Categories
2018

WINTER XXVI

Santo Toribio Romo Gonzalez y Los Coyotes
Santo Toribio Romo Gonzalez y Los Coyotes by J. Leigh Garcia


POETRY

Bruce Bond

Anthony Cody

Karla Cordero

Bernard Ferguson

Mag Gabbert

Melissa Ginsburg

Gina Keicher

Cameron Alexander Lawrence

Chrissy Martin

Alysse Kathleen McCanna

Molly Bess Rector

Lis Sanchez

Leona Sevick

Glenn Shaheen

Erin Elizabeth Smith

Mike Soto

Caitlin Thomson

Rebecca Valley

Laura Villareal

Joaquín Zihuatanejo


FICTION

William Cass

Alexandra Kessler

Sarah Terez Rosenblum

Chris Vanjonack


NONFICTION

Lisa Knopp

Annalise Mabe

Jamie Lyn Smith


DOWNLOAD PDF


ARTIST STATEMENT: As a seventh-generation Texan and Mexican-American, my ancestral connection to Texas land has led me to an investigation of the ethical impact of my Tejano culture. Issues that current and future undocumented Latinxs face, such as harsh working conditions, the separation of families, and death while crossing the Mexico-U.S. border, cause me grave concern. Through the lense of my biracial heritage, I aim to shed light on these contemporary issues.

J. Leigh Garcia is an artist born and raised in Dallas, TX. Garcia received a BFA in printmaking from The University of North Texas and is currently pursuing an MFA at The University of Wisconsin-Madison. See more of her work here.

Categories
2018 Poetry

Mike Soto

FUE EL ESTADO

In the beginning there was murder, & out
of murder shadows & barking ran up
to read ciphers on walls, cold-blooded

creatures plotted their revenge behind
smoke. Under pointy brims names
crossed out from grocery lists, fates

determined by the jeweled hands
of a father who landed his first born
into a pair of alligator boots

by the age of five. Birds reassembled
on the first lines between poles after
shots were fired into a Mercury Topaz.

In that silence that’s always been the silence
most alive. Mindless bodies, armless minds,
tattooed Marys over scarred wrists,

R.I.P. murals for miles. A shopping cart
full of prayer candles for students not
killed, but handed over, not disappeared,

but missing still. Gossip tangled up with
truth from the start. Turf wars over which
version of time would survive, mothers

bleeding from blown out windows,
sons deaf now for life. Revenge invented
because justice was not. The first day

a table filled with half-empty cups,
set up to be snatched by streets
of desperate runners even then.


Mike Soto’s poetry has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in Gulf Coast, PANK, Fugue, Hot Metal Bridge, Michigan Quarterly Review, and others. “Fue El Estado” takes its title from the rallying cry after 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers college in Guerrero, Mexico were forcibly disappeared. Evidence points to federal and local officials, military personnel, police and bus drivers, all being complicit in handing over the students to their killers, who then burned their bodies and threw the remains into a river. The phrase translates, “It Was The State.”

 

Categories
2018 Poetry

Anthony Cody

no te quedes

No. Do not stay here. Along this on-ramp.
This hill. This earbone of blood, a puddled

             cochlea. No. A tectonic. No. An erupting contraption
             rugiendo until the manufactured labyrinth of trenzas

and nerves buckle and bridge. Somehow
las raíces florecen, the quiet exhale of soil

             resting from rain: la tierra nunca abandons, remains
             out of breath from farewells. Despedidas and patience

from a guidance of stars. No. Do not stay
here. Unleaf each tree. Deberry each bush.

             Satchel the ancestral and lagrimas. And board. Or walk.
             O mantienes. Or by holding your breath in such silence

that the deaf are startled. Until landing. Until
crossing. Hasta que puedes desaparacer between

             pasture and escalator. Until all and none know
             your people. Until you find yourself preparing

to merge onto a grey highway. Cement comes
from imploding the core. This is how they build

             from nothing: vaciando todo. But know everything
             remains: an unknown pile of repurposed meaning.

Beneath: a mastodon que se rindío. A split sequoia.
A shuttered village. A volcano of home que se aguarda.

             Que resuena. That counts the hairs en su tobillo. Notice
             the light is green. No. No te quedes. Go and know nebulas.



NOPALES, A MEXICAN LYNCHING, No. 39

“Mexicans have no business in this country. I don’t believe in them. The men were made to be shot at, and the women were made for our purposes. I’m a white man— I am! A Mexican is pretty near black. I hate all Mexicans.”
                                                                         – April 6, 1850, Stockton Times Op-Ed

.a nopal could be weeping
             but who                     examines
                                                  las espinas
             closely
as the blossoms                                            .a fire
                                     quema todo
                                     pero salva
                                     los que cubren
                                                                                                                             la llama

.a nopal could be quiet
             but who                      plunges
                                                  each thorn
             into the drum
and swallows                                            .the rust
                                     no es
                                     una cortina
                                     para parar
                                                                                   el torrente.

.a nopal could be asleep
             but who                      kicks
                                                  the hibernating
             until sunrise
shows                                                                they are countless
                                                  .the drought
                                                  is rooted
                                                  in birth

                                                                                                             en una paciencia de ríos


Anthony Cody is from Fresno, California. He is a CantoMundo fellow, an editorial member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle, a fellow at US Poet Juan Felipe Herrera’s Laureate Lab at Fresno State, and a graduate of Fresno State. His poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, ToeGood Poetry Journal, Tropics of Meta, and El Tecolote Newspaper, in Gentromancer, a collaborative art project with visual artist Josue Rojas. He served as co-editor of How Do I Begin?: A Hmong American Literary Anthology (Heyday), in which he also contributed poems. He currently resides in Chicago, IL.

Categories
2018 NonFiction

Jamie Lyn Smith

HOTHEAD

But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

I Corinthians 11:15

I was born with a big hunk of bright red hair. Not auburn, not ginger, not strawberry blonde, but just straight-up Crayola-crayon red. Granted, I arrived in 1974, and so the photos from my youth have an odd, kodachrome cast to them, as if viewed through an enormous pair of sepia-tinted sunglasses. Still. The hair is pretty dang red.

Like me, my hair resisted management: slipping out of barrettes, refusing to be tamed, curling at the edges. My mother would coat my hair with olive oil at night and I would wake up looking like a chia pet. Grandma used to chide me that my hair was the only thing louder than my laugh, and suggested with pursed lips that both the follicle and the child needed training. Red hair was loud, unruly, announced itself without meaning to—it was everything I did not want to be, and could not help.

My younger sisters were born towheaded, Gerber-lipped, chill. My mother liked to dress us in matching outfits, and often chose pastels: delicate lavenders, eggshell blues, and worst of all— pale pink. My sisters’ peaches-and-cream complexions glowed, but I looked as if I had food poisoning. In family pictures, I stand scowling like a distempered animal, my skin jaundiced by a butter-yellow terrycloth romper.

It was Easter, 1984 before I finally put my foot down with the costuming. That year, our Easter dresses were pistachio tinted dotted-swiss aberrations that poofed out over these god-awful crinolines, and required itchy white tights. I snarled and fussed, until finally my mother relented- allowing me to choose my own outfit. I wore a plaid dress, leg warmers, clogs, and crocheted poncho to church. She got her revenge—in the Easter photo, I look like the triumphant doyenne of a bohemian Scottish dance troupe, while my sisters flank me in pale-green frothy lace, decorated like cupcakes.

It wasn’t just the outside of me that was redheaded, and this is where I wonder about nature, nurture, and self-fulfilling prophesy. Nearly all my personality flaws and rash decisions were blamed consistently on my coloring— fearsome temper, too-big personality, wildness, creativity, possible witchcraft. Being a redhead gave me license to fly, and I soared, dancing this weird line between reveling in and reviling my difference, the otherness with which I was inflamed.

My sisters—The Cupcakes—were compliant good-natured girls who spent hours watching reruns of Gidget and playing mild rounds of  house and school with their creepy Cabbage Patch Dolls. I scorned The Cupcakes for the company of a neighbor kid, Jason. Before he moved away, we were far more likely to be found in the woods building a human catapult out of lumber stolen from the barn, attempting to melt down various metals over an open fire, or sharpening sticks so that he and I could joust on our bikes.

“That redhead will drive me to drink,” my mother would say, banishing me to my room for some harmless stunt or another involving the nail gun, Jason, and guerilla warfare.

Overwhelmed with my management- follicular and otherwise- my mother often delegated disciplinary matters to my stepfather. He raised me with the same misguided good intent and hapless bafflement as he did The Cupcakes. I never, ever think of him as my stepfather, although that’s what he did: he stepped up and fathered when my biological father bounced. We had a bond of mutual admiration forged in orneriness, love of diesel-fueled equipment, and a tendency to believe, “Aw hell, I can do that!” More often than not my mother’s rants about my “narrow scrapes with death, fire, and dismemberment” elicited little more than my stepfather’s raised eyebrows.

“Aw, the girl’s just high-spirited,” he’d say, “That’s a redheaded colt for ya!”

He’d slip me a low-five when my mom wasn’t looking. Later, when the poor woman retired to bed with several aspirin and a stack of Harlequin romance novels, my stepfather would laugh at my antics and explain with great patience that if I was going to make a proper moonshine factory, I’d need to craft a still, procure at least six feet of copper coil, and use a soldering iron.

                                                                                #

I was the first redhead born in nearly a hundred years; the last redhead was my great-grandfather. James Louis Hendrickson had twelve children: all brunette, brown-eyed, tall. Not a single redhead among his fifty grandchildren. When I was born—the first grandchild on both sides, the first great-grandchild, copper-headed—it was a sort of triumph. Sort of.

My parents were young, scared, unmarried, and in over their heads the summer of 1973 when I was misconceived. By then there was Roe vs. Wade, Marvin Gaye was crooning “Let’s Get it On”, Laugh In went off the air and Mary Tyler Moore came on, the National Archives were on fire in D.C. and plenty of soldiers were still over in Vietnam. The rest of America may have lost its virginity, but Knox County, Ohio was stuck at third- maybe even second base. Things like the counterculture, the sexual revolution, and —most importantly— The Pill hadn’t made a dent in my mother’s consciousness.

When my mother told her boyfriend she was pregnant, he dumped her, accused her of sleeping around and denied culpability. She took my biological father to court for breach of promise and child support, but again- it was the seventies, so there was no DNA, only a blood test that was nebulously reliable.

She brought me into the courtroom, where the judge got a gander at my hair and a sub-gander at my biological father’s matching mop. It’s my understanding that there wasn’t much of a trial left to be had. Paternity was established by follicle. For my mother, my hair provided both victory in court, and a constant reminder of a man who did her really, really wrong.

To make matters more painful for my mother, while my paternity case was in litigation, Craig married another woman- a redhead. They celebrated the birth of their daughter – red haired, blue eyed, pretty as a lark—with an announcement in the local paper including a family photo that showcased brand-new wedding rings on their interlocking fingers. By 1974 there were no scarlet letters, stocks or whippings for adulterers…but a scarlet-headed, fatherless child was no different a letter when you were twenty and desperately single—and your ex bandied about town with his new wife and daughter.

So my mother put me in my grandparents’ care until she married. No one made a bigger deal of my red hair than my grandfather. He meant no harm, drawing attention to it every chance he got- for him, it was a great point of pride— “There’s my girl!” his voice would boom, “It’s the redhead!” I believe now that the love he professed for my red hair was a move to claim me, to affirm my belonging, perhaps even to teach me to be kinder to myself. This was not the least bit comforting when the entire fourth grade referred to your frizzy orange mop as “Tang.”

The unwanted attention my hair drew aggravated a host of nagging questions I could not answer:  Who was I? Was I maybe a witch? Would I grow up to be a “frisky little sorrel filly” like the dirty old man in the park suggested? Would my inherent nature- perhaps evil, nefarious, and shirking as my absent biological father’s- somehow rise to the surface?

                                                                                #

Having red hair seemed to in some strange way erase all bounds of civil behavior- one would never, for example, approach a total stranger in a supermarket line and ask her “Whoa! Where’d you get that magnificent pimple?” or declare “I just love obese women!” Why was it then socially acceptable to harass little bright scarlet me—struggling to be unobtrusive, minding my own business, trying not to glow in the dark— by bellowing, “Hey! Where’d you get that red hair?” or, worse yet- ruffling my mane and chortling, “I just love that carrot top!”

Oh and Good Lord have mercy, the questions. When I was a little girl, they were fairly innocuous. In adolescence men began to say increasingly alarming things to me in a tone that both terrified and outraged me.

“I just love redheads.”

“My wife is a redhead you know…”

“Does the carpet match the drapes?”

“Well hello, fire crotch.”

“Hey- red!! Show me that burning bush.”

“Redheaded women buck like goats.” (Et tu, James Joyce?…and eff you, too. I know Joyce wasn’t directly addressing me, but I **loved** Ulysses until that damn line, at which point the entire Joyce Honors Seminar side-eyed me, smirking, while I held the book over my face, casually propping it up with a middle finger and staring down anyone who made the mistake of eye contact.)

Some of these nasty things were said to me at work, some at parties, some in bars, some at family reunions, some waiting in line at the DMV, and once – in a cloakroom, where my boss tried to feel me up on the premise that every other redhead he hired had given him a blow job, so why not me?

I further resented my hair for the cultural comparisons and associations red hair elicited: a saloon girl, a fallen woman, the poster from Reefer Madness, that crazed ginger in the orgy at the end of Clockwork Orange—- although, I never really minded being thrown in the same lot as the stripper Tempest Storm (her autobiography is amazing). It is tiresome, though that every female with red hair is portrayed as whorish, garish, hyper sexualized, criminally insane or all the above. I have yet to date a man who has not complimented me on my hair, often in some kind of anticipation that I will be sexually wilder, capable of inducing a spectacular degree of ecstasy simply because of the amount of pheomelanin raging in my follicles.

Every redhead I know has these kinds of stories. Many stories are far worse than mine.

                                                                                #

Much as I hated what I endured—the teasing, the sly winks, the gross comments from mouth-breathing degenerates—I could never bring myself to change my hair color. (Ok, I used to indulge in the occasional box of henna, but to my horror it only made the hair redder, and me, angrier). I couldn’t be me- and ostensibly this outrageous- without my cussed red hair.

The closest I ever came to parting company with it, was when I sold it. I left my small hometown the summer after my freshman year of college and went to live in Chicago. I was ready for not just change, but transformation: eager to live in a city, to escape the cornfields, forests, and trade the chaw-chomping good old boys of my youth for glib urban professionals who owned more than one suit, and knew how to pronounce the names of all the wines on the menu. My roommate, intent upon aiding my Liza-Doolittle makeover, set me up with an appointment at a high dollar salon where Tony, the stylist, promptly offered me a free cut and $350 for my locks- waist length, never permed or colored, healthy and thick as rope.

“Cash?” I asked. Tony nodded, smiling without showing his teeth.

“Cut it,” I said.

Tony put it in a braid that hung down my back, something my mother had done nightly when I was a child. The scissors beat their wings around my cheekbones, cool metal skimming my neck. Tony lifted and trimmed and snipped and tugged, pronounced me “not the least bit tender-headed.”  I could not bear to look, keeping my gaze averted to my lap on the wispy pile of hair accumulating there. Finally, Tony sighed in pleasure, rubbed some sort of lavender- scented product into my scalp, and showed me myself in the mirror. I remember running my hands through it and thinking of an old horror film.

Mia Farrow. Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby.

Tony and the other stylists gathered around the chair, cooing and complimenting me, passing around and petting at the long braid now detached from my body. He handed me seven crisp, whispering fifty dollar bills. I suppressed the urge to wail.

I hardly recognized my own reflection in the storefront windows when I made my way home. Coworkers gasped when they saw me. Men stopped holding the door for me at the supermarket, offering to carry my groceries, and giving up their seat on the El. My parents sent me a postcard in response to the snapshot I mailed them, that said “TOO SKINNY. EAT SOMETHING. NO MORE HAIRCUTS! P.S. —DAD WORRIED YOU ARE GAY.”

Unfortunately, my shorn scalp did nothing to abate the redhead comments, but relieved of my big wig of red hair – and to a degree, my appearance of femininity- I felt off-balance. When I tried to brush my short little baby-doll hairs, I would automatically extend my arms too far, tugging at hair that wasn’t there any more, and leave unsightly scratches at the nape of my neck. I had one style and one look with this pixie-girl business. No more ponytails, messy buns, braids, barrettes, clips, or headbands for me: I was a one-trick pony. A roan, with no mane to comb.  

A few weeks later I bumped into Tony on the street in Lincoln Park. He took my face in his hands, tilted it to the light and said I should come back in for a trim, then asked me how I felt.

“Like Samson,” I said.

                                                                                #

I wonder sometimes if my life might have been different if I were blonde; then again it certainly would have been different if I were, you know, calm. By the time I was thirty, I had a solid reputation for a short fuse- – a tendency to ignite that got me into trouble, whether commuting on public transit, standing in beer lines at concerts, picnicking at a nude beach on Lake Austin. En route to meet colleagues for happy hour, a stranger stopped in front of me on 57th street declared that he loved redheads, and licked my hair. My coworker’s boyfriend witnessed the whole thing from the window of a bodega, later reporting to Kalli that before he could get outside he’d seen me belt the offender with my handbag while pedestrian traffic made a wide, wide berth around me.

“Why didn’t you help her?” Kalli demanded.

“Help her?” he said. “She was chasing him down the street screaming I’LL KILL YOU!”

These sorts of anecdotes were funny only because, miraculously, I somehow tended to escape unharmed, if not unhinged. Friends started to say things to me like, “Perhaps you should be more careful,” or “You know, you could have been killed…” and even, “Please, for the love of God, stop being such a jerk.”

“James means fierce, “ I’d say, shrugging off friends’ suggestions I tone things down a bit. “I guess if the hairs on my head are numbered, I’ll keep the Good Lord busy counting them.”

The fact of the matter- and the problem—is that I prided myself on the outrageous behavior that red hair allowed me just as much as I resented the unwanted attention. The red-tinted glasses through which I viewed the world let me thrive on a certain perverse satisfaction in imagining myself to be some sort of badass force to be reckoned with.

It was wearing on everyone- except, it seemed, on me. My friends began to look tired when I regaled them with yet another story about putting some perv in his place. My friend Susan confronted me after I had a spat with a woman at Whole Foods.

“You get angry about everything,” she said. “The woman was in a wheelchair.”

“So what?” I countered. “I would have let her ditch me in line, if she’d asked instead of just cutting in. But when that bitch called me a nasty ginger—”

“You were being a nasty ginger.”

“That isn’t the point.”

“Perhaps,” Susan said. “It would have been better for her to just call you an asshole.”

 She suggested I take up breathing exercises and get acupuncture. Others suggested yoga and meditation, less caffeine, Bible study, more sex, a vacation, getting my thyroid tested. I never paused my kvetching long enough to listen, let alone consider that my so-called red problem wasn’t really a problem at all—but one that others might be eager to trade, swapping their mountain of suffering for the molehill of pettiness I perched on, shouting and fighting windmills with my handbag. For a time, in my mind, I believed my scenes were defensible on the premise that prickliness was me: each red hair hackling in alert, my way of growling Beware of Dog.

                                                                                #

There’s no denying I was entirely, overly sensitive and that my cantankerousness was inexcusable. These are the kinds of things, though, that make me wonder about nature, versus nurture. To what degree is my hypersensitivity simply the result of “search for the devil and she will appear”? To what extent is my exasperation a reasonable outcome after spending a lifetime of St. Patrick’s Days explaining over and over again that I am not Irish, I’m from Ohio? As for how St. Patrick’s Day affects temperament, I challenge you, reader, to spend a full sun’s journey during which strangers pinch you and coworkers talk you like you just fell off a Lucky Charms Cereal Box….and we’ll see what a jolly good sport you are by lunchtime. I was fed up with that nonsense by the time I was ten; by the time I was thirty I’d learned to wear a hat all day and take lunch at my desk when the dreaded holiday came round.

I skipped the office party, of course, and worked late in my classroom, dreading the long walk home up Second Avenue, past the row of Irish bars. When I could put it off no longer, I went to fetch my things from the main office. There were leftovers from the festivities— a plate of sugar-cookie shamrocks with Kelly-green icing and a few half-eaten loaves of soda bread scattered around, some parsnip chips. A string of foil Irishmen sagged from the ceiling, their spindly legs and rusty beards gently bobbing in the breeze from the heat vents.

“What’s all this?” I groused, digging through the mess to try to find a book I’d left on the table that morning. My friend Kalli was also gathering up her things. “It was a party,” she said. “We missed you, Smith.”  

I launched into a tirade about my hatred of the holiday and my hair. Normally people cut me off, but she just packed up the cookies, wrapped the soda bread in plastic baggies and cleaned the table- listening through my entire misanthropic and anti-follicate recitation.

“I never knew all that about you,” she said. “But then again… nobody knows anything about you. They’re not allowed to.”

“Thanks,” I said, because I didn’t know what else to say. She was right. This was true. I was awful, a lot. And a lot more awful than I needed to be.

Kalli shrugged and smiled. “I wish you didn’t hate it,” she said. Her face was wry and her voice tentative, as if extending a hand she worried I might bite. “I—hope you don’t mind my saying this, but I think red hair is beautiful.”  

Her kindness took all the wind out of my careening mills. For the first time in years—maybe ever— I said, and meant, “I never mind hearing it from my friends.”

I don’t remember the walk home that night, or feeling particularly nonplussed or light on my feet, or inexorably changed. But what I do remember is cringing—then, in the teacher’s lounge and now also— to think of the pettiness that fueled me in my misspent, reddened blush of youth. I mistook my own flame for inflammation. I remember thinking about how foolish and how useless was the quaint and convenient notion that I could do no better by others or by myself because of some random genetic trait. The problem was never my hair, the problem was a combination of my unwillingness, or inability, or bewilderment over how to channel the energy and vitality and sheer red volume of myself into a flame that lit up the room, instead of a wildfire that left a swath of scorched earth.

It feels ridiculous to look back at how long it took me to learn to accept a sincere compliment and take a joke, for God’s sake. Other than the guy I hit with my purse (who I maintain to this day, totally had it coming) it’s embarrassing now to recall how I crushed the enthusiasm of others because of my own resentment; and how long it took me to learn that graciousness costs me nothing, but a lack of generosity is an ever-mounting debt that can never be paid in full.

My hair is long again, longer than it’s been since I was a little girl, when my mother combed and braided it into submission each night into tight twin pigtails that I curled around my head before I went to sleep, dreaming of what I would become and who I was to be. But now there are long, white strands creeping into my crimson mane, and while I have no desire to return to my former, surly-girl self, oh, oh, oh- what I would give for this hair to stay that red, forever.


Jamie Lyn Smith is a native of Knox County, Ohio. An alumnus of Kenyon College and Fordham University, she is the recipient of a University Fellowship from The Ohio State University, where she completed her MFA in Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Pinch, American Literary Review, The Low Valley Review, The Boiler, The Watershed Review and Barely South. She currently teaches Creative Writing at Bluffton University, where she edits Bridge: The Bluffton University Literary Journal. Jamie Lyn is working on two new projectsEver After, a collection of short stories, and her first novel, Appalachia.

Categories
2018 Poetry

Bernard Ferguson

under fireworks, the immigrant remembers his feet

the rocket’s climb into the mouth of summer & its slow bloom in the sky
i name it honestly: violence as spectacle

my apologies, i grew up in a wide belly
a harsh tear of sound & a culling of men

along my street & now i run my hands
down the blinds when a storm rolls in

no beauty to be found in a thunder’s rattle that ravishes
what has not welcomed a ravishing

once, a body was drained of what sweat it had to offer
& then pressed into the earth, an eternal kiss with the dirt

& this is where i appeared
a fresh pair of kicks & no instructions

there is a new country birthed at dawn
& in it running remains the same

a gambit against what swallowed
those who came before us

kudos to you, oh reaper
your ensemble has lined 26th ave with such gorgeous tones

i have checked the locks twice
& touch nothing even with so much to touch

i am sure there is comfort in these things that shed
& blossom until they are unrecognizable

but it was under a rainless night like this one
that i wished for a street without wounds

forgive me, i cannot be blamed for my feet
& what they might do under this recklessness

this sky slowly becoming itself
forgive me for what begins in the chest

this thump & fervor that bathes each rib
forgive me the small moments of reprieve

the wind’s rattle a softened whisper around
each one of my necks

even in stillness, the marrow of me
churns for what i know to exist

these fingers bend & flinch
beneath your dusk spilling with sound

& pull me toward a place
without teeth


Bernard Ferguson is a Bahamian immigrant living in Minnesota. He’s excited to convince you that Fall is not that great of a season. He has work featured/upcoming in Best New Poets 2017, Nashville Review, Winter Tangerine, Raleigh Review and Santa Ana River Review, among others. Please tell him about your favorite reggae songs.

Categories
2018 Poetry

Bruce Bond

MANDOLIN

after Picasso

From a studio apartment, downtown,
across the rise and fall of monuments

and fortune, you just might see a ball
come crashing through an old façade

and think, what better place to hang
a portrait, and what better art than this:

this girl and her mandolin, her abstract
flesh pulling at the manhole, her hand

gloved in the hand from another point
of view, her figure, as the painter saw her,

heard her, broke her into orphaned
bolts and pieces, a girl exhumed, plotted,

diagramed, scored to the ashen drone
of trucks that feed the warehouse district,

where painters pitch their lofts and work
among the toxins.  Eyesores of the new

dark age, they need us to redeem them,
as desire needs its dissonance to fade

and fading needs its music and mallets
need a good job to beat their fractured

measures through the alley. Call them
instrumental then, each deafening ping

a world apart, a world, and thus, a part,
so when the past collapses at your door,

you will not turn away. You will hear
the chime of random metal in the drawer

you closed long ago, when you were small
and progress was a glorious colossus,

when every blackened engine was an angel,
and with a little care, it hummed. It sang.


Bruce Bond is the author of twenty books including, most recently, Sacrum (Four Way Books, 2017), Blackout Starlight: New and Selected Poems 1997-2015 (L.E. Phillabaum Award, LSU, 2017), Rise and Fall of the Lesser Sun Gods (Elixir Book Prize, Elixir Press, 2018), and Dear Reader (Free Verse Editions, 2018). Three books are forthcoming: Frankenstein’s Children (Lost Horse Press), Scar (Etruscan Press), and Words Written Against the Walls of the City (LSU.) Presently he is a Regents Professor of English at University of North Texas.

Categories
2018 Poetry

Molly Bess Rector

PORTRAIT OF MY TWIN AS FUKUSHIMA DAISY

The fallout fields grow daisies with faces
stuck together in a permanent kiss.
Not the result, necessarily, of radiation, but still
you can trace in them certain obsessions:
how the cells fold and redouble, genes not content
to stop after producing just one eye.

In another life, my sister and I are mutants.
We like the word ‘split,’
we stroke its sweetness with our tongues,
admire it like a god: that which gave us form.

In this life, we are simply lucky—separate, intact—
our mother’s body the godlike thing,
the hardworking thing that wouldn’t stop at one.

Not so unusual, these kinds of anomalies,
a body’s odd compulsion to do more
than enough, to produce, say, the two eggs,
two hundred white petals
now bending to the grass the single daisy stem.

My sister tells me her blood sings to her.
And perhaps the singing is why she splits
the south, takes weeks driving
Northwest from New Orleans—
sleeping in her car at national parks,
her profanities blooming glossy against traffic, burnished—
learning to quiet that racket in the veins.

She takes the practical approach to nuclear destruction,
insisting we should live in Portland
while we still can, before the radiant electrified waves
make it across the Pacific.


Molly Bess Rector lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she co-curates the Open Mouth Reading Series. A former Edward F. Albee fellow, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bear Review, Hobart, The New Guard, and Nimrod, among others. Find her on Twitter at @mollybessrector.

Categories
2018 Poetry

Glenn Shaheen

COURTESY AFLOAT

Here in the close quarters of strangers we call
a city I try to go unnoticed, hoping I will fail,
that somebody will notice me anyway. Ruinous
music and yet replicable. Breaths within my head
I’ve meant to take and hesitated. Harmonies,
melodies, there’s more beneath every song, little
mistakes in the recording, the errors more
interesting, the stumbles what make our moments,
hm, is it lived in? Some evidence, a human unsure
of the next fret, language a half step behind brain,
a competor, a competitor, whatever. Poets online,
I know them, I know their ad campaigns, they are
so sure about themselves, so thrilled and full of
a confidence or false bravado I can’t weave. I’m
just trying to figure out the gears beneath my skin
in a way that hopefully leaves me in one piece.
I’m an Arab and proud of my ability to cause
little quakes within white strangers at the airport, in
a Wendy’s late at night, them deflating a bit when
they hear my voice uncut by accent. I’m still
a bad man. I’m still a servant of Death. So, I’m
afraid, are you, suckling from the opulence of
the rotten teat of our country’s corpse. It’s ok,
we’re good at rot, we’re trained in it, the rich
assure us fester is a luxury, cheeses, delicacies,
little maggots jumping from the rind only add
to the experience. I used to want to make replicas
of disaster. Frozen moments in destruction,
miniature in text or plastics on the dresser. Get
close, look at this mess that was a human, a human
you could perhaps even stand to be around for ten
minutes. Well-honed images of bees, flowers,
the poets have dumped anger and insecurity
somewhere and I fell out too. Still writing little
writhing things onto the page, still wanting to
make ugly a beautiful world. Two notes a half step
apart. Each alone could tell a story but together
they tear the narrative apart. The momentum
of the skyscraper suicide who dies of fright before
hitting the ground. Do I believe in love, yes, do I
believe in destruction, well, I’m trying to master
it, to use it on my skin like a salve. A leftist with
a gun but I’d rather it was stolen, unbought,
manifested from a light night desire for no profit.
Give me a great man’s death and I can get behind
it if it saves a great many people. A hero only
interesting if she doesn’t act like a hero. Death
waning from sight, at least, the meaning of it.


Glenn Shaheen is the author of the poetry collections Predatory (U of Pitt Press, 2011), and Energy Corridor (U of Pitt Press, 2016); the flash fiction chapbook Unchecked Savagery (Ricochet Editions, 2013); and the flash fiction collection Carnivalia (Gold Wake, 2018).

Categories
2018 Poetry

Rebecca Valley

HAIBUN FOR MY MOTHER, STANDING IN THE SNOW

You open your mouth. Inside there is a snowglobe. On the nightstand a cup of water has frozen. It expands, and the shards cut my cheek in the shape of two bodies, separated by a frosted pane of glass.

In my one hand my mother is asleep on the sofa, watching headlights hit the wall over and over. In the other you are dozing in the bathtub, your mouth open, fingering the damp rim of the drain.

Now I am a raw scrape on my mother’s knee. I am the purple skin peeling off her breastbone, when the bandage came off and no one was there to see it.

In the cat’s eye, a snowglobe. My mother stands inside it, touching the dogs in their own language. I turn a cup over, inspect the damages. The fragments paint a kaleidoscope on the wall.


Rebecca Valley’s work has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Rattle, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, among other journals. She currently serves as an associate poetry editor at Fairy Tale Review, and as the editor-in-chief of Drizzle Review, a book review site with a focus on minority authors and books in translation. She recently moved from Washington state to Northampton, Massachusetts to pursue an MFA in Poetry at UMass Amherst.

Categories
2018 NonFiction

Lisa Knopp

FREE SAMPLES

I pull into the U-Stop Convenience Shop, the last place to get gas on North 27th before you cross or merge into Interstate-80. I sort of know what I’m looking for. The four photographs I’ve seen of him reveal that he’s tall, wears wire-rimmed glasses, and has short light hair. Yet none of the photos offer a clear, close shot of his face. Just minutes earlier on the telephone, he told me that he drives a white Malibu with customized license plates bearing the shortened version of his last name, which I recognize as his username on the internet match-making site where we “met.” It’s what everyone calls him, he says. I wonder if I’ll call him that, too, someday.

Twenty minutes together is all we have. He drove into the city this morning for shopping. He wanted to meet me for lunch, but I had a brunch to attend in the late morning and a memorial service in the afternoon. A brief interview for a date is what this is. Within twenty minutes, we will determine if we merit a full weekend evening of each other’s time. From my experiences with other men I’ve met on the match-making website, I can usually determine that within 20 seconds and usually, my answer is either “probably not” or “absolutely not.” In recent years, each of the men that I’ve kept company with for more than a few dates were ones that I met the old-fashioned and rather random way — while giving a reading at a coffee house; while waiting too long for service at the Verizon store; while washing clothes at a laundromat during that brief window of time between the breakdown of my old washer and my purchase of a new one; while rallying at the state capitol in opposition to the TransCanada pipeline.

What I’m looking for. I sort of know what that is at this point in life: deep friendship and a little romance. What I don’t know is if I’m willing, yet again, to invest the time, energy, and love that it takes to really get to know and feel comfortable enough with a man that we can treasure, worry over, and receive solace and joy from each other.

A man sits on a bench outside the double doors of the U-Stop Convenience Shop, his long legs stretched out in front of him. I recognize the glasses but the hair that I saw in his photos is gone. “Candidate for a Date” (“C.D.”) rises from the bench and watches me pull in next to his Malibu. He is smiling. I wave him over to my car and point to the passenger seat. I shove the seat in my little Honda Civic as far back as it will go. As C.D. eases himself into the seat and folds each long leg into a high, sharp angle, he tells me that it’s better for us to sit in my car than on the bench because the wind was messing with the hair on his shaved head. The joke could have been amusing, but it goes on too long. Then he explains it. But of course, it really doesn’t matter what we are saying because what we’re after is a good look at each other’s faces — especially the eyes and the mouth, especially the eyes. His face is pleasant and his eyes are blue and attentive.

We chat about real estate. He tells me about the century-old farmhouse that he bought, lifted, and moved several miles to the little Nebraska town where he’s lived the past couple of decades. He refurbished every inch of it, doing all the work himself, including removing the asbestos-filled slate siding and replacing it with vinyl. I tell him I moved far north so I’d be closer to the interstate and so, closer to my job in Omaha. Yet four years later, I still don’t feel at home in this part of Lincoln. I long to return to one of the old, friendly, walkable neighborhoods nearer the geographical center of the city. But because of the lowered property values in recent years, I can’t sell my house without paying at least $12,000 to cover the realtor’s fee and the difference between what I owe on the house and what it’s now worth. Before I can sell my house, I have to paint or side it, but because the house was built in the late 60s, back when they still used lead paint…”

C.D. puts his hand on my arm and I stop talking. I suppose that I was going on and on and now I’m mildly embarrassed. “There’s a dog in traffic,” he says. The cars and trucks in the two northbound lanes of North 27th have stopped. “I bet he jumped out of the car when his owner stopped for gas or something.” C.D. pauses. “Look! He’s coming this way.”

“I’ll go get him,” I say. I step out of the car and run toward the stopped vehicles. Some dogs are so rattled around traffic. They run erratically, zigzagging like squirrels, confusing everyone. There . . . there it’s coming toward me. It’s tiny, with a tight, barrel-shaped body, and stumpy little legs. I don’t like that type of dog with its fast, mincing, ridiculous-looking steps. I prefer the more confident, graceful stride of a taller, longer-legged dog. Even so, I don’t want to see this little one with the bright black eyes spattered on the pavement or hear its piercing, final yaps.

“Here, puppy,” I say, as I bend down and extend a hand. It’s so tiny and pure white, an older dog, an older dog with a collar. If it will let me, I’ll scoop it up in my arms, take it back to the car, call animal control, and wait. In that impulsive moment, I don’t consider the possible outcomes of this act: that it might take so long for someone from Animal Control to come for the dog that I’ll miss the funeral of the old acquaintance, a woman who was younger than me and with a daughter still in high school; that no one comes for the dog ever, and I’m stuck with it; and the least likely scenario, that the dog moves my heart and I can’t let it go, even though another dog is pretty much the last thing that I want or need. But when the dog sees me, it veers and heads toward the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Restaurant. I give up.

As I walk back to my car, I realize that I’ve just given C.D. quite a bit of information about me – that, depending on his interpretation, I’m the type of woman who has such compassion for a dog in harm’s way that she attempts to rescue it or that I’m the type of woman who acts rashly, leaving a stranger in her car with her purse and keys; how I move when I run; how I look from behind, specifically, my hair and my butt. Or maybe he had his eyes on the dog the whole time. If so, I want to know that.

“Gone,” I say, as I slide into my seat. I pull my cell phone out of my purse and call Animal Control.

“You have Animal Control on speed dial?” he asks.

I nod. I realize that C.D. might think that I call Animal Control with frequency because I’m a real dog lover. But actually, I’ve listed that phone number as one of my “favorites” because on too many of my daily rambles in city parks and neighborhoods, I’ve been threatened by dogs at large. Once, I was even run down, attacked and bitten by a boxer. The puncture wounds on my leg healed long before the nightmares about the attack faded. In truth, I am the type of woman that reports dangerous dogs and files complaints against their negligent owners, and I rescue dogs in traffic. When I get off the phone, I tell C.D. that apparently others have called about the dog, too, since the woman who answered asked me if the dog I was seeing was “a little white one with a collar.” Someone from Animal Control will be here soon, I tell him. We wish the dog well.

C.D. says that he’s sorry that my job has been so stressful lately, something I shared with him in an email message earlier in the week. I’m touched that he remembers that. We talk about work place politics and how much we both dislike meetings and those folks who won’t let the meeting end until they’ve said everything they have to say at least three times. Then, we both see it at the same time: a bird whose form is familiar to me but whose plumage is like nothing I’ve ever seen. “I think it’s a blackbird,” C.D. says.


“It’s shaped like a blackbird but that’s not blackbird plumage,” I say. The feathers are light brown and highlighted with the oranges and pinks of a sunrise or of orange and raspberry sherbet. “It would be beautiful if it weren’t so weird,” I say. We watch the bird stride past the car toward the front doors of the U-Stop.

“Weird,” he says, as he slowly nods. Then the bird flies away. Runaway dogs and bizarre but beautiful birds. I feel like I’m watching a parable, with all of its familiar yet strange, ordinary yet extraordinary imagery unfurling before me. If I can tease out the meaning beyond the immediate and the apparent, perhaps these parables will tell me something essential about this man or my own intentions.

I wonder if C.D. is the kind of guy that can see the parabolic potential in seemingly random, everyday events. I’m about to ask him something along that line when he nonchalantly announces that he has bats in his attic. I’m not sure if he’s being straight with me or if he’s making another joke, with an explanation to follow. So I wait.

“You know how you usually have flies in your house this time of year and you don’t know where they came from?” He slowly shakes his head from side to side. “I don’t have any, so you know there’s something wrong.

“I took a lawn chair out in the yard the other evening and sat there and watched the attic. There they came. The bats. It can’t be good to have bats in your attic. It’s not hygienic,” he says, scrunching up his nose.

“No, it’s not,” I agree. “They’re up there defecating, urinating, shedding, and who knows what else.” I don’t say anything about rabies because I’ve heard that contrary to what most people think, the incidence of that disease in bats is no higher than that of any other wild mammal. Besides, I like bats. They use echolocation to locate and capture their prey; the females raise their young in nursery colonies of dozens or hundreds; and as a summer evening edges toward night, these flying leaves straight out of the Eocene Epoch dart and veer overhead and suddenly drop out of sight. I would never spread erroneous and potentially injurious information about bats. But neither do I want one anywhere near me, unless I’ve been forewarned of its presence.

“There are only two kinds of bats that these can be in Nebraska. Big Brown Bats or Little Brown Bats.” C.D.’s “b’s” are slightly bombastic. “A Little Brown Bat is about the size of a mouse when it’s like this.” He crosses his arms over his chest and hunches his back like a sleeping bat. His shoulders almost touch his knees. Then, he sits up straight again. “They’re only this big,” he says as he spreads his thumb and second finger a few inches. His nails are clean and nicely clipped. “But the bats that I have are a lot bigger.” He nods for emphasis. “They’re Big Brown Bats.

“I got on the internet and found a humane way to evict them. You make a valve tube out of a two-inch diameter plastic pipe or caulk tube. You cut it so it’s about six to eight inches long.” He shows me these distances by spreading his thumb and second finger. “You take a piece of plastic netting – you don’t want the mesh more than a sixth of an inch – and tape it to one side of the exterior opening on the pipe. Then you thread the tube through the opening in the roof where you saw the bats coming out. The bats can get out through the tube, but they say that because of the netting, they can’t get back in. Well, I think they can’t climb back in because their claws can’t get a grip on the hard plastic surface in the tube. Once you see that there aren’t any more bats coming out of your attic, you seal off the entry points.” C.D. has been looking over the top of his glasses at North 27th as he delivers this tutorial, but now, he turns and looks at me. His eyes are quite blue and sincere. “But I’m not evicting them just yet. It can still get pretty cold at night in April. I don’t want them to suffer.”

“That’s a good plan,” I say. “And you only have to wait a few more weeks until it’s warm enough that you can give them the boot.”

This man is gainfully employed, kind, politically progressive, not unattractive, and on cordial yet detached terms with his ex-wife and so, he meets my minimum standards. There is nothing particularly wrong with him, though his imitation of the sleeping bat was a little weird, but neither is there anything particularly right about him, though I was touched by his remark about his unwillingness to make Big Brown Bats suffer from the cold. Because of that remark, I move him from the “definitely not,” past the “probably not,” and into the “perhaps we’ll get together again” category.

I tell C.D. that I need to leave for the memorial service and that I have a big pile of student essays to grade this weekend. He tells me that he needs to get some chores done at home because Sunday morning, he’s heading out for an epic bike ride from the small town where he lives all the way to a little speck of a town near the Nebraska-Kansas border.

At this moment, it’s not Candidate for a Date in a nylon Lycra full body suit leaning into a turn that I’m imagining, but the produce aisle at the grocery store. I picture the free sample lady, the one with the big, coal black hair-do, red lips, and big, jingly, often holiday-themed earrings, placing a corn chip on each of the napkins that she’s laid out. Customers can take a chip and dip it in one of the three bowls of salsa, each filled with a different and new-fangled flavor, say, peach-mango, pomegranate, or tequila. Nearby in a clear plastic globe are wedges of blood oranges that you serve yourself on a toothpick. On a typical Saturday morning, the walk past the meat counter is a bit of an obstacle course, because of the various stations where you can sample Little Smokies sausage, shaved hickory-smoked ham on a snack cracker, and if you wait just a minute, a tiny chunk of the beef hissing and popping in an electric frying pan. In the bakery, a woman fills tiny plastic pill cups with dabs of pineapple or blueberry cheesecake. “Go on,” she says to me with a wink. “You can take one of each.”

There’s an etiquette that you should follow when sampling. You should feign interest in the product even if you don’t like it or if all you really want is a bite of free food. If the free sample lady is passing out coupons, you should take one, look it over and ask a question or nod your head to show your approval. You can throw the coupon away later. And always, thank her for giving you the opportunity to try something you’d never buy or something that you never knew you wanted until now.

At this moment in the parking lot outside the U-Stop Convenience Shop on North 27th Street in Lincoln, Nebraska, what I wish for are free samples, tiny dollops of the quotidian scooped from a typical day ten years hence, served in pill cups with tiny plastic spoons. In the first free sample, I see myself rising from my bed to close the window because the temperature falls so fast on an April night. Before I let the curtain fall back in place, I turn and see a single pillow positioned in the center of the head of my empty bed. But in the second sample, when I turn from the window, I see this man’s sleeping face illuminated by a slat of moonlight and framed by the pillow on his side of the bed. In both scenarios, what I most want to see is the unguarded look on my face when I turn from the window and see my empty or occupied bed. Is it contentment? Wonder? Dismay? Desire? Contempt? Ambivalence? Gratitude? If I could see my expression, I would know what to do and say in this parting moment before I take my leave of this man who is considerate of bats.

Before he gets out of my car, C.D. and I shake hands. I thank him for the opportunity to meet. “We’ll be in touch,” he says. I nod. And if we aren’t, I say to myself, it has far more to do with me than you.


Lisa Knopp is the author of six books of creative nonfiction. Her most recent, Bread: A Memoir of Hunger (University of Missouri Press, 2016), is about eating disorders and disordered eating among older women. Both Bread and What the River Carries: Encounters with the Mississippi, Missouri, and Platte (University of Missouri Press, 2012) won Nebraska Book Awards. Knopp’s essays have appeared in numerous literary journals including Georgia Review, Missouri Review, Michigan Review, Gettysburg Review, Crab Orchard Review, Connecticut Review, Iowa Review, Shenandoah, Creative Nonfiction, Prairie Schooner, and Seneca Review. Her current project is Like Salt or Love: Essays on Leaving Home, which will include “Free Samples.”

Knopp is a Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where she teaches courses in creative nonfiction. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. Please visit her website at http://www.lisaknopp.com