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May 2015 - Comments Off on Jaclyn Triebel

Jaclyn Triebel

HYPOTHETICAL #10
YOU ARE A WEB-CAM MODEL FOR CHATURBATE.COM

The way you see it we’re all just trading goods
and services. Still, every time you do it there’s
this feeling behind your belly button like when
you look out of a particularly high window in a
building, in a sky scraper, or when you look out
over a cliff. You love that feeling. It’s weird,
watching yourself, because it feels like you’re
watching a stranger. You’re performing for
yourself, that’s the only person you can see, but
it’s different than looking in a mirror. There are
fragments of yourself that flake away when you
have experiences like this. I don’t mean flaking
in the sense that you’re falling apart, but that
you’re fracturing yourself into smaller pieces,
smaller separate images of yourself that live in
other places. There’s the original image, and
then there’s the image your parents have of you,
the image your boyfriend has, there’s the image
your friends at home have in their heads—what
you look like to them when they can’t see you
and imagine you off at school doing whatever it
is you do. There’s an infinite amount of images
when you start to think about it, and if you think
about it too long, it’s hard to remember which
one came first. You don’t think about it too
much. Now, you’re in bed, and you’re looking
at this image of yourself and you start taking off
your clothes, and you’re making eye contact
with yourself the entire time, wondering if that’s
what other people see when they look at you.
But They don’t care about any of this stuff—the
real things you think about while you’re
spreading yourself open for them. They are busy
buying a fantasy. Most of the guys are older,
and into the little girl thing, even though they
don’t admit it. You always get that one guy who
won’t stop calling you his daughter, and that can
get pretty fucked up. But it’s easy to block
people from your room. You’re not even visible
to most of the northeast. You’re so easily
transported and hidden it’s like you’re not
human. They love telling you what to do. It
makes things easier that way, because then the
whole show starts to feel like you’re not really
there, it’s just a rental. It’s just your body, just a
picture of your body.

HYPOTHETICAL #12
YOU ONLY LET BOYS WHO HATE YOU LOVE YOU

You are fourteen years old exactly (it’s your
birthday) and you hear yourself say that
you’ve never done something like this
before (which is not a lie technically).
You’re just glad the boy laying next to you
doesn’t say anything about the elastic
showing in the waistband of your
underpants. For some reason that makes you
feel safe because you thought he might have
laughed at you. But he’s too focused on the
squish-squish sound coming from between
your legs. It makes you nervous because it
feels like you peed your pants, but you were
too embarrassed to google what it meant to
finger someone when he asked if he could
do it to you, so you’re not sure if he’s doing
it wrong. When he pulls down your shorts
he asks if everything is cool and you know
you’re supposed to say yes—he said he just
wanted to see what it felt like—but it
doesn’t feel anything like a tampon when he
sticks his fingers inside you (or what you
imagined that would feel like)(what your
sister said it would feel like). You smile and
you breathe slow to make it sound like
you’re enjoying it (you should be enjoying
it). You think that maybe people like the
way this feels, the way his fingers make you
hurt. He says your pussy feels like a soggy
hot dog bun. You know he’s going to tell his
friends. You’re worried you’re doing it
wrong. You’re worried he feels bad for you
and that you’ll never get another chance do
this ever, not with the beautiful perfect boy.
You think maybe you love him. And now
you’re blowing your one shot to prove you
are a grown-up adult woman, so you fake
moan and say you love it. But it’s too
intimate to have another human being inside
of you, so for a minute you pretend that you
aren’t fourteen in the guest bedroom of your
best friend's house with a boy you barely
know whose meanness you misread as
“passionate.” You pretend that you’re a
grown-up woman and that you want this.
But you’re only fourteen years old, with a
pair of underwear your mother bought you
wrapped around your knees. You don’t even
know that you’re pretending. When it’s over
you know you didn’t cum like you read you
were supposed to. He just stopped and laid
next to you and looked out the window, and
when you asked if you could kiss him he
went to wash his hands.

HYPOTHETICAL #15
ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS SECRETLY HATE YOU AND THEY EVEN HAVE A CLUB

They probably meet once a week, at least.
They’re very very organized and have an
agenda to get through every meeting and
someone takes the minutes to send out to all
those who couldn’t make it. They start with
attendance and snacks, and then they make a
joke to get things started. Everyone takes a seat.
They have a list of all the things you did that
week, and things they still haven’t resolved
from the last meeting. 1) You talk too much. 2)
Your honesty is more like brutality. 3)
Sometimes you treat people like objects. 4) You
are too cold, and you never seem to care about
anything. 5) You are too ugly and untalented to
be their friend in the first place. They make sure
everything is written down neatly, to be
transcribed into records for posterity. Then they
open it up to a group discussion. Everyone
laughs at how easy it is to keep the club a secret
from you. Even though you’re suspicious, they
lie to your face about how much they love you.
You try to catch them in the act, but they keep
changing where they meet and you can never
find them in time. They tell you it’s all in your
head, they say that you are paranoid. You are
not paranoid. One day they will slip up, and
leave behind the piece of paper with the
scribbled information about their club’s secret
meeting place, and you will show up right in the
middle, in time for snacks, and you will say: I
knew it. I knew it all along.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Phoebe Jordan-Reilly

Phoebe Jordan-Reilly

Sap People

There’s a file on me made of bark,
oozing amber, full.
I get comfort from those who are still
in the woods
from the way they bite the hot bent

thighs of the birch, how they swell
and march for the pods in the brush.

Today I outlaw the pin.
I’ve seen ruptures
and sewers of gum.
If I don’t keep my legs crossed like this
blue locusts come spurting out.

The keys drop onto the table
while you burn my fur coat.
The white paste of my mouth
sticks onto yours, touching
the fur at your cuffs, ripping
the smut from your hairy throat.

Earlier I saw the paws bat the berries
bloated in your skin; I caught seed.
Believe me, I am waiting for the fluff,
the mess. I am never softer

than when
I’m seeping.

Fashion Batteries

I hang around on spinning wheels
in a warehouse with a lake in it.
By the inflatable trees that pass
over the cold snaps of the people
in the security monitor.

Here, I lean into the willow; here
the witch walks out of the water and tells me
if the hard ropes I’m heaving are too much
I should swing out a sacrifice to her
to feel my hair wet against my back.

I’ve met human teeth; do you not know I wish
I could forget what I’ve been patrolling?
For once I’d like to pass the chain link and fail
to see more than some paint
glistening in the gravel.

I want your armies to put the spikes down.
If we could just for a moment change our trades
you can be the one to hold the barbs to their skin
and I will put in new fashion batteries
for one night where I do not clatter,
but stretch.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Parke Haskell

Parke Haskell

Fixed

Something is wrong with me. I know it.
Last week, I nearly threw myself down the mouth
of the kitchen sink. Then, I slipped away,
only to be found, shaken, at the bottom
of the sheets. I can still remember when I was
perfect. How I curled around you like a pet
that rolls over just to feel itself submit.

Now I don't fit. You bring me to a man
who says he can change me. He says words
like tarnished and minimum. He takes your hand
and already I am gone from you. Next, he holds me
to the light, searching for flaws. Something
in his eyes looks very sure. But I will not
budge. I am too committed to be fixed.

We move into the back room. He examines
my circumference. Everywhere, the wink
of metal instruments. His hands are rough
from burns. He gives me water. I am set upon
a throne of stone. He says value is a pressure
that gives way. Then, heat, a biting serpent.

Call me your little lady, your sterling
darling. Don't be afraid. I, too, am
manmade. I was born heated and beaten
into what they call loveliness. With all
the deftness that allows you to forget
the size and weight of every promise,
I acquiesce.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Kieran Najita

Kieran Najita

My Bomb Shelter

My bomb shelter has four levels. You enter through a spiral staircase. The top floor is the reception/detox area.There are facilities for washing off radiation, and a partition to quarantine any diseased people. There is an emergency eyewash station. There are a few chairs. The manhole that leads to the next level is made of stainless steel and only I can open it.

If I opened the manhole for you, you would climb down a ladder. This is my work floor. There is a small laboratory. My scientist friends have recommended some useful chemicals and instruments. I’m no scientist, but I would hate to be trapped down here without a few beakers.

The arms locker is also on this floor. A couple of my gun-nut friends took care of this one. I’m not crazy about guns myself, but I am quite confident that I will be able to defend the bomb shelter. Besides the guns, I have a nice collection of blunt objects as well. I would hate to run out of ammunition and have nothing to fight my way out with.

There is a small gym on this floor as well. My bodybuilder friend recommended a bowflex, and Linda from work recommended a treadmill, which I thought was more sensible. I also have a punching bag that might come in handy. I don’t really work out much. I prefer to get my exercise outside, walking. But I would hate for my muscles to atrophy if I had to be down here for years.

This floor alone cost me millions, and that’s not even considering what it costs to power it. I have three generators, buried with forty-thousand gallons of fuel, not to mention the solar plant on the surface. Losing power would be a nightmare. Even if the power goes out in the entire rest of the world, I still want to be able to play my records and read by lamplight.

The record player is on the third-deepest floor. This floor is my sanctum. If security was breached on the top two floors, I could seal this manhole, the thickest manhole, and still be able to live out the rest of my days in peace down here. My bedroom is here. It’s smaller and safer than my bedroom on the surface, and it has more of my favorite art on the walls. The walls are authentic wood and painted a deep blue. I like this bedroom better than my real bedroom. This is the bedroom that I would stay in for the rest of eternity, if I had to stay in one bedroom for the rest of eternity.

The reading room is my favorite room on this floor. There is barely enough room for the chair and the record player between the bookshelves and the artificial fireplace. It almost feels warm in here. The bookshelves go up to the ceiling, and they make me feel more secure than the four-foot thick slab of steel above my head.

I have collected here not just my favorite books, but the books I think would be the most valuable to a future civilization. Along with dictionaries, atlases and encyclopedias, I have all the great classics of literature, and a pretty good record collection too. I have enough fragments of culture to start civilization again if I needed to, and I’ll never get bored.

My food stores are buried on the deepest level. This is by far the largest floor in my bomb shelter. It resembles a massive, cavernous warehouse, stacked wall to wall with cans. It took me years to collect them all. But I don’t just have non-perishables. I have a freezer, filled with my favorite delicacies. And maybe someday, long after the last cow has died, I will sit down to a steak dinner and listen to Mozart in my bomb shelter.

I hope I never have to use this bomb shelter. I really do. Some people don’t believe me, seeing as it’s taken me so much of my life to build it. I do come down here often, sometimes for hours, sometimes even days, before returning to the surface. I like it here, but I wouldn’t want to be trapped here forever. I keep thinking that the worst will happen, and it hasn’t so far. But if the worst really does happen, and everything on the surface is destroyed, I have a bomb shelter with four levels. And you would be welcome to come and stay.

Resin

It’s even easier than usual to think about how little you’ve accomplished when you live in a soul-crushing heat trap of an apartment. The factory was such a place. Renovated with habitability as an afterthought, the brick facade still housed a gun drill factory on the first floor. The entryway made me worry about getting cancer even more than all the things that I do that will give me cancer, but at least it was air conditioned. Upstairs a stifling heat ruled the place, growing more and more leaden the nearer I got to my apartment door. In the windowless main room four fans rattled constantly as they stirred the thick sedentary air. Inside the apartment I was shirtless, often pantless, suckling on freeze pops like a chainsmoker to cool off.

Sometimes I went outside to smoke. I would pace the gravel parking lot in the hot sun, venting out clouds of smoke and sweating. It provided a momentary break from the stillness of the factory, walking outside and back in again, once every hour or so until I could go somewhere else. The brief exercise of walking inside and out helped stave off the dissatisfaction of choosing between one hot, inhospitable place and another.

For three people we generated an alarming amount of trash. Most of the food I ate came out of little disposable plastic bags which I opened and then put into little resealable plastic bags. Sticky freeze pop sleeves were scattered on the floor like cigarette butts. Cigarette butts were also scattered on the floor like cigarette butts. I wish that all my favorite types of food didn’t have to leave wrappers behind them like little bits of incriminating evidence. All food should come in a blank white package that dissolves instantly upon being opened and leaves no trace of the consumer devouring his prey. Either that or all food should come stamped with health warnings bigger than the label itself and that lie around your apartment long after they’ve been emptied out, like on the packs of duty-free cigarettes Eliot brought back from Europe.

The weekend before we moved out of the factory we drove up to Brattleboro. Up in the mountains, the trees were already turning red. Premature patches of fall color crackled like embers in the late summer green. Lately chilly days had been flickering over town as if someone had been toggling a light switch back and forth between hot and cold, and apparently this had been confusing the trees.The flickering red of their leaves outside the window gave me the impression that I had not seen nearly enough of the world, and probably never would.

Eliot drove too fast as usual, but I figured it was more comfortable inside the car than outside of it. I glanced anxiously between the scenery and the road, watching up ahead for an impending accident that I knew I would be powerless to prevent if it happened.

Science says that summers are getting hotter every year and winters are getting colder every year and the two of them are getting closer together every year, or something like that. Science says that driving too fast makes it more likely that you’ll have an accident, and that it wastes more gas, or something like that. Science says that if you smoke too much you’ll get cancer and if you smoke even a little bit you might get cancer and if you’re around too many people who smoke you might get cancer but you can still quit before it’s too late and even if it is too late you can make it less too late if you quit, or something like that.

The factory was not a good place to be stoned but it was a worse place to be sober. Getting high was not quite as enjoyable as it used to be, but it was more enjoyable than thinking. When I was out of weed I would pace around the factory neurotically, feebly but anxiously trying to coax myself into action before inevitably breaking down to scrape resin. My most consistent source of resin was a glass pipe shaped like a hollow fish. As I chipped the black pieces of residue off the inner walls of the smoke chamber, I wondered if the insides of me and the insides of the fish looked the same by now, both of them having held their fair share of smoke.
I lit the resin and it crackled and glowed red. I didn’t want to think about what the resin was doing to me. I didn’t want to think about garbage and hotter summers and cancer and boredom. Thankfully, the resin took care of that.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Nikolina Lazetic

Nikolina Lazetic

Burden

August 30, year any

Now that there is only one day between me and Other Continent, I am unsure about how accurately I have packed. It is mathematical: as the hours lessen, my doubts grow – an awful inverse proportion! Have I calculated correctly the number of items required for each of the five months? How absurd: using the same suitcase traveling back and traveling to! Builders of suitcases should take into consideration that the same suitcase will be used multiple times; sometimes it ought to fit a one-month large memories, sometimes eleven months worth of items.

August 31
(but really just hours later because the last entry was past midnight)

 

Trouble! I had finally gone through each item in the suitcase, and in closing it I had to press with with my whole body and a metal chair - I had done it, it was done. And now this!
I have agreed to meet an old friend who came to bid me goodbye: not only did this goodbye take more than two hours but he, as he kissed my cheek, dropped something in my hand and told me that I ought to take it along!
The weight of it was horrific, and it took me good five minutes to even look at it in fear that my gaze upon it would add to the burden.
It was a small leather bag, but the weight made it feel - undoubtedly - larger than my suitcase.
Seconds felt like minutes and a paralyzing anxiety made its statement through sweat on my forehead as I was opening the bag. The bag had buttons, and I spent a fair share of seconds with each of them – there were exactly six – as I went through all the possible excuses I had stored in the past years, searching for the one that I could use to set aside this unexpected burden.
But then I opened the bag, and almost fainted: not out of joy but due to despair! None of my excuses would ever possibly cover such a thing: he had given me his beating heart.
How was I supposed to say that I would not take my friend's heart with me? What would that heart do beating to an abandoned room? There aren't even clocks there to beat back!
Trouble! I better go figure out how to fit this thing in my suitcase, and I will think about its content once it's packed.

September 5

I did not manage to fit the leather bag into my suitcase, so I had to carry it with me on the plane.
Oh the terror when I was asked if I could be carrying anything potentially dangerous!
I was just one menacing look away from bursting into tears and saying that I practically have an AK-47 with me; but the officer scanned the small leather bag and said nothing. I think his uniform prevented the flow of emotion that would sound the alarm: the officer saw nothing dangerous about someone's heart traveling with me. Voilà!

September 5, hours later

The heart ocasionally bleeds, which does not surprise me; after all, it was a twelve-hour flight and then a twenty-three minute walk to The Motel.
Still, what an impressive heart – such a long way from home, yet still so full and beating!
I cannot really place it in The Motel, so I am going to leave it in the small leather bag for now; I will think about its contents once I'm Home.

October 1

I was about to leave The Motel and had almost forgotten the small leather bag; no wonder, after so much packing! It was much lighter this time, and when I opened it I noticed that the heart has decreased in size. I wonder if it needs something...hearts don't need to be watered, do they?
I hope all the natural light at Home does it some good.

October 1, hours later

Horrific! The heart kept beating irregularly throughout the whole trip, which was almost three hours long. The taxi driver seemed like a decent man, so I asked him about the needs of a heart; how horrible he was to me!
Apparently he had once given his heart to someone, and apparently that someone was better at carrying hearts around than I am. Does he know what this heart has put me through, this burden?!
Why did he take his heart back then, if the person was so good at carrying it? Has it gotten too small to be taken care of?

November 12

I have placed the heart into the light, yet it still keeps withering. What more could a heart possibly need? Water?
I am clueless – I hope it sorts its terrible heartbeats out soon.

January 3, year new

The heart has shrunk. It can no longer, by no means, be displayed! And what a beautiful, full heart it once was.
Oh well - I have put it in a drawer now. In a few days, when I am about to fly back to Continent, I will finally be able to fit it in the suitcase. It is no more than a size of a walnut, and just as hard so no damage can be done to it. Good!

May 2015 - Comments Off on Kameryn Carter

Kameryn Carter

Untitled

There is darkness, I know it.
Locked inside a body brimming,
oilslick oil threatens to black miles of sea.
I could black anything.

In therapy the doctor says You are so black
as if she is knowing for the first time,
her soil-eyes narrow and I say: Yes
meaning: the darkness is absolute.

I’m sorry in advance.
I unlatch my mouth
to speak and the world
upends.

God’s hot breath is gold.
I cannot hear what he’s saying.
Let me lift my head and listen.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Samantha Krause

Samantha Krause

On Leaving

Away is always beautiful, the color is right, the lighting is perfect. It is always the perfect distance from where you are. That’s why the inclination is to run to it, to run away. You don’t take your time; when you get your chance you run.
I think I was born to leave. There have always seemed to be some kind of forces pulling me away from our little town, ever since sitting on the front stoop of our tiny first house and asking every person passing by where he or she was going.

In second grade I liked playing the part of the dramatic child by sitting on the edge of our rickety-wooden playground, legs dangling, while the other kids chased each other and flipped off swings and accosted the family of bunny rabbits that lived under the bridge. I’d sit out there on the edge and spend all of recess staring out past the corn at the deep green hills that rolled on and on. I remember feeling pulled toward something out there—something I couldn’t see but could feel deep in my eight-year-old bones. And then, of course, Andrew Page would tap my shoulder and ask if he could take a turn and any sense I had of being a special little snowflake deflated immediately.
I think the real fantasies of actually leaving started when we moved into the big white house on the edge of town. There was a field back beyond the yard that grew crops in rotation: corn, corn, soybeans, corn. I was nine when we settled there and I started dreaming of packing a bag of tuna sandwiches and walking into those tall, mysterious stalks to somewhere far away. I didn’t know where I would go; I just wanted to start walking. Our cat Minnie once slipped out the basement door and got to live my dream, but she only came back three days later weighing five pounds less and matted with dirt and fleas.

As life got meaner all I thought about more and more was leaving, escaping. There began the obsession with airports, airplanes, hot air balloons, helicopters, those BW vans with mattresses in the back; birds that could fly and birds that couldn’t; flight attendants; the travel channel and on occasion the food network if Rachel Ray went anywhere interesting. Streaked across the sky geese flew south in the fall and part of me went with them.

I don’t know how it started but I know that by the end there was no doubt in my mind it was the place I needed to leave, the place and all its people. But even cursing the invisible bars of the town it was impossible to stay angry at something as beautiful as Black Earth. In the summer everything flushed green and the country had a heartbeat that made the leaves on the trees pick up and come back down with the wind. I’ve spent days trying to think up the right words to describe the color that the sun turns just before it dips down behind the hills, but there are no words to put you right where I’ve been. It’s the kind of light that’ll fill your whole body enough to make it feel like any second you might float up and away. Just before you do, though, something sour always yanks you down at the ankles: the inborn and almost imperceptible hate that permeates the soil.

It isn’t loud, this hate. It grows up with the corn and spreads smooth between the layers of bread and butter at dinner. This hate’s old as the iron train tracks that have run through town since the beginning, when anyone here still had hope. You can taste it rusty like blood under your tongue, like tornadoes picking up barns in August, angry like the pastor locked up for hitting his babies with a wooden mallet whenever they cried during services. It’s bitter and fresh in some places, like “fag” written on your best friend’s locker and families fighting over money they all know is gone. It’s hate so deep that the town has been slowly destroying itself for years like an immune system confused. I will see Black Earth die in my lifetime, just like they told us we would when we were little and couldn’t see the cracks in our perfect pretty world.

The tricky part is seeing past the good, heart-swelling parts: driving up to the farm after school and hurling hay out of the back of a pick up truck while the maintenance boys drive around to the different horse pastures; Sundays on our 12-foot fishing boat; weeknights catching crawdads in the creek. Days that made you feel proud at the end of them, tired and a little dirty and filled up full with crisp fresh air.

The photograph I love most in this world is of my third grade class, the fourteen-or-so of us all hanging on the monkey bars in front of a blue blue sky—blue so deep I can still taste it on my tongue. In the picture we are perfect in overalls and toothy smiles, squinting from the brightness of the day. I don’t even remember Mrs. Taylor taking the picture, but in my mind she looks through the disposable lens and knows that she’s caught us in that tiny clear rectangle forever just for an instant—an instant that’s come to speak for so many lost years. I do not know how to reconcile forgetting the texture of whole years of my life, instead substituting in a flat word like “happy” and hoping it’s true.
An instant in time, her finger pressing down. I can relive it over and over even if she is dead. She is pressing down the button and we are smiling because we really are happy and the sun feels warm and sweet like honey and nothing can ever be wrong. Not in that instant.

She pressed down and the camera clicked. Years went by and everything changed and she sent the photo to me in an envelope with my name on it. Then she went home to Virginia and lay in a bed until cancer ate her up and death took all of her memories of us with her. Less and less remains.

I loved that town and I think that’s what broke my heart the most—that it didn’t want me by the time I had grown old enough to understand it. I tried to keep on loving it, but it hurt to wake up and it hurt to look at the faces and it hurt not to understand why a place I loved hated me. No one could understand why on God’s green earth I would ever want to leave this town that was so small it didn’t even show up on the channel five weather radar.

So for the last few years I had to stay there I resolved to leaving in all the ways a person can while still standing in the room. I left them all inside my mind, said goodbye to friends and family without them even noticing. I became the empty girl they thought me to be, smiling at the right times and screaming in the backyard later on. In my head I held pictures of far away places that I would run to as soon as my sentence was up and I was free. No one knew.

Towards the end, on one of those dark January afternoons when no one has the heart to turn the lights on so early, I was in the middle of a period when I hardly left my bed for weeks unless I had to. I lie in there with my door closed and cried for all the places I wasn’t, and the one that I was. Just then I had come down to get a glass of water. My dad leaned up against the counter next to me. I saw in his eyes that he was worried, he and my mom both were, that any second now I might do something drastic. They weren’t wrong; those days I felt like breaking everything in the house, or shaving my head, or running somewhere far away and leaving them forever, but my heart was too tired for any action. Two hands clutching the countertop, he told me “we can take a trip.” They were empty, useless, loving words. We both knew there was no trip; there was no money, no time. He said it because he was afraid. I filled my glass, and didn’t look at him when I told him “Sure, let’s take a trip.”

I stuck out that year of fill-in-the-bubble tests and presentations on the benefits of pursuing careers in finance and/or orthodontia from a guidance counselor who believed in spraying his clothes with Febreze instead of washing them and I figured out how to run away without breaking any rules. So I ran away to Vermont with all the paper work in order.
The satisfaction of leaving was entirely as wonderful as I imagined it would be all those years—to drive away from that town and not know when I’d see it again was something I’d been waiting for in some ways for my entire life. It helped that the place I chose to escape to was special in that it would take me in wholly and I could start again completely new.

When I go back I’m always surprised that no one in the grocery store stops me, amazed at how I’ve changed, how different I look from everyone else there. No one even gives the sideways glances I always expected; no sign hangs above my head flashing in neon “THE GIRL WHO LEFT.” Occasionally a neighbor will ask me how Virginia is and I’ll tell her that Vermont is beautiful, but by then she’s always stopped listening.

Something else happened, though, after I left Black Earth: I stopped loving airports. They are romantic until you’re standing at the gate, looking at people you love and feeling like a criminal for leaving. The magic of the in-between has been lost on me now that I have anchors on either end. I don’t know which end to call home. When I close my eyes I am still the girl stuck in front of the blue blue sky, legs hanging down with a bandana in my hair, stuck forever in that sunny day, looking out at nothing.

Eyes open, here is a whole different world, the one I chose. No matter how long I keep my eyes shut that other world is gone. I have the picture and a few others and the memories of growing up in wide-open spaces drenched in warm sun. I go back there in my mind but can’t stay too long, or else the hate seeps through and ruins everything.
This world, now, is finally a place that doesn’t hurt to stay. I will leave it but for more loving reasons. I got out of the place I was meant to and the rest of the world is empty of the invisible bars Black Earth held around it that I fought against for so many years. I will leave this place just like I left Black Earth but the difference is that here there is nothing to forgive.

Young and Loaded

We made it to Florida and it’ muggy as all fucking hell. The bugs ain’t helping either but we got to keep the windows in the truck down all night long, it’s so hot. Having to piss woke me up. Cheyenne’s lying half on top of me but when I gotta piss I gotta piss and I just push her off. She doesn’t even wake up; her mouth just hangs wide open and drools all on the backseat. Real nice. I grab the gun from the glove box before getting out just ‘cuz this park&ride isn’t like a real friendly-seeming place.

The guy we lifted the truck from in Georgia had the gun sitting in here like it was just for us or something. It’s a pretty gun, too—one of those .357 Magnums—not any of that BB gun shit for going at squirrels.

I push it in my back pocket and walk a little ways away from the truck to the grass. The goddamn bugs are buzzing so loud it’s like they’re inside my head, the stupid things. I’m pissing on the grass and they’re everywhere, and the air’s so thick I can’t hardly breathe, and I think maybe Florida’s not so great. We won’t be staying here long anyway.

“What’re you doin’?” Cheyenne yells from the truck like I’m not allowed to piss without her knowing. I can’t hardly see her except the messed-up blond hair all over her head.

“I’m taking a piss, that ok?” She starts walking over. I zip my pants up and light a cigarette.

“I just got scared when you weren’t in there,” she says.

“I wasn’t gonna wake you up. Settle down, woman.” She scrunches up her smile in the dark. I know she likes when I call her woman ‘cuz she’s only thirteen and no one calls her that.

This whole plan was her own idea. I had a court appointment coming up that I was gonna skip anyway, and then she said we should just go, get out of Kentucky, and I said yeah okay. We were both sick of getting shit from everyone about me being old and she being young, like it’s some kind of horrible thing. I never met a thirteen-year-old like Cheyenne, though. When I saw her standing outside school waiting for her ride home, looking at her phone and swinging her legs turning all around, all I thought was “I want that.”

Now she’s reaching out for me to give her a drag and with her makeup all smeared she doesn’t look like much. The smoke comes out of her mouth and it’s so hot, the air and ground and everything feels wet and like it weighs a million pounds.

“Is there any more beer?” She asks.

“Nah, it’s gone. Tomorrow I’ll find somebody to get us some.” She hands me back the cigarette, almost out now. Then neither of us says anything for a while, and all we can hear is the bugs. We’re both just looking out at nothing in the dark.

“You love me, Dalton?” she asks out of nowhere.

“Sure, baby come’re,” I say and grab her ass. She laughs a little but pulls away.

“Seriously! You love me, right?”

I tell her, “I stole us a truck, and did three Walmarts and a gas station with you. What’dya think, I’m gonna bail?” I can still see the stupid look on all the cashiers’ faces, scanning people’s Mountain Dew and cheese balls and hot pockets like nothing in the world could ever be wrong. Not one of them looked over at us; we were just a couple a’ kids. A couple of smart motherfucking kids. But she’s still looking at me all sad, so I say, “Yeah I love you.”

“I love you too,” she says and kisses me on the lips. We both smell like sweat from not showering for a couple of days.

We make out all the way back to the truck and stretch across the seats together. I start undoing my pants. She says, “I’m tired.” I say, “But I love you,” and she smiles and says “okay,” real soft. The blankets and our clothes are all soggy and fucking her is a good enough reason to have run away. We can just keep running and stealing and fucking and drinking and smoking forever, I wouldn’t mind that.

A little while later the bugs seem to get quieter.

“If you breathe slower you don’t get so hot,” she says.

Then she’s asleep again, and I’m trying to breathe slow and think about where we’ll go next. I start drifting off when I see the lights coming closer—flashing red, white, and blue and looking like American flags somebody set on fire.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Nicholas Barney

Nicholas Barney

The Backcall of Earth

We turned your clock again to assure your heels once more the burial mistress, her body dawned over stone the culp of the plow.
A peel of the tombing babed by swaddlecloth and grain’s eve for sunmothered tracks sooned as you were sleeped: ashore as your were born.
Your hand.
A road journeyed south, a hand turned astone ofsea.
Back open water cumbs to sea astone.
Aforn afrom fedwave I’ll have the wall your back was up again adipping updripping gauged whipping your skin for the cane and the cane’s holding.
A tumbling came through his feet ofland and a stone journeyed.
See him fromsun.
I’ll have his name in a place overseen and might twin at random reaching rams in the eitherribbons of fullstitched murials of my grassend.
All men find their ends in a grass.
The seabead man’s wake.
An ovulant stretch to sun.
And such a stretch nowed see him in the tracks.
And down such rode and in its midness a lady leeving lieves to let and worship milk pouring on everlimb O a nympant swim in the wombing.
And down through such midness his eye dithyrhymned the seeding rode and he tumbled not for he turned astone ofsea to hishand.
Say thee her body in a plyth how comes his mind.
A peel of the wombing he to the stone now it stones.
How he dithyrhymns the blooding the stone does it speak back:
Out of a tree came your falling.
Remnants yet of the wheel assured its shed and its vein, seconds of the best of men.
A sow to their mouthes she adores a swaddling, sea a warble babed in seed, Adam at random leads the premises.
A shower, a wettening, a lee, a sinking:
Mankind stumble forth of her lashen pore.
A pore through the sate, sapid sapient, a lactic flow.
A seasonal impulse for vision.
A trough cistans, urreligion and thurge immol, larum comes the sought a mew cleared the world and errand of further gull, this phallic vegetant beneath seas, sought is thought to see and seize grip and grasp this world all, come conscious.
Sume wroth sistrum in: the bethlam restings.
Melolaw concised and sung, sistrum sing as his eyes swing to socket and come felling trees phrygian, the midrush of sistress in the maw, the linguam guranator through mapped hulks.
How the castrants stummed, their mouthes fedmud, to be born again by their hips, O bees keep your buzzing, to be again langurous in the pollin!
He laid to wrest his mend by the collum.
He bears the great sun mooring above the dawn, ashame for his hands, thestone placed.
A coming gathered the mud.
A drevvy, saved by the well of collumb comes.
Culth stretched in the mulk.
Tull of dolmens they say gone mad.
A calculan swaled once and the hay came down in its treading.
Any tulm thames and a moon mooned and dulled and he trembled barefoot and sulked off mud for weeks and then fore out his eyes a cuncullan and smoke in the coolth he found his spittle.
A cuncullan culled, must be walls for how else such roof?
Once lade cool he found his feet upon such sill.
He knocked, or else did he knock, or did he cumb a knock on the wooden heavement hewn on the hulks.
A walled reeling and the journey where was the sea behind him.
O a heavement here such walled, he culked his feet more and O such a dreaving he did in his heave.
Where: O let him plead mudfed and enswallowed of such stone sprung rampant.
Take off the wools of grass, alain in meadow a ceilinged fire.
Off to meadow and alain come whispered mudstalks the willow that was in the branched tree clingings.
I see a silling a window that is and the walling which mends it not, save the meadow that wills in that utter istofade.
O all: it is to babe!
I know he could have washed him alive the eye the reedsreeek unseaed, the pleroma of nightshade, castrant to be langurourous, strung.
A reeds hum, a lost origin to the mending.
Come given a night, a nightbled weep, he could have for I saw the saw that feeds.
What have I been hungering, lean.
A collum colled, come cadmus, come oedipus, I saw.
A callor, a pillar, reeded, the calender recorded, apparently conceived warm in its bleed.
A simple sunstance judged not of semblance.
An origin stood away the wind stars and shoots upstance alight anight.
Her body washed in seawater, a colming came to her hair beautified.
Alast the wind scattered fore the night.
A toll for coming.
O to come catching the sillen the lofthidden wave O to be leaving my head on its sillwool to see me sirened on stone, to see over wheat the only sun a watching rise.
The fullstitched murials of my grassend.
Where all men find end.
The seabeads find wake: an ovulance.
I sunned ocean I shun, take lambe as your warden, lambleak as warning bah to bah will you see the willing in the meadow, the sun setten.
Coll cadmus come.

The Wake

I
And a tongue! Burth curve and lamblipped, you are meadowed. The surring bah and to bah back. O, her lips on you and the deadsea dugs everwet. When archons walked hilltop. To be no curve in the meadow. Settle now for I set my stutter to lipping avowal a vestal washed not in the daying, the wetness she ran like a daygull, truly southing she laid her cold hands on herself and spoke the gullnotes through the spittle, the endlike cooing of her kicking singing fore the moon the lipnote of her breathing and as if sooned by her beading the wayman pebbled and announced himself intoned upon her road to read the plynthculp, in the mermud the reek of shell, extand from beneath his hullbones he pulled a riveread theorem and the broadawn baywinds flashed to read him his root in the marls to feed him his roost in the bedlambs and his lips mumming her body moonbroad stretched ovulant reaches she for he O say I saw forth allread with the bedlambs and the curlnote of their lapping say thee I witness thee I wash thee!

II
The grass: the blade: spuriant deodands. Unpurposed stone belays the field. Threads of stone run docent, droned. Be, betide, be tide, be happened. A god is behind the wall wracking the earth, searching out sound in the stone. Seeking bliss in the inner tryst of all eyes crowded by: the first siren. A god to all sailors who shall be found upon the moon. Fresh from heat I dread where his lamb wracks the earth.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Joseph C. Grantham

Joseph C. Grantham

Christmas Eve

Bert Rampart wrote a suicide note on Christmas Eve and put it in his wife’s stocking. He didn’t mean to do it on Christmas Eve but he meant to do it at some point and that point just happened to be the night before Christmas. Bert felt he needed to go and that he might as well go festively. It wasn’t meant to be cruel, he wasn’t reaching for the last laugh.

On Christmas morning Bert’s wife found the note in her stocking but she didn’t find Bert.  She thought he must be dead. Probably drove his truck into a tree. Either that or he put one end of a tube into the exhaust pipe and wrapped the other end around and in through the driver’s side window. Rolled up the window and started the car. A quieter way to go and more like Bert. But when she went out front to see if his truck was gone from the driveway, or sitting there full of carbon monoxide, she instead found Bert standing next to it, smoking a cigarette. Snow was falling, it had been falling all night, and in the morning light the ground beneath their feet was glowing, a blinding white.

“You’ll catch a cold,” she said. “Why don’t you come on in?”

May 2015 - Comments Off on Ryan Baltor

Ryan Baltor

 

O Baby

Spring turns and pushes
me into a new bed,
room with a view
O baby we’re not there

anymore and I can feel
my heart knock on a new
store-bought pillowcase.

This place floats
which is neither good
nor bad tho always difficult -

and if you would just listen
you’d see how we’d sync
up like two hands on a wrist.

Watch me float away,
drag you right
along with me.​

 

May 2015 - Comments Off on Georgieanna Richer

Georgieanna Richer

to Christian Skin

I want to hold you in my hands like soft mint lips
made for smashing on stone, with a glass kiss
from memory that bleeds green tears

I see through brown love cracks for eyes
that should be peeled out of their soft baby shells
and laid at the foot of your mountains as gifts
to be hung with the stars
and slide down your Christian skin sides.

More than broken violet petals or frozen pearls in blue suns twilight
I want to see a thin night sky that would hit the metal teeth of mountains
as it longed to touch their love cracked tops tops

and when the sky screamed out in shattered dust
stars would slip down the rocks to join their lovers again
for fear of ever being the crying pink bundles of sparked and fried veins

the stars would live in pools at the foot of the mounds
they are floating with their lovers there
all safe in haunted dirt lakes
lucky pink drip drop stars
always safe in reflection stature.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Janie Radler

Janie Radler

Just When You Thought Iced Tea Couldn’t Get Any Sexier

“Hey There, Joe.”

She chose him out of the line of many. He was tall, dark, and smelled slightly of Thai tea with a hint of mint. Mm, her favorite. How could she resist? It wasn’t hard to reel him in either. She just went up to the counter, slapped down a couple of bills, and pointed:
“That one.”

When they got back to her apartment, she smiled and said, “Honey, I’m going to drain you of all the 20 fl. Oz (591 ml) you’re worth.”

He stared blankly back at her, wavering ever so slightly. She could still see perspiration dripping into his rather reflective sideburns. His registered birthmark seemed to tremble in its tiny circle below his nametag. Whether he was ready or not, his time had come.

She took a step towards him in order to begin the consumption process. Wrapping her hand around his firm, rigid cap, she started to unscrew.

“Say ‘Ah.’”

May 2015 - Comments Off on Jessica Lucia Pacitto

Jessica Lucia Pacitto

Bacchus as Kid, Venus as Fish

I built a city inside the belly of my mother.
When they gutted her like a fatted calf,
I crawled inside and made my home,
opened small coffee shops for artists

When they gutted her like a fatted calf
I drew bridges along her ribcage,
opened small coffee shops for artists.
I learned lessons in living smaller.

I drew bridges along her ribcage,
to reach the places I did not know.
I learned lessons in living smaller
in the flimsy world of flesh.

To reach the places I did not know
I built churches on the avenues of her bones.
In the flimsy world of flesh
I installed street lamps on her sidewalks.

I built churches on the avenues of her bones
filled with half spent candles and aging idols
I installed street lamps on her sidewalks.
She lit up like a jar of fireflies.

Filled with half-spent candles and aging idols:
I burnt an entire city down inside her.
She lit up like a jar of fireflies.
Her belly grew heavy with smoke.

I burnt an entire city down inside my mother.
I built a city inside the belly of my mother.
I crawled inside. Made my home.
Her belly grew heavy with smoke.

My Dear Boy, the War is Over…

At the gates of Horn & Ivory I am sick
with power. Sink my teeth in the muddied
fur of beast. Growl at its feet. This is not
the hour for honest doorways. I exit hell
by the way of false dreams. In morning,
the spoons all bend to the mysterious
shape of crude letters. The teacup shivers
in my hands. The entire world is an inch
off balance, while I am filling jars
with night at your discretion: cupping
the murky sky into my palm
like a firefly between flickers. I grasp
at everything. Palm and finger
trinkets from shelves and corners. It all resists
for a moment then gives gently
with the promise of a golden bough.
The shadows that move and do not speak
frighten me. They keep me from the noble
ivory castle that I build around my heart.

Cataloguing Currents

In May I am gentle
with the time marking
the waxing and waning
of tongues, where I come
timid like a fawn
to my lover. Cocooned
in the interiority of the doorway
in my museumed room
in my domestic still
life, I shuck away
my grievances like gray
shored East River bones.
Endlessly quiet about
the way I’m drowning
in a sea of green apples,
the way my legs have moved me
into abstraction. I feel more and more
like a pronoun, a euphemism
like I’m not wholly I.
In June the sun is only
sufferable –
dazzling the dust
of things.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Isabelle Parker

Isabelle Parker

Winter Sun

If the end of the world came,
I would want it to be on a day like this.

Imagine watching everyone glow in the thin setting sun,
turning them sacred. The yellow light, cast over everything,

would feel like the last of something, like leaving,
would leave everyone feeling happy

without knowing why. Then it would sap itself out of our walls,
would remove its halos from our heads,

and the moon would step up to the sky.
The cold on our cheeks would start to burn.

First, the Christmas lights would blink off,
then the streetlights and buildings, then the heat.

Engines would clamp shut from the cold.
None of this would make a sound.

You see, if the end of the world came,
I would want it to be on a day like this:

the golden sun, the empty square.
It already looks like heaven here.

A Study of Urban Botany

In England, you see a lot of flowers that bloom in the rain:
pointed petals arch downward, bouncing above the two-legged stems
that glide beneath them.

Their roots are restless and tread earth quickly,
sending neural signals to shrink the petals
back into the bud from where they began.

I've seen one of these buds dangle from a girl’s wrist,
it was pink and delicate, hanging upside down.

In full bloom the flowers tower over us, their webbed metal fingers
outstretched like the bones of a bat,
keeping us between the water that nourishes them
and the sidewalk they float above.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Isabella Casey

Isabella Casey

Breakfast Potatoes

I know what breakfast potatoes are!
I love breakfast potatoes.
Breakfast potatoes are my lifeblood.
I will hire two assistants: breakfast & potato.
And everyone will love them!

Especially me!
And I will marry a breakfast potato.
Inside of a breakfast potato!
My priest will be
Padre Pio! And I will call him Papas.
Papas are potatoes
In Spanish! And there will be
Stigmata! All over the potatoes!
And he will despise

Breakfast Potatoes.
Nobody is jealous of the bride!
I like them big.
Burnt!
Thick!
I, too, am big, burnt, & thick.
I taste like heaven!

I am a majestic breakfast potato.
Bake me in an oven!
Like Hansel & Gretel!
Eat me for lunch, dinner, dessert.
Breakfast!
Makes me cry.
So does Padre Pio.
Like a baby!
I will give birth to a breakfast potato.
I will fry up latkes in my womb.
I will eat my young.
It will take courage.
It will take courage.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Corey Ecay

Corey Ecay

The Boy at the Reading

He’s here now too, sitting in the back of the audience with his one leg crossed over the other and his head tilted downwards to read something in his lap. I notice him mid-sentence, mid-line; my vision and my attention snag on his thorn-bush beard and his carelessly popped collar. My first thought is: I’m imagining it. It’s a projection of my pre-reading nervousness, my anxiety familiarizing, flowing into the vacancies of an unfamiliar face.

But it’s not.

(I make eye contact with the professor whose class I spoke with earlier, who is the reason I stand at this podium; he beams a comforting smile. I read, and when I reach a section I’m particularly comfortable with, I direct my gaze to the seats sequestered in a darkened pocket above the others and deliver the line, with practiced cadance and perfect poetic emphasis, to a boy who leans over to the girl next to him and whispers something. My voice echoes in the near-empty auditorium, the words I’ve already spoken still strong and unphased by how he cups his hand to her ear as she leans attentively inwards. I can’t be sure, but I think I manage to keep from faltering noticeably, even when they split, covering their mouths with cupped palms and crooked elbows and eventually burying their faces in their laps. I do not betray that I hear their unsuccessfully suppressed barks of laughter. I think, in fact, I don’t even miss a beat when I look up again and see the whole lot, four, maybe even five students, clustered in the topmost seats, faces red and mouths gaping like fish in air. There are those people sometimes who disturb the reading atmosphere giggling at texts, snickering at whispered comments and facebook posts, but something about this, I can tell they’re laughing at me. At my poem. At the section about the swan on the water. After the reading, after the question and answer section, I don’t notice any of them leaving, but I also don’t see them in the audience. Some of the faculty come up to thank me for the reading. One of them, a woman carrying a young child and several books I haven’t written, tells me it was an honor. Some students have lined up in the aisle, wanting to meet me. I try to see past them. I sign three books, absently; I drift to the back of the auditorium, to the door, outside; it’s cold, and there are no leaves on the trees, so I can see very far, through the mountains and to the highway, but I don’t see the boy anywhere.)

He doesn’t notice that I notice him, but for a period of time I can’t be certain of but which can’t be more than a few seconds, I gaze at him in intimate suspension, like falling in love across a crowded dance floor. He tilts his head upwards and directs his vision toward the front of the room, towards me. His brow furrows and his eyes cloud with indecision. I try to keep going; it’s only as I near the end of the poem that I realize I’ve skipped a line, no – a whole stanza!

May 2015 - Comments Off on Colin Powers

Colin Powers

Courage

Can I wash your feet
and meanwhile
whisper to them
I shouldn't have said that to your head
and meanwhile
hope your knees don't get offended
and meanwhile
send life off for long bouts of needless worry?
My,
this is a poor resumé
for a foot washer.
I’ll get going.

 

Jordan Wall

I have heard of a school in West Germany that holds an annual race between three students, chosen because they are in love or at least because they proclaim to be so (it is never quite clear how the faculty is privy to this information). Each student must strap a potted fern to his/her head and run sideways without spilling any soil from the pot, which is completely full. Whomever manages to tickle The Everlasting God, whose fat is peaking out of the ceiling panels, first, wins. Though it is never stated what exactly will happen when the God is tickled, the winner usually finds some great success in life, although whether or not it is related to the race is also unstated by the faculty of the school, for how could they know? It is about sacrifice. But there is another factor of the game I have not told you yet, and it is an important one: each participant is photographed in the process of running his or her plant sideways in an attempt to tickle The Everlasting God, and these photos are then shown to each of the participants’ lovers while they masturbate. The question here is about love and confusion. If you were masturbating and were suddenly shown a photo of your lover in a serious bout of concentration, trying ever so hard to appease The Everlasting God and its tender stomach by balancing a fern on his or her head and willing a half-pound of soil to remain still, could you continue? Would you want to? Or would you wonder about your lover and the situation they find themselves in, or about how this academic has found his or her way into your private masturbatorium, assuming you have one? You do, right? But I am simply expressing my opinion for a solution. I am tired of this place too.

The Falls

We all go down to the falls, the family.
Of course there is rumination

for what else does a waterfall bring?
the weight of it a great quilt

by which breath can pass through.
I with my vacations always foggy

walk off higher
into the ruins

to trespass
in the brush and rust. I am brought down

later by a girl in purple rain boots
with a dog under her smile

and I imagine she got them
in the same week. Shameless,

she throws rocks out and into the
bubbles of the peaceful torrent

the new dog can't find. A few
men in shorts lie on their

elbows tanning luminous thighs
in the sunlight halfway watching,

they eat
sausages.

Again, no shame.
The girl's dog

slaps at the water and circles particular
spots, ears up,

creek bottom bustling
two-for-one deal: fish & stringy shit.

I go to find the family
without saying thank you.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Tommy Melvin

Tommy Melvin

The Telephone Pole

Am I reaching.
Is this call connecting.
Are you free right now.
Am I reaching out.
Would you like to go sometime out.
Do you like poles for telephones.
Am I reaching sometime out.
Would you like for me to wear a red dress.
Would you like to play a game of battleship.
Sometime would you like to get Italian.
Is your battleship located at coordinate A-28.
Are your wires long.
At what time will I receive your battleship.
Are your wires long and hard.
Do also you like often to touch a tree.
And do also you watch at night.
Do also you watch the corn and the wind.
Do your wires trail off into the corn.
Into the night do they trail off.
Are you there.
Are you there into the night trailing off.
Do you also feel then that something real is this.
Have never you loved anyone like me.
Did I hit your battleship.
Do you dream like I dream.
Are your wires long and hard.
Did I hit your battleship.
And do you know the way to home.
Could I ever sing one song
that doesn’t sound like sinking.

6am on the hill

God at the top of His
blessed new day hops
up on His dawn
mower and prunes
the clouds to make
way for sun My god
I say, marveling He
chuckles obligingly She
passes me the lighter It
gets hot as the rain
begins to fall like a grass
wind or an itchy salt
bath of follicles I don’t know
the right way to praise
this world High on the hill
I shout Sorry
God I knew a
hallelujah
once

May 2015 - Comments Off on Sylvia Madaras

Sylvia Madaras

Observations on Emily Dickinson

1. Emily Dickinson was obsessed with the brain. In her work it represents the curious intersection of body and the ethereal Self. The brain is both organ and the synthesizer of identity. Dickinson creates and explores entire worlds within the scope of this organ – for example, in #280 she describes a funeral in her brain, and the bustle of mourning rituals. Entire processions take place; there are crowds and even the unfolding of plots. The paradox of the brain is its dual nature as both physical (the organ) and intangible (the faculty of thought).  This paradox becomes something discomforting due to Dickinson’s reductionism: a person is boiled down to the various parts of Heart, Body, Brain. This discomfort stems not so much from the grisly anatomical connotations, but for its insinuation that the vehicles of our humanity are finite. The Heart will stop, the Mind will deteriorate, and the Body rot – and our personhood, so couched in these specific organs, follows suit. Even our individuality will decompose, and this is a kind of death more complete than we are comfortable imagining. The death of the body is the death of the self.

2. “I mostly write about disgusting, violent things. I’m really liking it.”
“Are you in that class on Emily Dickinson?”
“Yes.”
“Oh, good.”

3. Dickinson’s use of the dash is a precursor to modern free verse. It carries the movement on even after the verse has finished, a travelling or unraveling of thoughts that acts as a natural, stream-of-consciousness bridge from one isolated line to the next. Nothing is ever finished with a dash. It is dissipated or transformed. The dash allows a thought to exist beyond the words written on the paper as an indication of the magnitude of thought that exists behind the poem. It is the vector for a thought to return to the psychological landscape from which it first emerged.

4. It amazes me she even allowed visitors near her… ecstasy is such a precious thing to inhabit in the presence of the distractions that live downstairs. I would not want to have known her, only sat on her porch and known that genius was having its way upstairs, and I could drink my tea, alone, down here, and never see her face, but know her by the sound of creaking floorboards, a rustle of quiet cotton, maybe by watching the birds on the lawn. And my unstable and lonely, all that could live up in the attic with her, too. Great writers are like that – they carry the craft for the rest of us, the mediocre, who are happy just to sit downstairs on the porch

 

May 2015 - Comments Off on Samantha Krause

Samantha Krause

Applebee's Falls Apart

The Pancake Palace used to rule over a weedy quarter-acre lot on highway 16, past the Midwest’s Largest Shoe Store but before the Citgo that Mrs. Hodgkin’s son held up last April after Amanda Shepherd cheated on him. Now it is an Applebee’s. The new owners are an old couple from out of town that no one knows. They put up the neon APPLEBEE’S sign, but couldn’t afford the neon apple to match, so instead they painted over what used to be a neon pancake and glued on some green fourth-of-July glow sticks for the stem. It doesn’t look awful.

In the back booth closest to the kitchen, Kitty and her daughter Dora sit and pick at the layers of a bloomin’ onion. When it was still The Pancake Palace, they would come every week for free-bacon-Wednesday. Now, suddenly without this ritual, they are making due.

“Mom, why is it eight dollars for an onion here when at the grocery store they’re 98 cents? And why are there old black and white pictures of Applebees’s that aren’t this one on the wall? And why did they put us in the worst spot when there are so many open tables? And why—“

“Honey,” Kitty says, lifting her head ever so slightly from the bendy straw sticking out of an electric blue fishbowl-sized margarita. “Drink your milkshake.”

Dora does so gladly, in the same moment noticing the trail of little red lipstick smudges on everything her mother’s funny thin lips have touched: they wind down her straw, sweep faintly across the edge of the large glass, and can just be detected on the palm of her hand from when she brings it up cough her cigarette flem into. The same thought must have also occurred to Kitty, because she takes the opportunity to smear on more Riche Red.

“Can I get you gals anything else?” the 20-something waiter asks, seeming to pop out of nowhere. He asks the question the same way a Ken doll would, despite his greasy black hair and savage neck acne. “Refills? Another onion to munch on? Some desert maybe?” He winks at Dora.

“I’d love one more of these,” Kitty says with too wide a freshly-painted smile. The drink has dyed the inside of her mouth blue. “Dora, you want one more?”

“No.”

“Then just the Fruit Punch Sunset Beach Tea for me, dear.” Bland Ken nods and smiles back as if Kitty is Barbie and winks at her this time. Dora wonders if his eyes work okay.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” Dora says, scooting desperately out of the red leather seat. Her mom mumbles something like “okay honey,” and keeps her eyes locked on lackluster Ken as they small-talk about the recent snowfall and what the new owners have done with the place (not enough) and if greasy Ken is legal.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

 “Jeremy, stahhhhp,” Kitty is laughing too loudly when Dora returns. Her mother’s blonde-streaked bob just barely reaches to her shoulders and the true gray roots are almost visible, but not quite. Dull Ken, apparently Jeremy, is sitting on Dora’s side of the booth, staring into her mother’s copper-colored eyes. He takes a sip of his own fishbowl now resting on the table.

“Do you guys want some more unlimited breadsticks?” he asks, blinking crazily. Kitty laughs like she’s forgotten what words are.

“Huh?” Dora asks, now standing at the end of the table. “That’s not an Applebee’s thing; that’s a different restaurant. I’ve seen the commercials.” Jeremy shakes his head flippantly and stands to get up. Kitty shoots her daughter a nasty sort of glance.

“What?” says Dora, powerless. “Olive Garden has unlimited breadsticks, not here. And why do his eyes keep twitching like that? And why was he siting with you and drinking while he’s working? None of it makes sense.”

“Honey,” Kitty says with all the weight in the world. “Do you really think the world makes any sense?”

This is a bit much for even smarter-than-average Dora to handle at thirteen. Not sure of what to do, she takes her place back in the booth and returns to her milkshake, slurping it up in big, fast gulps. At the bottom the rainbow sprinkles swirl and begin to loose their colors, waiting to be sucked away one by one.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

 Soon enough Jeremy is back, his eyes now unable to remain open for hardly any time at all, carrying another onion bloomin’ in the middle of a basket of Olive Garden breadsticks. He has also brought back two more blue bowls of alcohol. After setting it all down on their table, he sits down next to Dora and rejoins them. He smells to her like sweat and something that has been left in the refrigerator for way too long.

“You hadn’t for blue them said isn’t no yet?” he says with a completely straight face. Kitty throws her head back to laugh, but Dora just stares at him, confused.

“What?” she asks. How many fishbowls has he had?

“For you no hadn’t yet blue them said isn’t,” he says more slowly through cheery, yellowing teeth. Dora looks at her mom.

“I don’t get it. What’s going on?” She asks, but the others only go on spewing gibberish. Kitty’s laughs are growing louder and more theatrical and Jeremy’s eyes now seem to be glued shut to his stupid smile.

Just then, one of the framed photos of an old Applebee’s falls to the ground and shatters somewhere close behind their table. Dora gasps, but no one else in the whole restaurant seems to notice it. Another photo across the room falls, and more glass flies. She looks around for verification, but no one has even looked up.

“Mom, didn’t you hear that?” she asks Kitty. But her question is met by the most exaggerated laugh yet, her mother throwing her head back so far that Dora worries it might fall off.

“Breadsticks Unlimited Breadsticks Unlimited!” Jeremy screams. Dora hasn’t even noticed that he has left, but here he is again, the very picture of insanity. He lays eight more baskets of Olive Garden breadsticks on the table. Another picture falls.

He sits down next to cackling Kitty this time and begins to touch her face softly. “You,” he coos, feeding her breadstick after breadstick. “You.” Smash goes more glass.

Then, the music starts. At first it seems to flow out of nowhere, but Dora soon realizes that it’s coming out of every crevice in the brick walls, an inexplicable swelling of a heartbreaking string symphony. But, once more, only Dora seems to be aware of it.

“What’s going on?!” she asks  no one this time. “It doesn’t make sense!” Kitty and Jeremy ware kissing now, a revolting mess of blue tongues and low chuckles.

Dora throws her hands up, looking around the room for help but finding none. An elderly couple two booths over is going at some Chicken McNuggets with painful urgency. A group of pierced teenagers is building precarious towers of condiment bottles. A father and his twin sons, all three with flushed red hair, are piling ice cream into their mouths and crying. The music grows louder with every second that passes.

“Craaaaaack,” goes the wall next to her, a gigantic fissure opening up. Not one person flinches at this loud destruction either. Pieces of the brick crumble into what’s left of Dora’s milkshake. Kitty and Jeremy are now in the process of taking off each other’s clothes. Overhead, the hanging lights flicker, faintly swaying back and fourth.

“Stop!” Dora shrieks, unable to think of anything else to say. It feels as if the back pockets of her jeans are glued to the seat, forcing her to stay and watch the world fall apart.

Out of the corner of her eye she sees the old couple finally turn to look at her. However, there is no real comfort in their faces. Finished with their meal, the pair looks utterly lost. Peering closer, Dora sees that the old man has a tiny crack running down the left side of his face. It streams in and out of his forehead wrinkles, through a gray eyebrow and gently down the cheek. The woman too, she notices, has a similar type of slit traveling across her thick freckled arm. Dora searches the room and to her alarm finds that everyone is slowly fracturing this way. There is no blood, she observes; behind these growing openings is only darkness. No one shows even the slightest indication of pain.

At this point the music makes any more pleas useless. Maybe Dora should run out of the restaurant, or shake the others to try and make them see, or call somebody good or 911. But the tragic music and tragic people and the senselessness of it all, together with the crowd’s mutual apathy, make any course of action seem ultimately futile—so she stays sitting.

Above her the ceiling suddenly opens up and giant pewter tiles begin to come crashing down. Dora dives out of the booth onto the floor just in time as one threatens to flatten her. Lying on her stomach, the smell of syrup wafts up from the red carpeting. Kitty and Jeremy are now copulating underneath the table. Violins take over the melody.

Turning over as to not witness the potential conception of her newest sibling, Dora gazes up through the large gap in the ceiling. It is night, and by some absurd grace stars are visible even against the hanging fluorescents that remain. For one moment, looking into the handful of faraway light and listening to bows drift softly across strings, she thinks maybe a person can accept the chaos if it were always this beautiful as it is in that second.

Then she feels a crack. Looking down, she finds it is in her right hand, beginning at the pinky, twisting across the palm, ending in a sliver below the thumb. She does not cry out; it doesn’t hurt. Actually, the fracture feels warm, and somehow, she thinks, like coming home after a long trip away.

The walls have split deeply enough so that the entire building begins to shake, the whole place threatening to give way. Music still sails through the air, mixing with the smell of smoke coming from the kitchen and the icy January breeze. Kitty and Jeremy have finished, and are holding each other tightly as they too began to crack. Dora sees the redhead twins sheltering themselves under the bar, holding hands.

The sight of the twins make her think of being that small, even though she still doesn’t feel so big. Birthday parties and ice-skating and freshly made peanut butter cookies float across her memory, mixing together in a pretty, pleasant way. She feels the crack in her hand crawl further up her arm, and another start at the base of her neck. She closes her eyes and makes herself see more good things: John Deere, their dirty beagle, welcoming her home after school like he had missed her more than anything. Winnie-the-Pooh wallpaper that lined her first bedroom. Her mother before one of her dates, standing in front of a mirror in a red dress from Goodwill, looking like she walked straight out of a magazine. Another crack lunges across her stomach.

Just then Dora feels someone touch the hand that is still whole. She opens her eyes to see Kitty lying next to her, a crooked opening running down the center of her face, Riche Red clinging to the edges.

“I—“ Dora begins in a shaky voice, but Kitty cuts her off.

“Shhhhh,” she whispers kindly, kissing her on the nose. Dora imagines the faint red print her broken lips have left there. Though Kitty is silent, the look in her eyes says, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Examining the crack in her mother from up close, Dora can see that beyond it, where the spongy insides of a person should be, there is nothing. If anything, from this near it is possible to detect in the blackness a faint collection of tiny, distant lights.

Grief Cuisine

 

You would think that at a funeral home, the primo place for people to contemplate their own mortality, that a part of that thought process would include taking into consideration the finite amount of meals left in a person’s life, and that whoever is running this thing from behind one of the many closed doors who doesn’t suddenly have one less family member could spread some fucking mayonnaise on the dozen subpar finger sandwiches. The food here is shit.

The onslaught of casseroles has begun before we’ve even put Owen in the ground. We’re a casserole family now, isn’t that something? One day you’re sitting at your desk at work, or letting your legs dangle off the kitchen counter, or driving to the bookstore thinking, “Hey, you know what I haven’t had for a long time? Green bean casserole. I could really go for some of that. Wow, that sounds really good right now.” Then the next day your brother is dead and the overwhelming urge flows over you to smash half of the glass casserole-cradling dishes and sprinkle the broken shards into the other casseroles and see how comforted that makes everybody feel. But you don’t do that. I won’t do that.

At what point are you supposed to give the casserole dishes back? Nice glassware like that people just don’t give away, even at times like this. What’s the statute of limitations on post-mortem Pyrex returns? Is it more socially acceptable to redeliver the scrubbed-clean dishware before all warmth has left the corpse, or only after you forget the way his face lit up when he found his birthday presents hidden in the dryer last summer?

Ugh, and the deviled eggs. They smell like rotting—like my brother is rotting in the box one room over. Maybe some sadistic employee of the funeral home is doing this on purpose. At least my brother is not splattered with little paprika-colored beads of blood, because there was no blood. There was only water. There was only so much water.

Everyone is sipping coffee out of cups that don’t even keep your fingers from being burned, because that’s the thing you do at a funeral, that’s what you do with your hands instead of pinching yourself to make little bruises as a distraction from watching all the people do default things. Why do they all want to be more awake? Maybe they are trying to wake up. I don’t think the coffee pots are big enough for that.

The desserts, though: on point. No one risked bringing a celebratory-associated cake, so kudos to you friends and neighbors. Can you imagine the sickening frosting-scribbled sayings, anyway? “Greatest Condolences.” “We Miss You Already.” “What A Shame The Lifeguard Had To Use The Bathroom Right Then.” “Bit Of Bad Luck, Really.” “It’s No One’s Fault.” “The Sister Probably Should Have Been Paying Attention But We Can’t Blame Her, Of Course.” “These Things Happen.”

An image of a sheet cake with glaringly white vanilla frosting comes to mind, across it, in a 5 A.M.-hung-over-at-the-bakery-daze, some high school student has half-heartedly written:

"sorry"

May 2015 - Comments Off on Rory Cullen

Rory Cullen

Provincetown

I clutch my knees in crowded rooms.
I sleep through the days like they aren't there.

I can't dream of anything in the din, the crash of bodies
in this Cape Cod colonial. An early moon lies

on my neck like a wet compress. I lap up the pond
of porter on the counter-top. I spy droplets

on my lover's thighs. Outside, men fry. Their sockets
bulge. They stare into the sun. They breach my gaze.

I glaze over. A baritone slinks out of the wreck.
I bare it all to a man clutching a cold Black Shack

& I sink back into what is on draught. His shouts shrink
to whispers in the clatter of the room. What burnt man,

in denim, doesn't dream of the body of a boy
on the brink? His eyes sizzle on the shore. I see him

crush & curl on the cobbled streets of the only place
that will let him live. I see the men I've loved as years

that will never happen. I hold them up
like they will make the universe.

 

Agency versus Fidelity in the Act of Translation

I recall to my mind some words of John Felstiner from his essay "'Ziv, That Light:' Translation and Tradition in Paul Celan." In his essay, Felstiner expounds upon his experience of translating a poem of Celan's, "Nah, im Aortenbogen":

CLOSE, IN THE AORTIC ARCH,
in the bright blood:
the bright word.

Mother Rachel
weeps no more.
Carried across,
all that was wept.

Quiet, in the coronary arteries,
unconstricted:
Ziv, that light. (98)

Felstiner uses the word "quiet" in place of the word "still" in German. He discusses his process for choosing the word: "I need a word meaning motionless as well as soundless. 'Quiet'? yes, that would do. But the symmetry between Nah[1] and Still requires an adjective of one syllable. 'Calm'? 'Hushed'?" He then asks "why not 'still' itself? The adjective fits beautifully, and also we can hear the adverb 'still'... Keats's Grecian Urn, Eliot's music in Four Quartets offer rich precedents for a grammatical ambiguity I think Celan's poem also presents us with. Yet still in German has no sense of something prolonged, enduring..." and then Felstiner asks something which, when I came across it, resonated within me: "ought I to add that idea?" (107)  How much agency does the translator possess in their act of translation? How much are they permitted to presume for themselves? How much of my own voice can I explore while still achieving fidelity?

In Why Translation Matters, Edith Grossman quotes Octavio Paz: "When we learn to speak, we are learning to translate." (75) If we are in accordance we must acknowledge that our every attempt to speak, to write, to learn is an attempt to construct the vocabularies for our inner-lives, to build identities and relate ourselves to the world in which we reside. So what happens when we try to translate the work of another? If one cannot be faithful in the act of translating their own inner life, how will another's language be treated faithfully? Will it not be an inevitable bastardization of the writer's original text? The act of preserving another's intention runs the risk of becoming too "seamless," (a harsh word for a translator according to Edith Grossman) of falling into the shadows and not allowing one's own voice to thrive in the work. On the other hand, a translator insisting upon his or her own voice may become overbearing and we suffer the loss of the original author in the piece. How does one walk that line?

These questions make me think of the first time I well and truly considered the power of translation, of the multifaceted complexity of carrying over the words of another. It came when I read East of Eden, in the form of the Hebrew word Timshel, originating from the story of Cain and Abel. The character Lee speaks of the word and its different translations. He explains that in the King James Bible the word Timshel is translated into "thou shalt rule over sin." In this version, the word is a promise from Jehovah to Cain, an advocacy for predestination. In the American Standard, the phrase becomes "do thou rule over it," and here it is a command from Jehovah to Cain to overcome his base temptation. Lee expresses confusion in the differences between these two translations and then speaks of his experience with studying Hebrew, in an attempt to better understand the original Hebrew text. His studies lead him to discover what he believes to be the closest interpretation of the word Timshel: thou mayest. Placed into context, the phrase would then become "thou mayest rule over sin." This becomes significant for Lee, as he surmises that it must inherently imply "thou mayest not." In his own words: "'Thou Mayest'! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice." (Steinbeck 301)

In the context of the novel, this dialogue is instrumental in assisting the character Adam Trask in finding a newfound purpose in his life, saving him from his own self-destruction. It assures him that no matter how deep the roots of his sin lie, there still remains the chance of redemption, and what's more to the choice to choose that path for himself, the path which has been obscured for so long.

I turned the word over, seeking to understand it not just for the meaning but for its structure. Timshel. There is force in that first syllable, Tim. The English translation captures that force as well as its antiquity, "thou," and with that antiquity comes authority. The auditory force in Tim is found in "thou" as well. It engages the lower register of the voice and insists that one take their time before allowing it to fully leave the mouth and enter into the world. The second part, shel, moves softly, and expands upon its utterance. It spreads into the air and fills the space, and also contains that feeling of necessary prolonging. To my ears it is appropriate that the word should translate to "mayest." "Mayest" holds breadth. "Thou shalt," and "do thou" are too linear, too directed. One phrase predicts the way which will be taken while the other commands the journey. "Mayest" allows for freedom. Together, "Thou mayest" is endowed with a mixture of authority and benevolence, appropriate for the gift that it offers: choice.

The choice is the greatest gift afforded to us: "Thou mayest," and "thou mayest not." It gives humanity an agency that surpasses all beings. Timshel gives us the option to accept what happens to us and let that become the central meaning of our existence. Yet we have the agency to refuse this and instead subscribe to one of our own making. In a sense, this is the supreme gift given to the translator as well. The translator is the humble passageway of thought through language. We strive to explain the internal life and in working to translate another's work we may dilute our own for the sake of achieving that lofty ambition of fidelity to the original author. Yet, to read, to comprehend, to translate is to build; the greatest gift given to the translator is the freedom to construct their truth by experiencing fully the truth of another. One has to adapt to the work, destroy it, love it for its strengths and weaknesses, and learn it as intimately as possible in order to give it its full due; it is the closest reading one can give. We are gifted a choice as to how to approach the work, with the most desirable result being a perfect melding of the language of the original writer along with the identity of the one translating. Of course, nothing is perfect, no matter how hard one tries. Yet, in that futile aspiration one will find beauty being created.

Edith Grossman cites a quote from Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gassett:  "Human tasks are unrealizable. The destiny of Man--his privilege and honor--is never to achieve what he proposes, and to remain merely an intention, a living utopia. He is always marching toward failure, and even before entering the fray he carries a wound in his temple." (67) That fidelity may be unreachable, but it is honest and true and demonstrative of the thorough effort of the translator. When I approach my own work, striving to achieve clarity, and to sift through the pieces of my inner world, I hope to find what may well be my own truth. It could possibly never happen, but I will move closer each time I do so. When I approach my translations, I hope to come close to give that writer the fairest treatment I can. And if I am ever in doubt, I will remember what Adam Trask said to his son Caleb in the final passage of East of Eden. Caleb Trask kneels at his father's bedridden form and asks him for forgiveness. Adam places his hand upon Caleb's head and says but one thing: Timshel! (Steinbeck 601)

 [1] Nah is the first word of the poem, "Nah, im Aortenbogen." Felstiner switches it with "Close."

Bibliography:

Felstiner, John. Ziv, That Light: Translation and Tradition in Paul Celan. The Craft of Translation. Ed. by
John Biguenet and Rainer Schulte.  Chicago. University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Grossman, Edith. Why Translation Matters. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.

Steinbeck, John. East of Eden. New York: Penguin Books, 2002.

 

 

 

 

May 2015 - Comments Off on Phoebe Jordan-Reilly

Phoebe Jordan-Reilly

With Our Special Guest, Steve Buscemi

Steve Buscemi is in rare spirits today
Steve Buscemi is a Brooklyn boy
With taffy eyes and dumpling skin today
I am in an aromatherapy shop
With Steve Buscemi today
And we have been drifting and
We are so cultured
We are brown bag cartographers
Consumerist ethnographers today

Steve Buscemi, we are standing in the
Essential oil section, I say
And you are dripping eucalyptus into your
Worldly ears, you’re a prophet, Steve Buscemi
I have your face in a heart locket, Steve Buscemi
Please: can you tell me how to heal, I say
If I wrap myself under your collar
Can you remind me
How to resign myself to infinity, Steve Buscemi

Steve Buscemi is closing off
Steve Buscemi is inching away, he is in aromatic
Panic, he is glistening
With ochre glaze and closed-captioning
Phrase, and he feels betrayed,
He’ll buy me anything I want, he supplicates,
He found otter milk soap, it smells like snow
Please, he’ll fill my arms with things that smell like home
He’ll wreath my neck with rocks to keep me safe, says Steve Buscemi

But I want to know, Steve Buscemi
Do you know the scent of God, Steve Buscemi
Are you gripped with the absurd
Are you wrapped in vines, do you ache
With your duty to mankind, we
Are slipping, we are bruising something
Hidden, can you share your philosophy
Can you rip out my mentality
Please stop crying, please stop screaming, Steve Buscemi

Steve Buscemi is losing his shit in the incense
Section, his teeth are stripped and streaming
You’re crazy, he tells me, is this a fucking
Joke to you, you’ve felled me
His hands are jittering into time holes
Steve Buscemi has lost track of himself, Steve
Buscemi is knocking everything off the shelves
He’s started an electrical fire, he’s burning sage

Steve Buscemi and I are set ablaze
In the aromatherapy shop today
He’s completely snapped and it’s my fault, I’m afraid
And I hear him howling but I’m uplifted and I have
Shifted, my mouth is full of jasmine smoke
We will be relics of an open day
Steve Buscemi I know you’re hurting
I can hear your flesh crackling but Steve Buscemi
Our ash smells so good.

Rooms

Rooms from Katie Foster on Vimeo.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Parke Haskell

Parke Haskell

Something That Makes Me Different Is That I Love Being Miserable

Fun Fact: You tried to get me wet for thirty
months – i was too busy
not eating to notice.  Did you know –
this page was once a humming tree?

A scraggy tree is full of bugs.
It fills up with flames and begins to buzz.
Did you know the buzzing is the sound of the juicy wet
bugs dying?  Fun fact: they die easy, but there are always

more. O sweet something sing. Something that makes me
different is that I have never been full.
You tell your friends after that my clit is like a cracked
seed in some Sahara.

They laugh and I agree this is amusing because a fun fact
about me is that I only drink water.  I get so thirsty
that eventually, I have to go to the hospital, where they wrap me up
in paper and tell me my electrolytes are off.  We are pressed

between the sheets. My electrolytes are off, I whisper.
I’m hard, you say – your finger flicks inside me
like a moth smacking itself to death
against a sconce. Fun fact:

first, a flower is invisible.
Then, it turns pink and begins to buzz.
Once I pressed a leaf between the pages
of my Norton Anthology – it turned thin

and veiny like a cock or anorexic.
Around the leaf, a puddle spreads out,
blurring the words of the dead
white men I love.

I love you skinny leaf I killed to keep
from humming – O sweet something sing – you can't see
a bug's mouth unless you look – and why would you?
Did you know that I am inside the swarm?

Fun Fact: A bunch of bugs land on a flower.
They eat and eat and it makes them super horny.
They cum like sixty billion more bugs and die.
Your hands are the hands of a delinquent boy scout –

They strike at the flint -- strike, sweet
misery – strike at the center of me – fill up
the empty.  I know you want to hear the music.
I know you want to see a cracked seed burn.

Pink

 

The first time I had a panic attack I was four.
I had the perfect day then I realized I was dying.
My mother found me crumpled like a big pink tissue
sobbing I have a body, I have a body.
 
Every day I wake up and say “I wish I was skinny” –
but what I really mean is “I wish I was a poem.”
Then I hang out with my friends Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath
They get all their wishes because they are dead forever.

The only thing better than an armadillo is a pink armadillo.
The only thing better than a squash is a ripe pink squash.
The only thing better than a bottle is a poem in a bottle
A poem who is a genie who thinks only of you.

Why marry a woman who is not a pink woman?
Why read a word that is not pink?
In a poem there is no difference between being and becoming.
There is no reason not to want the prettiest thing.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Nikolina Lazetic

Nikolina Lazetic

Sowing in the Motherland (Which I Have Abandoned)

Floods are so common there that I was born with an ocean tattooed on my feet:

Excuse my drowning, I am shallow.

		   

Scoured cicatrix of words
not of my mother tongue and unknown to my mother,
						who had no childbearing hips, slips
off my tongue-
              unbraiding
 pre-Raphaelite hair (a rip-off of sharp hay)
          honey-sealed (impassable for fingers),
adorned in olive oil, collapses
heavy on the lips – first ever lover's;

This inexorable Tongue, a terrible gallop
of echoes - a language
                      unzips your chest:

“Hey.”


Rest.
     Like a vulture
I seize the tongue wet with sighs in my mother tongue:
Mother – boy, nurture
              the azure
of my sangue.                                  

I hold it like I would hold a snake, 
                                    this mouth-blade
of bleached sighs and past goodbyes that moistened
my thighs:                  
I wrap it around my finger – your tongue,
                             my umbilical cord -
and I wed
the past again. I hold
the limb of you against my naval, then pull it by the head
up - unzipping to debride.


Inside: 
      I am pink and gold. 
                You fold
the tongue against my lung. Sighs unfurl 
into the Type O Strawberry Blonde. 
    
Stop. 
        You cannot breathe against my chest. Smoke
the sugar of it all - You have finally consumed your past. 

It will choke
you.                                                 

May 2015 - Comments Off on Molly Kirschner

Molly Kirschner

I Forgot

about the moon, so she grew, she
blew up and lit up and fixed me
with a look.

So I came as close as I could.

I lay my back against the grass. Here I am.
The mouth of the earth waters and I thirst
for the stars of three summers ago.
For the stars that were shared.

A branch reaches down to pull me up.
We just shake hands.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Maddy Moberg

Maddy Moberg

Hurt Me Here

Burning flesh smells like cooked meat. Noah knows because he takes a lighter to his arm, and watches as it eats away at the hair and skin. It hurts like a motherfucker. He rubs salt into the groove afterward, clenching his teeth.

His mother doesn’t ask him about it the day after. Noah wraps it up in gauze, secures it with a butterfly snap. Ron asks him about it. Noah says, “I burned myself.” Ron snorts and pushes Noah against a wall, and opens the gauze. He looks at the wound. “That’s fucking nasty,” he murmurs, and bites around it, creating a red ring around the pit of the burn.

They smoke in Ron’s garage that evening. Ron rolls a joint on the floor, the cold seeping through the rug, in through their jeans, and into their skin. When he’s done, Ron lifts the joint to his lips and wraps his mouth around it, pulls in. He lets the smoke out after a while, watching it as it drifts up to the ceiling. Noah smokes next, the two alternating in the quiet of the garage.

Ron pulls in another drag, then stubs out the mostly dead joint. He slowly blows the smoke up before dropping the snubbed end into the bin. He reaches over to Noah. Noah doesn’t move as Ron cups his face, turning his head. Ron presses his lips on Noah’s neck, careful and sweet, before he pulls aside the collar of his shirt, and bites his shoulder, hard, hard enough that Noah wonders if it’s bleeding.

“You better not having fucking rabies, man,” Noah says.

“Got rid of that shit ages ago,” Ron says, and Noah laughs.

Ron’s funny, Noah thinks.

He’s funny.

Noah follows Ron up to his bedroom–his parents are out for the night. He sits on the bed next to Ron, thighs touching as they stare out the window, eyes dry. Then Ron turns to Noah and pushes him down into the bed. The bed is more comfortable than the cold floor of the garage. Noah stares out at the small plastic dinosaurs relegated to the closet in the corner of the room. They are bent and some are missing parts, all tangled together, sharp ends and sharper teeth.

Ron pulls off Noah’s shirt, flips him over so he can bite along his spine. Noah stares at the dinosaurs. Stares until they blur out of focus and all he can see is the dark green spot where they used to be.

Ron murmurs into Noah’s spine, “Can I burn you?”

Noah pauses, pressing his face into the pillow, which smells like sweat and Ron’s shampoo. Whispers into it, “Yeah. Yeah, okay.”

Ron reaches into his back pocket, pulls out his lighter. He flicks it, watching the flame for a moment, and then holds Noah’s arm above it. He moves the lighter a bit, watching as it rolls on Noah’s skin.

Noah doesn’t say anything, but when the flame begins to burn past the oils of his skin, his eyes water. Ron moves the lighter in a tight circle, pressing the fire up into Noah’s arm, creating a mark small but so indelible it radiates through his bones. Noah whispers, “Stop.” Ron flicks his thumb off the lighter, and slips it into his back pocket. Noah sits up, bare feet hanging off the edge of the bed. He cradles his arm to his chest, and looks.
It’s ugly: pink and raw and peeling at the edges, fresh skin trying to escape the pit. The center looks wet. Ron smiles when he sees it, and leans down. Before Noah can jerk his arm away, Ron’s biting around it again, ringing it, a house surrounded by a white picket fence. Noah chokes on a sob. Ron looks up at Noah’s face. “Shhh,” he whispers, holding Noah’s head in between his hands. Tears run down Noah’s face, and he can do nothing to stop them, just grab Ron’s arms, and hold on.

The one time Ron came over to Noah’s house was alright. Ron walked in around midnight, idly glancing over the place. Noah’s mom was sitting on the couch, sipping beer and watching TV.

Ron said, “This cool, Noah? With her, or whatever?”

Noah just shrugged, said, “She doesn’t notice.” Her slumped figure seems molded into the aged couch, her lumps mirrored in the padding.

Ron had shrugged too, followed Noah into his room.

Ron left a particularly horrific bite mark on Noah’s inner thigh. So perfect and intense that Noah could see each separate tooth mark. He traced it in the shower the next morning, watching as water sluiced over it.

Noah used to bring home girls at first. Girls and girls and girls: pretty girls, happy girls, drunk girls. High girls. He would bring them in, arm slung around their shoulders. Pull them into his bedroom as they giggled and posed questions about his mother. It’s fine, it’s fine, she doesn’t mind, he would murmur into their perfumed necks, repeating the words until they were placated.

When he brought home his first boy, he was burnt out of his mind, a pile of ashes wrapped in a dry carcass. The boy had his arm slung around Noah’s shoulder, and he was pressing wet kisses on Noah’s neck. He didn’t ask about Noah’s mother. Noah slowly stumbled his way to his room, the boy letting Noah lean on him heavily. The boy closed the door behind them, the sound echoing through the apartment, unsettling the dust on the crooked floorboards.
Noah stops bringing people home after he brings Ron.

The burn on his arm is swollen and puffy, full of pus. Noah is tempted to poke the bulb with a pin, but he’s more chickenshit than anything so he leaves it be. Noah wonders why injuries get swollen. Like they’re trying to put themselves further out there, like trying to point out to everyone: this is where I’m hurt, this is where I’m sore. If you want to hurt me, hurt me here.

The next day, Noah goes over to Ron’s. They sit in the garage, huddled around a space heater on an old rug. They split a bowl, and then Ron drinks a beer while Noah smokes a cigarette.

Ron puts down the empty bottle, and pushes Noah to the ground. He doesn’t do anything for a while, just sits next to him, stares down at his face. Noah doesn’t ask why. Noah waits, feeling the nubby rug against his back. It smells like spilled beer and weed, and he watches Ron. Ron leans down, kisses Noah’s mouth, bites his lower lip. Leaves nasty hickies by his collarbone because Noah hates them.

Ron leaves a truly horrific hickey on Noah’s cheek, near his hairline. Noah feels him leave it, tells him, “Stop, you’re ruining my gorgeous face, man.”

Ron just bites at the spot, and says, “Nah, nothing could ruin your gorgeous face,” before leaning down to suck and bite at it further.

When Noah gets home, he stares at the hickey in the mirror. It’s fucking disgusting and deeply purple, red emanating from the mark like fire. He pokes at it, prods it with his fingernails. Leaves moon-shaped gouges in it.

The next day, Noah can’t even pretend to hide the mark along his cheekbone, so he goes to school with his hair pulled away from his face. He knows when people see it, watching as their eyes slide across his cheek to the bruise. His homeroom teacher downright stares, so he flashes her a smile and rests his chin on his hand so she can get a better look. At lunch, Ron and Noah sit on the back steps, drinking boxed chocolate milk and smoking cigarettes. Ron laughs at Noah’s face and says, “You know concealer is a thing, right?”

“Yeah, well, I’d rather just have a huge hickey instead of a crappily hid one,” Noah says, leaning his head onto Ron’s shoulder.

Ron runs his hand through Noah’s hair, and Noah closes his eyes.

Noah goes out some nights, on the weekends, meeting up with friends he hasn’t seen in weeks. They meet in abandoned alleys or fields, warehouses. Noah watches as they take shots, scrunching up their noses at the taste. Then they head out, arms slung over shoulders, voices drifting through the air. Usually they hit up a party. Noah separates from the group, off into the thickest of the crowd, letting people surround him. Takes a small pill out of his pocket, sticks it on his tongue and swallows. He stands, still, and waits for it to hit. The bodies around him sway and jostle, and he lets himself be moved by the crowd. He closes his eyes, the flashing lights reflecting on his eyelids.
When it hits, and he opens his eyes, and the lights are swirling and bright. Noah feels like he could forget anything, everything. The music thrums through him–he’s a conduit, sparks running along his veins. The world feels like an inkblot around him, rich and vibrant and alive, moving how he moves, the thrum of heat pulsing through everyone like a live wire.

Suddenly there’s a boy, a blond boy, in front of him. Noah smiles, the grin stretching his muscles up into the back of his head. The boy walks over, and kisses Noah on the mouth. Noah feels the boy’s hands on his hair, at the back of his neck, and then moving down to his hips, pulling him in, closer. Noah smiles into the kiss and the boy murmurs, “Hey, wanna get out of here?”

“Okay,” Noah replies, eyes closed. The boy takes Noah’s hand, leading him through the noise and the warmth, until a door opens with a horrific creak and the cool air sinks deep into Noah. Noah still feels incredibly warm, as if the cold is only quickening his pulse. The boy presses Noah against the cold wall of the building next door. Noah shivers, and the shiver seems uncontrollable, shattering its way through his body like glass against the floor. The boy presses his mouth against Noah’s. His tongue feels like heaven, or angels, or something else Noah doesn’t believe in–but right now, he could. He would form a religion of tongues, if he could. The boy takes Noah’s hand again. They walk out into the night, Noah smiling at the boy, the pavement, the sky. The boy seems charmed by Noah, and why the fuck shouldn’t he be. This is the Noah he always wants to be. The boy rests a hand on the back of Noah’s neck, a hot brand.

They come to a crummy apartment building, the bricks faded and some crumbling near the edges. Noah wraps his hand and fingers more fully into the boy’s. The boy mentions something about a third floor walk-up, and then they’re taking the stairs. The stairs creak under their weight and Noah thinks he hears the thumping of a headboard against a wall. But none of that matters because Noah revels in the feeling of how warm the boy is, a human ablaze. Someone who could burn a person to ashes and still leave them whole.

He’s being pushed, back, back, hitting the wall of the boy’s bedroom. A warm hand grips the back of his neck, and they’re kissing again. Noah thinks he might be making noise, but it all seems to buzz outwards from him, dissolving into the air before he can tell whether he’s said anything. The boy presses his chest against Noah’s, and god, that feels amazing. Noah feels like he’s living in a burrito, or a pile of blankets, or he’s tucked in a nest.
The boy slams Noah’s head back into the wall, biting at his neck. Noah is vaguely aware that there are going to be more hickies tomorrow, but at the moment, that seems sweet, almost reverent. A hand grips the back of his skull, and he’s going down, down, until his knees crack onto the floor.

It’s not always Ron, but it usually feels like it is.

A few hours later, Noah wakes up in bed with the boy, curled a few inches from him in a tight ball. He retrieves his shirt from the corner of the room and zips his jeans. He uses the toilet in the small bathroom before staring at himself in the mirror. He has deep purple bruises beneath his eyes, and his lips are chapped. His jaw is tight, sore, and his ears are still a bit red at the tips. Noah runs a hand through his hair and winces when he comes in contact with a bump roughly the diameter of a golf ball at the base of his skull. He presses at it, tenderly, watches his face contort in pain. He splashes water on his face, sipping some from his cupped palms and swishing it around his mouth. He spits it out, sticky spittle hanging from lower lip. He wipes it off with the back of his hand. His jacket is slung over a chair, and he picks it up before leaving the apartment.
The stairs groan underneath him as he goes.

Because his mom is home, Noah walks to Ron’s house. Ron says that Noah’s mom freaks him out; he won’t go over if she’s there, and Noah can’t say he disagrees. So he goes to Ron’s. When Noah walks through the door, Ron stares at the hickey on his neck and whistles lowly. “That boy did a number on you,” he murmurs, “I don’t even go that hardcore.”
“Whatever, I think he was on coke,” Noah mutters. “He fuckin’ smashed my head against the wall too,” he says, feeling around the back of his scalp for the bump. It’s tender and raised. Noah folds himself into the chair where Ron’s sitting. They barely fit, not since middle school–Noah’s more on top of Ron that anything–but Noah refuses to stop, despite how their bony hips fit together. Ron runs his hand through Noah’s hair and drags his fingers over the bump. Noah winces slightly; Ron murmurs a small apology and wraps his arms around Noah’s waist. Ron rests his chin on Noah’s shoulder, the tip of bone digging into muscle. Ron kisses the inside of Noah’s neck, but then just leans and hugs tighter. It’s on the edge of too tight, almost painful, but Noah leans back into Ron’s chest, letting the back of his head hit the headrest. The back of his head is sore, and the pain in his arm is flaring up again, but Noah can only really feel Ron’s heat.

It’s getting late- almost 4am, but they like to wait until the sleepiness becomes its own mind-altering substance, when the edges of everything become softer. They fall asleep on the rug in the garage, facing each other, Ron cradling Noah’s burnt arm close to his chest.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Mica Evans

Mica Evans

Offering

Head to head with him, Summer
to Fall, and we can’t hear each other.
I hurt. I call it off.
But walking through Vermont, I cannot
help but imagine our life
in a Colonial home, maybe off
of Route 7, yellow, with brick
accents and room for the kids. Oh,
and his thick
Israeli hands withdraw
after minutes of clasping my Black,
fat hips which he saw uncovered
at the lake and still held firmly.
I press
my face into his neck and inhale. I lie.
I hurt. He likes
my body so I write him
poems, delete them, have sex
with people that aren’t him, and his thick
Israeli beard still catches my eye
from up the hill. I swig. I yell.
I will not continue to sin against myself! Oh!
And I just don't want to be alone!
And I want to be able to say this!
I don’t want to be alone.
I want to be able to say this.

 

Scientific Awakenings in the Great North East

Standing in a drizzle, equidistance between each of their homes, the man and the woman speak, but struggle to find the right words. The man takes his cap on and off, almost touches the woman's shoulder, and says, “Seeing you now. Missing you here, before you leave.” She replies, “Yes, your voice. Right in front of me. And these feelings.” The woman fiddles in her pocket with the lipstick she had worn, in hopes that the man would notice, and recognize that he loves her and loves her, the way a folk singer might. The man says, ”Your hair, your lipstick. Wow, your voice.” He puts his hand on her shoulder. The woman looks down, fluttering, sees her reflection in a puddle, and notices the bags beneath her eyes. “Seeing you now, I know I’ll miss you, even before you leave.”

Thomas Circle 8:49AM

The women, in knee length skirts are under 5 foot 5, sighing
into their bluetooth defibrillators, do not move quickly enough for my taste,
cannot be brisk enough for risk of ripping skirt or being
afraid of all these people on the street, do not speak to me
on the bus or even at the coffee shop, I am not
their cup of tea.

The women have taken great care, in glossy bathrooms, tiles
still white and mirrors in 3 different locations, to
silkify their hair, their skin, their nails, ward
the pain of pale faces on display, and glow
beneath the awnings on 13th. I think they can’t see me;
when I ash on their boots, it’s not malicious ‘cause I have nothing to do.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Mary Alice Stewart

Mary Alice Stewart

How Birds Are Born

And the hair appears
in the fist, even
though I never
will it. It is simple.
The twining brain tells
the hands, plainly, “The hair
is not useful there. The hair
would be of more use
as parts of a bird’s nest––
something important.
How silly the black
squiggles cowlick over
the skull–– this is not
important.” And like
clockwork, the hair
is in the fist again.
The hair is dead.
I am dead.
The hair a collection
of dead.
I, myself, a collection
of dead.
Somewhere, a bird spills into the sky––
legs branching toward
the distant ground.
What shall I name myself today?
I look again. Still cocooned in the fist
is a tomb of dry, black curls.
The twining brain tells
the hands, plainly, “Birds would be born
in a nest of us. Worms would be
fed of us–– this is important.”
The hands open.
Somewhere, a bird quilts a nest.

Decomposition

Once the ground. Once the ground, I opened. Sillies,
once the ground & it’s hurt of quick light. Once I was a rooted
thing of blood. Just another organ of ground––
	my belly
full of greens that never were quite mine. When green
broke open, half-digested, into blood, the pieces left of me
	berried
across black, pitch ground. I turned roadkill

once & there I stayed because the light of hurt never looks back.
	Roadkilling,
the equalizer, feeds a hungry, hungry beast–– a Sillies
beast that opens things to rot on hard, hard ground. Berried
blood evaporating in the beast’s own air. I exoskeleton wish often
	but my soft rooted
in animal body–– a body always searching for green
& green safety. I, an open belly,
am ghost of many (deer-chipmunk-bunny-frog-possum). I, an open belly

am full of blood & lives & once thought the ground held it all.
	A roadkill
dream: Once the ground. Once the green.
Once remembered. Once bodies unopened. Once simple decay
	in ground. A Sillies
dream. I am opened by the hurt of quick light again & again & again.
	My once rooted
pieces of whole turn half then half then half then half then half––
	littering a berried

ground of ghosts who selfishly wish for soft surfaces to sneak into.
	A surface berried
with rot like jewels. A cyclic blood. In every unopened belly
of living, there is a pit of death too. Rooted
in life is so much hurt–– a hurt to open. Perhaps, this is why asphalt
	is closed to roadkill.
Bellies lie fallow on asphalt ground like smalls of water on spider webs.
	Sillies,
our country of ground was always shrinking while beasts grew
	to disrupt green.

Sillies of now, sillies of ghosts, we blindly saw the sweet
	of green
& grew to need it like a god. Green is bleeding now & berried
in landscape is the nothing of the hungriest beasts. Who has been the Sillies,
	Sillies? 
Once the ground, I unopened. Once the ground, the infinite belly
of Earth. Once the ground, once I babies. Babies of mine––
	we all roadkill
ed. No mercy by the hurt of quick light. We once family, rooted

to ground–– green ground. There is too much that paws can not mend.
	Now, we silently rooted
to the dead, dead air. Oh, the vanishing green,
where are you hiding? Sillies, we must find it before
	we all roadkill.
So much of life is hurt when there is no under-
	ground, instead, berried
ground of miscellaneous tails & guts & furs & opened
	belly––
once, a body. A body that was never quite ours. Sillies,

perhaps it is Sillies to wallow in too much life. Perhaps there
	is supposed to be nothing, Sillies.
Here is my open belly. Here is my babies open belly. Here is decay––
	a warm, warm belly.
The hurt light comes again & again & again & we are smaller than
	before.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Lucas Marten

Lucas Marten

“ `ffffff kj oip noinppi tyhgnajfrq pwxyz. nbv twt 222 665 hijwvuk “

What may look, to the untrained and unexperienced eye, like a typical button mash on a standard computer keyboard, was actually an unfortunately intentional sequence. It isn’t a code. It isn’t a message. James L. Pedagon, its author, had very meaningfully typed each and every letter, and number, and whatever else had come to mind at the moment.

You see, James L Pedagon was high as fuck when he typed that. With no other recourse, poor and unsuspecting James had lit up and fucked his life forever hereafter. Everybody knew as soon as it happened.

James used to be quite the equestrian; his horse, Lord Goring, was his close partner through many a successful jump.

Now, fucked.

James used to teach basic math to preschoolers.

Fucked.

James used to be an avid student of the flute and Schopenhauer.

Fucked. From this moment on, James is no longer in any condition to do
anything.

Joanne had said never to smoke as an escape. It seemed like a paradox now. Everything seemed like a paradox now. Lord Goring was right, haha.

“ Haha, wait, haha. ”

He is a demon. James had become a demon, perhaps the Devil himself.

For the rest of his life, people will see him and know exactly who he is and what he is. They will tell their children to look away from James the Demon because, of course, everyone will know him. They will know him for the deep scratches on his skin. His shoes: always the same. His fingernails: a mess, except that one. And his eyes. His bloodshot, dazed and confused, demonic EYES are always the kicker. Don’t look, Watson. That’s what happens. James the Demon. He used to work with kids. HOW? I don’t know.

Is there a way out of his seeming fate? Is demonhood the only option? Can James turn it all around, right now, and have the world open its arms back up to The Prodigal James ever again?

No.

James is fucked. Forever. Fucked. Forever.

There’s nothing anyone can do. One strike rule, and James will have many more strikes. One and done, more and demonhood. James the Demon.

Nice to have known you, James. Such a good boy, gone to waste. Could have been President of the United States, could have steered the great ship of democracy and shined the light on many a foreign shore.

James, do you even know how to make coffee?

May 2015 - Comments Off on Lily Arnell

Lily Arnell

I Am The Piece of Elevated Sidewalk You Stumble Over

I will buy a sausage, egg, and cheese from McDonald's.
They will forget the egg and I will not tell them.
I will eat half in my car and think it's a good compromise.
About 3 minutes later, while driving, I will unwrap it and begin eating the remaining half of the sausage, egg, and cheese.
I will ask myself, "What am I doing?"
I will not know how to answer.
I will not stop.
I will taste onion and I won't feel good about it.
I will eat the rest of the sandwich and feel proud when i don't taste onion again.
I will try to imagine the contents of the meat I just ate.
I will convince myself that I have to vomit.
I will chant: Breathe in, I am here, breathe out, I am here.
I will feel distracted and a little more calm.
I will scratch my head and realize I haven't showered in 3 days.
I will listen to the radio and realize that I really, truly enjoy 80's punk music.
I will say "I want to die" when I pull into the driveway of the college i'm attending.
I will park my car and pull back my greasy hair into a ponytail.
I will re-do it several times and each time it will look no different than the first attempt.
I will be the first in the classroom.
I will be 30 minutes early.
I will sit in the back row all the way to the left and i'll like it.
I will not talk and i'll like it.
I will nod my head when my teacher says things like, "okay?" or "right?"
I will imagine a romantic relationship with my philosophy teacher.
I will tell myself that I have 'daddy-issues.'
I will not care.
I will smile at people who don't smile back.
I will commit to reading when around people.
I will feel alienated and I will know it's mostly my own fault.
I will not care.
I will look stupid all day.
I will want to bury myself under a picnic table.
On the way to my room, I will hope that my roommate is in class.
She will be knitting on her bed and listening to Serge Gainsbourg and I will think, "I want to die."
I will stand in the doorway and smile like an idiot.
I will not know how to behave.
I will say stupid things.
I will say I'm going to library.
I will get high in my car and feel paranoid.
I will think about good things to say to my roommate and other people.
I will fuck up every conversation I ever have with anyone.
I will announce that I'm autistic so people perceive my strangeness as out of my control.
I will get a tattoo as a form of passive self-mutilation.
I will cut off my hair to feel something like 'excited.'
I will look at my phone and see that it's only 2:00 PM.
I will sigh and think "I want to die" when I remember that there will always be tomorrow.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Katie Yee

Katie Yee

Parental Discretion Advised

From Monday to Friday, nine to five, my job was to look at porn. By that I mean I used to work the day shift at the Whitney on the Upper East Side, and I have seen a lot of weird things pass as art. Weapons in showcases. Black and white videos of people pacing an empty room. Large paint splatters, like pigeon crap. What looks like a first grader’s attempt at drawing his house. And every time they brought in a new exhibit, I thought I could have done that, but that’s just it, isn’t it? I could have, but I didn’t. Someone else did. And now they’re probably living the good life. Maybe not Vacation House Along The French Riviera Good, but Attending Gallery Openings With An Open Bar Good, and that’s better than what I had.

What I had was five days a week of staring at four walls filled with things I could have created, but didn’t. A constant reminder of my wasted potential.

The summer I got divorced, the Whitney—all four floors—had just opened their Jeff Koons exhibit. He mostly does sculptures that look like they’re made of that balloon material. But they filled the third floor—my old station—with porn. Giant larger-than-life oil on canvas paintings so real they look like they blown-up photographs. The recurring naked body of a blonde lady and Koons himself, either with his face buried in some part of her or staring point-blank back at you with this smug smile, and all his teeth are showing.

And my job was to look at that all day. To look at that, and to watch people look at that, which I admit was kind of entertaining when it was a family with small children. Except nine times out of ten, I got yelled at for not issuing a warning. During times like these, I pointed to the small sign painted in thin black letters in the doorway: PARENTAL DISCRETION ADVISED.

Sometimes parents shrank away, covering their kid’s eyes, but sometimes they used these so-called signs as fuel for their fire and lecture me for a good many minutes more on the preservation of innocence and childhood. Sometimes they asked me, rhetorically, “If you were a parent, would you be okay with your kid being exposed to this?!” In these instances, I could have said a lot of things. Yes—obnoxiously, flippantly, for one thing. No—apologetically, shyly for another. I could have been a pretentious asshole and lectured back about how deeply submerged our culture is in media, where images far worse than these are readily available.

But I liked those parents best because the truth is I’ve thought about this a lot. If I had kids. If I had kids. Would I cover their eyes, skip this gallery altogether? Or just let them look? Would they even want to? Would they be museum-going types? Would they be curious about art—spectators or creators? Would there even be two of them? Boys or girls or both?

For a boy: Jon—without the “h.”

For a girl: Sarah—with it.

After my divorce, my therapist thought I needed a change of pace, so now I work the night shift. There are no people to discourage from using flash photography. There are no people, period.

Once, I stood naked in front of a Jeff Koons painting on the third floor. I stripped down completely, fingers clumsily untying my uniform tie, kicking my khaki-colored pants from around my ankles as Jeff Koons stared down at me. My eyes bleary, maybe a little confused. His, full of intention. My thick neck, a double-chin. His one. My stomach, obstructing view of my lower half. His, close to the bones, structured. My arms, shaking, weighed down with flesh. His, toned but not overly muscular, spread out in ecstasy but also as if to say Look at all I’ve done.

I stood there, goose bumps piling onto my body. I read the painting plaque. Jeff Koons is divorced too. From a former porn star who was also a member of the Italian Parliament. Now he’s married to another artist and they have six kids. At night, I think about what their names might be.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Julia Wohlstetter

Julia Wohlstetter

A Log A Leg

Last night, there was a party in the woods. A word-of-mouth kind of party. If you can find it, you’re welcome. People came in droves—populating the quiet darkness with shouts and song, someone lit a bonfire, someone brought a keg—up the north trail, just beyond the edge of the woods, on top of the ridge, where you can see the little dipper. None of us can find the big one, and we spend a long time walking in circles, heads thrown back in vain. These were people we didn’t know, Clara and I, but drunkenness is a great equalizer, a friend finder, sometimes. Sometimes not: I think I see Clara and the unknowns walking back into the trees, and I run after, calling for her…

Once I woke up in a car in pitch darkness, when I was young. My sister and I were tangled in the backseat—our legs some kind of sailors knot so that we could both sleep “comfortably” during a road-trip. When I woke, I did not know where I was and could not feel my legs. If you spend long enough in darkness, your eyes adjust. You stop seeing the imprinted colors on your eyelids—what light has left behind—and shapes that dissolve and reform themselves into to people or beasts. There are some things you only believe in the dark: I forgot my sister and our parents. I truly thought I was dead.

As I am running through the trees, someone puts a Beyoncé song on at the party and I trip over a log. A leg. I trip over, what is in fact, a leg. I found a body alone and inert. I couldn’t move for a long time—suddenly in the car again, the feeling gone from my legs, thinking, “this is it”. There is blood on my hands, but I can’t tell if it is mine Not the same clothes, not even the same hair, but undeniably, I was seeing my own face. My body. What am I doing out here? As I sit with myself, crouching over wondering, listening to the echo of Beyoncé, there is a noise close by, a cellphone ringing. Pacing, maybe I am just imagining it. Maybe, I thought, if I stay long enough, she will reanimate. Or become someone other than myself. The noise is getting closer, so I run.

“Just off the switchback”, I call down to Clara whose uneven breath marks our steps up the sun-speckled trail. “Just here, I swear.” I do not tell Clara that I found myself lying dead in the woods, I lie and say it was some other girl. How do you explain that? Today, I don’t see blood on the leaves.

Curious. I wonder how does one get rid of so much of it?

Study Abroad

Zoe turns to me “I wanna see his dick…for research.” I’ve heard it all before. Before this bar, before she vomits on the floor, before we are kicked out. Everything is done for research, this is our excuse.

The bartender is high on cocaine and shifts anxiously from one foot to the other. He is telling me about his French girlfriend. “I moved. All the way from Barcelona. For a girl and a shitty job. The fucking French…” That’s a long way, I say. But I don’t really think so, not as far as I’ve come, and I don’t even have a shitty job.

“I just wanna see it “ Zoe whispers in my ear. The bartender shifting so quickly now it looks like he is dancing as he pours more purple, green and flaming poisons. Then a moment later, the lights are on and whatever Zoe just drank is all over the floor. She didn’t get to do any research, but life is full of second chances.

We meet Dylan. A strange kind of frat boy who has done everything—fencing, sailing, rapping, math club, poetry, cooking, French, model U.N. –but is interested in nothing. He tells us that he picks up girls by writing raps based on their names. He has a brand on his ass, smashes bottles, and dips us on the dance floor. Zoe slaps him in the face, I’m not sure why. She storms away and then falls. They start making out. Mercifully, neither remembers the vomit.

Later, two French boys walk us home. They tell us we are pretty. That we are very young to be here. That we speak so well. It is so surprising to meet a smart American, one says to me.

They always tell us these things. As if by force of repetition they would become true. We are their exceptions to the rule that all Americans are tasteless, foolish and materialistic.

I am always the smartest American you have met, the prettiest, the best at French. You tell me the best way to learn is to have a French boyfriend, this too I have heard already. You can’t have met many girls. Or maybe you’ve just met too many. I smile too much. I laugh too much too, and probably give you the wrong idea. But its all for research, I mean, that’s what I’m here for right?

May 2015 - Comments Off on Joey Grantham

Joey Grantham

The Actress

He falls in love with the actress because she’s a different woman everyday. When she leaves the house in the morning she’s his wife. In the afternoon, she’s someone else. When she returns home at night she’s his wife again. One day she’ll be a brunette, the next a blonde. One day she’ll have a southern accent, the next a Cockney. She gives him time to think about worthless things. She makes money and sees results; a finished product. He’s stuck thinking about a novel he cannot possibly write because he wasn’t there at the right time or place and hasn’t seen enough interesting things in his life and doesn’t have the stamina to pretend each day that he has.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Isabella Casey

Isabella Casey

Wood

Hello,

I am one nasty carpenter with one nasty mouth. I am currently building a giant wooden udder the size of a giant loaf of bread. I have transcribed thirty-seven naughty phrases into different languages on each teat. I will place it inside of the elementary school (which I built) and force all of the children to look at it. I will convince them that if they do not appreciate my carpentry that they will die of the black plague.

If you are in need of romance or romance advice, I am unavailable. I cannot find you a hot date. I cannot teach you how to woo another. I cannot assist you with romance of any kind; I must focus on my woodwork.

My woodwork is very special. I make everything with my hands. I have made a gallery of noses and on each nose I carved the names of all of the trees that your grandfather has made out with/slept with/cuddled/ killed. I have multiple stacks of paper and on each of them is a sonnet about my love for wood.

If I could marry any kind of wood I would marry Knotty Pine because it is the naughtiest of woods. When we are together I feel extra popular! I like feeling popular! It means I am the man/woman of the trees. I can build whatever I want, like an airplane full of jokes or a termite full of pantyhose. I just really like stuffing things with pantyhose.

I am also a bachelor/spinster of some sorts. I have the contact information of every type of wood in my cell phone. Every day I call one up and plan a hike/date/boat ride or plan to slice him/her in half. If the woods are lucky I will wrap them up in pantyhose and call them beautiful lady.

This is just business, so I would like to keep things casual. I am looking for an assistant not a person to kiss on the mouth. I am looking for people to buy my woodwork and anyone who would like to discuss my woodwork with or without me. If you are interested write me a letter, since that is the most qualified form of communication these days.

Thanks,
the man/woman of the trees.

Ugly

ugly from Bathroom Poet on Vimeo.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Syeda Rumana Mehdi

Syeda Rumana Mehdi

How you left me

The cold wind blew the tiny frock,
My little feet throbbed with pain each time I stumbled over a jagged piece of rock,

The pale sun hung high in the sky,
Its barely warm streaks of light seemed like a promising lie,

My hazel eyes stared at the crimson drops of blood on the ground,
My heart beat accelerated each time I imagined the intensity of the wound,

It was eerily quiet,
Not another soul in sight,

Last night, this barren ground was a battlefield,
It was here that the future of the unfortunate was sealed,

They say my brother was among those who were killed,
That his blood was mercilessly spilled,

I moved on, walking past the dead,
Lost in the memory of my brother reading me stories in bed,

I had been dreaming happily when they dragged him out of the house,
My sweet dream became a living nightmare when they raped his spouse,

They say he is here somewhere,
Lying in this terrifying place that resembles Satan's lair,

I call out his name, waiting for him to respond,
My brother knows I need him, we had always shared a special bond,

I stumbled yet again but not over stone,
I looked down, fell on the ground and let out a soft moan,

I cradled his head in my frail arms, tears falling all over his mangled face,
His image swam before my eyes, my poor brother who had been the epitome of charm and grace,

The brother who would never hug me again,
The brother who had been brutally slain,
The sun hid behind dark clouds,
I could now hear screams and shouts.

I walked in the descending dark, clutching the head to my chest,
Determined to find a nice place for my brother to rest,

The silence was broken by a single gun shot,
I recited all the prayers I had been taught,

For the third time, I stumbled and fell,
This time, I would not rise again, I could tell,

My tiny fingers tightened around the head,
My hazy vision full of my brother reading stories in bed,

May 2015 - Comments Off on Hannah Lipper

Hannah Lipper

In winter you are a lady in summer you are a lightening

Uncle you come to me dressed
in the fabric of seasons dressed
in cold light calling summer
calling. You slip through
the screens of my windows
beyond the meadow at night you
and me both know it’s been
a while send help. You
watch me wait in bed for E he
flashes on my screen, pixilated.
He is a complex man in summer sharp-
eyed in winter he is a lady in summer
he is a lightening.

Uncle you are a racist for years until you
pass in the winter we both know bugs
don’t have prejudice. You slip through
the screens of my windows we see
the heat dissipate until there is none
left. Uncle I watch you
wind into the web of a spider above the place
where I sleep (if this is not a fever dream send
help). I save you I saved
your carrion. In winter there is wisdom
atop the floorboards of my room when
at night the meadow is still the hay
is baled. E is different
during this time
period (he has yet to exist).
In winter he lies dormant in winter
he is a lady in summer he is a lightening.

 

 

Salty Dog

I am a widow living
with a widow. Together,
we are two girls living

it up in the city! I dispose
of the remains
of my husband

via compost. Look at how
he molds to the skin
of my clementine peels.

He dissipates into espresso
grinds; Oh, how lovely
he is and how he will soon be

shit. Look
at the mess
he has made

via carbon.
What a hot
head.

 

 

we die long

deaths so our families visit across
coasts & country lines to touch
our feet at last. we are 21

with wrinkled mouths. we marry hard
marriages & celebrate the soldering of our hearts
at last. we hang white streamers. we die
hard in october 4 days apart; visitors sit

on the edges of our beds biting
nails. we marry well in some
autumnal season with drunk

relatives. we die along because we are
human at last. lo, our children
write elegies but they resume

with their tiny lives. when we die, we have little
estate. we have porcelain & kitchen
tiles. we marry hard & have children.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Haley McGough

Haley McGough

Depth Perception

Saoirse’s crush, Richie tried to give her a golf ball but he gave it to her by whacking it at her face and now Saoirse only has one eye. The boy had a mean backswing, which led the ball to fly, which led her to the emergency room, which led her flying in a flapping hospital gown to the operating table which led her to emerge two hours later with only one eyeball in her possession. They had let her hold the golf ball in her hand the whole time.

It is a little pale pink ball. It must be a specialty design but whatever symbol is printed on it is faded now; looks like a loop, like a knotted ribbon, or like fingers being crossed. Maybe a breast cancer awareness ball. Soft with dust, warm with sun when the boy placed it on the tee in his backyard and aimed for her. Its surface is dimpled with round divots scooped by some miniscule melon baller. It fits in the palm like a perfect scoop of strawberry sherbet. There is no other like it.

Over her recovery, Saoirse has cupped the ball in her hand so constantly that she doesn’t think of it anymore. She hardly recognizes it as an object foreign from her body. Like placing a cold hand on a warm forehead, and feeling both the sensation of warmth on the cold hand and coolness on the warm forehead, she touches the lightweight ball and registers the feel of her fingers. She reads the bumps like inverse Braille. Sometimes she dreams that she is inside the small globe with Richie and there are no windows but it is lit from within and the inside-out dimples serve nicely as places for them to sit.

The first day back to her fifth grade classroom after the accident, Saoirse is more concerned about her acne than her eyepatch.

“Saoirse! You’re going to make me late!” her mother cries from the front of the house.

“Take the car, I can walk!” Saoirse shouts. She remains at the bathroom mirror. She has a stick of brownish concealer that she smears over her spots but it doesn’t distract from the mountainous landscape of her T-zone. She wants to look nice for Richie because he sometimes says her acne grosses him out. Then, sliding the golf ball into the pocket of her shorts and her eyepatch over her socket, she leaves for school.

Fortunately, her classmates find her eye injury more outrageous than her everyday acne.

“Do you have a real hole in your face?”

“Whoa, can I see?”

“Richie pulled your eye out with a fork, right? That’s punk rock.”

“Wait, what happens if you stick your finger in there?”

Saoirse is encircled by her class at recess and she smiles and tells them all about her eyelessness. She saves her bravest story for Richie; about how she got through the pain remembering that the last thing her poor eye saw was his pretty face. But Richie sits on the opposite side of the schoolyard and so she nobly excuses herself from the eager crowd and, feeling round and whole, she approaches him, golf ball securely in hand. She scoots up next to him on the bleachers. He is hunched over and only glances at her shoes.

“Sorry,” he says.

“I still have the golf ball you gave me,” she begins, sighing delicately.

“Huh? Oh yeah. Did you tell your parents that it was me? That I did it?”

She stops for a moment. It had slipped her mind that her parents didn’t ask how she was hit in the face hard enough to warrant going to the hospital. “A lot happened at once. They’re probably going to ask eventually.” She says it to herself as much as to him.

“Can I have it back?” he asks. “It’s not mine.”

Saoirse feels her story slipping away. “Why…why do you want it back?”

“It’s evidence, you know?”

Saoirse had thought she was sitting very close to him but she tilts her head a little, puts out a hand, and she cannot reach him. He is messing around with a football instead of looking at her. This entire conversation he hasn’t asked her about her eye-hole at all.
“I don’t want my parents to know what happened. It’s their ball,” he mumbles.

Saoirse thinks fast. “I don’t think you want it.”

“Why?”

“Because. We were thinking of what prosthetic eye to buy and I had to figure out what size I needed and they ran out of fake eyes to try out but I had the ball and…”

Richie finally looks up at Saoirse and there is disgust on his face, but this time it’s not because of her acne. His two perfectly functional eyes dart from the pink ball in her hand to her eyepatch. Saoirse stiffens as something like realization washes over her. Richie will go the rest of his life seeing the world as he would like to, but she will have to live half in darkness because of what he did to her. He allowed her only ten years with two eyes and she wasted some of that time looking at him.

“You know what?” she says, “You can have it. Here.” And she pops the golf ball into his shocked mouth and walks away.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Georgieanna Richer

Georgieanna Richer

B

I keep breaking cigarettes in my left pocket
They are fixated on my left breast
There is tobacco spilled in pocket and my mouth
The boys make their own cigarettes
And they say don’t put that trash in your body
But it reminds me of boys
I miss them
They last longer then the taste
I taste them in the smoke
Burnt paper
You are quick and bright and loud
And I am quite bold and proud
And if we hit like I think we will
We’ll make a storm strong enough to kill
But if we drop
You’ll turn to ash
And I’ll freeze over smooth as glass

May 2015 - Comments Off on Emily Gaynor

Emily Gaynor

Tempt Fate

I believe that, no matter how hard one tries, thinking about an event will never make it materialize.

My friend once told me that when she wanted to cry on command she would think of her mother dying. We were in second grade. As an aspiring actress, I too desired this skill. Thinking of every way my mother could perish, I tried to squeeze tears through my eyes.

Nothing.

I felt like a bad person. How could I not be sad at the thought of her death? Then it occurred to me that perhaps my friend was the bad person. Who thinks of their parents’ death for fun?

My acting professor tells me that people are afraid to fantasize about the worst thing that could happen to them, a common technique for emotional preparation. The reason I couldn’t force the precious tears from my eyes was because I couldn’t really think about how my mother would die; I couldn’t picture it.

“People are superstitious. They’re afraid that if they let their mind go there, it will actually happen to them,” she said.

I know this not to be true. I have learned that thinking about you won’t bring you back. Cycling through every possible way I could apologize won’t make you forgive me. Desperately insulting you in my mind won’t lower your self-esteem enough to make you want me again.

A simple fire will do the trick. She will shoo us from the house, rid herself of distractions in making her perfect Thanksgiving meal. In our unrenovated kitchen. Our little time capsule of the 1990s. Formica cabinetry, buckled hardwood and memories of my parents’ faded love. The place where she has been trapped since the home’s purchase. Grease will set fire. Fire will encircle her and her flesh will burn and bubble. And she will give in. Release herself to the flames charring her thin, pale skin, feeding the flame that was meant to feed us. Her freckles and moles, the soft folds of her stomach will melt together in the heat. Into this world she came, out of the world she will leave, alone.

Be careful what you wish for.

Why? What good will wishing do? What harm will I suffer from wishing? Stepping on a crack won’t break my mother’s back. I have learned that my tears mean nothing to you anymore. I’m sure that eventually I’ll realize it’s for the best. Until then, I’m not afraid anymore to tempt fate.

 

 

You and I Are Not Safe

"There is something predatory in the act of taking a picture," wrote Susan Sontag in her collection of essays On Photography (1977).

When thinking about being preyed upon, getting photographed is not at the top of my list of my concerns. I’m much more inclined to fear serial killers harboring Freudian hatred or lingering stares on public transportation or the man checking my driver’s license as I buy cigarettes before the break of dawn. I hope he didn’t memorize my last name.

***

"To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves; by having knowledge of them that they can never have..."

Sontag proposes that the camera’s ability to violate is akin to a gun’s. But, she writes, “The camera/gun does not kill.” Ultimately, the pull of the gun’s trigger is the violator, but the gun must be manned in order to operate. So who is the real predator: the photographer or his machine?

For example, take Garry Winogrand’s 1972 photograph entitled New York City (Woman in phone booth, leg up). Several elements of this photo are immediately notable. The woman central in the photograph is physically confined in a phone booth; its beams are reminiscent of a cage or cell. One beam blocks the majority of her face. Her left leg is bent, almost revealing her crotch, which is placed nearly at the center of the photograph. She is surrounded primarily by men. By photographing a woman making a phone call, an intimate act, Winogrand toys with the concept of privacy in public. The way in which she covers the phone with her hand gives the impression that she is telling a secret. Possibly, Winogrand is mocking her presumed privacy in a communal space. The photo’s canted angle is haunting, suggesting that something is wrong. Perhaps this is Winogrand’s attempt to demonstrate the violations committed against women’s personal space. His career-long obsession with candid, anonymous street photography, however, leads me to believe that he is a peeping Tom, willing to intrude on women’s personal space without hesitation.

“I think she was inviting it,” a classmate of mine says regarding this woman’s desire to be photographed.

An argument can be made that the camera itself is the predator, for it cannot see as a human sees⎯ even if I photograph myself, and control every conceivable aspect of the photograph, the image will still be mediated through the camera’s lens. The violation lies within the camera’s limitations. I find this depressingly true while on evening walks. A beautiful, dusky Vermont landscape might lie in front of me as I ramble up to Jennings, but when I attempt to snap a picture with my phone, I am left with nothing but ambiguous dark shapes; a mere semblance of the scene I see. The camera is objective. It records pure data in the form of light hitting film. Is this why Sontag writes of its predatory nature? The camera does not flatter; it makes no niceties, because it makes no choices. That is the photographer’s job.

What happens when the photographer and subject are one and the same? One of the main devices I have used in my time as a photographer is self-portraiture. A key detail in my photographs is that the pneumatic trigger that sets off the cameras shutter is always visibly in my hands, evidence of my control over my portrayal.

I follow in the steps of many female photographers who decided that they would not allow others to deem whether they were worthy of occupying the space within the frame of a photograph. Tina Barney uses self-portraiture throughout her collection Theater of Manners. This series is a rumination on the lives of her wealthy family members. As an audience, we are invited into the photographs by saturated colors and familiar family customs, yet alienated from her upper-crust world. The subjects of each photo display a mix of spontaneous emotion and simultaneous awareness of their audience⎯ much like our daily social interactions.

I find myself consistently returning to Sheila and I, taken in 1989. In it, Tina Barney sits next to Sheila, who is featured in a variety of her photographs from this particular book. Both women are seated in separate plush chairs that look as though they’ve been moved from their ordinary position in the room; they are pushed close enough together that their arms touch. The room is filled with rich jewel tones of red and green. This is merely a cursory description of the photo’s various set pieces.

Sheila leans slightly towards the camera while Barney sits back in her chair, one hand propping her head up. Shelia’s mouth forms something of a half smile— maybe she has been caught in the middle of a sentence. Her hands join together in her lap; if her habits are at all like mine then she had just been playing with them in the moments leading up to the photo being taken. Her fingernails are neatly manicured and painted red. A gold watch adorns her wrist and she wears blue socks, no shoes. Barney holds the release cable in her left hand. She looks straight into the camera, through the lens and into the world. Her expression is stern; she is thinking about something particular, but… what?

Although the photo is clearly staged, the photograph appears a true documentation of the relationship between these two women. In this way, the photo is different than the average family photo. It is a snapshot of them, existing together, unlike a vacation photo in which a stiff smile is plastered across each family member’s face. This tension between what is real and what is staged is exemplified within the image. Which is more “real” or “true”? The photos from this collection that give the impression of spontaneity? Or the photos in which the subjects address the camera and the audience is under no false impressions that the photo is staged? Barney’s intentional blurring of the line between performance and reality begs the question: in some circumstances, is the viewer actually the one being preyed upon?

May 2015 - Comments Off on Cody Crawford

Cody Crawford

The Fugly Duckling

The fugly duckling goes to class
It watches the other ducklings take notes
and does not take any itself

The fugly duckling goes to dinner
It watches the other ducklings eat food
and eats itself into a food coma

The fugly duckling cannot ride a bike
but instead watches the other ducklings
ride their bikes to class

The fugly duckling is fuck ugly
The fugly duckling likes to do drugs
The fugly duckling makes whale noises when speaking

The fugly duckling walks through the park
and tries to smoke a cigarette
but gets too many dirty looks and goes away

The fugly duckling writes an essay
but does not proofread or edit
and turns it in anyway hoping for the best

The fugly duckling brushes its teeth
every night before it goes to bed but still
wakes up with a bad taste in its mouth

The fugly duckling breaks the mirror
and changes its outfit before going out
but still ceases to impress

The fugly duckling takes a selfie
and takes a few more and deletes all but two
and thinks about posting one but does not

The fugly duckling listens to music
and hides away to relax after a long
day of being so fucking ugly

The fugly duckling did not do the reading
but follows along in the discussion
well enough to give the illusion that it read

The fugly duckling smokes weed
so it does not have to interact with others
and watches Beverly Hills, 90210 instead

The fugly duckling likes to sing
when it is alone in its room and
maybe when it is too drunk to care

The fugly duckling used to play guitar
but got too tired of practicing
and sold the guitar to its brother

The fugly duckling does not like its home
It wants to move away but
it does not know where to go

The fugly duckling wants a tattoo
to look a little less ugly but
it is too broke to get one

The fugly duckling wants to live
in a mansion and be rich and beautiful
and help others that feel as ugly as it does.

The fugly duckling is stalked by the Big Bad Wolf
and has night terrors for weeks
and cannot sleep in its own bed

The fugly duckling has a hard time concentrating
and thinks it should leave school
but does not want to go back home

The fugly duckling is broken and alone
and wishes to find more ugly ducklings
so it can start a support group

The fugly duckling still feels like a child
The fugly duckling wants to grind its teeth out of its head
The fugly duckling moves to Swan

The fugly duckling goes to the market
and says hello to its friends the Three Little Pigs
and doesn't feel so fucking ugly for a while.

May 2015 - Comments Off on Charlotte O’Dair

Charlotte O’Dair

PARAMUS FURNITURE HOMESTORE EMPORIUM ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME EVERYTHING-MUST-GO LIQUIDATION SALE

90% off on Sofas, Armchairs, Loveseats, Kitchenwares and more! We’ve got way more furniture than we can handle! This stuff’s exponentially accumulated at an alarming rate! Hurry over and take it away! We are practically trapped in the store! We are trapped in the store! Furniture- blocking all exits! Everything must go! Send Help! Please!

May 2015 - Comments Off on Brooke Morrison

Brooke Morrison

Mount Lemmon

All is simple and clear. There is this looming mound of earth – sand, soil, rocks, bones, insects, reptiles, and vegetation – which, when unified in large quantities, seems to humans deserving of the name mountain. It appears as the result of a giant's hands squeezing the stuff of earth into his fist and then letting go and dusting the remnants off of his palm to sprinkle the top with rounded boulders. Yet I also know that this formation can be explained in scientific terms: a volcano collapsed here millions of years ago. The top simply slid off to become the Tucson Mountains while the rest remained to become the Santa Catalinas. Earth shift and erosion dug out a valley in between the two in which humans decided to nestle, calling it Tucson. Weathering slowly shaved the corners off of the rocks of the Catalina Mountains, giving them their rounded shape I see today. These explanations are held in my mind simultaneously as one, and I do not question them. My hands rest on granite and gneiss and dust from a giant's palm.

And this looming mound of earth, that is so much and yet, relatively, so little at the same time, is not separate from me, not a simple place upon which to rest. It encompasses much of that which is me and I it.

I am seated 6000 feet above sea level. The pressure of hundreds of square feet of space below my feet gives my toes a prickling sensation as they dangle off the cliff edge. I feel the curious urge to do what is most simple – to allow myself to fall, utterly under the control of gravity, into the rich emptiness that hovers before and beneath me. I am surprised by how little fear is evoked by this idea. Instead I am comforted as this thought is equally accompanied by a sureness that I am steadily seated on the rock, even as the wind lifts my hair from the nape of my neck and nudges me steadily towards its destination.

Rippled mountain peaks, appearing quite small from my height, spread before me, like sand dunes blown by a strong but unsteady wind. The scar of a valley sucks the edges into it, jaggedly making its way in a diagonal to my right. A very dull yellow-ish pervades but is dappled by greens, darker in some places, thickest in a particular patch to my lower left. In a few spots, this color has been wiped away to reveal the graying whiteness of stone, a similar color to the winding highway that wraps itself around the mid-section of one of the peaks. Dark blue collects in a few caches. Beyond the last mountain, the flat desert is covered in a foggy sky-blue, and the farthest reach of visible horizon is coated in a light wash of blue that denotes distant mountains and fades up into the white that hovers over the landscape. Several clouds imitate the mountain shapes from their positions high above.

All around me sit car-sized chunks of rock resting comfortably on the shoulders of the supporting stone plate that protrudes from the mountain edge. Smaller rocks balance on top of each other. Some of these stacks rise to more than four times my height, and it is impossible not to believe that the dozens of flattened granite slabs were lovingly, tediously, carefully arrange by some very strong being with a passion for tidiness.

Two black specks rising up the side of a thumb-like formation 350 feet away from where I sit are a pair of rock climbers. Upon reaching the top, one sits, drinking from a metal water bottle, while the other busies himself with gathering supplies before carrying on. Their voices reach my ears as clearly and intimately as if I were there among them, exhilarated after a good climb. They talk of coffee shops and mutual friends and car troubles, and as I close my eyes I am there with them, undeterred by where the rocks drop off, living and breathing as part of the very mountain itself.

 

Turkey (Excerpt)

The card I chose for my friend had a black and white drawing on the cover: a night scene along the Bosphorus, the straight that connects the Mediterranean and Black Seas. On the left was a mosque with two tall, pointy Ottoman-style minarets; in-between them was the outline of a moon. Several dark buildings were drawn along the water’s edge, and in the distance could be seen seven more tiny minarets. The sky was blackness washed in a soft wave of white, like the mist that so often blurred the edges of Istanbul at night.

There is a word in French, ténèbres, which is a noun referring to darkness or obscurity. It is always plural – les ténèbres – accounting for a multiplicity that English does not see. There are layers to darkness, rather than it being a single, unified force.

When I was nineteen years old, I returned to the Grand Canyon eight years after my first visit. This other time, I had been with family and family friends. We had taken pictures at the lookout points, rode a raft down the Colorado River, and read a children’s book about a mule. After the sun had set, we had left the edge of the cavern and gone to dinner.

This second time, returning with one of the family friends I had been with before, a girl of my own age, we arrived just before sunset. We could not stay overnight, so we were glad to catch the view before nightfall. For a while, we stood with the other tourists, taking pictures of the red-orange rock, the spindly fir trees, and the remnants of snow on the edges of the gap.

When we walked to a section with less people around, I decided we should walk off of the path, closer to the edge. There were no fences, but I had noticed a small sign earlier that asked visitors to stay on the path. I figured we could tell anyone who noticed that we hadn’t known it was not allowed.

After slowly making our way down a slight decline, my friend and I edged out onto an extension of rock and sat a few feet from the drop-off, a mile of empty air.

We returned to the path when the sun was nearly all set, giving ourselves enough light to climb back up the slope. As darkness fell – or, really, as darkness seemed to rise up from that deep opening in the earth – we continued following the path along the edge. Once the final red streak of sunset had faded from the horizon, every tourist had either left in their cars or gone into nearby restaurants. We continued walking until it seemed time to turn around, as our fingertips and noses tingled with cold. But before leaving I wanted to look at the canyon one last time. I walked to the wooden railing, six inches from the abrupt drop, and leaned out, steadying myself with my hands on the rail. I looked into the darkness, expecting to see nothing but the purest black, an expanse of unified nothingness. Looking into the Grand Canyon at night must be the very definition of the dark, I thought. However, what I saw was not solid blackness. It was layers, deep and far away, yet perhaps in hand’s reach. I could differentiate thousands of them as my eyes adjusted to the lack of light. The canyon at night felt more intimate than during the day. I had the feeling that I, too, was in the ténèbres, just as the rocks were.

Istanbul at night is layered in darknesses, too. Something about these layers – that they are unknown and not fully knowable, distant yet near – draws me in and comforts me in their complexity, makes me lean closer as I did at the canyon and feel as if I am part of something larger as I find myself obscured by them as well.

If you watch the Bosphorus late enough at night, you will notice huge blocks of moving darkness unlike those around them. These are the large freight boats, carrying in the necessities of the city. They are built only for utility, paint peeling off their outsides, and Istanbul lawmakers decided that this side of the city was not one that they wanted to be visible. By safety regulation, these carriers can only enter the waters of the city during certain nighttime hours, sneaking in, as it were, so that the imports and exports exchange occurs while the people dream. They are only visible to those who watch the black nighttime waters long enough to discern what is in them.

May 2014 - Comments Off on Atrocity

Atrocity

Joel Fagerberg '15

May 2014 - Comments Off on Remote

Remote

Joel Fagerberg '15

May 2014 - Comments Off on Toulou

Toulou

Jacob Saunders '16

May 2014 - Comments Off on untitled

untitled

Jake Dakota Riswold '16 (dorothea jane)

May 2014 - Comments Off on Flight

Flight

Sierra Rivers Hollister '15

2 ScreenPrint Sierra

May 2014 - Comments Off on Teapots Taking Off

Nina Berinstein '15

nina_berinstein

February 2014 - Comments Off on gorgeous

gorgeous

Kathryn Henderson '15

first, swallow your hand. your teeth will scrape
along the back of it as it explores
the petals within your throat.

the neck strains. your mouth
will not fit around. your hand
hurts more than your gut.
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February 2014 - Comments Off on Tornado Watch

Tornado Watch

Molly Kirschner '16

Air hovers blank as page. Mirror glass shatters;
it rains. Sounds like cracking oysters. Looks like pearls
dropping off a necklace. Rolling.
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February 2014 - Comments Off on little hands

little hands

Tayler Jones '16

we barefoot hop step
carefully choosing extrusions of moss
over the growl of gnarled street rock
to fig tree canopy.
press thumbnails into leaves, beads
of milk well up like crescent moons
make skin itch.
we speak to the ghost farm
that burned down on this soil,
little fingers fumble through earth
for rusty horse shoes.
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January 2014 - Comments Off on Bennington College: A Heterosexual Galapagos

Bennington College: A Heterosexual Galapagos

Sarah Shahzad Shaikh '14

The location is ideally insulated, an island of illusory safety, whether intentionally or not, but how interesting it would be if it were done on purpose, an experiment conducted by someone that wanted to document shattered expectations and chart the trajectory of disillusionment.
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