child, while polite and compliant with questioning, remains extremely
guarded. One senses she wishes to confide in the questioner, but is constrained from doing so by
some internal or external pressure. She frequently breaks eye gaze, looking away. I assured her that
anything she told me would be held in the strictest confidence, a secret between us. For a
moment she appeared to open up, but then she promptly withdrew, chastened by the presence of
her mother, pacing outside in the hallway. I pulled the curtain shut, and resumed the interview. I
asked her what she sees when the world goes blank. She shrugged. What does it feel like when you
cannot breathe? I asked, breath-holding known to induce a high or sense of temporary euphoria, an
intoxicating loss of control, accounting for the pervasiveness of the behavior despite its known
dangers. She shook her head, shrugged her shoulders, I dont know, I dont know. The shadow is here,
she whispered, furtively looking around. The shadow will punish me, she pleaded. The shadow doesnt like
when I misbehave. No one will punish you, I tried to assuage her. Can you describe the shadow, sweetheart? Is it
here now? I cant say, she sunk back in the bed.

Impression: Childhood psychosis is a rare but nonetheless potential diagnosis. More likely,
the shadow corresponds to a fearsome presence or event in the childs life, someone or something
that cannot be confronted directly, leading to the repression of negative and frightening feelings

associated with the shadows real-life correlate. Ego fragmentation is common in cases of extreme
trauma such as physical or sexual abuse; victims fracture aspects of the world in order to cope
with recurrent trauma. Only by dissociating from the person or event, only by relegating their
frightening aspects to the shadow, can the child cope with everyday life, enabling her to maintain a
relationship with the abuser, even to love or to idolize them, while rationalizing their dark aspects.
Recommend follow up forensics to evaluate the school and home environments and
negative forces acting on the childs psyche. Educate the family regarding possible axis 2
dysfunction. Mothers over-involvement may be piquing childs fears.


Mid-day, the long interval between morning and late afternoon rounds. She shifted on the
hard chair, the chair in the waiting room, watching Lexie through thick-paned glass. They were
trying to shut her out, to relegate her to the margins. The peeling linoleum, the lingering smell of
antiseptic, the scuffed floors, the acoustical tiles on the ceiling, the smudged magazines, Highlights for
Kids, the turned pages of so many nightmares . . . . Lexie had been born three weeks early, following
rupture of the membranes. Her vitals the subject of exquisite scrutiny, her condition faithfully
monitored, lovingly described in medical shorthand, Patient resting after administration of 2 mg. Ativan;
feedings tolerated.
The rustle of pages in the waiting area, the spines of books cracked open, a rack of
magazines, Time and Newsweek and People, U.S. News & World Report.
The wall clock detonating, the blinds pulled shut, please be quiet in deference to others, do not speak
out of turn or Momma will slap you, Momma will send you to heaven, or to hell if you dont hush, if you dont be a
good girl. She shifted in the chair, folded the magazine, stared at an article about infant speech
development, the words blurring together, twenty-four hours had passed without a recurrence of
the reported behavior.
Whats wrong with you girl? Youre picking at the wound, the doctors are gonna tie you to the bed so you
cant do it. Youre wrong in the head, I tell you, wrong in the head. Perfect cross-stitches, skin held together
layer by layer, skin and fascia and connective tissue. Momma dont, Ill be a good girl.
You can come in now, the nurse said. Shes ready to go. Ill be back with the discharge
The monitor silent, no longer registering, jagged edge zero. The viperous tangle of
electrodes in the bin. Medical waste. Lexie sitting on the bed, looking down, hair in her eyes,
shoulders hunched forward, the child is known to be a fabulist, to conjure detail, have you seen this drawing,
maam, its quite disturbing from a certain point of view.
Sit back down, she cooed. Sit back down I want to take a look at you. Never mind what the
nurse said, theres no rush, theres no rush. The late afternoon night, the blinds half-shut, the dust

motes whirling in the air, its all a dream, it cant be happening, weve come this far, were not going
home now, they just need to run some more tests, figure out whats going on. Itll be okay sugar.
Let me straighten out the pillow. Hush now, close your eyes. The bedside chair she had occupied,
day in, day out, all night long, pen in hand, alert to any change in status, recording every flicker, any
potential abnormality, check, check, check. Why couldnt they see?, the electrodes attached to Lexies
brain, picking up signals. There, there, Mommas here now, dont cry, Momma will make it all better.
Dont you see how lucky you are?, the hospital is an important place. Theyre going to figure out
whats wrong with you.
No need to cry, angel. Youre my good girl, youve always been my good girl.
Hush now, she whispered, hands outstretched.

[notes of social worker]

Following discharge of Lexie, a seven year-old female who presented with a history of
breath-holding, the undersigned succeeded in obtaining the childs prior medical records. The
child was born blue, but perked up upon administration of oxygen; she was discharged
approximately one week later. The child suffered from apnic episodes of no known etiology.
Studies ruled out upper airway obstruction, malformation of the palate, or other deformity: no
other source could be found for the problem. According to the medical history, Lexie is
predeceased by an older brother, who died at the age of two months. The mother reported having
found him in the crib, blue and unresponsive. She summoned paramedics, but it was already too
late: there was no detectable heart rhythm. His death was ascribed to SIDS, sudden infant death
syndrome, when no cause could be ascertained.


Monkey Flower, by Jim Fike


Spare Ribs
Samuel Less
Theyre not really extra,
thats just a bone they throw to your conscience
to make you believe they were coaxed out
with no complaint,
freely given and
never to be missed,
a suggestion that even gets
the attention of open minded vegetarians.
Maybe its a biblical reference
to a different kind of take-out,
not a modern convenience,
by all accounts this was major surgery
even for the steady hand of God.
It may anatomically reference Eve,
but theres no surplus rib
as if man were overdesigned in the first place.


Climate change
J.lynn Sheridan
The heat of the day fades,
and one more song whispers,
lets dance. The man in gauzy white
is strumming love in the sand,
his brave fingertips exhaling every
dream he held in secret. He raises
his slow and moody watchful eyes
to the springtime flamenco dancers.
Layer-by-layer they unravel passion,
trimming the air with winking parasols
in sunshiny hues with vintage flair,
couples stroll bazaars for Mexican silver
grooved with brassy curlicues then
stop to barter for cigars clad in
chocolate-scrolled bands. Afterward,
a shopping frenzy for chic boho scarves
ends in blue-tipped manicures.
By seven they are clinking mortars and
pestles, comparing expressions of dead
worms in blue bottles, pawning flirty come-ons
until dawn when they adorn skin in scarf
frocked in naivety and warm tide sand.
Both of them chilled to the bone unaware
a man with saturnine dark eyes watches.


And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it
Jonathan Lyon
She sees through lightless rippling waste, sphinxlike:
She sees through umbrage as I flail and rods
Of molten mercury alloy my ears,
Coiling with fixing cold about my neck,
Though lights do doff their city on behalf
Of night, still, somewhere; shrieking, I aver:
Yes, this is me, and yes, I have not fled
But been rescued, despite her unseen gaze
No electricity but his. No more
Sea lanterns to allay our fear of mist.
Its predawn ether waits for us to wake.
And men, eventually, will come again,
With tricks and squabbles, riding lily pads
Into the six-walled city. Rains of ash
Will then erode them. Ill alone escape,
Or will not have escaped. Depending on
A rogue definition. I, the sole judge.
Sieged at solstice, one season was salvaged.
When sun was weakest in her hemisphere.
I had an ache the weeks before they came.
Demanded children, bound me in a ship,
Inside a barrel for that ashen shore.
Did I think last of them at the last ends?
Perhaps I wont the next - though I am fond.
Perhaps shell warn me that there is to be
No next, soon. That she wants it to conclude.
An idle hope. I could enjoy this: Fiend,
Erstwhile curator of catastrophe.
What feeds on this aggression? Not just her.
What else? Was it, is it in them? Perhaps.
Futile to think. They crave possession. Pare
Development to that: lust to possess.
So easy to conceive a possessor.
Their tablets grind to rubble then to ash;
My leaves too shrivel. No more questioning.
A building, worshipped for its golden walls,

Which curse and cure, is sacked, as I foretold:

Unbolted torches at the ladders hurled,
With insufficient speed: there were too few.
The gardens were denuded. Widows who
Had not been widows at evening were whipped;
Made into wives, or slaves, or offerings.
How I cackled.
Explorers in another epoch found them there:
Preserved in casques.
He took from others their desire for him,
And gave them back that only in return.
This confidence he carried to the coast
On an excursion of our citys wraiths.
We swam with summer starlight on our skin.
A girl rapt by her selfhood, he seduced
Or thought he did. But she bound him to her,
Pretending that she was seduced by him,
And so seduced him; feigning, to consume
Him in a final courting of herself,
From which, she plotted, she could then escape,
With the malicious trophy of his self.
They joined beneath the waves and her chemise
But he had nothing there for her to take.
She stole his inanition; and then left,
But lacking her desired prize: she swam,
Away from land, against the tide, to dawn;
She swam until exhaustion laid her down
Into its cradling waves. And her pretence
Had failed: he knew shed lent nothing to him.
The shock of her indifference, her betrayal
Dismantled his devotion to his lack,
And brought him, seeking selfhood, to my side.
This city is a loom I weave them through.
Noon dusts the pastel roofs of cottages
As Campion flowers bob beneath the terns
And guillemots and godwits, crakes and doves.
His car reverses downtown to the sea.
The harvest is reversing too: crops rise,
As barns are emptied. Warmth arrests the sky,
Intoxicating crofts of ungleaned gold.
Our past imprints against our dirty soles;

He ringed us as we wrote in this decay,

The citys glow was toning our requests,
Together wet among this dry, attacked
Until, rejecting me, she purged herself.
He heard; my arm, too, drunk of by the flies,
Now lolling with content: the window sees
Through other windows, far above the streets:
In skies scratched monochrome by frost I watch
The winters crows, in parliament, repel
Crowlight into his hair, in sympathy.
The exits steps are thin with rubble: stones
As gristle spat before the wind to this,
Our last ascent. He takes two steps as one,
Ahead; I rise as carried by his light.
But we have drifted from the citys edge.
And wind harangues us, though it will not teach.
Impenitent, of aerial flesh and fear:
We thin within a phase of strengthlessness
Where wind is fire, and cold a kind of heat,
Where lands unfixed and waters thick as sand,
Inhabiting a strife of elements;
She holds me to my minds allegiances:
Believe as well as feel. Let her be lust.
Breathing by rain, in vespertine, I watch:
Behind the clouds wink aeroplanes, with wings
Of silver light, and tails of red. I sneeze,
And wrap my arms about my shaking legs.
The city has no more need of the sun,
And neither of the moon, to shine in it
A heat is at my back, while the moon hides:
I sneeze.
Few lessons of your city you forgot:
Wanton, it would repeat, when you could hear,
Without your full assent: Wanton, wanton.
Here; high, exposed above this carrion
Of human structuring, supine beneath
As if for us to feast on, still and cold
And purged without a future; wanting nothing,
Only this prospect and this racing air.
And him. I pull his blanket closer,
And look upon the city, on its channels
Converging, intersecting and digressing.

His touch externalizes the presence

That at the threshold of unconsciousness
Alerts me and removes me from its sleep;
A circling presence vaunting formless thoughts,
Perpetuating attention to sounds,
And staunching, with a gangrene of belief,
Fatigue, through sensations and dialogues
Which I perform while knowing well that their
Foundering will be at: In part. Disperse.
I can answer him, now, saying: Wholly.
A tangerine light saturates the sky.
Its glow conceals the stars. I Look at her.
We walk, no more by sirens. Her presence,
Distracts from thirst, and hunger, motivates.
She parts her lips, exhales to evening cloud.
Just yesterday, she says, my son was murdered.
And I will wash your city, with a fire,
Until its only ruin, rubble and ash,
As my sons city is.
Blindly we savor manmade chemicals,
Catalysed carbon oxides, acerb dust;
And urine vapor; inhale to respire.
Alive, and her, I think, towards the stars.
Open your eyes. No stars. But raining clouds.
I seldom see stars in my citys sky.
Pellucid midnights, standing on its roofs,
I could detect a billion burning, weakly.
And wonder where another was, alike.
Perhaps, you pointed, claiming one within
The web, there lies or might have lain another,
Your unattainable opposite: there.
You hoped to him delight in thought of you,
Or grace, beyond my essence, felt among
What you narrated to yourself as your
Inherited instincts: a gentleness
In his imagined audience of you.
And you alarmed his dreams and yours, with prayer,
Which stumbled for the citys secret light,
At last locating your own self in his.
A city: formed for others to survive;
To ease, to delegate, and separate

Survivals parts. A part-necropolis,

Palimpsest city. Could you have thought
Yourself into existence, then all else?
And forgot? Unknowable, so dont assume
That you devise this place. Sometimes it seems so.
See the city ground to sand below us
By winds that flatten hills and fatten fire
To solder from its conquerors new forms.
Ruin incipient in its design.
Irrelevant. This home is large and real,
This town; you would not beak it by its past.
Insist: aesthetics and ethics are one.


Everything Is a Departure
Rachel E. Hicks
The words have left my mouth, the food
is snaking down, taste whispering away.
Youre closing the magazine, Im calculating
the tip. Just like the rain that turned
to suffocating steam on pavement,
our city that sunk a quarter-inch last year
into the bay while nobody noticed.
The shark they tagged is gone
to deeper depths, out of our zone.
Monarchs started out weeks early
for their southern climes, surprising
no one but those who were watching.
The Koreas disconnected phone lines
and we read it with inevitability
in the morning news.
Today I longed to speak
to an operator, whose fingers
would connect my call to someone
who was waiting for it. I looked for landlines
in each store we passed, irritating you
with my weighted walk. I cant comprehend
the iCloud: its a figment. Isnt it?
Somewhere there must be something
that is not winding down, not racing
toward oblivion: a warm voice that wont surrender
to the dial tone. Instead, breath in our ear.
Wonder will surprise us again, though
wed forgotten: orange fish mouthing at us
from an undulating surface we can
touch; pages fluttering open,
screens blank and cracked, nothing
to say. Language lengthening again,
No more curb-side drop-offswell be allowed
the kiss at the gate again.

James Croal Jackson
all my words are fingerprints
& ankles in the sand, the Atlantic,
broken wind,
& I'm in bed, awake, sleeping,
blue light, wake me up, do not
disturb, I wait, I heave, I heave,
I breathe, I dream
of waking up, a clump of silver dress
entrenched in my palm
when can I wake you
there is no future:
just you & I, hands interlocked,
a knit pretzel woven by lover
& apprentice, each knot a
finger-printed window
to fields which rise
like pancakes in heat &
left cold on the table, uneaten
an engine hums softly,
whirring. & the artificial black
stillness of fluorescent light
eyes that glint like shoeshine
activate the lives
of specks & lint


Ty Moore
The old house sits on an estate far from the noises of any city or township, away from busy
roads. It is a mansion of age and origin unknown. There are few stories and many rooms. How I
found this place I cannot recall, and my continual return is according to a schedule I neither chose
nor was assigned, only that I simply know. This mystery does not worry me. The energy here is
good, reborn and suffused in the essence of sleepless dreams. And while it is true that no one
actually sleeps here, it is true as well that the house exists as a gathering place for dreamers.
After the darkness settles in the chambers of our recess some rise and move throughout the
hallways, to another room, where they lay in embrace with others. Soon the first sounds begin. They
are whispers in the air, unintelligible, voiceless whispers filtering throughout the house in a gossamer
of silver utterances, uninterrupted, casting a web of sound over everything. It is the obligation of
the visitor to begin the telling, and always it starts with the following words . . . I had a dream of
I am still in bed when a shadow approaches me. I have never been one to rise, to climb through
the house to seek another. My delight is in receiving the visitation. In the dim light I can see, this
time, it is a woman. She has long, thick hair that drapes in a mantle which blacks out the blue walls
behind her. She lifts the covers and lies down. She moves to her side to face me in the dark. I am
already facing her. She begins.
I had a dream of you . . . Her voice is soft, and it sounds young though I have no idea her age.
She touches my face and moves fallen strands of hair from my eyes. I hear the susurration of
dozens of other conversations around us and I wonder what stories are being exchanged. I am
aware of the immensity of the room, and of the mansion beyond, but I cannot imagine the world
outside of that. In the dark, with my partners soft touch, her gentle voice, the rest of my life falls
away as if that were the real dream. When I am here I feel as though I have lived my entire life in
this house, and whatever my visitor is about to tell me it must be the higher reality. Nothing about
my former past means anything. What I am about to hear now is the only past, the only present, and
the only future I know and all that I accept.
We were keeping a booth at a market. We sold ladybeetle carriers, and they were very popular.
They were pouches. Elegant silken pouches filled with dozens of the things. Red, orange, and pink.
Some of them had escaped and were flying overhead, landing in our hair. The market people called
us bug ladies and in my dream it was so funny, funnier than it sounds now. Bug ladies selling lady
bugs. Her tone is even, as though selling ladybeetles is a serious thing. I take her hand, lacing my
fingers with hers, and curl it against my shoulder.


We continue into the night. There is a narrative between us, turning as dreams do so that each detail
resonates with emotion. The ladybeetles become balloons dotting the blue plastic sky, the oily
reflections of ten, then one hundred balloons, orange and red like the ladybeetles, and pink, too. The
breeze smells of vanilla, and stilt-walkers lope across the green grasses of a hillock.
We were offered a ride by a balloonist, she says. There are giant balloons on the lawn, and
all of the tiny balloons in the sky have people in them, so small because they are so far away. One
person per balloon, we see them waving, but we cant tell whether they are saying hello or flagging
for help. Our balloonist wants to give us a ride home.
He cant take me home, I say, but I am ashamed for sounding rude. I only live on the third
Then he will take you to the third floor.
In the dream, she says, we are excited.
This is how it goes until, in the very early hours of the morning, as the light shifts into purple
dawn, the visitor departs, and the shimmer of voices ceases. We conclude the time alone, each of us
in our own bed. At dawn we dress and gather outside in the cold white of the new morning. Green
and yellow taxi cabs swallow us up and carry us back to where we are from. Here an occasional
couple recognizes each other. I see two men embrace, and in their eyes is gratitude and tears.
Nowhere else is there such an exchange of intimacy. I see the diversity of our company, and I
wonder if the beautiful dark-skinned woman who has just entered a cab was my partner. I silently
wish her well, approach a cab of my own, and am carried away.
As I travel back to the city the brilliance of the morning becomes overcast, and rain spatters
down on the windshield of the car. The wiper blades arc through the water where it gathers and
sweep it away, return, sweep again, but the rain keeps falling. The cabby is silent. In less than an hour
we arrive at a bus station. I pay the fare and exit the cab into a harsh wash of sound, of cars
shushing by on the wet roads, of bus engines belching smoke into the air, and I smell the slate and
granite of the city. People talk in loud but unintelligible phrases, and a general din fills the spaces
where silence should be. I step up to the ticket counter, take my ticket, board my bus.
Inside the bus the clamor of the streets is muted and the interior is warm. I am tired now. I sit
with my head against the window and watch the gray activity outside. Reflected in my window is a
couple seated across the aisle. He, bearded, the white hairs around his mouth stained brown,
fumbles at cigarette stubs, a pile of them like grubs in his lap. She, begrimed and drawn, sits at his
side, white plastic shopping bags crowding her feet. She nurses an infant which is naked but for the
sleeve of her streaked and tattered shawl. The shawl covers the childs shoulder and hides the
womans breast. Fifteen minutes later we lurch into motion. I am moving again, farther still, toward
my home. The bus reeks of diesel and baby powder and feces. The man tears open the crushed
paper of the cigarettes, scrapes bits of tobacco into a small, soiled muslin bag. He is profoundly
taken by his task.

The woman waits with no expression, her only movements caused by the motion of the bus.
Glancing over I see two baby diapers, bound into small white pillows, discarded on the floor under
their seat. The bus engine groans.
At the bus station near my house I exit again into the cold noise and make my way to the street.
It is the heart of the city, and everywhere there are people: in cars, on bicycles, on the sidewalks. The
men on the sidewalks, the unkempt, homeless young men with lusty and uncouth habits, reach for
my skirts as I walk by. Because of this I have grown accustomed to wearing leggings under my skirts.
I pull the collar of my jacket closed and fold my free arm across my chest. I do not have an umbrella
and the rain flattens my hair to strings across my shoulders and down my back. The weather keeps
the sidewalk men out of the way, under the eaves where they get what shelter they can, looking like
bearded dwarves bereft of their cavern. The most they can do is murmur as I pass. The dread
weather has taken their strength, and I am secretly satisfied.
I arrive at my apartment building and let myself in with the key. The hallway is dank with the smell
of years, of lives lived and lost, of things that never change. The air is still, and compared to the
brisk activity outside, the inside of the building is smothering. The stairs creak as I walk up them. I
live on the third floor high enough that I feel safe, but low enough that I could jump if I had to.
My apartment is dark and the stale odor follows me inside. I look across the room to my unmade
bed, the cream and brown sheets rumpled, inviting. I cannot decide what I want more, food or sleep.
Dropping my shoes and hand bag at the door, I go to the refrigerator. The cottage cheese is getting
old, the fruit is over ripe, but I eat them anyway. I throw out the remaining food and climb into my
bed without undressing. Despite the rain outside the light of the day fills my room with an unwanted
presence. I draw the shade, embrace the dark, close my eyes.
I cannot sleep. There is too little noise. I find myself waiting for a visitor to come, to share the
dream they had of me. I realize that I need the guidance of others to help tell my part of the story. I
place an arm across my forehead and my skin feels hot. I am not sick, and the fever is not real, it is
only the flush of loneliness that I feel. Tears build thinly around the outside corners of my eyes but
not enough to fall. I swallow my self-pity and recount the times I have been to the house. Nine times
already. I will go a tenth. I do not know if I will ever stop going. I move my arm over my eyes and
breathe the stale air. The thought of never going back nearly causes me to panic.
A week later I am back in the house. I lie in my bed and wait. The house is silent now, and
dark. I am so very tired but the anticipation of a new dream keeps me wide awake. Time is slow as I
wait. I think of my childhood, and Christmas. The anticipation of Santa Claus coming in the night
bearing gifts, how it took so long to fall asleep, and how my fading consciousness stopped and
started in fits of imaginary rustlings throughout the house. Those mornings I would get up and steal
down to the tree, except we did not have a tree. We had a small lamp that my mother and I would
decorate with colored beads, and we would leave the light on. This is one of my earliest memories.
In the beginning there were a few, small presents when I woke to find them under the lamp. A
comb, a necklace. Once I received a copy of Alice in Wonderland, my favorite book. But just as I got
used to the idea, and my anticipation of Christmas was at its peak, a morning came when there were
no presents. The lamp was off that morning, and every Christmas morning after . . .

In time I hear the soft movement of the visitors leaving my room. I lie on my side and watch the
doorway, as I always do, and soon shadows appear, splitting into separate forms as they enter the
doorway. My visitor approaches, lifts the sheet, and lies next to me. I can tell by his silhouette he is a
man. He faces me on his side, saying, I had a dream of you . . .
The voices begin the rasp of glass wings and the night is filled again with the sound of whispers.
My visitor is weaving a tale to which I can hardly respond. I can tell by his accent he is a foreigner.
His voice makes me smile as he tells me about the dream.
We were waiting to visit my mother when word came that she had died, he says. The news
was a shock, and you began to cry with me, and you held my hand because that was all you could do.
My mother had wanted to meet you for so long, but there had been no chance before, and then it
was too late.
Why did your mother want to meet me? I say.
Because of what I told her about you. I told her you were the kindest person in my school, and
I promised I would bring you.
We were in school?
Yes, in middle school. When I was new to the school you were my friend, and I was very far
away from home. You were the only friend I had for a long time, and I told my mother in letters
about you. After school was out we planned to go see her, and then we got word just before we left
that she had died.
He has tears in his voice, and he sniffs as he tells me the story and I think it must be real. My
own tears run down my nose and stain the pillow.
Is it really too late? I ask.
He moves his head on the pillow but I am uncertain of his response until he inhales with a
mournful gasp and says, Yes, my friend.
He is so earnest that I am absorbed into his mourning, and he touches my face where the tears have
washed over my skin. His thumbs wipe gently under my eyes and his hands smell like lotion.
All is not lost, he says then. After we got word we went into the barn where the kitchen was,
and we made cookies which I have loved ever since coming to this country, and I told stories about
my mother before the bus came. And when we got on the bus we gave cookies to the passengers,
and giving these gifts was like giving away parts of our grief, for with each gift our burden was
lightened. I think it was the inspiration of my mother who learned of you through your generosity.
I am taken by this story, and find it difficult to carry my part. I have never felt so generous. I am
inspired to be that person, however, and I listen, taking mental notes as the dream goes on.

Why is the kitchen in the barn? I ask, and we laugh into our pillows so as not to disturb the
I do not know, he says. I am still amazed by the cookies.
He says more, in each phase of the dream giving me credit for being someone I have never
actually been, and I realize how important these dreams are. I can think of no better way to know
myself than through understanding the way others see me. Silently I vow that I will never stop
coming here. Whatever I must suffer in the days before I return, I accept it in exchange for this. I
press my visitors hand between my hands and let the dream unfold. I interrupt him little, making
minimal effort on my part of the exchange, but he seems fine with it.
The light changes as dawn approaches and he pulls away to leave, but I stop him, and kiss his
forehead. With one hand his fingers trail lightly down my face, gently drawing my eyes closed,
brushing over the contour of my nose and lips, lifting from my chin as he goes. I watch him fade
through the doorway and disappear, then I lie on my back, staring into the dark ceiling, and imagine.
The next week, in the city, I make cookies. As I pass by the men on the sidewalk I give the
cookies away, and the men stare as if seeing me for the first time. Four days in a row I pass by them
and they do not reach for my skirts. On the fifth day I venture out without leggings.
My life has come to passing time in the city, waiting to return to the house and to the dreams. In
my apartment at night I do not sleep. The only dreams I have are memories from the house. My
dreams consist of the stories told to me by strangers, and sleep is lying in a bed with my eyes open,
my heart open wider, waiting for someone to come to me, to tell me how they dreamt of me.
In a week I am back at the house. In my room, in a bed next to other beds and other dreamers, I
wait for my visitor. The stillness in the room covers me like a blanket. If I could sleep for real I
would, but my anticipation is high again and I am eager to hear a new dream. Time moves so slowly
I begin to worry night will pass before the visitors come, but then someone stirs, figures rise from
some of the beds and move toward the door. I lie on my side and watch. The blue walls are a screen
against which the hero of my night will play out his or her approach. I bite my lip and tuck my
hands under my chin.
Soon the shadows appear, a small group filtering into the room and dispersing to other beds. I
watch the shadows pass by, see them glide under the sheets of my fellow dreamers. In a few seconds
the air sparkles with stardust whispers, but I am still alone.
I raise my head off the pillow and stare through the open doorway. Nothing stirs, and no one


else comes in. I look around at my bunk mates and see that each shares a fellow visitor beneath the
covers of their bed. None has come for me. Dismay pins me to the bed. I am dazed by the sudden
weight of it, but I cannot remain here alone.
I throw aside the sheets and pad across the floor toward the door. The room feels foreign in the
dark, and I am disoriented by being in a place so unexpectedly strange. My feet are sticky on the
lacquered floor, and my thighs feel exposed beneath the drape of my gown. At the doorway I put
my hand on the frame and look into the hall.
As far as I can tell the hallway is vacant. The shushing whispers filter out from the doorways of
rooms along both ends of the hall, waft up from the floor below, and descend like dust sprinkles
from above. I am embarrassed to be wandering through the open spaces by myself, and a sense that
I have broken some rule by my tardiness presses on me. For a moment I wish I was home in my
apartment, a place at least familiar if loathsome.
I know so little about the steps a visitor takes, whether they venture far up or down below to find
their partner. Whether they stay on the same floor. My uncertainty is frightening and a dizzying
vertigo nearly sends me back to bed.
The first few rooms on my floor appear fully occupied. I am unable to make out a single lone
figure. I am just one story up from the ground floor, and stepping into the long hallway I tilt my
head back to look into the heights of the mansion. There are at least two floors above, and fear
grips me that the house is haunted.
Driven by a sense of obligation I take to the staircase and climb to the next floor. I feel like
Alice, but I am certain of the terror of Wonderland, and I just want to go home. The third floor is
much like the second, however, and though I find no lone dreamers here either, I feel some comfort
that things are not as abnormal as I fear.
On the fourth floor I find a few of the doors closed. These I bypass and continue my search
through the open doorways, again finding no companion for myself. The idea that I am the odd one
out settles on me with the weight of Christmas morning. Standing in the hallway in my bare feet,
with the thin gown of my sleepwear barely containing my naked body, I begin to shrink. The floor
expands, the walls climb higher, the voices of the dreamers increase in volume so that the wave of
conversations overcomes the point of whispering, becomes a storm of volume that is profane. I
want to cry out for it to stop, terrified that the illusion of the house will be shattered in the rush of
noise. There is one more stair up, and in an attempt to rise above the chaos I take the staircase to the
highest floor.
On the fifth floor the walls pitch in where the roof narrows, and the hallway is much shorter.
There are only two rooms here. The first is dark but empty. At the second the door is closed but for
a crack, and a dim light shines around it. The clamor of the lower floors is gone, and even the faint
whispering cannot be heard up here. I approach the lighted room, touch the wall softly as I put my
eye to the breach, and peer inside.
A figure lies on a bed, alone, and there is a small lamp burning on top of an old dresser. On the

floor is a round rug with a spiral pattern of color. A small, wooden chair sits to the left against the
wall. Moved by the presence at last of a lone dreamer I push the door open and step inside. The
room is warm, much warmer than the rest of the house. Quietly I approach the bed and see that the
figure is a young woman, with hair the color of mine. A slight vertigo returns as I try to identify a
face I cannot clearly see, though the uncanny certainty that I am looking upon myself makes me feel
as if I am about to fall upward into the ceiling. She is asleep, truly asleep, at peace on some level I
have never known. I should not know this persons history, and therefore have no basis for my
understanding, and yet I do understand. The recognition in knowing another person is no less a
relief just because it is oneself.
There is a sensation, the healing of an old wound, like the eye of a vortex closing on itself. I put my
hand to my chest and feel the tug of emotion as my throat goes dry. The truth of this moment
overwhelms me with a stunning revelation. I feel love for this person. I desire to lie beside her and
stroke her hair, wake her and ask questions, hear her stories and tell her mine.
She sleeps in silence, with easy breathing, completely still except for the motion of her breaths. I
lean in and turn my head to look again at the womans face. Her hair has fallen so that it is hard to
see her clearly, and I reach forward to move the wayward strands of it before I stop myself, my hand
hovering just above her forehead. In the stillness of the room I realize there is nothing more I need
to know.
I face the orange light and notice that the lamp bears a single strand of beads. I move to the
dresser and study the beads, small and black against the glowing lamp shade, and I think of my
childhood. Would that I had had such peace in my youth I wonder--would I ever have been so lonely
and for so long? Releasing the beads I commit the layout of the room to memory and turn off the
In the dark I find the chair and move it to the bedside where I sit. I close my eyes and match the
soft breathing of the sleeping figure. The rug beneath my feet feels soft, and I swirl my toes over the
memory of the pattern. In my mind I see balloons in the blue sky, I see ladybeetles, red, orange, and
pink. I see beads on a lamp, a dark lampshade, a cold and melancholy house. Behind my closed
eyelids I am searching but there is no one else. Even my mother is absent from my memory. I stop
moving my feet and settle them firmly into the silken fabric of the rug. The floor is solid as I stand,
my eyes still closed. Before me the woman lies at ease in sleep. I am generous, I tell myself. I am
loving. I am able. I am alive. Carefully I lean over the bed, dipping low so that my face comes near
the dreamer in her slumber, and in the softest whisper I say the words, I had a dream of you . . .


JC Reilly
You slumber in the armchair like a mouse, brown and curled, your tail a dream, or a fallen scarf, with
no thought given to the tremble of the moon in Pittsburghor anywhere. Sleep, for you, is
pudding, and chocolate is proof enough that what we think of as starlight can melt on tongues. To
wake you:
an apocalypse, a kiss, a tilting of shadow? You do not stir. Rest, then. When
mornings hungry cat yowls greeting, every mouse scurries at the scratch of claws.


A hermit crab wants me to tell him the time. When I say its breakfast, he tells me that its February,
and the sky is the shape of broccoli, and that wasnt what he asked. I reply its nine, and that the tide
is like an untied shoelace. When I was younger, I thought only fish swam in the blue martini
oceanI didnt know you lived there too, a merman whose fin curled at the tip like Elvis lip, and
that jellyfish, your voice, could sting the heart right from me, a jewel for your sodden crown. The
hermit crab finds none of this remarkableand as for calculus, sacraments, the color of breath,
those are Xs on a pirate map no one remembers. What is time, he says, but an octopus misplaced
tentacle, flapping in the surf, gray and rubbery as a Michelin tire? What is time, but the song you
will no longer sing? Memory seems hard as a scalpel to the knee, as arctic winds, as the hermit
crabs carapace, as judgment from the dead. As that piece of eight, your love, buried, lost at sea.


Plantain, by Jim Fike


The Rainbow Goose

Nicholas A. White
The goose is colored like a hot-air balloon at the circussome feathers green, others pink,
and along its neck, a slick line of blue. Occasionally it will stretch its neck for a drink and the murky
water will turn its feathers gray for a few minutes.
I hate the rainbow goose. Ill see it dashing through the woods like a flash of colored light,
and the same twirling feeling from my moms funeral will gather in my stomach.
As I wait, hidden in the top of a tree, I whittle a branch into a spear, watching with both
envy and anger as a mom and her son climb the parks swing set. I keep whittling until my hands are
blistered and the tip of the spear looks like the pointed cones of the ice creams my mom would buy
me every other Sunday.
My dad didnt believe me when I told him the rabbits around Beatty Lake are turning orange,
the squirrels pink, the birds becoming flashes of purple within the trees.
Its just your imagination, he said.
But I couldnt imagine such a unique goose, with feathers as slick as baby oil and as colorful
and evolving as the evening sun.
Maybe its Momma, I said. Maybe shes getting everything to turn colors.
After a few moments, when Dad finally looked at me, there was nothing behind his eyes. He
was wiped clean, like the beach after a big wave.
The goose runs toward the water. I make a laughing sound from deep in my throat and the
goose stops like stone, one foot craned over the edge of the shore. It doesnt move for a while.
On windy days Ill hear my moms whispers in the rattling branches around the lake. Soft
bells, like the muffled chimes of an ice cream truck buried deep underwater, or the rolling of a train
somewhere far in the woods, past the new neighborhood and the cemetery and the field where the
circus would come every spring. The circus never came back after their bear attacked the stands.
Whenever I imagine Momma, I think of her sitting next to me on those stands, the bear spinning in
circles before us while wearing a bright blue hat, a hot-air balloon floating in the background. But
the bear has no face. Its a black hole, an empty circle with sharp teeth and claws.
I grab the middle of the spear, imagining the necessary throw to sink through the gooses
soft flesh and pin its heart to the clay. I dont care if I fall from the tree. The goose places both feet
on the shore and starts walking backward into the woods, its head and beak lifted high at the water,
moving in reverse. Its turned gray again. My hands are sweaty and the spear slips and bounces in the
tree before piercing the leaves and standing like a flagpole. The goose stops at the noise and tucks
one foot into its body. I can feel its fear in my stomacha type of hunger, a gurgling.
I climb down. The goose doesnt move, and by the time my feet crunch dead leaves, Im
invisible. Im everywhere, circling the goose, moving closer. I smile at the thought of showing my
dad proof about the changing animals.

I see deer tracks. A few feet away are the monstrous stamps from bear paws, and I run.
When I look back, the rainbow goose, standing frozen in the woods, has one leg sucked into its
body, its metal-colored feathers looking like a coat of armor. I realize I never wanted to kill it. It
looks lost. And like me, it will never find its way home.


Hebrew Alphabet
William Doreski
The man wielding the Hebrew alphabet could be my father, whose grave has recently opened,
exposing a pile of old clothes I should take home and launder. Alphabets are better when I cant
read them. Pronouncing the Hebrew letters would overeducate me like Mount Etna. Matching
Hebrew words to objects I admire would further indict me. Maybe the desperate fellow with his
alphabet isnt alphabetic at all. Maybe hes sloganeering for a cause I might admire. The streets run
off in all direction but he doesnt notice. Nor do I. My fathers grave opens until its the world. Why
dont we step in together and leave that alphabet writhing on high ground?


Any Rain
Connolly Ryan
If you could imagine
what youd say if you
were the rain right now
you would be even prettier.
An already sleepy town
is all the more sleepy
under cellos of rainfall.
In the form of a downpour
at the tail-end of May,
softness shows at last
its hard-sought face.
Any rain will do,
but this particular one
is created by understanding.
If each raindrop is a portal
into yet uncharted habitats
(which it is)
then life is just long
to live forever in.


How We Got to Here

Lisa Rhodes
It doesnt matter how youre put together, if
By titanium rods, kidneys donated from a 21 year-old lesbian, who
Committed suicide after her lover dumped her, or
If youre filled with allogeneic umbilical stem cells, aborted or miscarried
Fetal cells, or surviving with a rats heart, or if digested pigs brains
Are swimming through your veins and filling your neuronal
Cavities, or if the volume of hope emptied from the catacomb
Of a relatives last words, is whispering in your ears and
Healing your abandoned heart and pounding your marionette like fingers on the piano for
More songs, and so now they are living through you, and taking you
To their house of joy, and you hear and feel their swollen eyes tearing, and
Happiness is living out your saviors last prayer, and wanting 20 more
Years, knowing that youll be thriving on tofu and vegetables, and that it doesnt matter if
Your hair was donated from a horses tail, or is a fake imitation made from
The skins of leaves or the bark of trees and you know youre a smorgasbord of
Greatness, inside and outside like a Jackson Pollack painting, and so what if
Your knees are going to be electronic someday, or kneeling on a skateboard
Because youre doing what you want to do, and walking and living and dreaming
And gobbling up this life, and feeling and choosing every morsel of
An idea before you commit to grieve for all of your causes, or want to grieve
For anything, and so, if you can rejoice in everything positive, and
Refuse to regress and stay in the moment where life begins and
The skies are loaded with Hail Marys like an injection of life-saving blood,
That opens up the clogged brain that is drained, but is now filling with
A living holy beat, rhythmic to the world, ripping open the channel
That has spectacular healing love and brings innumerable chances
For another way at standing with life, and starring in a world where
You can make it everywhere. There is a world with directions from a past life
Clearly written in all of the worlds living languages,
And you can succeed, and never have to have any regrets.


Tell Me a Story
Lorraine Caputo
Who sat in that yellow stool
in the middle
of this no-mans land?
What has that plastic bag seen
in its journeys skipping across
these rough Atacama sands, around
the base of cinder cones,
changing course with the
capricious wind?
Where has the owner of
that blue tennis shoe
on the lonesome highway
wandered off to?


Raise Them Wild

Adam Johns
Signs manifested before November, but May renounced them. Let them read themselves! Her sap
rushed: she wore ferns in her hair and heard trees growing. Who had time to interpret signs? In
July a cyclone walked the hills, pulling down green-black night like a curtain. The fearless dog wailed
but May watched the sky until Walker dragged her laughing into the basement. She avoided the
house by day. Walker grumbled about his summer of sandwiches, then started cooking. She never
ate until night now, when she ravened, devouring his cold greasy burgers without buns and slurping
soup from the pan. If she liked Walker's music she'd sit with him after dark; otherwise she dangled
her legs from the catwalk, listening to insects. It was a summer of Shostakovich and cicadas. She'd
never seen such fecund life, such reckless mortality, but Walker hardly noticed. He had his attic
project: he was building a stairway and shelving to store junk they should never have bought, or at
least had the sense to burn: dishes for imagined gatherings; cloth and patterns for children's clothes;
spare linoleum and nails for unbuilt houses. But Mack knew it was a summer unlike any other. He
was restless, heartless. They left home every dawn and returned every dusk, like any dog and old
woman called by summer. She hated him. By night he was thirsty and tired, with blood matting his
"We're frail," Walker said the previous winter. "You heard about those old folks tortured for fifty
bucks and kicks. We need a dog and a gun."
"I'd like a dog. A fireside mutt who doesn't shed." She hadn't stopped cleaning the house yet, and
shedding seemed like a burden.
"Not a mutt. A guard dog. We've got snakes, bears and raccoons. Christ, May, we've got people!"
He was asking, not telling. The new shotgun and puppy were already ordered. No mutt was good
enough, nor even a German shepherd. He'd chosen a giant schnauzer, a heavyset fighting brute
with wiry black fur and sunken black eyes. It was still winter. Walker occupied himself with the dog
and May occupied herself with Faulkner and Shakespeare. It was a savage world and she couldn't
deny Walker's logic but she detested that dog, who moved with a killer's grace. Only in the instant
after spotting his prey did stillness wash over him, a peaceful heartbeat of anticipation preceding
"Name him," Walker demanded when the puppy killed his first squirrel.
"Mack," he agreed. "Same as the truck."
Usually Mack hunted rabbits or groundhogs. He'd tree possums and raccoons then circle, baying,
until Walker came with the shotgun to bring them down. He killed snakes. Once she'd seen black
racers or garter snakes almost daily, but he hunted them to extinction. He grabbed and shook them,
snapping vertebrae like kindling before discarding them: snakes didn't suit his palate, unlike cats.
She'd never actually seen him eat cat, but she'd found their half-eaten, half-buried remains.
Sometimes he chased deer, which always escaped him in dense brush. May dreaded the day when

he'd hamstring one. Would he bother killing a doe before feasting? In her dreams, Mack ate his
prey alive. He was some guard dog.
She walked in the cool of the mornings; when heat descended she moved to the creek, where she
briefly watched the swaying leaves before working. She was building a stone staircase from hilltop to
river, sometimes in the creek and sometimes beside it. She gathered stones from old fences, ruined
buildings and the creek itself. She'd never finish it but her fragments would whisper for generations.
She did her best to avoid Mack until dusk, when he always silently slipped from among the trees to
stand panting by her side, exhausted.
It was a hot wet summer. The seventeen year locusts arrived, mated, died. In July, lightning ignited
a hilltop fire, but rain quenched it. Wandering the ashes the next morning she found two speckled
eggs. What species had laid them? She should have read those eggs easily, but they meant nothing.
Unsettled, she entered the house before dusk for the first time in weeks. Walker handed her the
sandwich he'd just finished making for himself.
"Where do you suppose Ed is?" she wondered.
Mack appeared and squatted on the floor, eyes on Walker.
"If he was dead, they'd find us. If he quit drinking, he'd find us. So he's drinking. Probably living
on the street."
"I hope he isn't always in the street," she said. "I hope he sees trees and flowers. Maybe he sleeps in
the park."
"I hope he doesn't have cirrhosis."
That conversation didn't phase her. Her sorrow for Ed was relentless but autonomous, like
breathing. It couldn't do more harm. Her inability to read the eggs was different. They should have
been legible. Whenever she remembered them fear choked her, so she walked farther and worked
harder each day, trying to forget. Was she seventy? Hardly! Neither more than twenty, nor less than
a hundred, she attenuated into the forest. Summer blurred into fetid September and crystalline
October, but ordinary time resumed in November, when fog rose from the river and sleet fell daily.
She ached from the cold, too stiff to build her stairway. The beast's prey grew wary and embittered.
Sometimes he returned from the hunt shivering, head low, without a trace of blood on his muzzle.
She triumphed in his failures.
She caught a cold because she insisted on working in the sleet, then the cold became bronchitis.
Walker dragged her to the doctor, who prescribed antibiotics. She had bad dreams. Walker didn't
bother trying to stop her from working the next day. Shaking with cold and weakness, she returned
from her staircase within minutes. "Rest and read," he prodded gently. "Your stones will keep." She
got in bed. Walker brewed coffee, stoked the furnace and heated soup, then took Mack walking.
Now and again she heard the beast howl, and wondered if he'd killed. Her throat and chest hurt.
She felt her wild life trickling out through hairline fractures.
When she finally slept, she dreamed Ed was little. They were parked in the shadow of an office
building. He laid down in the back seat; she covered him with a thick quilt. It was a cold night but
exhaustion overpowered her. She woke to the night breeze. All four doors were open. Shaking, she
reached into the back seat. Ed was still under the quilt. She circled the car on the same silent feet

that had stalked rabbits and squirrels early in the Depression, when she wore boy's clothes and
carried a slingshot. Nobody was there. She shut the four doors then slept on the passenger's side.
When she woke again little Ed stood on the driver's seat, holding the wheel. He drove them away
from the office buildings, down a wet grassy hill. His laughter rang as she dove for the brakes.
She woke to an old woman's ranting, staccato voice, which uttered neither words nor sentences but
only syllables like hail. That voice was hers. She stood. The voice continued. Her legs were stilts.
The lights were harsh. She took a long cold drink then looked out the bathroom window at barren
treetops. The crone finally shut up. She'd never seen those trees before. Not from that angle, not
with that grey light. New world. Winter-world.
She went to the bookshelves, looking for Faulkner. Absalom, Absalom. In '36 and '37 she'd worked
as a maid in the Odd Fellows' house, saving money while Walker finished college. Outrageous
books were her vice, so she bought Absalom, Absalom the day she saw it. Reading it, she grew
angry: she'd paid good money for words not written for readers. Still, the next week she read it
again. The third week she fell in love.
She got under the covers to read, but couldn't read: her eyes drifted over letters and words, but the
sentences were tunnels which raveled into labyrinths. For almost fifty years she'd whispered
Absalom, Absalom until it became her second voice, but now she only remembered its broadest
outlines. A man, a swamp, an outraged woman. Two friends talking old demons down. Slavery,
genocide, war. The farther she struggled, the less she knew, so she switched to Shakespeare.
Coriolanus, her eccentric favorite. It was like reading hieroglyphs. Once she'd lived for the hour of
Shakespeare and Faulkner between drudgery and sleep, but their books were blank now. She was
glad when Walker returned with the bloody-muzzled beast.
"These books don't mean a damned thing." She threw her old treasures down.
"We're frail, May," he sighed. "Just hold on. Read westerns if you're bored. Don't expect too
much." He picked up her books and brought her soup. In a few days she felt better. She walked
when she could, but couldn't tolerate working in the cold, so she took up cooking and cleaning
again. Sometimes she turned the pages of mystery novels.
Sudden spring. One day, snow; the next, blossoms. She hung fresh suet for the birds and began
repairing the damage winter had done to her staircase. Mack rampaged, leaving thousands of
footprints in the fading slush, howling at ghosts and shadows. He was so wild at dusk that Walker
had to leash him before pulling him inside.
"Do you think Ed has kids somewhere?"
He laughed. "Our guess is as good as his, I'm sure."
A warm breeze blew. There'd be no more snow by morning. The restless beast ran about inside the
house. "He's afraid of wind. Afraid of melting snow."
"Could be. Let's sit outside, you and me."
He took her onto the catwalk encircling the upper floor of the cabin. They sat on the bench. She
heard melting snow rushing into the creek. It was an old iron bench. Ed used to sit there at the old

house, resting after hard work in the garden. She heard water and wind and the beast pacing inside
the shut house, but she heard something else, too.
"Listen," Walker breathed. "He's been smelling it for days. Do you hear?"
Branches cracked. Leaves rustled. Was something breathing?
"A bear!"
"Hungry as hell after hibernation." He turned on a floodlight. She didn't remember him installing
it, but her memory was moth-eaten. The floodlight lit everything between the house and the creek.
The bear was stretched upright, paws grasping the suet she'd hung for the the chickadees in payment
for their voices. "What a giant," breathed Walker. Skinny after hibernation, he was still the biggest
bear she'd seen. Walker slipped off the bench while May leaned forward, clinging to the railing. She
hadn't felt this good all winter. The bear flinched from the light, but he needed to eat, and kept
reaching for the suet.
Behind her, the door opened. Her clouded brain stuttered before understanding. Walker was
releasing the dog. She wanted to shout, but changed her mind. Let the bear kill Mack! Then she'd
have peace.
She hardly heard Mack race around the house and down the slope, churning dirt and gravel. When
he hit the bear the sound echoed like an axe splitting wood; he knocked the bear over and they
rolled. That was his chance: if any dog could kill a bear it was Mack, but his chance would be
fleeting. But the bear protected his neck, and after rolling they rose, blackness against blackness at
the floodlight's periphery. Walker laughed. In fifty years, she'd never heard such laughter. The owls
hooted. When the bear struck he moved with such speed that she saw two parallel moments, but
the impact echoed against a hollow log, not against Mack, who was gone.
She'd been wrong. Mack wasn't only a terror to the weak. Hatred had blinded her to his deep
violence. The bear struck like lightning and his blows echoed like thunder, but Mack was gone when
each blow fell. Round and round, weaving between those legs like pillars, he worried the bear's
shanks. Hunting groundhogs and cats his jaws were like a scythe, but to the bear they were a scalpel:
sudden, precise, gone. Mack ducked and wove, feinted and dodged. Any man would have died in
Mack's place, but Mack was prescient: absent whenever the bear struck, he assailed every weakness.
May wept. Walker laughed. The poor bear. The terrible monster.
Mack herded the bear, leaving torn earth and uprooted stones behind. The bear's breath rasped.
Mack whirled and darted, the bear's terrible counterstroke always a moment too slow. Grunting in
fear, the bear lost his footing and slipped like a mudslide, churning earth and stone in his clumsy
haste as the monster leapt into the opening.
May covered her heart. Walker cheered. Mack went for the throat, but that was hubris. The bear,
sick with hunger, fear and pain, remained a bear. His blunt, backhand sent Mack flying. May
clenched her fist, hoping for triumph. But the bear was an animal, not a monster. He went straight
up a maple tree, which swayed under his quarter-ton weight.
Mack had been silent but now, circling the swaying tree, he howled to the moon. May wept harder.
Walker stopped laughing.

"I'll get him back inside."

"The poor bear! Christ, that poor baby."
"The bear will be fine. I'll get Mack inside."
Mack howled and struggled before obeying, but once inside he drank three bowls of water and fell
promptly asleep. In the morning, it would have seemed like a bad dream if not for the bear's prints
from the tree to the creek: her outspread hands fit into his prints.
"Good dog," said Walker, leading Mack upstairs. "Bear hunter."
They neither spoke nor slept for long hours.
Mack was slow to rise and slower to move the next day, so May walked alone. The snow was gone,
the creeks overflowed, the trilliums bloomed. Yet the forest was not her forest, nor the world her
world. Only landmarks made sense of anything, and they were hard to connect, like drifting
The next day Mack improved. He walked but resting often. She needed his hateful presence: he
kept her from losing herself. He didn't try to hunt, but kept his nose to the ground: was he seeking
the bear?
"You'd better believe that bear changed hills," smiled Walker. "Good thing, too," he said, watching
the dog drift into deep sleep before noon. "I guess they both got their fill."
In a week Mack started killing rabbits and groundhogs, finishing each with one dainty shake. Then
one morning he was abruptly worse. Leaving the house at dawn, he rested his weight on his right
paws. His moist breath foamed. His black eyes, which once mirrored the end of everything, now
were wet with his own pain. Good, she thought, then fetched Walker, who lifted the dog into the
truck. May held Mack's rolling head in her lap all the way to the vet. Walker's jaws moved but she
didn't try to decipher his silent words. She was drifting beyond comprehension.
The vet's office stank of dog shit and dying dog. The vet talked like he knew her, but she didn't
know him. He ran tests, charged money, then laid it out with perfect clarity. The lining of Mack's
heart was damaged. Fluid was accumulating around it. Medications might drain the fluid, but the
damage was irreparable.
Seven tears traversed Walker's cheeks on the way home. Scratching Mack's ears while he huffed like
bellows, she was glad. She remembered the half-eaten cats and slaughtered snakes: she was glad.
But her feelings were distant, and she kept petting him.
The pills helped, but Mack barely had the strength to walk, let alone hunt. She wanted to work on
her staircase, but she feared everything, and couldn't. Seeing a hollow tree, she'd imagine being
trapped in the hollow; seeing a jutting rock, she'd imagine losing an eye to its tooth. The world was
teeth and shadows. She spent whole days trudging the hill. Mack walked while his strength lasted,
doing his best to keep his head by her hand. In lucid moments that disgusted her. What kind of
villain repented in his moment of weakness?
"Spit at the world," she sneered once when he collapsed in the shade. "Remember yourself at
Corioles!" A Shakespearean vastness possessed her and she kicked the dog. He whimpered. She

kicked again. "Like an eagle in a dovecote I fluttered them. Alone I did it. Boy!" He shambled up
with Iago eyes. Then the presence was gone, her anger faded, and she walked. He followed, lungs
roaring. She remembered five orphaned skunks in a box. Mack would have swallowed them whole,
but Ed carried them home in a box to nurse them. All five survived, and though he loved them they
eventually abandoned him for the forest. Be proud you raised them to be wild, she'd said. He
nodded, stopped crying and in a few years he was gone too. She aimed a kick at Mack, but he
evaded her, whining.
She couldn't walk all day. She was too hungry and the noontime dappling of light and shadow
baffled her. But on her way home she found Walker standing by the creek at a pile of her stones
with a wheelbarrow and a bag of concrete.
"You're the cow's tail," she said, which she'd tell Ed when he was the last one up in the morning.
Walker grunted. He poured concrete into the wheelbarrow, added creek water, and stirred.
"What are you building, cow-tail?"
"A tomb."
He had plenty of rocks for it. It had taken her weeks to assemble that pile, though she hardly
remembered it. He was no great mason, but it was grand for a dog's tomb. She watched, even
helped with the bigger rocks. It was too cold in the shade but bright sunlight confused her. He
finished before evening. The tomb was an awkward dome, roughly waist-high at the center. There
was an opening big enough for Mack, when the time came, and on the rock which would cover the
opening Walker had already carved the epitaph. Mack. Bear fighter.
It was the first hot evening of the year. Walker and Mack had little appetite, but May ate a whole can
of peaches alone on the catwalk deep in the evening. Sometimes she remembered where she was
and sometimes she forgot, but she savored the peaces and night birds.
For three days she let the mortar dry. It was hot dry weather and one day might have sufficed, but
she waited three, with three (then two, then one) strings around her finger to remember. Walker
didn't ask about the string, nor did he ask what she was doing when she threw their old dishes down
the hillside. He just listened to them break, then told her to sit: he'd make dinner and clean the
On the third day she rose at dawn and removed the final string. She couldn't remember how to
brew coffee, but she found some cookies with apricot filling: Ed's favorite, which they still bought
after forty-five years. She took three and walked out the door. Mack huffed and shambled behind
her. Looking at the absent string on her finger she paused at the tool shed and took out an ax. She
gave the dog half a cookie, ate the other half herself and examined the axe. There were hammers,
mattocks and machetes, too, but she kept the axe. They walked. Mack often stopped, but she
encouraged him with bits of cookie. He licked her fingers. By the time they reached the creek Mack
was exhausted, and threw himself into the shadows.
"Yes," she nodded. "That'll do, cow's tail."
He watched her watching him and his eyes were pits but maybe he didn't care or maybe he
welcomed it, so he dropped his head. She took two steps and swung. It was a good swing and she

was a strong old woman but layers upon layers of muscle protected his neck. The black blood
gushed and he heaved himself to his feet, snarling. Blood bubbled at his mouth and in his eyes she
saw what the bear saw, so she dropped the axe and fled. But the one blow had been good enough.
He tried howling but didn't have the strength to follow her. He swayed before the blood frothed in
earnest and he fell like a stone. Heart pounding, touching the absence of string, she rushed in and
struck him again, under the chin. He didn't move.
"Bear fighter," she sneered, kicked him twice, then dragged him into his black hell of a tomb. That
was a job of work. She washed the axe in the creek and dried it on her bloody dress, then stripped
and threw her clothes over him like blankets before rolling the stone in front of the tomb.
The old man whose name she'd forgotten saw her coming downhill, naked, the axe over her
shoulder and her hands draped over the shaft like a yoke. Our age has folded into our youth, he
thought, then demanded his axe.


Wild Ginger, by Jim Fike


Contributor Bios
George Bishops work has appeared in Kentucky Review & Flare. New work will be featured in Carolina

Quarterly. Bishop won the 2013 Peter Meinke Prize at YellowJacket Press for his sixth chapbook Following Myself
Home. His newest chapbook, Short Lives and Solitudes, is included in the collection "A Good Wall" from Toadlilly
Press. He attended Rutgers University and now resides in Saint Cloud, Florida. NOTE: The work included is a
simultaneous submission.

Robert Boucheron is an architect in Charlottesville, Virginia. His academic degrees are Harvard B. A. 1974

and Yale M. Arch. 1978. His writing appears in Aldus Journal of Translation, Atticus Review, Bangalore Review
(India), Conclave, Construction, Digital Americana, Grey Sparrow Journal, Lowestoft Chronicle, Milo Review,
Montreal Review, New Orleans Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Origami Journal (Canada), Poydras Review,
Rays Road Review, The Rusty Nail, Short Fiction (UK), Slippage, StepAway Magazine (UK).

Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator and travel writer. Her works appear in over 100 journals on

five continents, such as Drumvoices Revue, ENcontrARTE (Venezuela), bergang (Germany), Open Road Review
(India), Cordite Poetry Review (Australia) and Bakwa (Cameroon); nine chapbooks of poetry including her recent
collection, Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), and twelve anthologies. She also pens travel pieces, with
stories appearing in the anthologies Drive: Women's True Stories from the Open Road (Seal Press, 2002) and other
anthologies and travel guidebooks. In March 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada chose her verse as
poem of the month. She has done over 200 literary readings, from Alaska to the Patagonia. For the past decade, Ms
Caputo has been journeying through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. You may follow
her travels at Latin America Wanderer:

William Doreski teaches at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His most recent collection of poetry is

Waiting for the Angel (2009). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowells Shifting Colors. His
essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Atlanta Review,
Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review,
and Natural Bridge.

SaraEve Fermin is a performance poet and epilepsy advocate from New Jersey. She is the editor in chief Wicked
Banshee Press and a Women of the World representative.

Jimmy Fike was born on a cold December morning in Birmingham, Alabama. He received a BA in Art from

Auburn University and earned an MFA in Photography from the Cranbrook Academy of Art under the tutelage of
Carl Toth. Jim has taught art at Wake Forest and Ohio Universities and is currently an Art Faculty Member at
Estrella Mountain College in Avondale, Arizona. His photographic work endeavors to find creative, contemporary
ways to approach landscape by incorporating place, identity, ecology, and mythology..

Tiffany Hauck is a native of the Pacific Northwest, was raised in Vancouver, Washington, and has spent much

of her life explaining to others that she is not, in fact, Canadian. She moved to Los Angeles in 1994, where she spent
a good deal of time working in film and television editing. After leaving the entertainment industry, she returned to
college and completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the University of Texas Arlington just shy of her
fortieth birthday. Tiffany is a writer and graduate student at the Pacific University MFA program in writing where

she is currently working on a creative thesis in nonfiction about growing up in the 1980s. She resides in Dallas, Texas
with her husband, Charles, and their three dogs: Wally, Gracie, and Kraut.

Rachel E. Hicks poems have appeared in Welter, St. Katherine Review, Off the Coast, Gulf Stream Literary

Magazine, and other journals. She has lived in eight countiesmost recently Chinaand now resides in Baltimore,
MD. Find her online at

Reah Kelly is a graduate of Austin Peay State University. Her work has been published in the Red Mud Review.
She lives in Oviedo, FL with her husband and two dogs.

Carol LaHines' fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of literary journals including The Nebraska

Review, North Atlantic Review, Sycamore Review, Permafrost, redivider, Mount Hope, The Literary Review, and
Fence. An excerpt from her novella, Resonance, was a finalist for the 2012 David Nathan Meyerson fiction prize
and the New Letters short story award (and appears in issue 10.2 of redivider, available on amazon). Her short
story, The Operating System, appeared in the winter 2013 issue of Fence, guest-edited by Rick Moody. A review of
The Operating System appears in Ploughshares on-line ( She is a graduate of New York University.

Samuel Less has published poems and stories previously in a number of small press publications, including San

Marcos Review, Green River Review, Alchemy, Pale Fire Review, Voices International, Mouth of the Dragon,
Sequoia, Syracuse Poems and Stories and others. I was awarded the Academy of American Poets prize At Syracuse
University in 1981.

Jonathan Lyon is a recent English Literature graduate of Oxford University, where he gained the highest mark in
the year. In 2014, he has been published in SAND journal and the New Left Project. He is currently based in

Edward D. Miller's poetry appears in Counterexample Poetics, Hinchas de Poesia, Wilderness House Literary
Journal, The Boston Literary Magazine, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, and Red Fez. He teaches media
studies, film, and performance at the City University of New York.

Daryl Muranaka was raised in California and Hawaii. He received his MFA from Eastern
Washington University and after spent three years in Fukui, Japan in the JET Program. He currently
lives in the Boston area with his wife and two children. In his spare time, he enjoys aikido and
taijiquan and exploring his childrens dual heritages. His work has appeared in the Hawaii Review,
Bamboo Ridge, Crab Creek Review, Poetry East, Ink, Sweat, and Tears, the Poetry Salzburg Poetry Review,
Poetry Nook Magazine, Snail Mail Review and the New Plains Review. It is also forthcoming in the
Isthmus Literary Review and The Midwesterner.

Leonard Orr teaches literature and creative writing at Washington State University Vancouver. His poetry has

appeared in many journals including Poetry International, Black Warrior Review, Rattle, Poetry East, Rosebud, and
Natural Bridge. He has recently published two collections, Why We Have Evening (2010) and Timing Is Everything
(2012), both from Cherry Grove/WordTech.

Lydia Paar is a novelist, teacher, gallavanter, and art-colony enthusiast who hopes to foster expression wherever
possible and good. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, and is from Portland, Oregon.


Lisa Rhodes is a Black Portugeuse American poet born in 1962. I graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with

a MFA in Poetry and a B.A. in Journalism from Mercy College, a B.A. From St. Thomas Aquinas College in
Communications and a Computer Science Certificate from SUNY Purchas and a B.S. in Speech Pathology and
Audiology from Lehman College. I am an Army veteran of the Persian Gulf Era. I have attended two Cave Canem
workshops and studied with Jaci LeMon and Myronn Hardy. Other poets I have studied with were Thomas Lux,
Dan Masterson and Kevin Pilkington, Billy Collins, Martha Rhodes, Jean Valentine and Joan Larkin. My poems
have appeared in Journal of Poetry Therapy, Obsidian III, Poetry Forum, Left Jab, Poetry Motel Wallpaper series,
Footsteps, WRKL radio, and other publications. I am a single mother of a special needs child and presently work in
real estate and live in beautiful Piermont, N.Y.

Connolly Ryan was born in Greenwich Village, New York in 1967. He is currently a professor of literature at

University of Massachusetts where he was thrice a finalist for the Distinguished Teaching Award. His visceral and
witty poetry has been published in various journals including Scythe, Silkworm, Slope, Meat For Tea, Pannax Index,
and Old Crow. He is also a multiple Pushcart nominee. He has three finished Manuscripts: Fort Polio, Strip
Solitaire, and The Uncle Becky Chronicles.

Domenic Scopa is the 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit

Scholarship. He is a student of Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he studies Poetry and Translation. He has
worked closely with a number of accomplished poets including National Book Award Winner David Ferry and
Washington Book Prize recipient Fred Marchant. His poetry has been featured in Misfit Magazine, Poetry Pacific,
Untitled with Passengers, Gravel, Crack the Spine, Stone Highway Review, Apeiron Review, Diverse Voices
Quarterly, and Literature Today.

J.lynn Sheridan writes in the Chain O Lakes of northern Illinois in a very ordinary house, but shed rather live
in an old hardware store for the aroma, ambiance, and possibilities. Her poems have been published in several
anthologies and literary journals, a few of which are: Beyond the Dark Room, Storm Cycle 2012 Of Sun and
Sand, and Three Minus One, Four and Twenty Literary Journal, The Plum Plum, Garbanzo, Jellyfish Whispers,
and Poetry Quarterly. She has just completed her first novel. Find her at,,, and on Twitter @J.lynnSheridan.

Amanda Tumminaro lives in Illinois with her family. She enjoys writing, libraries and caffeinated drinks. Her
poetry has been published in Storm Cellar, Hot Metal Bridge and Sassafras Literary Magazine, among others.

KV Wilt publishes poems, plays, stories, and books--and teaches writing at Saint Leo University. VAST SELF, a
new collection of poems, will be published in Winter 2015.


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