You are on page 1of 97

Bloodstone Review

Volume 1: Issue 1

Bloodstone Review Volume 1: Issue 1 Mesquite, by Jim Fike

Mesquite, by Jim Fike

Table of Contents

From the Editors


Two Poems, Leonard Orr


A Prayer for War, Benjamin Nathan Schachtman


Miner's Lettuce, Jim Fike


Life Unfulfilled, SaraEve Fermin


The Rock in the Middle of the Road, Edward D. Miller


Shopping, Lydia Paar


Angels, George Bishop


Our Wantagh Bows Were Flimsy Sticks, KV Wilt


Kensington Street, Robert Boucheron


Sonic Superspeed Air Ride, Reah Kelly


Scenes at Puget Sound, Amanda Tumminaro


London Rocket, Jim Fike


You Never Let Me Leave, Sara Upstone


Two Poems, Domenic Scopa


Paper Dolls, Tiffany Hauck


The Salazar House, Daryl Muranaka


Devotion, Carol LaHines


Monkey Flower, Jim Fike


Spare Ribs, Samuel Less


Climate Change, J.lynn Sheridan


And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it’ , Jonathan Lyon


Everything is a Departure, Rachel E. Hicks


Coma, James Croal Jackson


Awake, Ty Moore


Two Poems, JC Reilly


Plantain, Jim Fike


The Rainbow Goose, Nicholas A. White


Hebrew Alphabet, William Doreski


Any Rain, Connolly Ryan


How We Got to Here, Lisa Rhodes


Tell Me a Story, Lorraine Caputo


Raise Them Wild, Adam Johns


Wild Ginger, Jim Fike


Contributor Bios


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 you’d make, like a wooden Aztec tongue drum (I’d happily drum my tongue, drum your tongue). Like a hurdy-gurdy, I would sound your chanters and spin your drones until your bridge buzzes. I’d be your bass recorder, and you would play with traditional Baroque fingering; I’d 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. 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 Richard’s cap, had given up on missile guidance systems and had gone back to making calculators). Richard would be flying bulk- freight 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, he’d 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 Richard’s American colleagues had been predicting since Yalta; they’d come, but instead of the sickle and the hammer they’d 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 Richard’s 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 world’s 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 he’d 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, double- entendres, 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 couldn’t 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 couldn’t 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. They’d haggle you right out of the bonus you’d already spent on braces, tutors, gaming systems, Maserati mechanics, your mistress(es), and standing reservations at DeNiro’s overpriced red-sauce joint. Richard stopped himself outside Quatorze (an overpriced foie-gras joint), MacLennan’s 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 hadn’t 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 didn’t 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 it’s the cigar – not the guided missile – that’s 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 armor- piercing ammunition but merely very loud, very fast rock’n’roll). 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 Tiffany’s 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 World’s 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 pan ic, 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 Richard’s 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. I’ve recommended a new purveyor to them but, for the time being, it’s Islay neat for me. Richard sighed. He was being let of the hook – he wouldn’t have to guess MacLennan’s pick of poison – and was thus served a backhanded insult: MacLannen lacked faith in Richard’s ability to mimic (a crucial senior executive skill, apparently). Or did he? Richard’s 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 wouldn’t even know the children’s 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 Richard’s 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 Richard’s shoulder; Richard gambled. -I’ll have an Islay, neat. -We have several Sir. Would you like to see our full list of spirits? -No need. I think I’ll 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. -It’s 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. That’s vaguely clever Croxley. Richard shrugged. -After a drink I might be more precisely clever. -Don’t get excitable. Hammerstein, he’s bordering on vaudeville. He wrote for the Lampoon, did you know that? There’s journalism, and there’s tabloid pornography, and then there are college humor magazines. It’s called ‘sophomoric’ for a reason. Makes me miss the quota days. MacLennan laughed to himself and Richard relaxed; his boss’s 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 MacLannen’s barbarism. This had long been Richard’s 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 Shakespearean). The waiter returned wordlessly with Richard’s drink and MacLannen smiled thinly. -Very well then, Richard, you know why we’re here, yes? Not just to drink heavily peated Scotches with gimmicky names and lampoon the Lampoon. So tell me, what do you want? -Sir? -What is it you want, Richard? The magnitude of the question what was the square of infinity? – caused Richard’s 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 Richard’s 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 didn’t like getting blown,’ leaving him speechlessly puzzled over which part of her statement to object to first). Could MacLennan bridge the gulf between Richard’s ‘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:

-I’d like to make more money. Caviar arrived, as if by pure force of MacLennan’s 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 Richard’s mind, the metaphor literalized in the image of a porcelain- skinned Estonian kneeling astride MacLennan’s leathery loins). -All good Marxists do, in the end. MacLennan’s 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. I’ve 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 Richard’s Super-Ego, his archangel of Guilt,

a philandering, Scotch-guzzling demigod who chided him endlessly – ‘I’ve just seen the numbers, why aren’t you making more?’ – and preferred his illegitimate son-of-a-whore brother (though Richard’s 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 two- pronged cocktail fork through MacLennan’s 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 you’re here? Richard willed a shaky union of his factions. -I expect, Mr. MacLannen, that it’s about the state of the art, so to speak. -Yes, well, it’s hardly Star Wars these days. Good Christ I do miss that. Ron was a visionary, I tell you. I’ve hated how they’ve 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 we’ve 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 didn’t 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 world’s martial lull (if he could put it so prosaically). -So, the business has got to adapt. -Yes. Now that we are enjoying this most unfortunate pax Americana. -Well, sir, I’m sure there are still opportunities. -Don’t 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 girlfriend’s 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 girlfriend’s vagina). Richard, his mind compulsively reeling from business failure to sexual failure, instinctively lashed out at his girlfriend’s industry. -No sir, I’m 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 Richard’s head, nothing but willowy literary clichés: 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 couldn’t be sure – that frightened and excited him. He did not even try to contain it. -And, well, sir, I’d 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 on…on 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 boss’s lips curled faintly, preparing instinctively to mouth disappointment with Richard’s 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. -Let’s order some dinner. How’s 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 hostess’s 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. -And? -Sir? -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 men’s 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 café 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 Richard’s 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, Richard’s 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 Wright’s impossible Sky City – and ringed by moats and check-points. He saw twenty- four 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, ‘l’armadura 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 demon’s 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 l’addition 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 couldn’t quite tell). Finally, he looked up at his boss, trying to figure out why the man was smiling. -Well, Richard, I have to say. I’m 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 I’ve experienced in some time. By several orders of magnitude. Richard blinked slowly. -Senior executive? -Well, if you’re uncomfortable with the term – look, I know it can be difficult, yesterday you were Hammerstien’s coworker, now you are to be, in essence, his direct superior – but we can work the title into things incrementally. We’ll ease into it. -Thank you? I mean, yes, thank you, Mr. MacLennan. -Douglas, please. -Doug? -Douglas, Croxley, don’t get carried away. -Of course. Sir. -Douglas, Richard, come on now. -Douglas. -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, I’ll get you a cab. Though, really, you should get yourself a proper car service. Get some sleep, and in the morning – we’ll 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 Richard’s 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 Shakespeare’s daughters’). But by the time they’d left London his daughters had already been lost (to their mother’s 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 he’d hoped – there was still a chance. A chance that they’d 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 son’s name? He found he couldn’t remember.

Miner's Lettuce, by Jim Fike 16

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 I’d 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 rock’s arrival. Surveillance videotape revealed nothing and no one confessed. The Town Council held an emergency meeting.


Committee was formed


make a recommendation on what to do with

the rock in the middle of the road. Two opposing factions emerged. I couldn’t 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 God’s 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 fogwould opaque the night.


Lydia Paar

(To My Brother Roy, Who Asks Me Via Email Why I Don’t 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 I’d go to Fred Meyer on 39th and Hawthorne in Portland when I knew I shouldn’t, and then regretted it later. Why shouldn’t you go to Fred Meyer? People used to ask me this. “It’s a harmless store; not too expensive. You have to treat yourself! It’s ok!” But I knew it wasn’t ok. Going to Fred Meyer wasn’t a treat, really, though it wasn’t 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 didn’t bankrupt me), I’d have gone downtown to the little cute, indie shops on Northwest 23 rd —I 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 Café 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 they’ll 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. I’d ask myself, “should I? Naw… Should I? Naw…Ok, well, I can get…a doughnut…and then go somewhere else.” So I’d 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 Hamm’s. After all, my troubles weren’t so bad. But once I’m inside, I have to do something (perhaps this barrier might be like signing up for online dating? Guilt and a shakedown combined?).

So, I’d 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 I’d have to carry it around until I felt directed enough to go back home and who knows when that’d be. So no milk (consider milk, perhaps, the good standby boyfriend who’s 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, I’d 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 don’t 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 you’re crazy for tottering down any public street in so much pain). But all the size 9 ½’s have





So I’d 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 can’t possibly sleep enough in a year to make use of it already.

What I really could use is a raincoat, I’d think, but they don’t 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 Republican’s wife cutting up venison for her brood, and find the escalator). Downstairs, passing the fabric section, I’d 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 cry.

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 I’ll make my escape without buying the shitake mushrooms I know I can’t cook properly and without the lip gloss I never wear and the fashion magazines I can’t 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 that’s what thinking about dating makes me think about—that I’ll 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 I’d go for it because I’d have nothing more directed to do that day and why the hell not? I’m sick of the rain! And then there I’d be–stuck 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 I’m not sure me and X have much to offer one another and everything we do looks kind of generic and overdone and I’d try so hard to avoid taking the wrong things out of it but find myself, after burning more than an afternoon’s time, walking away, back into the grey and still without a raincoat, and more about those other fun things I’d mentioned earlier….well…why don’t 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, there’s mine—angels coming and going, warning to warning, dressed in flesh and blood

only until they’re done digging up who I’m not. One day I’ll want to know names. Not in this life,

though, or the next. Soon. When we’re 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 agency’s 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. “Let’s add a string of numbers and see if they equal the overall dimension. Then we’ll know if there’s a mistake.” On his way to a meeting, Ray overhears this. “Good thinking. Check and double check. I’ll be back late this afternoon. If you get in a bind, ask Suzanne, the secretary. She actually runs the place. I’m 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. “You’ll 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. Don’t argue, and don’t hang around. Tell me, and I’ll 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. “I’m 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 it’s still here when we get back,” he says. “Let’s 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 I’ll 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. I’ll 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. “You’re 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?” “It’s getting hot. Let’s do outside first.” “Do you want the smart end?”

“If that means crawling through bushes, no.” “We’ll 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 woman’s 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. “You’re 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 can’t 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. I’m 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 there’s something you need and it’s not here, ask Suzanne for petty cash. Use these vellum sheets and use them wisely—they’re expensive.” Ray’s 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 I’m not here, write it down, or ask Suzanne to call me. I’ll 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. “It’s trial and error. You can do this.” Zach looks doubtful. “I don’t know. You’re so organized. Do you want to go across the street for lunch?” Across the street, which is called Grand Avenue, is the Grand Diner. The Art Deco interior gleams with chrome and glass. It’s a busy place, and the booths are all taken. We perch on round swivel stools at the counter and rotate slowly to admire the décor. The menu dates from the same era. Zach is worried about grease and mentions his wife. “If Rosa finds out, I’m dead.” “Don’t tell her.” “What are you going to order?” “A cheeseburger and fries with extra grease. Wha t 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 wouldn’t have quiche. Anyway, I’m secure in my masculinity. You can’t tell me what not to eat.” “Rosa can.” “I wonder if Ray eats here.” “He used to, before the heart attack.” “That’s 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 doesn’t anymore.” “Okay, what brand does he chew?”

“No idea. Are you going to buy one?” “If you do. It’s 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 won’t draw properly.” We agree, and she clips the end of each cigar with a special tool. We step outside and t ry 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 don’t think you should inhale,” I say. “No? Maybe it’s optional.” Turning my back to the breeze, I manage to set the tobacco on fire. “If you don’t 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 don’t know. Maybe an expensive one tastes better.” He examines his cigar critically, then puts it back in his mouth. “Maybe it’s 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 didn’t 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 he’s 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 don’t 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, I’m okay. Let’s 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 can’t park there.” We look around for a street sign or pavement marking. “Why not?” Zach asks. “Because I said so. This is my house.” “There’s no sign,” Zach says. I touch his arm to get his attention, as the man becomes belligerent. “This is my house, and that’s my parking spot. What do you think you’re doing here?” It turns out that this man is not participating in the renovation program. “You’re not going to get your hands on my property. I know what’s mine, and I’ll 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. He’s going to keep an eye on

us.” “Did he start the lawnmower?” “Not yet. He’s still standing there.” “Defending his turf.” “Come on,” I say. “Avoid eye contact, and we’ll 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 didn’t 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 on?” 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. “We’re good for this week,” I say. “When will Ray come back?” Zach says. “When I know more, I’ll 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 doesn’t seem worried,” Zach says. “That’s 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. “I’m 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 flashlights.” 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 don’t 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. “You’re going to love this,” I call out. Zach enters, shines his flashlight over the scene and groans. “At least you’re wearing sensible shoes,” I say. “Let’s 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, “I’m 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 thinkfrom dirt, where there is none, we wait belowwanting to be one of the higher things the light has set free. We’ll smile out windows on airplanes, noses on the glass. The wingswill glare with a kind of light that hates to dwellon 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 men’s 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 35

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 children’s 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 avant- garde, 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 toddler’s gaze. She knows with certainty that if she doesn’t do this, the little girl will grow up deformed. Already the child is unruly – she licks her mother’s 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 cliché, and so she could not tell him, because he had told her that there was nothing worse than cliché, but in those moments she felt some kind of non-

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 cliché prevented him from saying it, but not from feeling it. But then she realized that she didn’t 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 wasn’t, 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, writer’s 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 didn’t love each other very much then when she left you (because she would leave you) it wouldn’t 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 didn’t know how to scream.

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 scalpel.

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. ‘Let’s 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 won’t 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 hadn’t. 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 friend’s 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 singer’s 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 can’t blame him. I’m filled with nothing but shame for writing it, but I couldn’t tell you. You’d just forget.

Secret Cemetery

Festive colored candles fence an unearthed grave


if exhuming corpses


a sort of birthday celebration.


forensic anthropologist,

himself a native Guatemalan,

chisels calcified deposits collected on the collarbone of a charred skeleton.

He’s 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 it’s 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, “You’re 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 mother’s 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 it’s 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, one’s 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 grandmother’s second of three husbands, and they met when my grandmother worked as a hostess at The Republic, an old restaurant in Portland’s 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 couldn’t 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 – we’re 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 didn’t 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. “He’d 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 apartment. 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, “I’ve 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 grandmother’s 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 it’s 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 father’s, 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 don’t 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 didn’t 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 grandfather’s 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 Jimmy." 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 I’d 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 grandmother’s 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 she’d known this, she said, “Now that you mention it, I don’t 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 couldn’t imagine asking how she’d 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 grandfather’s 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 I’d answered the question, “What is your mother’s maiden name?” She'd had told me several times that her parents could barely communicate because of her father’s 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 grandfather’s 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 didn’t 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 Francisco’s 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 nation’s 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 grandfather’s 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 grandfather’s 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 more.

I began to feel attached to my grandfather’s 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 father’s 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 father’s grave, but she dug out a memorial card from my grandmother’s 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 I’d 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 grandfather’s 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 grandfather’s. 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 one’s ancestors can purchase anything they might need, but papier-mâché 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 O’Toole, 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 child’s 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 child’s 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 girl’s 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 child’s interruptions in breathing, but nonetheless agreed to a neurology consult.

The mother recounted the child’s 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 child’s 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 child’s 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 child’s 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 presentation.

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 child’s 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 brain’s electrical function (decreased activity in the caudate nucleus is associated with an increase in central apnic episodes). An oxygen cannula was placed in the patient’s 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 child’s 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.

be held for further observation and for an electroencephalographic study to assess the occurrence or

potential for seizure activity.

The child will

[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 daughter’s 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 children’s 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 interview.

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 mother’s anxiety and intrusive behaviors in all likelihood are contributing to the child’s 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 children’s 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 child’s 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 brightened.

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 child’s 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 multi- channel sleep study. Neurological examination within normal limits.

The father’s 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 Lexie’s 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 child’s brow.

I want to go home, the child said.

The doctors have to figure out what’s wrong, honey bun. Don’t 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 Lexie’s head, a viperous tangle, yellow wires and red wires, machine interface.

I want to go home, Lexie groaned.

You’re in a hospital, angel. An important place. They’re going to figure out what’s wrong, don’t 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 Lexie’s hand.

In order to rule out this possibility, we’ll need to perform some more tests. Ideally, we’ll 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. We’ll need your consent on these forms. The doctor left the room.

Momma, what is he going to do?

Hush, angel. It’ll be all right. They’re just going to look inside your head. Make sure everything is okay.

Momma, I’m scared.

There’s no need to be scared, angel. I’m here with you. She watched Lexie’s 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.

It’ll be all right, angel. She stroked her hair, maintained eye gaze as they strapped Lexie in, buffering her head on either side.

Momma, I’m scared. What if everything goes dark? she fretted.

Ma’am, you can’t 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.

She’ll 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.

It’s 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.

Momma’s 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 didn’t see, they just didn’t 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 synapses.

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 wasn’t 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 o’clock 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 don’t know, I don’t know. The shadow is here, she whispered, furtively looking around. The shadow will punish me, she pleaded. The shadow doesn’t 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 can’t 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 child’s life, someone or something that cannot be confronted directly, leading to the repression of negative and frightening feelings

associated with the shadow’s 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 child’s psyche. Educate the family regarding possible axis 2 dysfunction. Mother’s over-involvement may be piquing child’s 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

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 don’t hush, if you don’t 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.

Lexie had been born three weeks early, following

What’s wrong with you girl? You’re picking at the wound, the doctors are gonna tie you to the bed so you can’t do it. You’re 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 don’t, I’ll be a good girl.

You can come in now, the nurse said. She’s ready to go. I’ll be back with the discharge


The monitor silent, no longer registering, jagged edge zero. The viperous tangle of

electrodes in the bin. Medical waste.

shoulders hunched forward, the child is known to be a fabulist, to conjure detail, have you seen this drawing, ma’am, it’s 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, there’s no rush, there’s no rush. The late afternoon night, the blinds half-shut, the dust

Lexie sitting on the bed, looking down, hair in her eyes,

motes whirling in the air, it’s all a dream, it can’t be happening, we’ve come this far, we’re not going home now, they just need to run some more tests, figure out what’s going on. It’ll 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 couldn’t they see?, the electrodes attached to Lexie’s brain, picking up signals. There, there, Momma’s here now, don’t cry, Momma will make it all better. Don’t you see how lucky you are?, the hospital is an important place. They’re going to figure out what’s wrong with you.

No need to cry, angel. You’re my good girl, you’ve 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 child’s 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 61

Monkey Flower, by Jim Fike

Spare Ribs

Samuel Less

They’re not really extra, that’s 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 it’s 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 there’s 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, let’s 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. I’ll 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 won’t the next - though I am fond.

Perhaps she’ll 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 city’s 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 she’d 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 city’s 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 winter’s crows, in parliament, repel Crowlight into his hair, in sympathy. The exit’s 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 city’s 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 land’s unfixed and water’s thick as sand, Inhabiting a strife of elements; She holds me to my mind’s 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 it’s only ruin, rubble and ash, As my son’s 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 city’s 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 city’s secret light, At last locating your own self in his.

A city: formed for others to survive;

To ease, to delegate, and separate

Survival’s parts. A part-necropolis, Palimpsest city. Could you have thought Yourself into existence, then all else? And forgot? Unknowable, so don’t 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. You’re closing the magazine, I’m 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 can’t comprehend the iCloud: it’s a figment. Isn’t it?

Somewhere there must be something that is not winding down, not racing toward oblivion: a warm voice that won’t surrender to the dial tone. Instead, breath in our ear. Wonder will surprise us again, though we’d 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, spoken.

No more curb-side drop-offs—we’ll 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 you.”

“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

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 partner’s 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.

.” Her voice is soft, and it sounds young though I have no idea her age.

“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 can’t tell whether they are saying hello or flagging for help. Our balloonist wants to give us a ride home.”

“He can’t take me home,” I say, but I am ashamed for sounding rude. “I only live on the third floor.”

“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 child’s shoulder and hides the woman’s 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.



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 room.

“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 visitor’s 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 person’s 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 woman’s 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 lamp.

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:

morning’s hungry cat yowls greeting, every mouse scurries at the scratch of claws.

an apocalypse, a kiss, a tilting of shadow? You do not stir. Rest, then. When


A hermit crab wants me to tell him the time. When I say it’s breakfast, he tells me that it’s February,

and the sky is the shape of broccoli, and that wasn’t what he asked. I reply it’s nine, and that the tide

is like an untied shoelace. When I was younger, I thought only fish swam in the blue martini

ocean—I didn’t 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 X’s 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 crab’s carapace, as judgment from the dead. As that piece of eight, your love, buried, lost at sea.

Plantain, by Jim Fike 80

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. I’ll see it dashing through the woods like a flash of colored light, and the same twirling feeling from my mom’s 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 park’s 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 didn’t 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.

“It’s just your imagination,” he said.

But I couldn’t imagine such a unique goose, with feathers as slick as baby oil and as colorful and evolving as the evening sun.

“Maybe it’s Momma,” I said. “Maybe she’s 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 doesn’t move for a while.

On windy days I’ll hear my mom’s 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. It’s 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 goose’s

soft flesh and pin its heart to the clay. I don’t 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. It’s 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 doesn’t move, and by the time my feet crunch dead leaves, I’m

invisible. I’m 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 can’t 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 isn’t alphabetic at all. Maybe he’s sloganeering for a cause I might admire. The streets run off in all direction but he doesn’t notice. Nor do I. My father’s grave opens until it’s the world. Why don’t we step in together and leave that alphabet writhing on high ground?

Any Rain

Connolly Ryan

If you could imagine what you’d 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

it’s 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 enough to live forever in.

How We Got to Here

Lisa Rhodes

It doesn’t matter how you’re put together, if By titanium rods, kidneys donated from a 21 year-old lesbian, who Committed suicide after her lover dumped her, or

If you’re filled with allogeneic umbilical stem cells, aborted or miscarried Fetal cells, or surviving with a rat’s heart, or if digested pig’s 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 you’ll be thriving on tofu and vegetables, and that it doesn’t 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 you’re 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 you’re 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 Mary’s 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 world’s 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-man’s 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 fur.

"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 slaughter.

"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 cobwebs.

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 dishes.

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 94

Wild Ginger, by Jim Fike

Contributor Bios

George Bishop’s 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, Ray’s 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), übergang (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 Lowell’s 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 ( lit-mag-this-week-the-operating-system-by-carol-lahines/). 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 Berlin.

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 children’s dual heritages. His work has appeared in the Hawai’i 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 she’d 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.