All Posts in Volume 67: Issue 1

December 2010 - Comments Off

12 Weeks Out

Emmet Penney '11

12

And you’re back in it again. Maybe you’ve put on a few pounds since your last bout, but you’re not completely out of shape. You step out of the Boston cold and down the steps, past glass cases of trophies, medals, belts, samurai swords, photos of impossibly muscled men still on the follow-through while their opponents lie limply on the ground at their feet. You shrug off your coat, hang it in your locker. Already, the smell of sweat, the buzz of the boxing clock.

11

Cripplingly sore. Your whole body throbs on the way to the bathroom. You shower, make coffee, eat a light breakfast. This week you will start to watch footage of your opponent. Your trainer tells you he’s already fought in Vegas, that his body knows not to let the levy break and curse him with the deceptive gift of adrenaline. Over and over you watch him take hits to the face, knees to the stomach; he parries, chokes, and, once, with extreme precision, snaps an opponent’s right-side floating rib in a single concussive kick. But this is nothing, your trainer assures you, Nothing.

10

On Monday, you step back into the weight room. Your training partners call you bitch, call you pussy, call you faggot or fairy, and threaten to bend your mother over her living room couch and have their way with her—all this to make you heave impossibly heavy weight over your chest, or lift twice your weight up off the floor only to set it down again. Friday afternoon, you wobble out of the weight room for two minutes and vomit in the bathroom. After wiping your face without looking in the mirror you return to their frothing mouths, their violent begging for more.

9

Without notice, your body has shed its fat. More quickly than the last time. As you peel off your rash guard, then untie your shorts, you see yourself in the locker room mirror. Your thighbones bedight with tear-shaped muscles, your stomach like shards of stained glass cobbled together. Viewed from the front your back muscles flare out like a cobra’s hood. That Thursday your trainer says a single word all day: Anaconda. You practice choking one man after another until you choke someone so hard he pops every capillary in his right eye.

8

Every morning you take the T from South Station to Alston. A few people gawk at your split lips and black eyes. Some women are repulsed, some are not. You know what kind of woman wants you, but you wonder about the ones who refuse to look at you. You imagine the softness of their bodies, the way they their backs might arch as you trace your tongue along the length of their ribs, or how their lips might kiss every callous accumulated on your palms or every scar cut across your eyebrows. Your trainer demands to know what the fuck is wrong with you when you somehow forget to keep skipping rope when you are supposed to be skipping rope, and why do you keep fucking around with your jockstrap, you ape-ish fuckstick.

7

This week, your trainer tells you, is shark week. And your training partners begin shark-baiting you on the mat and in the cage. They stroke your ego with feigned weakness, then hammer you with knees to the face or stomach. They threaten to snap your forearms backwards with quick armbars. On Tuesday, the new kid tricks you so badly you almost black out. Your trainer locks you in the cage on Saturday and feeds you a fresh fighter every round—men who resemble your opponent in size, shape, and style. You toil in the shark tank and go weak in the knees in the final round. Without showering, or changing your clothes you head home and pass out in a pool of your own sweat. You wake up in a corona of dried salt in your sheets.

6

You help your mother with what small amount of handiwork you can. She asks you how the boys down at the gym are doing, though she refuses to watch you fight. But your face. My son’s beautiful face. What if you get hurt? and she holds your face and kisses your forehead. After dinner, you sit in the cold on her front step and recount all the fistfights you got into growing up, the first time you learned to hit back. There are some kids you grew up with you haven’t seen in years. For the rest of the week, you think the name Danny McCoy, and can’t put a face to it until you’re working the heavy bag late one night. The boxing clock goes off—Danny hustled pool in high school and got himself shot up in a parking lot after someone caught on to his scam.

5

The time in the weight room stops, but now you run stairs at Harvard Stadium with sandbags thrown over your shoulders. You run wind sprints with a snorkel in your mouth until your heart pumps acid. Something’s wrong with the fingers on your right hand—they won’t stop shaking. When you wrap your hands the next day you suck air in through your teeth and try not to wince. The pain in your stomach must be from all the Ibuprofen, you tell yourself.

4

Now your trainer’s talking travel arrangements to Vegas, organizing hotel rooms with the manager. Still, he sits you down and forces you to watch more videos of your opponent. You’ve seen them so many times you’ve memorized the swirl of black ink around his right shoulder, his daughter’s name across his left ribs, the hand grenade pulsing on his thick neck. When he steps forward like that, your trainer whispers in your ear, just catch ‘em with an overhand right. You practice this: a haymaker, a fist driven hellward.

3

Your left knee has swollen. An unhealed, torn blister puckers up at you from your hand. You take Monday off, see a doctor who tells you what you shouldn’t and shouldn’t be doing. Nothing’s really wrong, you’re just pushing too hard. Then he tells you when you can expect the bill. First thing on Tuesday: your trainer has you take a sledgehammer to a tractor tire, then push his car around the lot. Posted on your door Wednesday morning: Your rent is overdue. That night you knock out a friend’s mouthguard. He convulses on the floor, unconscious, as you stand panting above him.

2

No food or liquid after five p.m. Cut the unnecessary carbs out of every meal. No booze. You weigh yourself everyday. All anyone wants to talk about is how much of a pussy the other guy is and how brutal you are. You once folded a man’s thigh onto itself like a piece of licorice; left one fight with another guy’s tooth embedded in your knee. You’re unforgiving. You’re a monster. You’re evil, a Spartan, a psycho, you’re diesel. And you can’t stop looking at your hands wrapped in red, encased in five-ounce gloves.

1

On the flight to Vegas you can’t stop touching your lips they’re so chapped. When the stewardess offers you water your trainer says no for you. For the past two days you’ve been living on fruit and protein shakes. On the night before the weigh in you don three hoodies, winter gloves, three pairs of sweat pants, and two beanies. Your trainer shuts the sauna door behind you. For two hours you beg, and after three hours total you make weight. The rest of the training camp makes sure you don’t eat. At the weigh-ins, you do the interview, stand on the scale, flex your muscles, stand toe to toe with your opponent. This is all foggy except for the five gold teeth glowing in your opponent’s smile

0

In the first round you took what he gave and kept coming, picked him up and slammed him down on the canvas—you descended upon him like a Biblical plague, swift and suffocating in your brutality. In the second, he rammed you against the cage and split your eyebrows open with his elbows. You spent the rest of the round holding him close to you, not believing what had just happened. Now, you sit and watch the minute clock. Someone washes the blood out of your mouthguard. The cutman does what he can with your eyebrows, but I ain’t gonna make any promises, kid. And your trainer says this: You’re a hardass, you’re the undertow manhandling the other guy’s ankles, your fists were forged from the flat ends of cinderblocks. His breath hot in your ear, he tells you you’re everything I’ve worked for. And you know that no mouth could ever cradle your name so delicately—not like his, not like now.


About the Author: Emmet Penney '11 was born in Chicago, IL. He now lives in White Creek, NY and spends most of his time reading and writing.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Drone

Sara Judy '11

                                  The bees
                                                                are inside
                                                                                          your creases

                        folded up in bed
                                    the swarm
                                    and us

                                           they are                                 making honey
                                                                 of your heart
                                                                                           combing
                                                                     your ribcage

perfect hive

                                   bees work
                                   to death
in the            summer
                    it must be hot
                                                            inside your chest
           their
quiver or                                                                             your ragged
                                                                                             breathing

                                                       pressed on your back

                                                                                             wait to sting.


About the Author: Sara Judy '11 studies literature. Her work is preoccupied with the Canadian prairie.

December 2010 - Comments Off

N2005P

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/17498498[/vimeo]


About the Author: Eleanor Thom is a senior visual arts student concentrating in video, sculpture, and installation. This video is a part of an installation that juxtaposes memory that exists in your mind and memory that can only exist in a photograph or a video.

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Butch Face Series

Helen Lanier '11

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Tulips

Alana Orzol '11

They rose while I was gone,
in a burst of scarlet,
but now they fall like dawn,
breaking at their slits.
Each petal wilts on cue,
swooning like red palms
that held bees, dew,
but now embalm
the earth alone.
Yet I cannot sorrow
for passing beauty shown
today, not tomorrow,
for dust is never truly dead
but blood for future springs instead.

Lancaster, England, May 2010


About the Author: Alana Orzol is a senior studying biology and literature. Originally from Portland, Oregon, she enjoys tea, rain, reading, writing, and nature.

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Couple

Jordan Kaplan '12: Couple, Photograph


About the Artist: Jordan Kaplan is on his way to Tijuana right now in a '66 Volkswagen with a dog named Oscar.

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Lobster on the News

Eleanor Thom '11: Lobster on the News, Photograph

Eleanor Thom '11: Lobster on the News, Photograph


About the Artist: Eleanor Thom is a senior visual arts student concentrating in video, sculpture, and installation. This video is a part of an installation that juxtaposes memory that exists in your mind and memory that can only exist in a photograph or a video.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Exception

Killian Walsh '14

He approached the podium with sullen eyes and sober gait, an expression of rueful guilt tacked on his pale, aged face. The walk was long--perhaps by design--in an effort to add insult to injury; to intensify the shame of his crimes. Eyes of others, cries of reporters, and the click of countless costly cameras followed him the whole way up, falling silent only when he began to speak.

“I would first like to apologize,” he began, “to my wife, Helen.” The woman behind him pursed her lips, pressing down the wrinkles of her pantsuit’s jacket. “She has shown remarkable courage for the position I have put her in, and I am infinitely grateful for both her forgiveness and her continued support during this time.” She nodded in the manner of a vindicated parent. None of the cameras captured this.

“Furthermore, I would like to apologize to the people of the Great State of Minnesota. I have brought shame to this office, and to this state, with my actions, and while there is no way to undo what I have done, I would like to extend my formal apology on the matter, and request forgiveness from my constituents, if they see fit to forgive me.”

A stir of murmurs made its way through the crowd with words like, ‘believe,’ and, ‘nerve,’ and ‘bastard,’ and ‘aquarium,’ extending themselves audibly from the din. The Senator took this opportunity to clear his throat and drum up some emotion for the final drive of his speech.

“These last few weeks have had a toll on me as well and, while I am fully deserving of whatever emotional stress I may be under…I must say that it is extremely difficult to live like this.” He wiped his eyes. A man booed him from the back.

“That’s why, at this time,” he said holding back tears, “I would like to announce my resignation from the office of Senator effective next month. Thank you.”

The response was a medley of cheers and jeers, unified not in message, but in volume and passion. He removed himself from the podium, walking toward the stately limousine parked at the Dunkin Donuts across from the State Capitol building. Reporters wasted no time surrounding him, asking questions like, “Senator McCallum, any comment on the status of the choir boys?” or “Have you considered what PETA’s response to this will be?” or “Can you explain your relationship with Shahkam Farah? Are you lovers?” The abrupt silence that followed the closing of the limousine door disarmed him for a moment.

“Dave, I gotta say, you did a damn good job up there.” Senator McCallum’s advisor Rob Sanchez was a greasy little fellow with a mustache, and that was all that could ever really be said about him. “The language, the waterworks, the…uh, dignity. Top notch stuff. Top notch.”

“Thanks.” He got himself a glass from the minibar and filled it with Coke.

Sanchez leaned over and topped it off with some brandy. “I mean, we can forget about the presidency. That’s a given. You’ve lost that. But I think you can get a decent city council position in a few months--granted you’re still moving to Kentucky. You are still moving to Kentucky, right?”

The limo turned onto Keynes as a beer bottle was thrown at it from across the street.

“Jesus!” Sanchez fidgeted to get a look out of the tinted windows. “These yahoos got no dignity. No sense of civility. None what-so-ever.”

“Rob?” McCallum had been looking into his glass as if it might reveal something to him. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure, Dave, sure. What’s the matter?”

“If…if you were in charge…”

“Yes?” Sanchez poured himself another drink.

Dave looked up. “…what would you do to a man like me?”

Sanchez was momentarily taken aback by the intensity of the eye contact and candor present in Senator McCallum. “Yeesh…Dave. I know I’m…a lawyer, but my background does not cover the finer points of animal husbandry.” He laughed, but, seeing that it had no effect, cut it short. Then, after a few moments of silence, he tossed back his glass and wiped his mouth with his sleeve when he was finished. “Look: we all make mistakes, Dave, but not all of us get off scot-freet understand? Show some fucking appreciation for your situation and put a smile on your face. Christ.” He turned to the window as the limo hit the highway.


About the Author: Killian Walsh lives on the left side of campus.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Give Us the City

(for Cleo)
Jenny Rae Bailey '12

We lavished in landscapes—the Gate of All
Saints on ninety-sixth street, avenues paved in ice—
also smoked joints lounging in grassy expanses,
crouching on front stoops, or outside my
grandmother’s house. Accept our faults, among
them addiction, dependency, procrastination. Negotiate
fondly with manic tendencies to rake the eyes out
& scream. Inebriate as you contemplate
which snacks to buy from the bodega at four a.m.
What shape would form if we fused together, bone-strung,
then what kind of mistakes would we make?
The appropriate gesture is easy—too easy
leaving no one with confidence. Forget
mannered mechanics, reject the robotic talk
of here and there. Give what’s for taking like
tastes of honesty from salty skin; & find rhythm
in country evenings until we sit again nine flights
above the whirr of hybrid clean air buses.


About the Author: Jenny Rae studies literature & the properties of verse. She grew up in New York City.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Summer Contract

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/17498814[/vimeo]


About the Artist: Alice McGillicuddy studies animation and installation and enjoys tinkering around biology and movement classes for inspiration.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Untitled

Camille Roccanova '13: Untitled, Painting

Camille Roccanova '13: Untitled, Painting


About the Artist: Camille is from upstate New York.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Hands On Me

Emmet Penney '11

He showed me the rippled, scarred name inked
into his arm, burnt off with a pan pulled

from the blue burner. He pointed: “This is how
you love a woman.” The rain-swollen Playboy

I found when I was ten had the most delicate pages.
I parted it open with a twig snapped

from the nearest pine tree. My pulse’s thick hum
radiated from my chest. If trains passed they did so silently.

In Baltimore, you and I watched some guy wearing
a Shaggy 2 Dope t-shirt fuck a girl with Michigan’s

state bird tattooed to her throat. Her fist-clenched
ponytail, spit frothed on a car window. You lit

my cigarette and we waited for the sound of skin
clapping together to die down. You took me, when

we got home, to bed. Your breasts hung from
your ribs. I heard only the dampened thunder

of blood throbbing through my body beneath you.


About the Author: Emmet Penney '11 was born in Chicago, IL. He now lives in White Creek, NY and spends most of his time reading and writing.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Hurting Hands

Hurting Hands

Nicole Pollina '14: Hurting Hands, Drawing


About the Artist: Nicole has been studying fine arts for 5 years and has currently been experimenting with surrealist and modernistic approaches within her drawings.

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Holyland

Idumea (Emily Call ’11, Kellin Murphy Cavanaugh ’11, Brad DeMatteo ’13)

December 2010 - Comments Off

Gorilla Warfare

Natalie Casagran Lopez ’14

Visits to my grandmother's house are scattered throughout the year like ingrown spikes on a porcupine's back: infrequent and torturous. At the most I’ll call her before every major holiday.

"Hi, Grandma," I say.

"Peter!"

My name is Steven. Peter is the name of the Jehovah’s Witness she's adopted as her own plaything. He lives next door to her, and she keeps tabs of his whereabouts by staring out of a 3-inch wide, curtain-free portion of her front window. Whenever he opens his garage door and sets out, Bible in hand, she shoves the curtains aside and yells "Yoohoo!", waving an imaginary handkerchief as if she was standing on the caboose of a train, beckoning him inside to tell her "those funny stories," which the poor kid does, biting his tongue whenever she asks if Goldilocks was a distant relative of Jesus Christ.

"Grandma, it's Steven. How are you?"

"Well, hey there, Stevie! Whaddya want?" Her tongue was thick, swollen, undoubtedly, from her fifth barrel of gin.

“I'm just checking in. I'm going to be in town next week, so I thought that I might stop by and give you your Christmas present early."

"Oh, goodie! Come right on over. And then you can tell me more about The Three Little Apostles."

***

When it comes to buying gifts for my grandmother I have long since realized that traditional items for an eighty-year-old woman are not appreciated. She hates porcelain figurines, china patterns, and velvet cushions. Once, when I foolishly bought her a fancy teapot from a Japanese import store, she asked me when they had started attaching spouts to bedpans. As a result, I have made many a trip to off-the-beaten-path boutiques in search of the perfect beer cozies, or a teddy bear that makes vulgar jokes whenever you tickle its stomach.
This Christmas I settled on an even more adolescent approach. I went to the nearest toy store, making sure to cover my throat so that holiday-crazed soccer moms wouldn't be able to rip out my Adam's apple with their newly-sharpened acrylic nails. After weeding through the creepy, anatomically correct baby dolls and "My First Mansion" dollhouses, I finally discovered a gift that was perplexing enough to be deemed grandma-worthy.

While many might think that a jar of slime is a toy straight out of a turn of the 20th century seance- some deluded housewife's ectoplasmic magic trick- I knew that this particular item would appease my grandmother's sense of youthful wonder. If she didn't snicker at the packaging itself- the label delicately explaining that not only did the slime feel "cool", it also made "farting noises"- I would be forced to move the Jack Daniels from her lips so that I might have room to stick a mirror under her nostrils and check if she was still breathing.

***

Every time I walk into my grandma's house I am struck by the silence. Outside birds chirp and lawnmowers growl at a pleasant volume, but inside the shift of tectonic plates is enough to burst an eardrum. My grandma prefers to stifle all forms of chaos in order to illuminate her own madness. She is the sole performer of her life story; a drunken menace perpetuating her own Theatre of Cruelty. Even when my grandfather- a man too selfless to be born into the hedonism of the 1920's- was alive, she still insisted on acting out her one-woman show.

The night of my senior prom, when my parents forced my date and me to promenade down the stairs so that they could capture our awkwardness on film, my grandmother, triggered by the camera flashes and the reflective shine of my date's forehead, pushed the poor girl out of the frame and took her place, my moist palm forced to rest on the gristle of her waist. My self-control was put to the test even further when she instructed my date that, to look good on camera, "One must suck in one's cheeks...both sets."

***

Over the years my grandmother's body has changed in the most peculiar of ways. I'm sure the alcohol has played a part in the transformation; there can be no other cause for her swollen appendages, not helped by muslin garments that pucker in the least flattering of areas. Her face has morphed on its own accord: her cheeks flabby, her skin pallid, and strangely enough, her nostrils stretched and widened, so that the overall effect is something like a monkey wearing face powder. That image greeted me as I walked into her living room.

"Hi, Grandma."

"Steviiiiie! Come give Grandma her giftie!"

With one hand she clutched a bourbon decanter shaped like W.C. Field's head. The other hand obnoxiously groped and grasped at the air for whatever I had brought. I handed the present to her and cringed while the wrapping paper was ripped to shreds under the bleary-eyed scrutiny of W.C. Fields. Even he, with a head-full of cheap liquor, didn't approve of my grandmother's manners.

"Grandma, I'm starting to worry about you. I know Grandpa was in charge of the money when he was alive. It's a tough job keeping track of everything, especially...under the circumstances. If you want, I can send someone to look over your finances."

She disregarded my attempts to discuss her affairs. Instead she kept sticking her fingers into the jar of slime, snorting whenever the green sludge emitted a wet fart. Looking at her, I was amazed that two of her fingers could fit into such a small container. The plastic flatulence soon became too much to bear, so I left her struggling, looking like a well-dressed ape on the verge of throwing feces at unsuspecting bipeds.

I crossed behind her chair to the epicurean shrine she had set up. A wall of glass bottles reflected my face. The sunlight played on their surfaces, sending silver and gold light arcing across the room, creating a sort of halo around my grandmother's head, like a bordello rendition of La Pieta: Holy Grandma cradling the W.C. Fields decanter with too much love.

A fat bottle of Tequila shaped like a Mexican sombrero caught my eye. It was mostly empty, but I noticed that the worm resting in the dregs seemed to be missing half of its body: alcohol-soaked dentures had chomped away its boozy dignity.

The bottles seemed to reach back for miles and miles, like Bacchanalian orange groves. I was certain that if I was desperate enough, if in a drunken stupor I placed my sweaty cheek on one of the shelves and hoarsely whispered for some liquid to quench the thirst that none of the now empty bottles could ease, the hand of Bacchus himself would appear to tip bourbon onto my lips...sweeter than orange juice, deadlier than a switchblade.

She must have experienced that countless times. The Lord of Moonshine had visited her with a hand-wrapped bottle every year of her life. I was ready to bet that I'd find a rubber nipple-tipped bottle of port somewhere in the back, still bearing the marks of teething.

"Grandma, I know we don't see each other much, but I do have your well-being in mind. I really do. I just want you to know that."

I felt a sudden wetness spread over the back of my head. The Grand Ape had thrown slime at me. Apparently opposable thumbs are no use when it comes to solving the immense puzzle of closing a jar.

I took this as my cue to leave. I said goodbye to my grandmother and hesitated over my next move. It would have been appropriate to hug her, but the hardened dreadlock forming on the back of my head only served as evidence of our disparate lives.

As I stood there, frozen, meditating on our relationship, she slowly hoisted herself up and waddled over. I almost winced as I saw her face draw near. I was certain that another trick was up her sleeve: this time she was going to throw a cream pie at my head, or ask me to inspect a cyst growing under her chin. But to my surprise, she simply brought her lips to my cheek and planted a wet kiss. Then, without missing a beat, she sank into the nearest chair and asked me to mix her a cocktail on the way out.

"Sure, Grandma." I said. "But this one will have to last until Easter."


About the Author: Natalie Casagran Lopez is a native of Los Angeles, California currently coming to terms with the harsh reality of Vermont's climate. When she isn't writing she enjoys tapioca and percussion.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Untitled

Jiray Avedisian '14

Rain on the ground
Echoes in the ear
Of God himself.
Yet to man, His
Brother in creation,
It burns like a rhythm
In the soles of his feet.


About the Author: Jiray Avedisian enjoys the sun, especially in Bennington. He also likes to study writing words.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Space Cadet

Lani DePonte '11: Space Cadet, Collage

Lani DePonte '11: Space Cadet, Collage


About the Artist: Lani is a senior at Bennington College working in memory through collage, translation, and creative fiction.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Dreaming on Saint Mark’s Place

Eddie Sitt '12: Dreaming on Saint Mark's Place, Photograph

Eddie Sitt '12: Dreaming on Saint Mark's Place, Photograph


About the Artist: Born and raised in Brooklyn, Eddie is too Jewish for his own good (but not Jewish enough, according to his parents).

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After Einstein

Anna Gyorgy '14

god made your clavicles to bite like hungry dogs
your hands to kiss like empty atoms


About the Author: Anna is very clumsy. She drops things a lot and hates wearing pants.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Farmer’s Almanac

Sara Judy '11

Farmer’s Almanac Part One

The wheat stalks come
toward the house like preachers
mutter and knock splinters off

front doors. The wind makes
sense of this place, searches
out the empty spaces to be filled.

I tell you: farms and fences
and preachers, all worn down.
The farmers plant trees to keep the soil

from blowing off the ground.
The thin and dark trees:

hair grown in tight lines
on earth’s long, brown back.

Farmer's Almanac Part Two

It is this way:
yellow and white
crops, dirt-wash

over everything else.
Grain silos are obsolete,
now is the time to

get a cosmetology
degree online or get a ride
to the strip malls

in the Magic City.
Behind me on the bus
a girl plucks her hair out.

One by one, leg by arm.
I wonder how she expects

to keep her skin
from blowing off her body.


About the Author: Sara Judy '11 studies literature. Her work is preoccupied with the Canadian prairie.

December 2010 - Comments Off

The Triumph of the Rhinocerus

About the Artist: Ethan Woods is music composition student from Anchorage, AK. Among other things, his work revolves around the idea of sampling & reusing other music.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Daisy: Gainseville, FL

Emmet Penney '11

You wick the sweat from the small
of his back in the darkest corner

of the pool hall. It’s hurricane
season and rain comes down in fat

fists. With their bed sheets as sails
children catch the wind. Briefly,

they hover above the cracks
in the pavement. To forget the weight

of your body you put his hand
to your throat. How can you even

ask to leave.


About the Author: Emmet Penney '11 was born in Chicago, IL. He now lives in White Creek, NY and spends most of his time reading and writing.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Cell

Elliot Cash '13: Cell, Photograph


About the Artist: Elliot loves one sentence bios.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Anhedonia (Excerpt)

Alexander Barry '12

Then, as now, I was running dangerously low on cigarettes and the will to live. The cigarettes felt like the more pressing matter. Castler gave me one of his, I had a light, and we both lay back and looked up through the trees. The wind sent through them a pleasant thrill, and I watched as the loose leaves waved in response. It seemed to me that they were waving goodbye.

“You’re goddamn depressing.”

“I know.”

Castler laughed that ironic laugh of his and shut his eyes against the wind.

2

We left to hit the town, more out of some sense of obligation than out of any real desire. At the first bar I ordered whisky. Do not think that this was depressive drinking; on the contrary, I was determined to enjoy myself. I have found that the true key to an awful night is not whisky, but tequila. Beware: despite its bright and shiny moniker, and any fiesta related imagery that this may inspire, I have never experienced more universally dreadful evenings than those sponsored by that devilish drink. Then again, sometimes tequila is just what you’re looking for.

Castler ordered tequila.

I will admit that I had a great amusement watching Castler drink that night. It was like watching an elbow gradually cast a glass over the edge of a table, and doing nothing to stop it. Strange tidings, given how composed Castler normally was. But I am not one to talk. If anything, I appreciated the company.

It was a dimly lit and dreary affair, this bar. The kind of place where kings met, or so I imagined. Duct-taped booths and dartboards, and an unleveled pool table you could only use to some degree of success when drunk.

But we were well gone by the time the blonde in the corner pulled out her cigarettes. Of course, they wouldn’t let her smoke inside, which got right to me. No one is more persecuted than the modern day smoker. Even when permitted inside, he’s segregated to a separate and lonely section in the back, outcast. He can’t advertise on television. In film, he is the villain. I viewed No Smoking signs as merely a polite way of saying No Smokers. But the activist in me had long been dead.

Castler nudged me – it was, after all, our cue - and we followed the blonde and her friends outside. She placed a cigarette between two perfect lips and made a show of searching her purse for a lighter. I offered her mine. Pretty girls don’t light their own cigarettes.

I held the flame close and let her dip her head ever so slightly forward, the proper way. It was all in their eyes, and in ours, or at least in Castler’s, but subtlety is hard to achieve in that condition, and unnecessary. I left Castler to the blonde and moved on to a raven, and I saw right away that she was smoking cowboy killers and couldn’t help but think of Mel.

“And how are you?” with a tilt of her head.

How was I? I was seeing nooses in shoe laces.

“I’m alright.”

But you can’t see stars in the city. There’s light grey and dark grey and darker grey and not much else at night, and I was preparing an excuse to leave when Castler hailed a cab and entered with the blonde, with her slipping over the curb as they went. The taxi pulled away and the raven, whose name was Charlotte, looked at me expectantly; Castler, thou hast forsaken me.

I watched Castler’s cab reach the light and stop. Charlotte and I walked that way and rounded the corner, but I paused to look back, another cigarette my excuse for the halt. There were no cars to be found in any direction, save for the lone taxi. It was close to four.

And yet the cab waited. No right on red in the city. But it could’ve crept forward and challenged the intersection. It could’ve gunned through the light at sixty. There was no chance of… anything. And yet the cab waited, the driver unobstructed by anything but propriety.

It struck me then that this cab was everything that was wrong with the world. That the damage had been long done, and irrevocably… That we were ruined.

“I don’t think I’m any good tonight,” on the next block.

She seemed to understand, and wrote out her number on my hand, “just in case.” We parted at the subway. The Charlottes of the world were doomed to find guys like me… Fuck me…

Blurred vision and staggered breaths down the stairs and through the turnstile. An expected development, though. I could feel the whisky turning on me and sought out the men’s room. No, it was not the kind of men’s room in which you wanted to get sick, but in a dirty, dingy way, it was also perfectly suited for that purpose.

And I always felt better afterwards. Maybe even spiritually, I don’t know. My eyes cleared enough to examine the stall, and there was something about the plastic dividers, the cracked tile and industrial toilet that brought me right back to middle school. Even the writing on the walls, although cruder, achieved a similar effect. Why people felt that this was the appropriate way to mark their existence, to leave some form of legacy: this, I would never understand. Why bother…

I got on the train with the numbered route that no one needs to know, going uptown or downtown, it doesn’t matter. I’ve never been one for street names, either, and the only thing at all remarkable about this street was that it was where our apartment could be found. On the pavement, I stood, exiled by uncertainty.

If it all went well, we would snuggle on the sofa, and put on a movie. No… First I’d enter the apartment and she would run up to me in that way she does and rub against my arm in that way she does. She’d insist on making the selection and then fall asleep, her head resting on my shoulder; I would ignore the movie and watch her breathe. I’d realize that it had ended some time ago and wake her up, and if she were cold enough or lonely enough, she would ask to stay in my room, so that the scene on the sofa would be repeated in my bed, and I would die two deaths that night in the wonderful sadness of it all.

But maybe I would enter and find Mel painfully absent. Or painfully with company.


About the Author: Alex is in the middle of the ocean, hasn't left his room in four days, has never been more lonely in his life, and thinks he's in love with Margot.

December 2010 - Comments Off

Gardnerville

Alisa Reith '13: Gardnerville, Print

Alisa Reith '13: Gardnerville, Print


About the Artist: Ally is a science student from Minden, Nevada.