Nectarticulation, by Michael Kaminski
Romanian Nights, by Antwan Pollard
Isis (A New Life), by Darryl Ellison, Jr.
Sunrise on Lake Huron, by Barbara Burden
Serendipity, by Nicole O’Leary
they can hear me, by Amy Anderson
Upon Meeting Friends, by Tarun Agnani
Jalapeños, by Jason Garza
Black Sea, by Koh Leigh
Coming Around, by Kitty Casner
The Fix, by Amber Cochran
Liminal, by Barbara Burden
The Unadulterated, by Paul Fulkerson
Wisdom and its Location, by Stephanie Bruma
Steinway & Sons, by Kristi Amstutz
Cemetery Road, by Nicole O’Leary
Breathe, by Jason Lord Case
By Michael Kaminski
While others seek the bottle or the burn – I seek
different liquors, different leaves.
While others seek the prick or the powder – I seek
different pens, different poisons.
I swallow poetry… consumed by its reckless symmetry;
I puff philosophy… blinded by its baffling braid;
I inject prose… elevated by its unrhymed refrain;
I imbibe the written word… drunk in its hallowed hodgepodge,
its eternal tangle.
The Sage of the Concord said that the “true nectar” is “the
ravishment of the intellect by coming nearer to the fact.”
The true nectars are not of the bottle, the burn, or the blow
– they are the articulators of the word – the word that
stalks the Truth.
Forced and frequent alliteration from this drunken delusion?
The best words in the best order?
Artifice and facade?
Not at all.
Not a mendacious or pompous romp.
Merely the naked, nervous truth of a bare-stripped wanderer,
Meandering through the streets – sober in body, a lush in the
By Antwan C. Pollard
Moonlight, bleed many a ray
By Robert Burack
I’ve adored a few women from Maine. There was Zoe, the writer. She stripped my pretentions and made me feel naked. She sent me a copy of her first novel, Milk and Water. Her prose, her thoughts, her face were dreamlike. “I lean and I drink and the coolness courses down my throat from the night,” she wrote. She told me this was poor writing. She played the ukulele, and sent me songs she had covered. “Imagine all the people,” she sang in a trembling whisper. She was there and sometimes she seemed to disappear. She was older than me. She said my confidence, clumsiness, and appreciation was intimidating. I didn’t know what to make of that.
There was also Katey, the anthropologist. She would spend long stretches in Acadia National Park, hiking. We were night owls together. She was a friend of Zoe’s. She liked men with British accents. I did not have a British accent. She was older than me. She said I was not comfortable with my masculinity because I refused to watch The Notebook. We made plans to go to her family’s annual lobster bake.
And there was Dayna. She would drink too much and call me in the nighttime. We would flirt. Everyone breaks their own rules when they’re drunk. She would cry, too. She told me she had a boyfriend whom she loved. She was older than me. We would talk about how we both wished we had been alive in the sixties. I read Slouching Towards Bethlehem. She taught me to love Katharine Hepburn. I rented old movies, like Bringing Up Baby and The Lion in Winter, and watched them with the lights turned off. Hepburn was scandalous as Eleanor of Aquitaine.
It is wondrous to me, how technology made these connections possible. It has even made them feel as though, at times, they were face-to-face. They felt real to me, but sometimes untrue. You cannot know someone without having touched them, I think. There is a truth in our eyes; in the way that we breathe, in the warmth of our skin – a truth that lies nowhere else. And I have never been to Maine.
Isis (A New Life)
By Darryl Ellison Jr.
I saw the breeze part seas and leaves from the trees fall down,
Metaphorically like a family that’s been broken…
How many tears shall I shed spending nights alone?
No one to teach me manly principles since daddy ain’t home…
The brother jetted out of my life so quick. It’s kinda ill…
Sickening that this man had kids but couldn’t stand still…
He left my mother all alone paying bills…
Yet he has the nerve to pay child support for me…
Like, where the hell is the support, but I’m his child I see…
Though he ain’t teach me how write rhymes or even to read…
A deadbeat basically stranding his seeds on the streets…
And still, I keep thinking in my mind like “Forget my father,
I always wanted a relationship, you didn’t bother…”
So I’m abandoned, and the child that he never planned…
My first day home…
Forced to be a grown man…
Now he’s a father somewhere across seas and never sees us…
Praise be to Allah, as the God finally freed us…
Now there’s hope in our lives…
No more support from a brother who’s been leaving…
When everybody told me keep my head up, confidence rose to all time high,
I wished him luck with his endeavors, as I couldn’t stay mad at him forever…
He did us wrong, but what was yet to come was so incredible…
My mother had a daughter by this wise ol’ chap…
They named her “Isis”,
I saw in her eyes she had a glow which could never dim…
With a head full of hair…
She smiled frantically, and didn’t want to see no one there but me…
I smiled right back at my younger sister…
But on my life the same mistakes won’t be made for hers,
Sunrise on Lake Huron
By Barbara Burden
Cold winds gust in from Huron’s glacial deep,
As clamorous waves announce the morning tide,
Dawn lures the waning moon to her white sleep.
Grasses dance awake from twilight’s keep,
as birds disrupt the calm to chirp and chide.
Cold winds gust in from Huron’s glacial deep.
A flash of day’s green horizon streaks,
as Old Sol starts his climb on earth’s eastside.
Dawn lures the waning moon to her white sleep.
Flaming orange and gold festoon the sweep,
streaking up to where the stars collide.
Cold winds gust in from Huron’s glacial deep.
Jeweled colors on cloud bottoms grandly sweep,
As night’s enchanting keep is turned aside.
Dawn lures the waning moon to her white sleep.
Cold winds gust in from Huron’s glacial deep,
While dawn lures the waning moon to her white sleep.
By Nicole O’Leary
Your memory haunts the bricks of buildings
Seeping into the cracks of sidewalks
Time stands still here
By Michael Kaminski
When I was a kid, I was always afraid that my parents would get a divorce. Who would I live with? Where would we go? How would holidays work?
Now, I played the part of the parent. But I was no longer concerned with where I would go. It was about where he or she would go. Maybe he or she was having the same fears I did. I doubt it. I was a worrywart as a kid. I always thought I was going to get kidnapped and held for ransom. Apparently, I also had delusions of grandeur. Too much TV. Too many movies.
I went to her (our) house to see if we could settle this dispute without involving the lawyers. I rang the doorbell and waited.
She answered, and immediately told me to leave. I told her that I wouldn’t – this had once been my (our) house, too. We stood there in silence letting the tension breathe heavy on us. Awkward silences were another of my irrational fears, and she knew it, and she didn’t care.
“I think I should have full custody,” I said. She scoffed, well aware that the law would be on her side. She had the receipt. The purchase was in her name. I never had any money.
But I felt that a passionate plea should be enough. Passion should be enough sometimes, even if there isn’t enough of it at times. That’s why we were in this thing. Passion.
I could see the glow from the back corner. He or she was there, entirely unaware of the situation – unaware I was even there. Regardless, I wanted him or her. No, I needed him or her.
“If you give me full custody, I’ll let you have whatever you want.” In saying this, I knew she wouldn’t relinquish. I didn’t have anything to give her, and I hadn’t in awhile.
I needed that mash of flesh, that glorious goop encased in an emerald carapace. She didn’t even like him or her as much as I did. I knew it. And she knew that I knew it.
I made one last plea, realizing that my others were lackluster and that a bitch like her would need to be impressed, and exalted.
As I began, I started to cry. Snot bubbled out of my nose, and I realized that I had pissed my khakis. A pool formed at my knees. What a fine specimen of a human being – being reduced to a pool of piss over a red-eared slider, a turtle.
I couldn’t blame her for laughing. I’m sure I would have laughed if I was in her position. Neither of us were very good humans.
She went to the well-lit corner of the room and picked him or her up. After silently standing in the doorway, the squirming mass trying to escape, she told me to leave or she’d call the cops. I knew she would. She had before. So I left.
As I walked away I said, “Just because you clutch a turtle doesn’t mean you hold a wealth of knowledge in your hands.” My pseudo-philosophical jab seemed to have no effect, and it shouldn’t have. She snickered and slammed the door.
As I sat in the passenger seat of my car, apparently hoping that a chauffeur would arrive, I realized that she had no idea how to take care of him or her. I had always been the caregiver. But the receipt had her name, and so did the Visa bill. I was defeated. The hare had won. Aesop would be pissed.
By the end of the month, the emerald gem took on a pale lime hue, sickened by the lack of light. The bulb had burned out and she didn’t replace it. She died. Turns out she was a she, the autopsy revealed.
they can hear me
By Amy Anderson
they can hear me peeing
it is the loudest sound currently
over the bass bone tones
deep wave chatter
and open-mouthed screaming chewing vegetables
from the vegetable platter
in their ears
see me tear
eight paper squares
feel me flush
looking in the mirror
as if to check my teeth
to the scope of a wail
Upon Meeting Friends
By Tarun Agnani
Some days the world is perfect
like a woman’s love.
On waking resting restlessly
mind a mile away
made my way to the Town Square.
Unplanned and unknown to me
the day to come.
Friends await me
from now and then
all together to lunch with.
Debate and debauchery
and drink to satisfy thirst.
In all a thief who
steals the act,
a master of showmanship,
a magician of the pun,
a lord of a dirty joke.
In me a man who understands
in nodding head and exasperated
gesture how the world works.
In some a kind word to reflect
upon meeting friends.
By Jason Garza
Fermenting in their own juices they
sat in a mason jar on a table next to
my father. He pulled each one out
and ate them whole, saving the stems
which he collected like trophies on the
rim of his plate. The satisfaction in
his face when he bit into each, as if
he were sitting on his father’s shoulders
after working in the fields and together
they grew something
they would always share
even in separation—
even in death.
He forked one and offered it to me.
This green, kidney-shaped vessel covered
in moisture dripped on the table
in slow, broken rhythms. And I
“Is this thing hot?”
“No, not at all.”
“Are you sure?”
I took a bite as deep as the pride I felt
when I heard the stories of my grandfather
who worked with my father in the fields.
The heat was a belt cracked across
my face and lightning strikes of white
light segued through a kaleidoscope
of red, green, and brown that converged
into the shape of my father’s eyes—hot
with impatience because I was too
slow to learn:
the family ritual, my grandfather’s language, the strength
of the men who worked
long after their eyes burned, their
hands bled, their backs stained
with the permanent mark of the heat.
Heat that grew from the ground
and created entire cultures of men
who passed this heat
trust a son has for his father.
By Connor Coyne
Desiree climbs the stairs. Snow on the floor. She shouldn’t stagger, but does. She hasn’t been drinking. No, she drank a Pepsi. A Pepsi with some rum. And she ate a pie at noon. The crumbs stuck in her teeth, so she had a drink. She just drank one. She staggers on the stairs, but frowns, grunts, and sighs. Nobody is there to see. She climbs to the music. The door shakes. Vocals shake, or maybe Derrick May. House invades? No, no, it’s Assault. Jefferson. Ghettotech. Boom boom. Desiree opens the door and steps inside.
Kids are there. They take courses. They’re students. Undergrads. Angry. Studying. No they’re not! They’re dancing and jumping and shouting and drinking and speaking and speaking and shouting. Desiree gets a drink. A rum. Kids crowd around. No Pepsi? She doesn’t mind, she says. The kids throb. A knob turns. A bathroom door opens. Laughter laughter. Confetti and streamers. The students shake. She wants to dance, she says. The lights vanish because a fuse blew. Desiree doesn’t care. She dances. Jumps and takes a drink. Sick! It’s not rum, but gin. It’s not Sapphire, but Skol. God! “Awful!” She frowns. Sticks out her tongue. Takes a swig. Shrugs. Takes a swig… a swig. Tosses her head. Her hair falls. Streetlamps singe the curtains. Snow falls. A joke. A rough joke. Rough laughter. The light shatters on the glass. Oh, poetic! Golden glistening streelamp glow glimmers on her hair. Her hair tangles. Students get lost in there. They look and maybe lust. Maybe.
But Desiree came to the party to lose, to get lost. Work was hard. The same always. Today became yesterday. Yesterday became tomorrow. Today is already tomorrow. Welcome to work. Tomorrow, today. But her house is surrounded by kids. And so she crashes their parties. They don’t mind. They don’t care. Their eyes roll, and they smile, bright teeth like fangs. The students and their fangs glimmer. They glint. The students darken the room. Desiree glimmers. She grins, herself. She shouldn’t have staggered, but did. It’s over, right? Her eyes are tangled. Students get lost. All lost all everywhere all over. She never drank.
By Koh Leigh
This feeling that keeps pulling
feels like rope secured around my ankles,
an anchor dragging me down,
a burden tied to my chest
and around my heart.
Does the rest of my life call for
Resting on my shoulders,
this burden will surely be the one to
until all that there is
and black sea.
Siesta in Puerta Del Sol
By Beth LeBlanc
It is siesta time in Puerta del Sol. The angry crowds have left, escaping the hottest hours of the day. Heat rises off of the cobblestone square in steady waves, challenging eyes already riddled with glaucoma. Even in the shade, sweat trickles down my bent spine like water trickling through the stones of a dry riverbed. Through oily waves of heat I can make out signs on the opposite side of the plaza. “No votar,” they say. “Necesitamos trabajo,” they yell. “Harto sin pan,” they whisper.
The revolutionaries have left, taking with them their shouts and cries for change, leaving behind an echoing silence. My old and twisted body is the only one still revolting, refusing to sleep at a conventional hour. A slight breeze blows through the square ruffling the banners and bottles that remain. I hold still and hope the kind wind alleviates this blanket of heat. In the silence, the chants of the past begin to swell.
I feel the 1931 season of revolt just as surely as I feel the ides of the hot season today. The breeze brings the season of fear that traveled close on its heels. My hands shake in the oppressive heat. These hands that overturned a republic now feature a maze of purple knots under skin as thin as paper and spotted with the proof of age. These lavender ropes under thin parchment knew the fiery passion of ’31 and the cold fear of ’36 – when blood turns so quickly from the heat of revolution to the freezing cold of fear it breaks the vessels holding it.
These young ones that are beginning to trickle back into the plaza call themselves “the angry.” Anger is a luxury of the young and inexperienced, one they should treasure. Because after anger comes the feeling of being shattered, muted, numb. They oppose unemployment. Have they ever had the security of employment without the voice of liberty? Security is a luxury we paid for with the soul of a nation.
The bell towers and government buildings stand as crumbling reminders of the history that these young ones are trying to repeat; the flags, shrouds of revolution. My body, broken by age and dressed in the skin of an old soldier, is a reminder of the future they face.
As the last of the angry trickle into the square, my own body ceases its revolt against sleep and I feel tired. I shuffle from the square as the new militia marches in.
By Kitty Casner
Oh yes, he knows she’s a thinker,
A deep, deep dreamer
Who wants to know everyone’s story.
She goes on walks, talks to God,
Strains to hear bird melodies,
Joins in with some harmony.
She doesn’t mind yesterday,
But knows her Grandma’s hands
And her best friend’s laugh.
She knows his dad abused him.
Scarred limbs tell more than he will;
Each mark could write a novel.
He learned forgiveness from love-
A family compassionate past pain
In a brother better than blood.
He knows she loves extravagantly.
Feet firm in the hope of tomorrow,
Lost in finally being found.
She knows he trusts steadfastly.
He is wrapped around her heart
And he’s promised never to break it.
They are close to being there,
That place where paths melt,
“All together now,” they say.
To hear music and dance it together.
By Amber Cochran
Fall of 2009 our dog died; he was struck by a car. We had to take his remains to the vet. We said our goodbyes and began to part.
We decided to go across the street to Burger King. And there was a man standing in the drive-through
Begging, asking for food. Quite often he’d been there; I could tell as the drive-thru worker harassed without a concern or care. He turned out to be my distant cousin.
Imagine having heard of a “crack head cousin” that roams the streets. And finally when you meet— he asks for some spare change. Though he asked for money I bought him a burger then wished him farewell as he roamed away.
Who knows what he would do… save my money towards a fix?
There’s another at the Chevron gas station that I haven’t seen in a while, not since start of summer. And there’s another that has taken his place. The first two are much younger; the other is barely middle-aged.
This summer my “crack head cousin” was hit by a car
But at least he’s at peace. And the one who’d pump my gas for spare change? Well, I haven’t seen him in a month of Sundays. I wonder where is he?
So now the older man makes both of their rounds
along with his: Chevron, BP, Burger King, McDonald’s, A & J and nearby corner store chains.
I saw him the other day. His hands couldn’t stay still. He shook like a Parkinson’s patient— or a victim of self-induced spasms. Through the car window, I read his lips. “Got inny spare change?” And all just passed right on by.
Who knows whether or not he needs money to get a good meal?
Or if he needs a fix to help him cope and heal— Who knows what he’ll do once my hard earned money is in his hand? Who knows of this? But maybe he really did just need that fix.
The Final Escape
By Nadia Alamah
They swayed, nonchalant, oblivious to the masses.
Open your eyes and suddenly you find yourself on the tallest tower overlooking the city. For miles you see bleakness. Hordes of drones clothed in the bleakest black trudge with their heads bent down and shoulders hunched, afraid to look at the skies for relief.
There were days when -in sadness- one would look to the sky, see the clouds, search for sun. These days have long since vanished.
Instead, we have been made to cling to the delicate steel bones of the hive structure, clinging without understanding, consciousness, hope, or reason, purely clinging, knuckles white against the flesh in the tightness of grip, led on the subconscious instinct that salvation will come.
They swayed in the fray, their eyes a sunset, their feet feathering footsteps across the clouds. They have ascended to a height where oxygen is scarce so they wear masks. There’s a whisper in the air about them; as he clasps her waist with his hand and her fingers clutch his shoulder, they dance, they dance, they dance, the whisper breathes the current that sends them twirling, into each other’s arms and up into the clouds, the sky, into space, into the stars and the warmth of cosmic gases. They dance that of the revolutionary, of the final escape, free from earth’s trappings and into the stars, and past them, into the silence.
He stood atop the skyscraper, no, clung to it, to its crowning needle. It swayed in the wind and nearly sent him flying to his death. They crawled about the place, and from this height they seemed to squirm like dusty black beetles. From this height they were unreachable. His chest was heaving, a cold sweat glistened on his brow, and he was getting cold.
I don’t know how I got up here.
Naturally, he found himself in a panic, yet oddly composed, while he was scared for his life. Strangely it seemed almost natural being up here, fitting, it should be, but he could see icicles biting the railings and frost coating the bite of the black metal. It was too cold up here, so he could not stay. But this is the needle of the tower, the utmost point that seeks to sink itself into the blue-black flesh of the sky, it didn’t have doors, he realized he stood gazing at a sickness without a cure and the black mass below him intended to feast on every last morsel of the earth’s dead flesh, he didn’t know where he was anymore, he didn’t know, but then he realized he never knew to begin with. But the issue remained- if he did not get himself to safety he would die, and there was no going up, and no attemptable entry into the tower and he could not jump to the roof of any other buildings, none were close enough. The world below seethed beneath, a jumbled heap of ink and piano keys. Yet it was not as if someone had deliberately wanted him to die- it was as if they wanted him to die with a sinister understanding of whatever message they had intended.
Black puffs of clouds scuttled in the air and he nearly decided he had no choice but to surrender to death. What better way to go than to fly? But then something caught his eye: the dying sun sinking over the world’s edge, dusty and distant, but there. Somehow,
seeing it gave him reassurance.
He did not entertain the idea that someone could come for him. The height had so astounded him that he did not pause to reflect even on his own identity; the height spoke of death; not only his, but the death of every man who would dare attempt to seek beyond his reach. The odds seemed insurmountable, yet the sunset seemed eternal. It calmed him.
His skin began to glow.
As they continued to dance, they felt the air about them grow colder and the clouds turned to sheets of chipped, scaly ice. It attacked their feet with a vengeance. They could not dance and so remained frozen in each other’s arms.
They looked at each other and knew they were about to die.
But their eyes gleamed like sunsets; the feeble light in those last moments would see them through. They gazed into each other’s eyes because the light in them that kept them going was all they had left. The light grew weaker in intensity but burned steady evermore, burning a somber promise in their sockets, and it was all they would ever need.
It was beautiful while it lasted.
The ice crept up their bodies and into their lungs. She had time to remove her mask. As she went to take his, his hand touched her hand, his other pushed back a curl of her hair and caressed her cheek with his finger, they never looked away for their gaze was stronger than the coldest temperatures in the universe, and as they leaned into each other, the ice took their bodies, but it could not shake the glow from their eyes, never their eyes. It crippled and twisted their bodies, clung to them until its grip nearly shattered them, but love overtook.
They exploded in the night sky.
The sun hadn’t moved.
He was certain he had stood there for hours, but sure enough, it was fixed in the sky, in the same place, and it didn’t move. He wondered if whatever power that placed him on
the tower also stopped the sun.
The thought spread in his mind like ice.
It seemed like a crazy idea, but at this point, the most insane thing would have been to let himself remain crucified.
Too cold to move, he let the needle tip him over. The man tumbled down the length of the pillar and into the thickness of night.
It caught him.
By Barbara Burden
Wrapped in down and silky sheets
I rest in a state of between.
Where my awareness releases the day,
and dreams have yet to begin.
In this state, I hover;
my thoughts drifting free.
The sounds of the wider world dwindle,
closer to dreams.
Trains whistle mournfully,
pulling me through the air.
take me there.
Rain on the roof,
The beat of my heart,
like the pulsing of waves
to slip into dream.
By Paul Fulkerson
A boy came up right suburban,
human world so pertinent –
its majesty was labor, and
the kingdom spanned the nation round.
Despite this, the child grew within a mist
and his job was to play;
parental white lies sugared the world,
held his mind at bay.
But nature vibrant teased his tongue, and
now and then he craved the fray –
he sought uncooked answers from truth’s molesters,
but always was dismayed.
His wild heart saw this, knew the bounds of youth’s brain
a creative beast so quickly slain;
so before its beat would fade, the heart drove the boy through darkness great,
in search of a dog run astray.
He left the light of the porch, chasing his own will –
through distraught deserts and chemical hills,
over cooked concrete and under blanching beams that beat the stars out of the sky.
At the crest where country met city, a view paramount,
the child heard his pounding heart, and visioned out.
He saw a steel horizon, producing aching and groaning cries.
He stood before a wall of trees, and it gleamed
Wisdom and its Location
By Stephanie Bruma
Where do I find wisdom?
Please, can you tell me?
I’ve looked over bridges
And under rocks
I talk to the sky,
In deep infatuation,
I ask questions,
Amazed by the possibilities
Yet, there’s no response.
Bridges don’t move,
Rocks don’t float,
And the sky doesn’t answer
Where do I find wisdom?
Please, can you tell me?
Could it be the dreams in my brain?
Oozing images of every hope I contain?
In the sounds made when a heart breaks?
By Don Beardslee
He was not old enough to tell time but the small stream was a silver ribbon when the boy began fishing. He had watched his father work a cheap department store fly rod since sundown. The rod was heavy and slow so the father matched the rod speed with seemingly effortless casts. The big hexagena pattern rode low in the water film leaving only the upright white hair of the parachute core visible. Brush choked both sides of the frigid twisting current, forcing short careful casts. Enough watching.
With a strength that belayed his few years he informed his father it was time he fished. He was already beginning to shiver, for although the June air was warm and soft, with only rubber boots to protect his feet the stream was numbing his legs. He stepped to his father’s right and began casting. His first cast was too hurried; the line cracked and looped around itself. He lowered the rod and watched the tangle float past.
Not everyone develops an inner clock, something which puts them in sync with their environment whether on a secluded beach or a busy sidewalk. That night he found his. He may have felt the weight of the line in the backcast or heard his father’s soft direction; he waited for the line to load the rod and drove the fly straight upstream. He saw the fly disappear in a swirl and not knowing what to do, waited. When he lifted the rod tip he felt one short, powerful pull and the big brown was gone.
He cast again and again without raising another fish and they were soon in front of a small cheerful wood fire, recounting the night. He fell asleep thinking about the fish. He had lost his first wild trout, but it had surely hooked him.
Steinway & Sons
By Kristi Amstutz
I’m sorry to have found you in such a state
Still. Perhaps wond’ring what you will.
Your music speaks into my heart
by conveyed emotion through a piece of art.
I ask, “What good are you here? Why in a museum to stay?”
How will they ever know your beauty if your sound is forbidden to play?
For to preserve your life they caged in your keys!
I’m forced to restraint; I mustn’t touch, just see.
But know I hear you whisper to my soul
Because they’ve made you nothing more than wood, coated with gloss.
By Nicole O’Leary
Desperate limbs of ancient maples reach upward
Twisting arms, writhing, reaching
For a vast darkness and glittering stars
They’ll never again grasp onto
Wings crumbling, stare knowingly
They’re trapped here too
Eyes forever open to this silence
Flowers of rust and gold grow near cracked stone
Watered by tired eyes, sullen eyes
Emeralds as empty as the hearts that blind them
They tick, but won’t feel full again
The wind won’t creak the rusty gate
All is quiet, but nothing sleeps here
By Jason Lord Case
Inhale slowly, keeping the crosshairs on your target
Exhale slowly, keeping your crosshairs on the target
Do not jerk the trigger
Squeeze it firmly, like your lover
But you exhale the breath of the beast
“Undertow” (Full Version)
By Mallory Christensen
His mother told him not to go to the beach alone, that it was dangerous and the waves could pull you away so you could never swim back no matter how hard you tried. He didn’t believe her, of course. He had swum in the ocean tens of times, maybe even hundreds. He had felt the waves lapping gently against his body, pushing him backward and forward, but never taking him away. He wasn’t afraid of the ocean, not at all. In fact, he even found it comforting.
This is why he ran there now. His mother had shouted at him earlier, told him he was bad, that she wished he would just go away. He had forgotten what he had done wrong, maybe he had plucked a flower from the front garden or maybe he had been too loud while playing his games. It didn’t matter anymore what he had done anyway, he thought. He just needed to get away, to go a place that was his own.
Sticking to the tall, stretched shadows of the trees, he worked his way to the beach. He didn’t remember the way exactly, he had never gone there alone before. He went by memory – turn right at this corner store, go past the stone that looks like a sleeping elephant. He wasn’t worried about getting lost, how could he get lost? He had walked there so many times before. When his sight and memory failed him, he followed his nose. There was no mistaking the scent of the sea, he knew, and he would get there if he kept heading toward the cool and salty breeze.
Finally, his feet made contact with sand. He opened his eyes, realizing he had been walking with them closed. During the day the sand was hot and it burned his feet but now, as the sun was on its way down, it was beginning to cool. The sand looked like crushed amber gemstones in the setting sun, and he shivered as it sifted beneath his feet and between his toes.
As he walked closer to the water, he noticed that there was no one on the beach. When his mother took him there during the day, there was always someone; other mothers with other children playing in the water, people sitting under umbrellas reading, women playing volleyball with their bikinis and ponytails. They were all gone now, at home with their families or alone. He could see their footprints, a stray towel, scattered potato chip and candy wrappers, the only proof that anyone had been there at all. He walked past all these, and into the water.
He waded in until the water reached his knees. It was refreshing, but not chilling. He was not sure why he was getting goose bumps on his legs, but it was a fine feeling and he did not leave the water.
All his grief forgotten, he looked toward the horizon. The sun was almost halfway gone, and he could see it moving down even further, as if it were sinking deeper and deeper into the ocean, drowning until it was nothing more than a chunk of rock, the inky waters stealing its life. The colors of the sky began to change, as did the reflections on the water. What was once clear blue became all shades of orange and purple and pink, the light reflecting from the sky to the water, which produced an insubstantial and illusionary version of the palette created in the sky. To the boy, it seemed as if the water were taking the light from the sun and drawing it into itself, making its own art.
It was then that he saw the water move. It was a subtle movement at first, and he almost mistook it for a wave. No doubt another person would have, a volleyball player or picnicker. But he knew waves did not move like this, slow and tendril-like. The water kept moving, growing not only inland but further and further from the surface of the ocean. Bright streams of water wove upward, copper and violet in the sunset. Strands braided together, forming larger strands, while others twisted and curled until they became so intricate that he could no longer see all of the details that went into each aquamarine filament.
The water continued its convulsing until it towered over the boy and stretched out to his sides as far as he could see. All the while, the boy stood, knee deep in the salty liquid. He imagined how his mother would feel if she could see what was going on, and he laughed, despite himself. He looked on, and he wondered why he was more curious than he was afraid.
The water stopped moving, and the boy looked up at what it had become. He could see a body made of water, one that looked almost human, but far more elegant and translucent. It was female he could tell for though he could not see its head so high above him, he could see its curves and its breasts. Long tendrils of water, what would have been hair had the being been human, flowed down from her head and across the coastline, reaching as far as the boy could see. All was still for a moment, the water, the sun, and the boy.
As her body shimmered it shook, very slightly, and then she was shrinking, streams untangling and settling, ebbing until she was the size of the boy’s mother. He approached her, eyes opened wide, lips curled tentatively. He could see her face now, and he was sure that he had never seen anything so beautiful. She was made of water, nearly transparent, but he could see each of her features as if she were made of skin and bone. Her lips were thin, but held a smile that made the boy feel warm and intrigued. Her nose was small and rounded, perfectly proportioned, tilted upward just enough to make her look sophisticated. Her hair, no longer flowing to each side of the ocean, was tied behind her head with what looked like a starfish. Most of all, her eyes reflected a depth of knowledge and understanding that the boy could not know, but nevertheless loved. However, none of this made her beautiful, thought the boy. No, there was something more. Something of how the water moved, glistening in the fading light. Or maybe not that – he did not have a real reason, he knew only that he loved this face and this being that it belonged to more than he could love his mother or father or anyone else.
He reached out a hand to touch the woman in front of him, but she pulled back before flesh made contact with water. He frowned, obviously hurt, and took his hand back. Yet, even as he frowned, she smiled at him. He could tell that she was not trying to make fun of him, not laughing at his arrogance. She was trying to comfort him. He looked at her, and could picture her talking, apologizing with a voice as serene as a sea before a storm, saying that she was so sorry but they could not touch, their worlds were too separate and they could not be together. The boy felt a tear growing in his eye. He realized that he truly hoped she would not say this.
He felt dread in his chest when she opened her lips, for though her voice was like that of a siren he feared what she would say. He began to beg her.
But she interrupted him, her voice like waves lapping against a rocky shore, speaking in a tongue that the boy could not understand. He stopped his sentence, confused. She smiled wryly once more, and reached her hand out to the boy. He could hardly believe what was happening – she wanted to touch him after all! He reached out again, stepping toward her. But before the earthen hand could join the hand of the sea, she began to unwind. She came apart, strand by strand, just as miraculously as she appeared. The boy found himself unable to move, desperate as he was to keep her from becoming once more the placid ocean reflecting colorful hues back up into the sky.
She was gone. The boy felt a cool breeze against his cheek. It blew his hair, which rustled quietly. The sun continued to set, and after a few moments it was over the horizon.
That night, the boy dreamt about the water woman. He dreamt of her face, so young but as old as the earth itself. Perhaps even older. He imagined touching her hand, not only touching it, but gripping it tightly as she pulled him deeper into the water, further out to sea. She took him under the surface, down until everything was black and the only light he could see was the glimmer of her watery skin and the slight glow in her almond eyes. There they stayed and talked, and they couldn’t tell when the night ended and the day began, neither did they care. It was then that his mother woke him up for school, and he forced himself to leave that underwater sanctum and put on his uniform, brown sweater with khaki pants, the same as every day.
Whenever he closed his eyes, for a moment or for the night, her face bubbled into the darkness behind his eyelids. There they would be together, always beneath the surface of the ocean. She would touch him, and he could almost feel the chilling embrace of her incorporeal arms around his body.
Eventually the boy graduated from school, as smart boys do. He made sure to go to a college not far from the ocean. Every day he would go to his classes, and afterward would rush to the beach. He would wade into the water until it reached his knees, and here he would stand. He stayed until the sun came down from its lofty perch above him and sank past the horizon. Each time the vivid colors from the sky reflected onto the water, he imagined her forming before him, just as she had done so many years ago. He would reach out to her, and she would not back away as she had done the first time, but would grab his hand and take him with her. He knew that she would, she had done it so many times in his dreams he could not picture it any other way. The days and years passed, but she never came.
He moved away from the ocean. He still dreamed of his lady, but his dreams were not as often or lucid as they once were. He had met another lady, one who had been a girl and who had gone to college, one who lived in a house and had a dog. This lady’s name was Tara. When she embraced him her arms were warm, substantial, solid. She lived inland, and he went to be with her.
He and Tara were married, and they sat together smiling, seated in white chairs at a white table. Behind them, among the trees and the grass, was a river. When the boy looked at his new wife he saw white teeth and brown eyes, auburn hair. He wondered what she saw when she looked at him. Their guests, grinning, began to tap their silverware against their crystal glasses. The boy looked at his new wife, knowing what this meant. He began to lean to her but, to his surprise, was reluctant.
It dawned on him then. Slowly, cautiously, the boy stood up and turned so that he faced the river. He saw her there. She was not colossal as she had once been. He saw that she was the same size as he. No, he realized, she was smaller – the same size as Tara. She stood in the river, the current constantly tugging at her, trying to pull her away. He took a step closer, and she smiled. It was the same smile that she had the first time he saw her, gentle and elusive. He reached out his hand to her, but she did not move. He could see her body losing its shape, parts swelling and shrinking as she tried to keep herself together. Light from the sun shone through the leaves of the trees and onto her, reflecting a dappled pattern on her faltering form. She reached her hand toward him and spoke, her voice like wind chimes in a soft breeze, uttering the language he could not understand.
“Don’t go!” He shouted, and ran for her, hand outstretched. He saw her tip her head forward, a smile still on her lips, before she collapsed back into the river. He watched as the water that had once formed his lady hit the surface, splashing and rippling until there was no sign that anything had been there at all. He put his hand to his face, gripping it from temple to temple. She had appeared once more, her presence brief and strained, but now she was gone again, as if she had not been there at all. The boy could not tell which he felt more, joy or sorrow. He returned to his seat, greeted by smiles and kind words that fell on his ears like dead leaves.
He found a job nearby, one with many microscopes and notebooks, but no ocean. Tara seemed happy, and he was glad. She found a job as well, and constantly remarked on how lucky they both were. To this he always nodded, not looking up from whatever he was doing, and replied that yes, they were very lucky indeed.
The boy got off work late one night. He threw his long coat over his shoulders and grabbed his briefcase. Before he went out the door, his boss stopped him. They exchanged a few words. The boy was desperate, his boss insistent. After a few minutes, they finished speaking. The boy slumped through the door and his boss, apologizing, went back into his office. The boy did not know what had happened. He thought things had been going well. His boss had said something about low funds, about the plunging economy.
His phone rang, its tone harsh and piercing. The boy fumbled through his pockets to answer it. It was Tara. She asked if everything was all right, and she wondered why he was not home yet. He said yes, he was fine, and that he had had to work late. She sighed and told him that they worked him too hard, and that his mother had called and wanted to talk to him, to see how he was doing. He said that he would be back shortly, and that he would call her then. Tara said that she needed to get back to their son, that she loved the boy, and that she would see him soon. The boy said goodbye and hung up.
In his office there were fluorescent lights across the ceiling, and it was bright and easy to see. Outside, late at night, it was dark. Rain was falling on him and on the ground, light now but getting heavier. He dropped his briefcase and began walking toward his car. Every step he took created a splash, and he could feel the water starting to seep into his shoes and dampen his socks. He had almost reached his car when he stopped mid stride.
She was there. It was only a small puddle, no deeper than a few inches. Normally he would have paid it no mind, walked right past, unlocked his car door, and drove away. But not now, for she was standing there, raindrops frozen in time creating a shroud around her. He walked closer to her, each step an eternity. Raindrops broke against his coat, leaving small circular spots of liquid. He looked behind him, and the path that he had walked was devoid of any drops – he had soaked them all into his clothing and his skin.
She was smaller now. So much smaller than she had been in the ocean, and even smaller than she had been in the river. She was the size of a child, maybe seven or eight years old. He crouched to see her face, and saw the same smile that had enchanted and haunted him for all these years. He could now see that the raindrops were moving, but extremely slowly. One hit the lady’s shoulder, and created a ripple that extended down her arm and across her body. She looked at him, her unworldly eyes meeting his material ones, peering easily into the depths of the boy’s core.
He stepped forward, his eyes fixed steadily upon hers.
She nodded in approval and held her hand out to the boy. It shimmered and glowed, even in the darkness. The boy stepped forward, wary but hopeful, moving slowly. His arm outstretched, he looked at her, his eyes questioning. She did not move, but seemed to beckon him toward her. He put his hand in hers.
The boy felt cold as she pulled him downward, but her steady grip assured him. Everything around him, the rain, his car, the parking lot, all of it vanished until the only thing he could see in the darkness was the faint but steady glow of his lady as she took him deeper. At times he would feel unsure and want to swim back to the surface, but whenever he felt this way she would turn and smile at him, and he knew that to be with her was what he wanted.
Tarun Agnani is a first year Master of Business Administration student. He has held several jobs in the Information Technology field. He recently started blogging at geek-library.info. “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.” – The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Sophomore Nadia Alamah studies full-time as an English with a Specialization in Writing major and Art minor. Her interests include dark horror, poetry, spoken word and art. Among a litany of other sources, she is inspired by Muse, James Joyce and Neil Gaiman. Check out her blog at thinkspawn.blogspot.com.
Kristi Amstutz is in her first semester of Nursing School. She loves to play the piano and hang out with her family. “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” – Pope John XXIII
Amy Anderson is a graduate student in the English Masters program and a high school English teacher. She lives with her husband and her cat who love each other dearly. She has recently traded the activity of running for beer brewing.
Don Beardslee is a graduate student in Social Science, has traveled some, fished a lot; admires simplicity and Ernest Hemingway literature.
Robert Burack is a junior studying Political Science, and a Marsh Fellow at the Center for Global and Intercultural Study. His creative nonfiction writing is inspired by travels abroad, the messiness of human relationships, and a wanting to be loved.
Barbara Burden is a junior majoring in Sociology. Earning a General writing certificate from Delta College, she plans on obtaining a Technical writing certificate as well by completing three more writing credits at UM Flint. “If you don’t allow yourself the possibility of writing something very, very bad, it would be hard to write something very good.” – Steven Galloway
Stephanie Bruma is a freshman majoring in Biology. She believes that poetry and writing in general allows the depths of someone’s soul to surface.
Jason Lord Case is a published author with his fourth book being released in October of 2011. He is a senior at U of M Flint in the social work program. A truly untraditional student, Jason is working on his fifth novel. The MacMaster Chronicles are available online or in hard copy from Redpetalpress.com
Kitty Casner, a junior studying English, attributes her creative inspiration to her wonderful family, being a YoungLife leader and her Mastiff, Maezie. “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for good, not evil, to give you hope and a future.’” – Jeremiah 29:11
Mallory Christensen is a sophomore majoring in English. “We wrapped our dreams in words and patterned the words so that they would live forever, unforgettable.” – Neil Gaiman
Amber Cochran is a senior and non-traditional student majoring in English with a Specialization in Writing and triple minoring in Africana Studies, Francophone Studies and Theatre. Reading and studying poetry and writing has been an enjoyment of hers since a teen. Amber would love to travel to Africa to teach spoken word and theater. She hopes to teach African and African American literature and theater and to help raise awareness and appreciation for the Arts in inner-cities; whether college-level, at performing arts camps or throughout the community.
Connor Coyne earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the New School, and he has recently returned to Flint after many years away. His debut novel Hungry Rats was published in 2010 by the Gothic Funk Press. Connor maintains a website at connorcoyne.com.
Darryl Ellison is 18 years old and a sophomore attending Mott CC majoring in Journalism. He loves to write and create. His main inspirations are Nasir Jones, Tupac Shakur, Corrine Bailey Rae, Raekwon and Erykah Badu. “I exist even when no things are left.” – Jeru The Damaja
Paul Fulkerson is a freshman majoring in English. He is also a nontraditional student, aged 23. His interests include playing guitar and developing an analytical mindset.
Jason Garza currently lives in Davison, MI with his three beautiful boys. He has been teaching English/Language Arts and Drama at Atherton High School for 10 years. “Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.” – Henry David Thoreau
Michael Kaminski is a graduate student in the English Language and Literature program, with concentrations in American Literature and Composition/Rhetoric. His interests include tending to his bonsai, taking care of his turtles, and watching Detroit & Michigan sports teams. “Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.” – Walt Whitman
Beth LeBlanc is a senior majoring in journalism and Spanish and is the campus editor of The Michigan Times. She is hoping to secure some sort of worthwhile employment after graduating.
Koh Leigh is a sophomore majoring in Biology.“What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Nicole O’Leary is a senior studying Secondary Education for English and Speech. She enjoys good music, good books, good art, and good conversation.“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely of places.” – Roald Dahl
Antwan Pollard is a UM-Flint sophomore majoring in Psychology. “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy shit…what a ride!’” – Hunter S. Thompson