Burn It All, by Nic Custer
sticking, by Amy Anderson
Brown Snakes, by Tara Moreno
Burial, by Dan Schell
The Blade, by Wallace Garneau
Clockwork Counterculture, by Melanie Krueger
House of Stone and Twigs, by Karen Messer
Speculum Lapidibus (Through a Glass, Darkly), by Vincent Slocum
Questions for My Father, by Nicole O’Leary
Hexagenia Mania, by Mark Seymour
The Man Who Burned Down the Ippel Building, by Dan Schell
Large Woman, by Amy Anderson
Why I Hate Poetry, by Stephanie Roach
Questioning Evolution at the Bar, by Robert Burack
Seasons of Loss, by Beth LeBlanc
After the Rain, by Jennifer Ross
School Day, by Jennifer Ross
electric, by Jessica Buchanan
The Broadcaster, by Mark Seymour
Burn it all
By Nic Custer
Burn it all and
count on nothing
being changed but the
ugly peeling paint and
columns of smoke
pillared skyline shade.
Everything seems more hopeless
as arson artists chisel out a brand new mess
from anger and unhappiness with molten memos
filling demo(lition) lists.
Hate mail, self-addressed,
signed with a gasoline kiss.
If raised sane, ashamed of flaming inheritance.
(If raised sane,) fed up with sordid heroes,
founders and today, all the same,
breaking all our basket eggs into
brownfield stains and live grenades.
No master planning in fifty years
but we’re still all slaves
plague rat race cage.
A brick tide’s crashing waves
drown hopes of rehabbed haze. Everything’s washed away
but truth and rage.
Frustrated people set a blaze or pray to escape,
with deep-seated hate.
This circus city’s clowns
joke around with money and lie until it’s lost.
all rundown cogs
in a three-ring broken watch.
I’ve come to blame idealized fame
and a city stripped of wits by whips, then encouraged to win
a drop out race to bridge card slips.
As descendants of factory fodder,
we inherit mounds of shit and at most, forgetfulness.
Defeatists dealing with
decades of loser rants
and paid off silences.
But our future’s not in flames
or at least not yet,
was to discredit
and pile people with debt.
There are two prevailing camps of thought
for living here today-
Either singe away sarcoma homes,
and know in their place
nothing better will ever grow.
Or give up, burn a blunt and
don’t worry about changing
what you never cared to really know.
This town’s like a dentist’s office.
And gummy curbs house holes
where homes were pulled
on smiling lanes
from roof decay
and rotting away.
Any second, we could change the game
and refuse to play
firebomb Monopoly or
but Fly City’d rather
tear itself down
for room to breathe
its rich history
By Amy Anderson
I remember sticking
to the seat
and the seat sticking
a slab of fat padding
melded to my back
and thighs exposed
broad bolts of
sun reflecting off the pale
twin tubes of skin
my block stomach
to my water knees
I may have forgotten my sunglasses
I may have needed to pee
her voice prompted
a sudden sweat creek
down my neck
I know for sure I burned
By Tara Moreno
I know you
We used to get high
On the East Side when times
Went slow and curved like her hips
And we knew it would go by
And he said to me
“What’s the word bird?”
But he knew
And it flew
It went all crazy
On the sidewalk next to St. Mary’s
Where the drunk got
The wild woman
It is a city
A game of
Of life and death
Places in between
Time is just a
A black balloon high
And I sigh
And I wave goodbye to
And a youth
By Mark Seymour
She was a blonde beauty with a natural finish, and the sweetest thing that I had ever seen. As she broke free of her overworn, overprotective red velvet cloak, a wave of excitement almost knocked me to the floor. This doesn’t happen every day, at least not to me.
“Do you mind if I touch it?” I asked carefully.
“Yeah, go ahead.” she casually replied. I slipped my hands past the plush red interior of the original Fender case and took the guitar gingerly by the neck and then firmly by the body.
It was an extremely early, Fender Telecaster electric guitar. Actually, one this old might have gone by the name Broadcaster. At least that’s what Fender folklorists suggest. This relic had been sitting idle in a dark closet for God knows how long. The proud owner was Colleen, a family friend. This was a lady I had known all my life, but of the treasure she had just revealed, I had had no idea. She made it clear that it wasn’t a gift. It was a loan. She knew the value of it, or at least the potential. But, for whatever reason, she deemed me responsible enough to be its keeper.
The guitar belonged to her late husband John. He was a musician from San Francisco. He opened for acts like Big Brother and the Holding Company and Sly and the Family Stone, when the West Coast music scene was at its height. Whether or not this guitar was with him at the time, I don’t know. It wasn’t mentioned. I never heard him play, but he had quite the reputation. John drank himself to death in the early eighties. I was a kid at the time, but for
some reason the story of his death was
relayed to me. Colleen found him lying on the bathroom floor, completely naked with a vodka bottle in his hand. Perhaps he was beckoned by some of his famous musician contemporaries. Although unlike Joplin and Hendrix, John had made it past the age of twenty-seven. He had found the guitar at one of his favorite watering holes. Exactly when and where is
unclear. He saw it leaning in the corner of the bar, and promptly asked the owner who it belonged
to. It was frequently strummed by a salty old country and western singer who used to come into the bar to entertain. He left it there one day, and never came back. So, there it sat. I suspect the bar owner took possession of it just long enough to sell it to John for fifty dollars. With only the slightest and short-lived reservation that this guitar might be cursed, I took it into my possession.
The Telecaster eventually traveled with me to one of those college towns they talk about on the news; the ones plagued with restlessness, underage drinking and third hand couches being burned in the streets. Despite these occasional bouts of chaos, the guitar survived. I played the hell out of it, but always with care. I showed it off to every guitar player I could find. I even took it into the local music shop to have it appraised. A guy I knew who worked there told me it was worth about fifteen hundred dollars. It would have been worth ten times that, if it wouldn’t have been refinished. Vincent, a high school friend of Colleen’s, thought it would be a good idea to refinish the guitar. She had also let him borrow it, and he took it upon himself to do the work. Throwing it off a tall building would have been a better idea. He removed the factory decals and serial numbers that were sealed under the finish. I had to take it apart to find a second serial number stamped in metal, under the bridge plate. From what I could find, it most likely dated to the early fifties, possibly the late forties. At any rate, it was old. Vincent was a seasoned musician himself, and he should have known better.
The Telecaster and I made it back home in one piece, enduring a vicarious college experience. Colleen eventually came looking for it. I reluctantly returned it to her. Like her husband’s before her, Colleen’s life was starting to spin out of control. She had worn out her welcome with most of her friends, and my family and I were the only people still willing to help. The day she was evicted from her home, we went to help her move. I discretely combed the house, scanning for the black guitar case, but never found it. Maybe she hid it someplace safe before we arrived. Maybe it was already at her daughter’s house, where she was moving. I didn’t know. It wasn’t my place to ask.
Colleen eventually moved out west, somewhere arid and hot. It is my understanding that she struggled with substance abuse. We haven’t heard from her in a long time. I used to speculate about what happened to the Telecaster, and it always made me angry. Yes, it’s a selfish notion. I don’t deny that. Concern for a friend’s welfare should trump the whereabouts of a guitar. But I hate to think of it being sold for money or drugs. Is it in a pawn shop? Is it lying on the floor of some meth lab in the middle of a far away desert? Or is it sitting in the corner of a bar, waiting for some lucky son of a bitch to buy it for fifty dollars?
By Dan Schell
Digging a hole in winter,
mining without machine,
inviting the imagined hard labor
of Gulag or prison;
shovel blade rebounds
off unyielding ground,
too cold to spark;
inches of earth split
in broken fragments
like busted brown glass
across the permafrost.
Sweat is forming but freezes
across our foreheads;
a sheet of salty ice dams perch
at the eaves of our brow.
We measure the hole
with guiding eye, slide
the corpse across the snow,
still as a statue,
Father lays a boot on its chest,
pushing the last breath taken
some time in the night,
but it remains too big to bury.
“We have to hurry
before your sister sees us.”
A grim race begins
for the final few inches,
to cover the hole,
throwing frozen dirt
by the worm.
By Wallace Garneau
I see the blade on the table,
Staring at me with its cold steel eyes.
It glistens in the glare from my cigarette,
Making me wonder how it would feel.
I picture the blade between my fingers,
The razor moving in long lines up my wrist.
The blade blinks at me without caring,
Knowing nothing but how to cut.
If morning comes to find me,
It will not be from a lack of strength.
Stroking my wrist is but a motion,
And the blade is too cold not to score.
After a minute of staring,
It’s just that I didn’t pick it up.
Clockwork Counter culture
By Melanie Krueger
We’re all lost.Like those kids who ran off searching for a circus.This guy is selling molly like peanuts andwe all forgot why they call it the windy city.She’s blowing smoke in my face;it’s swirling obscuring andI’m not sure if I’m standing straight.I’m too strange to be sure.This dude couldn’t even make it in the gate;he’s naked, shaking, carried away.We see our reflection in the pupil of his eye,shake it off, walk inside.The line was blurring long before I came.Blotting out reality, graffiti, the city and,we’re all illustrated, incapacitated, illuminated.Senses synthesizing poetry.Winding a line intoa writhing herd, a sold out showa sonnet we can’t repeat or recalltomorrow.Counterculture like clockworkwe all forgot what home is, or was.And how to get there.
House of Stone and Twigs
By Karen Messer
By the water;
Speak as if we are strangers.
I stand so close,
Feel so far away.
I resist the urge to reach out,
Touch your cheek
And lean my head against your warm chest.
Knowing your rejection to intimacy, I don’t.
What if we broke down
Here, on the damp grass
And loved each other one last time?
When you held my hand
Warmth radiated through gloved hands.
Silently I cursed the season,
Needing to feel your skin enfold mine
One last time.
To hold your gloved hand – exquisite
Intimate, heartfelt – rare.
One last time.
By Robert Burack
She starts by licking her fingertip, and presses the left-behind spit into a circle on the dried skin between her eyebrows. She does not know this is called a bindi. That the decorative mark has a spiritual meaning for other women; that they think of it as some third eye of wisdom. In the mirror she only sees a woman with spit on her face, and this embarrasses her. She is thankful he wasn’t watching – why wasn’t he watching?
“Hey,” she says to him. The words are either a question or faint accusation.
He can’t be sure, so he chooses not to choose. He ignores. Or maybe he hears what he thinks is longing, creeping up from somewhere unexpected, and not knowing what to do with such a wily creature, he pretends it isn’t there.
“What are you doing?” he asks.
She doesn’t know. She hasn’t known for a very long time. When she met him she didn’t know. This was at a party, in a class, at the supermarket. She can’t remember. At first he saw her as lost and thought of her as a child. That is why he went home with her. But this is not why he is standing in her bathroom, some time later. That is harder to explain.
“I want to cut off all my hair,” she says and waits. She thinks he is going to ask the question. The question a man should ask; especially a man who spends mornings in bed with a woman who would cut off all her hair. She does not move until he speaks.
“OK,” he says.
“OK?” she asks, leaning forward into the mirror. The spit shines.
“It’s your hair.”
“I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it now.”
Her hands are very still on the countertop. “Now,” she repeats. Her fingers grasp the scissors.
“What?” he asks, looking away with such force that it is hard to listen.
The scissors have considerable weight, and she feels like she is holding a weapon. She slides
her fingers into the rings on the handle. She lifts her hand to let the scissors near her hair. The blades touch her scalp and feel cold.
“Oh,” she says. She was not expecting to feel anything. She begins to cut and does so furiously. Loose hairs fly like dandelion seeds. There is no other way to say this. One of the hairs sticks to the spit on her face. She watches herself in the mirror and sees that she is smiling. Finished, she sets the scissors down. They don’t make a sound, but he knows everything that has happened. He doesn’t look at her. She has hair until he looks. She is still at the party, still underneath cotton sheets, still a presence until he looks. Those memories will remain with him as if a reflex of desire, and his crotch will ache when sweeping up hair from the floor. She will watch him do this and stand in the doorway, waiting for him to ask.
Speculum Lapidibus (through a glass darkly)
By Vincent Slocum
We are the children, the prophets’ own;
The heirs of Sinai’s salt and dust,
We died for the sake of Egypt’s stone.
More death from the fleeing, the salt, and the dust.
For we built the temples,
Our hands drew the grain.
And ours were the voices that bade the bush flame.
We bathed in the delta,
We brought the Nile fame.
We sang of the One, though we knew not His name.
We worked unto blindness,
And cried ourselves dumb,
Yet we found ourselves tall under Pharaoh’s great thumb.
Our lives, our own children
Will mock when we’re done
But our toil marks the place where all life has begun.
For now we wander, unheard and unknown.
The heirs of a new era’s callus and rust
We slave for Augustus, through skin and through bone;
More death from the fleeing, the salt, and the dust.
We now build the aqueducts.
We forge the steel.
We’re the vessels through which all of Rome is made real.
We rage for Messiah.
We mourn his last meal,
Then we mark him with Judas; we kiss, and we kneel.
We are the children,
The poor and the meek;
The proud that demanded Gethsemane speak.
We were leveled on Calvary,
Where both saints and damned reek,
Then we wept and cast bones amidst the winds of her peak.
Three-thousand years we’ve bled; and why?
For thrones of dirt and crowns of rust.
The “We” has festered down to I,
And a pile of salt and ash and dust.
For I was the only one
Left not to know it.
The seed was too foul, and the soil would not grow it.
The olive branch withered.
The wall of thorns grew,
And I watched as the world was made, gilded and new.
Now I am the Father,
The Son, and the Spirit.
I don’t speak the Word and don’t want Them to hear it.
Dejected now, I am the
Only one standing,
Crestfallen and exiled: inflamed from the branding.
Now I stalk in the underground – gained for all time.
Opus Dei! Sovereign pillar of salt and of dust!
Questions for my father
By Nicole O’Leary
If my eyes are yours
blades of grass after rain
why can I no longer see you?
You exist only in pictures
a frozen smile,chapped lips,
holding my hand as I sit atop your shoulders
my cherub face smiling, young and unaware of life’s cruelties
If my hair is yours
the midnight sky,
dark and shining mysteriously
why can I no longer feel you stroking it, willing me to sleep?
I remember the day that I woke up, desperate,
and could no longer remember the gravel of your voice,
the way you smelled of wood smoke and gasoline,
or the roughness of your hands as they held mine over a fishing pole
I still sink to the floor some days,
lonely for someone I can hardly remember
heavy with emptiness, I need you
I hate you those days, but I love you even more
10 years and 10 minutes?
There is no difference
The heart does not notice what time ticks away
Each tick, each beat, another moment you’ll be missing
Sometimes when I sleep, I find you
where the memories are, tucked away
in the most hidden compartments of my mind
That is where you are.
By Mark Seymour
The news said there was a serious fire,
Started near a field by some burning leaves,
Due to carelessness and a pristine lawn.
Wild and quick it encroached on the forest.
A chain of reports came fast from the phone.
It might spread its rage to Goose Road camp!
If it jumps the trail, it will be too late!
The cool Manistee will rise to a boil!
Mayflies and big Browns, choked with tepidness-
Hexagenia Mania, so long!
A reflection of that which could be lost:
Sleeping in late, fishing is done at night.
No stalking in twilight with sips of wine.
Clear skies that make way for galaxy views.
No guitars played by hand near warm fires.
Tales of ‘Nam, hushed by the absence of men.
Fly reels and rods left hanging on a wall.
No thrill of the catch, or battles to win.
The boasting of victory will be lost.
Lost, unless the inferno is soon quelled.
We will go, regardless of fire or smoke.
Not knowing for certain what comes ahead.
Pack the gear! We’ll go, with faith on our side.
We’ll take what the fire leaves, burning embers,
Fresh green alders making homes for a hatch,
Or something in between heaven and hell.
Driving down the road is Parousia!
Verdant grasses flank the left of the trail.
Ash and charred skeletons hold on the right.
Cooling the fire, taming the flume for now.
The man who burned down the ippel building
By Dan Schell
The man who burned down the Ippel Building
taught rock guitar until cancer conquered
his mother’s lungs and he fled to L.A.,
dreaming of Strip stardom’s
drugs and groupies,
hanging with hair bands
with Aqua-Net bangs,
raiding panties and pantries
like raccoons, all too aware
of their junkie-pale skin,
red needle pinpricks popping
along suburban blueblood veins,
connecting the dots
on a map through Hell and back
before the jail cot turned cold,
not long after the sunny Cali
cannabis fields began harvesting
agents from the D.E.A.
The man who burned down the Ippel Building
was probably smoking in his bed,
in his windowless closet,
enough space for bed, chair,
TV with foil-wrapped antenna;
large enough for two bodies
to hotbox dirt-weed and nicotine;
but a room, closet, or cell
doesn’t matter much
when you end up
too poor for freedom,
too crazy to work,
too hurt to feel pain.
We discard them in these boxes
and wait for the decay
of flesh, bone and mind;
silently judge and therefore claim
a man unclaimed by men;
and when trash catches fire,
the whole block burns.
By Amy Anderson
I’m becoming the large woman
I never wanted to be:
muffin sprouting, butter padding,
Eat anything that’s not staked down
especially if it’s steak,
and then, of course, I’ll eat it all and with a side of cake.
I care not to see you spy me
sipping a cabernet
as I dine on a fine white fish
(and then on crème brulée).
So I seize my drink before I mind just what I want to chew.
I didn’t want a blood-red meat,
and that should be okay with you.
Becoming a ruthful thing to see instead of a ruthless seer,
I’m a sitter and a napper,
then a waking gravy dipper.
and that’s okay with me.
Why I hate Poetry
By Stephanie Roach
On the sidewalk a pink condom crumpled and used
It could be love
Something primal and gorgeous
Right then, right there
In spite of the concrete
In spite of the neighbors
It could be something else
Something more desperate
Something before curfew
That’s the problem
I see on the sidewalk
a crumpled pink condom used
and the possibility of a poem
is palpable, is a promise, is a peach
I seal my lips around to hold in all the juice
That’s the trick
I see on the sidewalk
the possibility of a poem,
a peach I seal my lips around
I bite and the juice
that my tongue rolls in
is not sweet
is not the heavy damp earth
of fruit overripe
but is thick and hot
And like Tantalus denied
and Sisyphus repeating
Mocked literally by blood lust
I find there is no peach.
that I bite
not a peach
questioning evolution at the bar
By Robert Burack
Hisses of displeasure when
that troglodyte Rick Santorum
squints forward from the TV screen
bowing to an audience.
To liquored eyes he looks
hunched over or
maybe we are slumping down
into our own drinks
jaundiced ale and Stella! –
gulping like that brute Kowalski.
Patrons filled full have to origami
their limbs over tables past
the cigarette machine descending
into the musky basement where crude
sketches inhabit the bathroom walls.
In this cellar damp as Chauvet
galloping horses have been replaced by
By James O’Dea
“I got a letter this mornin’ How do you reckon it read? It said hurry, hurry because the gal you love is dead.”
-Son House, “Death Letter”
In the life of Calvin Grey, if there was ever a time to snap, this would have been it.
“We’ve had to make some very difficult decisions,” Bossman said, with his coffee breath and fake look of concern. Calvin was being laid off first thing on a Monday morning. His first thought was, wow, what a twist.
“I hate to have to do this,” Bossman said.
Sure you do.
A crumpled yellow “M” peeking out of a wastebasket caught Calvin’s attention as he walked out of the office. Apparently stripping Calvin of his livelihood hadn’t been enough to rid Bossman of that greasy appetite. That, in combination with the collection of Cuban cigars on his desk, was enough to make Calvin sick. These big wigs weren’t worried about his car payment or his wife’s medical bills. Their only concerns were making the necessary cuts, meeting the quota, their trophy wives, and their new condos in Florida.
But Calvin didn’t snap. Calvin was too numb by the moment to feel anything. He left the factory immediately, without a word or a wave goodbye to his colleagues of so many years. His only clear thought was, what am I going to tell her?
Calvin met Lyn the July after their high school graduation and immediately promised to give her the world.
From then on, all his hopes and dreams
were for her; he wanted nothing more than to give her the best life imaginable.
At the time that meant taking a factory job in Detroit that his buddy lined up for him. The couple moved from Michigan’s quiet west coast and got a small apartment in the city. Lyn would say years later that she had never meant to get him stuck in such a thankless job.
During these harder times, in late night talks that ran too long, she would ask him if he had any regrets. “You could’ve had anything,” she would say. “Now you’re trapped in a job I know doesn’t make you happy. How can you stand it?”
“I have you, don’t I?” he would say.
“I just feel guilty for keeping you here. I’m ruining your life.” She never looked at him when she spoke like this.
“What are you saying? You are my life.”
Calvin used to daydream of the day when he would finally come home with good news: I got the promotion, honey, we can have whatever our hearts desire! Then they could plan the wedding and put a down payment on their piece of the American Dream.
But today he had only bad news; there would be no wedding, no house, no sense of security. Not for a while. What could he possibly say to her, tonight, when he came home empty-handed and unemployed? Calvin could hear her now: It’s ok, honey, we can get through this. You always say we can make it through anything as long as we have each other. But deep down it would destroy her. It already killed her to not be able to help Calvin bear the financial burden. But every time she managed to get a job, her mind would play the role of saboteur.
We can make it through anything as long as we have each other. That was Calvin’s usual mantra – he used it mostly to console Lyn when she was let go. Now the phrase referred to his failure, his inadequacy as a contributor. The words made him cringe. What good was his love if he had nothing to provide her? Romance couldn’t conquer homelessness. Unconditional devotion couldn’t pay for her meds. And what about the car that barely runs? On most days, Lyn used the car for running errands and getting to therapy sessions, so Calvin was without a job and without a ride.
Outside, the bite of the morning air was sobering. While Calvin waited for the bus, a man across the street poured lines of blues into the air. His clothes were stained and his eyes closed as his fingers glided over the guitar strings. Phrases of minor pentatonic set Calvin’s struggle to music, as he got on a bus headed for his apartment (the last place he wanted to go). Whatever he did, he had to get away from that factory. Images of it invaded his consciousness: unwanted postcards from the immediate past. He saw the snaking conveyer belt with metal sheets for scales, the off-white paint chipping on the bathroom walls, even Lyn’s picture taped up in his locker with her face just starting to fade away.
If he could have, for a moment, stopped calculating the consequences of the day, Calvin might have savored the ride through his beloved city as he usually did every evening after work. His soul had taken to these streets and structures ever since he met them as a child. His father took the family to a Tigers game on a sticky summer afternoon. After the game Calvin had sprinted out into the street, with all the ecstasy of youth and victory, and looked at the city around him. There had been something inexplicably heroic about it, the beating metal heart of his homeland. From that moment on, Calvin had adored the historic buildings of downtown Detroit. Seeing the city now, in the early daylight, might have made him remember the sizzling smell of hotdogs and onions – the ballpark’s siren song.
The city also fueled Calvin’s love of construction. One year he blew all his birthday money on a single trip down the Lego aisle. He would buy the same sets two and three times just so he could make everything bigger and more grandiose. In middle school, he used his massive collection of blocks to build to-scale replicas of the old Tiger Stadium and Fox Theatre. His mother had told her friends that she had a little architect on her hands.
Before he met Lyn, he had planned on going to college, but falling in love shifted his focus to making ends meet. Constructing a safe and happy environment for Lyn was the only project Calvin considered worth his time, and he had no regrets.
Today Calvin’s eyes avoided the window and the city flowing by. He fixed his attention on his shoelaces and the gum stuck to the bus floor. What are we going to do? The more he thought about things, the worse he felt. Even the bus started to make him feel claustrophobic. There was too much going on for him to be so confined. He got off at the next stop with the vague goal of finding a bar and realized he was only a few blocks from his favorite joint. Finally, a lucky break.
As he walked toward the bar, Calvin finally lifted his head and faced the home he held so dear. He had never understood the stigma around Detroit. He understood that the crime rate and the depressed economy were a big turn off for most people, but the disdain some people had for it, their irreverence for the city and its history, he didn’t understand. Some of his relatives from the suburbs would talk snobbishly about the city from the comfort of their pristine cul-de-sacs, and it bothered him like the McDonalds bag and Cuban cigars had. It was the disconnect of people that tested Calvin’s faith in society. How can they watch the city crumble? How can they just not care?
Calvin’s destination was a little family-owned hole-in-the-wall
that was sandwiched between two larger, gaudier establishments. It was hard to find unless you’d already been there, which made Calvin feel like a V.I.P every time he walked in. The interior of the bar was one big shrine honoring the city. From photos of the Stanley Cup to tiny replicas of Ford’s Model-T, cherished artifacts from Detroit’s heralded past – the past Calvin held so dear – adorned the walls and filled glass display cases. The proud owner of the bar and the collection was a retired firefighter named Gus. He was strong as black coffee and almost as big an attraction as the memorabilia he held dear. Sometimes people would come from way out of town to see the collection and talk to Gus.
Calvin seemed to catch Gus off guard when he took his usual seat at the bar. Monday morning was an odd time for Calvin to be bellying up. He usually had an anxious demeanor, but as Calvin looked at himself in the mirror across the bar, he saw a man on the verge of completely unraveling.
“Hey, man, you alright?” Gus said leaning on the bar. “Your girl having problems again?”
“No,” Calvin said. “It’s just been a rough one.”
“Looks like it. What’s up?” The bartender grabbed a clean glass. “If you don’t mind me asking.”
“I – I lost my job.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Gus put down the glass and instead started to pour a shot of whiskey.
“I was sorry to hear it, too.”
“Well, if you need anything, we’re here for you.” Gus set the full shot glass on the table. “There, try that.”
“I appreciate it.” Calvin took a sip. It took his grimacing face a moment to recover. “That’s good, what is it?”
“Just Jack. Nothin’ fancy.”
“I don’t drink whiskey all that often.”
“Drink up. You don’t lose your job all that often either.”
“Good point.” Calvin forced a smile. It was the first time he had even almost smiled since Bossman had informed him that he was the next victim of the ailing job market. He sipped the shot gingerly and the bartender poured him another.
“How’s Lyn taking it?” Gus asked.
“Haven’t told her yet.” Calvin scanned the mostly empty bar. The only other person there was an old man who sat at the other end of the bar drinking an Arnold Palmer and watching CNN.
“Is she workin’?” Gus put a freshly polished glass on the shelf.
“She’s tried, but couldn’t handle it. Couldn’t deal with the people. They make her too nervous.”
Gus poured another shot and Calvin took it more forcefully. It was a while before they spoke again. Calvin just stared forward, resting his chin on his knuckles. Occasionally little shivers crept up his arms.
“The kicker of the whole thing is we were finally making progress. She was getting better. She wasn’t beating herself up as much, you know, we were hap…” Calvin paused and covered his face with his hands. “This might be too much for her.”
“I think she’ll understand,” Gus said. “If anyone can keep her together, it’s you. I don’t see couples like you guys too often anymore. Give it a few weeks and your situation will stabilize.”
“Is there even such a thing as a stable situation anymore?” Calvin asked, feeling his jaw clench. “I just got dropped like I was nothing. I worked there for over six years. I thought it was going along fine. Here I was, daring to be optimistic, and BAM, just like that I’m nothing.”
“Well, it’s not like you enjoyed being on the line,” Gus said. “You really telling me now that if you can’t sort screws in a factory, you’re nothing?” Gus’s robust mustache exaggerated his frown. “You’re a talented guy, Cal. There’s gotta be plenty of places lookin’ to hire a guy like you, even these days.”
“I hope so,” Calvin said. “I swear it’s enough to make a man feel pretty desperate. Not being able to provide, not being able to put food on the table or support a family: it’s enough to make you feel like you aren’t a man at all.”
“Times are rough.”
“How do you get through it?” Calvin knew Gus wanted to help, financially or otherwise, but despite the local publicity his bar was barely getting by as it was.
“For me it’s simple,” Gus said. “You gotta find something you love and you gotta dedicate yourself to it.”
“I love Lyn,” Calvin said.
“You gotta make yourself happy first, though,” Gus said hesitantly. “I know it’s hard for you, but find yourself a fulfilling life and she will feed off of your joy.”
Outside, the whiskey and new wisdom in Calvin’s system allowed him to thoroughly absorb his surroundings. The midday rays enlivened the city, infusing the cracked walls and faded bricks with new life. He found himself deep downtown, after leaving the bar with an adequate buzz and nowhere in particular to go. The words find something you love reverberated in his skull. He took a seat near a bus stop. There were more street performers playing jazz and blues, and Calvin wondered if they were paragons of passion like Gus. Were they doing what they loved or did they have no choice but to play on the street for loose change? Then an unusual thought struck Calvin. Maybe in true passion, there’s no room for choice.[40 – Winter 2012]
Looking up he felt as though he were in a canyon with ancient structures rising all around him. He thought about how these mechanical walls were not some Godly work but the work of his brothers, the men with whom he shared this great place. How incredible it was that these human beings had thrown together these massive structures, that they had made the city out of wood and rocks and cement. The streets, too, had been stretched between these canyon walls by men. It had all been done by people like him; hard-nosed nine-to-fivers with calloused hands and bills to pay, not those comfortably spoiled aristocrats like Bossman. Working people gave the city life, and the city was supposed to give the people life in return.
But what life had he now? Six years in the factory and nothing to show for it. Lyn had had faith in him; Calvin had never gotten in trouble at work, and because of some overly optimistic interpretations of Bossman’s minor praises, they had both convinced themselves that he was on his way toward greater success with the company. The heartbreaking truth was that Calvin’s passions were with these structures downtown, on every perfectly-placed beam and in every angle of their aged frameworks. To Bossman, Calvin was just another daydreaming employee, without any standout qualities to catch his eye or make him second-guess sending Calvin home jobless.
Calvin was a rat in a maze with some new cheese to find as his feet followed an unknown path that wound through the business district that was lined with the biggest skyscrapers Detroit had to offer. It seemed as though the feet of his childhood were allowed to run free in the city while his adult mind was preoccupied. Eventually, he found himself in front of the very biggest building. Staring up at one windowed side, the awe of it all snuck back in and for a while he wasn’t worried. At his old job, Calvin had run a series of machines whose end products were nuts and screws: the unsung heroes of everything mechanical. Nothing could stand or run without nuts and bolts. When the alcohol couldn’t help him sleep, Calvin would try to relax by reminding himself about how important he really was. Nothing can run without nuts and bolts, he’d think.
That was all behind him now. Staring up at the skyscraper was bringing him to a new, unavoidable, conclusion; although, until that moment Calvin probably would’ve given anything to have his nuts-and-bolts job back. He saw the skyscraper as man’s attempt to invade the heavens: a shining black declaration that there is nothing man can’t do, and nowhere he can’t go. The whole thing glistened like some mountainous jewel, and inside were people like Calvin, working and talking hundreds of feet in the air. It made him
relive those days as a kid, when he would make Lego monuments for his parents.
Calvin’s attention oscillated between these two topics for a long time, the aspirations of his past and the stark reality of his present. The physical Calvin stood motionless, about 15 feet from the front door of the building, staring in awe. The skyscraper called to him from his past. It reminded him of the sketches he had made in high school drafting courses. He loved to draw buildings just like these.
Suddenly it all came together: losing the job, Gus’s advice, what to tell Lyn. This was it. Now was the time to do what he loved. With all the community colleges and online universities willing to work around schedules, he would have no problem being able to fit in classes. He could find a part time job and student loans would take care of the rest. Yes it was more debt, and things would be tight for a while, but the upside was so huge. The money would work itself out; he would find a way to convince her. Then they would finally have something real to look forward to – a future of security, contentment and self-actualization.
On the bus ride back to his apartment, he could not wait to tell Lyn about his revelation. Everything was going to be ok. Losing his job was certainly going to be a financial blow, but look what it led to! Calvin considered calling Bossman to thank him for reuniting him with a life-long passion. Most of all, Calvin was enamored with the new ideas for his future with Lyn. If he were a successful architect or engineer or even a manager on a construction site, she might be able to relax and let herself be cared for. Maybe she could even let go of some of the guilt that dominated her thoughts.
When Calvin got home the apartment was spotless. It hadn’t been this pristine in the six years they had lived there. The bathroom door was shut and the light was on. He called her name but there was no response.
Calvin set down his bag on the kitchen table, where he found the note written in Lyn’s perfect handwriting. After reading the openings lines, he burst through the bathroom door and fell to his knees. He madly snatched up the body but it was already cold. He knelt there with Lyn in his arms.
“But it was good news,” he said repeatedly through his sobs. “I had good news.”
seasons of loss
By Beth LeBlanc
They led me to the green knoll where you would rest,
The garish green made somber by the brown earth.
Curse the birds for singing with unfeeling mirth,
Curse the sun for shining its selfish brightest.
Everything was wrong, everything was in jest –
They all ignored our loss, your wasted worth,
While you slept in death, the world was giving birth,
Nature celebrated like a selfish pest.
Want to close my eyes to the world around me,
Want to sink into this welcoming cold dirt,
Want to live my life with you under this tree.
Wish to ameliorate this ceaseless hurt,
Wish to escape this deafening misery,
Wish to erase from life this brutal excerpt.
I revisited your place of rest today,
Early morning, but the sun gobbled the dew.
God, it was hot – a day that would have killed you,
Had you not already been under cool clay.
I had no water to drink, to cry, to say
That my tears were dried up with sorrow for you,
I was dehydrated by the sun’s tattoo,
The putrid smell of rot filled that searing day.
Want to cry still and cool my cheeks of this heat,
Want to melt into this earth wasted and dead,
Want to sunbathe forever in this grass seat.
Wish the skies would cry rain and floods in my stead,
Wish the moisture soak into this hallowed peat,
Wish seasons were not so cruel to your stone head.
The winds took me to your resting place again,
Leaves laughed and scrambled across your gloomy bed –
How could they appear so cheerful, though just dead?
Small, smiling ghosts of the trees, dead boys from men.
The autumn breeze carried a potpourri then,
And my eyes filled with tears as it filled my head.
Were you wiping away the day’s extended dread?
Were you comforting me with that heady scent?
Want you to leave me alone in my sorrow,
Want you to stop haunting my own solitude,
Want to say I have moved on to tomorrow.
Wish the jewel colors could lift this heavy mood,
Wish your sleeping and numb state I could borrow,
Wish the winter to end our life and death feud.
I found myself resting with you in the snow,
Our peace disturbed by no sound but the cold flakes,
White dusts autumn colors God no longer makes,
So silent, so cold, so dark deep down below.
Our endless rest unbroken by living foe,
Our discussion as silent as frozen lakes,
Faking this glad end for both our cheerless sakes
Until my life light loses its pulsing glow.
Want to sleep the quiet dream of winter night,
Want to float above the down from the dark sky,
Want to shine and die like the winter star bright.
Wish to bid this cold, hard earth a warm goodbye,
By Jennifer Ross
After the rain
trickle drop drip splunk
loam-scented, worm-fragranced wafts
crisp glistening mist
escaping this warm cocoon
By Jessica Buchanan
free and barefoot, my lungs full with real air,i will howl at the moon, should i care to.
i will dance at the water’s edge, amazedat the way the sky has dipped so low to admire her own reflection.
the scents of pine and dirt light up the air
brighter than any flashlight andthe hook is in my lipthe claws are in my chest.
my body is a case packed with treasure.my skin wears thin.
Amy Anderson lives in a green house. No, not a greenhouse, although, it is warm and does contain some plants. At almost all times, she has a pile of papers as high as her wastebasket is deep to grade. She’d love to start running again, but does she have the strength?
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.
Jessica Buchanan is a Flint-area native studying English at UM-Flint. She loves good friends, good food, thunderstorms, and canoeing after dark. Her writing is inspired by the people in her life, as well as the adventures she experiences. You can visit her blog at jessicalynnbuchanan.tumblr.com
In this universe, Robert Burack is a junior studying Political Science and a Programs Assistant at Break Away, a service learning non-profit. He holds a deep, dark, and shocking personal secret.
Nic Custer is a Flint native and UM-Flint graduate. He has released four poetry chapbooks and is about to release three more. For more information, visit the author’s website, http://www.niccuster.com or join him for the bi-monthly Support Your Local Poet Open Mic at Churchills Bar and Grill.
Hannah Eckman is a junior, majoring in Graphic Design. She loves everything visual. She’s been drawing since she could hold a crayon and continues to love creating art, especially when she can use it to tell a story. Website: HannahEckman.com
Wallace Garneau is an E-Commerce Manager for IBM. Wallace served in the United States Marine Corps and the United States Army, recently completed an MBA in Lean Manufacturing from the University of Michigan – Flint, and is currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Manufacturing Operations from Kettering University.
Courtney Gearhart is about to receive a BFA in Arts and Sciences, with a concentration in Graphic Design, after this upcoming spring semester. She has also gotten engaged recently and overall is just really excited for the changes happening in her life!
Shelby Gilbert is a senior at U of M Flint graduating this May and receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts – Studio Art, with a focus in Painting. She took a break from making art in 2009 for almost a year. When she stepped back to the canvas to paint she experienced a sense of completeness and electric energy through the process. She has been working consistently at it now since 2010 and feels that her art is beginning to open to its own meaning, and its own reality. She is excited to see where it takes her next. Check her out on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/shelby.gilb
Gil Goodrow is currently a senior, majoring in Visual Communication with a concentration in Design/Photography. His areas of interest are his family, photography and music. Music plays a major role in his life, and is an integral part of his image making process. His favorite phrase at the moment is: ‘Tell your parents you love them.’
Julie Hurst is a senior majoring in Visual Communications with a focus in Graphic Design. She enjoys drawing, coffee, making things and a good story. She is influenced by the people in her life who keep on encouraging her. Check out candiestudios.com for more.
Kirby Josephson is a senior getting a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications with a concentration in Graphic Design. “Art is not what you see but what you make others see.” -Edgar Degas
Melanie Krueger is a senior majoring in English with a specialization in writing. She is currently living the dream in Flint, Michigan. “Sometimes you just have to pee in the sink.”- Charles Bukowski
Carly Lasagna is currently a sophomore majoring in photography. She considers it a great privilege to be able to guide others on a visual journey throughout the dimensions of her thoughts. Art is incredible to her because it allows her to display her mind’s inner-workings on a canvas for the world to see.
Beth LeBlanc is a senior majoring in journalism and Spanish and is the managing editor of The Michigan Times. She is hoping to secure some sort of worthwhile employment after graduating.
Karen Messer is a graduate student in the English Masters Program. She has a husband and three children. She enjoys cooking, singing, reading, writing, exercising, dancing and soccer. Her writing is inspired by the ebb and flow of life. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
Tara Moreno is a graduate from Rackham Graduate School 2011. She studied English with an emphasis in Composition and Rhetoric. Her inspiration comes from a deeper understanding of mankind and by tapping in to a collective unconsciousness. She likes to be active; moving and creating define her. “The heart and soul are the true source of creativity; the mind is only a filter.”
James O’Dea is a junior studying philosophy and creative writing. Philosophy, society, and Michigan are his greatest inspirations. He lives in Davison. “Everything has been figured out, except how to live.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
Nicole O’Leary is a senior at the University of Michigan-Flint. She will be graduating in May with a BA in Secondary Education to teach English and Speech. She plans to obtain a masters degree in creative writing. She is excited to travel and go on many adventures when she graduates.“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” – Marilyn Monroe[48 – Winter 2012]
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).
Jennifer Ross is a senior completing dual degrees in English and History and dual minors in Spanish and Creative Writing. She finds creative inspiration in literature, relationships, history, and nature. After graduating in April, she will begin undergraduate study in Biology and graduate courses in English.
Dan Schell has been published in several small press and independent journals, most recently in Heavy Hands Ink, Midwest Literary Magazine (and their Broken Spades anthology), The Front Porch Review, and deuce coupe. He lives with his family in Saginaw, Michigan, where he is working on a novel. His published poems are collected at http://www.scribd.com/dan_schell
Mark Seymour is a junior studying Language and Fine Arts. He moonlights as a musician and is inspired by his family, faith, and the wonders of nature. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” – Jesus Christ (Mt 5:6)
Vincent Slocum is an engineering student here at UM-Flint. While earning his associates degree from Mott Community College, he won the Anna Bradley student writing awards for fiction and non-fiction, as well as the Sharon Naughton award for poetry. He is happily married with a three year old daughter.