All Posts in Volume 69: Issue 1
Lila Cutter '15
A Midwestern woman called
the “remote” a “switcher”. She left
the Midwest and called it
just the same.
Tuesday, September 28, 2007
a man flew to Australia.
In Australia, he arrived
Thursday, September 30, 2007.
The flight was 32 hours.
At fourteen I hitchhiked
with my brother. We were
picked up by a bus
for handicapped children. I miss
When Spring packs it takes her
hours. When Spring unpacks
it doesn’t take her long at all.
My uncle is a monk
in the Himalayas.
He said he’d only come home
for a death.
(No one has died
Laura Creste '13
An hour west toward the beginning of Long Island, we drive
to a party in Hicksville. We pass streets of one-story houses.
Airplanes fly over more than birds.
The show in the backyard has a porch as a makeshift stage, blocked
by a blue hydrangea. The hosts are wide-eyed on coke and their mother
spoons baked beans and macaroni salad onto paper plates.
I am creeping out one of the boys with long hair who stares too long
when I speak. A. begins unpacking his keyboard case
and I sit on a lounge chair, buy a beer, and break mosquitos open
against my legs. I think I should stop eating sugar. I am tired
of the grotesque blood-suck-burst. My boyfriend does not attract
mosquitos, only women. He was born without wisdom teeth or myopia.
I feel primitive with childbearing hips, peasant hands.
Hours pass, as they should, on time. Inside I wait for the bathroom,
and watch a Proactiv infomercial in the dark living room that smells
of cigarettes and family dinners. In the bathroom, boys are busy dividing
$100 worth of cocaine. “What’s she doing in here?” the longhaired boy
whispers, pulling a bottle of absinthe from the freezer.
People drinking absinthe are boring in their need to be acknowledged.
He will talk about it for the rest of the night. “I’m waiting
for the bathroom.” “Oh, sorry.” He is startled that I heard him.
Still he takes me aside to tell me, sincerely, that my boyfriend
is so talented. “Hold on to him, he’ll be famous.” The glow
of the infomercial throws light across his face, the eyes exhaustingly alert.
His brother is purported to be a professional pick up artist.
He gave lessons in cunnilingus at Stony Brook.
“Like the school actually hired him?”
On the lawn I’m sitting next to the pick up artist
because he’s asked me if I like his band. I see my boyfriend
taking down a girl’s phone number. “I liked the Neil Young cover,” I say
because it’s half true. He’s speedy and feels like talking.
“Smell my hair. It’s women’s shampoo, you know why?
Because girls are territorial, and they’re more attracted
to a man if they smell a woman on him.” “That sounds like bullshit.”
“It’s true. You know what else?” - he is giving me his innocuous secrets
because I don’t matter to him. “Fear makes a girl more attracted
to the guy she’s with. So that’s why you should take a girl
to a scary movie, or on a rollercoaster.” “Alright, pheromones,”
I allow. “Yeah. I give lessons on this, you know.” A. returns
to tap me on the shoulder. By midnight we drive the rest of the band
to the LIRR station, to deliver them to the city. We head east on 27
until we stop at a diner when I am lightheaded in a way I can’t identify,
like an eyeglass prescription made a fraction too strong.
“I think there’s something wrong, but I might just be imagining it”
which is a problem for me always. The diner was voted best
on Long Island in 2004 and 2006. We order a Belgian waffle,
two eggs over easy, and fries. Abruptly he says “That girl wants
to go to my shows. She lives in Queens - She likes my brother, anyway.”
The neat yellow yolks sit like closed eyes.
“I wouldn’t flirt with a girl right in front of you.”
He asks me who I was talking to earlier and I say a very sober boy,
who asked pointedly what I do. I shrugged write, and he guessed poetry.
Emboldened by his rightness he ventured, I bet you have a special place
where you write in your house, like by a window overlooking a lake.
No, I said recoiling. A. tells me, “I can imagine you’re impossible to flirt with.”
“You think I’m not funny?” I hate the word flirt with its awkward phonetics,
the frivolous letter f, the harsh end of consonants. He cuts the waffle
with the edge of his fork. He is never worried someone could take me
from him. I realized I’m not stoned from the downwind of a blunt,
only sickened by my sister’s perfume on the cardigan pulled out of the hamper.
Victoria’s Secret is a poisonous vanilla. For fifty miles we pass
deer grazing on the Sunrise. I hate them for their stupidity.
They wait to be harmed like a lesson in repetition.
Julia Mounsey '13
This is true: sometimes
I wake up spitting.
Not just drooling or
sputtering, but spitting,
like you’d spit into a sink.
There’s nothing funny about it. Sometimes
there’s quite a bit of kick behind it, and
a big glob flies out and
slaps against the wall
and it’s not the spitting that wakes me,
but the sound of it hitting the wall.
My whole life I’ve always fallen
asleep facing the wall, but
the whole spitting thing has
made me consider new options.
If I fall asleep facing the door, my spit
will fall over the edge of the bed.
It will fall onto the floor.
Then at least it won’t be
stuck there to the wall
staring at me all night.
Laura Creste '13
At night in the backyard
A. smokes a spliff, offers it
to me. I decline. The sick
tree cut down last week
leaves us exposed in the garden.
In the neighbors’ window now
the light is harsh yellow at dusk.
I stand on the lowest step
with A. on the ground at eye level,
and he can’t see the fireflies,
electric behind his head.
I used to think they turned
into fairies at night.
No you didn’t, he says.
Yes I really believed that.
I caught them, stored
in jars, the acrid insect
fear smelling on my palms.
My hands cup and it’s easy again –
their slow, drugged movement.
Preening in their own light
they beat still like a helicopter;
a hummingbird I’d have said
if I grew up in the country.
Catch and release three in a row.
A. waits; for now there is nowhere
else he would be.
They glow, radiantly pained.
Michiel Considine '13
You sit cross-legged on a cooler of Heinekens and listen to your uncle talk ball. You are wearing black thong sandals that dangle and show off pink nails, and a boxy grey dress that hides everything else. Your father is there. He is poking fun at your uncle, calling him a chubby chaser because his new girlfriend, Maureen, has cellulite poking out of her one-piece. All eyes turn to Maureen, who smiles from the lip of the pool. She dips into the water, surfaces, then dips again. She climbs out of the pool and you realize she does have cellulite, messy craters rippling up and down her thighs and it makes you like her less.
Your uncle is grilling bratwursts and dogs. He ignores your father and watches the boys play Wiffleball on his lawn. In a huddled mess they shout and taunt and call each other names. One or two take cuts like Wade Boggs and show real promise. Games end in tantrums and brawls. The boys run to their mothers or hide out in station wagons, locking the doors behind them.
Your uncle recalls his time with the Huskers. His runs-batted-in.
Your father remarks on his .220 batting average.
“D1 is D1,” your uncle says.
Your father finds this funny, and pinches your uncle’s thighs, reminding him he never had the legs for anything outside of Lincoln. It was home run or bust, a moonshot to the bleachers or the walk back to the clubhouse.
Your uncle lets out an unconvincing laugh and puts down his spatula. He scowls at your father. “Pure gold,” he says. “My brother the comedian.” Your uncle lowers his head and barrels into your father’s midsection and the boys begin to tussle. An aunt from Iowa City, coworkers from the electric company, and the boys in the field, all gather onto the porch to watch the two have at it.
Your father is thick and Armenian and your uncle is thicker. Big bellies peak out of too-tight golf shirts; furry, pasty, ass cheeks appear over the sagging denim waistband of their shorts. They were farm boys who tossed hay bales into silo lofts since before they could remember and it turned them into broad-shouldered, roly-poly adults. Your uncle had used his build to knock baseballs a country mile, out beyond the interstate, into the outer rim of the solar system. Your father, however, used up all his machismo on impregnating your mother his senior year of high school. At graduation, he collected his diploma, moved the red-white tassel to the left side of his cap, and took a construction job as soon as he stepped off stage. In that moment, he became his father, the man he never intended to be.
They are older now, but incapable of forgetting. Their past remains displayed, polished trophies they bring up when anyone will listen. And all of this appears as they fight. Both men close their eyes and go red in the face. They grapple and claw, all tangled arms and headlocks, shadowboxing their former selves into oblivion. They slap at each other’s shoulders, bump patio furniture, knock the dogs and bratwursts from the cutting board, and try locking their fingers into the other’s belt loops. Anything to gain an edge.
Your uncle grunts into your father’s kidneys. “You’re a goddamn nobody.”
“Piece of shit,” your father says. “Where’s Sheila, huh?”
This party was supposed to be your uncle’s reintroduction after the divorce. This was your uncle proving he was all right with how things went down. This was his way of saying he didn’t need Sheila one bit. She was better off with the dental hygienist and anyway, he’s got Maureen now. He wanted to prove he was done locking himself in rooms. He wanted to prove he could be a father and a man again. It was supposed to be a blast.
After another moment, your uncle gains the upper hand. He squats low and lifts your father up over the porch railing and tosses him onto the azaleas below. Your father comes down like a bag of fertilizer.
Panting, your uncle turns to his family and friends and looks as if he is about to cry. He storms off through the mass of people and locks himself in his bedroom, refuses to show his face again.
Your father, for his part, has blown out his back. Your family drags him into the living room and takes turns giving him shit, tossing packets of frozen waffles onto or around his spot on the couch. They scold him for instigating the whole ordeal. “On a day like today,” they say. “The first holiday without Sheila.” “Stubborn boys, pig-headed imbeciles.” “See how rough this has been on him?” “See the trashy girls he is bringing home?”
Your relatives turn to Maureen and say, “No offense, Maureen,” and Maureen waves.
You go and find your cousin Becky who, hours earlier, told you that you carry weight well—some girls can’t but you do. She is hiding out in her bedroom, video- chatting with boys. She is not excited to see you. You tell her what happened and she is embarrassed for you all.
“Your dad locked himself in his room,” you say.
“Oh God,” Becky says. “Again?”
Later, to prove there is no bad blood, Maureen guides your uncle to the banister to see his brother off. Guests stand between, five deep, to ward off trouble.
Your father is doped up on codeine and too far gone now to make a fuss. You hold him by one arm while the aunt from Iowa City takes the other. But your uncle is still hurt. He leans against the railing, ruddy and cheated, and loses it. He shouts at your fleeing bodies, “At least I made it that far, Sam. I wasn’t a goddamn nobody.”
Your uncle starts crying and you have no idea why. This is about baseball? After all your uncle has been through, it’s his time with the Cornhuskers that bothers him most. You don’t get it. You don’t like baseball. You are done trying to figure this family out.
You drag your father out to the car and lay him down in the backseat. He starts laughing uncontrollably. “I just thought of a good one,” he says, and through the slacken state of his medicated body, you can hardly understand a word he says.
You cook your father simple meals he eats on the living room couch where he is holed up for long hours, brooding and recovering. You mix pain relievers in with the gravy broth and he chases this mixture with cold beer. “That little shit,” he says about his brother. “How am I the bad guy?”
You’ve gotten a dozen calls this week from annoyed relatives. The phone is out of your father’s reach, so while you’re at school he has to listen to the opinions of many loved ones berating him on his tactful critique of Maureen. “Grow up,” the messages say. “You haven’t had it easy, Sam, but neither has he. Show a little sympathy.” “You’re supposed to be family.” “Asshole.” This last one was from your uncle. He doesn’t leave his name, but the weeping gives it away. Even Maureen calls one evening and hopes this can all be water under the bridge.
“Maureen seems nice,” you say.
Your father says, “It is what it is.” Then he puffs out his cheeks to signify that though Maureen may be nice, she is still a whale.
Your father is upset for many reasons: for being manhandled by his younger brother; for burning the comp time he hoped to spend on a golf tournament; and, in a greater sense, for being responsible for a daughter he understands little about, for regretting a life he never planned.
You don’t want to tell your father he is being an ass, that “growing up” might be just what he needs. It was childish to poke fun at Maureen like that, to bring up the college days—the nerve that never heals—so near to the divorce. Your father’s choices make you wonder about your own character, character you’ve inherited, in part, from this man on the couch, this bloated crab turned belly-up on the sofa, gyrating his appendages up and down, forever reaching for the unreachable television remote.
“Maybe it was too soon for that kind of joking around,” you say.
Your father scoffs and downs his beer. “Because why? Because of his loss? That’s not loss. Anything he ever lost he had coming. He earned it.”
You threw shot put in junior high and made a name for yourself at the Under-14 level. In the springtime your father was known to duck out of work early, leave the half-dug swimming pools on hold until the next day, so he could ride out to your meets and watch you throw.
“Wheelers win at any cost!” he would say, lining up at the fence with the other churlish fathers in Lincoln East Middle School apparel. He repeated this phrase over and over: after meets, on car rides home, during meals with your mother present.
You were going places. You did this well. Your coaches praised you for your brawn, for your ability to hurl steel objects into oblivion without any of the priss that other girls your age were beginning to show. “She’s built like a Cornhusker through and through,” they would tell you, meaning it as a compliment, you are sure. But as you thought about it, as you pictured yourself the mirror of this pot-bellied farm boy in wide overalls, an ear of corn stuffed in your denim, you began to wonder what was so desirable about that.
That last year you rode the red diesel bus into Omaha and competed in States. You took home a third-place ribbon and a sportsmanship award, presented to you at the Rotary Club commencement dinner back in Lincoln. Your father couldn’t have been prouder. When they called you to the stage, he stood on his chair, balanced himself with one boot on the table, his heel in the lasagna, and began to chant, “Wheelers win at any cost!”
“Please, Samuel,” your mother had said. She was patient with him always, never raising her voice, never reacting with vengeance or spite when your father carried out his boyish antics. He had always been that way, your mother explained, him and your uncle both. They just need to rile themselves up, blow off steam, before you can have a decent conversation with them. They’re good people, she told you. Just give them time. Your mother was flawless in this approach. She assuaged their brutish edge simply by keeping a hand on every shoulder, presenting a calm façade to curtail these shenanigans from boiling over into blood feuds.
She stood beside your father as he shouted, hand resting on his lower back, guiding him gently back to his seat so the ceremony could proceed.
This was the last true image you had of your mother, the moment that resonated with you well beyond the lights of the stage.
Becky has left home. She is unable to handle her father’s midlife crisis and she comes to sleep on your floor. You are her last resort, she tells you. She didn’t want it to be this way.
“Cara’s mom has a stick up her ass,” she explains. “She’s a total bitch about curfews.” Becky makes an open palm gesture to your general being—your body, your roof, your floor—as if to say, so here we are.
“Does your dad know?”
“That asshole?” Becky says. “He locked himself in the hall closet this time. Don’t you get how fucked up that is? We never even had a lock on the door, he had to go out and buy one. Besides, the house is starting to smell. I think the food from the party is going bad. I can’t handle that freak anymore. Can I come in?”
You are unable to say no. You have been raised to be a good host and you accept Becky graciously. Turning people out is not one of your strong suits. You are incapable of being rude. Your mother wouldn’t allow it. That is not a virtue we wish to perpetuate in the world, she would say. You keep your mother alive in this way, by stretching every bit of her wisdom over any grievance you might face, though it keeps getting harder not to jumble the anecdotes, to mismatch the images, to clutter the sense of her belonging to you, until you find yourself worshipping a different ghost entirely, another mother, another life instead.
You wash the spare linens and stock the pantry with what you think Becky might like. You offer her your bed, but she accepts the floor. “I don’t want to be a bother,” she says. “I’ll stay out of your hair.”
You tell her it’s no bother. Family is never a bother. Your mother taught you that as well.
In a naïve way you are excited having Becky as your guest. You feel thirteen again, like you should reattach the paisley skirt to the lower half of your mattress, sit Indian-style with a bowl of popcorn between your knees, and maneuver your hands around a Ouija board by flashlight.
Instead, Becky spends the night video-chatting with a boyfriend and sucking up bandwidth. You understand that people change, that lives split and there is no return. But you don’t understand why this has to be okay, why it isn’t worth grieving over. Becky doesn’t know you anymore, and you want to understand why.
You doodle in a notebook and watch her. She is making googly eyes at the boy on the computer screen and the boy responds by sweeping his dashing bangs away from his eyeballs. You wonder how it’s done, how Becky handles being seen. At school, you are called The Futon by boys with messy hair who cackle at this putdown. And though this title might suggest an obvious presence, you are invisible in every other way. You are furniture. Nothing more. These are the same boys who feel swampy, guttural urges for your cousin. They hump lockers and each other. They pop up on Becky’s computer screen while Becky sits on your floor, and they conjure up great laughs from Becky.
Past midnight, headlights sweep across the blinds. Some boy in his father’s car lays on the horn and Becky rises from her slumber. You pray she invites you along. Instead, she tells you not to wait up. She leaves the house and you hear the door slam, the vehicle thrown into reverse. You sense the energy of something happening beyond you, out there, in the world. Silence resumes and you are left to wonder.
You fall asleep in this reverie and Becky returns before dawn.
Breakfast in bed. You explain to Becky that Saturdays are pancake days, and you bring her a plate from the kitchen. She is unkempt at this hour, her hair ratty, her face greasy; she is less put together than you, and this makes you feel warm for a moment. If only the world existed at this hour, on this day. If only.
You have already explained to your father about Becky staying over. He shrugged at the notion and didn’t seem to care. Your father can walk now. He has taken to self-medicating with Heinekens in front of the kitchen sink late into the nights where, when strong enough, he reenacts the fight with his brother. The results always veer from reality. It is your father delivering lightning jabs to your uncle’s kidneys. It is your father standing over him triumphantly. It is your father calling your uncle a nobody.
Becky eats pancakes in big globs like your father, shoving them down, covered in syrup. Once again, she appears undesirable. She looks like every Wheeler family picnic, your father and your uncle at opposite ends of the table, dipping ears of corn in sleeves of butter and then chomping through the ears one by one, mowing through them all to a timer. Who will come out on top? What great meaning will this bring?
“You’re so maternal,” Becky says with her mouth full. “I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t look at these goons and see anything more than just that—goons.”
You ask, “How’s your dad?”
Becky takes another big bite. “Out of his mind,” she says. “It’s been, what, six months since the divorce? He needs to get over it. He’s not young anymore, so what? He’s not supposed to be. He’s supposed to be a dad. Blah-blah.”
“He seems in rough shape.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Do you hear from your mom?”
“Gag me,” Becky says. “She’s worse than he is. She’ll talk to me when the honeymoon’s over.”
“What do you think of Maureen?”
Becky puffs out her cheeks and lets you know what she thinks of Maureen.
That spring, your senior spring, you join Track and throw shot put. You’ve resolved to improve, to enact some meaningful change, to reestablish your life with some order.
The first week is unbearable. You blush uncontrollably. You are embarrassed by the oafish size of your body. Other girls giggle and sprint and succeed without effort. You push yourself in warm ups. You jog at a distance behind Becky and the blonde girls. By the final turn you are crying and wheezing and feel your body—a body that is so big otherwise—being unable to take in the oxygen you so desperately need. Your body has failed you, again. You pull up cramped in the far lane. You dry heave into the fence post again and again. Your face has gone hot and you feel so ashamed.
During meets you are corralled onto a dusty bowl where you are familiar with the task of hurling metal spheres into the stratosphere until they come crashing down in dry dirt. Your fellow putters and javelin-eers and discus-ians all grunt and heave and compete for pride. From this spot in the dirt, you watch Becky and the wood nymphs run sprints and prance over obstacles. They impress boys with the length and color of their legs.
Your uncle is often there, loopy and distant, perched behind the goalposts, watching with binoculars. He cheers for you both. You see his tiny arms from beyond the fence pumping up and down, up and down. Your father comes when he can, when the disc in his back no longer flares up. He stands across the football field, behind the goalpost opposite your uncle, his own binoculars, his own unique gyration to set him apart, glowering at his brother and stomping his feet.
In the evenings you smear Vaseline on your ankles, elbows, and thighs. You ice your heels and take long baths. Your father catches you in the act of soothing your swollen feet one night, and he is amazed by your body’s transformation. He sees the Wheeler trait for muscle mass building up in your thighs, bulging and filling out beneath your gym shorts. Yet he also sees the subtle grace of your mother calming a wound, nursing over whatever ailment could pester body and soul. The feelings are unusual and conflicting for him. He is unable to encapsulate the combination of the two: Himself and your mother, himself and your Uncle. Instead, he compliments you on the size of your legs: how wide and muscular they’ve become—how much like a Wheeler, how vital and strong. All you hear is your father’s battle cry, his mantra, his chanting tone of conquest, his “Wheeler’s win at any cost!” Every word pushes you further from Becky’s grace, further from the woman you hope to become. You hear this all and storm off, aghast.
Your father, for the life of him, cannot understand the hurt this causes.
You leave your father’s house carrying DVDs of classic Westerns in which actors tumble over railings into murky troughs or are shot in the sternum and blown back through saloon doors. They belong to your uncle, and you are returning them as an offering for peace.
Your father has done little to suggest he has an opinion either way towards what you are about to do. You asked him where the DVDs were kept and he pointed to the spot on the rack. He walked away with a neutral expression and that was that.
Your uncle’s house has gone to the dogs. Neighboring animals have taken up territorial disputes across the walkway. Patches of fur clump and catch on the brown grass. As you approach, two coon cats mark adjacent trees, hunch low and growl, and then flee at the sight of your looming presence.
You knock twice at the screen door, announce yourself, and then enter the living room. The blinds are pulled and even in daylight the room is dark and neglected.
You call to your uncle and hear no reply. Throughout the rooms you feel an absence, neglect, a liveliness long forgotten, leaking like pinpricked gas lines seeping out of the drywall. You wonder where Maureen is. Has she flown the coop too? The cabinets are open and empty, microwavable plates are stacked in the sink. A pile of door locks, padlocks, duct tape and nails sits open on the counter in a plastic bag. A few of the packages have been torn apart, their contents spilling onto the floor, screws and latches flung in opposite directions.
This is not the home you remember. This is not the place you came to play when you were young. You and Becky were stubby kids with unkempt hair who tromped through this house in muddy flats and dresses, carrying wild onions gathered from the yard to be thrown into pots and boiled into mystical potions in holes in the yard. But now you are different. Becky has grown into a symmetrical woman with angled cheekbones that complement her soft mouth. She has the rapid metabolism of a second cousin twice removed whom you’ve only met once at a graduation, years ago. This is a far-flung branch of the family tree, a limb that has never dropped seed onto your shrubby alcove. What luck. What unbelievable luck. But now Becky’s house is abandoned and you can no longer remember the way your mother walked. You slouch now, like your father. You have his metabolism. You carry his weight wherever you go.
Your uncle has disappeared. You are sure of it. And your father will stew in his bitterness until he dies. Until he finds some travesty worse than death to overwhelm him, to feel sorry about, to hold up to the world and justify his anger, his rotten disposition. And your mother, for her part, will still be dead. Nothing will be fixed. And does anybody care about Maureen?
You sit at the table and begin to weep—heavy sobs that blur your vision as you clutch your face in your palms. For once you’d like to be heard. For once you’d like to be visible. To have your feelings recognized and consoled.
But no one arrives. You hold yourself as best you can and cry until you don’t.
Beyond the kitchen, a faint plunking sound comes from the yard, ringing like frogs in heat. It is a steady pop you can’t quite place. You lift yourself from the table and walk out onto the porch.
Your uncle is in the backyard. He is shirtless, glowing in the hot sun, a wooden bat in one hand and a crab apple in the other. He is portly and barrel-chested, with double bands of back hair traveling like wide suspenders across his shoulders and down past his lower back. This is your father’s body. This is, in some regards, yours as well. An array of empty Heinekens lie half buried in the muddy grass. He takes the crab apple, tosses it in front of him and with one fluent stroke, he connects. The apple explodes and pulpy bits fly off into the field beyond the house, likely to be scavenged by badgers and wild stags after dark. Your uncle does this again and again, dropping his shoulder, pivoting his feet, his entire body anchored by the mass of his belly. Each time he swings, the contact is solid. The sound reverberates farther and farther into the field, rippling, carrying on.
You call to your uncle from the porch and he turns to you, distracted, startled at the sound of your voice. He is unable to place you at first. “Ginny, sweetie,” he calls at last. “That you?”
You walk into the yard to meet your uncle. He is dazed and panting, his chest blotchy from the beer and the exertion.
“These belong to you,” you say, handing him the DVDs.
He holds them timidly. His fingers are sweaty and dirt-stained. “I guess they do,” he says doubtfully. “Your dad decided it was about time he paid the late fees, eh?”
“Do you miss Becky?”
Your uncle looks confused, like he hasn’t noticed she left. “She’s a smart girl,” he says. “She’s got a lot to look forward to.” Your uncle puts down the DVDs and goes back to knocking around the crab apples. He bites down on his tongue when he swings; the veins in his temples bulge and quiver. He follows through each apple decisively, whipping his body around it, putting his weight behind it. The apples shatter and fall into the grass.
Your uncle wipes the sweat from his forehead and says, “I did this well. I couldn’t do much, but this I figured out.” He stares out into the field. “Now I turn my hips and the sockets just pop. You hear that?” he says, making the motion. “That’s called getting old, Gin. Don’t ever get old.”
Your uncle holds the bat by the thick end and hands it to you. “Have a cut,” he says. He steps in behind you and shows you how to hold it. “Line up the knuckles,” he says. “That’ll give it pop.”
You bend your knees and rest the heavy bat on your shoulder. Your uncle picks up a handful of apples and stands a few feet away. “We’ll go easy,” he says, then starts tossing them to you underhand. You swing as hard as you can. The first few slip by you and plop in the grass. “Knock ‘em out the park,” your uncle says. “Don’t be scared of it.”
After a couple dozen it starts to click. You start knocking apples around the yard, splitting dandelion heads from the stalk, tearing up the lawn, even hitting a few bloopers past the fence into the field. You start making sauce.
“That’a girl,” your uncle says. He winds up and starts throwing overhand. He tells you he’s bringing the heat. You feel the energy inside you. You feel the release. Every time you make contact you hear the thunk of the apple leaving the bat.
“You do this for long enough,” your uncle says, “and you’ll know where the ball’s going before you even look. You’ll know by the sound. That’s magic, Ginny. How many things in the world exist where you hear something for an instant and know what’s going to happen next?” Your uncle is smiling. It looks strange on him. He’s been too tired for too long and looks like he might never get it right.
“More,” you say. Your uncle winds up, tosses one in, and you give it a good wallop. The apple turns to mush. A thousand bits spray onto you and your uncle. You wipe apple flesh from your shirt, out of your eyes and hair.
Your uncle holds his belly and starts to laugh. “That’s one thing the Wheeler family’s got going for them, something comes our way, we sure know how to make a mess of it.”
Esme Franklin '13
To keep the evil eye from entering the home
hang mirrors on the outside of doors.
Direct the hoary eye back on itself. Remain behind mirrors.
To prevent yourself from feeling envy for others
hang a talisman around the neck. Direct the gaze
from the body. Do not gaze at the body. The eye
is a light blue circle, a dark blue oval, a woman coveting
another woman’s baby, a woman coveting the body.
The eye is a woman, passed between women.
Do not look upon children for they are defenseless.
Do not envy the lithe girl—she is marked
by the women who have born her, who have thought
of white skin pulled taut over high cheek bones.
They cover her nakedness with white muslin,
hang a blue talisman around the neck. Where the women
see blue tarnish white she sees white beg blue—an eye
in the small mirrors hung throughout the house,
refracting color into the blind night.
Julia Mounsey '13
Then you come in and punch me in the gut.
My lips are the color of my eyes today.
You bring me a gift, it’s a book, it’s about the War
that was supposed to End All Wars but didn't.
It feels oily, I am smitten with it. I am sick,
spotted. Fabulously bedridden. You love it.
In the afternoon I sit down. I write a letter.
“Dear Trench Mouth,” I write. It’s a dirty letter,
it’s full of acrobatic nudes and ways to get in.
In bed I always feel like I am on the end of every fork –
“Dear Trench Mouth, I’m trying okay?”
My tongue is a warbunker full of skunk pits
and just yesterday I traded mommy’s twenty
for a gram of the stuff. The dealer had a name
but I didn’t say it. I don’t like to be called
anything but young. Admit it, you ate my letter.
It was oily, you were smitten. My skin is the color
of my hair today and I am not a blond.
translation by Mariyama Scott '15
today I have not one rampart
that I might call my own.
(From an old poem.)
Not one word
will spring from my lips
that is not
Not one syllable,
that is not
of words, bore
to man, leaf by leaf.
I burned bridges
Not a single one
did I subdue:
silence, in broad sunlight.
books erased the oblivion,
and I stop counting.
oh mountain, oh River
Darro: erase me
Blue peaks of my homeland,
Today I have not one rampart
that I might call my own.
oh lost seas.
against my verse, resound
hoy no tengo una almena
que pueda decir que es mía.
(De un romance viejo.)
Ni una palabra
brotará en mis labios
que no sea
Ni una sílaba,
que no sea
de las palabras, di
del hombre, hoja a hoja.
Quemé las naves
los sueños, planté
Ni una sola
silencio, a pleno sol.
libros borraron el olvido,
y paro de contar.
oh monte, oh río
cimas azules de mi patria,
Hoy no tengo una almena
que pueda decir que es mía.
oh mar perdidos.
contra mi verso, resonad
Laura Creste '13
Cowed by time, the graves slump into the earth at embarrassed
angles. The little gray stones with weather-bitten contours
lean into the mother monument. I see a crowd of infants
until I read the names of grown men printed squarely.
They anticipate the only question we would ask of them
died at sea
Reminders of childhood Halloween cakes: chocolate cake dirt brown
with Milano’s standing as graves, iced to read RIP in fat letters:
the idea of death without the horror of specificity. Tootsie pops
sheathed in tissue to make round-faced ghosts, with pen-inked smiles.
Ghosts are the exception, making a mockery of death.
We read Tuck Everlasting in 4th grade, as a balm for the dread
of a full decade, when grandparents begin to die or when you learn
that the sun will burn out, the clichéd and real fear it inspires.
The moral of Tuck is about the cyclical rightness of death,
and eternal life, less a blessing than curse. We would not believe it.
Not everyone can live forever, but I should I should.
Julia Mounsey '13
Soft rain and I am cold-damp
Wheels turning in the grass
Soft car making its car-shape
Go across the grass, I am there
Soft grass growing a car-shape
Big-cold, and I am there
Soft car animal-creeps in grass
Making car-shapes at me
Soft me in grass touching car
Rain thing I am and cold
Sometimes animals are cars
Hannah Kucharzak '13
Mid-air, the fishing line runs forward at a perfect
parabola, marking the distance of the unstable relationship
of three-- sky, water, child. The lure is a fish head. My father
makes me cut a goby in quarters because I wasn’t supposed to
catch it; its brain is small but is important enough to fall out
and the void is where I hook it. Goby eyes for breakfast.
The fish’s sex lies wriggling on the dock, a dark castration,
a microscopic procedure, the booger removed that begins
the surprising steady red bloodflow. I’m aware that I need to cut
this fish to become a woman, anxiously awaiting the day
I wake up with serendipitous boobs. I see my body flung
into the water, cracked like a too-rich vase upon impact,
I see it break into segments: nibble on a piece of this,
my kneecap, something sinister, my newfound secret
of masturbation. If my eyeballs fell through my esophagus,
glazed donutholes, how long until I get skullfucked
at the bottom by eels, narrated by David Attenborough?
Would all that remain be my archaic torso? Could I still
gaze at scuba divers with my nipples? A death for science,
a pre-pubescent mermaid, of which there are none, lying
in a bed of lettuce and fish shit, a wish-you-were-here
postcard. It’s hard to feel guilt when a knife creates
fireworks, when a father says it’s what’s right. Scar tissue
is the toughest part to eat on account of all its tough white
history. At night we bellow in the stomachs of monsters,
goby and girl, a perfect discord of smut and release.
Esme Franklin '13
I learned to tell what kind of day it would be
according to the sounds coming from the kitchen.
Too quiet, bad. Too loud, bad. A man’s voice?
Better. When cupboards slammed
Sisyphus let slip his boulder
again. The silence of failed domesticity
sagged at the ankles of her mountain.
When she was able to refuse the myth
there was a boyfriend to bring hamburgers,
a smitten ex, a sack of stolen croissants.
Quiet mouths were full and quiet mornings empty.
Do not lie listening for too long, said the silence.
Sam Dolph '13
The day you led us to the museum I walked behind you so I could stare at your back
it was either this or talk to you
and what good is the voice at a time
when the sun is peeking so perfectly around the spires of Staré Mĕsto
just to shine on you without any shadows at all!
And especially when the last time I stood in a museum with you
you taught me about the word somnambulism
after we watched the old Czech woman knit herself around the room in circles
perhaps even all the way the gorges of Divoká Šárka
where I'd like to go with you or live
Can you believe that all of this happened
before we didn't do any of the things we planned to do
like talk about Spinoza and his Positive Affects which
by the way I feel for you
or perform an homage to Marina Abramović and just stare at each other
and see if it takes us to the bed or
to the kitchen for more pancakes!
when I showed you my butt you told me it looks like Mucha
I think you mean one of his paintings but what a shame
that we looked at his entire collection in your city separately
For eight hours you sat in the air staring straight ahead without talking or listening
I would do something if you were here
and I think that after all of this we should never be apart again
not even in March
Catherine Pikula '13
God has given you one face and you make yourselves
another -- Hamlet to Ophelia
I.John Bell, 1775:
I am small, a mere illustration set on a plain page.
Contained by a black border, he dresses me,
for a ball, in long skirts that drag and trail.
He gives me a bouquet to offer as I walk
II. Eugene Delacroix, 1838:
Cock-eyed I hang from the willow branch in muted gold.
The riverscape implied with dark greens and blues
with heavy grey tones. He pulls the front of my dress
down to my waist. He places weeds in the bend of my arm.
III. Gustave Courbet, 1842:
I am not the Virgin, dressed in blue, a hint
of pink on the cheeks and my wreath not wilted.
My eyes close in the manner of prayer. I look
toward the floor unworthy. He calls me la fiancée
de la mort.
IV. Dr. Hugh Diamond 1850:
One of his patients is pretending to be me.
No doubt encouraging, he weaves the weeds
into her hair, drapes the black cloak over her
shoulders, teaches her how to stare toward
death like a lover.
V. John Everett Millais, 1852:
Beneath the willow with cattails, he paints me:
water black as a coffin, my dress soaking,
the flowers floating in a line down stream.
To Lethe I go singing, my palms upturned.
VI. Francis Dicksee, 1875:
Upon the bank in a bed of moss, he has me
a ghost weaving flowers into crowns.
He rips my white shawl at the shoulder.
It falls past my folded feet to drink.
VII. Madeleine Lemaire 1880:
My breasts are exposed. She stretches my sleeves
just below my shoulders, has me hold the flowers
near my hips, I pinch a columbine upside down.
My eyes more coaxing, she tells me to threaten
with one foot held above the water.
VIII.Dominico Tojetti 1880:
I am not in color. The background is a shadow
of a room. I sit on the floor wrapped in silk
flowing out of frame. He tells me to hold
the rose to my wrist, like a needle.
IX.Alexandre Cabanel, 1883:
My wreath is coming undone. He drops flowers
in my hair. In the river, he bends my back over
the broken willow branch. A romantic, he dresses
me in gold patterned silk. Dramatically,
he tells me to reach for the weeping leaves.
X.Konstantin Makovsky, 1884:
I am in plain maiden garments. He wraps me
in garlands and tangles pearls around my neck.
My hair falls uncombed. My hands fall barely
holding the flowers in my skirts. I stare
into fog and trees. I stand in a bog.
XI. Annie French, 1889:
I’m flying over the river. She makes
my white dress the river, and me rise
with sparrows pulling at my long hair.
The flowers are ours, spangled, circles
of color filling the background
like small stones bursting.
XII.Constant Montald, 1893:
Amidst swans, I lie on a brown frame.
My bed is a bank full of water. He tells me
to pluck the gold lyre and a swan will curl
its head behind mine like a crown. Another
looks straight. A third, floats as if dead.
XIII.Paul Albert Steck, 1895:
He sets me under water among the weeds
like a mermaid as Hamlet’s mother described.
My dress clings tight to my legs and fans out
at the feet, rippling. My hair floats toward
the surface with roses. My body leaning away.
XIV.Lucien Levy-Dhurmer, 1900:
He tints me blue with green hues.
The moon is a white line illuminating
my hands. I clutch my breast and rest
in the water with soft lilies and reeds.
My eyes are opened but still.
XV. Odilon Redon, 1905
My head rests on a black wave. I have no face,
only an ochre profile. He gives me no flowers,
but he holds me like a tube of paint in his palms.
XVI.W.G. Simmonds, 1910:
He lifts my white dress behind me like wings.
My head is upturned. He closes my eyes,
tells me to dip one hand in the river
as if I were entering a church.
XVII.John Austen, 1922:
He makes three of me: the first sinks
amongst lotus, the second rises naked,
above the water, the third hangs
from the willow branch. He tells me
to throw my head back in rapture.
As if from Lethe, I return.
XVIII. David Burliuk,1965:
A sketch in black felt tip, he rubs me
with pastels. Aqua could be anywhere.
My skin is burnt orange. He gives me
no hands, no feet, but legs implied
with two lines. I sink beneath his signature.
XIX.Gregory Crewdson, 2001:
His living room is flooded black and I float
in morning, at the bottom of his stairs, pale
in my favorite nightgown. I left my robe
on the railing, my slippers on different stairs.
I threw the windows open, before turning
on the lamps. On his way home, I suggest
he buy himself a new arm chair before
he takes my picture.
To know me: make me in your image, forgetting
I reflect like the surface of Lethe. This page
with no borders is a dress I no longer wear.
The flowers are not lilies but poppies I hold in
these, no longer palms, here, pulling you beneath,
no longer here, but still--- water shows you
where you lie.
Mariyama Scott '15
translation from Reinaldo Arenas's "Antes que anochezca"
Perhaps the most extraordinary event that I enjoyed during my youth was the one that came down from the sky. It wasn’t a normal shower; it was a tropical spring downpour that announced itself with a huge crash, cosmic orchestral drum rolls, thunder that echoed throughout the countryside, lightning that traced crazed lines, palms that all of a sudden were struck by bolts and caught fire, going up like a match. And then came the rain as if a great army were moving on the tops of the trees. In the zinc-covered hallway, the water boomed like a rain of bullets; on the guano roof of the living room there was the sound of something like the footfalls of many people marching over my head; in the gutters the water ran with the murmur of overflowing streams and poured over the barrels with the crash of a waterfall; on the trees in the yard, from the highest leaf down to the ground, the water became a concert of drums of many pitches and unusual beats: a fragrant sonority. I would run from one end of the hallway to the other, go into the living room, stick my head out of the window, go into the kitchen and see the waterlogged, wildly whistling pines in the yard and, finally, devoid of all clothing, I would hurl myself outside and let the rain soak into me. I’d hug the trees, roll around in the grass, build tiny dams out of mud where the water puddled, and in those puddles, I’d swim, dive, do laps; I’d come to the well and see water falling on water, look up to the sky and see flocks of green querequeteses also celebrated the arrival of the downpour. I wanted not only to roll around on the grass, but also to rise up, to be lifted like those birds, at one with the rain. I’d come to the river that roared, possessed by violence’s uncontrollable spell. The force of the overflowing current dragged away almost everything, taking trees, rocks, animals, houses; it was the mystery of the law of destruction and of life itself. Back then I didn’t know where that river went, where that frenetic race would end, but something told me that I had to go along with the din, that I too had to throw myself in and lose myself to those waters, that only in the middle of that torrent, always departing, would I find a bit of peace. But I didn’t dare jump; I’ve always been a coward. I’d reach the edge where the water roared, calling to me; one more step and the whirlpool would devour me. How many things could have been avoided if I had done it! They were rough yellowish waters; powerful and solitary waters. I had nothing but that water, that river, that nature that welcomed me in and now called to me at the precise moment of its grand finale. Why not hurl myself to those waters? Why not lose myself, melt into them and find peace in the middle of that beloved roar? What happiness it would have been, to have done it then! But I returned home, drenched; night had already fallen. My grandmother was making dinner. It had stopped raining. I shivered while my aunts and my mother set the table, not overly concerned about me. I’ve always believed that my family, including my mother, considered me strange, useless, scatterbrained, nuts or out of my mind; outside the context of their lives. Surely, they were right.
Original: “El aguacero”
Tal vez el acontecimiento más extraordinario que yo haya disfrutado durante mi infancia fue el que venia del cielo. No era un aguacero común; era un aguacero de primavera tropical que se anunciaba con gran estruendo, con golpes orquestales cósmicos, truenos que repercuten por todo el camp, relámpagos que trazan rayas enloquecidas, palmas que de pronto eran fulminadas por el rayo y se encendían y achicharraban como fósforos. Y, al momento, llegaba la lluvia como un inmenso ejército que caminara sobre los árboles. En el corredor cubierto de zinc, el agua retumbaba como una balacera; sobre el techo de guano de la sala eran como pisadas de mucha gente que marchasen sobre mi cabeza; en las canales el agua corría con rumor de arroyos desbordados y caía sobre los barriles con un estruendo de cascada; en los árboles del patio, desde las hojas mas altas hasta el suelo, el agua se convertía en un concierto de tambores de diferentes tonos e insólitos repiqueteos; era un sonoridad fragante. Yo corría de uno a otro extremo del corredor, entraba en la sala, me asomaba hasta la ventana, iba hasta la cocina y veía los pinos del patio de silbaban enloquecidos y empapados y, finalmente, desprovisto de toda ropa, me lanzaba hacia afuera y dejaba que la lluvia me fuese calando. Me abrazaba a los arboles, me revolcaba en la hierba, construía pequeñas presas de fango, donde se estancaba el agua y, en aquellos pequeños estanques, nadaba, me zambullía, chapaleaba; llegaba hasta el pozo y veía el agua cayendo sobre el agua; miraba hacia el cielo y veía bandadas de querequeteses verdes que también celebraban la llegada del aguacero. Yo quería no solo revolcarme por la hierba, sino alzarme, elevarme como aquellos pájaros, solo con el aguacero. Llegaba hasta el río que bramaba poseído del hechizo incontrolable de la violencia. La fuerza de aquella corriente desbordandose lo arrastraba casi todo, llevandose arboles, piedras, animales, casas; era el misterio de la ley de la destrucción y también de la vida. Yo no sabia bien entonces hasta donde iba aquel río, hasta donde llegaría aquella carrera frenética, pero algo me decía que yo tenia que irme también con aquel estruendo, que yo tenia que lanzarme también a aquellas aguas y perderme; que solamente en medio de aquel torrente, partiendo siempre, iba a encontrar un poco de paz. Pero no me atrevía a lanzarme; siempre he sido cobarde. Llegaba hasta la orilla donde las aguas bramaban llamándome; un paso mas y el torbellino me engullía. ¡Cuantas cosas pudieron haberse evitado si lo hubiera hecho! Eran unas aguas amarillentas y revueltas; unas aguas poderosas y solitarias. Yo no tenia nada mas que aquellas aguas, aquel río, aquella naturaleza que me había acogido y que ahora me llamaba en el preciso momento de su mayor apoteosis. ¿Por que no lanzarme a esas aguas? ¿Por que no perderme, difuminarme en ellas y hallar la paz en medio de aquel estruendo que amaba? ¡Que felicidad hubiera sido haberlo hecho entonces! Pero regresaba a la casa empapado; ya era de noche. Mi abuela preparaba la comida. Había escampado. Yo tiritaba mientras mis tías y mi madre ponían los platos sin preocuparse demasiado por mi. Siempre he creído que mi familia, incluyendo mi madre, me considerable un ser extraño, inútil, atolondrado, chiflado o enloquecido; fuera del contexto de sus vidas. Seguramente, tenían razón.
Sam Mayer '13
There were lights like eyestalks there, and lesbians
drinking beer. There were two boys in the balcony
smoking a joint and a gold ceiling painted in clouds.
There was darkness, then, almost imperceptible, She-
There was a face, smarting and a-glow, eyes like stalks of light
shooting up towards the deep midnight purple night sky.
There was an ankle scratching another ankle; imperceptible
tics and then she was to be on the floor, then salty breath on wires.
Dare to be Fiona Apple. Dare to push a spastic, veiny lyre
towards the sky towards my face, dare to creep inside
an ear and lay your gooey roe inside its throbbing drum. There
was a pile of organs there, throbbing under a sweet blue light.
And even if I was, what would I do with my face?
Could I control my muscles, could you?
Julia Mounsey '13
she said she said
butter your palms
get silly crotch hum
in wet corduroy nest
butter your palms
for a better smooth
in warm corduroy mess
sweet sweet, sweet-ness
for the better smooth
in school-time sun
sweet sweet, sweetly
touch lovely said she
from school-time sun
comes silly crotch hum
touch lovely this she
said she said she
Olivia Auerbach '14
Panzano is also the home to Dario Cecchini, the most famous butcher in Italy, and arguably the world. His store, Antica Macelleria Cecchini, which lies to the right of the cobblestone square, is a culinary Mecca for anyone with a penchant for meat.
At 20 years old, Dario dropped out of university and returned to Panzano to reinvent and continue his family’s business and has been there ever since. When you hear people talk about Dario you will notice that his reputation as a butcher is inextricably linked with his reputation as a thespian; a man famous for reciting Dante’s Inferno or singing Pavarotti while he strikes his kitchen-axe splitting a cow’s loin in two. Like an encouraging friend, the alabaster bust of Dante is perched atop of the highest counter in the store staring down approvingly at Dario and his famous paper-thin prosciutto. Dario holds a steak like Rabbi would hold the Torah, careful and appreciative of its power and importance. He has a maniacal but inviting grin and the largest hands I’ve ever seen; wide and imposing like a gigantic muscular starfish.
Dario sees butchery as a moral activity. “The most important thing is what the animal eats and that it has a good life . . . just like us. My philosophy is that the cow has to have had a really good life with the least suffering possible," he says. "And every cut has to be cooked using the best cooking method. It's a matter of respect. If I come back as a cow, I want to have the best butcher.” Dario’s cooking methods are traditional and even date back to the renaissance. He grew up in a family of butchers “…and what we ate growing up was what we couldn't sell in the store. But my mother was a wonderful cook, and my grandmother was a wonderful cook, and we always ate well."
Dario became a real celebrity in 2001, during the climax of the mad-cow crisis. He was so outraged and personally offended by people thinking his meat was tainted that he staged, what is now referred to as the “Funeral of La Bifstecca”. He laid a dead cow in a colossal casket and led a procession throughout the entire village of Panzano. The service ended like a feverish scene from Sotheby’s; Dario auctioned off the few remaining legal pieces of meat to the highest bidder. His performance didn’t take long to be noticed by the public. News agencies and reporters were begging Dario for an interview, and soon enough his Funeral of La Bifstecca went viral (which in 2001 took around and three weeks).
Dario has been a close friend of my family ever since my parents bought Ca di Pesa. He always greets each one of us with a lung-collapsing hug and never forgets to kiss my father right on the lips. When we first met Dario his home was just his butcher shop, but starting around five years ago his empire has expanded with two restaurants; one above the butcher shop and the other in the basement. One of the restaurant’s success, “MacDarios”, is such a tremendous feat for an Italian restaurant because the menu is comprised of one of the least traditional Tuscan meals: the hamburger. However, the MacDario burger is still idiosyncratic to classical Tuscan cuisine. There are no squishy buns or Kraft cheese, but a ground piece of meat laden with chopped rosemary and onions, and he substitutes “ketchup” with his original creamy pomodoro sauce or spicy pepper-jelly.
Dario’s other restaurant; “Solo Ciccio” which translates to “just meat” is a meal for the carnivores with a menu that consists of an intimidating 5 courses of steak. "We use everything but the moo -- and the steak," he says. Just like any prolific artist Dario wants to your subvert expectations. Solo Ciccio makes you reconsider what should be the best and most coveted cuts of the animal. "When people learn all the different ways to cook the different cuts, the fillet is the last thing they want. It's beef for beginners." Some his iconic dishes are the boiled beef knees served with his salsa verde, or his “Chianti sushi” where pork is prepared and preserved in olive oil, like tuna typically is.
His theatrical presence is paramount to the Solo Ciccio experience. At the beginning of the meal he slowly appears from the kitchen, clutching a massive steak in each hand. The steaks are perfect, like red and white marbled heart-shaped tiles. They look as ideal and delicious as a T-bone that emerges in the thought bubble of a ravenous cartoon lion. Then looking as serious as any brooding Hamlet, he takes a breath and with crusading urgency screams “To beef or not to beef?” and hurls the steaks into the fire. And just like that, the meal has begun.
Lila Cutter '15
What an average-sized American heart.
What an upside-down pear heart.
The aorta is the largest artery in the human
it distributes blood from the destination heart.
With ear pressed to chest and silence in a room
the steady double thud can be heard from the heart.
Capacity for sympathy; center of emotion; hollow
pump-like organ: Britannica definition of “heart”.
Be a surgeon, cut open the chest (pass
the scalpel) through the flesh, arrive at heart.
Dilemma, dilemma—Lila, you don’t know much
about functions. Of the matter, this is the heart.
Hannah Lipper '15
I do not care if all you are is
the vomit of bees – I love you all the same.
I don’t mind the way you cling to me – because of a
power complex or my childhood.
I don’t mind the way
you glow, even without a sticky
bun in the oven
I’ve watched you glide into necessity like gold
beaten to a pulp within sweet juice.
you are sour at times when mixed with whole wheat
But I like that side to you.
And when you melt atop my skin
I never wash you away.
I don’t mind that you have no love to give me
because I find some way to take it.
I tap trees to find you and I never disturb
the loggers or the bees.
I squeeze out the last drops of summer
and things are soon reborn.
I loosen the belt of my pants
to make room for
what you reap.
When I’m drunk I like to go in bathrooms.
Very specific bathrooms.
I stumble into the bathroom of my old dorm… so many good memories in here. Yes, I think. This is where I want to be. There’s the shower where I cried for forty minutes that one time and I’m pretty sure no one could hear me. And look! The mirror I stared at when I couldn’t recognize my face. Oh hey! That’s the same brand of toothpaste I used to prep my mouth for that occasion that never happened.
I collapse to my knees, my face plummeting towards the toilet bowl. The smell of a goldfish’s grave has never been so alive in my throat. This isn’t how this is going to happen. It’s not going to happen this way. I will control everything in my body all the time always forever.
I haven’t vomited since 2008 and I’m not going to start now.
I hear the muffling in my pants.
Clit’s gotten louder. She knows we’re alone. I turn on the faucet, creating a background of white noise, and unzip my pants. I yell down to Clit, “You can’t want him. Okay? So shut up.”
“You can’t. Just stop it.”
“Why can’t you want something more realistic…”
“Is he not real?”
“Why can’t you want something… like a spoon?”
“A… what? Why would I—“
“Why can’t you want a fucking spoon or something?”
“What am I going to do with a spoon?”
“I don’t want a spoon.”
“Shit. I’ll get you a vibrator just—“
“I’ll buy you a nice vibrator—“
“I’ll buy you a stripper?”
“I want that.”
“Well you can’t and if you do, well… you’re only hurting yourself because you’re not getting that. He doesn’t want you.” I look at the wall and start counting tiles. If I think about numbers I won’t vomit. You can’t count and vomit at the same time. That’s just science.
“I’m not getting any action anyway you slick the cake so I might as well want what I want because what the fuck difference is it going to make?”
“Just… shut up. Please.” Maybe if I start thinking about the Fibonacci Sequence the room will stop spinning and Clit will stop throbbing... Maybe if she realizes this is a problem of numbers, of undeniable truths she’ll shut up. A triangle is always composed of three angles equaling that of two right angles. Eight will always follow five in the Fibonacci Sequence. These are facts that are undeniable despite perception or existence. These. Are. Facts. The. Thing. That. You. Want. To. Fuck. Will. Not. Want. To. Fuck. You.
“I need you to not want this one thing. You can want anything else but this one thing. Hell. You can develop some sort of weird fetish. I don’t care. You just can’t want this one thing anymore. I ask so little from you.”
“You ask nothing of me. You don’t even acknowledge me. You muffle me. You stifle me. You keep me in the dark and away from the party. You’ve made me Helen Keller. I’m deaf, dumb, and blind. You ask nothing of me and therefore make me nothing.”
“…So you agree? I ask so little from you.”
“I’m going to kill your mother.”
“Just don’t want this one thing?”
“Your clitoris is Helen Keller and I’m going to kill your mom.”
“How much more of the alcohols do I have to drink before you shut up?”
“Don’t lie to yourself. You’re not trying to shut me up. You’re trying to shut yourself up. I only get louder the more you let yourself go.”
“So… go away. Let me do the talking for awhile.”
There’s a knock on the door. I cover clit with my hand, muffling her cries for help.
An unrecognizable male voice replies, “You okay in there?”
“Okay. Just checking.”
Clit and I wait for the footsteps to fade away. I whisper down my pants, “See! He was nice. Why can’t you want that one?”
“Y’know, everyone’s going to think you puked.”
“But I didn’t. I don’t puke. I’ve never puked from drinking.”
“They think you’re puking right now.”
“But I’m not. I know I’m not puking. This is not puking.”
“And even if they did they probably wouldn’t care—“
“It’s doesn’t matter what they think. It’s a matter of pride. I’ll know whether I puked or not and I don’t puke. I don’t puke. I don’t fart. I don’t urinate.”
“You urinate. I know you urinate.”
“Jimmy doesn’t know I urinate.”
“…I think he knows.”
“No. I’ve scheduled it so that he’s never seen me exit or leave a bathroom.”
“Exit or leave…?”
“Exit or enter. Shut up. He doesn’t know about my urine yet.”
“Well… he doesn’t know your urine personally but I think he knows you urinate at least a little—“
“He doesn’t. He doesn’t know I urinate. He doesn’t know I don’t have sex. He doesn’t know I don’t fall in love but I do but I don’t tell anyone about it. He doesn’t know I have a brain or a heart—“
“Or a talking clitoris.”
“Or that. He just knows about my boobs thus far and I’m going to keep it that way.”
“Look. Just let me say ‘hi’ one of these days. He’ll like me. I know he will.”
I stand up like a baby giraffe and slap the button on the hand dryer hoping to drown Clit in a bed of multilayered, white noise, monotonous gumbo.
“…Y’know what’s weird? I always get stuck around 21 when it comes to the Fibonacci sequence which is really upsetting because that’s pretty early on to screw up.”
“I can’t say I’m surprised.”
Nicolette Polek '15
Of Brazilian floor boards, of mothers singing their
helicopters to sleep. Of young boys carving machine
guns out of cork, calling the sun down,
in their doorways, desperately throwing down
their limbs. Put away your ashes, for
even a bird like you, dirty with snow, is so light
you cannot be kept in.
Laura Creste '13
August is good because we are freed from the idea of dying.
The only time I can stand to eat a tomato or think about the rest of my life
is the summer. I would swim through the bay into the inlet
my father forbid me from entering. Kids had drowned
that summer but not here. The senseless dangers – there was once
a swan that drowned a two-year-old. The blue stand off Montauk highway
is swollen with fruit, wet in their blue square boxes,
homemade $15 pies, and the sour local yogurt.
The sun on our legs is sweet and there is no meaner trick
than skin cancer. The lifeguard has been dead for one year.
He was young, he fell asleep under a sun lamp once,
and fifty years later he died from it. His wife sits alone
under the umbrella. She braids her long gray hair
and used to put sunflower seeds in her chocolate chip cookies.
I turn sharply on the road and blackberries roll across the seats.
The strawberries bruise sugared red. Ripeness peaks, will rot
tomorrow. The bay spills out from the highway:
the deep calm of the water even in the off season. Relentless,
they don’t need appreciation to continue. They break the shore, the sky grays,
winds whip damp hair into a salted tangle. Your breath catches
in your throat to see the ledges carved out. Children walk the line
to collapse, unsure if the point is to keep going or learn to fall.
Esme Franklin '13
The heart in the left side of my face has gone into cardiac arrest.
Triads of stairs to small landings or large pick-ups remind me
my knees are genetically weak. I mouth this to myself
in a crowd of people. We have always had dementia—
the only difference is that now we live long enough
to bear witness to our minds’ decay. When I have lost my memory
I hope to slip back into consciousness, one last time, and find myself
looking at a photograph of my mother: she will wear green velvet
and look out of a window. I will look out of her window and see
the dreams in which I tell her that I am in a relationship with my father.
She has born me and I bear nothing but the shame of his seed
within the eye of a dream. The nuclear trio is constantly imploding.
Ninety percent of Americans over the age of seventy
filter their thoughts through a molding cheese cloth
but do not think they are not making supper.
Does forgetting a statistic complement the hue of its tragedy?
Who will remember me when I have become an antecedent?
Who will remember my father’s penis when I have stopped dreaming?
The nuclear trio expels fragments.
Future generations will buy our silverware at thrift stores
and wash it twice before use because they will not remember who we were.
Kittie Yang '13
Three fingers sit before me in a cardboard box, dressed in clear plastic and wedged in foam like new parts to a machine. I rip open the wrapping and pop them onto my finger stumps--index, middle, and ring fingers. The prosthetics are clearly modeled after someone who has never worked with his hands. The nails are trimmed and unnaturally symmetrical. The skin is half a shade-lighter than mine. The texture reminds me of a rubber duck. But it's more or less what I can afford to expect.
I ordered them from an amputee supplies catalogue about a month ago. They offer discounted goods from a medical engineering lab in India--$40 per finger instead of $199.99. The high-end designer's market ploy involves gimmicks like ceramic magnet lining that helps you pick up small objects. I laughed when I read that. As if magnets and mechanical joints can replace the fine sensation of finger tips. I used to be able to tell the difference between cedar and aspen by simply running my hand over the rough unpolished planks.
Up until now, I had resisted prosthetics and sported the stumps like a veteran's medals. Still, I got looks from people like they would be more comfortable if I kept them out of sight. Their eyes wandered in every direction but at the hand. If they so much as glanced at it, they averted their eyes and started small talk. But the questions eventually slipped out. "What kind of work do you do?" they asked. "Is there anything you can't do?" "Why don't you just become a lefty?"
You should play with the hand you are dealt, I kept repeating, and if I was feeling generous enough, I gave the bar-goers the gory details. "Never thought I'd see my own bone poking out like that. It was a bloody mess, like a pig had been slaughtered." This I said to the ex-athletes at the bar, who had plenty of injuries to show for themselves, but never a missing body part. I told the retired husbands, "You tend to slip up when you're under stress, rushing six custom orders within a week just to pay off your wife's kid's hospital bill." That sometimes lead to another story. "The blockhead fell off the monkey bars and split his scalp open. Went to the hospital for ten stitches and three years' worth of debt. That's what hospitals do, save your life for the price of your livelihood." But I could only tell the same story so many times. For a while, "woodworking accident" became my response. Now it's tapered off to grunting once for yes to whatever dumb question the new surge of bar hoppers ask. So when I saw the deal in the catalogue, I dug out the credit card from my wallet. It was something to look forward to.
I put the fingers to the test by getting a bottle of cold beer from the fridge. As I drink, I admire my hand's completeness against the condensation on the murky brown glass. I position my hand at different angles. They look good cradling the remote. They look good holding a cigarette. Even better look good counting a wad of dollar bills. Dealing cards is a slight nuisance, but I discovered that disfigurement works well when staring down an opponent across the green felt table, hazy smoke circling around. That's the only time I let anyone stare. They also look good opening a second beer; and a third.
After I lose interest in them and start watching a White Sox game, the kid walks in through the front door, bringing in a gush of cold air behind him, his scraggly black hair blowing over his eyes. He's been wearing one of my old shirts for a week now. His mother tailored it to fit him by snipping a quarter of the fabric from the bottom. He skirts around the TV and heads to the basement doorway before I catch his attention by snapping my fingers (the real ones, mind you.) I get up from the couch and step towards him.
"Check this out," I say, sticking my hand out.
"Fooled you there, didn't I?" I open and close my hand. His eyes follow the stiff dummy motions of the fingers. "One to ten. How real are they?"
He keeps looking at them, dull-eyed.
"Here. Feel it." I extend the open palm. "Just like skin. Doesn't look it, but costs a fortune. It's high-quality stuff."
He nibbles on his bottom lip as I let my fingers dance in front of his face.
"You should feel it for real. Won't bite."
He keeps looking at me slack-jawed like I'm totally shitting him. Having a conversation with this kid is like pulling teeth. I bop his head before he disappears downstairs.
Back on the couch, I slip the prosthetics off one by one and rub the gnarled stumps to ease the itching and tingling.
When my wife Marcia returns home late in the evening, she rests her lumpy purse on the coffee table next to the three fleshy appendages and does a double take.
"Oh, geez." She puts a hand to her chest.
I pop the fingers back on again and put on a show for her--a five-second piano mime. "Ta Daa." I fake applaud.
The only response I get from her is a "Huh," followed by vague nodding.
"What do you think?" I ask.
"I think Beth's boyfriend has one of those," she tells me. "Uses them for magic tricks. He sticks a handkerchief in the thumb and pretends to pull it straight from his fist."
"This isn't some el cheapo prop." I snatch the product package from the floor, waving it at her. "It's top-notch shit."
She picks up the invoice and skims it. The premature wrinkles stretch around her tightened lips when she glances at the subtotal. "Did you. . ."
"Think of it as an investment," I say. "Now I don't have to shake with the wrong hand at interviews."
She sticks the paper back in its box and keeps her lips pursed for a moment before saying, "And the payments?"
"What about them?"
She goes to the bedroom and returns with a few pieces of paper and lays them out on the coffee table--an electricity and water bill and a hospital bill--what we still owe for the brutal surgery, reminding us that the incident is still taking its toll on us. They're due in two days.
I sigh. "Guess I'll return these then. Don't really need fake fingers."
She shakes her head.
"Look, stop worrying. I planned to take care of it tomorrow. I've just had a lot on my plate this week." I reach for her hand to tousle her ponytail. I can't actually feel her hair. I only see the fake fingers combing through the strands.
"I'm gonna shower. I smell like grease." She picks up her purse and disappears into the bedroom.
Forty dollars per finger was a fair compromise, I thought. I used to own a small furniture business where I was in command of my own income and a master of the trade. After I got out of the hospital, I returned to my shop to find dried blood spattered across the workbench, on the floor, dark-red against the sawdust. I saw the ghost of myself in the unfinished furniture that lay in the corner--skeletal frame of a rocking chair, an unsanded board meant for a coffee table. My best pieces of furniture sat behind the glass windows, accumulating dust on their once-gleaming surfaces.
Four months later, after I had sold what was left of my ten-year-old business, we headed to the city with our fortune packed in a U-Haul rental. "This is the best decision," I told them as we drove away, thinking about the city skyline, a change of scenery that was much needed. Marcia agreed with me, glad to have quit her job at the corn mill. But the kid, who's resistant anything remotely unfamiliar, kept his face turned to the window so we couldn't see how red his eyes were. His mother told me that earlier that morning, while staring at the boxes that took us weeks to pack, he asked her if we could not move. He mumbled something about his father, even though he had lit out years ago, and I've stuck around longer than any ordinary man would.
But it turns out that even in the city, convincing potential employers to use my services in exchange for a salary is not a straightforward task, especially during the recession. It takes them one look at the missing fingers before they start having second thoughts. Show us what you can do, they say, and I find myself hesitating, because they're not looking at how I perform, but at how the hand performs. They're waiting for me to slip up again. I seize up over the most basic tasks. Meanwhile, we can barely make the rent of this one-bedroom house, a compromise that seems less and less temporary.
When I close my hand, the three little midgets come together and you can see the path the table saw traveled. The doctor told me that luckily, it only got my fingers--I had been just one second off. What he didn't say was that if I had been more than a second off, I would have qualified for a disability check.
Sam Mayer '13
And if I sang who would hear me? No one, not on
heaven and not on earth. And certainly not you,
next to me though you are, and pushing out notes
eyes fixed ahead and staring at the leader, not me. You say
you love this song; no, you grin and I wonder if you love
this song. If only I could find something pure, something contained:
To hear just one voice, and not hundreds
raised all together and raised in four. Because
what’s the point in trying to love when beauty requires
four voices? I am sorry that I met you; I am sorry that
I sat next to you; I am sorry that we sang together
and sang the same part. I am terrified of you
with your mouth open, surrounded
by the Old People. Those mouths: who are
smacking dentures spitting bits of food and wet
breath. Lovers, satisfied with each other, where are you
and how did your voice escape the body
and mingle only with the beloved? When I open my
mouth what I am escapes me and becomes part
steam part harmony, not part of him. What's it like to
feel your entire selfhood mix with another, and
does it feel good? Or does it feel too confusing, all
that sound together in the same room? Worry that
your voice will find too many others and then have to rise together.
Worry that understanding can only come from the
spittle of four different parts. If, to be understood,
lovers might sing something marvelous I only
pray that our breath will be a marvel to look at,
as it rises up towards the rafters towards death.
The Old People all have one foot in the grave. They read
the shape notes and stare into the space between heads,
that quivers and burns and reminds them of death.
You can see it in their faces, and falling
like dew on new grass: that wetness from
the cosmos that will burn away but not scorch.
Newness does not last very long. I know that
in your voice, there might grow boredom. Oh, the heart that pines
and blisters and loves and lusts, mostly lusts, but
not towards anything just towards space. But lust, lust vanishes:
in our voices. Sure, we breathe and that is great
but what about ruffling hair? What about itching?
Is the sum of our lust to be defined by our
voices? Because that is bullshit, and I do not
want to spend my life singing with what’s-his-name
and calling that sex. Who are the lucky ones?
The fortunate ones? Creation’s darlings? They are
the ones who have never sang, never thought about
a sole voice as incomplete, they are the ones
who only go about their day: buy coffee and
pick up flowers and clip toenails and are
never once concerned that in the space of silence lies
no meaning. They are unconcerned, these angels,
divine beings who slouch their way through
the mire to enlightenment. They are the ones who
walk by the church while we fill it with voices and
do not even stop to wonder about music, it
never even occurs to them to give it a moments
thought. I am lust with you, and your voice, and
our voices together, and our bodies together, and
these songs in our throats. I am in love with angels,
though every angel’s silence terrifies me.
Allie Dunmire '15
Boy says why are you always so removed.
Girl says I’m trying to avoid that.
Boy says I’ve been trying to avoid you.
Girl says you should probably go now.
Boy says okay you’re right and then he goes.
Girl says I didn’t really want you to leave.
Boy says I think you need a new paint job.
Girl says you will never find better sex.
Boy says probably not and keeps going.
Girl eats a plate of cheese, then regrets it.
Cheese says I didn’t want to go like this.
From the stomach, ham shakes her hand
and says, neither did I, but it’s alright.
Cheese takes his hand, is it always so dark.
Ham nods, but it’s getting brighter.
Cheese asks have you used that line on other cheeses.
Ham says none as pretty as you.
Cheese blushes and is glad for the darkness
She holds his hand, maybe I did want to go like this.
Ham blushes and is glad for her hand, maybe I did too.
Julia Mounsey '13
We are going to war. We
are going to war, we are.
I put on my angry skirt!
I make sure that I am
soft enough, swollen
enough to rupture.
I make sure to rupture long
so that you get your nutrition.
That’s what I’m doing right now!
My nipples are dilating because
I am so excited for the war.
I can’t wait to dive head
first into the trench.
That’s what I’m doing now
and that’s what I just did!
When I dove head first
into the trench my skirt
flew up over my hips.
My angry underwear was
everywhere in the mud
and everything, I know
We are at war now, we are.
Is it what you imagined? What I?
I am at the vanity table.
I am at the ready.
You are in the mud in
a sweetblood membrane.
My underwear is bunched angry
in your fist. You’re clutching it
like it’s going to save you.
Michiel Considine '13
As they arrived at the serving tables, neat rows of Tupperware plates, steam trays and crock pots all fanned out across the floral cloth surface. Hank had always been delighted with the food at these events, surprised at how gracious the congregation was with the meals. In the past, when the events were winding down and guests began to check their phones with more frequency, they would hand Hank plastic containers and tell him, Take, take, whatever you need, and without question Hank would begin tightly packing mounds of leftover potato salad or lime gelatin into these containers as sustenance, he hoped, that might last through the week.
But while Hank was pondering the shelf life of all the offerings on display, the preacher was getting anxious. Without wasting another moment, Pastor Raymond gestured with his hands for all the women to gather round: something important was about to be said. He then began the preamble, treating the event as if he were revealing Hank from behind a set of silver drapes, until, at last, while enacting up his own drum roll, he announced: Ladies, may I introduce to you, the man of the hour, our own gift from heaven… Hank!
The women, at first, seemed pleased but tried not to act like it. They were unsure how serious the preacher's introduction was meant to be taken. Instead, they restricted themselves to a mild round of applause.
Pleasure to meet you kind folks, Hank said, scooping macaroni salad onto a colorful paper plate. The women blushed. They giggled and played with their rings. It had always amazed Hank, more than usual lately, the power of rock'n'roll to devastate the composure of the opposite sex. As they shuffled down the line, being offered baked beans and chicken salad, Hank smiled at all the servers, repeating their names throughout the introductions. Shelia, Tania, Becky, Diane. All of them swooned, fluttering their lashes before stealing glances at their husbands across the lot.
These were women, Hank had gathered in his time since joining the church, whose last resort in avoiding a lonely life with their men—those glorious brutes of men who sat in the pews beside them each week, moaning incessantly about the chore—was to fall into the arms of another lover, the holy spirit, instead. These were religious women, after all. It seemed the less adulterous thing to do, to pile their devotion into an abstract deity, a concept that could be ravished at a distance. And while their men complained and were keen on escaping their wives' zealous hobby, returning instead to lounging and working and nothing much else, these women, having witnessed the wreckage of ordinary life, went forth with the affair. Every Sunday they covered their imperfections and flaunted the features that still held their shape, the ones that had not yet been pilfered by husband or child, age or genetics, and they would reach out to their Lord through song and prayer and offer him, if not their souls, then at least their bodies, their enthusiasm. And truly they meant it. They worshipped at his feet, felt his spirit all around, those fiery lashes of amorous sparks that crackled across their bodies. They read his gospel and wore his crown, followed scripture as best they could. All in the name of the Lord. For salvation’s sake. For the off chance that there actually was a kingdom waiting for them way up above, in a galaxy far, far away. For the possibility of some heavenly villa hoisted above the earth, with acres of cloud coverage and a sprawling view of the Atlantic—the Mediterranean aglow in periphery. And could they be blamed for this fondness? This hope? Life everlasting tends to ring with great promise when following life itself, which is so often framed in disappointment and rot.
Pastor Raymond had confided in Hank that sometimes these women, in the throes of desperation at their lives and children, at men and their God, would throw their arms around him in the hallway after confession or in his office late at night, and dig their fingers into the softest parts of his kidneys, squeezing his sides with an ardor not only holy, but human as well. Hank recalled this story numerous times and imagined Ray had his pick of the litter, that his direct line to salvation might allow for some fringe benefits or bribes that might quicken these women's climb up the ladder. Ray had always denied such things and Hank never pressed the issue, only hoping, instead, that perhaps a bit of this Sunday school runoff might one day fall gracefully onto his own waiting lap. At least, that was the stuff Hank prayed for during services when the Pastor asked the congregation to bow their heads and the women grew solemn and dim, and the only noise echoing throughout the steeple was the moist breath of children, the faint static of an AM radio.
Laura Creste '13
The manager of the 24-hour Dunkin Donuts
is angry when we shuffle in through the back door
to use the bathroom and don’t buy anything. No one wants
to spoil hard-won intoxication with a cup of coffee.
Pints of Majorska are tucked in purses, glove compartments,
showily revealed then added to glass bottles of Snapple.
If there was religion it was a belief
in the good luck we deserved. Nothing
yet was irrevocable. The trees above grow to reach
each other in a canopy. They carry on, ignoring
the suburban sprawl beneath.
They will grow through chain link fence,
consuming the ugly intrusion.
The roots force the slate sidewalks to buckle.
Glass glitters on the asphalt from newly broken bottles.
Girls sit low to the ground on parking space dividers,
sandals dangling off crossed legs.
The crassness is saved by its impermanence:
If we were any older than we are
now it would be hopeless. Someone says
what should we do? because
if you pose the question, you aren’t
responsible for the answer.
The cops are only bored when they swagger
in to the parking lot to say Get moving,
Why don’t you go home already?
We are only drifting around aimlessly,
with a cigarette as an anchor, but there is no arguing.
People climb into cars offended
or turn and walk down the main street.
I go home early and read The Catcher in the Rye,
which I liked until we talked about it in class.
What is the significance of the red hunting hat?
Everyone senses that the concern
for where the ducks go is too nakedly
altruistic to be believable, but we can’t
articulate this. The word soul makes me cringe,
as does heart when not used technically. Mildly
embarrassed is how I spend most of this year.
I paint the sets for the fall play The Crucible.
They are black-painted structures:
Closing night I miss the cast party
because my boyfriend has an open house.
We say pleasant things, we bore each other,
and in the morning bodies
sprawl across the furniture,
next to red rings under red cups.
I wake to a pale form, I am in between
my boyfriend and someone else’s expanse of back.
Thom with an h. The door eased open
despite the lock – the jostle more of an indication than function –
some time after dawn. I haven’t been naked long
enough in my life to feel unconcerned.
Later Thom will say sorry, he woke up
and didn’t know where he was.
The morning after is a sharp November day.
On my boyfriend’s back porch he breathes
messily from a spliff which structures the day.
My headache has not yet resolved into a hangover
so everything in my life seems inevitable.
He climbs a tree to retrieve the glass
holding his wine. The handle, hooked on a branch,
had insects drown in the dregs.
Later No Country for Old Men is playing in town.
Tom takes the minivan and we fill it.
The William Carlos Williams Center is a rundown movie theatre,
with an actual stage for performances. Outside boys
skateboard on the generously sloped brick patio.
In December the Nutcracker is put on by the middle school ballet.
I don’t think anyone reads him anymore.
William Eric Williams was my pediatrician
until he died in 1995. He told my mother
the poem about the plums wasn’t really a poem.
The office was still in his father’s house on Ridge Road.
Life was more beautiful when the word icebox was in it.
On the steps of the Williams Center Tom and I watch
our friend talk to a girl, touching her too much for emphasis.
He has a girlfriend, and we are busy making faces at each other,
censorious mouths and laughing-
wide eyes. Tom keeps saying blatant, right?
Before the movie we have time
to walk down a shaded side street and smoke half a joint.
He extinguishes the lit end against a tree and pockets it.
Don’t do that, I say too late. The scorched mark is small.
He thinks we can afford to be careless,
to believe in replenishment, that nothing
can truly be ruined or wasted.
The day after Thanksgiving the parking meters
are free and bagged with a Happy Holidays
note to encourage shopping.
Dairy Queen closed for the season
now houses the Christmas tree lot.
A man drives down from Maine.
He keeps a light on in his trailer
while he saws off the bases of trunks.
My sister and I touch all the trees,
our hands sticky with sap.
Once inside, the tree unfurls overnight.
The radiator eases it open.
Our principal dresses as Santa Claus
for the Christmas assembly and gives gifts
to his favorite seniors, until my last year in school
when it is decided Christmas is too political,
and the gift-giving problematic, especially
when a girl sits on Mr. Hurley’s lap. It just doesn’t
look right. It is the last part of the assembly
before we are let loose. I do not love this town
while I am in it but for this month I nearly do.
Park Ave is strung with white lights
and red-ribboned wreathes with golden pinecones.
The air is damp with chimney smoke and snow waiting to drop.
What a waste of a life to be so unhappy inside it.
In the next few weeks my boyfriend and I buy books
for presents, and spend most of the winter break in bed.
I didn’t realize my hands were ugly
until I held his and knew them well.
Our own hands are the template for all hands.
Margaret Sweeney '14
We are through the door—the side door, the door to the mudroom where the family’s shoes rest in crowded rows—and Claudia doesn’t bother to greet us as we pass the kitchen table, where she sits in a sea of ungraded papers. She knows that as soon as she lifts her head from her work we will already be at the bottom of the stairs, climbing the stairs to your room, our shoes and coats still lying limp and dripping where we kicked them off on the linoleum floor, and the door to the mudroom is still cracked open, swaying on its hinges and letting the cold in, so she stands to close it, like a good mother. Doesn’t move our shoes to the mudroom or the rubber mat by the door like she wants to. Little crusts of ice floating in a puddle on the floor now. She grips her pen in her fist and goes back to her papers. A good mother.
And we are climbing the stairs: the static suction of sock feet on carpet, ready to burst with the urge to touch each other for the first time today—it has been a whole day—and there is the hamper that overflows with dirty laundry, right where it was yesterday, and there is a stamp of sunshine on the floor, and there is Claudia’s knitting basket, and now I’ve knocked it over with my foot, sending balls of yarn bouncing, unraveling, to the four corners of the wide, bright room. And I think: it was nice of her to knit me a pair of gloves for Christmas, a scarf for my birthday. And here we are again, at the end of another day.
Through the door to your room: every object saturated with light at this time of day, late afternoon, when we finally arrive home from school. The light bends to embrace the bed with its thin bands of light. And then the impact, two bodies, so familiar it’s almost anticlimactic, but then our fingers warm us up, and there is a belt buckle winking at us from the closet as our stomachs touch, and there is the half-filled glass of water that lives on the bedside table as our mouths touch. All the necessary elements of our union. We are all here.
Winding down now, and suddenly we are two separate bodies, you and I. And this is when you decide to wrap yourself in your comforter, you, in just your socks and nothing else, and sneak to the bathroom to take a shower and I think what if your mom sees you there, what if Claudia sees you there, and I wish you would just put a pair of pants on.
And then suddenly I think, what if we had been good, what if we had just dropped our shoes on the rubber mat inside the door, if you had kissed Claudia on the cheek and asked her about her day and we had sat on the couches in the living room with two pillows and a silver bowl of popcorn and a cat between us. Good like I wanted to be, good like a sixteen-year-old couldn’t be. So I sit very quietly and try to listen for signs that your mother’s downstairs life is still running perfectly and neatly parallel to ours. The downstairs bathroom door slams.
Maybe tomorrow, instead of sitting quietly on your bed while you shower, I might find myself re-tracing our steps back down the hall on my own, without really knowing why. I imagine that outside your room the hallway would be dark; I see myself taking one step toward the ring of light leaking through the crack under the bathroom door, and then one step backward, toward the stairs. And suddenly I would be at the bottom of the stairs, faced with the light and heat of the kitchen, where Claudia sits grading papers. I would ask her about the section on Jane Austen she is teaching, and she would ask me about my AP English homework, my mother, and, quietly, how you and I are. I would say: fine. Claudia would get up to put water on for tea.
Maybe then you would find your way down the stairs, rubbing your eyes and blinking the water out of them, surprised to find me sitting there with your mother, looking at me like “Why the fuck are you hanging out with my mom?” And maybe then you would grab a box of cereal and head for the living room, and something inside me would shift, something small and cold like a pebble at the bottom of a river, just a little bit, not enough to stop wanting to touch you at the end of the day but enough for me to start to wonder what it was I used to do before I started spending every day between four and five with you. What anybody does.
We are climbing the stairs to your room almost immediately after we are through the mudroom door. It’s four-o’clock, and down the street the clock tower in the old elementary school strikes, four even tones. A boy in a red jacket and a fleece hat finds a quarter on the ground and puts it in his backpack. The mail truck starts its stunted, swaying journey up the street. A woman in the house across the street lifts her coffee cup from the table, is distracted by something, replaces it without bringing it to her lips. Your mother moves through the kitchen, the living room, the piano room. And the sun slides lower and lower outside the window, smudging the horizon pink, red, orange.
Catherine Pikula '13
To be is to be perceived. I can’t see You,
but how do You see? What are Your eyes like?
Are they king sized white sheets? Or blue or red
oak trees? Plaster walls or clouds or steel beams?
From above and from below, You enter us
in dreams, we forget what
Your body is like. Fire, water, air, and soil.
You must have many faces, flowers
of every color hanging from Your chins.
Every river must flow from Your hearts.
Do You love everything You make?
Even the blob fish? Why did You make it
look like a giant loogie? Was that a mistake?
Or giant water bugs? Why did you create
for them digestive salvia to inject
into their prey? They can suck out
the insides. It is terrifying. Death
must feel like that, You sucking
out our insides. And birth must feel
like the Big Bang; You create love.
You must be love. It is terrifying.
You must have the largest genitals,
male and female. I create you in this image
because You create me in Your own.