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K

ALEIDOSCOPE

EXPLORING THE EXPERIENCE OF DISABILITY THROUGH LITERATURE AND THE FINE ARTS

Number 71
Summer/Fall Online 2015

Summer Musings
"Soon" by Susan Jostrom
"Blue Hydrangeas" by Marianne Sciucco
"A Cry Among the Shadows" by J.D. Chaney

K

ALEIDOSCOPE

Summer/Fall 2015
Number 71

EXPLORING THE EXPERIENCE OF DISABILITY THROUGH LITERATURE AND THE FINE ARTS

Contents

Summer Musings

42

Until She Speaks

 EDITORIAL NOTE
4

Joel Fishbane

Gail Willmott
52

Blue Hydrangeas
Marianne Sciucco

 FEATURED ESSAY
Soon

6

 PERSONAL ESSAY

Susan Jostrom

Notes from a State Hospital
Zan Bockes

 FEATURED ART
Still Me: An Artist’s Story

16

32

When Grass Spoke

26

Sandy Palmer

Sybil Austin Skakle

 FICTION

Hiking the Appalachian Trail

31

A Cry Among the Shadows

12

Jennifer Alves

J.D. Chaney

Girl’s Story

20

The Sound of Silence

56

Nancy Scott

J.R. McRae

Penumbra
Gail Waldstein

28

Silent Mike

59

Donna M. Reed

Happiness is “The Whirlpool”

61

Jacob C. Myers

1

 POETRY
10

Leaving Kisses Behind Her
Heather Luehr

11

Bound
Glenda Barrett

19

Almost Always
Katherine Meizel

Promises

24

Mariam Paré, Chuck Close, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 12” x 12”
by the courtesy of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting
Artists Worldwide

24

Calimari en Su Tinta

Shirley Adelman

Zipper Villanelle

Edythe Haendel Schwartz

Mary Ellen Talley

Song of Me in Dialysis

25

30

The Box
Marjorie Chesebro

Lola Neff Merritt

39

2

intruders II

49

Japanese Death Poetry

50

Ana Garza G’z
40

Joan Mazza

Willie James King

48

e. smith sleigh

Only Five Months Together

On Raked Coals

Poems are Apple Seeds
Michael S. Morris

Katarzyna Rygasiewicz

July Night

41

Ritual of Tea

58

Carolyn Dandalides
40

A Caribbean Day
Sheryl L. Nelms

62

 BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

63

Staff

PUBLISHER
Gary M. Knuth, President/CEO
United Disability Services
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Gail Willmott, M.Ed.
MANAGING EDITOR
Lisa Armstrong
ART COORDINATOR
Sandy Palmer
EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS
Lynne Came
Kathleen Sarver
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS
Darshan Perusek, Ph.D.
HONORARY EDITOR
Phyllis Boerner
ART CONSULTANT
Jennifer Wexler
Director of Visual Arts
VSA, Washington, D.C.
MANUSCRIPT REVIEW PANEL
Fiction Review
Mark Decker, Ph.D.
Bloomsburg University
Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
Poetry Review
Sandra J. Lindow
University of Wisconsin-Stout
Menomonie, Wisconsin

KALEIDOSCOPE (ISSN 2329-5775)
is published online semiannually.
Copyright © 2015 Kaleidoscope Press
United Disability Services,
701 S. Main St., Akron, OH 44311-1019
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(330) 762-0912 Fax
email: kaleidoscope@udsakron.org
http://www.kaleidoscopeonline.org
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Previously published by
KALEIDOSCOPE: Exploring
the Experience of Disability through
Literature and the Fine Arts,
701 South Main St.,
Akron, OH 44311-1019
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KALEIDOSCOPE, published since 1979, explores the experience
of disability through literature and the fine arts. Fiction, painting,
photography, pencil sketches, sculpture, poetry, nonfiction, book
reviews, and theater are all featured in various issues.
Unique to the field of disability studies, this award-winning publication expresses the diversity of the disability experience from
a variety of perspectives including: individuals, families, friends,
caregivers, and healthcare professionals, among others. The material chosen for KALEIDOSCOPE challenges and overcomes stereotypical, patronizing, and sentimental attitudes about disability.

3

EDITORIAL NOTE

Summer Musings
Gail Willmott

I

t is summer once again and seemingly a long time coming, at that.
Issue 71 of Kaleidoscope is our
second officially non-themed issue—
though I must admit it is beginning to
look like the tradition may well be reversed and that non-themed issues will
become the norm, developing themed
issues only occasionally. In this issue
we have material focusing on a variety
of subjects from different perspectives.
As is usually the case, individual readers will connect to some pieces more
than others. I hope the spectrum is wide
enough that something here will touch
most of our readers. The majority of the
pieces in this issue have been held from
two to four years awaiting publication.
I would like to share with you some
of the reasons for the selections I have
included in this issue.
As an editor, it is always exciting to
see works from past contributors come
across my desk. When I am reading
new submissions and recognize the
name of a familiar writer from the past,
I am always eager to see what the new
piece will offer. Two of our essayists,

4

Sue Jostrom and Zan Bockes, and three
of our fiction writers, J.D. Chaney,
Marianne Sciucco and Gail Waldstein,
are valued past contributors.

Kaleidoscope in 1992. She is one of the
best writers on the subject of mental
illness that I have encountered in my
years with the magazine.

Our featured essay is “Soon” by Sue
Jostrom. It is a tender account of her
son Zeke’s lifelong struggle with a
debilitating, congenital heart condition, and his last days. (Kaleidoscope
published Jostrom’s essay, “Scrambled
Heart,” also about Zeke, in 2009.) As I
began reading “Soon,” I found myself
eager to learn what had happened in
Zeke’s life. He remained an extremely
positive young man despite facing very
difficult circumstances. I hope our readers will be as deeply affected by Zeke’s
story as I was.

“The Sound of Silence” by Nancy Scott
recounts her participation in a friend’s
meditation group via phone. I immediately related to the difficulty that
Scott experienced in trying to remain
mentally quiet and physically still for
an extended period of time. Her mind
jumps all over the place and refuses to
be quieted—a familiar feeling to most
beginners in the practice of meditation
and something I completely identify
with. Hopefully some of our readers
will also find a connection to this piece.

“Notes From a State Hospital” is a personal essay from Zan Bockes in which
she describes one of her several stays at
a psychiatric hospital. We get a glimpse
of the solidarity that exists between patients, at least as they relate to the staff,
in an “us against them” atmosphere,
coupled with feelings of oppression
and a total lack of personal freedom.
Bockes’ fictional story of mental illness, “From the Ashes,” appeared in

“Hiking the Appalachian Trail” and
“Happiness is ‘The Whirlpool’” are two
very short pieces, chosen especially
for the brief glimpses of summer they
offer.
Our artist for this issue is Mariam
Paré, an incredibly resilient woman
and a phenomenal artist who paints by
mouth. Readers cannot help but be affected by her story and her work.

In fiction we have five stories this time,
all of which I am excited to share with
you. “Girl’s Story,” an excerpt from
Free Passage, a novella by J.R. McRae,
is an intriguing piece of historical fiction. The story is set during the U.S.
Civil War, and as 2015 is the 150th
anniversary of the end of that war, it
seemed to be a perfect fit for this issue
of Kaleidoscope.
J.D. Chaney’s, “A Cry Among the
Shadows,” has a similar theme and time
frame as a story of his called “Cohen’s
Resurrection” which was published in
Kaleidoscope in 2008. “A Cry Among
the Shadows” is set in post war Europe
in 1945 and as you will see, ends with
an unexpected twist. “Cohen’s Resurrection” was such a compelling story
that I was intrigued to discover what
“A Cry Among the Shadows” would
offer and then, had to see it published
with us.
Gail Waldstein, the author of “Penumbra” says that the basis of this story
came to her in a dream and then ironically, after she completed writing it, she
was, in reality, diagnosed with macular
degeneration. I was attracted to the
other worldly quality of this story and
hope that others will find it captivating. Waldstein’s story “Mind Riot” was
published in 2005 in our issue focusing
on mental illness.

“Until She Speaks” by Joel Fishbane is
the story of Iris, a young woman who is
mute and communicates using sign language. She is steadfastly determined,
despite the attitudes of her in-laws, to
build a new life with her husband who
returns from war with a life-changing
injury.
Finally, there is Marianne Sciucco’s
story, “Blue Hydrangeas,” which tells
of the pain a couple faces when the
wife begins to show signs of Alzheimers. We have published her work in the
past—her story “Ino’s Love” appeared
in 2009. In both cases, Sciucco writes
honestly and poignantly about the inescapable emotional suffering that life
can bring to people.
We have a variety of poems for you
to ponder. I’ll mention only a few.
“Japanese Death Poetry” by Ana Garza
G’z is a beautiful meditation on what
the author might wish to say about her
own life when death approaches. Her
poem is inspired by the poetic reflections of Zen monks and Japanese haiku
poets. Heather Luehr’s poem, “Leaving
Kisses Behind Her,” captures bits of
Luehr’s relationship with her mother
and the emptiness that has come with
her death. “Calamari en Su Tinta” by
Edythe Haendel Schwartz and “intruders II” by e. smith sleigh, both deal
with the loss faced by mothers of critically ill children. Katherine Meizel’s

poem, “Almost Always,” talks about
patterns in life that are familiar to most
of us at one time or another—such as
the many times we seem to take one
step forward and then three steps backward; the times we reach for a goal and
almost, but not quite, achieve it; those
knots that we sometimes get ourselves
figuratively into, and then find them
difficult to untie. Mary Ellen Talley
is the author of “Zipper Villanelle” a
poem in the villanelle form, about a
high school boy recovering from a traumatic head injury which left him with
physical impairments and the need to
relearn many skills, even how to manipulate a zipper.
So, take a summertime break: grab a
glass of iced tea or a glass of lemonade,
sit back, relax, and enjoy!t

Gail Willmott

5

FEATURED ESSAY

Soon
Susan Jostrom

W

e sit in a circle like an AA
meeting. The cardiologist
opens the 7 a.m. gathering
by saying how glad he is that we could
all make it, that the reason for this gathering is to finalize a plan of treatment
for Zeke. Zeke is sitting in hospital pajamas, his EKG leads stuck on his chest
with colored wires leading into the portable battery box, which is stuffed into
his shirt pocket. He is small, his short
brown hair combed to the side, his wise
hazel eyes steady under his frameless
glasses. He is sitting very straight with
his hands carefully folded in his lap
and says only a few words the entire
hour, even though he is the honored
guest. I am smiling and wearing black.
I washed my hair this morning and put
on my best travel clothes so I would
look like a nice mother.
The cardiologist, Dr. Garabedian, sits
next to me. He has been Zeke’s cardiologist for twenty-five years, since
Zeke was six weeks old. Zeke emails
him jokes. Zeke has Dr. Garabedian’s
cell phone number. When Zeke calls,
Dr. G. always answers. Zeke loves to
imitate his thick Armenian accent. He
introduces me, “This is Mrs. Jostrom.”
“Hello, I’m the mother,” I say, and suddenly feel embarrassed about my basic
blacks because this meeting is too dark,
6

even with the sun shining through the
east-facing picture windows. I wish I
were wearing yellow or pink.
The doctors give me a brief smile and
nod.
The transplant doctor has been up all
night—doing a transplant—still in his
scrubs, visibly weary. He looks like a
mountain climber: mid-fifties, small
and wiry, with a full head of gray hair.
His eyes squint behind gold-rimmed
glasses that hang halfway down his
cheekbones. He has two staff members with him: a case manager and an
insurance guy, Mark, who answers
all the questions about legality and
compassionate use, and what kinds of
mechanical devices can or cannot be
installed in my son’s chest that would
be covered by insurance. He rattles on
about ventricular assist devices like a
car mechanic discussing new batteries. Next to the transplant doctor is the
pacemaker specialist, who wants to put
a new pacemaker in my son’s chest,
at least. He’s short with a protruding
forehead and sunken eyes that make
him look smart, and he uses some kind
of slicking cream on his long dark hair
so it doesn’t blow around. It’s a group
of little big men at a powwow and no
one is smiling. Dr. Leonard sits next to
Zeke in our sharing circle­—he did heart

surgery on Zeke when he was seven,
and he remembers. He remembers because Zeke spent weeks in ICU after
the surgery.
I am trying to look intelligent and ask
the right questions, but mostly the heart
doctors talk to each other using first
names. Colleagues. I wonder what they
talk about at dinner. I wonder if they eat
red meat. I wonder if they hunt for red
meat, if they could kill an elk or bear, if
they would clean the guts with wonder
or melancholy, if they would hold the
warm beating heart in their hands.
The transplant doctor asks about Zeke’s
liver—how advanced is the cirrhosis?
And lungs—are they OK? He concludes that Zeke needs a heart/liver/
lung transplant. No transplant team,
as far as he knows, does this. He then
proceeds to list all the mechanical
heart devices on the market, processing
out loud, the Heartmate, the Thoratec
pump, the Novacor, the one that rolls
around on a suitcase outside the body;
that one is difficult he says, because the
wires get twisted up. He discards them
one by one because they all require
massive doses of anticoagulant drugs,
necessary to maintain a mechanical
heart. Zeke has cirrhosis, a consequence of hepatitis C, contracted from
a blood transfusion nearly two decades

ago, and only recently discovered. The
cirrhosis has caused esophageal varices that are prone to rupture and Zeke
would likely bleed to death because of
the massive doses of anticoagulants.
That eliminates any artificial device.
The idea of transplant is thoroughly
used up.
The conversation switches to the possibility of doing the pacemaker revision,
which the heart surgeon, Dr. Leonard,
says he won’t do because the risk is
ridiculous and he doesn’t think the
patient would make it out of the O.R.
I am smiling a half smile, staring and
nodding at whoever is speaking.
The transplant doctor asks, “Zeke, how
fast have you been going down hill in
the past year?”
Zeke pauses and squeezes his thick
eyebrows together. “Running or driving?”
I laugh out loud. The doctors look quizzical. Dr. Garabedian smiles.
The hour-long meeting concludes. We
stand. One by one the doctors shake
Zeke’s hand and my hand and tell us
good luck. I tell everyone thanks for
coming, like they are guests leaving a
party. We are discharged by 9 a.m.
There is no plan.

Zeke and I drive back to Montana,
after being released from the hospital.
He slips his headphones on and turns
up his CD player. Loud and raucous
music emanates over the thrum of the
car engine. He calls it Christian rock. It
sounds like nothing but noise.

“Zeke, turn that down! You’re going to
lose your hearing!”
He doesn’t hear me. I tap his shoulder,
touch the earphones, and point my
thumb down. He lifts the left side off of
his ear.

I had just driven
five hours for a
conversation that
lasted thirty seconds.

“What?”
“Turn that down. I can hear it.” He
smiles and pumps his head to the beat,
and doesn’t turn it down.
Mike calls on my cell phone. He wants
to talk to Zeke. I listen to Zeke’s side of
the conversation.
“Hi Dad. Yeah, well, there’s good news
and bad news,” Zeke says. “The bad
news is, they can’t do a transplant.” He
is silent while he listens to my husband.
I imagine he is encouraging, saying
something like well you never know
Zeke, they develop new procedures all
the time.
“You want to know the good news?”
Zeke finally says. “I just saved a ton
of money by switching to Geico.” I
hear Mike’s burst of laughter over the
phone.

“Zeke,” I say when he hangs up.
“What?”
“I want to know how you stay so positive and hopeful.”
He shrugs. “I know where I’m going,
Mom.”
He clamps the headphones back on.
I stuff two new pieces of sugarless
bubblegum in my mouth.

****
I’m a nervous driver. When Zeke was
seventeen, before heart surgery number
three at eighteen, he lived in a state
of severe atrial fibrillation, due to his
congenital heart problem. He needed
surgery. Dr. Garabedian searched the
country for a surgeon willing to operate on him—a surgeon who believed
he could fix the problem. He scheduled
a meeting with a team of doctors from
somewhere and asked me to come and
speak to them about Zeke. I drove the
five hours from Montana to Spokane to
meet them.
“Hello, good morning,” I smiled as I
entered the room and sat down in the
blue-cushioned office chair. Serene
landscape paintings in pastel colors
hung on the walls.
“Mrs. Jostrom, we have reviewed your
son’s records and we don’t think we
can do anything for him.” The doctor
spoke as he removed his black-framed
glasses. I stared briefly at the glasses
and blinked as I tried to absorb the information. I had just driven five hours
for a conversation that lasted thirty
seconds.
7

“Wow. Okay. Well. Thanks.”

“Mom?”

“We’re very sorry. Thank you for coming.”

“What’s wrong?” my mother asked.
What did she hear in the sound of my
voice?

I stood and walked out, the large door
thudding closed behind me.

“I don’t know what’s wrong. I can’t
drive,” I said.
“Where are you?”

Zeke has never given
up hope that some new
procedure, maybe stem
cell therapy, will fix him.

I climbed into the car and started back
toward Montana. I was tired. I pulled
off the freeway to find a Handi-Mart,
where I bought thin coffee and a
brown sack full of candy. Something
to keep my mouth occupied while I
drove. I sipped the coffee and drove
back towards the on-ramp. Still tired,
I thought, maybe I should nap. I drove
through a residential neighborhood
of small box houses and pulled over,
leaned my seat back and shut my eyes.
I was motionless for ten minutes, but I
didn’t sleep. I was worried about getting back to Montana before dark. I
started the car again and drove back to
the on-ramp. And up the on-ramp. And
now I was stuck. I was driving down
the freeway with eighteen-wheelers
roaring by me and I could not concentrate. The speedometer read thirty.
I gripped the wheel and stared at the
road, desperate to stay within the white
lines. My heart beat like machine gun
fire. Sweat dripped under my arms
marking my green shirt. I commanded
the car into control and saw an exit
ahead. The car responded to the turn of
the wheel, motored down the off-ramp
and pulled into the nearest gas station.
I called my parents, who lived about
thirty minutes away.

8

I told her.
“Dad and I will be right there.”
At home, she looked up panic attack
in the dictionary. “I think this is what
you had,” she said, “I think you had a
panic attack. And it says right here that
you should just throw your head back
and laugh when you feel an attack coming on.” She threw her head back and
laughed, to demonstrate, like listening
to a good joke. I laughed too.
A week later I bought my first cell
phone and still carry it everywhere like
a security blanket.

****

After the first transplant meeting, Dr.
Garabedian continued to pursue the
possibility of transplant with other
transplant centers around the country.
Finally, the Mayo Clinic team stated,
“Mr. Jostrom’s constellation of problems and his need for three organ transplants would be an extraordinarily risky
operation with a very low likelihood of
meaningful recovery.” Dr. Garabedian
was resigned. Doctors nationwide had
carefully considered the possibilities,
and eliminated treatment options. The
stars were lining up against Zeke.

****
It’s been five years since we received
the rejection letter from Mayo Clinic.
Zeke has never given up hope that
some new procedure, maybe stem cell
therapy, will fix him.

This is Zeke’s last day but I don’t know
it yet.
He is sleeping in his bedroom. He has
been living with us for the past year,
as his health descends. The past three
weeks have been rough. It started on
a Sunday. Zeke rode the scooter to the
grocery store and could not manage to
push the kickstand down. He wrenched
his back. He drove it home and a passing neighbor helped him stand the bike
up. He came inside and rested on his
bed for hours. Then he complained for
days afterwards. I offered sympathy
and Tylenol. “Yes, I know it hurts Zeke.
I’m so sorry. I’ve hurt my back before
too. It will go away.”
But it didn’t go away. Did something
twist loose? Did the energy required to
heal his back deplete the energy needed
to pump his heart? Was it a constellation of problems that collided? His
back hurt, which made his heart weaker, which caused the esophageal varices
to bleed? Was I not listening? Would it
have mattered? I took Zeke to see Dr.
Garabedian just a month ago. While
Zeke was getting an echocardiogram,
Dr. Garabedian came into the waiting
room to speak to me. On top of heart
and liver failure, Zeke’s kidneys were
failing, his body was shutting down, he
would die soon, he said.
That was the third time in thirty years a
doctor told us he would die soon. I refused to believe that soon meant soon.

****

Just last Sunday, four days ago, Zeke’s
brothers, Peter and Gabe, were in town
to visit him. They were worried because Zeke was “exhausted,” and not
eating much.
But Sunday morning he woke up and
said, “Wow, I feel a lot better!”
“Great!” I said. “Zeke, why don’t we
go to the baseball game this afternoon?”

“Yeah, OK, that sounds awesome!”
I was flooded with relief. I thought, It
was just some viral infection, and he is
better!
Since living in Seattle, Zeke has become a devoted Mariners fan. He avidly marks stats in some little book that
he drags to the games. He also loves to
shop. One game, a couple months ago,
he disappeared for forty-five minutes
and finally sauntered back to his seat
with a bag full of Mariners’ paraphernalia. Included in the bag was a Mariners “Happy Father’s Day” pin. He got
a good deal on it, he said, as he secretly
showed it to me. I will give it to Mike
five weeks after Zeke dies.
Mike and I, Peter, Gabe, and Zeke
gathered up blankets and drove to the
game. Zeke sat in the wheelchair as we
pushed him to the section right behind
the batter’s mound, and he walked
down the flight of stairs to row five. He
ate a foot-long hotdog slathered with
condiments. It was a fifteen-inning
game and the Mariners won. Monday
morning he slumped back into exhaustion.

****
He’s been asleep all day. I peek in and
watch his chest rise and fall, as I have
seven-times-seventy times over the past
thirty years. I see his body is failing,
but I have refused to acknowledge the
signs; the yellow skin and bloated belly
from cirrhosis; the extreme edema in
his legs from heart failure; the muscle
wasting from months of inactivity, and
impending death. In the past few days
he has eaten one hot dog, one grilled
cheese sandwich, and drank a dozen
bottles of Gatorade. At 8 p.m. he wakes
and sits up on the side of the bed.
I enter the room and ask softly, “Zeke,
how are you feeling?”
“I’m going to throw up,” he says. I grab
a kitchen pot. There is nothing but a
little spittle and a few drops of blood.

“There’s blood, Mom.”
“Just a little Zeke, it’s nothing. I have
some anti-nausea medicine, would you
like to try that?”
“Sure.”
Mike grabs the medicine from the
kitchen cupboard and a glass of water.
“Here you go, Zeke,” he says. “How
are you feeling?”
“Exhausted.”
I fluff his pillows and he lies back
down. He is instantly asleep.
I lie on the bed with him and rub his
back. Mike sits in the chair. We say
nothing. An hour or more passes and
Mike says he needs to get to bed. Zeke
stirs. Opens his eyes. He looks at me. I
smile.
“Zeke, do you mind if I lie on the bed
with you tonight, in case you need
help?”
“No, I don’t mind,” he says. “I don’t
know what’s happening.”
Who does?
I rub his shoulders. He drifts back to
sleep and I close my eyes. I am wide
awake. I see four beings lift up the four
corners of Zeke’s blue quilt. They are
shrouded in white. He is curled up in
the middle of the blanket, lying on his
side, his eyes closed. They carry Zeke
through the ceiling. And they are gone.
Startled, I jump up and shake away the
vision. Zeke has kicked off his covers
and I try to pull them from underneath
his legs. His legs are like lead. I look at
his face. A trickle of blood seeps from
his mouth. I shout for Mike. He flies
down the stairs. We hold Zeke’s hands
and fix our eyes on his chest as it rises
and falls. Rises with a gurgle. Falls. I

stare at his beautiful long eyelashes.
The room fills with empty space. He is
gone. I hear horrible sounds of weeping
and wailing. They are coming from me.

****
Mike picked him up and laid him in
my arms as we sat on the bed for hours.
We called a hospice nurse, a number
his local doctor had given us a week
earlier. She arrived. I asked her to
listen to his heart. To make sure. She
shook her head and said she didn’t
need to. She was sure. She helped us
change his sheets as bloody fluid had
spilled from his mouth and saturated
the bed. I changed his clothes. I pulled
on a T-shirt that said “Employee of the
Month.” Soft flannel bottoms. Clean
white socks. I brushed his hair. This
he would wear to his cremation. She
wrote some things on a paper. Had us
sign. Asked where we wanted the body
to go. Zeke’s belly was bloated and
extremely bruised. She said any time
there is bruising on a body she needs
to document that it was not abuse, otherwise an autopsy must be performed.
Then she left.
Finally Mike said, “We need to get
some sleep.” We laid his head on the
fresh pillowcase, and pulled up the blue
quilt to his neck. I neatly folded the top
sheet back.

****
I have seen angels. So I begin my days
by saying, “Thank You.” Even though
life hurts. I try to listen closely and see
clearly. I say good morning to Zeke. I
hope he is listening.
I gaze out the window at the drizzle,
mesmerized by the splash of the drops
on the dark lake water; a million little
concentric halos. I test the soil of the
orchid in my living room for moisture, blooming now for the past three
months: a gift from a friend, for Zeke. I
stroke the leaves clean of dust and finger the deep purple petals.t

9

POETRY

Heather Luehr

Leaving Kisses Behind Her
Like soft chocolate was her gentle heart,
A sweet and soothing guide.
In her death I am empty and dark.
Riding away on her chrome-crowned Harley
Leaving kisses behind her as she’d ride
Like foil-wrapped chocolate was her badass heart.
Like frozen chocolate was her tough, strong heart
To build me up when I cried.
In her death I am empty and dark.
In hard times she never fell apart
Even as she died
Like baking chocolate was her bitter heart.
Like chocolate covered pretzels was her sweet and salty heart
Fun that couldn’t be denied
In her death, I am empty and dark.
Warm moments together watching our dog, Minnie, dart
Back and forth and bark
Like chocolate was her multifaceted heart,
In her death I am empty and dark.

10

Glenda Barrett

Bound
Standing near the arena
I wait for the horse show
to begin. A sound startles me.
Several feet away, tied to a tree
with a light blue halter, a young
Arabian stallion snorts and paws
the ground. His brushed, black coat
glistens in the early morning sun.
I can’t take my eyes off him
and yearn to rub my hands over
his back, yet I don’t dare.
When he sees the other horses
prancing around the arena,
the Arabian gets louder, neighing,
pawing the ground and snorting,
as if he was demanding his turn.
How I marvel at his spunky spirit,
as I connect to him on some level.
I, too, once had that same spirit,
a spirit I thought was unstoppable.
But like the Arabian, I learned
what it feels like to be confined.
I, too, fought for my freedom.

11

FICTION

A Cry Among the Shadows
J.D. Chaney

T

he patient walked with a gait belying someone half
his age. Erect and focused, the seventy-two-year-old
man seemed to glide over the immaculate gray and
white-tiled floor, his shiny, leather shoes proffering inaudible squeaks with each step. He stared out his window,
admiring the manicured grounds of his Swiss sanctuary.
Two men in wide brimmed hats hacked deliberately at the
expansive shrubbery, each on opposite sides. He smiled,
content with their actions.

Paul closed the door quietly before inserting his key then
checked to make sure the room was locked.

How good it felt to be alive. But even more than that—to
never have been forced to compromise in the way he lived
and conducted himself. Yes, he remained the good soldier,
true to the beliefs of his superior, his God—his Fuehrer.
Perhaps his one advantage lay in having a perpetually clear
conscience and the knowledge that what he was doing
would be of the utmost value to the fatherland. After all, the
men, women and children he was sending to their deaths
had been declared vermin and an utter burden to a rising
new civilization—the thousand year Reich!

“I know what you mean. Even at his age he’s an imposing figure. Wonder how long Dr. Jang is going to keep him
here? He got pretty violent with Maria last week. Threw a
water pitcher at her.”

He looked up at the clock centered above the door frame.
Ah, lunch is here, he thought. I’m famished. Moving to
the writing table, a red-haired man in a white frocked coat
cleared away a stack of books and a pad of writing paper
before removing a tray from his cart and setting it down. A
plate of roasted potatoes and corned beef appeared before
him.

Otto glanced at his watch, nodding. “Yeah, I know. I feel
sorry for him too. Well, gotta go make the rounds in B
ward. Have a good day.”

“Thank you Paul. That will be all,” he said tersely and with
a wave of a hand dismissed him. The attendant nodded,
backing out of the room.

12

As he headed down the hall he was met by Otto, also
dressed in white. “How’s his majesty today?”
The attendant laughed. “Old man Grutman? Same as usual.
Completely unaware of what’s going on. Still, he gives me
the creeps.”

“I’ll tell you Otto, if I know the doctor he won’t rest until
he’s brought some sense back into that man’s warped brain.
I mean, from the gossip floating around the hospital, think
of what he’s been through. And to have taken the road that
he did . . . .”

*

*

*

Doctor Frank Jang adjusted the flower on his lapel before
knocking on Grutman’s door and letting himself in. “Good
afternoon, Herr Grutman. How are we feeling today?”
The elderly figure was sitting on a metal chair, his back
to the window. Streaks of sunlight bathed him in a golden
haze. He dropped a large, leather bound book into his lap.
“As you can see doctor, I was in the midst of reading before

your untimely arrival. What is it you want now? More questions to see if my concussion is hindering my memory?”
Dr. Jang said nothing as he sat on the edge of the bed holding his clipboard in both hands. For a moment he flipped
through several pages before finding what he was looking
for. From inside his jacket he pulled out his pen. “Actually,
I was wondering how you slept last night?”

“Unaware that the war has been
over for a year now and still playing
the part of his nemesis.”

Grutman sighed. “Like a baby . . . and no . . . no nightmares. So as you can see you’re wasting my time. Every
day, it’s the same questions, ‘How did you sleep? Have you
had any bad thoughts…blah, blah, blah.’ My patience is
growing thin with you. I am ready to resume my duties.”

Grutman’s face became noticeably red. He stomped towards
Jang, halting just two steps away from physically running
into him. “You know damn well what I do. I am SS obersturmbannfuhrer Felix Grutman in charge of camp Esterwegen.”
The elderly man paused for a minute, suddenly drained of
energy. He unveiled a handkerchief from his back pocket
and swiped it across his forehead before continuing. “And,
again repeating myself, I am here convalescing after receiving a concussion from a silly fall leaving my billet. Now, I
trust you’ll be releasing me soon, ya?”
Rising from the bed, Dr. Jang gathered his materials. “We
hope so, Herr Grutman.” As he turned to leave, he pointed
to the man’s bandaged wrist. “We’ll also need to take a look
at that wrist injury. That bandage has been on since you
were admitted. Have a good evening, sir.”
With the door securely closed behind him, Dr. Jang’s forehead furrowed in exasperation. Grutman must know who he
is . . . or perhaps was. Either way, after I consult with Dr.
Hirshberg, I’m going to confront him with the truth which
will only be found under that bandaged wrist.

The doctor offered a slight smile. “Today I have only two or
three questions I’d like to ask you. The sooner you answer
them, the sooner I’ll be out of your hair.”

The two psychiatrists sat in Jang’s office. “One of the most
fascinating cases I’ve seen in a long time.” declared the
bearded Hirshberg. “Unaware that the war has been over for
a year now and still playing the part of his nemesis.”

Rising to his feet, Grutman nodded, then turned to face the
window. “Go ahead doctor, ask your questions.”

“Um,” nodded Jang, lighting his pipe. “Most delusional, to
be sure. Also unaware as to how long he’s been with us.”

“Do you know what year this is?”

“How long now?”

The old man turned, shooting him a quick glance. “Of
course I do. What a silly question. It’s 1943.”

“Over two months. Brought in by his daughter who apparently is his last living relative.”

“And what is your . . . what do you do again?”

Hirshberg rose, walking over to a wall containing several
rows of books. Scanning the collection he found what he
was looking for and began thumbing through a large psychiatric manual. “Ah, here it is. Came only yesterday. What
do you think of this diagnosis?”

13

Jang took the book from Hirshberg and scanned the page.
“Yes! This confirms what I’d been thinking for quite some
time. Tomorrow Herr Grutman will be in for a rude awakening I’m afraid.”

*

*

*

At precisely 10:00 a.m. the following day, Dr. Jang knocked
on Grutman’s door before letting himself in. Behind him
stood a dark-haired woman in her mid-forties, her dress
neatly pressed, her hands folded in front of her.
“Good morning, Herr Grutman. I see you’ve just completed
breakfast. Excellent timing on our part.”

as their length of time spent in our camp. Oh . . . and their
blood type. That is needed for our medical staff which performed various . . . scientific duties on the Jews.”
Dr. Jang looked at Sophia whose hands were beginning to
tremble.
“And how long has Goldschmidt worked for you?”
Grutman’s eyes stared at the ceiling. “Hmmm, came to us
from Frankfort with his wife and daughter in 1941. That
means he’s been with us for two years now.”
“And his wife? Where is she?”

Grutman grunted, pushing himself away from his small
table. “Dr. Jang, the harassing mosquito that continues to
pester me.”
Ignoring Grutman’s words, Jang continued. “May I introduce to you, Frau Sophia. Do you recognize her at all?”
Grutman gave her a quick conspectus. “No, am I supposed
to?”
“We will talk about that later.” Both the doctor and the
woman sat on the bed. “Again, only a few quick questions
and then we will leave.”
The old man shook his head. “Get on with it then.”
“In your office, did you have a staff working for you?”
“More memory questions, eh? Of course I did. Two orderlies, my file clerk, and the Jew, Goldschmidt, who kept my
accounting books in order.”
“Goldschmidt. Whatever happened to him?”

As if in a trance, the old man gazed
down at his pale, wrinkled wrist. A
series of black–inked numbers were
tattooed across it.

“She was . . . terminated early on. A sickly woman, if I recall.”
Dr. Jang then turned to Sophia, his voice at a whisper. “I
think it would be a good idea if you waited outside. The
next few minutes might be a little uncomfortable for you.”
Sophia nodded and after taking a quick glance at the old
man, turned, leaving the room.

“He has his good and bad days. When the books are up to
date, he receives an extra ration of bread.”

Rising slowly from the bed, Dr. Jang walked over to Grutman, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Herr Grutman, I’d
like you to take a seat if you please.”

“And the bad days.”

“But . . . I . . .”

Grutman threw Jang a look of surprise. “He is a Jew! I beat
him as I would a dog until he passes out, then have him
dragged outside until he comes to. When he does I order
him in to finish up the work.”

“Please, sir.” From his breast pocket, Jang produced a freshly cut newspaper article, handing it over to Grutman. “I’d
like you to look at the date.”

“What do the books contain?”
“Oh, the usual. Number of Jews dead within the past 24
hours. He records their names, and serial numbers as well

14

The old man nodded, gazing at the article. His eyes suddenly grew large. “July 9, 1946! This can’t be. It is 1943
and I . . .”

“It is 1946, the war is over and the Germans have lost. The
concentration camps have been liberated and tens of thousands of prisoners, most of them Jews, have been evacuated, including Goldschmidt.”
Grutman inhaled deeply, letting the air seep slowly into his
lungs. His eyes darted about, unable to fix themselves on
anything for more than a second.
“I don’t understand. The last thing I remember was falling
down, then ending up here in the hospital with a concussion.”
“You didn’t fall, sir. You were violently pushed down the
stairs just prior to the camp’s liberation. A witness said you
were pushed by Grutman!”
“Grutman? I am . . .”
Without warning, Dr. Jang reached down, tearing the bandage from the patient’s wrist. “Look, look at your wrist.
What do you see?”
As if in a trance, the old man gazed down at his pale, wrinkled wrist. A series of black–inked numbers were tattooed
across it.
“I . . . I don’t understand.” His eyes reddened and tears began to well.
“You put that bandage on your wrist several days after your
liberation, according to your daughter.”

“My daughter?”
“After the camp was liberated you and your daughter, who
managed to survive the ordeal of the camp, went to live
with an agency here in Bern. She began noticing a change
in you. You became more and more hostile, your entire personality changed—your demeanor—everything. Essentially
you could only find peace by becoming Grutman. Remaining Isaac Goldschmidt was just too painful for you. Four
years of torture had become too much to bear, not to mention the loss of your wife. We call this diagnosis an identity
transference disorder. Hence, she brought you to us.” Jang
crouched down, his eyes meeting his patient’s. “Do you understand, Isaac?”
A moment later the door opened and Sophia entered the
room. The bewildered man stared at her, this time making a
concerted effort to read her face.
“Papa!” yelled Sophia. “Don’t you recognize me? Think,
Papa, think!”
In a less than convincing voice he uttered, “But I am SS
ober . . .”
“You are the accountant Isaac Goldschmidt,” roared Dr.
Jang. “You are Isaac Goldschmidt.”
The old man’s mouth moved in silence, his brain straining
desperately to make sense of it all. At long last he emitted
an anguished howl, his body rocking back and forth. Then,
just as suddenly he stopped moving, staring intensely at
both the doctor and Sophia. In a nearly inaudible voice he
announced, “I am Isaac Goldschmidt.”t

Call for submissions

K

ALEIDOSCOPE
Gail Willmott, Editor-in-Chief

KALEIDOSCOPE Magazine has a creative focus that examines the experience of disability through literature and the fine arts.
Unique to the field of disability studies, this award-winning publication expresses the diversity of the disability experience from
a variety of perspectives including: individuals, families, friends, caregivers, educators and healthcare professionals, among
others. The material chosen for KALEIDOSCOPE challenges and overcomes stereotypical, patronizing, and sentimental attitudes about disability through nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and visual art. Although the content focuses on aspects related to disability, writers with and without disabilities are welcome to submit their work.

· Double spaced, typewritten · 5,000 word maximum

· Electronic submissions preferred

Email submissions accepted at kaleidoscope@udsakron.org or online at kaleidoscopeonline.org.

15

PERSONAL ESSAY

Notes from a State Hospital
Zan Bockes

S

eventeen hours in four-point restraints certainly gave
me time to think. In fact, that was the only activity
possible, except I had been injected with a sedative
so powerful that my thoughts swam lazily around like goldfish in an aquarium. But after a few hours, the drug wore off
and I began to contemplate the rings of leather binding my
hands and feet, the occasional faces appearing in the wire
window of the locked door, and the caged bulb in the ceiling tossing its light from wall to white tiled wall.
The above scenario repeated itself many times in my career as a mental patient. Disguised as “treatment,” these
measures could also be mistaken for “punishment,” and the
two terms interchanged themselves depending on whether I
was a staff person applying the restraints or the unfortunate
subject being tied down. Most of the time I found myself in
the latter situation, though in my job as a psychiatric technician, I sometimes became the former, one of a mob of aides
wrestling an unruly patient into a seclusion room. With one
foot in the gutter and one foot on the curb, I lurched through
years of this duality, neither option any better than the other.
In the hospital, I had few choices. It was either submit to
treatment or have it forced upon me. Confined by an involuntary civil commitment, I was not allowed to make any decisions about my care. Nurses needled potent antipsychotic
medications into my butt when I refused to take the pill
forms. Any sort of protest resulted in restraints and seclusion.
The Us vs. Them battle raged in smoke-filled dayrooms.
They had the keys and made all the rules for Us, who tried
to figure out wrong from right and how to escape from the
locked doors. They used behavior modification techniques
16

to elicit desired responses, molding Us into submissive
poses like bonsai wired into shape.
But the battle continues at a much deeper level. In the
contemporary U.S. “crazy” people remain objects of derision, having allegedly lost the most valued possession of
all—the mind. The “Normalocracy” declares such “fools”
incapable of caring for themselves and too dangerous to
live beyond barred windows. In other cultures, contact with
otherworldly states garners respect—these “exalted beings”
need careful hands to make sure they survive to guide their
less gifted fellows.
These days, the medical model seems to be easing some
of this stigma, presenting mental illness as similar to a
physical disease that can be treated (though not cured) with
appropriate medications. Even so, requiring this type of
intervention still meets with contempt and distrust—being
off meds explains many of the inimical and despicable acts
“those people” are capable of. Where reason fails to justify,
fear runs deep, threatening the “normal” world of control
and common sense.
Life in an Iowa state hospital had its advantages, though. I
spent three months there because I’d failed to improve in
the psychiatric hospital in Iowa City. My original diagnosis
was major depressive disorder, which was later changed
to chronic undifferentiated schizophrenia. Despite aggressive treatment with antidepressants and electroshock, my
moods rocketed up and down. I was alternately suicidal and
a manic troublemaker. I tried to hang myself in the empty
closet in my room; I locked a staff person in the seclusion
room when I stole her keys. The doctors deemed the trip to
Mount Pleasant State Hospital a necessity.

For the first week, I embraced my new living conditions,
convinced I’d found the perfect home. Indigent and on a
court commitment, I stayed basically free of charge, with
“three hots and a cot,” interesting people to talk to, lots of
time to draw and write, and the occasional sympathetic ear
for my personal struggles. I earned pink tickets for sweeping the floor and organizing the magazines, hoarding the
paper slips in my dresser drawer instead of cashing them in
for a plastic cup of Coke without ice.

They used behavior modification
techniques to elicit desired
responses, molding Us into
submissive poses like bonsai
wired into shape.

Things soon went awry, of course. For one thing, the staff
ignored the name I’d chosen for myself and was in the process of legally changing, (from “Suzann” to “Zan”). Even
after I’d explained the situation, they continued to call me
“Susan,” and I refused to respond. This presented a real
problem at the morning roll call—my spot remained vacant
as I dawdled in my room and ignored the orders for “Susan”
to take her place in line.
The punishment for this infraction required placement on
the “Irresponsible List” taped to the hallway wall. Other
women who’d misbehaved by refusing to do chores or keep
their rooms clean also found their names there, and the third
appearance meant a trip to the intensive care unit upstairs, a
godforsaken place that smelled of urine and disinfectant.
The third time I ignored the call to line up, four male aides
arrived to ease my transition to from Ward 2-B to 3-B.
Needless to say, I did not go willingly. They wrestled me
into the padded freight elevator as I twisted and struggled,
then tied me down to a bed in the seclusion room, where
I spent the next seventeen hours. Restrained incorrectly

with hands above my head (instead of to the side), my
arms quickly fell asleep. No one answered my pleas for a
bathroom break, and I lay all night in my own cold urine.
No one came in to check on me or give me food or water.
A face occasionally glanced at me through the window and
disappeared. When someone finally released me the next
morning, I could not sit up or use my arms for over an hour.
I’d earned myself a week on 3-B, a smaller and an even
more confined ward than my previous home on 2-B. The
noise was intolerable—one woman, tied with cloth restraints to a wheelchair, spent days screaming and drawing spiders. Another patient assaulted me in the bathroom,
claiming I was Patty Hearst. And another stomped her feet
as she paced the dayroom. Even though I’d always felt a
kinship with other patients, I had a hard time identifying
with most on 3-B. And I spent all my tickets for the privilege of sitting in the most private place on the ward, the
bean bag chair at the end of the hallway.
After my night in restraints, I settled down and swallowed
the medication without protest. Even though it stiffened my
muscles and destroyed my capacity for emotion, the lure
of the less restrictive 2-B seemed to make the discomfort
worth it. Chemically lobotomized, I turned docile and obedient. Mount Pleasant State Hospital, no longer an ideal
place to live, became a horrible place to exist.
As residents of a state institution, my female companions
and I underwent a double imprisonment: confined behind
locked doors and subdued with neuroleptics. We lined up
for these deadening drugs at a little window in the nurses’
station and then we were checked for “cheeking” by the
sour matron who ordered us to open our mouths and lift our
tongues.
In one instance, the nurse accidentally gave me someone
else’s pills, and when I noticed the unfamiliar tablets, I told
her and refused to take them. My credibility, constantly
questioned, had no weight here. The nurse judged me “noncompliant” and again added “Susan” to the “Irresponsible
List.”
My life on the second and third floors of Building 20 was
regulated with military precision and rigidity. No one enjoyed the luxury of privacy. The bathroom stalls had no
doors and we took showers in the tub room in groups of
17

three. We made phone calls at a public desk in the hallway.
The aides opened our mail, looking for sharp objects and
money.
With no place to hide or escape the constant noise, sleep
became a precious commodity. But even our dreams guaranteed no privacy. The flashlights of the night shift blazed
across our eyes every half hour for bed checks. Due to
sedating drugs, we often nodded off, but were rudely awakened for breaking the “No Napping” rule.
We passed weeks in the smoke-hazed dayroom, gazing
hungrily out the barred windows at the budding trees and
greening lawns of freedom. The situation reminded me of
being on an ancient “Ship of Fools,” my fellow sailors randomly thrown together to drift aimlessly in the doldrums,
too tired to stage a mutiny.
In drugged fogs, we shuffled from group therapy (which I
called “grope therapy”), to community meetings (where our
suggestions and complaints usually were ignored), and then
to recreational therapy (which I called “wreck therapy”)
that involved sanding blocks of wood and doing minimal
exercises in a chair. Beyond that, the highlight of the day
was the arrival of the meal cart, loaded with trays of gray
food served with a solitary plastic spoon.
Once I’d earned my place in a less restrictive environment
on 2-B, I set about getting myself the hell out of the hospital. I worked my way up from “Suicide Watch” to “Close
Supervision” to “Grounds Privileges,” where I could go
outside and investigate the blossoming lilacs and bushes
within the small perimeter allowed. The Administration
Building, a hundred yards away, was off limits. Nevertheless, I spent several cherished half hours lying in the sun,
absorbing the fresh air of advancing spring. I had plenty of
opportunities to escape to the highway close by, but I feared
I’d be caught and hauled up to 3-B again.

18

I learned reluctantly how to be a model patient. I kept my
feelings to myself, followed all the rules, took meds with
no protest, helped staff clear tables after meals, socialized
with others and stayed off the “Irresponsible List.” Finally,
after several weeks of exemplary performance, the doctors
agreed to discharge me.
The day I left, maples applauded me in the light wind.
Manicured lawns cushioned my feet. Birds chittered cheerfully, happy to be birds. My parents, although suspicious
of my recovery, greeted me at the Administration Building
and put my meager box of clothes and books in the trunk. I
carefully hid my tears, the intense joy and relief swelling in
my chest as the car passed down the tree-lined avenue and
out to the highway.
No one spoke, though my mother sighed loudly for reasons
unknown to me, and my father cleared his throat a few
times as though the whole experience left a bad taste in his
mouth. We never talked of the past three months.
Although I sampled the fare at two other state hospitals
later on, neither differed much in the mechanics of institutionalization or the issues at stake. I always embraced the
freedom of discharge with excitement, vowing never to
return. I was last hospitalized in 2000, the memories fast
receding just as Building 20 had in the rear view mirror.
Better medications, without such dire side effects, have
helped me recover, as have my loyal friends and husband.
I am now diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder, but as
time goes by, this label means less and less. Now, being a
“good patient” comes naturally and spontaneously, without
enforcement by authoritative powers and their restrictive
environments. I’m glad to partake of whatever freedom a
“normal” life allows, especially grateful after experiencing
its opposite.t

POETRY

Katherine Meizel

Almost Always
Almost isn’t always
too bad.
You started forward,
but your feet balked
and the tires only scattered leaves
and gutter water.
You came close to forgetting,
but he’d left the rosemary
in the cupboard,
a remembrance.
Almost always, though
Almost everywhere,
that’s almost
too much.
But
hangs suffocating
in the Schrödinger air,
twists almost never
into dire tautology.

You dream of choking,
garroted in your sleep
by the creeping möbius nearlyspracticallys-justabouts
that tangle your life
into inexplicable knots,
inextricable nots.
Almost made it, almost there
almost like being in love,
that’s almost
alright.
But they don’t believe you,
and it’s almost
like dying—
this Tinker Bell disease where
they think you’re looking for applause when
you knew all along who
wasn’t real
and they’re waiting
for an empty bottle
but it’s only
almost.

19

FICTION

Girl’s Story
J.R. McRae

O

utside the window, wind is
blowing in pine needles. I see
the swish, swish sound like my
broom. I might be deaf but I can see
sounds. Now my broom brushes ’cause
that’s what I want. I want the floor
swept for my little Paulie. His hands
padder, padder on the wood plank floor
and he pushes himself back up, sits
there looking at me just like his poor
Dada. I’m not complaining. Pelletier’s
a good man, he’s good to little Paulie.
Loving, like me and Paul had, it’ll take
time. But it’ll happen. I want it.
Here, it is very far from all the ructions
over the border. I don’t miss it, the fine
house with its miserable occupant. I
miss Paul; I grieve the tragedy of his
dying in the gray, shot by his own twin,
an officer in blue. I never understood
that. Countrymen tearing each other
apart, bloodying up their nation, their
heritage. I finger Paul’s bear’s tooth.
I wear it under my blouse, next to my
heart. It’s all I have of him besides our
Paulie, and Paulie shall have it when
grown.

20

Paul taught me. I still cry when I think
on it. At first, I didn’t understand his
passion to teach me. You taught children. I was grown. I was a slave girl.
Why bother? I didn’t understand till
I knew the depth of his love, then I
realized he saw me like no other ever
had—his equal. He gave me hope and I
learned! Paul’s lessons saved my life as
much as we gave our Paulie his.
We snuck away to lessons after the
house went quiet, late evening when
his grandmother’s snores drifted up the
stairs. She hated me, my skin, my disability, but, and I’m smiling here, she
had no choice did she! All the finery
fretting and frittering away through
her wasteful fingers. Paul’s mother tutting quietly to her son but never game
enough to tackle the old witch. I wish
his Ma had lived. She deserved better
than dying of shock—both sons gone.
Pelletier is tending his trap lines. He
will be days yet. I have enough provisions and a gun. He taught me to use
it. Pelletier was the illegitimate halfbrother of Paul’s father. A good man,
his “legal” brother wanted nothing of,
a bastard. Well, that’s me. Unwanted
daughter of a slave and a white mill

manager, I’m half-caste—mulatto—a
“runaway.” A thing hunted by hounds
like Pelletier’s old Josh, heavy head on
paws by the cooking fire . . . I’m glad
he left Josh here. Too old to follow the
lines in all weather but still strong and a
good guard.
I’m writing my story in quiet moments.
Why? Who’ll ever see it? Maybe Paulie
when he’s grown. He needs to respect
his roots. Paul was an educated man,
Paulie will get an education too; I will
teach him. Dubonnet-Maguire, for
Paul’s sake I kept that name by burying it in the midst of Paulie’s—Paulie
Dubonnet-Maguire Pelletier. He will
be proud of his blood father. I will tell
him, it is from Paul he got his learning
and he will write his name proud!
What is my real name? Did my Ma not
give me one? She died soon after having me, but I feel she must have had a
name for me . . . must have picked a
name for her girl. Her name—I don’t
know. I never saw it writ. It must have
been spoken around me . . . but my
hearing was always bad. Now, talk,

words, they’re like annoying flies. All
I get is a vague buzz of unknowing and
silence. When you’re just the servant,
the slave girl, no one bothers. Everyone
just called me “Girl,” even my Paul.
I was passed from one poor slave family to another till I was old enough to
be sold. Then the Beckers bought me.
I guess they were no better nor any
worse than most. Best part was being
out of the fields. Then old Mr. Becker
started to eye me, right about the time I
got my first bloods. I didn’t want none
of him. I knew what happened to girls
silly enough to let him get his hands
on them. His son sent them to auction
and it was a life in the fields. I wasn’t
going back there. So I found a way
to keep from old mister. At first I hid.
It worked till my growth spurt. Then
hides were scarcer. My saviour was
garlic. He hated garlic. That was a revelation! A new cook, European, put it
in a dish and we all thought he’d die of
apoplexy! Well I’d rub it on my arms,
round my neck—even rubbed it on my
lips. Snuck a clove from the kitchen
every night. It were my ward against
the demons in that old roué.
Finally, the old man talked his son into
bringing in “new blood” and I was let
go to the Dubonnets. A mansion as
had seen better times, an old harridan,
Madame Ingenuie Dubonnet, her kind,
beset on daughter, Jessica Maguire, and
the grandson—my Paul—he liked me
from the first.
I’ve been “Girl” so long it is me. Pelletier asked me, when we married, if
I wanted another name—he wrote in
front of the priest—“What do you want
put down?” But the church register has
me as I’ve always been known. Girl
Pelletier. I like the shape of it. I prac-

tice writing it. Paul used to say I had
a “fair” hand. He was proud of what I
learned. I was too. It was my freedom,
my path to here. Just not with Paul like
we planned . . . .

Snuck a clove from
the kitchen every
night. It were my ward
against the demons
in that old roué.

Those many, many months, hiding by
day at first and traveling by night. The
donkey Paul had hidden so carefully
in the woods back of the mansion, the
donkey that was to be my bearer as I
got heavier with Paulie, got taken one
night before I even got out of Virginia.
I’d scrambled in a hollow log too tired
to find a place more suited. I’d tethered
the animal nearby. I sensed the men,
long before the crunch of their boots
and the beat of their rifle butts through
the underbrush vibrated round me. I
froze. Runaways got no mercy. From a
knothole, I peeped out and recognized
the recruiter band that took Paul. I waited long hours to be sure all was clear.
Then I fled on foot, wrapped in his
mother’s old greatcoat, with a bundle of
essentials in Paul’s duffle and the bear’s
tooth, all I had of my Paul, all there
was of his twin. I travelled light; I had
too far to go.

I haven’t put down much about the
journey in my writing. Not all the
dreary, painful detail of finding food,
stealing eggs, fruit, anything edible;
shitting in the bushes; trying to keep a
modicum of clean; the search for shelter—abandoned huts, sheds, railway
carriage. Till I got too big, even scrambling in a big, old tree.
Richmond, Virginia to beyond the
Great Lakes is a weary long road. The
having of writing, the fact I could read
saved me. Time and again, I blessed
Paul for his teaching of me.
Early on, Paul taught me to read maps.
He said it was a wide, wild country
and one day we were going to head
north, to Canada, freedom for me and
the chance to be wed, impossible in the
States. And we would find Pelletier,
high in eastern Canada on the fringe of
the Hudson Bay Company’s grant.
Paul took two vital maps from his late
grandfather’s collection, Phelps and
Ensign’s Traveller’s Guide and Map of
the United States and Charles DeSilver’s Canada East—Lower Canada.
The first, the old man acquired shortly
before he died. The second, older, Paul
annotated where he could. Grandfather
Dubonnet’s gambling addiction took
him far and wide, playing fast and
loose with his fortune. These maps
were the most precious things he left.
I hid them on me, careful and close.
They were like “Bible” for me, my
guide through the unfamiliar and the
wild.
The trek through the States took
months, hiding from bands seeking
runaways, marauders, the angry and
dispossessed, seeking shelter if the
weather went bad. There were close
21

calls, like the time a band of ragged
men with dangerous eyes sought shelter
in the same barn as me. I felt the pound
of their horse’s hooves and buried myself in the hay in the loft. To my horror,
two of the men found the piled up hay
and made it their bed. One of them, a
burly man, flung himself down across
me. I muffled my cry, just in time. I lay
there all night, nigh crushed by his solid weight. But he never discovered me.
In moments, I felt the vibrations of his
snoring. I dared not move for hours after they left, for fear they would return.
My skin, more Creole in shade, courtesy of my white father, stood by me.
It made the getting of work easier.
Further north there was some sympathy. Abolitionists had havens scattered
across country. A few careful questions, scratched with a charcoal stub on
skerricks of precious scavenged paper,
found them for me.
Mid autumn, heading to northern Pennsylvania, I came to a ravaged farm. The
skeleton of a woman’s body lay on the
porch. Had she fallen whilst fleeing
marauders? Lain wounded and been
finished by wolves? One arm was missing and part of a leg. Her left arm was
twisted behind her where she fell back
on it. I was about to step over her body
when something made me stop. I pulled
the arm free. Her wedding band clung
to the white bones of her ring finger. I
stood stock still, staring at it. I wanted
it but not like most who’d sell the gold
for bread. It was the taking made me
hesitate. I remember, growing up on the
plantations, we kids found a dead man
in the woods. Old Ma saw us looking
at the body and the silver fob hanging
just out of his pocket. One of the boys
reached for it. She waved her stick at
us and yelled something as made them
boys cringe. Now I reckon it for an old
chant, “You dun take the Devil’s due n
Devil he gun come for you!” I’ve read
about such. Anyways, whatever it were,
it put the fear of God in us. We left the
fob chain be.

22

What were more important, some
superstition or what’s real! I took the
ring off her finger. She had no need of
it now and it would stand me in good
stead. Paul and I had made our vows
to each other before God. But no priest
had sanctioned it. Marriage were forbidden us, even in the slave-freeing
North. Soon after that, he was took.

With my supply of pencils and, later, charcoal
sticks, always a ready
supply from any warming cooking fire, the
sheets and their messages got me work,
shelter, supplies.

But Canada . . . we had hoped . . . I
swallowed hard. This thin band would
give me pass to shelter. An unwed
mother was worse than a runaway.
Even abolitionists would shun her. I
could feel my babe stronger now. I
searched the farm for provisions—
eggs, flour, mealy but edible. I corralled
a nanny goat and had me some milk. A
bed to sleep in, a full belly, and I slept
long.
I gave that place a long last look. There
was too far to go yet. Too soon I’d have
to shelter and wait for my little boy.
The last things I took from that place—
paper and pencil. Buried in back of
an otherwise ransacked drawer was a
small stock of a lady’s letter materials.
These writing tools were my lifeline
through the States. With my supply
of pencils and, later, charcoal sticks,
always a ready supply from any warming cooking fire, the sheets and their
messages got me work, shelter, supplies. They helped me to safe paths
and shorter paths. Most folk were kind.

They thought me a widow of the war,
which in my heart I was.
An elderly tinker, Herr Adolphus
Schmidt, picked me up in his wagon
near the borderlands. I had reached the
end of my strength. By now any writing paper was long gone. Exhausted,
I wrote a message in stones at road’s
edge. I sat down and waited, hoping for a kind soul. It was on a lonely
road, even though the main route went
through there. I must have fallen asleep
where I sat. Next I knew, a rough, calloused hand was shaking me gently
awake. He pointed at my stone words
and smiled. I nodded and pointed north.
He helped me into the wagon. I knew
instinctively I could trust this gray,
grizzled man. I slept, bumping and
rocking over the rough road, grateful
for every moment spared my feet and
back.
I cooked. I taught him to write English,
though he could read a little. They were
silent lessons with letters drawn in the
dirt. He was pitifully grateful. I felt
the clink and clang of pots and pans
behind us, their vibrations running up
my arms as my fingers caressed the
rickety sides of the wagon. He carried
me all the way into Canada. He wrote
in clumsy words and scratched pictures,
how I was like his girl by an Algonquin
squaw. His native wife died in childbirth and he cared for his girl, Mina, till
she was taken from him. He’d gone for
supplies, leaving her with friends who
had a girl a little younger. His girl had
little enough chance for friendships on
the road. Raiders came, took his Mina,
left the rest for dead. It was on the road
through Kansas. He still searched and
hoped against hope to find her. Schmidt
would have kept me. He made that
plain—a firm warm grasp of my hands,
the gentle gray-blue of his eyes. But
my heart was set on Paul’s plan for his
child and me. I wanted a new beginning
for us.
The last thing Schmidt did was take me
to his wife’s tribe in the Ontario and
Québec borderlands. The Algonquin

welcomed me. They knew of Pelletier.
Paulie was born at winter’s end by the
cooking fire in a birch bark wigwam.
All my pent up anger, grief, and loss
gushed out of me on the flood of my
waters and little Paulie close after.
Whilst I gathered strength and nursed
my boy, I helped the family who sheltered me prepare to up their winter
camp. They were heading north with
the tribe after furs and to hunt. I had a
request for my Algonquin host—a tattoo. He seemed amused when I drew
in the embers the letters of Pelletier’s
name and a question mark. I pointed to
my palm then to his tribal tattoos. He
looked at me long with his night dark
eyes. But he did what I wished.
The tattooing—stab after stab of
red-hot pain took all the evening. I
clenched my other hand tight, nails
digging into palm and gritted my teeth.
I had to be strong. This last, most dangerous part of my journey, I could not
run, could not hide as easy. I had my
babe and much of the country was wilderness.
The Algonquin took me with them on
a spare pony over plain and pass, wildflowers now peeping through the melting ice at forest edge—a pretty time.
Finally, they came within a day’s journey of the white man’s village, nearest
to where Pelletier had last been seen
by their local kin. For Schmidt’s sake,
I think, they gave me the pony. Not a
small gift from these stern people.
Paulie in an Indian papoose, I rode the
rough wagon track into the town. Shadow fingers were stealing the day by the
time I inquired at the general store—
writing my inquiry on some newsprint.
Whilst the scrawny weathered storekeeper read my message and pondered,
I read the headlines in the old paper.
The war had ended. The Confederacy
had lost. They said that meant freedom
for folks the likes of me. Did that mean
my Paul died for naught. Tears welled.
I shook my head, set my jaw and
looked up. Little Paulie’s father, my

Paul, gave us our chance for freedom.
That’s what mattered. I would fight
anything to keep it.
After what seemed an age, the storekeeper started to speak. Stopped, not
realizing I had some lipreading, and
started to write. Pelletier had called in
briefly some weeks ago for supplies.
He had headed north.
Schmidt had given me some coins and
a few notes he could ill afford but had
insisted. I used these now to get some
foodstuffs and a Bowie knife, nodded
at the storekeeper and left. I leaned my
map of Canada’s East on the flank of
my pony and tried to figure where Pelletier might have headed. I decided to
keep north and check again at the next
town. With some weeks gone, maybe
he would call for supplies and the next
town was bigger. I knew Paul had written to his uncle, telling of his plans and
of me, not long before recruiters took
him. Had Pelletier ever received it?
The ride north was quiet. I had had
years of seeking my own company in
preference to that of others. The deaf
and to all purposes mute, are not understood by most. There is no patience
with us. That was till Paul and his
mother. They had shown me something
different. I had responded like a flower
opening to the sun. It changed me. Now
I was in strange territory and with my
baby. I felt alone in a new way. Care of
another can open you, vulnerable, exposed. Even so, if harm came, I would
fight for my son until I could not move.
I could see the town in the distance,
when I became aware of someone following me. The vibrations rose through
the ground. The wind, which was
blowing from the south, carried scent—
dirty, unwashed man-scent. I spurred
the pony on. The vibrations became
stronger, the scent more concentrated.
I glanced over my shoulder and looked
into eyes flint hard not a length behind
me. What those eyes said was nightmare.
I felt for the knife, gripped and drew

it out. Clutched it to me. I would not
reveal it yet, not unless he came up beside of me, unless he acted. I wouldn’t
risk him drawing a gun.
Long, hammering moments he drew
by. I saw his arm reach out for the
reigns and struck, slashing open his
arm—blood spurted furious and hot.
His mouth shaped a scream with the
unexpectedness of my strike and drew
back in a snarl. I glanced over, saw him
reach his other hand for his gun. I wove
the horse, praying he could not aim as
well with his left. Then, from the town,
a cloud of dust advancing, he saw it too
and veered off.
The group of hunter-traders drew level.
We reigned. Too breathless with fright,
it was all I could do to hold my hand
up in greeting and query. Their leader
saw, nodded, pointed. Pelletier was in
town. They saw the blood on my knife,
reigned their animals back, drew their
guns and they rode down the way I’d
come. There was a volley of shots. Any
man as would harm mother and child
met with frontier justice!
I rode my pony hard. I would not risk
Pelletier leaving before me, not again.
I pulled into the town and headed for
the general store. Moments later, I tied
the pony at the rail out front and almost
ran up the wood steps just as a tall man
with gray flecking his beard emerged.
He begged pardon as he sought to pass.
I held my palm up, right in his face. He
stopped, amazed, looked hard at me,
a slow smile curling the corner of his
mouth. He nodded and said one word,
“Pelletier!” I never saw a word form
on lips so welcome before. I reached
out, unable to stop myself, and touched
those lips. I was home . . . .t
“Girl’s Story” is an excerpt from FREE
PASSAGE, a Civil War novella, written by J.R. McRae, illustrated by Terry
Hand, published by Tate Publishing,
2014. “Girl’s Story” was also previously published in Wordgathering, A Journal of Disability, Poetry and Literature
(December 2014).
23

POETRY

Shirley Adelman

Promises
Like a cocoon the sun enfolds
me, sitting on a bench watching
cars pass, an occasional bus,
where trolleys once ran.
The wind carries winter’s cold,
but the sun promises:
a warmer season.

Mary Ellen Talley

Zipper Villanelle
Black punk jacket he grabs in his hand.
It should be simple to straighten up and zip it.
Months after his coma he can barely stand,
let alone insert a zipper using his grasp.
He ran to catch a bus but missed it.
Black punk jacket he grabs in his hand,
demands economy of motion and a plan.
The muscle for raising his arm, he can’t fix it.
Months after his coma he can barely stand.
Memory says hold metal low and he barely can.
Remove fabric stuck in zipper and finally pull it.
Black punk jacket, the teeth to grab in his hand.
High school recovery and lessons to cram.
The slow burn of muscles, he learns to handle it.
Months after his coma he can barely stand.
Skull and crossbones patch across his wing span.
Slow slog to his walker and he endures it.
Months after his coma he can barely stand.
Black punk jacket he grabs in his hand.

24

Katarzyna Rygasiewicz

Song of Me in Dialysis
I proclaim myself saint of suffering
in dialysis
as I am mad enough
to write poetries
of all manner of suffering
in dialysis.
I proclaim myself the holy tortured
in dialysis
every day under
such a primitive
way of blood-waterboarding—
multiple surgeries to needle
entries to crampings
to passings out. I do it
in beauty with a smile
and a gibber of tongue.
I proclaim myself taken to God
as my head seems to ascend
above my body,
even to point of whiteout
from dialysis-induced, rapid
low blood pressure descents.
I proclaim my bleeding wounds—
the seeping needle points
on my fistulae first
then on my graft—
to be stigmata, especially
when emergency room hospital
staff cannot staunch
such non-stop miraculous flow
of bleedings. Alleluia!

25

PERSONAL ESSAY

When Grass Spoke
Sybil Austin Skakle

“G

rass makes a noise when
you pull it up!” I exclaimed, as I came in
from the flower beds that afternoon in
1964.

people said. I clerked in my father’s
general store as a girl. One day a fisherman requested a can of spinach. Thinking he asked for a can of boat paint, I
asked, “What color?”

My husband smiled and shook his head.
“You’re crazy!” he said in disbelief.

I began learning to read lips to help me
better understand what people were
saying to me. I remember a young serviceman stationed on Hatteras Island
during World War II, who said to me
“Sybil, you seem to hear better when
you wear your glasses.” He was right:
with my glasses, I could more clearly
read peoples’ lips.

I went to college and by reading the
texts and by copying good notes of
someone next to me, I managed to
gather enough information to take the
written examinations and graduate from
the University of North Carolina in
1949 with a B.S. in pharmacy. During
my final quarter I used a hearing aid,
a bulky thing secreted in my clothing.
The sound of clothing rubbing against
it distracted me and after graduation I
laid the hearing aid aside.

Having lost my hearing when I was in
seventh grade, after a bout of measles,
I was now rediscovering hearing. I remembered the sound of the wind and
the rain from my childhood before I
lost my hearing. But, I had forgotten
the audible whisper of a breeze against
my face and the buzz of bees. I had not
heard the cooing of my three baby sons.
And I never remembered that grass
made a noise when pulled from the
ground. I was hearing sounds I had not
heard in twenty-five years.
When I lost my hearing, I thought people were whispering to share secrets, to
shut me out of their conversations. My
mother decided that I was inattentive or
distracted when I failed to respond to
her. Neither she nor I realized my hearing had deteriorated, and I tried to hide
my disability by second guessing what

26

In 1955 a relative of mine brought
me an issue of Look Magazine which
contained an article about ear surgery,
called stapes mobilization, perfected by
Dr. Samuel Rosen of New York City.
The case histories the writer related
imaged my own history so closely that
I began to hope.
Dr. Rosen’s research and studies had resulted in his being able to restore hearing to many whose stapes were fused.
The stapes of the middle ear is made up
of three tiny bones: hammer, anvil and
stirrup. These bones, normally activated
by the sound waves from the ear drum,
vibrate to activate the tiny fibers of the
auditory nerves. These nerves send
messages to the brain to enable hearing.
When these bones become fused and no
longer vibrate, the resulting condition is
termed otosclerosis.
I immediately wrote Dr. Rosen, who
requested audiograms to test my hearing range and the degree of loss. The
audiograms I obtained indicated that
both auditory nerves were functioning. My hearing loss was due to faulty
conduction, unrelated to nerve damage. Dr. Rosen accepted me for stapes

mobilization for November of 1955. In
New York he had his audiologist repeat
my testing, which confirmed the earlier
findings. The nerves in my right ear
tested better than those in the left one.
I elected to have the operation done on
my left ear first.
I wanted to believe the operation improved my hearing, but it really did not.
So, the next year we returned to New
York for surgery on the right ear. However, the second operation left me dizzy
and nauseated, and unable to walk
without support for several days. In addition to vertigo, a persistent sound like
a distant ocean was an aftermath and
remained, making hearing even more
difficult. My post operation audiograms
the week following surgery had shown
negligible improvement in my hearing
level.
August 1958 found our family, which
now included a third son, back in Chapel Hill, North Carolina after living
for four years in Hatteras. My husband
came to attend graduate school and
become the varsity tennis coach at the
University of North Carolina. Upon
the urging of a close friend, I made an
appointment with Dr. George Ferguson
of Durham at McPherson Hospital,
which specialized in diseases of eye,
ear, nose, and throat. Dr. Ferguson discussed the possibility of operating, but
he warned that that there might be additional damage to the inner ear. The risk
he described made me decide against
surgery. For several years, I continued
through life with my limited hearing.

Finally with the help of Christian
friends, I came to understand that God
cared for my physical wholeness, as
well as my spiritual maturity. “Pray, believing you will receive . . . .” Christ’s
invitation to believe was meant for me.
I entreated God with the words a father
spoke to Jesus, whom he had asked to
heal his son, who “possessed a deaf
and dumb spirit,” “Lord, I believe; help
thou my unbelief.”
Facing the choice of investing in another hearing aid or risking another operation, I contacted Dr. George Ferguson
again. He said: “The advances and the
improvements in techniques since I saw
you six years ago make it possible for
me to anticipate a good outcome from
an operation, with little risk.”
And so, one rainy Sunday afternoon in
September 1964, I entered McPherson
Hospital. On Monday morning at eight
o’clock, Dr. Ferguson operated. I came
out of the operating room able to hear,
at last.
Dr. Ferguson explained to my husband
that he had removed half of the shattered footplate and the useless stapes
of the inner ear. In its place he had
inserted a tiny stainless steel piston
prosthesis. In his opinion, the operation
could not have been more perfect. The
audiogram results were better than preoperative tests indicated possible.
The experience of hearing again was
truly extraordinary and overwhelming
at the same time. The birds seemed to
scream at the top of their note scales
and awakened me in the morning. The
sound of a train (tracks at least a mile
away) seemed to be running next to our

back fence. I found no sanctuary. The
house had become a huge tuning fork,
vibrating with every sound within and
without its walls. Eating, drinking, even
touch emitted a noise. I awoke one
night and urged my husband to check
the house. “Go to sleep, Sybil. It is
your gut growling,” he said.
Sounds obsessed me day and night.
Happily, I discovered conversations
were possible from one room to another, that sound comes around corners!
Follow-up audiograms a few weeks
later confirmed what I had already experienced as reality. I could hear better
than I had since 1939!
Hearing the grass speak was thrilling.
Being able to hear completely changed
my life and the lives of those close to
me. My sons and husband no longer
had to explain to others why I failed
to respond when asked a question.
My mother remarked that my voice
sounded different. The piano was too
loud, when I tried to play it. People
talking in the drive next door seemed to
be inside the house. I felt as though my
whole body had been rewired, because
I could now hear sounds of touch to my
own body.
We stop hearing the sounds that are
always there. Our eyes overlook details
that are usual. Odors that are part of our
surroundings we no longer smell. My
husband, Don, had stopped hearing the
sound grass makes as the earth releases
it from its grasp. I was not crazy. Grass
does speak!t

27

FICTION

Penumbra
Gail Waldstein

T

he morning sun splinters through the curtains, startles me, although I know dawn’s growth is gradual.
It’s before the birds or garbage trucks begin—before
anyone else starts separating from sleep. This first time,
the shadow hangs like a half-mast eyelid or a baseball cap
whose bill’s been tipped too low.
I crick my neck back and hear little boney protests from my
cervical vertebrae—but not much else creases the silence.
My heart beats loud in my ears, and I stop breathing, full
attention now on the high black-out, an eclipse cutting my
vision. The room, brighter by a few minutes, is normal
except there’s no ceiling. My bird mobile, gone. Overhead
fan, invisible. The warm sheets, my soft pillow, the bed-side
stand with its books and writing journal are no longer of
comfort. I think how rectangular the bed is, the shape of a
coffin. How half a universe is not the same. How vision is
scary. How I never liked shadows. How I hate the dark.
I shut my eyes and will myself to inhale and exhale, like
I’ve been taught in yoga, relax, relax, but the heart heats up,
keeps pace with the sun’s ascension.
I study the alarm clock. It’s nice to live in the expanse of
quasi-retirement—I no longer set the damned thing regularly—and I calculate the time, the additions, subtractions of
my three far-flung children, my sister. Who will be awake,
not hassling the kids for preschool, who will be on route
or already in meetings, and then I give it up, roll over and
speak with my dear friend, only a year and a half dead.

28

“Maggie, remember how you reassured me I wasn’t having
a heart attack the first time I heard my heart pound loudly?
When was that? ʼ91, I think, because I was suddenly alone
after thirty years. No child, no husband, no one.”
“Well, of course I remember, darlin’. And I’ve missed you,
missed speaking with you. It’s a treachery, all this distance—all these distractions, life matters that get between
us. How are you?”
“That’s what I’m calling about. I don’t think I’m great. I
have a scimitar cutting my vision in half.”
“Oh, did you decide to have those eyelids done then, darlin’? Is that what this is about?”
“No, no I didn’t. Only now it would be my neck and the
corduroy on my upper lip . . . but this isn’t about plastic
anything.”
“Well, darlin’, explain it to me slowly. And louder, I can
hardly hear you.”
“Ohmygod, does this mean you’re fading too? I couldn’t
bear that. The news you weren’t on the planet—never mind
how far apart we lived, how infrequently we spoke—flattened me for a long time. In fact, that’s what I feel like now,
flat. Pancaked.”

I elbow up and push my back against the headboard, knees
tucked to my chest. I wrap both arms around them and rock
like a frightened child. Because I sleep alone, live alone, I
have no one to nudge awake when I’m scared, when a minor catastrophe or an exuberant happiness hits my life. No
one. Oh, I have friends. And children. I have people who
love and care about me. But at dawn, or midnight, when a
new treat or threat arrives, no one.

“Are you all right then, darlin’?”

“Darlin’? I can’t hear you at all now.”

Is this a 911 moment? Maybe I haven’t taken good enough
care of myself. Maybe I haven’t been careful about the prediabetes, and have gone on, like the bulk of America, to full
blown disease?

“Oh, sorry, sorry. It’s my vision. There’s a shade cutting my
sight in half. I don’t even know if it’s real. I know visual
fields and aging eye problems, and this doesn’t fit that information. Maybe it’s hysteria. Maybe it’s fear of solitude.
But tell me, what’s it like where you are Maggie? Are you
with Wayne? Are you wiser? Are you happy? Whenever we
speak it’s always about me, and my kids or some transient
lover—they never seem to last. Maybe this won’t last—I
never think to ask about you. I assume dead is dead. Maybe
not.”

Does she hear me weep? Self pity is better than other people’s pity, which I’ll get plenty of. I hate pity.
“Darlin’, tell me what you’re feelin’, what you’re doin’.”
“I’m freaking out.”

“Maybe I’m being punished for all those years doing autopsies on children and babies.”
Pediatric pathology. Really, what kind of life choice was
that? Maybe I’m going blind, just when I’m starting to learn
the delicacy of truth, the value of love and decency, and
kindness. Maybe it’s karma.

“Well, darlin’, there’s way less to worry about now. But it’s
not that restful, not like you’d imagine. Here now, all these
folks, friends, relatives, lovers, people you hardly knew asking for things, for favors. A new couch or their dog to get
well. They want their husband to remember their anniversary, stop running around. Intercede for me with Jesus, won’t
you? They want, they want. They want to know if their life
matters. And I say ‘God in heaven, pull yourself together.
There’s enough splendor and marvels that you should be
drinkin’ it in—revelin’ in it—it’s over all too soon.’”

“I’m afraid I’m being punished.…”

Now I can’t hear my heart. Has it stopped? Is this how it
ends, a shade bisecting the world, then pulled all the way
down? No drama? My knees are cold. I scrunch below the
covers, squeeze my eyes tight. I wish I were holding a receiver to my ear.

And I think of the years and years Maggie taught high
school in rural Alabama. How she dedicated her life to hundreds of students who worshipped her honesty and tenderness, appreciated all her encouragement. How she always
cheered me on, even from the first day I met her at a poetry
open mic in Port St. Joe, Florida. Me, a Yankee stranger,
reading first, knees buckling because my poem’s visceral
description resurrected lust, sparked by witnessing lovers
in a deep kiss in a Denver snowstorm. She interrupted the
laughter and applause, asked where I was published.

“So, what are you thinkin’ now, darlin’?”
I think I will faint if the cut-off is still there, but I don’t say
anything, cup my right hand over that eye, open the left,
and see half of what I should. I switch eyes, stop breathing—ohmygod. I’m sobbing before I can collect myself.

“Whoah, slow down. Who would be punishing you?”
“God? My parents? Me? I don’t know. The ex’s I’ve badmouthed?”
“Hold up, darlin’. Let’s change to a brighter subject. Tell
me about the children and their children—how are they?
What are they like, your new generation of grandkids?”

29

POETRY

“Oh, no, nowhere,” I said. “I just started writing.”
“Oh darlin’ never you mind. You will be, you will.”
As I start to tell her about the grands, tears begin, but I
breathe easily now, close my eyes against whatever is really
happening. I stretch long in the bed, whispering, “Hello,
hello?” There’s nothing now but silence.
Maggie had bad diabetes her final decade, suffered a stroke,
heart failure, lost vision in one eye. She too, must’ve seen
half a world. Am I simply mimicking her symptoms because I didn’t get to say a formal good-bye? Am I creating
an inexplicable metaphor, a personal koan?
I scroll through others gone now, friends and relatives safe
in Valhalla, or with Jesus, or in a new incarnation, not forgotten yet because my mind still works. But after me, what?
For today my feet can press ground, I can stand in tadasana
or mountain pose and breathe. I inhale slowly, push my legs
over the side of the bed as her vowel-rich voice fills the
room.
“Think how a person’s judged by their view of a cup,
darlin’: half empty or half full. Pessimist, optimist, we’re
taught, but y’all know we speak of emptiness, the upper half
of the cup vacant and blind as a future.”t

A slightly shorter version of this story,
Penumbra, was previously published in bluestem,
an online journal, September, 2014.

Marjorie Chesebro

The Box
Childhood was like being locked in a violence box,
Sheltered from everything but pain.
Viewing hatred daily, yet commanded to love.
No freedom to act, to think, to believe.
Forced into the robotic motions of obedience.
An air of nonchalance perfected on the outside,
Screams of agony suppressed on the inside.
What happened in the box is a secret.
Smiles stifled any questions outsiders might raise.
The secret contains brutal rage and fists and bruises.
The secret contains stolen innocence,
And permanent, yet invisible scars.
The secret is too shocking to be revealed,
And too horrible to be forgotten.
Childhood was not actually lived in that box.
Rather, childhood was lived in a place
Where pain is imaginary and happiness is reality.
A childhood that could only survive
Through an imagination that invented
A reality outside the violence box.

30

PERSONAL ESSAY

Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Jennifer Alves

O

n the east coast of the United States, extending
from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Mountains
conceal a challenging journey through historical
Appalachia. My fondest memories of summer camp are hiking the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.

Ascending a hundred feet, I finally come upon a look-out
over the valleys below. The aerial view of blue, brown, and
green infuses a feeling of balance and peace. Wow, how far
up I have climbed. Many of my fellow campers have decided not to challenge this height.

Sun rays kaleidoscope through the sleepy sky and birds
curtsey to each other in the mountain mist. Split, splat, the
soft beats of water drops fall from the leaves of tall oaks.
My feet tighten, caught off balance on loose rocks. I slow
my pace and take a deep breath. The forest wraps around
my shoulders. The heavy moisture envelops the green landscape.

I step cautiously on top a narrow ridge, bracing my hands
on stone walls. Boulders five times my size begin to block
the trail I am following. I continue to the summit with careful footing, sometimes climbing over and sometimes stepping around natural barricades. My heart smiles. I imagine
that I am now accompanied by Sir Hillary, his sons, and
other great mountain warriors. I am just an ant on the
mountains of Appalachia.t

Ahead on the pathway, the trees give way to rock formations and rapidly running waterfalls, cooling the air. I move
closer to the stream bed, fascinated by the reflection of
patterns formed by plant and rock. Poised on a ledge, a sunbathing raven shrieks; he proclaims that I am trespassing.

31

FEATURED ART

Still Me: An Artist’s Story
Sandy Palmer

Mariam Paré

“Life is not fair. But no one is going to make it better. If you
want a better life, you have to make it better.”
~Mariam Paré

N

ot many people perch precariously on the threshold
between life and death. At the age of 21, when most
people feel they have their whole life in front of
them, Mariam Paré was living in darkness with the lights
off and the door closed, contemplating suicide. She had
decided she would stop eating and drinking. She wanted
to die. In the midst of this despair, somehow, she had an
epiphany. She realized she had a choice. She could choose
to live.
32

Paré was born in Kenitra Morocco. She came to the United
States with her parents and her older brother when she was
not quite 2 years old. Growing up, she was surrounded
by people who used their time and imagination to make
things—sewing, crocheting, photographing, and sculpting
things from found objects. At a young age she began expressing herself with pen and paper by drawing portraits of
family members as well her house and other objects. People
were surprised by her talent. She liked the attention, was
encouraged by their compliments, and proud of what she
was able to do.

Mariam Paré, Red Riding Hood, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 11” x 14” by the courtesy of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Worldwide

In school, art was always her favorite class and the art
teacher was always her favorite teacher. By the time she
reached high school she stood out as having talent and potential. As a result, the school created classes for her that
weren’t in the regular curriculum and she worked independently with teachers on various projects. She knew then that
she wanted to pursue art as a vocation.
After one year of college, with art as her major, she was
living in San Francisco, California and felt like she was
in a bit of rut so she decided to get out of town for a while
and take a break from everything. She went to Richmond,
Virginia for a couple of weeks to visit a former boyfriend,
John, who was now a good friend. Early one evening they
borrowed his mom’s car and Paré was driving while he

was in the passenger seat giving her directions. It was a
Thursday night, they were listening to music, it was raining,
barely drizzling, and they were stopped at an intersection
when she suddenly heard a popping noise. The car windows
broke and she says, “I saw a flash, felt a shock in my body,
heat in the back of my neck, and then I just dropped limp.”
Someone had been on the street corner shooting a gun at
their car, the car behind them, and surrounding properties.
One of the bullets penetrated the back of their car, passed
through the headrest, entered the back of her spine, and
slipped right in between vertebrae C5 and C6, rendering
her paralyzed instantly. She was an innocent, seemingly
random, victim of gun violence. Although Paré remembers
33

Mariam Paré, Lady in Yellow, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 12” x 16” by the courtesy
of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Worldwide

seeing people sitting on their porches as she drove down the
street, when questioned by police, no one claimed to have
seen anything. The shooter was never found.
Paré had never heard the word “quadriplegia” before and in
the hospital she struggled to make sense of this cruel twist
of fate. Shot? How could this happen? What did she do
wrong? Who did this to her? Why? The unanswered questions plagued her.
As soon as he heard what happened, her father immediately
drove to Richmond to be by her side and he stayed with her
for three months while she was in ICU. Once her condition
stabilized, she was flown by air bus to the Rehabilitation
Institute of Chicago (the number one institute for spinal
cord rehabilitation in the world, fortunately located in the
city where her father lived). She spent five months there,
relearning how to do simple things she had taken for granted. She never went back to her apartment in San Francisco.
This was her new life.

34

The bullet remains lodged in her spine because removing it
would have killed her and she says, “For the first year after
my injury I was replaying everything in my head. Regretting. Second-guessing. Blaming. Not being able to be mad
at anybody—not knowing who did this to me. It made me
very depressed. It was very hard.” She was suicidal and
didn’t want to live but somehow, inexplicably, she suddenly
realized she had a choice. She could die in her own misery
or she could begin to live again and move forward. “I don’t
really know what made the change but it happened pretty
quickly. I think that I was so sick of being sad about it. I
was so sick of being mad at this person. I was making it
harder on myself by not letting go. At some point I realized,
I don’t have to care about this anymore. It doesn’t matter
if this person knows because it’s not going to change my
situation. Being angry about my loss isn’t going to change
the reality. I might as well stop being angry. I need to stop
being depressed. I’m hurting no one but myself . . . .That’s
when I started painting again.”

Mariam Paré, Pear in Shadow, 2013, oil on canvas, 9” x 12” by the courtesy of the Association of Mouth
and Foot Painting Artists Worldwide

The artist says, “Learning to live with a disability is all
about learning to do things a different way.” She started getting out of bed every day, asked people to set up an easel,
and began painting with a brush in her mouth. She was an
artist before the injury and says painting “became the thing
that helped drag me out of this hole.” She came to realize,
“this thing that use to be me—it is still me.”

es of mouth painting were learned independently over time
because there are no instructional books or videos on the
subject. In addition to her formal education as an oil painter,
she earned degrees in graphic design and web design. She
designed her own website (www.mariampare.com) and uses
her computer to do preliminary compositions, noting that
computers are great tools for people with disabilities.

Painting with a brush in her mouth was actually easier than
having a brush strapped to her hand. She was right-handed
prior to her injury and lost all use of her right hand. She
has minimal use of her left hand but painting with it was
awkward, difficult, and tiring. She says, “Your head is balanced. It is in the middle of your body. You can hold tightly
and you can actually hold softly . . . . I can’t do all the same
things that I could with my hands. I can’t reach very far. I
can’t do certain strokes that would take the flick of a wrist
but at the same time I’ve developed my own techniques.”
She began painting with oils because they are slow to dry
and forgiving. “As a mouth painter, losing the ability to
paint quickly made me stay away from acrylics.”

It took several years of practice, patience, and perseverance but she has broadened the scope of what she thought
was possible after her injury. In 2006 she was accepted as
a member of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA), an
exclusive association of professional artists who paint with
either their mouth or their feet (www.mfpausa.com). She
was amazed to learn about the organization and find out that
there were other people out there doing what she was doing.
“With their stipends and scholarships, I was able to focus
on my art. They are such a great organization for what they
do to empower people like myself.”

After a year of painting on her own she decided to go back
to college and pursue a degree in fine art. Teachers could
explain things like color theory, anatomy, and life drawing
but they really couldn’t help her with technique. The nuanc-

In 2010, the artist became an associate board member of the
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago where she helps coordinate fundraisers for their art therapy program and promotes
awareness about the benefits of art therapy. Art in Motion
is a yearly fundraiser where novice artists with disabilities
show their work along with professional artists to raise
35

Mariam Paré, Heavy, 2015, oil on canvas, 11” x 14” by the courtesy of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Worldwide

awareness and support the program that was so beneficial
to her. This year she created a special body of work for the
show—a series of seven paintings to represent what paralysis feels like, but she has intentionally made the series ambiguous so viewers can interpret it in their own way. A few
of the paintings are posted on her website and there you can
see clouds tied to ropes unable to float freely, someone buried up to her chest in sand, and birds tied to rocks, unable to
soar. The last two pieces are more emotional and graphic,
and of the series she says, “It might not be my best or most
colorful work but I think it is work that for me, as an artist, I needed to do to work things out.” Heavy is one image
from the series that debuted at Art in Motion this year. The
image, in its simplicity, powerfully depicts the weight of the
struggle. Responses to the series were encouraging and she
says, “The best part was hearing different interpretations
and emotions they evoked. It has given me some new courage to keep doing the imagery that I’m passionate about.”
She had 14 paintings on display this year and sold every
piece that was available for purchase.

36

Paré is also a founding member of STEAM Studios (www.
steamstudioschicago.com), a nonprofit organization providing arts education and mentoring to marginalized, underserved people of the greater Chicago area, including inner
city kids and people with disabilities. She has partnered
with two other artists and a social worker to deliver innovative, cutting edge, earth friendly arts options including glass
blowing, painting, drawing, and sculpture. They have been
renting space for two years and are excited that they will
soon have enough funding to purchase their own building—
an inclusive space for people to create, learn, and grow.
Although she stayed away from acrylics initially she has
been working with them for the past two years and says, “I
found tricks to get around the drying time. There are special
palettes that help keep my paint wet and there are things
you can put on the paint to make it blend easier. Now that
I’ve rediscovered acrylics, I’ve changed the way I paint and
my portraits seem to have more color and they are more
vibrant.” Always trying new things, she cannot possibly
limit herself to one medium, a favorite color, or particular
genre. She works with oils, acrylics, photography, digital

Mariam Paré, Forest Path, 2013, oil on canvas, 12” x 16” by the courtesy of the Association
of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Worldwide

art, multi-media, video, and the list goes on. She is a prolific
artist who is now able to support herself financially with her
art. “It has been a huge accomplishment for me to be able
to make a living doing the thing that I originally set out to
do in life.” Her studio is in her home, with custom-made
tables so her wheelchair can fit underneath. It is the small,
creative space where she finds joy in being able to do what
she loves. She enjoys listening to instrumental or classical
music while she paints but has recently started listening to
audio books. “I love to read but it is hard to find time to do
everything so this way I can do two things at once.”
She is currently working on a series of portraits of artists
with disabilities. So far, she has completed paintings of
Chuck Close (shown on the cover) and Frida Kahlo. She
says Chuck Close has been her inspiration. As an artist, he
was faced with the same question she faced—how do you
paint when you can’t use your fingers? She could relate to
his life experiences and it motivated her to see his success.
Her paintings are inspired at times by beautiful combinations of color that spark a particular image in her mind. Other times they are driven by what she is feeling. Sometimes
she works through emotional issues with her art, which is
what she did when she created some pieces relating to gun
violence. “It took a lot of years for me to get comfortable
with having that dialogue in my work.” Reveca Torres, cofounder of Backbones (www.backbonesonline.com), put

together an art show featuring the work of four artists with
spinal cord injuries titled “Unbroken.” Paré was one of the
artists featured in the show and says it was the first time she
had shown any work relating to gun violence. “The show
had an amazing review and people were really moved by
it. I was encouraged to continue doing work that is kind of
personal. I stayed away from it for so long because it was a
touchy subject. As artists we record our lives, the things that
we feel, and the things we’ve been through. That’s what the
show was about.” Torres had worked with her on another
exhibit before asking her to be a part of the “Unbroken”
show and says, “Everyone loved her pieces in the show and
were really impacted by the story they told. They were very
thought-provoking.”
The pair have become friends and Torres says, “She is
one of the most talented people I’ve met. She is highly
detail-oriented and understands how art, even in the small
subtleties, can have an impact on people. I love how her
brain works and how she sees things! I think we feed off
each other’s ideas and work well together.” They are now
working on a photography project to inject disability culture
into famous iconic imagery. They will be remaking famous
paintings with photos of people who have disabilities in an

37

Mariam Paré, Blind, 2012, digital art

effort to change perceptions of what beauty is as well as the
perceptions some may have about people with disabilities,
and disability culture.
The last two years have proved to be very successful for the
artist. She’s appeared on numerous local news shows and
was invited to be on ABC’s talk show, Katie, with Katie
Couric in 2013. Last year she had the opportunity to meet
Pierce Brosnan. She had painted two portraits of the actor and when he saw them he contacted MFPA because he
wanted to meet her. As a result, he graciously flew her out
to his home in Malibu, California where she spent the day
with him. The actor revealed to her that he is also an artist
who has experienced tragedy—losing his wife and daughter—and her work really resonated with him. She gave him
one of the portraits she had painted of him, and a few weeks
after she returned home from the visit he sent her a lithograph of one of his paintings. “Now he has one of my paintings and I have one of his.”

38

She will be going on a media tour with MFPA in September, making numerous stops across the country, and one
stop will be in Los Angeles. They hope to be able to make
arrangements to for Paré and Brosnan to reconnect as a part
of the tour.
March 28, 2015 was the 19th anniversary of her injury.
Her father came to spend some time with her that day and
reflecting on the past he asked, “Remember when we didn’t
know what the future would hold?” They both had doubts
about the quality of life she would have. Paré says, “It was
so satisfying to be able to sit with him all these years later
and say, ‘Wow, Dad, we did it.’”
She’s come a long way but she is far from finished and says,
“I’ve learned that life is short and there’s no excuse not to
go out and do the things you love to do. There’s no good excuse not to follow your passion because I think that’s where
real happiness comes from. I think that is what my whole
journey represents. Life is hard but you can make your own
way.” She’s an articulate, brave, wildly imaginative woman

POETRY

Lola Neff Merritt

July Night
The moon hangs;
a huge, dusky orange
in the dark folds
of a hot, night sky.

Mariam Paré, My Pascal, 2013, oil on canvas,
10” x 20” by the courtesy of the Association of
Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Worldwide

Flickering tiny lights,
wandering fireflies
weave their way
on small, secret journeys
through the dark night.
Deep within the fields,
one lone cricket tunes up;
sharp prelude
to the evening’s concert.

and an exceptional artist who has chosen to create a colorful, vibrant life. A short film documentary titled “PARÉ,”
was created by Myra V. Casciato to briefly share the artist’s
story and her unique talent. The video received the Audience Choice Award at the Columbia Film Festival and can
be viewed on her website, along with some other videos
that Paré herself has created.
Whether it is through her art, public speaking, advocacy,
or simply in the way she lives her life, she hopes to change
perceptions about what is possible and encourage people
to chart their own course, doing things they love to do. So
many years ago, with a paintbrush in her mouth, she made
a choice—and then she painted brush stroke after brush
stroke until she’d painted a smile back on her face. A genuine, radiant, beautiful smile, eagerly anticipating what’s yet
to come.
To see more of her work visit her website www.mariampare.com or the Mariam Paré Art & Design Facebook page.
Visit www.vdmfk.com to see the work of mouth and foot
painting artists worldwide.t
39

POETRY

Joan Mazza

Only Five Months Together
Chartreuse of April, viridian buds
opening to unfurl new leaves,
grasses and mosses texturing hills,
deepening into verdant summer
into jade and forest green, dark as night,
comforting through August and September.
After rain, all the fields emerald,
trees heavy with leaves,
revealing amber, mustard, ocher,
umber, ash. Falling, falling.

Willie James King

On Raked Coals
She’s a camel in a sage cashmere coat
basking in July sun near the window.
She is cold, she says, then clears her throat.
Her blood is like sump, slow and hard to flow.
“Will you turn on some heat?” she asks. The room
temperature is seventy-eight.
She grapples with her sluggish mind, with gloom.
“You think Joey is going to be late?”
She is my mom, I don’t know who he is.
Death, perhaps? Or a stillborn before me?
I tell her, “I think so,” give her more pills.
“Momma, we will just have to wait and see.”
All day, every day, is how this goes.
It feels as if I’m shuffling on raked coals.

40

Edythe Haendel Schwartz

Calimari en Su Tinta
As if this very drawing could help her
survive, my daughter fists a blue
marker, berries the bush she scribbles.
Blueberries she says, coils spiraling
toward sky. Practicing she says,
for curls.
I remember that night in Madrid
before she was born
when we ordered squid in its own ink.
How we stared at the plate, the black
stain spreading, the dead
animal lying in its own pool, no tool
against harm,
the way my daughter’s arm now lies
on the page while lymphocytes fail
under the drawn surface.
Then, I didn’t know what it meant
to sink en su tinta.
away from me.

She draws

First published in Sierra Nevada Review,
Spring 2011, and is included in the book
A Palette of Leaves, Mayapple Press, 2012.

41

FICTION

Until She Speaks
Joel Fishbane

I

ris Callaghan stands before her wardrobe, selecting an
outfit with eyes firmly shut. She runs her hands across
the clothes, discarding anything that’s flimsy, rough, or
otherwise unpleasant. Iris has never been a tiny girl. She is
a long and elegant stem that widens on its way down. This
has been her shape for years, and she’s grown accustomed
to it, even—dare she admit?—to like it a little. Now she
has other concerns. Today she is focused entirely on texture
and scent: how she feels and smells is more important than
whether she’s built like a bottle of Coke. After some indecision, she selects the softest things she can find: a silk slip, a
cotton skirt, a cashmere sweater she hasn’t worn in months.
She leaves for work with this outfit slung over her shoulder,
pinned to a hanger and carefully guarded by plastic film.
Halfway to the bus, her cell phone hums. It’s a text from
Gibb’s sister. They’re supposed to go meet Gibb together
and Deidre—Dr. Deidre, as she is more recently known—
wants to know when Iris will be finished working. Iris
writes back and she is still waiting for the bus when the
phone vibrates again.
Deidre: pops flyin in hes going to stay with me think Gibb
should too
Iris bristles, then brightens like a flame. Her response uses
only capital letters—it’s the only way she has to convey
tone.

42

Iris: WE HAVE A HOME. HE’S COMING HOME WITH
ME.
(The response is in lowercase: a wish for peace.)
Deidre: he’s been hurt. he may prefer to be at home.
Iris: OUR HOME IS HIS HOME. THIS ISN’T A DISCUSSION.
Unable to throttle Dr. Deidre in person, Iris instead finds a
twig and snaps it in two. It’s a poor substitute. None of the
Callaghan’s have ever liked her. It’s an open secret. Gibb
left almost right after the wedding and in the time since, Iris
has only seen the Callaghan’s once: a week ago, after the
army had told her Gibb was coming home. None of the Callaghan’s have even bothered to learn how to sign: Iris had to
tell them how their son had almost been killed by writing it
on the back of a bill.
When she gets off the bus, she follows a carefully planned
route that does not force her through clouds of exhaust or
the rank aromas of ethnic cuisine. At the store, she buys an
extra pack of Juicy Fruit, for she never likes to be without a
stick of gum. Then she picks up a few things for Mr. Kelly’s
lunch. It’s her last day with him and he has been promised
a club sandwich. Mr. Kelly loves food he can eat with his
hands, but these days he especially loves food which also
does not have Mrs. Kelly’s approval. This is the reason why
Iris now buys enriched bread, bacon, and a jar of high-fat
mayonnaise. The Kelly’s aren’t divorced—not yet, anyway,
the technical term is “temporary disassociation”—but Iris

does not foresee a happy end. She is well schooled in the
art of divorce, having learned it from her parents, and she’s
glad she’s leaving before she can be dragged into court and
asked to choose one Kelly over the other. (If she had to, she
knows who she’d pick. She has always found Mrs. Kelly a
difficult woman to please. Ilona Kelly is the sort who knows
she has particular tastes but hasn’t yet decided exactly what
they are.)
On the steps of the Kellys’ porch, Iris stops to check her
reflection. Not the one in the window, of course. Her other
reflection. She checks her lipstick by brushing her fingernails across her mouth. She checks her nail polish without
ever looking at her hands. She smells her breath, spits the
gum into a piece of newsprint and stuffs it into her pocket.
Normally, she would let herself in through the back door,
but after Mrs. Kelly left, Mr. Kelly changed the locks. Iris
never did get her new key and now it’s too late. She must
announce her arrival with a coded knock: rat—tat—tat-tattat. From beyond the door Arthur begins to bark—he has
never broken the code and doesn’t know it’s her.
Mr. Kelly shouts something. Then the door opens, just a
crack. The chain is still firmly in place. Such paranoia, but
then it’s to be expected—Mr. Kelly hasn’t lived alone in
years. Normally Arthur stops barking at her scent, but today he appears confused. Even Mr. Kelly frowns and she
remembers that her perfume is new, or rather new to them.
She repeats her coded knock, this time on the doorframe,
but she knows he won’t be satisfied until she hands over
one of her carefully lotioned hands. Mr. Kelly feels it from
wrist to tip, pausing at the index finger. Coded knocks and
thin hands can be faked, but how could any of the world’s
ruffians know to wear a wedding ring in the wrong place? If
all else fails, this is her defining feature.
Satisfied, Mr. Kelly removes the chain and opens the door.
Iris slips inside so quietly that he doesn’t know she’s there.
This is her curse: unable to speak, the rest of her body has
silently followed suit. “Iris?” says Mr. Kelly in his marvelous voice, the sort that probably once belonged to God.
She’d like to stay invisible just to hear it again, but she
touches him lightly on the shoulder to let him know where
she is.
“Arthur’s a little testy today,” Mr. Kelly explains. “We
had to run to the store. It’s supposed to be his day off and
he knows it.” The dog is wearing a harness and a sign that
says: Si vous plaỉt ne touchez pas: je travaille—Please do
not touch me. I am at work.

Iris laughs, the voiceless laugh of a heroine from the silent
screen. Mary Pickford, say. Or Norma Shearer. She slips out
of her shoes and sweeps into the house. The plastic of her
second outfit hums as it swings by her side.

Iris heads towards the kitchen, running her ring along the wall so Mr.
Kelly will know she’s on the move.

“What did you get me? Oh, wait, that’s right. My Club
House Farewell. I can’t wait. Arthur, enough! Oh, all right. I
guess we have Iris in case of emergency.”
Mr. Kelly finds his way to the dog and unbuckles the harness. Instantly, Arthur’s demeanor changes. Iris has always
wanted to make him another sign for these moments: Touchez moi! Je suis libre!—Touch me! I am free! His entire
body relaxes. If he was the sort to sit back and put his feet
on the couch, he would. But he’s the sort who likes to put
his feet on Iris every chance he gets. She staggers a little—
Arthur’s been putting on weight for months.
“Did he pounce?” asks Mr. Kelly.
Iris snaps her fingers once.
“Oh, Arthur. Leave the girl alone or she might not take you
for your last walk.”
Arthur drops. Does an imitation of a lawn ornament: back
straight, head raised. Iris heads towards the kitchen, running
her ring along the wall so Mr. Kelly will know she’s on the
move. In the kitchen, she unpacks the groceries and folds a
fresh stick of gum into her mouth. The first task of the day
is always the remains of Mr. Kelly’s breakfast. He eats oatmeal every morning like a religion. The residue has caked
into the pot: he likes it thick so he can spread it on his toast.
She’s just finishing up when Mr. Kelly wanders in, the dog
trailing him like a shadow. Arthur’s collar jiggles like a siren. He and Iris are complete opposites, but only by design.
Mr. Kelly always needs to know exactly where he is.

43

Mr. Kelly starts feeling along the top of the kitchen table for
his cell phone. “Just for the record, I don’t think I’m crazy
about the new smell. Is it a gift for Gibb?”
Iris knocks twice.
“From him?”
A single knock.

The girl who would become Iris Callaghan hesitantly
agreed, for she had already resigned herself to the fact that
she would eventually have to tell him the truth. This didn’t
worry her. Instead, she was plagued by the same fears that
plague anyone who falls in love with someone they’ve met
online: namely, that her reality will never equal the thing
he has invented in his head. Oh, she had sent a picture. But
in the days of Photoshop, a picture is only a thousand airbrushed words.

“He’s still coming home tonight?”
A single knock.
“You scared?”
A single knock. Although scared is not quite the right word.
Panicked, terrified, packed tight with an overwhelming
sense of dread. But some things are hard to explain with a
single knock.
Mr. Kelly finds the cell phone and he slips it into the pocket
of his robe. “Forget I said anything. The perfume’s perfect.
He’s been surrounded by dirty soldiers for months. He’ll
love it.”
No he won’t. Neither of them do. That’s why she wore it. It
was a gift gone wrong, a perfume he had liked in the store
but hated when she opened it on Christmas Eve. It’s a smell
that will help her to be recognized; it is an aroma characteristic of no one but her.

*

*

*

They met through an online forum and for the first three
months she didn’t tell him she couldn’t talk. Not that she
was the only one with a secret. All the while that they debated the war in Iraq, “Cap_Gibb” failed to mention that he
was messaging her from within the war itself. They danced
around the idea of meeting in person but both clung to anonymity so feverently that neither offered their real name.
It was Cap_Gibb who cracked first. A surprise assault by
insurgents led to the realization that if he died, “Iris_24”
would never know why he had stopped writing.
Enough’s enough, he wrote the very next day. I’m buying
you lunch. He signed the letter Gibb Callaghan, 1st Infantry. His rotation was almost up and he spent the last ten
days terrified he’d never make it home.

44

This didn’t worry her. Instead, she
was plagued by the same fears that
plague anyone who falls in love
with someone they’ve met online:
namely, that her reality will never
equal the thing he has invented in
his head.

Only after writing back did Iris remember that she had already made plans for the day she and Gibb were to meet.
Her mother was a fevered participant in charity causes and
on that particular day, she had helped to organize a bachelor
auction as a fundraiser for a company that trained seeing
eye dogs. For weeks, her mother had been begging her
to put herself up for sale and she had at last relented. She
quickly rearranged her appointment with Gibb, but made
a fateful mistake when she told him the real reason why.
It did not occur to her that Gibb would take pains to learn
the place and time of the auction, but that was because she
did not know that he worked in the field of intelligence and
knew the advantages that spying can bring. The knowledge
that she would be on the auction block provided him with a
unique opportunity that he couldn’t resist.
The auction had a unique element that had been injected
by Iris’s mother: as the event was meant to support those
with physical disabilities, no candidate would be allowed
to get by on their looks. Each bachelor and bachelorette
was expected to deliver a little pitch. This meant that Iris
was forced to write a personal profile that her own mother
would then read to a crowded room. This hampered her creativity. Her sales pitch showed none of the wit of her emails
to Cap_Gibb; it was as drab as a technical report. She did
not expect an enthusiastic response, her one hope was that
she would fetch more than the defense attorney who had
come before—the man had retailed for a little under fifteen
bucks.

She was rather surprised, then, when a bidding war emerged
between two men in the crowd. The lights were in her eyes,
so she knew nothing of her suitors other than that one had
a graveled voice and the other was deep and strong, like a
practiced baritone. The bidding had started at ten dollars but
within moments it had reached triple digits. “Two hundred,
two-fifty, do I hear three?” She kept thinking it would stop.
She couldn’t understand it. Instead of feeling glorious, she
soon felt like a cheat. Perhaps the men didn’t realize she
couldn’t speak; perhaps they believed they were bidding on
someone else.
Of course she had Gibb to thank for all that followed—
he was the practiced baritone, driving up the bids so she
wouldn’t go the way of the defense attorney. He never
meant to win, but he accidentally hit the number the graveled voice could not surpass and a moment later he found
he had paid $924.00 dollars for a woman he would have
been able to see for free.

*

*

*

Mr. Kelly disappears into his office—he’s a sound engineer
and does all of his work from home. Iris slips on her ear
buds and lets her iPod shuffle. The narration feature on
Mr. Kelly’s computer is always on and the voice bothers
her. They’ve tried to make it sound human, but the effect
is merely creepy, like a doll just a few steps shy of being
real. He also has a screen reader that reads his emails and
Iris doesn’t like to eavesdrop. (That was Ilona’s thing. Ilona
loved to eavesdrop. It was her favorite brand of intimacy.)
It’s particularly strange when Iris hears the computer reading something she herself has typed. All of a sudden there
she is: male, with a British accent. Having never heard herself, this is all she has. This is what she sounds like, even to
herself.
Arthur follows her throughout the day, obediently staying off the areas she has cleaned. Iris talks to him in sign
language, the same she used with Gibb. Ever since he left,
the dog has been his replacement. She likes to think he
understands her, fooling herself with the same illogic old
women use so they can hold conversations with their cats.
She spends most of the morning dividing her time between
checking her reflection (without a mirror) and washing the
windows, furniture, and floor. Mr. Kelly has insisted she
polish everything to a shine. Not that it matters to him, of
course, but Iris knows a shiny floor is one of Ilona Kelly’s
obsessions. Mr. Kelly believes more than most that the
disassociation is only temporary and has instructed that
the house be kept exactly in the manner which Ilona preferred. Yesterday, Iris made sure to explain all this to her
replacement—a young thing, highly recommended, small
and round like a grape. She was a nice enough girl who had
chattered on endlessly, a habit developed from years with
a blind parent. Iris remained rabidly jealous until the girl

left and Mr. Kelly feigned a shudder. “Noisy little thing,
isn’t she?” he said. “I’ll have to institute quiet time, like
they used to do in school.” This remark had pleased Iris
Callaghan, almost thrilled her really. She felt she had just
been complimented and she had laughed her Mary Pickford
laugh, touching Mr. Kelly gratefully on the arm.

She felt she had just been
complimented and she had laughed
her Mary Pickford laugh, touching
Mr. Kelly gratefully on the arm.

At noon, she goes into the kitchen to start on lunch. She
cooks both bacon and chicken in the oven—she’s afraid if
she fries the meat, the smell will seep into her clothes. She
slathers the bread with mayo, tears some lettuce, slices a
tomato. For a side dish, she decided on rice, with a little
saffron for flavor. Waiting for the water to boil, she remembers to fetch her knife roll from the drawer. The Kelly’s
were woefully understocked when she arrived; her chef’s
knife, paring knife, even her Y-peeler have all lived in this
kitchen for almost a year. Did she tell all this to the noisy
grape? Just in case, she’d better leave her a note. What else,
she thinks. The grinder. The garlic press. That saucepan is
mine, but they can have that. At last she remembers her old
cassette player, installed over the sink for the sole purpose
of playing a mix Gibb made when they were first married.
Music to Cook By, he had called it and now she knows all
the songs by heart.
When she goes to collect the tape, though, she sees it resting on the shelf. Iris picks it up and frowns. The tape was
in the player this morning—or was it? She quickly sees it
had been replaced. A new cassette is inside, unlabeled and
with the clean gloss of something recently pulled from cellophane wrap.
It never occurs to Iris that the tape might have been placed
there by Mr. Kelly. She knows that he threw out all his cassettes years ago. In that moment the cassette has no owner.
It’s a mystery and when she presses play, she’s not sure
what to expect.

45

A rhythmic pulse fills the kitchen, steady and strong like a
message from outer space. Then Ilona Kelly’s voice. Intense
and clear: one mighty trumpet calling to another.
“Hello Bear. It’s me. I guess I could have e-mailed this but I
thought you should have something, I don’t know, physical.
You probably don’t recognize the sound. I know I didn’t.
It’s a heartbeat, Bear. A girl’s heartbeat, actually. Our little
girl. If she’s even that yet. I don’t know. I thought . . . well
I thought you should hear it. Before we decide what to do.
Call me, all right Bear? Or e-mail. Or, whatever, just . . . .”
Ilona trails off and the heartbeat returns. It’s underscored by
the oven timer—the water has boiled, the bacon is ready.
She turns from the stove to see Mr. Kelly standing by the
screen door. The heartbeat hasn’t stopped: maybe Mrs.
Kelly looped the track so that it would fill the whole side of
the tape.
“If you listen, you can hear that she’s under water,” says
Mr. Kelly. “That’s why it sounds the way it does. I think
that’s the, what’s the name? Amniotic. It’s the amniotic
fluid. You ever hear anything like that?”
Iris knocks twice.
She makes three sandwiches: one for him now, one for
him later, one for herself. Ever since Mrs. Kelly left, Iris
has been taking lunch with him so he won’t eat alone. She
wants to ask about the heartbeat but isn’t quite sure how
to do it. Luckily, Mr. Kelly seems to think she is owed an
explanation.
“I found it in the mailbox on Thursday,” he says. “Cassettes are how we used to send letters. I didn’t listen to it.
I thought it was just another rant. She thinks I’m a hermit.
And that Arthur’s getting too fat. A skinny hermit and his
fat old dog, that’s what she calls us. I almost threw the tape
away. I didn’t want to hear her voice. Her voice is what gets
me into trouble. It’s voluptuous, don’t you think? I hear it
and I forget who I am. That’s how this whole thing happened. She stopped by on Easter and I forgot all the reasons
we were apart.”
Iris thinks about the Kellys in bed—or had it been a passionate thing right here on the floor? Is that the real reason
why Mr. Kelly asked her to keep it so clean? It occurs to
her that sex with Mr. Kelly must by necessity be a loud and
tactile experience. She thinks of her own sex with Gibb and
begins to think of all the reasons why the old ways will no
longer work. True, she can hardly help being stoic. But her
hands will have to stay on him the whole time.

46

“Things just get so toxic,” Mr. Kelly continued. “After Easter, I told her I didn’t want to hear her voice for a while. No
visits, no phone calls. That’s why we’ve been using e-mail.
Her voice does things to me. I don’t know what to do.”

Not surprisingly, Iris spends most
of her time online, the Internet has
given her a voice all her own and
amazingly she sometimes forgets
what it’s like not to be heard.

Iris is certain she will be asked for her opinion and positions
her knuckles over the table, ready to strike. But Mr. Kelly is
tearing at his sandwich, rolling the chicken between his fingers and not saying a word. Does he not think her capable
of giving something as complex as marital advice? She who
has been married longer than him? She feels an old frustration, like she really is Mary Pickford trapped in a silent film
and clawing to get out. Not surprisingly, Iris spends most
of her time online, the Internet has given her a voice all her
own and amazingly she sometimes forgets what it’s like
not to be heard. Annoyed at his silence, she knocks several times, answering questions he never asked. Then she
collects the dishes, brushing his hand as she leaves so he
knows that he’s alone.
Iris spends the remainder of the afternoon in the kitchen,
freezing soups and lasagnas and stews. It isn’t necessary—
Mr. Kelly can fend for himself—but she feels compelled.
A polished floor, a stocked freezer: evidence that Iris Callaghan once was here. Mr. Kelly comes and goes, wearing
down a path between the office and the kitchen. Such a
big man, she thinks, so broad in the shoulders. And that
suit, like something straight out of a ’50s sitcom. Ever
since his vision began to fade, Mr. Kelly has had no use
for color. “No sense anymore,” he likes to say. “I’ll only
get it wrong.” Iris doesn’t think Gibb will be the same. She
doesn’t think he’ll be at all like Mr. Kelly, the skinny hermit
with his fat dog. (Sorry, Mr. Kelly, but it’s true.) Although
Gibb will probably want new things—probably need them
since he’s been wearing nothing but uniforms for as long as
she can recall. She thinks about these shopping trips more
than anything else and has already devised a system on how
it’ll work: she’ll hold the left wrist if a shirt is too much, the
right if it’s cheap. She’ll kiss him if it’s something on sale.

At a quarter to four, she collects the last of her things: Music to Cook By, a stray sweater, a book she loaned Ilona
Kelly months before. She piles them by the door, then goes
into the bathroom to change. She uses caution when preparing her face. Foundation, blush, lipstick: too much and the
skin starts to feel like a cat’s tongue. A layer of gloss for
those cracks in her lips. A few drops of moisturizer to give
her hands a soft coat. Last, she sprays a cloud of his perfume and darts through the air. Now you see her, now you
don’t; now you smell her from across the room.
At the door, she hugs Arthur around the neck, but he’s the
easy one, they said their proper good-byes during their time
in the park. Mr. Kelly, on the other hand, has a funereal
look. He takes her carefully moistened hand and draws her
to him. He smells of musk and laundry soap and brandy,
which she knows he’s been quietly adding to his coffee ever
since Mrs. Kelly left.
“Now don’t worry about me,” says Mr. Kelly. “You just
focus on Gibb. Don’t let his damn family walk all over you.
Ilona’s family, they tried to walk all over us. We moved to a
different town. You do the same, you understand?”
Iris kisses him once on the cheek.
Before she leaves, Iris watches Mr. Kelly and Arthur
through a window she cleaned just a few hours before. She
can see straight into the kitchen where Mr. Kelly is standing by the cassette player over the sink. She had decided
to leave it behind, not wanting to deprive Mr. Kelly of his
daughter’s heart or his wife’s voice, and later, when she
hears that the temporary disassociation has indeed been
temporary, she will enjoy a swell of pride, imagining the
reunion to be something she herself has caused.

*

*

*

Dr. Deidre drives a new car that is exactly like her: slick
and loud, with a top that easily comes down. “You told me
four-thirty,” she says.
Iris knows she told Deidre four, but she shrugs in apology
and gets into the car. Dr. Deidre’s medical bag is open on
the seat, the stethoscope poking out like a mocking tongue.
Deidre doesn’t need to carry it around. Like the car itself,
it’s just there for show.

Deidre shakes her head and lights a cigarette. “Well if you
want my medical opinion, I just don’t see how it will ever
work. You can’t even text or sign. It’ll be nothing but yes or
no answers for the rest of your life.”
Iris Callaghan does not believe this. She folds a fresh stick
of gum into her mouth, certain she has thought of everything. A Braille keyboard, the proper software. One knock
for yes, two for no, a kiss if something’s on sale. Everything
is already in place. Yet as she slouches in the seat, she remembers Mr. Kelly standing over the sink, listening again
and again to Ilona’s voice. Could a synthesized voice ever
do that to Gibb? Iris stares at the floor of the car, at the
crushed soda can, the empty cigarette boxes, the doctor’s
bag splayed open at her feet. The only voice I have is male
and British, she thinks. And in the event of a power failure,
I’ll be Mary Pickford once again.
When she and Dr. Deidre come to the place where Gibb is
waiting, they find him pacing the room in full dress uniform, guiding himself by running a hand along the surface
of the wall. Deidre hugs her brother. His eyes are bandaged,
but the rest of his face is not as badly scarred as they had
feared. Iris shuts her eyes and checks her reflection. Lipstick, nails, breath. She runs a hand across the great expanse
of her body and moves her wedding ring onto the proper
hand. But despite her plan to announce her presence with
texture and scent, she can no longer shake the fear that until
she speaks he might never know she’s there.
Gibb says. “Deidre, where’s Iris? Is she here?”
Iris’s heart is racing, which is just the way she wants it.
From her purse she produces Dr. Deidre’s stethoscope and
places it around her husband’s neck. He holds the ear buds
in place as she puts the bell to her chest.
“Iris, is that you?”
Iris knocks once, hoping that it will be enough, that after
this, there will be nothing else to say.t

Previously published in Issue 26 of Per Contra,
An International Journal of Arts, Letters, and Ideas
(Winter 2012).

“So today was really your last day?”
Iris hit the dashboard once.
“And that’s it? You’re really going through with this?”
Iris hits the dashboard once. Hard.
47

POETRY

Michael S. Morris

Poems are Apple Seeds
poems are apple seeds
poets the Johnny-come-latelies of dreams
spreading by their flinging-dried hands
seeds that will open and enter up
through the fertile earth, taking root
from an embryo unfurling
as the sun has shone
upon the morning rains
a handful of limbs shall arise
and claim their being in the field of life
apples are poems
the finest hung high on branches
waiting full grown
red as the morning sky.

48

e. smith sleigh

intruders

II

looking back now
I realize
dear little Jackson
breathless and trying to run
knew about the things
he played around the yard
knowing and not acknowledging
that the things
would alter his life
the haunted and haunting
rolling around on the grass
on another planet
in another universe
the things had names
like diagnosis and prognosis
I denied the inevitable
sacrificed for a normal life
reached for some semblance of kindness
some gentleness
not offered us
my heart is as still as his
I want the things destroyed, crushed
the mercy killers killed
atomized into oblivion
I want my child back

49

POETRY

Ana Garza G’z

Japanese Death Poetry
A friend and I find the book
on the bottom shelf across from the Christmas clearance items—
The aisle we’re standing in is wide enough for a large dog
to lie on the floor without blocking the way. I think about this
because the book is about death, and my guide dog died
fourteen years ago, almost to the day. My friend opens the book
at random and reads out loud1:
Cherry blossoms fall
On a half-eaten
Dumpling.
and
A cricket, crying,
Comes with me through
Autumn mountains.
and
A willow branch
That doesn’t reach the water
In the vase.
and
Returning as it came,
A naked summer
Worm.
Without elaborating, we say, “Hmm,”
as she comes to the end of every poem, each of us imagining
the other savoring the kernel of epiphany,
until each realizes

the hmms are all flat
except for the one after
the willow branch—which we almost get, because
there was another book about flower arrangement
and willow branches in another aisle, only we think
about the writer’s feelings of inadequacy. Still, we say
nothing beyond the hmm, the twentieth century’s incarnation
of the om. So in this aisle that is wide
enough for a large dog
to stretch out, I wonder,
when death stands near, what will I write
to sum up what I have learned of life,
the road walked at the elbow of a friend, at the head
of a white cane, at a guide dog’s hip,
and how have I prepared for the destination?
Will I be like the monk Shisui, who drew a circle,
the essence of everything, tossed off
in a single brush stroke before
an abrupt death? No, being
Catholic, I am more likely to sketch a cross
the intersection of the human and the divine, except that being
blind and a sloppy printer, I’ll spend my last hours hearing
my loved ones claim I tried
to sign with an X without knowing how,
so my jisei will have to be in Braille,
stucco to the untrained, and all my wisdom will languish,
A rose on a stem
Broken and stuck in winter
Soil waiting for roots.
The sum of my experience will end
there. But such considerations aside,
what will I say
to mark my passing? What have I learned
of life from contemplating death?

All poems quoted from Japanese Death Poems: Written by
Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death, by Yoel
Hoffmann, Tuttle Publishing, 1998.
1

50

After five years, the lesson would have been
sunsets are beautiful,
and so are night skies.
After fifteen years, it would have been that
a richer kind of beauty lives
in the chaos of the dawn chorus,
in the numbing wet of night dew,
in the fragrance of moist earth,
in the warmth of apricots
against the roof of the mouth.
After twenty-five years, it would have been that
a guide dog is beauty in its highest form,
loyalty in a shape that only God can equal.
And what would my guide dog have said
if his thoughts weren’t noise to the untrained?
That, when death approaches, it smells
like fear, exhaustion, and a guilty relief;
that its shadow walked beside his for nine years;
that its hands are human;
that its body is ingratitude disguised as compassion,
that loyalty unreciprocated is an open circle.
What have I learned of life
from contemplating death? After forty-three years,
the lesson is that, when winters are colder
and wetter than recent memory, a rose stuck
into a grave in January grows
into a bush by spring; that God is
the shape of a rose and the shape of a dog;

that if is a perilous concept;
that I am a willow branch
that doesn’t reach the water
in the vase;
that hmm is the truest syllable of all,
the one that signifies all uncertainty
in a series of inky curves, like mountains spanning
from confusion to unwillingness to consequence,
or a hook that points to parallel lines, one solid, one dotted,
a hand not shaped for grasping;
that bookstore aisles should be too narrow for a large dog
to lie on the floor without blocking the way.
What will I say
to mark my life as death rises
from a comfortable cup of coffee before wrapping
herself in a long warm robe
or buckling herself into the intricate armor
of a cricket crying,
coming for me through
autumn mountains?
Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness,
for I am a worm, hardly human,
my strength withered as in dry summer heat.

that willow branches can be cherished for years
if they’re cut in late winter,
when the buds beneath the brown caps are ready to
burst,
if the ends are submerged in cold water for five days,
if the branches themselves are bundled
in groups of 5 and hung
for two weeks in a place that is cool and dry,
if the cutting, submerging, drying, and hanging are done
in the right way at the right moment
to the right degree of understanding;

51

FICTION

Blue Hydrangeas
Marianne Sciucco

S

ummer again, mid-August, and Blue Hydrangeas had
a house full of guests.

Shortly after dawn, Sara let the cats out and headed for the
kitchen. She pulled mixing bowls, canisters of flour and
sugar, and a few spice jars from the cabinets. She gathered
milk, eggs, butter, and fresh blueberries from the refrigerator, mixed the batter for the blueberry scones, filled the
baking sheet, and slid it into the preheated oven. The radio,
tuned to the local station, kept her in touch with Cape Cod
news and the weather report.
While the scones baked, she whipped up a batch of apple
cinnamon muffins and prepared the batter for buttermilk
pancakes. She filled the coffee pots with the house’s special
blend, and then poked through the refrigerator for the carton of cream she’d picked up at the supermarket the night
before.
“Wait a minute,” she mumbled under her breath, arranging and rearranging the items on each shelf. She pulled out
cartons of milk and orange juice before finding a half filled
container of cream, not nearly enough for that morning’s
crowd.
“Darn it,” she muttered, closing the refrigerator door. She
checked the clock: almost seven. Most of their guests were
still asleep, but the noises from upstairs suggested one or
two had come around to the promise of a summer day by
the sea. The inn was booked, and they’d stayed up late into
the night talking with their guests as if they’d known each
other for years.
52

She was certain she had time for a quick trip to the Falmouthport Market before anyone came downstairs in search
of breakfast. She double-checked the oven to make sure
she’d turned it off and left nothing inside. She found her
purse in the hall closet and tiptoed out of the house, careful
to close the door behind her without a sound.
Outside, the air was warm and fragrant. Her Mercedes was
waiting with the top down and she scolded herself, grateful
no rain had fallen. The last time she’d let that happen Jack
had been furious. It took days for the carpeting to dry out,
and even now, a musty odor still emanated from the vehicle
in humid weather.
The 1977 450 SL was a gift from her husband, Jack, after
they’d moved to the Cape and he joined the Falmouthport
golf club. He’d teamed up with a man who owned a Mercedes dealership in Boston, and afterwards he talked Jack
into test-driving the shiny, red convertible. They took a spin
through town, cruising through Falmouth Heights and along
the shoreline. Jack fell in love with the car and bought it
that day. Sara took one look at it as he cruised up the driveway and claimed it for herself. Jack tried to convince her
she was better off with his old Town Car, but she was undeterred. Laughing and throwing his hands up, he caved in
and handed her the keys.
“As long as you let me drive it on weekends,” he bargained,
and she agreed. She was known around town for the Mercedes, dashing from place to place, shopping for Blue Hydrangeas, attending town meetings and social events, and
setting up her easel at the beach.

She settled into the convertible and the engine purred to
life. The Falmouthport Market was a mile away and she
planned to run in, buy the cream, and return to Blue Hydrangeas before anyone missed her, twenty minutes tops.
At the end of the inn’s winding driveway she turned left. At
the second intersection, she took another left, then a right,
and left again. She drove for several minutes before stopping at another intersection.
“Old Harbor Road and Station Avenue.” She read the street
signs aloud. “Hold on,” she said puzzled. “Station Avenue?
This isn’t the right place.” She turned the car around and
headed back along Old Harbor.
“I must have taken a wrong turn,” she grumbled, and continued on her way. She glanced at the clock and gasped—
half past seven! Thirty minutes had passed and she hadn’t
even made it to the store. Jack was sure to be up by now,
wondering what had happened to her.
She drove forward, the Mercedes hugging the side of the
road. Her head swiveled back and forth, as she read the
street signs aloud. Everything seemed unfamiliar. She had
no idea where she was. Good Lord, it was happening again.
Her heart raced. Her temples pounded. There was a terrible
noise in her head and she realized it was the sound of her
own keening voice.
She pulled over to the side of the road and stopped, cradling
her head in her hands. She practiced the deep breathing
exercises Dr. Fallon had taught her for times like this. It
calmed her for a moment and her mind cleared. She sat in
the car, watching the morning traffic buzz by.
“Calm down, Sara,” she ordered. “You’re not too far from
home. Think, Sara, think.” She tapped the left side of her
head with an index finger. “You’re on Old Harbor Road.
Now, where is that and where does it go?”
She tried to draw a map in her head, to find her way mentally, but she couldn’t think. Her thoughts were a jumbled
mess and she couldn’t make sense of any of them. She
rubbed her eyes and found her hand wet with tears.
She was lost, and not for the first time. She’d been having
problems with the car for months—near accidents, losing
her way, driving around in circles. Jack had warned her

about going out in the car alone, but she hadn’t listened,
hadn’t wanted to listen. The Mercedes was her last link to
freedom. If she gave that up, she’d be totally dependent
on him. Eventually, she had found her way back home and
kept her troubles to herself.
The clock ticked away the minutes, taunting her, reminding
her she’d been gone for more than an hour and Jack and her
guests were back at the house unable to fix their coffee and
wondering where she was.

Her thoughts were a jumbled
mess and she couldn’t make sense
of any of them.

She sucked in a deep breath, launched the car into drive,
and swung into the road. The screech of brakes startled her.
A pickup truck swerved around the Mercedes and cut her
off, its horn blasting. An angry face poked out of the window.
“What are you, crazy? Get out of the road, you old bat,” the
driver shouted, waving his fist. The truck roared off with
tires squealing.
Sara slammed on the brakes and moved out of the road. She
glanced into the rear view mirror. Tire tracks marked the
pavement behind her.
“My God,” she cried. The truck had almost hit her.
Another vehicle pulled up behind her. A figure approached
the Mercedes with caution and Sara tensed, afraid of the
advancing stranger. A young woman in cutoff jeans and a
T-shirt stuck her head in the window. She pushed her long,
straight hair behind her ear.
“Are you okay?” she asked in a delicate voice.
Sara stared at her savior and gathered herself together. “I’m
lost,” she explained. “I’m trying to find a bed and breakfast.
We call it Blue Hydrangeas. Do you know where it is?”
53

“I’m not from around here,” the girl explained. “I’m only
here for the summer. Do you know what street it’s on?”

“Forget it, Jack,” she shouted before slamming the bedroom
door behind her.

“It’s on Starboard Road. In Falmouthport,” Sara answered,
brightening now that she had someone to talk to and her
thinking had cleared.

He prepared to go up after her but paused when he heard
footsteps behind him. He turned and looked down at Roy
Pearson, the businessman from Ohio visiting for the week
with his wife, a voluptuous blond less than half his age. The
walleyed guest stood at the bottom of the stairs staring up
at him.

“Well, Falmouthport’s a few miles from here. Follow me.
I’ll take you to the turnoff. Can you find your way to the inn
from there?”
Sara nodded and the girl returned to her car. Her beat-up
Chevy pulled up beside the Mercedes. The girl motioned
for her to follow and Sara drove away from the scene of the
near accident, away from Old Harbor Road, away from her
confusion and meltdown.
The sight of familiar territory was a relief. At the entrance
to Falmouthport, the Chevy stopped and Sara pulled up beside it.

The girl motioned for her to
follow and Sara drove away from
the scene of the near accident,
away from Old Harbor Road, away
from her confusion and meltdown.

“You okay, now?” the girl leaned out of the window.
“I think so,” Sara said. “Thank you. You’re a nice girl, and a
good person, to help a stranger.”
The girl blushed and brushed away the compliment. “No
problem,” she muttered. “Take care now.” The Chevy sped
away.

Jack descended the stairs and switched from anxious husband to gracious host. “Can I help you, Roy?”
“You’ve run out of cream.”

Sara reached Blue Hydrangeas just before eight-thirty. She
entered the kitchen through the slider off the deck, hoping
to avoid running into anyone until she’d freshened up.

“Yes, I’ve heard that,” Jack said, “although I’m sure we
bought a big carton last night.” He rummaged through the
refrigerator and, not finding the cream, pulled out a carton
of whole milk instead.

Jack confronted her as soon as she came in. “Where have
you been? I’ve been out of my mind with worry. You know
you’re not supposed to go out in the car without me.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but I guess I was wrong. We seem to
have run out of cream. I’ll order some, but in the meantime
you can try this.”

A steady chatter flowed from the dining room, punctuated
with bursts of laughter and the clink of silver against china.

“Sure,” said Roy. “That’s what I use at home anyway.”

“I went to get cream,” Sara answered, sidestepping him.
“Why? Didn’t we buy it last night?” He blocked her path.
“I thought we did, but I couldn’t find it this morning.” She
avoided looking at him.
“Then where’s the cream you just bought?”
Empty-handed, she stared at the floor and shook her head.
“I didn’t buy it. I guess I forgot.” She squeezed past him to
escape up the back stairs.
“How could you forget it?” He began following her up the
stairs. “Sara, what is going on with you?”
54

“Please have a seat and I’ll bring it right in,” Jack said, dismissing him. He opened a kitchen cabinet to find a pitcher
for the cream and stopped short. A half-gallon of light
cream sat on a shelf at room temperature. Sara must have
put it there instead of in the refrigerator when she unloaded
the groceries. He sagged against the counter, his head resting on the cabinet’s lower edge. “Patience, Jack,” he reminded himself. “She didn’t mean it.”
He composed himself and disposed of the ruined cream. He
poured milk into a crystal pitcher, brought it into the dining
room, and placed it on the table in front of the Pearsons.
Jack went back to the kitchen and called the Falmouthport
Market. “Have Jimmy bring over a couple of quarts of light
cream, okay? And some half-and-half.” Jimmy was good.

He’d deliver in a few minutes and earn a nice tip.
After checking on his guests, Jack headed upstairs and
found Sara on the chaise in their bedroom practicing her
deep breathing exercises, her eyes closed. The lids were
pink and puffy and he knew she’d been crying. She looked
beat, her face pale, her skin damp. Tiny tendrils of fuzzy
white hair stuck out from the chignon piled up high on her
head. She absentmindedly stroked Cleo, who lay stretched
out purring on her lap.

These periods of confusion of being ‘mixed up’ are happening more often. I’m afraid something terrible will happen.”
Sara stared out the window, refusing to look at him. “We’re
not going to beat this, are we?” she murmured.
Jack pretended not to hear her and focused on their immediate problem. “Please, Sara, don’t get upset, but we need to
rethink your driving. You shouldn’t go off on your own. I’ll
take you where you need to go.”

Jack patiently waited for her to tell him what was wrong.
She turned to him mournfully, her lips trembling.

Sara patted the cat, refusing to respond. Tears pooled in her
eyes and she defiantly brushed them away.

“I went to the market to get the cream,” she explained, her
voice strained. She took some deep breaths and started over,
more composed, her voice stronger. “I got lost.” She told
him the whole story, what she remembered of it.

“We have to be responsible. We can’t risk an accident. I
don’t want anything to happen to you. And, I don’t want
anything to happen to anyone else. Think of that, Sara. You
could hurt someone else.”

The sound of chairs pushing away from the dining room
table strayed upstairs. Breakfast was over and their guests
carried on with the day. He checked the clock—ten minutes
before nine.

His words sounded like knives to his own ears and he saw
her flinch with each point he made. Her tears were heartbreaking, and he went to her, kneeled at her feet, and held
her in his arms.

“I was gone a long time, wasn’t I?” she asked.

“I’m sorry, honey, but you know it’s for the best.”

“I don’t know what time you left,” he answered.

Sara went on stroking the cat and said nothing. She handed
over the keys to the Mercedes without looking at him.t

“I left before seven. I was gone for more than an hour, and
the market is less than ten minutes away.” She stroked the
cat’s soft fur, a persistent motion that grounded her. Here in
the safety and comfort of her bedroom she recovered from
the morning’s stress. “And Jack, don’t get mad, but I almost
had an accident.”

This story is an excerpt from the author’s novel,
Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s Love Story,
published in April 2013.

“My God, Sara, are you all right? Did somebody hit you?”
“I said I almost had an accident. I’m fine and the car’s fine.
Anyway, I was so scared, and so mixed up. I can’t explain
it. I thought a few minutes went by, but when I looked at
the clock, I saw it was late, and I didn’t know where I was. I
couldn’t think straight.”
“Why didn’t you call me? You know that’s why I bought
you the cell phone.” He looked toward her dresser where
the phone lay plugged into its charger.
“If not for that girl, I’d probably still be there, still lost,”
Sara mused. The ordeal over, her voice was as calm as the
breeze fluttering through the window.
Jack shook his head. “Honey,” he murmured, “we’ve talked
about your driving before. You know your reflexes aren’t
sharp and your sense of direction is not what it used to be.

55

PERSONAL ESSAY

The Sound of Silence
Nancy Scott

H

er voice encourages, “Light, spirit, what enters
you.” I’m not feeling very creative. Or directed.

This morning on Super Soul Sunday, Anne Lamott said,
“Write a sentence every day.” But then my friend Debbie
said, “You must write the piece about the apple pie and the
bouncing cane.” I’m looking for omens, so I try. I don’t
think the piece is funny enough.
Natalie Goldberg said that being a mediocre writer is a
moderately published author’s worst fear. Am I afraid? Am
I disappointed with too much rejection and a legacy that
feels limited? What have I worked so hard for?
I have agreed to listen on the phone to a good friend’s
meditation group. They are in Ohio and I am hours away
in Pennsylvania. I can clearly hear only the leader’s conversation. “Why are you here?” she asks. “What is your
contract?”
These are good questions, sent by Bluetooth cell phone. I
think I’m supposed to inspire people. I’m really verbal, so
I’m good at answering questions. For the past twenty years
or so I’ve also been pretty sure I was supposed to write. But
why can’t I have more tangible success, or why do I need
more tangible success? Why do I spend so much time being annoyed by annoying people and circumstances? Am I
supposed to teach some of these people to be more thought-

56

full? Must I go to a place of surrender? (I’ve read and written that advice before.)
“Drop into your deeper self.” I am in the recliner already,
suspecting that, three minutes in, this might be a long session. “Straighten your spine.” Obviously she can see me
with her third eye. I straighten, and command my mind to
ponder.
I’m supposed to learn, according to the spirituality course
I took about twenty-five years ago, patience and tolerance.
That’s the “fast track” that disabled people are on. (The
instructor noted that these qualities are essential, and that
those with disabilities must learn them more quickly than
most people.) Well, forget that. I might be more tolerant,
but I’m no more patient than I was all those years ago in a
community college classroom.
From many experiences, I know that I pay attention. So
why are all the people on the phone so quiet? What are they
doing? Or, rather, how are they doing what I think they are
doing? Surely, it must be 10 minutes or an hour by now. I
virtuously don’t check my watch. She said 45 minutes!
I hear the heat come on. I hear a screaming baby twin from
next door. I hope Rachel will honor her promise to clean
up the potting soil that blew over both our balconies. I
pray that she will be nice about this. I pray not to get angry

or unhappy if she isn’t honorable. Must I teach her to be
honorable? If I write my intention, it will happen. Do my
boundaries get honored? Are my boundaries the wrong
ones? Next year, can I please have five bylines in really
cool places that provide bragging rights and money? Can
I also get out of the house more? (I know. I’m supposed to
ask for fulfilling work and let the universe decide what it
will be.)

It occurred to me that these people might all be very busy
and might need 45 minutes of permission to be silent and
still. My life could be silent almost all the time, and I spend
lots of effort making it not silent. I do not mention my
blindness, and neither does the facilitator. I don’t know if
she knows. I don’t know if it’s relevant. Perhaps my brain
can’t focus this way. People say that retinopathy of prematurity causes other brain abnormalities besides blindness.

I so want to mute the phone and grab my talking device and
write. Writing is my meditation. I have given up my straight
spine. I am cold from sitting. I can’t remember anything or
figure anything out if I don’t capture it in words.

My ears are fuzzy from straining, and my fingers are
cramped from holding the phone. I need to write a page or
two before I forget what I shouldn’t forget but can’t verbalize without virtual paper. Writing is how I tap intuition. It is
how I figure things out. It is how I focus.

Are they all sitting in hard-backed chairs or on the floor still
as statues? How many people are there? Wouldn’t they rather have a Cheryl’s cookie? (I think the bakery is in Ohio.)
And what’s the Eagles’ score?
Is anyone watching instead of meditating? Too bad I don’t
write fiction. What if a literal or spiritual door quietly
opens? What would they hear or see? What could the phone
waves carry?
Just when I think I will mute the phone because I’m tired of
breathing quietly and not yelling “Hey guys! Can you hear
me now?” I hear a slight ticking and know the moderator is
not asleep. I straighten and ponder for a minute or so, feeling her third eye.
I finally check my watch. Thirty minutes. What am I driven
to? What am I drawn to? Why am I here?
At last I hear a voice telling people to stretch (I’ve already
gotten up and tiptoed around) and come back to the circle
that perhaps I never left. I am asked to share and I say how
hard it was to be still. Our leader suggests that I practice
this and relax more. Forget that. I need to write. And walk.
I read once that, if you want to feel animated, you should
make yourself be still for a long while. I was sure that
couldn’t work (I think it works).

It’s Sunday night now. I have happily sat and worked at the
keyboard for an hour and a half. I stretch again and open
the balcony door. Tonight will be our first hard freeze. I
remember to listen for the last cricket. I don’t hear him, and
wonder if I missed his vanishing.
I am lucky to have the time for this. A life of different obligations (or maybe a life as a sighted person) would not
allow this creativity.
I need both routine and devotion. I need security, divinity,
a way to make a difference, and respect from some people.
We influence many people without ever knowing it. The
meditation group has touched me. Many people see me or
read my work. But I want influence that’s more tangible
and immediate. I always answer questions when people ask.
And I can pick out the spiritual folks faster than a sighted
person can. And I write about it all, changing some names
to protect mostly myself.
Am I a thousand words closer to anything? Why does this
piece keep getting longer with each editing draft? Will I try
this weirdly silent and not silent meditation again? If I do,
I’ll probably have to write about it.t

I pace in my hallway while the group shares. I can’t hear
most of the others, but I know some talk about things that
popped into their heads. Songs, pictures of very old or very
young people, but no cookies.
57

POETRY

Carolyn Dandalides

Ritual of Tea
free of thought
I wait for the water to dance
listen for the hum of the kettle
above bright glow of red
anticipate the bubbled flow
to fill the readied pot
let each minute creep by
infuse the sound with scent
steam curling from spout
like the cat ʼround my ankles
circling this moment
trace the rim with fingertip
savor it sip by sip
cup above saucer
strain for peace
let it sing

58

PERSONAL ESSAY

Silent Mike
Donna M. Reed

N

o one who has a family member with autism will
tell you life is easy. They will tell you practical
stories of frustration and societal difficulties met at
every turn. But occasionally, you will be told of the remarkable gifts that someone with autism can bring to a family,
such as humor, gratefulness, and trust in mankind. This is
one such story.
My brother Mike has Asperger’s, a form of autism, which
in his case, impairs his ability to communicate. My brother
falls into all sorts of traps in a world designed for those who
are physically and mentally able. Mike is forty-five years
old but possesses limited judgment and conversation skills.
He lives alone in an apartment complex that houses the elderly and people with various disabilities.
Mike is certainly not the mature adult his stature may suggest. He can vote, make his own medical decisions, and buy
alcohol, but he is unable to understand or participate in a
conversation about basic politics or healthcare. In fact, during most conversations, he will either nod his head or not
respond at all, even when a question is repeatedly directed
precisely to him. His few responses are usually one or two
syllable words. Periodically, he will offer a full sentence to
those individuals he likes or knows well.
He is unable to read a menu and is unsure how to properly
order his eggs when in a restaurant. He can only describe
what the food should ultimately look like on his plate.
“With the yoke broke and dried up.” The waitress says with
a smile, “I guess that’s okay for eggs.”

Mike wakes up every morning and hits the road at his
own quiet pace. He takes the bus to his job cleaning hotel
rooms three days a week, and to wander the mall most
other days. The bus driver is patient with Mike who does
not always have enough money for the fare and often has to
dig through all of his pockets to find what he has available.
We try to keep Mike stocked with bus passes to avoid the
chance he will be denied a ride.
Mike knows that his paycheck can be traded for scratch
tickets and candy, so it takes the effort of our entire family
to watch over his finances the best we can. We also have
to be mindful of those who may try to take advantage of
Mike’s generosity. He does not know how to tell the credit
card companies that he does not want another card. Many
have granted him huge credit lines associated with annual
fees and discounted magazine prices. He doesn’t pay the
bills (or read the magazines) and the credit card companies
eventually end up speaking to me about his overdue accounts. I have struggled to find the correct course of action.
There are more companies willing to issue him credit than
there are ways for me to ask them to stop soliciting his business.
Just as I have grown to accept the inevitable frustrations
of dealing with his autism, I have learned to appreciate the
joys and advantages of having a brother with autism. He
remembers everything! He knows where you left your keys
and what time a particular show airs. If you’re lucky, he
will tell you.
59

I recall the precise moment that I realized Mike is not only
challenged, but also incredibly gifted. Our family was
checking into a hotel when the clerk requested the license
plate number of our rental car. As I was about to walk outside, my brother accurately recited the exact plate number.
How and why did he remember the plate number to a car
we would have only for the weekend?

their arms over each other and included him in the lineup, which swayed from side to side throughout the song.
The entire bar clapped louder for Mike’s solo rendition of
Kenny Rogers’ “Lucille,” than they did for near perfect performances by other patrons. It brought tears to my eyes to
know that everyone in the bar could tell Mike was different,
but no one treated him differently.

Most of the people in Mike’s world have welcomed him
with open arms. All of the local storekeepers know him by
name and treat him kindly. In his small town, people always
wave to him and say, “Hey Mike, how are you today?” to
which he rarely responds more than, “good.” Someone is
always there to offer him a ride in the winter months if he is
seen walking in cold weather.

I wish I could personally thank all of the people who instantly recognize his disability, and go out of their way to
accommodate him. But I would also thank everyone who
ignores his disability to include him as they would any
other person in the activity at hand.

After my sister began taking Mike to sing karaoke a few
years ago, we discovered that Mike has no oratory reservations whatsoever once his hands are wrapped around a microphone. The guy on stage with the tap of the toe and the
nod of the head could not possibly be the same one that just
hours ago would not answer the simplest of questions, or
reply in the slightest, to a question as to what he would like
for dinner. It was an uncanny discovery. Our brother either
cannot or will not talk much to his family, but he will sing
at the top of his lungs to a group of strangers.
Completely alone on stage, where others might experience
fear or intimidation, he comes alive, to sing a tad off cue
to his favorite songs. One night at the local karaoke bar, it
thrilled me beyond belief to see three young guys jump onto
the stage and help Mike sing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless
the USA.” Not only did they sing with him, they draped

60

The car radio is now another tool for Mike’s artistic display.
Although he will not sing to a song he does not know, a familiar CD will guarantee a karaoke-like effect. Music, to his
ears, is a cure for his verbal limitations.
In Mike’s world there is no war, no economic crisis, and no
pressure. It’s an enjoyable escape for me to spend time in
his company with simple thoughts of what might be playing at the movie theater or where we might be able to get
ice cream. When Mike and I drive together, I listen to him
sing off key to his favorite songs and I ease my foot off the
accelerator just a bit to extend the duration of the ride, and
the performance.t

PERSONAL ESSAY

Happiness is “The Whirlpool”
Jacob C. Myers

T

he bright sun, pale blue sky, and the warm inviting
water made this the quintessential day for tubing. As
we listened to Tyler dramatically recap his headacheproducing face-plant from the previous year, I felt myself
stiffen with anticipation as my ears registered the distinct
change in pitch of the motor on our twenty-four foot cabin
cruiser. As I see the immense boat veering to the right, Tyler
and Zack finally realize that my dad is about to do a maneuver we call, the whirlpool.

Exhausted but still giddy, we chatter about the day’s events.
Dad asks if we are hungry. Of course we are, so we head to
our favorite cove, still chattering.

Tyler screams, “Oh Lord, help me Jesus, not the whirlpool,” while Zack simultaneously mutters, “Oh no, why
God why?” I deliriously add, “Happiness is the whirlpool.”

As the boat slows to the no wake zone, Tyler is clearly deep
in thought while Zack and I share the latest Jim Gaffigan
jokes.

We all instinctively grab on for dear life as the rope goes
slack. The suspense builds as the boat circles around and
around. The theme from Jaws is playing in my head: dadum, da-dum. Finally, the bright orange rope abruptly tightens. The tube is whipped to the right with ferocity. I have
lost many a friend in this maneuver, but Tyler and Zack are
veterans and hold on steadfastly. Next, come the daunting
waves. We reach the top of the first wave and time seems to
stand still. For a moment, it is a bit serene. Bam! The tube
plummets ten feet! I am weightless for seconds, then gasping for breath as the air is knocked out of my lungs. At this
point, we all explode with laughter as the tube goes up and
down and around and we continue to ride out the whirlpool.

Tyler, in training to be a youth pastor announces, “To the
man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and
happiness, Ecclesiastes 2:26.”

“It just doesn’t get any better than this!” I exclaim as the
boat makes its way to the cove.
Tyler and Zack nod their heads in agreement, each grinning
from ear to ear.

Zack replies, “God must really be happy with us, then.”
I nod as we float in the bright sun of the s-shaped cove. I
relish the fact that ultimately, happiness comes from God.t

61

POETRY

Sheryl L. Nelms

A Caribbean Day
fresh ground
French coffee
and sliced papaya on a Saint Croix balcony
become breakfast under a cool
rain shower
Portobello mushrooms and grilled jumbo shrimp
are lunch at Sugar Beach
banana daiquiris sipped on the porch
thru the afternoon
at the Blue Moon bistro
bare watching
as turquoise water
slips into
the jazz
of Friday
night

62

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Shirley Adelman is a former high school and college teacher. She has been published in academic, literary, and medical humanities journals in the United States, Canada, South
Africa and Israel. Most recently her poetry appeared in Canadian Woman Studies, Blue Collar Review, and Cell2Soul.
Adelman says poetry sustained her following treatment for
breast cancer and a concussive accident that has challenged
her ability to function.
Jennifer Alves, as a child, endured surgeries, radiation, and
experimental chemical therapy for a brain tumor as well as
dealing with blindness and a learning disability. She speaks
on behalf of cancer awareness and in addition to her writing, she designs mixed media pieces of art on canvas.
Glenda Barrett, a native of north Georgia, is an artist and
writer. Her work has been published in Woman’s World,
Farm and Ranch Living, Country Woman, and Chicken
Soup for the Soul. Her chapbook, When the Sap Rises, is
available online and her paintings can be seen on the Fine
Art America website. Barrett says having muscular dystrophy has deepened her empathy and compassion.
Zan Bockes lives in Missoula, Montana. She has had work
published in Writers and Their Notebooks, Phantasmagoria, Visions International, and Bryant Literary Review. She
has received four Pushcart nominations and her poetry collection, Caught in Passing, is available from Turning Point
Books. Bockes says, “My bipolar disorder has been hugely
responsible for shaping my poetry and fiction and supplying
me with an infinite source of material.”
J.D. Chaney is a retired teacher, published novelist (Tito’s
Whore), and freelance writer. His work has appeared in
many magazines and journals including The MacGuffin,
Good Old Days, Tucumcari Literary Review, and Chicken
Soup for the Soul. Chaney has a rare form of chronic insomnia and some cognitive issues. He notes “So many of us
are suffering in one way or another and we all need a voice
through which to express ourselves.”
Marjorie Chesebro’s poetry has appeared in Awakenings
Review (Spring 2011) and she is affiliated with the Permian Basin Poetry Society. In 2015, two of her poems were
included in a collaborative exhibition pairing poems and
visual artwork, “Merging Visions.” Much of the material for
her poetry comes from dealing with her bipolar I disorder
and her experiences as a clinical psychologist.
Carolyn Dandalides is from Lorain, Ohio. Her poetry has
been published in Everything Stops and Listens, an anthology by the Ohio Poetry Association (2013), Common
Threads, the annual journal of the Ohio Poetry Association
(2013), and Pudding Magazine: The International Journal
of Applied Poetry (2009). She served as primary caregiver
to her elderly mother until her passing.

Joel Fishbane is a novelist, playwright, and screenwriter
living in Toronto, Canada. His works include a novel, The
Thunder of Giants (St. Martin’s Press, April 2015); short
fiction published in Witness (Spring 2013) and in the New
England Review (2011); and a play “The Three Apollos”
(Eldridge Publishing, 2011).
Ana Garza G’z is a lecturer, interpreter, and translator from Fresno, California. Her poetry has appeared in
Wordgathering (September 2010 and June 2014) and Border Senses (2014). She received a Pushcart nomination for
“Visiting the Charioteer of Delphi” published in Pentimento
(December 2013). Blindness has led her to observe “People
with disabilities are always outsiders, so their understanding
of the world is also an understanding of exclusion.”
Susan Jostrom lives afloat in Seattle, Washington and
works as a freelance editor. She has been published in the
literary journals Hot Metal Bridge, Signs of Life, and a few
travel magazines. She is working on a book-length collection of essays titled Scrambled Heart that reflects on the
contented, kind, and quiet life her son, Zeke lived.
Willie James King is a retired teacher living in Alabama
who deals with PTSD. His work has been published in
Southern Poetry Review (Fall/Winter 2002), Obsidian III:
Literature in the African Diaspora (Fall/Winter 2004), and
Uthona: Journal of Buddhism and the Arts (2010).
Heather Luehr is a psychology student at East Central
Community College in Union, Missouri. In addition to her
studies, she is involved in activities at her church. Luehr has
cerebral palsy and is visually impaired. Her poem, “Leaving Kisses Behind Her,” is her first published work and was
written in response to the death of her mother in 2012.
Joan Mazza is a writer and poet who lives in Mineral, Virginia. Her work has appeared in the Mezzo Cammin (June
2014), The Nation (October 2013), Rattle (Spring 2012),
and OpenMinds Quarterly (May 2010).
J.R. McRae lives in Queensland, Australia. Her work has
been published in journals and anthologies including Basics
of Life, 100 Stories for Queensland and Stories for Sendai.
McRae’s artwork and photography have been featured in
Ripples, Musings: A Mosaic, and The Best of Vine Leaves.
Katherine Meizel is an assistant professor of ethnomusicology at Bowling Green State University, Ohio. She
coedited The Oxford Handbook of Voice Studies, Oxford
University Press, forthcoming in 2016. Meizel’s career as
an operatic vocalist came to an end due to Ehlers-Danlos
Syndrome-type III, causing her to experience rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, and a drop in blood pressure when
standing upright.
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Lola Neff Merritt is a retired librarian assistant. She lives
in a country schoolhouse remodeled by her late husband.
For the past 39 years she has written poems, stories, and
articles that have appeared in more than 50 publications,
including Country Woman (2006), and Holiness Today
(2014). Merritt has severe lumbar stenosis and neuropathy.
Michael S. Morris says he has been writing since he could
hold a pencil and that a lifetime of reading the greats of literature, both past and present, has influenced his work. His
work has been published in magazines and journals such as
Minotaur, Prairie Schooner, Bayou, and Chiron.
Jacob C. Myers is a third year undergraduate at
Youngstown State University, Ohio. He is working toward a
journalism degree. With his passion for movies and books,
he aspires to become a movie critic one day. Myers has cerebral palsy.
Sheryl L. Nelms is a freelance writer/poet and the fiction/
nonfiction editor of The Pen Woman Magazine. Her published books of poetry include Bluebonnets, Boots, and Buffalo Bones (2009), and Their Combs Turn Red in the Spring
(1984). Nelms, who has Parkinson’s, is also an artist who
weaves and paints with acrylics.
Sandy Palmer studied graphic design at The University of
Akron and is a freelance artist working in colored pencil,
marker, and pen and ink. She contributes to Kaleidoscope as
the writer of visual artist profiles, having joined the staff as
art coordinator in 2002. Palmer is a full-time graphic design
specialist at United Disability Services.
Donna M. Reed is a former licensed nurse now working as
an attorney at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, representing soldiers with disabilities. Her experience with disability began
with her brother Mike.
Katarzyna Rygasiewicz was formerly a writer, editor and
analyst at the Department of Agriculture in Washington,
D.C. Her poems have been published in the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets “Muse Letter,” and Calendar of Wisconsin
Poets. She has been a dialysis patient for several years.
Edythe Haendel Schwartz is a retired child development
professor from California State University, Sacramento.
Besides poetry, she creates art using oil paints and mixed
media. Her publications include a poetry collection, A
Palette of Leaves, Mayapple Press (2012) and a chapbook,
Exposure, from Finishing Line Press (2007). Her poem,
“Calamari en Su Tinta” captures a parent’s feelings about a
gravely ill child.

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Marianne Sciucco describes herself as a lover of words
and books. She says, “I am a writer who happens to be a
nurse.” Her publications include a novel, Blue Hydrangeas,
an Alzheimer’s Love Story, published in April 2013, and
two short stories, “Collection” and “Ino’s Love,” both were
published first in journals and later on Kindle. Sciucco has
permanent disabilities related to repetitive strain injuries.
Nancy Scott has had more than 650 essays and poems
published in magazines, literary journals, anthologies, and
newspapers, and has also written audio commentaries. She
has published three chapbooks and won first prize in the
2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. Recent
works have appeared in Dialogue and Wordgathering.
Sybil Austin Skakle is a retired pharmacist from Chapel
Hill, North Carolina. Her publications include Confessions
of an Outer Banks Filly, a novel from Chapel Hill Press
(2001), and Searchings-Rocks, Revelations, Rainbows a poetry collection (2001). Skakle experienced a severe hearing
loss at the age of twelve after contracting measles in 1939.
e. smith sleigh has been widely published in journals and
anthologies and has won recognition for her poetry in the
U.S. and abroad. Her most current work is forthcoming
in Fukushima Response: Bay Area Poetry Collection. Her
daughter died at the age of eighteen due to cystic fibrosis.
Mary Ellen Talley works as a speech and language pathologist with children in the Seattle, Washington public
schools. Her poems have been published in Spillway (Winter 2014), Floating Bridge Review (2014), and Main Street
Rag (Summer 2012). Talley also contributed to the anthology Raising Lily Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace, published by Lost Horse Press (2015).
Gail Waldstein is a retired physician and writer. Publications include a poetry chapbook, The Hauntings (2015);
her poem, “Embryopathology,” won first place in the 2014
Puerto del Sol contest and her memoir To Quit This Calling: Firsthand Tales of a Pediatric Pathologist, Ghost Road
Press (2006). Waldstein says the story “Penumbra” came
to her in a dream and then “strangely, I was diagnosed with
macular degeneration.”
Gail Willmott received a B.A. in English and a M.Ed. in
education, both from the University of Illinois. A Kaleidoscope staff member since 1982, Willmott became editor-inchief in 2003.

Mariam Paré, Ephemeral Inamorato, 2014, mixed media, 16” x 20” by the courtesy of the
Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Worldwide

Mariam Paré, Gondolas No.2, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 11” x 14” by the courtesy of the
Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Worldwide