Fall 2012

Table of Contents

Poetry

Where I’m From, by Michael Kaminski
Moderation (too much happiness), by Christine Hanson
I Felt Wislawa Szymborska Die, by Michael Kaminski
Byblis’ Sorrow, by Alisha Welliver
Glory Glory, by Linda Samarah
kill on a rumble strip, by Amy Anderson
Covered, by Kloude Faraj
Sad Arson Hearts, by Nic Custer
Tripped Up, by Stephanie Roach
Secondhand, by Brittney Walker
Vortexville, by Nic Custer
Lilac Rain, by Jennifer Ross
patch, Amy Anderson

Creative Nonfiction

Resentment for the Fair and Fortunate, by Kyle Clark
My Father’s Letter ,by Mindi Bowen
A Stereo and Longing, by James O’Dea

Fiction

“I met your father on the subway”, by Katie Curnow
Unthinkable, by Jade Bell
The Sentencing, by Mary Robinson
A Preemptive Separation, by Katie Curnow
Burning, by Sarah Kenny

Contributors


“I met your father on the subway”
by Katie Curnow

The story of birth never begins at conception; it always starts way before with some serendipitous event: a chance meeting, a blind date, a broken pencil, a shared homeroom in 8th grade. It doesn’t matter what this event is, but it is the precursor to all
human life. When I was four, I would ask my mother over and over to tell the story of “Where I Came From.” She would be lying on the couch and I would climb up onto her and lie flat against her body, my head flush against her chest and toes wiggling
somewhere near her knees. I would rise with each breath and lower upon the exhale. Her heart beating low and steady, she would begin.
Table of Contents

Where I’m From
by Michael Kaminski

I am from pulp,
from Penguin Books and Quentin Tarantino.
I am from the broken and pseudo-fixed home.
(Deafening, piercing;
a thunderous silence.)
I am from the grass (no doubt),
American grass,
the textured substrate
of my soul.
I’m from kielbasa and stubbornness,
from Robert and Denise.
I’m from the alcoholics
who could have been more
if they weren’t also fatalists.
I’m from “you’re so cute you’ll get kidnapped”
and “you’ll be better than me.”
I’m from Michigan (a country unto itself),
England, France, Germany, and Poland–
(a “mutt” as they’d say),
from paczki and bratwurst.
From the tip of my grandfather’s paint brush
as he penned his name
to the corner of the canvas
that held my mother between the frame.
Beneath the deck was the coin I dropped,
of no value,
except that it was mine–
part of my collection.
I am from that coin;
not from the metal,
but from the mettle
of my family who brought me into this world.

(imitation of poem of same title by George Ella Lyon)
Table of Contents

Resentment for the Fair and Fortunate
by Kyle Clark

“Death is a very real possibility.”

I closed my eyes. The sweat from my brow trickled down onto my eyelashes and acted as a sealant for a second or two, mashing my eyelashes together, leaving me blinded. I relished the darkness – the pitch-black blanket that was my mind. I sat there for a few moments without a single thought. Not one sentence or image was circulating. I could hear the doctor shifting in his chair. I could sense the asphyxiation of the room. I could feel the sporadic breathing of my mother as she took in what I had already figured to be true a day before. My father, however, I noticed nothing from. No heavy breathing, no change of aura or energy. He was completely calm. I tried to open my eyes but they wouldn’t budge. I assumed that maybe they really had gotten glued together but by now I could no longer lie to myself. I took the tiniest intake of breath. Nobody need see what was behind my adolescent pupils.
I forced my eyes open. The doctor’s office was small with white walls. A picture of a summer green golf course hung from the wall to my left. An award hung on the wall to my right. To this day I can’t remember what it was for; I assume it had to do with kissing the most asses going through college because I looked at this man now and felt no comfort in him. I stared into his pale irises and I looked for an inkling of care or one tiny shred of emotional correspondence. There was none. This was a man and this was just part of his job. The nameless doctor looked from my mother to my father but never at me. I’m not sure if he was just unable to meet my gaze having thrown such a grave sentence in the air and then let it drop like a bowling ball, or if seeing a seventeen year old child on the brink of destruction was just too much to bear. Personally, I hoped it was the latter.
The silence hung in the room for a few more seconds before I heard the whistle of my father inhaling as he leaned forward. Perhaps to see the doctor better; but more likely to inflict a kind of warning unto this scholarly man that yes, he may be more intelligent, but my father wasn’t above assaulting a doctor. This made me smirk, and with one word my old man started a conversation.
“Explain.”
“Your son—”
“Kyle.” My father interrupted. “Kyle is his name.”
He coughed. “Yes—yes, Kyle. Kyle has what we call a left Transverse Sinus Thrombosis.”
“The fuck’s that mean?” I piped out accidentally. My mother threw a quick, painless, almost loving slap to my thigh and returned her gaze to the doctor.
“It means you have a blood clot in the back left portion of your head. These are usually the kind of clots we see in middle-aged women if they’ve just given birth.”
Middle-aged women? Just given birth? I’m a seventeen year old male who plays sports for Christ’s sake. I have a girlfriend. I have an active sex life. I take fish oil every day. I’m supposed to die in some tragic accident on the way to the prom or from a binge drinking night gone horribly awry. I wasn’t meant to go like this. At least not from anything medical and at least not anytime soon according to every other medicine man I’d ever seen. Silence took the room once more. I looked around. I could see the walls moving in and out, as if the whole room was breathing; as if the room was alive—something I wasn’t sure how long I’d also be. But yet again my stone-faced father of nearly sixty abruptly ended the silence almost as soon as I had gotten used to it.
“So what do we do?”
Oh how I prayed that that question had never left his lips. How I wished that his tongue had gotten an aneurism and no syllables could form. And oh how I wished that I had been alone when the doctor replied.
“We cannot remove it. The clot is too close to his brain, if we
operate we run the risk of killing your son.”
My mouth was moist but my eyes were completely dry. No tears. Not even the slightest inkling of mucus, oil or saline solution. For whatever reason, I completely disregarded anything that was happening and started thinking about my corneas and the damage that might happen to my eyes if all of my tears had been cried out already. What if I couldn’t cry? I looked over and saw that my mother had no problem with this. Tears were flowing down her crimson cheeks like a steady stream. Her face in that tense twistable fashion as if she was to the point of total breakdown and the only thing keeping her above water was her raft called me. Her make-up was starting to bleed and disintegrate into nothingness. Her sclera which used to be as white as paper now turned bloodshot like she hadn’t slept in a week.
Again, I took a glimpse at my father and there was nothing. His eyes were fine. White as could be. His hands were still as bricks aside from the one that held my mother’s hand which trembled slightly. I watched as the veins bulged as his muscles worked to close his
fingers tighter around my mom’s. I looked at my own hands. No one was holding them. Leprosy came into my thoughts. I felt contaminated, diseased, not even human. It felt as if I had turned into something in seconds, something I never thought I could turn into at such an early age…terminal.
All noise was lost. No longer was the sound of heavy breathing or the brutality of whimpering plaguing my ear drums. I felt nothing. Not the staleness of the chair or the very slight cushion of the shitty carpet on the soles of my shoes. The only things there were vibrations caused by my heart pumping erratically. Almost as if someone were using it as a bass drum. I started to think of the people and the things I missed. All my life, it had been a game to not miss anyone. Missing people is a wasted emotion, I felt, because if I was going to see them again, then there was no point in missing them, and if I wasn’t going to see them again, then there really was no point in missing them. But at this moment, suddenly I missed everyone. Anyone I had ever met, anyone I had ever loved or feared or resented—I missed them all. It wasn’t their touch I was longing for, or their smell; it was their voice. Then the doctor said it.
“We will have to use blood thinners. My suggestion would be Coumadin.”
Medications. Something that goes without saying is quite possibly the worst and best medical invention of all time. And with every medication comes a list of side effects. The doctor read them off to me, and to him he was probably speaking perfect English. However, it sounded to me like some early Aztec native tongue that only a handful of people ever in the history of time could speak fluently and understand. I looked up the side effects for myself after I left the office and it only fueled my resentment for the fair and fortunate. Severe bleeding, black stool or bleeding from the rectum, skin conditions such as hives, a rash or itching, swelling of the face, throat, mouth, legs, feet or hands, bruising that comes about without an injury you remember, chest pain or pressure, nausea or vomiting, fever or flu-like symptoms, joint or muscle aches, diarrhea, difficulty moving, numbness or tingling in any part of your body and painful erections lasting four hours or longer.
Fuck.
The three of us exited the office in a manner congruent with cancer victims. I could feel my mother gain fifty pounds in worry alone. I stared into the sky and let the springtime air dry the sweat that was still relaxing around my brow. The clouds swirled and danced much quicker than I remembered, and they looked painted. They reminded me of “The Simpsons.” The sky grew darker with every step as the clouds rushed over the world and covered it. My shoes seemed to pound the asphalt no matter how lightly I took my steps. With that last moment before we reached the car, I looked at my father. He looked down at me and put a hand on my shoulder. His hands were rough. They were carpenters’ hands, but warm and gentle. For the first time in my life I noticed a single tear well up from his eye. He gave me a quick smile and opened the door.
Table of Contents

Moderation (too much happiness)
by Christine Hanson

On a quest
Or a journey maybe
Or a perilous fight
Against a mortal enemy –
Seeking something only
Few could ever achieve
Health, happiness
And the ever elusive
Moderation
I budgeted my funds
Three pennies spent on one item
Maybe a dollar on the next
Equally divided on
Clothes/shoes/living/savings
Never splurging
Rationing raincoats and blouses
Mismatched outfits
Thrift store sales
Lights on for exactly eight hours
Per day, every day
Never less, never more
I worked on
My sleep schedule
Worked around it
Bed at eight-thirty every night
Alarm clock glowing
Staring
Angry
Doing more work than it used to
Waking me up
Eight and a half hours later
Same time
Every day
Never less, never more
I counted calories
Practiced good portions
Cardboard potato fries
Spread over twenty two days
Two a day
Tasting the same the first
As they did the last
One drop of chocolate each evening
Minimal meat
One beer for
Every three days
Spread it out
Keep it even
Never less, never more
I saw my friends
Three hours
Every week
Heard their stories
They drank like fish
Inhaling, breathing it in
Smoking cigarettes
Overflowing ashtrays
Consuming countless calories
Too much red meat
Three weeks worth of chocolate
Just in one hour
Blowing all of their money
On clothes and good times
Never less, always more
And when the waitress came
What’ll you have
I said
Can I get one-third of your cheapest beer please
To her puzzled look
And confusion of my friends
But I had found the key
The secret to health
The moderation
Others wanted
And lost to their
Gluttony and sins
But happiness?
There’s danger in being too happy.
So I rationed that too
Ten minutes per day
Never less, never more
Table of Contents

I Felt Wislawa Szymborska Die
by Michael Kaminski

I felt Wislawa Szymborska die,
But I thought it was Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
I touched their books
(their flesh; their pulp)
Just moments apart,
And felt a tremor, a spasm – the pang
of demise.
I googled the San Fran poet,
Thinking that the last Beat had been bopped;
His heart still Beats.
I had then lost the touch of the Polish poet,
As my hands abandoned sweet tissue for acrylic keys;
Departed from her flesh, her pulp, her pages,
Rapt now in the glow of that insidious screen.
I had lost touch with the ether
Of the Poets’ Promenade,
And now walked the craggy boardwalk toward
A Coney Island of the Mind.
I felt Szymborska die,
But I thought it was Ferlinghetti.
The Muse whimpered the doom in my heart,
But I misheard her, confusing
The shuddering beat of my spirit with
The death of the Beat.
Next time…
I will not lose the touch.
Table of Contents

Unthinkable
by Jade Bell

I don’t remember how I got in that place, but there in the middle of that frost covered night, the moonlight peeled darkness from my skin. I gazed toward heaven and then quickly at the ground because the task at hand stood still before me. The air chilled me. It felt like ice cubes were slowly sliding down my back. My body was fueled with a nervous energy as I dug and dug. That same energy gave me a strength that I had never before possessed. Sweat moistened my brow, took the form of lost tears, and dripped from my nose. Funny thing is they dried before they ever hit the ground. Excess moisture became nonexistent in that place between the present and the unthinkable future. I noticed that as I dug more.
This old body knew no relief. My right knee creaked and groaned as I recalled an old injury from my track and field days. But I didn’t deserve to have moments for memories. I had to finish. There was this terrible weight. It was heavier than the weight of the shovel that I was using. It was the weight of my sins casting shadows over the light that used to shine inside of me. I moved the earth beneath me with a fury, then cast that shovel aside. The bag filled with his battered body loomed in the
darkness. I pulled him into the shallowness where I stood and
contemplated staying a while. I should have buried myself with him.
That was only a brief thought before I grabbed the shovel and filled the hole with my blood, sweat, tears, flesh, and soul. I mopped my brow and walked. With my head held high, I put one foot in front of the other and went on my way without looking back. I knew that if I allowed myself to succumb to the grief and reality of what happened or had even attempted to look back, my soul would have broken in two.
I couldn’t feel anything anymore if I tried. I had no use for fingertips. My nose may as well have been gone because it would forever be filled with the scent of his blood; the blood that I spilled. I should have gouged my eyes and cut off my ears because all I could see was his sorrow as I heard his last breath. I still taste the dirt on my skin. No amount of water could ever remove that. I saw it on the TV when you found him. So when you came to ask me questions I was ready to go and I thought I may as well confess. I’m tired of running. I’m tired of lying. Those bones, those old bones you dug up they came from me. You don’t need any test. They are a part of my soul. That skeleton is mine. It came straight from my womb and I’m sorry. I’m sorrier than I’ve ever been before. I know that people will hate me, but they could never hate me more than I hate myself. Even though it’s unthinkable, it’s my truth.
Table of Contents

Byblis’ Sorrow
by Alisha Welliver

I am alone.

Nymphs surround me,
Pleading with me,
Bating me,
To rise from my misery.
But I cannot.
My shame is the weight that stiffens my blood
And suffocates my body.
Leave?
Where would I go?
There is no one who will take me.
My own parents
- if they knew –
Would only throw me back to the wind’s currents.

Love.
This plague Cupid set in my heart
Has ruined me
And brought me
Longing
Shame
Despair

Helplessness.

I cannot forgive him.

But wait.
It was also this love that brought beauty to my heart.

No. Cupid is not to blame
- Completely -
But who is?

I was foolish.
I must have known he would never have me
- Or want me.

But who reproached me after kissing him so much?
Who scolded me when I held him so close I could feel his blood pulsing through his veins?
Who sent me back to my rooms
When I dressed myself to please him?

No one.

Who caressed me?
Returned my kisses?
Stroked my hair?
Who promised me love
But only gave me sorrow?
None but the one I love most.

Oh, why?
Why must you betray me this way?

I searched for you.
But you have run farther than I can reach.
Am I so terrible that you must flee to earth’s farthest end?

I followed as far as this wood.
I heard you married.
My legs gave way
Beneath my body.
I fell on this brown earth.
My tears flood its soils.
The nymphs watch over me

But can do nothing to stop the flood from my eyes.

My hair
– the hair you once loved –
Is now entwined in leaves.
Moss grows about my fingers.
Algae becomes my skin.
Table of Contents

Glory Glory
by Linda Samarah

Dear Libya, Dear Egypt, Dear Yemen, Dear Bahrain, Dear Tunisia,
Dear Syria.
I hear you.
I’m not here to say that I understand your struggle
because I don’t.
I have yet to witness the barrel of a gun.
I have yet to absorb the impact of a dictator’s clenched
iron fist pulverizing with such great velocity,
the place that I call, or once called, home.
But I’ve seen the flickering images of your struggle
on the other side of my television set.
They say you leave your womb at birth, but honestly
you haven’t left any womb until
you and the glare of death have met.
These brave reformers dance alongside death’s hospitality on a daily.
Their 10 foot deep fresh beds of fresh earth and soil
cordially invite them to a slumber lasting all eternity.
All for speaking up for their countries.
The leaders that are so convinced that they are indeed
the foundation of their countries,
try to project their ultraviolet rays
that blind you from their ultra-violent ways
because they think this revolution is just some sort of craze.
Mubarak Mubarak
couldn’t you hear
the 20 million in Tahrir?
Gadhafi Gadhafi,
don’t come near,
the people no longer want you here.
Bashar Bashar
set them free,
you no longer need to intervene.
Biased images flicker on your screens
because ABC, FOX even CNN hide the truth from being seen
and I blame it on censorship.
Forget censorship
and the media too because they don’t tell you a thing.
So many of us go so unaware and go uneducated
by the ignorance the media has medicated to our beliefs
that make us feel so obligated
to make sure that we’re always vindicated
when in reality everything becomes so complicated
and our belief systems diminish into something that is only mandated.
Living in the west got us all singin’
Glory, glory Hallelujah.
But what truth is marching on
when our TV sets are turned on
but none of us are realizing what’s really going on?
It’s just wrong.
Civil war still exists in humanity and
what we all fail to see is the hypocrisy of these leaders
who are fueling with animosity
towards the people who are residing in their most “beloved” countries.
The same residents who are bound together
like the intricate stitching of lace;
waiting and fighting to win this race,
are being torn apart just so one man may dictate.
Sticks and stones do break your bones
and guns and bombs
they kill you.
The allure of power desensitizes these mens’ hearts
causing them to plant missiles and bombs across their own nations
and then watch the explosions grow.
Because for some reason the metamorphosis of a human being
to a pile of scattered, shredded flesh
is some kind of exciting show.
These men are just waiting for the credits to roll.
They look at their people as just a whole,
just a number with no value.
Tell me why the death of one person is a tragedy
while the death of a thousand is just a statistic.
Unknown faces painted on unknown corpses are scattered
across the neighborhoods of these nations.
I could never comprehend nor sum up the words to describe
the feeling of a mother’s heart when identifying the face of a corpse
as the face of her own son.
The expression on his face is lifeless,
his eyes no longer gleaming,
his chest shows no indication of breathing
and his mother must turn away for a moment
because how do you look your son in the eyes when
you know that he is dead?
Her fingertips make their way to his eyelids
and close them until they meet his cheeks.
His body lying in the street,
she moves it away to avoid the stampede.
The leaders show no empathy, because to them he did it voluntarily.
She watches his blood as it leaks,
watches as it sets in the concrete;
a prosperous life he will no longer lead
but the fact of the matter is
his death is due to his one clinging hope of
democracy.
And so the stains go untouched reminding everyone
we must be free.
And the people stand in unity singing
His truth is marching on…
Table of Contents

kill on a rumble strip
by Amy Anderson

Your accordion death
seems precious to me
Oh rodent full of avarice
empty of boredom
virulent vermin
Now I see what’s inside you
Table of Contents

The Sentencing
by Mary Robinson

You stand there next to your lawyer who until three months ago was assuring you that the case wasn’t going to go anywhere. It was an accident. It was black ice. It wasn’t your fault. You wanted to believe him. You are done believing.
You try to look forward, to keep your eyes on the judge. You can feel the eyes of the young Army recruiter’s family bearing down on you. They are to your right, behind the assistant prosecutor’s table. It’s not the chief prosecutor; the guy that’s always on the local news. He probably had a photo-op to go to. He sent the guy wearing the cheap suit. This isn’t a real case. You aren’t a real criminal.
You can hear your wife crying as she sits directly behind you. You turn around to your left to give her a reassuring look. You realize quickly you can’t do that again. Your throat constricts. You had gotten used to waking up with tears soaking your pillow, your own sweat, and the smell of air bag dust. You don’t want to cry now. They’ll think you are crying for yourself. They don’t know about all those nights. They don’t know how every time you kiss your children, you think of him, how he’ll never kiss his children. No, you aren’t free to cry now.
Your lawyer asks the judge if he can read aloud a letter that your wife wrote on your behalf. All those letters written on your behalf. Your
parents, your preacher, your friends, your co-workers. Words that are generally saved for funerals. You realize you got yours early.
You’ve already read the letter. You think how different your wife’s words sound coming out of your lawyer’s mouth. You don’t recognize the person in those words; you don’t know if you will ever see him again. Your wife hasn’t said as much, but you know she is still looking for him, too. She’s asked you to talk to someone. She wrote down a number, someone good, someone who can help. Why won’t you talk to her? You don’t know how to hear these words and not cry.
****
You all get to the courthouse early. You have waited a long time for justice, and God forbid you run into that man in the hallway, the one responsible for killing your youngest brother.
You are able to talk to the assistant prosecutor briefly, before the session begins. He assures you that you will have an opportunity to speak after the man’s lawyer speaks. You will have your oldest sister read the letter you have prepared. It had been difficult to write. You all have different ideas, different feelings, different memories of your brother
that you want the man to hear.
Your parents sit in the middle of all the family. They have grown increasingly frail since your brother had been killed. They cling to each other. You all cling to them. You hope this will be the beginning of the end of your grieving, for your parents in particular. If that man hadn’t crossed the median of I-69 that morning, your brother would still be with you. He would be here to hug his children. He would be building his life. All of that is gone. Your brother was taken too soon. You need closure.
Initially you find it difficult to even look in the direction of the man. You look at each other, at the assistant prosecutor, at the judge. Some of you find it easier to steal glances at the man’s family. You recognize his father and his uncle. They had come to the funeral home to express their regret. They said the man wanted to come to the funeral if it would not cause you more grief. He wanted to mourn with you. He was not doing well, they said. You thanked them for coming, but you were not ready to see the man who took your brother from you.
Gradually, your eyes come to rest on the man. He stands stoic next to his lawyer. It seems so audacious for him to be there, to be period. How did the man survive that crash when your brother died? The man does not look at you. He stares straight ahead. When his lawyer speaks to him, the man leans to the right without turning. You want him to feel your eyes bearing down on him; you want the man to look at you.
His lawyer asks to read a letter that the man’s wife wrote. That’s fine. You have a letter, too. She wrote about what a good dad the man is. The man coaches youth sports, donates blood, builds playgrounds for poor children. He does not judge others. He is the voice of reason during times of conflict. He is the first to volunteer and the last to ever complain.
Your parents break down. These words are too much for them. You recognize the person in those words. You all cry. The words continue. The lives of two young men tragically intersected that morning. You still cannot see his face. Even from where you sit, you know he is crying, too.
Table of Contents

Covered
by Kloude Faraj

The blatant stares
the sideways glances
the quick scans up and down
while my back is turned
I’d grown accustomed to them
I no longer even notice.
The hushed comments as I pass by
the yells across the parking lot
telling me to go back to wherever the fuck I came from.
The snide comments
just loud enough so that they know I can
overhear them
I’d grown accustomed to them
I no longer even notice.
The curt responses
the shifty eyes
not quite capable of looking
me in the eyes
or worse, those whose eyes bore
straight into my eyes
daring me, staring contest
boring into my eyes looking for any
hint of evil they may find there
sadly, there is none.
I’d grown accustomed to them
I no longer even notice.
Because though I may wear a veil, a burka, a scarf
I am still a girl, still human just like you.
I would swear up and down that you
don’t treat me any different than anyone else
I would defend you when other chicks
who wore the scarf, just as I did
bitched about your
inconsideration
your rudeness
your phobia of me.
But I was fooling myself
because as soon as I removed my scarf
you treated me better
you were kind
considerate
and you looked me in the eyes
no staring, no contests, no boring
looking for the evil that doesn’t even fucking exist.
But I’m still the same girl
I haven’t fucking changed.
now you can see my hair when once you couldn’t
now you can see my curves when once you couldn’t
now you can see my tattoos when once you couldn’t
now you can see more skin than my face and hands
when once you couldn’t.
But you treat me better.
All the same
I am no different than I was before
when I covered
but you fucking are.
Table of Contents

Sad Arson Hearts
by Nic Custer

I only go for girls
with dry wit
and sad arson hearts.
The ones I date
lick lips, dragging
Zippo clicks across
their chests, playfully
threatening to go
through with it.
And I’m a fool for that, just
a product of my environment.
I’m not into girls
that nibble on their
fingertips, determined
to sit because
the future’s stamped
with hopelessness.
I’m down with
the defiant chicks
that phoenix out
when faced with
foreclosure or having
their copper dresses
stripped.
I’ve learned not
all of us can be fixed but
I’m stuck on girls that repossess their own
destinies
even if that means the
whole
squatting-inferno-Juliet-Romeo-
poison-dagger-
thing.
I’ve spent dizzying nights
with girls who
giggle about their
crumbling lipstick architecture
and the bitter
Michigan weather. Wondering if a little fire
would bring them clarity.
As a kid, I dreamt about fixing
the derelict buildings of my
Midwestern city. All of which
have since been erased
by fire, work crews, and misery.
I knew nothing about C/Ps or girls and less
about the real world.
But I’ve known
the sharp pain of heartbreak and disappointment well
enough by now that it barely phases me.
Sometimes, I’ve seen,
you have to sacrifice
a house full of dreams to
find your real home, even
if that means
setting up camp on a
patch of new grass and re-imagining.
Table of Contents

My Father’s Letter
by Mindi Bowen

My son is cleaning my basement. He just found a letter my now deceased father wrote to me 25 years ago when I sought answers about his absence in my life. I had forgotten all about it.

I’m just as hurt now as I was when I was 5 or 6 years old and he stopped coming to get me on the weekends. It makes no more sense today, coming from a six page letter riddled with
explanations and excuses, than it did then. Kids don’t care why. I have this memory of standing at the glass of the back door, staring out into the night, waiting for headlights that didn’t come.

I know he had reasons. Divorce sucks. People get hurt, they hate, they retreat. It happens. He remarried and had six more children, all of whom I’ve known or know, and they’re all pretty cool people.

A year or so before the letter, I went to him. I sought out all of my long-lost relatives, family I hadn’t seen in so long, people I knew as a child and missed. I was a senior in high school. It was great, for a while. We got to know each other, talking for hours on long walks through the woods. But then things started to change. I didn’t know it then, but it was written in the letter that I was making things difficult for him. He was uncomfortable, and the reason folks were getting prickly with me was because they were worried about him.

Six pages of a letter that was mostly about how I affected him, and how I didn’t understand what my return did to him, and how… blah, blah, blah. No warm embrace, no mention of the blessing of second chances. It was tough to read, and I was just a punk
teenager when it was written to me.

There are still people in my life who knew my father. He wasn’t mean, or stupid; he didn’t lie or steal. He was compassionate and thoughtful, and incredibly smart. Even though I grew up without him, there are things about me that certainly come from his side of the family, and I’m glad. The thing is, no matter what he was like or what he said or wrote or did, nothing – ever – can change that he quit coming to see me. Nothing changes that I was just a little girl, with a little brother, and seeing him was the sunshine in our lives, and he just. quit. coming.

Somewhere along the way the prickly got to be too much. The awkward moments with my family had become less subtle, and I stopped coming around. Years went by, and all of those lovely people I had gotten reacquainted with all receded back into the fabric of my childhood. Well, most, anyway. I still miss them. Part of me hopes they read this and know what they mean to me. Most of me expects their devotion to my father will always get in the way. They wish I had done things differently. I wish he had. Some choices are like tattoos that don’t wash off even after they don’t make sense anymore.

So, now I have a letter. I don’t much care for the contents. It rubs me the wrong way, almost all the way through. But there it is, folded neatly in a drawer, just in case. I’m glad my son found it, in spite of all it brought up from the basement with it. It was nice to hear Dad’s voice again, nice to see his handwriting scrawled out across the page. He was an eloquent and articulate writer. I guess he was like that about most things. He signed the letter, “I love you, Mindi.”

I guess I loved him too.
Table of Contents

Tripped Up
by Stephanie Roach

Walking along
Breathing properly
Letting my diaphragm
Not my lungs
Do the work
The ground passing by suddenly races up
My heartbeat tries by itself adrenalized
to lift me from the ground
My hands stupidly cannot find their use
Given the texture that seems to poke and bubble beneath my knees,
my face is against dirt surprisingly soft
I feel heat transfer between my cheek and the earth
I think:
The last time my face
was touched like this
I shouldn’t have been
so quick to get up
Or so careful after
about not falling
Sick of myself
I stand
I lean over to inspect the damage
There’s dirt
Only the threat of blood
I realize I’m wrapped in music
And smirk that my earbuds stayed firmly in place
I don’t decide to move
but my feet follow the sounds
unexpected yet familiar
of a hand-me-down iPod
I swell with gratitude
Behind the music
I hear the faint scratching
of my footfall on the trail
Step
Step
Step
The music is urging me forward
Pushing my shoulder blades
Resting its palm on the small of my back
Step Step
Step Step
I am full and heavy and slow
I don’t know where I’m going
I don’t care if I’m leaving enough to get back
I find ground
Connect and lift
Meet and release
Travel distance
Try not to think of
What’s behind
What’s ahead
What kind of mess
grief is making at home
rummaging through all
my drawers
No.
Right now,
I have this hand-me-down iPod
Step
Step
I have stinging knees
Step
Step
But there is motion.
The relentlessness (step)
the hope (step)
of time ticking (step step)
swiftly on
Table of Contents

Secondhand
by Brittney Walker

Secondhand clothes,
Some noticeably worn, some like new.
A young woman takes a green button-up cardigan off a hanger and sees “Mary Wilson.” A name label on the tag.
She shudders and puts the sweater back.
She couldn’t wear something that belonged to a dead woman.
Previously worn shoes
are put on a child’s feet.
“The grandchildren grow so fast, why buy new?”
his grandmother says.
Dishes washed and dried hundreds of times taken out of oak
cupboards are now stacked on metal shelves.
An elderly Amish lady clad in a lavender dress buys two of the
mismatched cups and a plate.
Her husband, wearing the same color purple, pays.
Out back to the parking lot they walk, not a horse and buggy in sight.
Every so often a group of migrant workers come,
“Creoles,” speaking French.
The men buy winter coats, jeans and work shirts.
The women with their hair hidden underneath hats and scarves
buy armfuls of skirts and dresses.
A young couple purchase a white-collared shirt and three ties.
“My grandfather passed away,” the wife says.
“We’re on our way to the funeral home and didn’t have anything to dress him in.”
Crocheted doilies and embroidered aprons hang colorized in the “linens section.”
A lady carefully handles one of the lacy heirlooms and declares
with a sigh,
“People are getting rid of what their grandmothers made.”
Time passes and things are no longer new.
They are deemed useless and forgotten.
But a new life can be born for them, when touched by a pair of
second hands.
Table of Contents

Vortexville
by Nic Custer

Three expressways in
and no way out.
One way through –
easily confused with
bricks and booze.
Barely a city, first in:
bankrupt and underused.
Predictably – we, as citizens,
though few, feel toxic and abused.
Ugly factory blues
paint the news with
blood, blight and burnt down schools.
Appealing like roadkill
to the flighty New York culture
vultures of cool, who call struggle
quaint and pick at bones like fools.
But the hometown artist
is honor bound to defend his muse
(even from its suicidal self)
and I refuse to let this
refuge for fellow refuse
(otherwise known as Hell)
be scrapped and
collapse
by the bulldozer
agendas of
explorers with wealth.
More demolitions everyday
but no one needs
a commune of gated condos
to replace the vacancy
or another exclusive event,
too expensive for locals
to attend while decision
makers devour parcels of
parents’ land like a course
of filets.
So easy to parking lot away
great centurion trees and obvious
opportunities.
So hard to remember
the prosperous city –
all that’s left is old curb breaks,
empty union halls
and the Alzheimer’s elderly.
Cultivating our
own leaders starts with the
simple seeds of constitutional
literacy because the right to
bear arms is always second to
the number one priority –
respect for others’ diversity
and those in the know
know that until now
the country has been
aimed like a plane
on a tragic trajectory.
An epic untold and
a people polluted with
propaganda imagery.
Now is the time to re-educate ourselves
on what it means to have a sense of humanity, stand up
and spend a generation
manifesting a new destiny.
Table of Contents

Lilac Rain
by Jennifer Ross

I lie beneath the lilac bush
And listen to rain patter on the leaves.
Droplets drip from leafy tips
And darken fertile bark to black
While petals quiver with budding beads,
Lilac-scented shafts of purple blossoms.
Honeyed water falls soft crystalline,
Gleaming on my naked flesh.
Fragrant drops cluster
Dewy on my lips and
In the corners of my eyes
Where they swell and spill
Like perfumed tears.
Scented spray caresses breasts
And pools upon my navel,
Clear reservoir of life.
Silky mist trickles past my parted thighs
And courses through my toes,
Streaming from my body,
Seeping into rain-freshened earth,
Until I am washed anew.
Table of Contents

A Stereo and Longing
by James O’Dea

She is the music in the room. The notes are her dancing for me. The melodies are composed contours imitating how her body moves. The harmony: her tan skin and endless dark waves I miss more than anything. She’s always here because I’ve lost my mind, somewhere after hello and before we started secretly planning on forever.
That night, at the diner, the waitress kept us caffeinated.
“You say what I can’t find the words for,” she said. I wanted to say marry me, we’re meant to be, my words are yours; but instead I smiled and sipped coffee out of a fire-truck-red mug. She kept talking. I drank her words black. She told me about the ones who left, the ones who broke promises and her heart without knowing. She told me how she loved the minor keys and brass, and how she hated boys.
“I like how I can talk to you about anything,” she said.
Then on a lake up north, she read me a poem.
“I wrote this in high school,” she said. She smoked between each whispered line, punctuating with puffs, her heart in the air.
“I don’t normally read people my poems,” she said.
I thanked her and wanted to tell her she was safe: I will never leave you, I know you’ve never felt this way before but you can trust me, I swear. But instead, hours later, we kissed until the rush overwhelmed us and stood frozen while our brains recovered.
“I can’t believe this,” she said.
She slept in my arms that night. We laughed through the walls at our friends drinking Jack. The laughter kept her awake, so I softly kissed her neck. I’m yours if you want, I wanted to tell her, but instead I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. No dream I could hope for would surpass the reality of that bedroom. Under that sheet, with her petite frame clinging to mine, I had her heart fresh in my ears. I knew she was mine. The way she pulled my arm around her was her promise, the way she nestled her head under my chin.
“No one expected this to happen,” she said.
Table of Contents

A Preemptive Separation
by Katie Curnow

Someday he would meet a woman who smoked pot and liked to swim – not just in pools, but in lakes and oceans, too. She would enjoy cooking and wouldn’t begrudgingly throw something edible on a plate and call it dinner. She wouldn’t miscarry repeatedly and become an obsessed meteorologist of her own body, charting cycles and temperatures. She wouldn’t eventually become withdrawn and untouchable. She wouldn’t ask him where he’s going; she wouldn’t stay up until he gets home. He would consider pursuing her, and maybe he would actually leave this time.
Table of Contents

patch
by Amy Anderson

There’s a steamy spotty patch
in the hind
of the yard
When it snows
flakes organize on
the shingles of the shed,
maple tree branches,
and cattails beyond
But this septic,
Dalmatian-backed ground
caves in my heart
for want of a
cookie-tin scene
Table of Contents

Burning
by Sarah Kenny

The words traveling through the speaker trigger an inferno in me. They assault my ears and the spark catches—setting fire to my brain, down my limbs, until my skin is numb, until I am a mess of scattered chaos and twisted nerves. The fire blazes hotter, faster, more lethal than anything I’ve ever experienced before. Flames roar through my ears until all I can hear is the slow buzz of the blaze licking at my insides. This is the deepest cut, the hardest break; pain more akin to torture than an ache. Life seizes me in its awful grasp and everything inside of me is charred and scorched and blistered.
Everything inside of me is burning.
~
Tragedy always seems to strike at the moment when you think to yourself that things can’t possibly get any worse. It’s the moment when everything in your life pulls your legs out from under you and you fall face first onto the cold, hard ground. It’s that moment when life finally touches you; it kicks you in the face and makes you notice it. It stops you in your tracks and tears your walls down around you.
Or maybe it’s the next moment, after your stomach drops, after you lift your head up and feel the blood run down your face, right after a blow, when the initial ache starts to fade and the soreness sets in. When a glimmer of light touches your cheek, after you’ve seen just how bad it can be, and you think to yourself that you’d do anything to never go back to the deepest, darkest part of yourself. You’d do anything to never feel that kind of pain again.
But then that moment comes, the tragedy, the calamity; the catastrophe. The torrent of agony starts when you finally realize that even now, after everything you’ve been through or think you’ve been through, at the lowest point in your life, when your eyes are finally opened to pain and anguish and despair, something happens to make you realize that you’ve never before felt pain. Everything before this point was like a scrape scabbed over, a band-aid pulled from a wound. Nothing could’ve prepared you for it; the immensity of the feeling. Some say it’s like losing a limb, losing a part of you, a part of your soul. And you know that nothing can ever be the same again. You can never be the same again. You feel shrouded in darkness and you think to yourself that you know you’ll never really see light ever again.
~
No sensation. Numb. My eyes are open but I can’t tell if this is a nightmare or something real. This is something deep and dangerous and devastating. I like to pretend that I’m asleep. I feel more in my dreams, even if they are mostly nightmares. Even the worst dream is kinder than reality. In my dreams I feel. Sometimes I feel pain, like a sting or an ache, sometimes it is deeper though, an agony or misery, some sort of smarting menace. Sometimes I think that the pain of a nightmare is better than this terrible non-feeling while I’m awake. This floating. Like all of my limbs are disconnected from my body. Like my mind is its own vessel, and it has the rest of me floating behind it. Everything in me is disengaged, catatonic. Sometimes it’s like I can hardly move. It’s like my body won’t work. Like there is something inside of me that drags at me, something that pulls me under. I have no feelings, no emotions. I’m only okay when I’m asleep. I’m only okay when my heavy lids are closed, when the world is dark, impossible, when my world is vague and elusive. I gladly choose the nightmares.
But the worst nightmares are the ones where I’m happy. The ones where I forget, even just for a second what sorrow tastes like, what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night gasping, weeping, ashamed; to be jolted from my slumber, heart racing, unease settling in every crevice of my mind; to feel remorse like something tangible, like a noose around my neck. The worst nightmare is when I wake up reaching for him, just hoping for a small brush of fingertips on skin, some tribute that he is there, but the room is listless and the bed is empty. And in the moments when I realize he’s not there, I’d rather close my eyes and face a thousand demons in my dreams than face one more second without him in my life.
~
The days are blurry. They pass like dominos, one colliding with the next, crashing down, making patterns I can’t seem to see. All I can do is count the numbers. Each day is a dot. Something small, insignificant, colored to show that it is different, but it just looks the same as everything else. Nothing is individual. Nothing makes sense. Everything
is spinning out of control and the patterns turn to mazes and I can’t find my way out. I’m lost, trapped, clawing at any way to escape, but the dots are closing in. I’m suffocating. It’s like I haven’t taken a full breath since that night. My lungs are smoke damaged, just like everything else in my life. Somewhere deep inside, I know that this inebriated madness is just an instrument of my mind, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference.
The world is black; cotton, velvet, spandex, polyester. Black on black. Mascara bleeds down empty faces. Empty words spit from painted lips. Sorry. Sorry, sorry, sorry, until I’m choking on the false honesty. No one is sorry. No one feels it. No one feels anything. I’m just waiting for some inoculation, something to make me better, something to eradicate this day. I can’t bring myself to cry. I can’t bring myself to feel anything more than the people surrounding me. How tragic, they say, how sad, heartbreaking, miserable, awful…
Wrong. All of it. It’s wrong. It’s nauseating. I feel for what seems like the first time. I feel sick. The virus expels the air from my lungs. Too much black, too much darkness; this is such a sordid affair. The coloring is off, like an overexposed photo. It starts with a streak of white, a highlight, until the light catches and the film starts to burn around me. Faces burning, makeup melting, screaming, the world is suddenly lit up like the end of a cigarette. Too harsh, too hot. Too bright.
I’m gasping. My throat is sealed and I wonder faintly if anyone here could resuscitate me if I stop breathing. Could anyone save my life? Would anyone here honestly care if I joined him? Spots start in my eyes. But I’m dead already. I died when he did. My body is a mold of melted flesh and charred bones, held together by a dirty, splintering thread. The needle pierces my heart and I am falling to the floor.
No air. Too bright. My mind sinks once again into the black.
The light is gone.
I think I’d rather take the darkness.
~
The summer heat is oppressive. It’s stifling hot; my skin feels like it is on fire. Burning, burning, burning. I am immured in the sensation, surrounded by a cloud of smoke that infiltrates my nerves. I am a mess of frayed thoughts that ebb an apparition. Everywhere I look, gray eyes stare back at me. Colorless circles that see into my soul. A blink and they are gone. I am left staring at nothing, accepting nothing, knowing nothing. I can’t breathe. Mother, father, calling my name, but I close the door. I run to the place that is my safety.
I’m walking through a field. The path is well worn and the soles of my shoes remember it perfectly. We used to walk here. Together. Alone. The stars kept company with us. They lit our way, lit our faces and our eyes and his smile.
Fire in the skies.
Fire in his eyes.
~
The light is all but gone tonight. The grass is high; the hill is cold and lonely. Clouds descend on the pasture, inking the world darker, colder, inexpressive. Gone are the flowers, dead from the cold. Gone are the colors of the leaves on the trees; they have long since fallen to the ground, trampled, crushed, quelled into the dirt, their simple beauty all but forgotten. Gone are the echoes of his laugh. Gone are the nights when we would lie together and make mazes of the galaxies. Gone are the days when he made me believe in everything. Now I believe in nothing but the fact that stars are burning, just like me.
Table of Contents

Contributors

Amy Anderson does not particularly like raisins. She fell asleep recently while trying to watch “The Avengers.” The floor in her kitchen hasn’t seen the wet end of a mop in ages. Her husband has promised her a real Christmas tree this year, but we’ll see…

Sarah Austin is a senior studying Visual Communication and Photography. She is in the process of applying to graduate school to get her Masters in Fine Arts. Her personal take on photography–as far as what makes a good photographer–is knowing the 1/60 of a second everyone else looks away is that very same moment to capture that instance through the lens. Trapping the viewer into the photographic frame to see the detail within the images and relate their own personal experience or reverence. Discovering this context in her own photography has pulled her work together, making each selected print a carefully thought out decision based on a visually meaningful response.

Jade Bell is a student in the English Masters creative writing program. Jade served in the U.S. Navy. She’s the current President of the Poets And Writers Society (PAWS), and the host of the poetry series at UM-Flint. She has self-published two books of poetry which can be found at http://www.lulu.com and is working on a book of short stories. In her free time she teaches martial arts. “The goal of an artist is to create the definitive work that cannot be surpassed.” – George Bernard Shaw
Mindi Bowen is 45, has three great kids, and is a senior in the VisCom program. She is an avid gamer and hopes to move into 3D modeling for the gaming industry after graduation.

Lauren Chopski is a senior majoring in Graphic Design and Dance at The University of Michigan Flint. When she’s in a creative slump, she finds a great deal of inspiration from Pinterest. She is passionate and not afraid to speak her mind. She tells stories in an animated and entertaining fashion, and although those stories contrast with her clean designs, they make her an even stronger artist.

Kyle Clark is a junior, studying to be an English major specializing in writing. “The possession of a book becomes a substitute for reading it.” – Anthony Burgess

Katie Curnow is an alumnus of the UM-Flint M.A. in English Language and Literature. She has three typewriters, two cats, and one daughter.

Nic Custer is a Flint writer and performer. He is a 2011 UM-Flint graduate with a BA in Cultural Anthropology. He is releasing a sixth chapbook soon. Visit NicCuster.com for more information.

Lindsay DuRussel is currently a junior at the University of Michigan Flint campus majoring in Graphic Design with a minor in the Fine Arts. Her artistic and design focus is on two dimensional media. She enjoys: photography, painting (oil, acrylic and watercolor), drawing, typography, mixed media and illustration.

Hannah Eckman is a senior studying graphic design at University of Michigan Flint. She enjoys designing, reading, and writing. A favorite quote: “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.” – Isaiah 65:24. You can see more of her work at HannahEckman.com.

Kloude Faraj is a student at UM-Flint working towards her teaching certificate in English, Speech, and Africana Studies. She hopes to teach at the high school level. Kloude expects to
graduate in the summer of 2013. She currently lives in Flint with her boyfriend, Kenn, and her pet snake, Seschet.

Gilford Goodrow is a senior graduating in May 2013 with a BFA in Visual Communications with a concentration in Photography. His life revolves around family (pets included), photography, music and school. Visit his website at: www.gilgoodrow.com.

Christine Hanson is a senior at UM-Flint, pursuing degrees in both English and Spanish. Christine is excited to get married in June 2013, enjoys traveling, and spends her free time feeding her coffee addiction. “In a minute there is time/For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.” – T.S. Eliot

Julius Hughes was born and raised in Flint, MI. His work and personality are just as off-kilter and eccentric as the material they’re inspired by. Hughes claims to draw inspiration from things like the drive-in B-movies of the 1960’s, and the artistic works of Frank Frazetta. In his free time, Hughes makes art of many forms, while majoring in Art Education at The University of Michigan-Flint.

Michael Kaminski is an adjunct English instructor at Macomb Community College. He graduated from the English Master’s program at U of M-Flint in April 2012. Other than being an unmistakably budding teacher and writer, he considers himself an accomplished French Bulldog wrestler. “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.” – Walt Whitman

Sarah Kenny is currently a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with friends and family.

Kurt Kohl creates animation, jewelry, watercolors, sculptures, computer graphics, mixed media and runs BubbleKitty.com. He is a curator at The Art Cafe’ heading the ‘Artkids’ and ‘
Wordtheater’ programs which use computers and the internet to help disabled and homeless people to network, find art related work, or learn creative skills.

Emily Legleitner is majoring in Visual Communication, and hopes to be a cover design artist to create album covers and posters for bands. Music really inspires her. Besides drawing and painting all the time, she plays guitar and piano. She’s also really involved in the Flint art scene, and participates in the Art Walk and a lot of stuff at the Flint Institute of Arts.

James O’Dea is a senior studying Philosophy and Creative Writing. “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn…” – Jack Kerouac

Stephanie Roach has lived in Flint since 2003. She is an Associate Professor of English who wishes she were more of a writer. That she keeps trying to write poetry at all can be blamed on Poetic Journeys for putting her poem “Birdlimed” on a bus in 2000
(www.poeticjourneys.uconn.edu).

Mary Robinson is a senior, completing her degree in English after many long years. Blessed to have a loving and supportive husband and four amazing children, she yearns for an ever-elusive balance in life, but settles for happy chaos.

Jennifer Ross is a graduate student in the Master of English Language and Literature program as well as an undergraduate biology and dance student. She finds creative inspiration in literature, relationships, history, and nature. After graduating,
Jennifer plans on enrolling in a PhD program in order to become a professor.

Linda Samarah is a political science major who hopes to make a change in human and women’s rights. Her favorite quote is from “The Iliad” by Homer: “Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”

Brittney Walker is a junior majoring in communication and
Spanish and is managing editor of The Michigan Times. Simple daily observations inspire her writing. She finds human interaction and relationships fascinating. In addition to writing, Brittney likes to spend time with family and friends, travel, swing dance, and drink coffee.

Alisha Welliver is a senior at the University of Michigan–Flint, majoring in English with a specialization in writing. Her minor is in International and Global Studies. Along with writing, Alisha’s hobbies include biking, kayaking, reading and playing her violin.

Table of Contents

“Poetry and painting
are done in the same way
you make love; it’s an
exchange of blood,
a total embrace-
without caution,
without any thought of
protecting yourself.”
Joan Miro

 

 

 

 

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