Eric Lutz

Fiction, SPRING 2013

THIS PLACE

My cousin Mary’s dating a wrestler. And you should see the way my mother looks at him.

She brings this guy to our Fourth of July cook-out, introduces him as Larry. But when I
first talk to him, he holds out a fat hairy hand and says: Call me Slaughter.

He’s a big dude, Slaughter is. He’s got real thick legs and a torso nearly as dense as Mary is wide. He’s so big he can’t even wear normal clothes – they’re all baggy and formless.

All day long Mary is kissing him too hard, touching him like women do on his huge
chest, and in between all that he’s regaling everyone with stories about the different places he’s toured. Moves he did to this guy and moves they did to him, how yes all the moves are choreographed but that don’t mean it’s fake any more than a dancer’s fake, and the whole time my mother’s laughing and drinking too much and giving him eyes like women do, and I try hard to hate him but I can’t.

Eventually I get up from the table and sit on the back patio and look out at all that land.
The blue sky is low above the field, and a warm breeze blows through the dry stalks that aren’t nearly as big as they should be. I put back the rest of my Miller and crumple the can.

I hear footsteps up the wooden stairs and know it’s my mother without needing to look.
She walks like a child stomping its feet in a tantrum. She sits herself down in the plastic chair next to me and hands me another beer. I say, Thanks, and we both stare straight ahead. That Mary sure is something, she says after a bit, even though it’s clear she’s talking about Slaughter.

Yes, I say, she sure is.

I tell you, my mother says. If I had it do it all again, that’s the kind of man I’d go for. A
man with arms strong enough to hold me.

I look at her then as she continues to look out over the acres. She’s skinny and sunburnt
and her dark roots are growing out through her bright blond hair. I want to scream at her that the only people worth a damn in this world are those strong enough to hold themself, to tell her hate this place and hate her and that it’s hard to even muster up any reasons to try, but I don’t because it’s not her I’m mad at.

That Mary sure is something, she says again, and I turn back to the field as another warm breeze blows across it.

______________________________

Eric Lutz is a writer in Chicago. A frequent contributor to Newcity magazine, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Salon, Line Zero and noah magazine.

Abriana Jette

NonFiction, SPRING 2013

ALL THAT GLITTERS

They are young and they are powerful and their assistants order their drinks precisely as so, down to the spritz of lime in their soda; down to the three shots of gin. Here, there are no real conversations and no one knows anyone’s name. But there is sushi and an open bar and this is New York City. There is glamour all around.

I

We sit cross-legged on the carpet and watch Mike in the mirror. The back pockets of his jeans, his assistant insists, are too long, too baggy. His stylist pokes and prods at the red tie around his neck. You look great, we tell him, and his reflection follows back.

At some point there are seven or eight of us, plus a tailor, sitting and standing in this small hotel room. There is a window that spans from one whole wall in the room, with a built in seat that overlooks the lower east side. Thickly patterned curtains cascade down from the ceiling; two misplaced magenta oversized chairs pop out from the corner, a complimentary bottle of champagne chills in the refrigerator. There is an opened but untouched bottle of wine near the televisionwith six glasses sans fingerprints. At our wish there is anything, whatever one may need. It is such wishes which are questionable, this desire for more. We don’t do anything, really, except wait around for Mike.

Outside of this room –this hotel—there are issues. Real issues, issues which need to be tended to. War, for instance, poverty. I have my own issues with love and passion, between distance, and the written word. There are problems that run so deep, that at one point in the night, when the conversation turns to politics, Mike suggests we stray far
from where we are. At this point, everyone but me leaves to smoke a cigarette. Save for the possibility that the bartender may charge us for our drinks, or the pressures of appropriate attire for a New York City movie premiere, this hotel room offers solace. In my mind there  are one thousand thoughts racing. The others in the room have perfected the skill of ignoring such stuff. I have excelled in the exact opposite.

Sarah is filming in Yonkers just spending the night, and Harper has some small role in an Indie here in town. I never really catch what Jake does, or is doing here but he sits in the corner and eyes Sarah, whispering to her whenever he so feels the need to speak. Max just flew in, but is already in the shower. Nick and I are visitors, family. We sit, as we always sit, with our hands touching skin touching shoulders and sometimes lips, we sit like long lost lovers in the evening after drinks, always, even over coffee in the morning.

Max comes out of the shower, speaks over Anthony. Anthony speaks over Max. Max speaks louder. Mike calls the front desk for an iron, Karoline presses his shirt. Someone mentions something about dinner. Mike will eat with the producers while we watch the movie. The studio has arranged free popcorn.

Spending time with young Hollywood can make one dizzy. There are no plans, no such thing as time. We could order room service for the night courtesy of the production company, or we could eat across the street if anyone wanted air. We could eat later, drink first. Someone could always join us, someone could always leave. Whatever happens, happens. In any case someone always knows a place, a person, has a favor owed. In any case no one ever knows what they are doing until they do it, and even then, I believe I did not know much at all.

The entire time there are around us beautiful women, pale skin, rouged lips. There are trust fund friends and famous writers, Nick only wants to stay with me. I am re-wearing a thirty dollar dress and my heels are still scuffed from college. Still, he stops me in the street in the middle of traffic and motions for the cars to stay put. He holds our camera so that it solely focuses on my smile. Tells me to say cheese, kisses me before lights turn green and holds me steady in my heels. Sometimes I believe he is the only thing that is real.

II

I recall a conversation I had once with a renowned celebrity photographer, Patrick. “It doesn’t mean anything,” he told me. “It’s all just flashes and takes.”

It was a scorching hot day in the Hamptons, and I was working an event for American Express Publishing, an assistant essentially sent from the company to tend to Patrick’s needs. In recollection, I can still see the evanescent fog of the morning sky; know that it was August because upon memory the arid tartness of the vacant Hampton’s airport still lingers on my tongue. If I think hard enough, I can feel the fire on my back from the overgrown sun.

I remember Patrick walked around the perimeter of the airport, planning his first photo. I remember I was underdressed, dressed for work, while all the other attendants wore chiffon skirts or silk summer strapless trappings. There was a woman Patrick was scheduled to photograph whose closet was entirely comprised of Louis Vuitton. We shot her on the steps of a Bombardier private jet, her pint-sized poodle in her brown checkered purse. I remember Patrick asked if he could photograph me sitting on the leather recliners in the back of the plane. Those legs, he said, let’s see how long we can make them look.

Throughout the day we approached strangers, attempting to capture them in their most intimate moments. We asked permission to rearrange hands or move strands of hair in order to make the frame complete. Patrick and I sipped a few glasses of champagne, sampled little bites from every vendor. Everyone had something to offer, a bag already prepared with free supplies to hand over to him at first sight. For lunch, I sat with him at the furthest, most deserted end of the venue as he scarffed down mini cucumber sandwiches and tuna rolls. All the while he spoke of his son, his family, his son’s friends. He had room in the company if I was looking; the job was mine if I wanted it.

At that time I was difficult to impress. One knows how youth is wasted. There was a key under a big pot of hyacinths on the porch at his home in another part of the Hamptons if I wanted it. He gave me what others gave him: Ten Cane Rum, Brooks Brother’s gift certificates, travel bags. In a few hours he had to go to Billy’s. Billy Joel’s. Some party it seemed that he dread. The key was under the pot on the porch if I wanted it.

I remember thanking him, but insisted I go back to college for my senior year and graduate. Your graciousness was more than appreciated, I wrote to him in a card that I mailed to his office a few days later, and I thank you for being so warm in an industry filled with insincerity. A few months later, I phoned his office inquiring about a position. His secretary was pervasivedisinterested: he will call you at a later time.

Of course, he never did.

In retrospect I understand this day as the epitome of everything the industry representsdisconnected moments of takes and flashes, long legs and assistants,
promises made to pass the time.

III

After the movie Nick and I sip martinis in the corner with the lights dim and the music soft and slow. Spielberg is reserved next to us; we still act as if there is no one else around. When we finish our drinks we walk to the balcony, pass Sarah and Max and Mike’s assistant, see Mike on the other end of the bar. Outside Nick smokes cigarettes and I hold tightly onto his waist. Who knows how many hours have passed, how many cigarettes have been lit. We kiss between pulls, speak in between sips. It is a Monday evening, way past seven. There is no need to worry. There are people here hired to tell us where we are going, what we are doing, when the hour has come indeed for us to leave.

At one point a twenty something woman with thick bangs and long eyelashes asks Nick for a light. Somehow she and I get to talking about poetry. Lesbianism, she says, eroticism. She asks me to quote Nin and I must think about it for a minute. There have been martinis, many martinis, and for a moment the words escape me. It is as if I have lost a large portion of my soul, like I have forgotten why it is exactly that I exist. In my mind I can see myself from above, aerially, out of body; the poet at the New York premiere who cannot remember her lines. Then I remember“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” The woman leaves before we get the chance to exchange names.

Inside the bar we find Sarah and Harper and make small talk about the patéI think for a moment about the strangeness of the situation, how these actors are so young, so powerful, how their assistants think for them; I wonder if this is an issue of too great of a mind or too little.

IV

Hotel Room Service Bill (night before the premiere)
Gummibears: $18.00
Chocolate Candy Bar- $18.00
Pizza with Wild Mushrooms and Candied Onions- $22.00
Sweet Potato Soup- $15.00
(2) Hummus, Eggplant, and Guacamole Plates-$45.00
(2) Fettuccini Bolognese- $50.00
(3) French Fries- $38.00
(2) Green Teas- $10.00
(4) Smart Waters- $25.00
(2)Cucumber Lime Martini- $30.00
Bridgeview Merlot, 2001- $90.00
Total- $361.00

All expenses covered by Twentieth Century Fox.

The night before there are six of us in the hotel room sitting in a circle, smoking, telling jokes. We relax in the room, gathering in a hopeful symbiosis to ease Mike’s tensions. A few laughs, some cold beer. Sarah and I lay on the bed, Nick on the chair next to me with his hands always on my thighs, knees, anywhere.

Six of us spent seven hours in the hotel room that night, yet all I remember is how we sat swapping “your momma” and “little johnny’s”, giggling like children over a Puerto Rican, a Jew, and a Priest who walked into a bar, over accepted stereotypes almost too crude to be considered humorous. Seven hours together and all I can remember is how the night was made for musing over scenarios that could never, would never even exist.

V

It is five, six o’clock in the morning and we are driving out of the Holland Tunnel. The sky is a quiet pink. The sun is not yet warm. We put Thunder Road on the radio and Nick sings softly along. At some point in the past few hours I may or may not have been conversing with a millionaire producer from Fox, make up stylist for one of those so called stars, a noteworthy director’s daughter. I certainly, for a fact, stood overlooking Canal Street and discussed Anais Nin with an advertising executive from a small, Brooklyn based hipster magazine. In any case, there was free popcorn.

In any case it is late in the evening and early in the morning all at once. Tonight time has frozen and raced, has paused or been delayed. We drive into the sunrise holding each other’s hands. In any case it has been a wonderful day.

_______________________________________

Abriana Jette’s work is forthcoming or has appeared in the American Literary Review, dirtCakes, Empirical Magazine, the Manila Envelope, and many other journals.

Chaim ben Avram

Poetry, SPRING 2013

FINCH

A finch flew away

Before the storm,
before one can call it

November,
by its corners,
by its nearly sanded-down
corners, and sky

Sky of genesis un-
authored, sky
of suicidal leap
and whorl of racing
up city this

City of backwater century,
of last last spring’s thaw,
city of spayed forest
and closets never fully
unpacked this

last city,
the city before the city
after

last
Harlem,
last
York

The last letter she kept
locked inside her
like a second gospel

Heat,
her shoulders there,
by the window of her
unladed features

We make talk by that window
cold, better actually dirty
than blue

blue between the storm,
storm born of all years,
years of November

Year before the skyline traveled,
hence never fully unpacking
rust: starry hiccups,
the costliness,
the coast

The shore before the dank sea space
the finch springs into ( handless )
with nowhere staying stars sprung

Finch, who drills scared in earth,
drills with porous bills of pine

Above fly,
above morsels of
dragonfly

Finch of double bottom boats
and throwaway film: woods
sent to pasture to full life
in a camera this

City of cement
between conscious tiles
and skin

skin of suspicion,
skin coerced
and muscled into jargon this

City of rioting mirrors,
of permissible film set: technology
before it cost us the stars

City in the eye of a deer,
in the mineral eye
of October:
raised on the dune,
grass before landfall these

Streets of unmoored jetty
and vacant seas

Sea and two lone swimmers
in inked ravine

Ravine satisfactory to ricochet
and bluff,
ricochet and bluff,
and unstuck

Stars they count aloud,
the city roof unpacked in trees

_____________________________________

Chaim ben Avram is a writer from Philadelphia. He currently lives, writes, and teaches in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Leah Osowski

Poetry, SPRING 2013

IN PROTECTION OF TWELVE YEAR OLD GIRLS

Let’s mold moats below all their collarbones,
forge their untarnished skin with fairytales.

Our hands are always clutching at that clearing
of our bodies anyway. So we’ll scoop skin and root

to make islands of their necks and thoughts. We’ll harness
their pulses—the throb that comes the first time

an earlobe is sealed into the envelope of a mouth,
the beating wingspan of an owl under-chest—

that will become the surge of water that licks up their banks
and splashes over in pools of sweat on the indents

of all their see-through ribs. We’ll clasp a drawbridge
at their throats to keep out the man hands, to keep the scruff

scratch off their chins, to keep the lies dipped in butterscotch
schnapps from staying too long in the bedrooms of their brains.

Because maybe girls belong in castles in stone dresses.
Why was it always the boys clad in armor and the girls trailing

their fingertips over moss and fern and the bellies of caterpillars
and their own bellies sucking in under the touch of twigs.

Let’s keep them in turrets, train them in the pierce of arrows,
make enemies of head and heart.

THE MIDDLE DARK

Insulation like uterine walls filled the attic at fifteen Irving Rd Natick Mass oh one seven             six oh. It
spanned the length of our slab ranch and for eighteen years I refused to walk hunched               under eaves from
one end to the other. The middle dark. Like the deep end at the Y. The lights-off hallway            between their
king bed and our twin bunks. The ceilings at night if you peeled off all my meticulously              placed glow-in-
the-dark stars. Five oh eight, six five three, nine two three oh. At least four nights a week          my dreams are
tethered to that gray house with blue window boxes. I can’t seem to climb past the gypsy          moth tree
house, the silver ladder to the porch roof—picking shingles then cherry tomatoes on the            patio. Can’t seem
to escape that backyard bordered in lilac bushes and forsythia forts; I never fly higher               then the tops of the
oak trees. My morning mouth tastes like buried acorns, my head the rope swing on the               hill tied to branch
to bark to root and jumping off just pulls me back down to moss stained knees.

________________________________

Leah Osowski is currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

Thomas Mundt

Fiction, SPRING 2013

TERRY

I’d just begun my shift at Auto Zone and was stocking the Mountain Pine air freshener display by the register when Terry called. He was short of breath, kept pfffing into the receiver. He was at the gym and needed a spotter, stat.

“You can’t, like, ask a staff member or something?”

“I can’t trust a staff member, Charles.”

Terry’s gym had recently made the local news, after a high school kid got his windpipe crushed because his spotter was busy watching a Scorpions video and failed to notice his buddy struggling under too much weight on the bench press. The bar dropped right on his throat, made the kid spit blood everywhere. He still sounds like Joan Rivers, even after four months of speech therapy.

After seeing the story Terry refused to allow any of the gym’s staff members to come within five feet of him, shot them dirty looks when they’d sidle up to ask if he needed assistance.

“You want me to end up like that twerp?”

“Fine.”

When my Day Manager Luís came out of the stockroom, I told him I’d have to leave immediately, that I’d just learned that my stepfather had been seriously injured in a boating accident on Lake Geneva. He said he’d have to count this as one of my sick days and suggested that I not make this a habit.

I considered reminding him that this was a family emergency, that this couldn’t
possibly become a habit, but I didn’t. It was enough that Luís and I could participate
in this lie together.

***

There was a Visitor’s Pass waiting for me at the front desk. I grabbed it and started to walk toward the locker room when a staff member stopped me, told me I couldn’t go out onto the floor wearing muddy Timberlands and suggested that I either change or sift through the Abandoned Property box in search of some shoes in my size. I didn’t feel like going home so I grabbed a way-too-big pair of Crocs, slipped them on over my tube socks.

I found Terry waiting for me in the free weights section. He was wearing fingerless leather gloves and Miami Dolphins pajama pants and Reeboks so white they were like staring into the sun. He shook his head as he looked me up and down.

“Nice getup.”

I was still in uniform, monogrammed Auto Zone polo and Dockers and all. I looked
like an asshole.

“There’s the pot calling the kettle-”

“Let’s get to work.”

Terry already had a machine set up, with two forty-five pound plates added to each side of the bar and a towel draped over the incline bench. He motioned for me to stand behind him.

“Please focus.”

“Right.”

“Don’t be daydreaming or-”

“Got it.”

I helped Terry lift the bar up off the rack, kept my fingers underneath it as he slowly lowered it down to his sternum.

“Ready?”

“Ready.”

With a grunt, Terry pushed the bar up about six inches above his chest before all the blood rushed to his face and he started kicking his legs like an epileptic. Two staff members rushed over and grabbed each end of the bar, helped me guide it back onto the rack.

“Sir, I’d recommend you do more reps at a lighter weight before-”

“I can do this!”

Terry tried to shoo the staff members away but they didn’t leave. They each removed a plate from the end of the bar, lightening the load.

“There. This should be-”

Get the fuck away from me!

A group of old Korean ladies riding stationary bikes looked up from their soaps, stared blankly at the four of us.

“Sir, we’re going to have to ask you to leave. We can’t let you risk injury to yourself.”

One of the staff members mumbled something into a walkie talkie, motioned to someone across the gym floor. Terry sat upright on the bench, grabbed his towel and threw it over his shoulder.

“I want this month’s dues pro rated.”

Without another word Terry made a beeline for the locker room, walked directly into the paths of oncoming joggers doing laps around the track.

“I’m sorry. He’s not usually like this.”

The staff members ignored my apology and walked off in the direction of the treadmills. They probably knew I’d just lied to them, that Terry’s always like this, can’t not be like this.

I rested my forearms on the machine and calculated how much money I’d just lost for the day, skipping out early for this. About eighty bucks, before taxes. 

***

Terry was waiting for me in the parking lot, leaning back against the trunk of my Civic with an unlit Newport wedged between his lips. The legs of his Dolphins pants were billowing in the wind.

“Nice show in there.”

Terry turned his back to me to light up.

“Look, I’m sorry about that. I thought I could-”

“How much were you trying to lift, anyway?”

Terry exhaled a cloud of grey smoke.

“Over two-hundo.”

Mmmm.”

We watched a Burger King bag scurry across the asphalt, lodge itself in a holly bush. “Candy threw me out again.”

Terry explained how his girlfriend found out about the cat, how she discovered all the empty Amstels at the bottom of the recycling bin and knew he’d just gotten drunk and forgot to close the door to the apartment when he left to do laundry. How she cried and cried and called every shelter in Cook County to see if they’d recently picked up a grey tabby. How she threw all his clothes in the dumpster behind their two-flat and dropped a bunch of bags of clumpy shit from the litter box on top.

“What’d you tell her about the cat in the first place?”

“Break-in. Even fucked up the lock, so it’d look real.”

Mmmm.”

I knew he was about to ask, so I just said it.

“You can’t stay with me.”

“I know.”

“We talked about this.”

“I know.”

“I don’t care who you have to call, but-”

“I know.”

Terry finished his smoke and flicked the butt through a sewer grate.

“Thanks for the spot.”

“Forget about it.”

I watched him cross the parking lot, followed his steps as he walked north on California Avenue toward Foster. I knew he’d keep right on walking up California, until he hit Lincoln. Then he’d walk another dozen blocks or so until he ran into the Patio Motel, where he’d get a room for a week, maybe two. Enough time to smooth things over with Candy for the umpteenth time. 

I thought about stopping him but I didn’t. Spotting someone is one thing. Fixing him is another.

***

________________________________

Thomas Mundt is the author of one short story collection, You Have Until Noon To Unlock The Secrets Of The Universe (Lady Lazarus Press, 2011), and the father of one human boy, Henry (2011). Teambuilding opportunities and risk management advice can be found at http://www.jonathantaylorthomasnathanmundtdds.com.

Margaux Griffith

Poetry, SPRING 2013

COMMUNAL TEA

I don’t normally drink tea
if I want bourbon.
I drink tea with honey
because you offer.

Your honey
tastes like caramel.
Our shadows laugh
between flecks of light.

*

I feel the sun off the waves of tea,
curled like an oolong bouquet.
I slide to your shoulder.
You turn towards me,
awake but still sleeping.

Steeped in dark and light,
our silhouettes outline the wall
and restlessly wait for me.

*

I am gulped in light.
Your anticipation simmers a constant ripple
like the slow bleed of a tea bag on saucer
and beads of scorched sugar—
I choose silence.

I want your roof to open its tight jaw
and let the late noon burn
our sun-prints into the wall.

*
Your candle dances for itself.

I dance
next to your flame,
in the shadows we cast.

*

I drink tea cross-legged on my kitchen floor.

My honey tastes like chamomile,
the forgotten quiet
that waits to be remembered.

With all the lights on,
there are no shadows.
______________________________

Margaux Griffith is currently a MFA poetry candidate at Oklahoma State University. She was the Honorable Mention (2012) for the Academy of American Poets Prize at OSU. Her work has appeared in Cellar Roots and The Writing Disorder.

Lex McNair

Poetry, SPRING 2013

MOON SHARDS

particles exist to elicit parameters, us lucid
and lost in the ways of magnetic muses.
beautiful shifters, shapeless and circling different moons
than are visible on the average transparent night.
I wonder how many of us know we can choose
to drink each others sweat, or munch on mars dust.
when I am a mother, I can tell my tailgates how
I used to sneak around behind daddy’s back
trying on varied shades of starlight before I got here.
under what sun does honey feel hottest?
says the voice on the other side of our universe
beings roam free like the dogs that wander off the farm
and dodge transport trucks on the highway.

________________________________

Lex McNair is currently living in London, ON as a Creative Writing student at The University of Western Ontario. She works as a reader for The Rusty Toque.