TABLE OF CONTENTS
ELIZABETH R. CURRY POETRY CONTEST WINNERS
What Poetry Is
Where Time Faltered
Maureen Tolman Flannery
At the Caliente Tropics Resort
What Not to Write About
Dion N. Farquhar
The Voice Box
Sika Landscape II
Gerald R. Wheeler
The Gift of Self-Destruction
Out of Breath
The Pursuit of Happiness
No Multiple Submisssions
Michelle Panik O’Neill
The Big Date
Not Only Tears Can Heal
Susana H. Case
Michael James Dennison
4th of July, 2007
The Wedding Dance
Flats and Heels
The 25th Hour
Glue on My Wings
Forever, a poem of motherhood for I.S.
Grand Theft Auto Monstrosity
The Question of Failure Arises
Laurel S. Peterson
What Your Dad’s Underpants Have to do With Space Travel
Easy to Say
A Poem, Composed While Living on the East Coast…
The Way He Creeps
Rabbits Keep my Father Alive
Somewhere on the Brightest Day
Arañita Cobriza Fantasy Crónica
Hawk Call Crónica
Raining in the Desert
I Know That I’m Going to Cry
Elizabeth di Grazia
An Ear for Language
ELIZABETH R. CURRY POETRY CONTEST WINNERS:
What Poetry Is
Is it that last piece of chocolate
you swore you would not eat,
sweet morsel left in the candy box
to devil you after you sucked down all
the others, left this sorry orphan among
tousled wrappers? Or is poetry the candy
box itself, brimming with little secrets
of cream, bits of coconut, nougat—
silver-wrapped divas so tempting
you must undress them? Or is poetry
the lover who gives you the box,
man who claims to love you, but who
hurt you so badly he had to buy you
this gaudy package, gargantuan full-pound
of vulgar calories you might as well apply
straight to your hips, hips this lover
has been hesitant to stroke, knowing
you’re so mad at him one touch may
leave him without a hand? Poetry might be
those hips all the glossy-covered magazines
want you to diet away, making you smooth,
flawless, utterly useless. But poetry is the flaw
that makes your hips want the candy,
that makes your lover think he can soothe you
with a store-bought box he didn’t even wrap,
the anger makes you throw away everything else
he’s ever given you, tossing each ring and necklace
and corset out of the window to land in the street,
ready to be picked clean by anyone stumbling by.
Maureen Tolman Flannery
Where Time Faltered
Outside Mantua, Italy, archeologists unearthed
a pair of human skeletons from the Neolithic period
locked in embrace.
Of course they were lovers.
It was land that would come to be Italy.
Complicit sun peered through poplars and warmed
suggestive paths among not-yet-domesticated olive trees.
They had raced away from their day’s tasks—
his hunting the four-point stag,
hers gathering the plumpest blackberries.
Needing no fermented juice to feel intoxicated,
she maneuvered through barbed rose vines
which future millennia would coax into bearing grapes
and met him there, in a grove of trees,
bird busy and humming with summer air.
They whispered and sang in imitation
of the nightingale that discovered their love
and announced it to observant clouds.
Late into the morning, lying entwined,
they ate scrub kumquats off each other’s tongues.
He combed her long dark locks with parted fingers
as his lips followed the golden trough
from her shoulder blades to where he licked salt
at the two shallow pools between her hips.
She waded waist-deep into his eyes and retreated
to the beach of sky so she could breathe again.
Time, confounded by arrangement of their limbs,
could find neither its bearings nor its stride.
As desire wound a wild vine around their adoration,
bound them to that indentation in the grass,
Time, unable to pass by, drowsed, yawned
and settled in beside them
for a brief, five-thousand-year sleep.
At the Caliente Tropics Resort
in the whirlpool, the Canadian
man who’s hitting on Robyn
tells us he sells high-end
meats at a very high-end mall,
tells us Elvis used to come
here in its heyday, and the Rat Pack too.
He’s telling us, us girls,
and his nephew whose name
he can’t tell us. We are all—
the four of us, and the hot tub—
under a big, tiki-lit
Easter Island mask of shitty
fake wood, and I forgot
my bathing suit so I
have to sit on the edge of the scratchy
white tub, with my skirt rutched up
and just my legs in the pool.
(I push Robyn’s back with my toes
in time to his crassest
comments.) But, up here
I’ve got a better view
than everyone and as I
stare past the plastic yellow
slats of the lounge chairs, and see the snow
slope against sand-covered
mountains, while pine trees stretch
in needled worship underneath,
back to the meat dude I think I can see
the six-point flash of Sammy
Davis’ necklace as he jumps
off the pink diving board in the big
pool. And maybe the ruin of blue
suede shoes, floating where Elvis
flung them in its shallow end.
So there could’ve been a heyday.
was a caravan of gypsies without country—
rucksacks of clavicle, of salt-licked crimson,
slivers of silvered skin crossing palm,
a faded deck of tarot, fingertipped and risking
the upturned card of fool.
Every border crossing claimed a changeling,
that twitched with every touch
of othered skin.
Was I the stolen child or were you?
We were too tangled to tell.
The gypsies passed and cast a tarantella to our bones.
In the morning they are searching for a homeland.
In the morning we trace their tracks like reading braille,
like telling fortunes,
like the newly baptized wanting so much
They pronounced your death on voicemail
They took your children away
They fed you syringes filled with angry junk
Curled spoons you heated
On wintry midnights
They shackled you to backyard porches
They broke you under an ellipsis of stars
They sold you to the calculus of need
They dragged you through filthy ditches
They branded you
They shamed you
They swelled your veins into a network of slums
Your eyes once crimson and brilliant
Like gilded narcotics
Your smiles once twisted and meandering
Like wild foliage
Only to become weights of whelps
Hung heavy on your face
They flogged you with silence
So you could scream for them
They pointed with pride
To the alleys you haunted for them
They put dime bags in your hands
So you could long for them
What from the neighborhood where they’ve made you
What from the world they’ve coaxed from you
What angers them
Making them resentful, vicious
What panics them
Into seizures of woozy clouds
Today they shout curses at you
But I only hear your long, retreating
So ashamed, so beautiful, so lost
Your burdened voice
Clashing against blunt shingles of the night
What Your Dad’s Underpants Have to Do With Space Travel
Been thinking of the astronaut who drifted away
in his capsule, still drifting in the huge space out there,
part of a loop. Eighty-five years old,
going bony, brain splat on the steel hatch,
mouth in a slush, thighs running around the cabin.
Written off by the Russian government in 1960.
Nobody wants to think of him this way. It’s better
not to think of some things, like your dad’s underpants.
“Where is the good in my dad’s underpants?” you ask.
“And what’s it got to do with astronauts?”
Which reminds me: he must have been wearing underpants.
It’s not all about spacesuits, radar, physics.
Nobody wants to admit that sad diaper was loosed
on the universe, but it was, an artifact
of the human race, and they’ll draw conclusions, you know.
A Poem, Composed While Living on the East Coast With the Atlantic Ocean Like a Saucy Shubunkin, That Reminds Me of Living on the West Coast with the Pacific Ocean Like a Wild Mackerel
Because they taste like sex, those fish tacos
and Coronas in longneck bottles with lime,
we ordered them often, eating on the slick
outdoor deck, while listening to the fog
horn on the wharf of Pier 39, where the seals gather
to watch the tourists in Bermuda shorts
and linen shirts softened with spray from the docks
where the boats beat against each other
in the swill. We drank a toast
to the homeless with their signs saying:
we won’t lie, we need money for beer.
Honesty as refreshing as the salt water,
as tantalizing as the sound of traffic
and faint mariachi music singing me to sleep at night;
the birds of paradise that filled the vase in the dining room,
and the air, like a hot towel from the dryer,
against my naked skin. This is nostalgia:
the sandy grit under my nails.
Rabbits Keep My Father Alive
There were four: piebald, white,
a dun, one black. They have
multiplied. He leaves them loose,
and builds tunnels and lean-tos
against the tree trunks for shade,
with escape doors to the tractor shed,
and sets down little saucers of water.
He warns them about the owls and foxes,
but won’t cage them. And never tries
to touch them. This is all he offers—
companionship and snacks.
The long summer evenings sneak up on him.
He snaps and tosses carrots.
His rabbits emerge shyly,
and eat in full view.
They rise and sniff,
the males slamming the ground
with their hind legs. The youngsters careening.
They have black currant eyes.
He talks to them about dead friends,
about his favorite dogs that died,
about his strange, aging children,
and his old girl friends growing plainer
and older by the week.
He tells his rabbits about landing
at Anzio, the sound of bombs,
the faces of the unsaved, the long ship ride
home from Naples. Flinging carrots,
he stumbles through scraps of Italian,
arias he used to sing.
He often imagines his own body
covered in rabbits’ fur.
It lets him feel his way into
the brevity of their lives.
In the spring of 1995, I suddenly found myself spun by the Buddha right off the wheel of life, down to New York City, where I was a jook-sing, an American born Chinese. Who knew what the heavenly one’s purpose was for this, but I had to adjust to my new life. I’d already lived two previous existences that I could remember—running a pressing machine day and night at a laundry to put two sons through college, and I’d been a child prodigy playing the violin to magnificent applauding crowds at Carnegie Hall—so I knew about being a model minority. However, what else there was to learn about being Asian in America, I couldn’t yet say. And for reasons unknown to me, one evening that first month, as the television beamed out the CBS logo of the western round eye, I sat waiting breathlessly on a pillowed couch, struggling to be comfy with my feet up and shoes off, letting the air flow between my tired toes. I was twenty-three years old and working at The Gap, and of all things, as the six o’clock news flickered onto the screen in beautiful many-pixelled Technicolor, my eyes gazed longingly, waiting with great anticipation for the woman who was now the goddess of my rife imagination: Connie Chung.
Yes, I couldn’t say why, but in my mind and heart Connie was my dark-haired beauty, my treasure, my China doll. Her porcelain smooth rounded face rivaled any woman’s as far as I was concerned, my ears listened intently for the playful lilt of her adorable cute voice, and don’t forget the perkiness of her smile or her beautiful almond-shaped eyes. To me she was such a media icon and high glamour woman, so why shouldn’t I, like Maury Povich, desire her for my very own?
For those of you deep in the Asian American know, forget about how Connie had been avoiding the AAJA (Asian American Journalists’ Association) for several years. She’d simply been busy getting to the top of the news heap and staying there. You should also recall how she was only the second anchor woman in all of network history, though I rated her first, far ahead of Barbara Walters, of course. Yes, at her peak Connie had power, money, fame, her voice an integral part of the daily news spotlight of our nation. So on the evening I’ve been telling you about, as I sat waiting for the news hour, my eyes desperately needed to be soothed.
Connie didn’t appear, though, and my heart began to ache. Perhaps she was on assignment at some far–off locale, questioning the President or other heads of state, or she might have suddenly caught strep throat or the flu, or been caught in a traffic tangle. Needless to say, I grabbed the telephone directory and posthaste called the local CBS affiliate, WCBS. “Can you tell me,” I asked, “if anything’s happened to Connie Chung?”
“There’s nothing wrong, but haven’t you heard?”a secretary asked in first-rate nasal Brooklyn accent.
My entire body instantly trembled. “Heard what?”
“The bombing in Oklahoma City. She’s headed there. Watch the late night news.”
“Thank you,” I said, but the secretary had already hung up.
That fateful day of April 19, I watched the initial late night news accounts from Oklahoma City, and the reports of the fatalities and the pictures of grieving parents and relatives made me feel awful. Who would commit such a crime? Why would they? I gripped the arm of my couch like I was belted into a rocket and taking off and suddenly thought of how other bombs might be about to explode. Why wasn’t Dan Rather taking the assignment? “Oh, my God!” I exclaimed. “Oh, my Connie!”
But later that night she materialized upon my Sony Trinitron screen, vivid and beautiful, hastening back and forth among a sea of vans, trucks, satellite dishes and Winnebagos, talking with the families revived her hard-hitting uncompromising, get-to-the-truth journalistic instincts. It was, after all, the same unflinching seriousness that had first launched her reporting career. “Are you worried,” she asked a police official,
“that crime might be rampant elsewhere in Oklahoma City while all the rescue teams are downtown? Is your municipality prepared for this kind of crisis?”
I knew instinctively how Connie’s concern and care for all of us provoked her severe line of questioning. She didn’t want any more harm done. Not there or in any other unsecure metropolis. But the people of Oklahoma City believed she was unfairly impugning the police, and that while doing so she was just plain getting in the way. Some self-righteous clod remarked on camera that she shouldn’t be critiquing the auhorities while everyone else was still focused on searching for survivors or just beginning the ordeal of mourning for the dead. By the next morning, I saw photographs in The New York Times of outraged Oklahomans wearing
“WHO THE HELL IS CONNIE CHUNG?” T-shirts.
As if that controversy wasn’t enough, Connie had apparently burrowed under Dan Rather’s collar too, because he was on the scene now, stoic, grim-faced, reporting for CBS instead, speaking with eloquent
compassion for the community of Oklahoma City and the security
of all the free world. He’d been on vacation, but this—now this was news—and clearly it had to be his news.
Two days later, Connie and Dan returned to studio headquarters in New York, and any of you could see the harsh fate of Chung-Rather in the making. When Connie read the headlines from the teleprompter, Dan appeared dismissive, barely interested; like a married couple sinking towards divorce, the spark was gone—they had no on-air dynamic or verbal chemistry anymore—and gossip soon leaked out that Connie had been told to hurry to the blast site while Dan had been told not to go. The New York Post reported that he’d given management a stern tongue lashing afterwards, saying, “We have to work something out so that we don’t have this situation develop again. If something like that breaks, I want to be in on it.”
The jealous backstabber, I thought. He’s killing her. And with all my being, I wanted to whisk myself there, to protect her and at least give her a hug. But I didn’t act, and one evening toward the end of that May I tuned in and discovered, to my horror, that CBS had removed Connie
from the broadcast entirely. The ungrateful news executive buffoons had relegated her, of all things, to weekend anchor, designating her as Rather’s substitute anchor.
“It’s not right!” I hollered, feeling despondent, if not obliterated.
“How can they shine the spotlight on her, and then just yank it away?”
The only person I knew away from work was Monique, a young woman whose hair was cut in a bob, her green eyes as pretty as jade—she lived in the apartment directly across the hall— and she must have heard my raised voice, because she knocked on my door, asking, “Are you alright?”
The interruption startled me, but so did looking at Monique; she was a stick-thin model with the longest legs and most delicate arms, who always appeared to be starving herself. She wore the shortest skirt, and her silk blouse was seductively unbuttoned down to the wisps of her cleavage. “I’m fine,” I said, trying to be brave and strong, “but how are you?”
“Let me know if you need anything, or if you ever want to go out for a drink,” she said, winked at me, and began to back away, as if the invitation somehow almost exceeded her own flirtatious boundaries.
“Thanks,” I said, but gently closed the door.
I thought Monique was—well, nice—but Connie remained the only woman for me, and since she was still gone from the airwaves, in no time my mood swung low. Through the subsequent days, I felt weak, my eyes growing dim, nausea often enveloping me, and strange unfamiliar desperate feelings of hunger and need rived my body and mind. It was as if I’d been seized by a curse or a spell, and when I worked at The Gap the feelings of hunger and need increased, growing out of control, burgeoning like dandelions proliferating across a meadow.
Yes, Connie’s absence was rough, becoming increasingly difficult, and one evening that same week upon finishing my shift at the cash register, without Connie to return home to, my entire being felt abandoned, if not hopelessly lost. Depressed, heartsick, I sat in my Honda Accord, and for some reason gently removed my contact lenses and withdrew from the glove box my spare pair of black, thick-framed glasses with heavy lenses. Once I put them on, after turning the key and starting the engine, I laughed for the first time in weeks, pulled out to merge with the dizzying swarms of vile Manhattan traffic, and cut someone off, but didn’t care. At the first intersection as the light turned yellow, when my foot hit the brake pedal to be cautious, tires screeched behind me, and someone yelled, “You Goddam jerk! Learn how to drive!”
Not knowing where the words stemmed from, I hissed, “I’ll show you some bad driving.”
As the light turned green, the cursing driver sped by and gave me the finger, but I gunned the accelerator, flew by him, and shot him the finger back. In the next moment a compass within my mind guided my hands where to steer; an irresistible urge compelled me to cut someone off, so I wrenched the steering wheel and swerved into the far left lane, nearly colliding with a Mazda Miata. “You asshole!” the driver shouted, but I laughed, veered far right, and my front bumper scraped against a parked BMW. A siren wailed behind me—I imagined being pulled over and beaten like Rodney King, but thought, not this time—and took a hard left down a one-way street into oncoming traffic. After dodging six oncoming cars, then making another left and burning rubber down a back street, I no longer heard anyone pursuing me.
Now I smelled something familiar and drove another block. I smiled, realizing my hunger had been for Chinese food. The restaurant appeared, a little joint called General Tso’s—you know the cheap kind of place—and oh yes, this place had a bright red and green neon sign advertising take out and an all-you-can-eat buffet.
My parallel parking dented fenders ahead of and behind me, but laughing, faster than an Olympian sprinter, I entered the restaurant. The aroma of hot cooking oil and stir-fried vegetables and beef wafted heavily from the kitchen, arousing my senses. “I’ll have the buffet, please,” I said and paid at the counter. Walking the buffet line, careful not to singe my eyebrows on the orange heat lamps, I piled spare ribs, fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, chow mein and chop suey on my plate, the food reaching high like a Tibetan mountain. My craving for this Chinese junk food felt endless, despite my knowing how such fare would never be cooked or served so in China. Seated alone at a small square table, I stuffed myself like an opossum storing fat for the longest, most dreadful winter, and swallowing a piece of pineapple from the sweet and sour—it was probably Dole, from Hawaii—I still felt the strange desperate feelings of need. I didn’t know why, or what lesson I was supposed to be learning, but I asked myself, how is this type of eating like being drawn to Connie? What do the two desires have in common?
Interrupting my contemplation, a gray-shirted waiter walked over to the table. Since he didn’t speak English, he sounded unintelligible, but as if volume would help, I spoke louder than normal and asked: “WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?”
He made a pouring motion then mimicked drinking.
“I’LL HAVE TEA!” I replied.
The waiter hurried off like immigration agents had to be chasing after him, or like he couldn’t possibly be a citizen or possess a green card. Eventually, he returned with a silver metal teapot, and in spite of how much I proceeded to eat and drink, the strange desperate feelings of need persisted like a mysterious problem with no end in sight.
After the meal, the waiter presented the American–invented ritual fortune cookie, so my fingers tore the cellophane wrapper off greedily. Reading the fortune, “Many delights await you,” like it was a sacred text, I added the words “in bed,” and laughed hysterically—as if I were so superior—at my appropriation of American wit, then waddled out of the restaurant believing how in only a few hours hunger would strike me again.
The sun was fading now, as evening shrouded the city, I couldn’t say why the idea of driving home fell perilous and ill-advised. A growl emanated from someplace within me, and wanting to know where it originated from, and why, and still missing Connie, I drove for blocks and blocks until a lit marquee in Mid-town caught my eye. After my foot jammed on the brake pedal again, I swerved to the curb and stared at the theatre, a formerly glamorous nightspot, where dead center on the marquee the revered words, ENTER THE DRAGON, were displayed in huge red-block letters. The movie title spoke deeply to some part of me, urging me inside. The allure felt ominous, somehow misleading, but I shut off the engine and hopped out of my car. Quicker than a spinning kick, I bought a ticket, raced into the dark, sat down, slouched back in a tattered maroon velvet seat, and started watching the man, the master, Bruce Lee.
The plot of Enter The Dragon is this: Bruce is asked by his superiors to travel for the good of his country to a mysterious island where—surprise—a grand martial arts tournament is being held. A white man who murdered Bruce’s sister also happens to be one of the combatants. So the movie promised to be as cathartic as therapy, but all through the film as Bruce heroically destroyed each opponent in one glorious fight scene after another to restore the equilibrium of justice, the same growl that I’d heard earlier persisted within me. What did watching such a cinematic classic have to do with Connie? I wondered.
Once the movie ended, as if my unexplained feelings of need and the strange growling weren’t enough, when I exited the theatre the street appeared empty except for several sinister figures leaning against my Honda, putting their greasy hands on the windows and doors and hood. Suddenly we weren’t in New York anymore; we stood surrounded by flower gardens in the middle of a huge courtyard, and the scent of lotus blossoms clogged my nose. A sprawling palace with a pagoda-style roof loomed ominously in the background, and as the loud striking of a gong filled the air the vibrations penetrated to my bones. Instantly my shirt and nerdy glasses disappeared, so I stood there bare-chested in black cloth-soled shoes, and as if on cue my muscles rippled out. Not just my biceps and pectorals, but muscles in places where I hadn’t known there could be muscles.
The men who’d been leaning on my Honda surrounded me. Issuing guttural cries, leaping, kicking, I flew through the air, and my feet struck jaws, abdomens, groins, and snapped a leg or two. No one could so much as land a blow against me, and using my invincible fists, I needed only a few punches to subdue each attacker. As if I had eyes like a fly’s, no one snuck up from behind, and when more attackers appeared, I did back flips, tumbled forward, and escaped anyone’s grasp until only one attacker remained. He was a colossus with no neck who looked as if he’d been raised on steroids or locked up forever in a World’s Gym. He glared at me now, no doubt wanting to rip my arms, legs and head off, but my fists shot through space so rapidly I struck him ten times before he could lift a finger. He fell to the ground and groaned, and I turned my back, mercifully sparing his life.
Something told me not to trust him, though. I knew he would probably pull himself up and rush towards me. After a few seconds, he did. But then a growl came from within me—primal, savage, unbridled—and escaped loudly from my mouth because it was the death yell, formerly issued straight from Bruce Lee’s mouth. I’d seen it in the movie, yet now it was embraced by me, embodying me, utterly alive and thriving in me, and within seconds all of my spiritual and physical energy and all of the forces of honor were unleashed through my fists in one incomparable punch. I sent the colossus to the ground again; he fell harder than a redwood tree struck by a final axe blow, and blood gushed from his lips. As I surveyed all of the attackers who had died trying to defeat me, I felt no remorse. Each and every one of them, I realized, should have known better, because don’t all Asians know the martial arts?
My muscles unrippled, and I stepped back into the Honda. New York’s streets materialized for me to drive down again, and my hand switched on the radio from which no songs played, and I heard only one voice, identical to my own, like a haunting refrain, asking, “For whom? For Connie Chung?”
The longing to return home flooded my emotions, but where I lived remained a mystery to my brain. Driving south, I sideswiped a Cadillac, next a Volvo, and before realizing how far I’d traveled I reached Mott Street, the Asian landmark of landmarks, in the very heart of Chinatown.
This was America’s cinematic depiction of Chinatown, the streets dark, shadowy, with rats and monkeys racing across the sidewalks, and Tongs, the oriental Mafia, were waging a hatchet war. But I parked the Honda, climbed out, and my eyes peered through walls and saw men lounging in a room smoking glass opium pipes, and gazing through the pavement, I discerned a room far below where men stood crammed shoulder to shoulder at gambling tables, risking every cent they’d ever earned.
Further down the sidewalk a golden door opened by itself, inviting me in. I entered, passed through beaded curtains, proceeded down a long hallway and waited between rice paper walls until someone ushered me into a small room. Roland Winters, the white actor with taped eyebrows, stood playing Charlie Chan with an inscrutable expression, withholding the solution to a heinous crime. Bald-headed Shao Lin priests instructed David Carradine how to speak slowly and appear curious
for his starring role in Kung Fu. Pat Morita was uttering the most famous yet meaningless line of his career, “Wax on, wax off,” for The Karate Kid, and soon I overheard the actor Victor Sea Yung as Hop Sing on Bonanza, quarreling with Bruce Lee as Kato on The Green Hornet and George Takei as Sulu on Star Trek, saying, “Mistah Cahtright, he say Hop Sing a bettah second banana than you or you!”
Across the room, B.D. Wong as Dr. George Huang of Law & Order: SVU, Special Victims Unit, pleaded in the softest, most untraditionally masculine voice, “Detective Munch, if you’ll just listen, I’ll give you the best psychological profile you’ve ever heard.”
But Robert Ito, Dr. Sam Fugiyama of Quincy, the coroner show, shook his head back and forth like he could win any worst sidekick contest without trying, because Jack Klugman stood behind him whining, “Come on, Sam. I’ve got a date, and you don’t. So cut that body now! Hurry! I need those tissue samples right away!”
I wanted to be sick, but at the end of the room a slim man sat behind a polished mahogany empire desk, his face partially hidden in the dark.
“Don’t I know you?” I said.
“Yes,” the man answered. “I’ve been on television for years and years, as well as in countless movies.” He leaned forward, and I saw he had silver hair, but his face was a younger man’s, and he wore a black linen tailored suit, then flowing silk robes. A cigarette materialized in his mouth, and evil shone in his eyes. An episode of The X-Files in which poor Chinese men had gambled using their internal organs as collateral flashed through my mind—yes, I’d seen him there too. His name, I suddenly realized, was James Hong; he was the most ubiquitous Asian American character actor of all time, always the criminal mastermind, always the mysterious shadowy figure plotting away behind the scenes, the one who forever sternly commanded, “Kill him.”
“Goodbye, Chinese Godfather,” I said, turning to leave, because my body couldn’t stop trembling.
“You could stay here, you know,” he offered.
“You don’t have to go, because no matter what happens, I’ll be with you through eternity. And it won’t matter if there are Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, or Pilipino actors, or any other race from the East. I’ll be there, playing each and every one of them, and it will last forever.”
“Why?” I asked.
“You know,” he said. “Everyone on the other side has thought of it at one time or another. Because all Asians look the same!” He laughed like the epitome of evil, and the haunting sound of his cruel string of laughter lingered in my ears, so I felt as if a camera had been rolling, capturing us on film, and I was afraid the scene might somehow be repeated in my mind incessantly, like a form of brainwashing or mind control, in the same way that television episodes are aired again and again.
I felt distraught, uncertain. What else was I supposed to learn now? For what purpose? Part of my thoughts asked, Why, Buddha? Why? Unable to stay in the room with Hong for another second, I dashed back onto Mott Street. The hour was very late, prompting me to worry about being on time at The Gap the next morning, and since the location of my apartment was no longer a mystery to my brain, I stepped back into the Honda and started to drive.
If only that had been the last night of my missing Connie so badly. But enlightenment wasn’t mine yet, and within days Connie accused CBS of sexism, so in retaliation, Eric Ober, President of the News Division, adamantly insisted that the two person anchor concept simply hadn’t worked. Connie refused to take a smaller role, boldly stating, “It’s inappropriate for the only woman on the three major network news programs
to have anything less than coequal status!”
“This is not, and was not, a gender issue,” Dan Rather replied, his voice as droll and pathetic as ever.
But in my eyes, Connie’s demotion was all about chauvinism and misogyny. Who was there but Rather at CBS, Jennings at ABC, and Brokaw at NBC? Connie’s on-screen presence might be near its permanent end, but I backed her all the way when she demanded, “I want a mutually agreeable separation from the network.”
Still, for days—foolishly, secretly—I held onto the slender hope that somehow CBS might reconsider. “Connie,” they needed to declare, “we’re wrong! We need you!” But as life turned out, without her on the air that month, the news ratings plummeted. Ober didn’t rehire her, though, because to do so would have amounted to an admission of guilt.
I found myself crying incessantly but challenged myself, asking, is this what Connie would do?
Standing tall, I marched in front of CBS headquarters, holding up a sign that proclaimed: BRING BACK CONNIE CHUNG! My protest stretched into days, and then weeks, and although deserving at least a photo and a caption in The Star, or some footage on local news, the only person who seemed to notice me was my neighbor, Monique. She brought sandwiches and coffee, telling me I was brave. But the only result of the was my being fired from The Gap, due to excessive absences.
Then on June 20th, 1995, I woke to discover in T.V. Guide that Connie would not be returning to any network. At least not soon. She and Maury Povich—that lucky dog—had adopted a baby and named him Matthew Jay Povich. They appeared to be the happiest people on earth, joy prevalent upon their smiling, blissful faces, while my life only felt like it was deteriorating, crumbling apart like a sand dune being struck by a storm tide. That following week, my sense of abandonment was the worst, and I tried to tell myself that loneliness could become my good close friend, but without Connie I simply couldn’t bear the waking hours or the evening news. At night I wailed, “How could you leave me?” And as the pain of withdrawal intensified, I tried to cope by watching Kristi Yamaguchi ice skate her way to peerless Asian American artistry and perfection, but she wasn’t enough. No, she wasn’t the same, not even close, and also the urges to drive badly and eat at General Tso’s or practice the martial arts or return to Chinatown entered my mind, but none of it seemed comparable to Connie.
I pulled the shades down and sat for weeks on end in front of my television, always ending up on the floor, weeping, curled tightly into a fetal position. Why, Buddha! Why? I began sleeping long hours, venturing out only to buy groceries, and ignored anyone knocking at the door. Stacks of bills quickly began to accumulate, so I began working from my apartment, freelance writing for a midwest greeting card company. They raved about my poignant Valentine’s Day inscriptions like: “Darling, I’ll love only you forever,” and “No one makes me feel like you do in my heart.” Of course, Connie was my muse, inspiring each and every line.
Two years of solitude passed, and Connie’s absence from the airwaves felt more awful than death. I wondered even more about the purpose of my existence in this life. But one evening I heard on Entertainment Tonight that she was returning front and center for ABC News. I couldn’t believe it; I felt elated. The show was 20/20, and sure enough, when I first saw her on the screen she looked ravishing, pure gorgeous, and for a brief interlude it seemed as if she’d never left. Her comeback made me want to buy new clothes and dine out and dance until all hours, to make the scene and be seen, but the smallest part of me was wary, somehow knowing better, having already become so deeply depressed and hurt by her prior dismissal. So I reserved my feelings and held myself back, not returning to public life. I left that burden to Connie.
She lived up to it, staying with ABC for five years, so like a betrayed lover learning to trust again, I contemplated a comeback of my own. Monique’s door opened once as I darted out to buy groceries; she stood there, thinner and as revealing as ever, wearing designer jeans and a cashmere sweater, and she exclaimed, “I haven’t seen you in ages! Why don’t you drop by for a drink?”
I accepted, because I didn’t want to be rude, and because maybe what I did need was more real human contact. But a few hours later, that evening, as I sat down on her couch, she snuggled closer to me and whispered something I would never forget, “You know, I’ve always wanted to be with you. I have this thing. It’s a fetish. For Asian guys.”
A fetish? I didn’t know what she meant. But at that moment, the word felt strange, and Monique looked at me with all too much lust in her eyes, like I was a trophy or something to be won, like I wasn’t a feeling person and she didn’t want to know me for me. I sprang from the couch, bolted from her apartment like a gazelle trying to outrun a lunging tiger, inferring that she truly would have eaten me alive.
That very same week, Connie began hosting her own show on CNN, Connie Chung Tonight. I could see her struggling to return to form, wanting to be investigative and hard-hitting again, like during her youthful days, but the producers wouldn’t allow it. As a result she floundered—it’s never her fault; some insipid paper-pushing moron always has it in for her—so within weeks, she was fired again, let go, my lamb once more at the mercy of the world’s wolves.
To lose her twice felt like too much, and for a long while I only saw her on an episode of The View (the show that can never keep an Asian sister). But in January of 2006 she began appearing regularly on Weekends With Maury and Connie. Could Weekends be enough? Another executive moron cancelled Weekends, though, and in April of 2006 the news broke that Katie Couric was leaving The Today Show to join CBS and anchor the network evening newscast alone. It should have been Connie! She paved the way! Not little miss blue-eyed Katie Couric! Was there no decency left? Didn’t anyone care about the world?
Sobbing, facing the television that evening, I felt forced by the announcement to sit and contemplate who I had become. What was my purpose? What lesson had the Buddha hoped for me to learn? I paced, stared in the mirror for hours, wrote my thoughts down day and night in a leather-bound, key-locking black Moleskine journal, and despite how all the introspection felt more arduous than working at The Gap, I sensed the truth awaited me. Why, I asked myself one morning, was I so connected to Connie? Why did I yearn for her so badly? The only person who had shown me any admiration was Monique, and now her words about her having a fetish for me echoed in my brain. I sought out a dictionary, and after finding one in a desk drawer, sat and read that a fetish was: “an object of irrational reverence or obsessive devotion; or an object or bodily part whose real or fantasized presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression.”
I stood considering the words, their meanings, and to my horror, realizing how Monique’s affections towards me resembled my affections for Connie, I screamed. No, this couldn’t be. But oh, yes. Monique had a fetish, and I had a fetish. That’s what it was. And my fetish, I gleaned, was an Asian fetish, too.
I felt deeply ashamed. Perhaps I might have remained that way, but understanding that part or consequence of being Asian in America, I divined, was what the Buddha had intended for me to learn. And once I admitted to myself how foolish my own longings had been, I felt calmer, then nearly at peace. I opened my apartment door, wanting to share with Monique the knowledge I had gained, to try and heal her, as well. But at that moment, because the Buddha must have deemed it so, I began to fade, stepping once more out of one life, and into another.
Michelle Panik O’Neill
“Remind me how much money these people are vying for?”
Melissa looked up from her stack of contest entries. “A thousand bucks.”
“You’d think we were offering a gym sock.” Seth tossed another manuscript onto the reject pile.
“Writing is subjective,” Melissa said, carefully, as though justifying the actions of a developmentally delayed child. Privately, she thought Seth’s sentiment wasn’t far off.
Saddle Mountain Review’s short fiction contest had closed at midnight and as editor, Melissa was anxious to begin reviewing at 12:01. The journal was run by their English department, and she’d assumed the top job three months ago. This contest was her first executive decision, one she thought would innervate the journal. But partway through prose with overly wrought tragic anti-heroes and symbolism so ubiquitous it took on a Dada quality, Melissa was less enthused.
She’d enlisted the help of Seth Walker, the only person who’d open envelopes and scan prose with her at midnight. They’d dated for three years, moving in together after two months. For the next two years and two months they impersonated married people, tag-teaming laundry and cooking dinner together. But when Melissa started writing her dissertation, she realized graduation was imminent and that this middle-aged life she’d started prematurely would continue indefinitely. So she broke it off in favor of fast food and capricious nights out. Usually, though, she just stayed home, working on her dissertation or the journal. She told herself she shouldn’t be with him, but yet wasn’t sure how to be without him. Which was why, with the exception of separate living quarters, their relationship hadn’t changed. It was also why they sat in this converted grad student office while everyone was at the bar.
So far, Melissa had read three blind-date fish-out-of-water stories and six man-against-himself tales that chronicled twenty-somethings with unhappy (yet privileged) childhoods and regular therapy sessions. “Remember when good literature was as satisfying as sex?”
He laughed. “Speak for yourself.”
But Seth had once told her that reading “The Wasteland” was like a multiple orgasm. He’d reinvented himself since their breakup, from a lyric to language poet. He grew a goatee and entered a poetry slam. But he’d still submit to sleeping with her any time she’d ask.
Seth put his feet up on the desk, newspaper editor style, and said, “Notebook Fraternity cancelled their contest because the entries weren’t up to snuff. You still have time.”
But Melissa didn’t want to admit to having made another mistake.
“There has to be something here.” She heaved another crate of envelopes onto the desk. Seth had given up his evening to read these ghastly stories, and she was going to make his sacrifice worthwhile.
She couldn’t cancel what’d been between them; there was no refund process. She couldn’t issue him a voucher for a haircut and change of clothes that would return him to what he’d been. All she could do was paw through more entries, looking for something to salvage.
Arañita Cobriza Fantasy Crónica
30 de noviembre, 2007
Inland Imperio de Califas
For Wim “OomBata” Lindeque
Te pedí que eligieras un lugar en el mundo, un lugar ideal para transportarme, transportarnos. Si fuera un mundo ilimitado, I’d have asked you to just drive, straight through to Joshua Tree. Amo el desierto;
aprendí last year que you do too. Pero como el mundo siempre quiere invadir nuestros secret gardens, con sus clausuras, we had a time limit, after all.
With you, time always flows y se detiene a la vez. It brushes over me, casi imperceptible, cual ala de gran ave protector; it whirls around me, vórtice, vertiginous yet transfixing.
Me dijiste que you wouldn’t know where to take me. Pero it was you who said, how about el Jardín Botánico? You did know where to take me, after all. Exactly. (How did you know?)
Caminamos. Sentimos el olor de las native-to-the-southwest plantas: la salvia. My homecoming scent. The soft dryness of mimosa-powdery dust bajo los eucaliptos y pinos. En vano buscamos las palmeras. You had promised to take me there. Pero, ¿las buscamos, realmente? ¿Qué buscamos? I think maybe we were just looking to get lost. Como en esa Chet Baker song.
En un momento bien Hansel y Gretel, vi un banquito bajo la sombra de unos pinos gigantescos. This place felt different, mucho más northern Califas. It was at the end of a gravel path, sheltered, secreto. El banco era weird. It was sweetly curved; it cupped our nalgas, enveloped us, nos acurrucó. Creo que hablamos de Sudáfrica. De la infancia y nuestros libros, sueños, miedos. Estuvimos en silencio and it was cloudlike. Caían las hojas, soft as feathers en la leve brisa invernal. Woodpeckers and doves made their sounds, industriosos o sosegantes. A lo lejos, una sierra. Strangely, no nos invadía. Llegó a ser como una manta.
Sentí intensamente tu presencia, como antes, the pressure of your body on mine. Macizo. Warm. Sentí el pulso en mi garganta. Me sentí a la vez flotante y anclada.
Con los brazos entrelazados, my bare forearm resting ever so lightly across your thighs, me observaste de repente una minúscula araña en la mano. You know about me and bears. ¿Te había contado alguna vez de las arañas? They don’t frighten me at all; me intrigan.
El tiempo se detuvo entonces, en un surprising, hypnotic lull. Esa teensy copper-red spider, like a pinprick of blood, traced her path, allegorically, over our outstretched, yearning, interlaced fingers, palms, wrists. Nuestros dedos seguían, tentatively, deseantes, su caminito.
Luego caminamos de nuevo, overtaken by hunger, conscientes del tiempo. Pausamos, close to a rough-hewn gate looking into a ranch, viendo pasar vehículos que yo te recordaba eran como los safari guide jeeps, for game spotting. Quise imaginar que we were back in Africa. We stood there for a while y era romántico, old West-ish, bien cowboy-like. That dusty North American panorama, el viento frío en la piel, frío a pesar del sol. Leaning on that fence y mirándonos de reojo. Out of the corner of my eye mirarte as you lounged, felino, sólo un flash of skin entre tus lowslung Levis y el Tshirt.
Hubo esto y mucho más. Hubo la parte por ejemplo, still huddled
together, en ese banco, cuando te comencé a contar, haltingly, con los ojos cerrados a veces para mejor recordar (para esquivar sólo un poco—I confess—la dizzyingly close intensidad de tu gaze), fragmentos de un sueño.
Pero contarte ese y otros sueños es otro encuentro, otra crónica. A desert drive, quizás. For now, me quedo con esa arañita.
Hawk Call Crónica
Esta mañana, I saw a pair of hawks. No. Primero los escuché: their wild, Native American, shrill calls punzaron la semi-calma de otra anodine mañana en el Evil. El Inland Empire de Califas. Digo semi-calma porque hace semanas que I’m daily assailed by a sense of dread. La definición misma de la anguhtia. Is this “generalized anxiety disorder,” ¿o alguna forma menor, más suave?
Ni modo. Whatever it’s called, I have it. No hay razón, uno diría. Pero its very unreason es la naturaleza de la bestia. A sense of foreboding dogging me, always already (pace Derrida . . .) detached, severed from—y anterior a—cualquier fuente reconocible.
Salí al patio para regar. Weirdly, there was a close, dense grey, southern sky. Como si estuviéramos, en cambio, en Charleston. Or, why not, en Buenos Aires en febrero. Arriba, en las ramas bajas del enorme pine tree, justo al otro lado del fence, I caught the flash of plump, downy-white avian nalgas, the powerful black-speckled grey plumes of flecha-straight tail feathers. They moved among the branches; they fluttered and screeched and wheeled. Definitely halcones de algún tipo. Red-tailed hawks? I’ve always loved them. Sort of feared them, también, aunque casi siempre se les ve way up en el aire, a swooping dark speck, al lado de la Highway 101, por ejemplo, on any south-to-north Califas road trip.
Salí al patio para regar. Weirdly, there was a close, dense grey, southern sky. Como si estuviéramos, en cambio, en Charleston. Or, why not, en Buenos Aires en febrero. Arriba, en las ramas bajas del enorme pine tree, justo al otro lado del fence, I caught the flash of plump, downy-white avian nalgas, the powerful black-speckled grey plumes of flecha-straight tail feathers. They moved among the branches; they fluttered and screeched and wheeled. Definitely halcones de algún tipo. Red-tailed hawks? I’ve always loved them. Sort of feared them, también, aunque casi siempre se les ve way up en el aire, a swooping dark speck, al lado de la Highway 101, por ejemplo, on any south-to-north Califas road trip.
Pero hoy, I saw them. Clear and close. Garras, picos, powerful wings. One soared to an adjacent eucalyptus, pero como que no le daba suficiente shelter. It circled, volvió al pino and settled in again, calling to the other one all the while. In dizzyingly close detalle los observé. Tan wild, tan próximos al predecible humdrumness de mi pequeño patio suburbano.
Suddenly, del otro lado del gate, por una ranura vertical, there was an eye: its gaze met mine. Se me cayó la garden hose de la mano. It was five, maybe even 8 seconds, se me hace, before I recognized la pupila,
strangely small and hard para la too-soft (for So. Califas) morning light: el Juvenil.
Me sentí curiosamente detached, flotante. Se me ocurrió que esa pareja de hawks was you and me: solitarios, together. Criaturas ariscas que, sin embargo, nest together. Never quite retracting del todo las garras. Primed and ready, para en cualquier momento despellejar al enemigo. Any interloper. We are inward, insular, en estos días. More fiercely self-protective than ever, parece. . .
I used to think I would do anything para el Juvenil. The line from that Irish movie, Cal, remember, cuando el John Lynch le pregunta a la Kate Nelligan (or, coño, it’s gone fuzzy on me: was it Helen Mirren, after all? You’d think I’d remember, la Helen is one of my all-time faves, mientras que la Kate barely registers en mi al menos used-to-be memoria elefantiásica, except in that ridiculous, over-the-top spy movie con el Donald Sutherland, when he drops down on to his knees, al final, on some tarmac, y creo que la Kate le mata de un balazo, this climactic moment capping a wannabe tumultuous, passionate romance. Pero cuando lo vi con mis padres, in the Nickelodeon Theater, en Santa Cruz, y con mi prima la Lee Weiss, we all had such a fit of bone-shaking risa at that tarmac-shooting moment—los demás moviegoers creo que hasta were teary-eyed—we were almost ejected del teatro. Pero sorry, esa es otra): “Would you die for me?”
Siempre me pareció swooningly romantic, pero adaptable, de todos modos. A semaphore, a floating signifier of fierce passion. De pareja, o de madre. Either one. Pero ahora sé que no. He aprendido
que no. I’ve learned that my “anything,” en todo caso, comes with strings attached. Tipo, if you’re ready to start studying again, then we’ll . . . Or, si realmente quieres encontrar donde vivir, te . . . Y así. Porque ¿de qué serviría que yo fuera al edge with him, and right over, si a la vez me hundo a mí misma? Right?
Empedernida edge-dweller, though. Al borde de. Abrazada al acantilado, pero . . . y no. You know. Teeter-tottering por la vida: esa soy yo. Still. Siempre.
An Ear for Language
The first time I realized Ag was crazy was at Walgreens in the Port Authority. She had just returned from an eighteen month stay in Berkeley, California, the haven of hashish, hippies and hedonism in the seventies. Her yen to travel started after she had majored in French at City College. “I answered an ad in the New York Times for a position as a nanny in Paris,” Ag said, as she smoothed back her unruly red hair. “One odd thing, though, the father of the child requested a photo of me in a bathing suit, said we’d be spending lots of time at the beach.”
“Sounds odd to me, too, Ag.”
“But I need the job, great way to pay my expenses, practice my French.”
“So get a job as a waitress; you’ll cover your expenses and practice your French that way. You may even earn a few tips, but not the kind Frenchie wants to give.”
Ignoring my advice, she worked as a nanny that summer in Paris never mentioning the man for whom she worked again; in the ensuing summers she traversed the breadth of France absorbing the liberating influences of the Gauls. It seemed to me that she was shedding like a snake the repressive layers of the Bronx-Irish Catholic culture in which she had been raised. After ten years of teaching French culture and language in as many New York City public schools, Ag announced she was moving to Berkeley; for eighteen months I never heard a word from her until a balmy September afternoon, “I’m home; it’s good to hear your voice, Eileen.”
“I’m so busy reading all your letters, Ag; I hardly had time to answer the phone,” I said as I washed the last dish in the warm, sudsy water.
“I’m sorry I never wrote.”
“You’re forgiven, but you’ll have to make it up to me by telling me all about the interesting men you met. You called at the right time; we’re having a shower tonight for Rose at Diorio’s on Forty-Fifth street in Manhattan. The gang will be there. Come.”
Glad for a few moments alone after the shower, Ag and I stopped for a quick coffee in Walgreens so we could really talk. She narrated a woeful tale of yet another unrequited love tryst with a guy, an artsy Irish immigrant much older than she whom she had followed to California, a detail she had neglected to mention to me before she left.
“He treated you like trash in the Bronx, Ag; did you think California
sunshine was going to improve his character?”
“I know, I know, but that schmuck is the least of my worries now. The FBI is after me.”
“Why would the FBI be after you, of all people?”
“They’re tapping my phone and reading my mail.”
“Why are they after you?”
“Damn it, I don’t know why; they just are. I’m afraid they’ll interfere
with my getting another teaching job,” she said, placing a napkin under her cup to absorb the coffee she was continually spilling because her hand was shaking.
“Please talk softly, Eileen; he might be listening to our conversation.”
“Who?” I asked, glancing at the bearded drunk listening to the right on the stool at the end of the green formica counter.
“The waiter,” she said. A short, skinny, pimple-faced sixteen-year old refilled our coffee cups.
“Him?” I asked, laughing, my Sanka dribbling down my chin. “C’mon, Ag.”
Looking up at the octagonal clock smeared with grease, I realized
I was going to miss the last bus home. Seeing that she was upset, I invited her to come for dinner on Saturday. I hugged her and told her she probably had jet lag. As I weaved my way through the homeless sleeping on the comfy floors of the luxurious Hotel Port Authority, I wondered what the hell she had gotten involved with in Berkeley. Riding up the escalator to my bus, I felt confident that the smog and traffic of New York would fix her up in no time.
Ag looked anything but upset when she arrived at my home, red haired, relaxed and radiant in red slacks and a red mohair sweater reminding me of Lucille Ball in Auntie Mame. Ag looked as though she were reinventing herself. As I expected, she never mentioned the FBI but she did tell me she didn’t think she could return to teaching.
“I was suspended before I went to California.”
“Suspended, why didn’t you tell me then?” I stood by the sink with the kettle in my hand. “I thought we were best friends. For what?”
“Insubordination, absenteeism, lateness, no lesson plans.”
“For God’s sake, Ag, those charges were easily documented.”
“Easily documented, easily documented? Am I on trial here?
The charges were trumped up by a black principal who was scoring points for himself. Of all people, you know I was a good teacher.”
Actually I didn’t know if she had been a good teacher; even though we had taught in the same school together for a year, I had never been in her classroom, nor she in mine. “I’m sorry I bothered to come.” She sat silent through the eye-round roast beef and mashed potatoes dinner I had cooked for her. Sitting next to her at our pine dining room table, my husband and two little girls ate heartily but were baffled by her silence. I begged her to stay over so I could drive her home in the morning.
All night long I lay awake listening to her pacing back and forth downstairs in my white, beamed living room, the smell of her cigarettes wafting through the house as she chain-smoked her Marlboros. I felt ashamed that I was suddenly wary of her but I kept getting out of bed, tiptoeing into the hall to check that the door to my four and five- year-old daughters’ room was tightly shut. Totally surprised by what Ag had told me, I thought she had gotten caught up in the drug scene in Berkeley. Although I had always thought she was naive, she had been a perfectly normal kid, at least to me. I remember the fun we had to gether when I use to go to her apartment for lunch.
Her tall, Olive Oyl mother, her jet-black hair tied neatly in a bun at the nape of her neck, fussed about the yellow kitchen, the sun streaming through the dotted Swiss café curtains. “Eat more rice pudding,
Eileen. Hurry up, Agnes; stop picking the raisins out of the pudding!
You’re going to be late returning to school,” her mother spoke in a nasal tone that made me think her nose and mouth were inverted so she could avoid breathing the same air as the rest of us. I envisioned her words floating into, instead of out of, her mouth like little soldiers.
As we flew down the steps of 533, Ag pinged rice-coated raisins at me. When her wrinkled artillery ran out, she bounced her Spalding, crossing her leg over the pink sphere on every “A.” “A, my name is Agnes
and my boyfriend’s name is Andy. . .” simultaneously dodging the cars on St. Ann’s Avenue as we heard the cowbell signaling our tardiness.
As I sprinted up the street and attached myself to the fourth grade line, I could still hear Agnes, mesmerized by the rhythm of her own voice, “E my name is Ellen and . . . ” her leg turning over and over and over.
Years later Agnes’s long leg almost got caught in the revolving door of Westchester Square Hospital where we were visiting a close friend who had delivered a baby born with a cleft palate. “Your mom must have had a cleft palate,” I said.
“A cleft palate, what’s a cleft palate?” Ag asked, as we wended our way down the hall of the small marble-floored hospital.
“It’s a separation in the hard palate on the roof of the mouth; it causes speech problems.”
“Speech problems? My mother didn’t have a speech problem!” Neighbors use to say an extra decade of the rosary after Mass on Sunday to avoid exiting the church at the same time as Ag’s mother, rather than having to struggle deciphering her muffled syllables. How was it possible that Ag had never noticed it? I often thought her gift for foreign languages had developed from straining to understand the first voice she had ever heard.
Ag and I had played and had prayed together through eight years of grammar school. And on one particular occasion, we almost drowned together. It was one of those really hot days in early June when thirteen-year-olds are eager to cast off the restraints of the school year. A slight breeze rustled through the maple and sycamore trees which arched like a cathedral over Rocky Point in Pelham Bay Park where we had decided to swim out to the moored sailboats and yachts, two lone swimmers in a prohibited area. Halfway to the boats, Ag suggested we should swim back to the shore. “No way,” I said, “the boats are closer; we’ve got to reach the boats.” And so we floated, side by side, the ice blue sky ignoring our peril.
A red motorboat sped by; I waved and screamed, my voice drowned by the roar of the engine. “I can’t keep floating, Eileen, I’m exhausted.”
“Please, Ag, we’re getting closer to the boats.”
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” she prayed.
“Jesus, shut up, Ag.”
“Pray for us sinners. Now and at the hour of our death, Amen.” Even though I was ticked off at her for praying, maybe her prayers saved us. A boat finally rescued us. I will never forget the sound of Ag’s voice praying that Hail Mary as I urged her to float on her back to save energy.
But in 1975, four weeks after she ignored my dinner, angry at both the FBI and me, she finally called me at eleven p.m., “I’m furious with my mother; she’s forcing me to have a hysterectomy.”
“Do you know what time it is, Ag?” I said, grabbing my glasses to look at the time on the clock next to my bed. “How could your mother force you to have a hysterectomy? You’re thirty-four years old!” I said, as I sat up in my bed.
“Trust me, she’ll find a way.”
“Stop being so damned dramatic, are you pregnant?”
“NO, I’m not pregnant! You’re suppose to be my friend; why are you always taking the other person’s side?”
“I’m not taking anyone’s side, but the whole thing is ridiculous.
I know your mother; she would never do anything so cruel.”
Five minutes later, Ag called again, “I think my mother is in cahoots with the FBI.”
“Are you drinking, what the hell is going on? Do you know what time it is? My kids will be jumping up and down on my bed at six o’clock in the morning.” Click, she hung up again. I lay in my bed with the phone cradled in my hand wondering if I was the one who was losing my mind, my husband next to me, still sound asleep. A few weeks later, almost midnight, she called, waking me up again, “Somebody’s breaking into my apartment; I’m afraid I’m going to be raped.” Rape and burglary were not extraordinary occurrences in New York in the mid-seventies.
“Start screaming, Ag, use the fire escape, call a neighbor, call 911!”
“It’s my neighbor who’s breaking in.” I listened for noise; I heard nothing but the drone of Johnny Carson in the background.
“Calm down, Ag,” I said, throwing off my down comforter and searching for the light switch. “Listen to me; you know I’m your friend, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do.”
“You know I care about you, don’t you, Ag?”
“Yes, yes, I do.”
“Then do exactly what I say; call 911 or a cab and go to the nearest emergency room. They’ll help you. What hospital is closest to you?” I wished I wasn’t so far away from her.
For weeks I could not contact her, nor anyone in her family. I finally received a letter which brought me enormous relief because I knew she was in safe hands:
Because I have been responding to treatment, the doctors say I will
be able to go home soon. Unfortunately, my mother succeeded in her plan and now I will never have children.
Another letter arrived two weeks later:
I am happy to tell you that I will be released soon. In addition to getting an apartment near the hospital, I will also have an easy clerical job. My mother has had me lobotomized and mated with a bull. The FBI is reading my mail. Be careful what you write to me.
I ask my sister, a psychiatric nurse, if Ag will ever recover. “She’s paranoid schizophrenic; her best hope is thorazine.”
“Doesn’t it have horrible side effects?”
“Sure it does; someday she may end curled up in a corner with her tongue flapping, but at least she’ll have periods without fear. Some schizophrenics see their own bodies attacking them. Don’t be seeing her alone either; you two were always very competitive. She might be jealous of you.”
Upon hearing of Ag’s illness, a dear friend who had been our supervisor when we were rookie teachers together, told me she had recommended
that Agnes find a less stressful profession.
“She was my best friend and she never told me that; I was so upset when she left our school. Did you see signs of her illness back then?” I asked.
“No, I thought adolescents were too hard for her to handle.”
And so she bounced from school to school in the big city system until she locked horns with a principal who had either the guts, the compassion, or the patience to complete the documentation needed to suspend a teacher.
When I told my mother about Ag, she told me that Ag’s mother was the only woman she had ever known in the old neighborhood who had her husband arrested for abuse in the nineteen-fifties. “It must have been a terrible situation that forced her mother to expose the privacy of her family in that way, the poor woman.” For thirty years I had considered Ag a close friend, but she had never really shared her deepest fears with me until there was little I could do to help her.
Today, instead of waxing poetic in her beloved French, Agnes babbles about Michael the Archangel and George the Dragon Slayer. Her babbling invades my dreams.
Once again we are swimming, lost in the billows of the blue Aegean
Sea. An Adonis stops his boat to rescue us just as the bronzed sailor saved us from the murky waters of Rocky Point so long ago. Rejecting the safety of Adonis’s boat, Ag raises her right, then her left arm, in perfect arcs, pointing her fingers as though she is the star of a shimmering water ballet, her eyes glowing with serenity and wanderlust. “Give me your hand,” I say, as I try to pull her into the silver boat. But it is as though the sirens are luring her away from me and I have no wax to stuff her ears, to silence the voices that are pulling her farther and farther out to sea.
Author Bios & Q/A
In addition to providing a biography, our contributors answered the following:
1. If you could choose any superpower what would it be and why?
2. What is the best thing you can buy for a dollar?
3. Worst pickup line ever used/heard?
4. What is the most influential stuffed animal in your life?
5. What is something you wish you were allergic to?
6. What is the worst song you’ve been caught dancing to?
7. You have a million dollars and a bag full of rubber duckies what
do you do?
8. What is your favorite word?
We hope that you enjoy their answers as much as we did.
Michele Battiste is the author of two chapbooks: Raising Petra (Pudding House) and Mapping the Spaces Between (Snark). Her first full-length collection, Ink for an Odd Cartography, is forthcoming from Black
Lawrence Press. Nomadic by default, she lives in NYC, but not for long.
1. To go without sleep indefinitely. I had a baby three weeks ago. I’m so tired right now that I’m surprised that I’m able to write coherent sentences.
2. Little Debbie’s Swiss Rolls or Cosmic Brownies. Actually, they are well under a dollar. Thirty-five cents. I don’t know if you can buy anything with more caloric punch for less.
3. “Want to go back to my mother’s basement?” (Those weren’t the exact words, but that’s what he meant).
4. His name is Bear. He was given to me by the youngest of three brothers I used to babysit. Their mother was a prostitute. One of her johns gave her the bear and she gave the bear to her son. He’s a good bear—reminds me that every person is deserving of and capable of kindness, no matter her situation.
5. Mean people.
6. I always dance to the grocery store’s muzak while waiting to check out. But they play really good stuff from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Where else can I shake my can to Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical”?
7. Hire a housekeeper! Give a big ole donation to the ASPCA. Take my family on a vacation. Then set up a fund and live off the interest. Oh, and set the rubber duckies “adrift on a memory bliss of you” (PM Dawn, people).
Daniel Baughman currently lives in Erie, Pennsylvania and is a graduate student at Slippery Rock University. He has printed poetry in Chimera and released his first collection, Growing Beneath A Waning Sun, in January 2006. He can often be found oil painting and roughing out poetry on the beaches of Presque Isle, Lake Erie.
1. Invisibility. Think about it, do you really have any idea what your friends are thinking? This would be my opportunity to passively observe people and (hopefully) prove that humans are all inherently good.
2. The best thing you can buy for a dollar would be a bunch of tomato seeds, enough to produce fruit to satisfy for the entire month of August.
3. “There must be something wrong with my cell phone. It doesn’t have your number in it.”
4. “My Buddy,” the stuffed human I would drag everywhere with me, from my grandparents farm, through the Allegheny National Forest, over the Blue Ridge Mountains, and through thirteen years of swamp sum-
mers in exotic Waterford, PA. I held onto him until he beat me at chess when I was fourteen. I was so outraged that I tied his legs around his neck and stuffed him under the bottom shelf of my closet, pinned under boxes of baseball cards, where he most likely remains today. Needless to say he is responsible for my refined sportsmanship and my overwhelming
sense of fair play.
5. Well I wish everyone, myself included, was allergic to Bluetooth technology and cell phones. It would no doubt reduce stress in our personal lives and make us more considerate of our fellow human beings. I find that the angry people I meet in life usually have a piece of plastic glowing in their ear and ignore everyone else, to speak with people who aren’t even there.
6. “Go, Go Power Rangers”—the original theme song from the television show.
7. I would gather up the presidents of several colleges or universities and make them stand in French Creek. I would release the duckies upstream of where they were standing and they would have to gather up as many as possible as they pass by. Each ducky would have an amount of money written on it. The “ducky money” collected would be earmarked for scholarships that each college could offer to students who lack financial aid. Not only would it be great for students of financial need, but it would just be fun to watch high-browed members of the academic community crawl around in the mud to help out their student body.
Kathrin Bittner is a sophomore majoring in English Literature. She plans to find some career in the English field, one that is far from any cubicle and will make college well worth it. She hopes to one day publish one of the many ideas just floating in her noggin.
1. I’d pick the ability to morph. The possibilities are endless! I’m talking about changing into different people, animals, or objects. Want to win in hide and seek? Turn into a trash can and wait out the game. Want to mess with someone or make a dream come true? Change into a celebrity and make someone’s day. I’d find it easier to train my pets too if I could just change into one and tell them what NOT to do. I could make some money training pets! A poor college student like me needs to make money somehow.
2. Coffee, obviously.
3. All of them. One liners to pick up a date? There are better ice breakers.
4. My stuffed moose (who has no name). He’s comfortable and acts as a sec-
ond pillow. Helping with naps is the best influence.
6. You just had to ask? “Bye Bye Bye” by ‘N Sync, though what I did could
hardly be qualified as dancing. I just did the hand thing for the chorus.
7. You have a million dollars and a bag full of rubber duckies what do you
do? Go on a shopping spree, making sure to stop off by Borders/Walden
I’d donate the bag of rubber duckies as my first act of millionaire charity.
8. “Realin.” My friends and I invented it. It’ll catch on. Just you wait and see.
Doug Bolling’s poetry has appeared widely in literary magazines and journals including: Georgetown Review, Poem, Red Wheelbarrow, Comstock Review, Blueline, Mid-America Poetry Review, Square One, Common Ground Review, Slant, and Plainsongs. Other work is forthcoming in: Karamu, Minnetonka Review, English Journal, Edge, California Quarterly, Cider Press Review and Hurricane Review, among others. While teaching modern literature at Illinois College in Jacksonville, he introduced creative writing into the curriculum and later designed the creative writing option for English majors. He currently resides in Flossmoor, Illinois, a southwest suburb of Chicago.
1. To see into the future.
2. One pencil and half a dream.
3. No comment.
4. The Teddy Bear that ran away.
6. “Jingle Bells.”
7. Travel carefully.
Susana H. Case poetry has a has recent work in many journals, including: Cider Press Review, Coe Review, Diner, Eclipse, Gulf Stream Magazine, Hawai’i Pacific Review and The Mochila Review. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, she is the author of The Scottish Café (Slapering Hol Press, 2002), Hiking the Desert in High Heels (RightHandPointing, 2005), and Anthropologist in Ohio (Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2005).
1. Superdog—I can relate to any dog and it would be nice to fly—don’t need the rest of it.
2. I live in New York City—I can’t buy anything for a dollar.
3. “You have the eye of a cobra.” (Seriously. This was said to me. Effective— eh?
I didn’t ask if he meant the right one or the left one.)
4. My stuffed Himalayan cat who accompanied me to every doctor visit I had to endure until I was twelve or so. Of course, it’s no longer in my life….
5. Fattening desserts.
6. Little Eva, “The Locomotion”—but that was a long time ago and I was inured to humiliation then.
7. Keep the cash, toss the duckies into the recycling bin (and do it carefully so I don’t mix the packages up).
8. I love all words—that’s why I’m a poet. But I’m studying Italian and my favorite Italian word right now is “scarafaggio” because it’s so evocative. It means “cockroach.”
Susana Chávez-Silverman grew up in Los Angeles and Santa Cruz, CA. She holds a BA and PhD from the University of California and an MA from Harvard University. Currently on leave from Pomona College, in Claremont, CA, she teaches Latin American and Latin literature courses. Her groundbreaking
bilingual code-switching book, Killer Crónicas:Bilingual Memories, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in November 2004. She’s travelled around the U.S., to Spain, Argentina, South Africa and Australia giving performed readings. She is currently working on a second volume of crónicas called Scenes From la Cuenca de Los Angeles y Otros Natural Disasters, which she’ll focus on during a spring writer in residency fellowship at the Montalvo Arts Center in California.
1. Don’t have to choose. I have Mercury in the third house, in Pisces.
2. A bag of fresh, hot churros.
3. Deployed by a middle-aged East Indian anthropologist as he flung himself
upon my (then teenaged) sister, “East meets West!”
4. Neither an animal nor stuffed. A plastic, sexually ambiguous Hapa doll,
with a blonde mohawk, named Lee.
5. Fish. But I’ve found I don’t need to be allergic to refuse it.
6. Willow’s theme song from the film “The Wicker Man” (original version,
7. Drop the ducks.
8. If I were able to choose just one I wouldn’t be a writer. But “rasquache”
is definitely one of my favorites.
Craig Cooper currently lives in Neshannock Falls, PA with his dog, Jack. He spends his days fly fishing and working as a youth counselor. He joined the army in 2003 and is a veteran of the war in Iraq.
1. The ability to communicate with animals. I really feel my dog has some
stories to tell.
2. Cup of joe.
3. “Hi, my name is Craig Copper.”
4. The monster from Where the Wild Things Are.
5. Greasy food.
6. “Dancing Queen” by ABBA.
7. Pack up the duckies and travel until we go broke.
Barbara Daniels’ book, Rose Fever, is available from WordTech Press at www.cherry-grove.com. She received two Individual Artist Fellowships from New Jersey, completed an MFA in poetry at Vermont College, and was awarded a full fellowship from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation to the Vermont Studio Center.
1. Animal mimicry—I want to find out what it is to be a slug or a humming bird.
2. I love that white feather boa from the dollar store.
3. “Does your husband sleep around?”
4. Grammar Dog—he sits on the sofa and keeps an eye on my grammar.
5. Wasting time—though my dad always said, “Wasting time isn’t a waste of time.”
6. “I’ve Got My Body” by Poi Dog Pondering.
7. Tape poems by the great poets to the ducks and give them away on the streets of London and canals of Venice.
Michael James Dennison lives in Beirut, Lebanon, where he teaches poetry writing and literature at the American University of Beirut. His poems have previously appeared in Van Gogh’s Ear, Frank, Absinthe Literary Review, The Journal, New Delta Review, and Curbside Review. His book of literary scholarship,
Vampirism: Literary Tropes of Decadence and Entropy, is published by Peter Lang.
1. To be invisible, so to kiss where kisses once were welcomed.
2. A packet of Gauloises cigarettes in Beirut.
3. “Are you as wicked as you are beautiful?”
4. Melvin the Sock Monkey (all my father left me in his will).
5. White cotton—so hard to resist otherwise.
6. “Love Me Tender” (Elvis).
7. Buy an old house in Budapest with a huge bathtub.
Carissa DiGiovanni works in the non-profit sector in her hometown of Chicago. Her work has appeared in Sierra Nevada College Review, Journal of Experimental Fiction, and Muslim, Wake Up! She recently graduated from the MFA program in Creative Writing at Indiana University, Bloomington. Currently,
she is working on a chapbook.
1. Invisibility. I want to witness. Considering what’s going on lately, I think
we could use some invisible witnesses.
2. A cookie at D’Amato’s Bakery.
3. “What year are you in high school?” (From a thirty-year-old man. Luck-
ily, I was twenty-three; I just look young. But it was still disgusting.)
4. Mr. Bear. He’s been around since I was two.
5. I’m allergic to sixteen different kinds of pollen and sometimes lobster, so…
6. “Karma Chameleon.”
7. I’m boring. I’d donate the duckies to a children’s organization, donate
some of the money to my favorite causes, buy a condo, give some money
to my parents, and set up a retirement fund.
8. “Plotz.” It’s multipurpose.
Elizabeth di Grazia has published work in a number of journals, including The Phoenix, Rockhurst Review, Beginnings, Penniless Press, Hackwriters, Minnesota Parent, Adagio Verse Quarterly, The Mom Writer’s Literary Magazine, and four essays with Edge Life. Her work has been anthologized in Illness and Grace/Terror and Transformation. She was the winner of the Minnesota Literature sixth annual Essay Contest. Elizabeth earned her MFA in writing from Hamline University. She can be reached at email@example.com.
1. I’d love to be Superman. For sure, I’d be my son’s hero.
2. My way out of the store with no tantrums if one is looming.
3. I must have used the worst pick up line. I tried to take my partner dan- cing for Valentine’s Day and we ended up at IKEA.
4. Baybee Mickey. A small stuffed Mickey Mouse taught my daughter how
to love. That was her baby.
5. My children say they are allergic to garbage but not clean garbage.
6. I have no shame.
7. Put the rubber duckies in our swimming pool with one duck that has
a star on the bottom. Send my kids in for the afternoon until they find
the star. Spend the time writing a list of renovations for our house. Call
A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Susana H. Case, has published poems, memoirs, and short stories in: New Delta Review, Rattle, Harp Weaver, The Cortland Review, Illuminations, Prism International Quarterly, Philadelphia Stories, and Natural Bridge, among others. A Delaware Division of the Arts fellowship winner, her work in Mudlark was chosen for The Best of the Web by Web Del Sol. Liz was recently accepted as an associate artist in residence with Sharon Olds at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Philadelphia Stories has requested her presence on their poetry board and she was also selected as a finalist in “The Art Of Storytelling Contest” by the Delaware Museum of Art. She is most proud of the alternative school she ran in the Bronx and her eight grandchildren who live on the next block in Rehoboth and who keep her young.
1. USA—the most generous people on the planet.
2. A marble composition notebook.
3. “You remind me of my mother.”
4. Loch Ness Monster.
5. Handsome men.
7. Go on a cruise.
Kika Dorsey has been writing poetry since she was a child. She read a lot of it too, and ended up getting a PhD in Comparative Literature: German and Italian
modern and postmodern literature, from the University of Washington in Seattle. More a performance poet in Seattle, she focuses now on writing when she can at home while raising two small children. She has taught literature, composition, and creative writing at several different colleges and next year will teach online at the Naropa Institute. She also does freelance work proofreading and her hobby job is training dogs.
1. To breathe underwater because I love swimming more than anything.
2. Dark chocolate.
3. “You remind me of my mother.”
4. A big stuffed dog named Henry.
5. Emptying the dishwasher.
6. “Copa Cabana.”
7. Retire early and do “rubby ducky” races down a canal with my children.
8. Gemüetlich (German for “cozy”).
Brian Durling lives in Sacramento, California, and writes poetry and fiction when he’s not rebuilding locomotive traction motors for the railroad or taking care of his wife and two daughters. SLAB literary magazine is the first to publish his work and his face still aches because he hasn’t stopped grinning since they told him.
1. The power to make people love my writing as much as I do, for obvious
2. Half a twelve ounce bottle of Speakeasy Double Daddy Imperial India
3. “How much?”
4. The one I can’t remember.
5. Talk radio.
6. “Shiny, Happy People” by REM.
7. Take a cruise and set them free.
8. “Ubiquitous” because it doesn’t sound like what it means.
Jackie Ernst is a writer from Queens, living in Brooklyn, and working as a paralegal in Manhattan. She’s currently a fiction student at the University of Southern Maine’s low-residency MFA program, Stonecoast. This is her first publication.
1. If I could choose one superpower, it would be the ability to travel back in
time and consummate my obsession with Fyodor Dostoevsky.
2. The best thing you can buy for a dollar is rolling paper.
3. The worst pick up line ever is, “Hey baby, what’s your blood type?”
4. The most influential stuffed animal in my life is my liqui-center vampire bat.
5. I wish I was allergic to men.
6. The worst song I have ever been caught dancing to is “Spill the Blood,” by
7. If I had a million dollars and a bag full of rubber duckies, I would ditch
the duckies and buy out the New York Blood Center.
8. My favorite word is “bambachas” (Argentine for “panties”).
Renato Escudero received his MA degree in English (Creative Writing) from San Francisco State University, where he also teaches and is currently an MFA candidate. His stories have appeared in Cipactli and thefanzine.com. Renato was a fiction finalist in the New Letters Literary Awards 2005. He lives in Alameda, California, with his family and new baby boy.
1. Fingertips that can erase anything at any time – to have the ability to re-
move mistakes with precision.
2. “Saladitos” (dried, salted plums). I hope my
doctor is not reading this.
3. “If you go out dancing with me, I promise not to
trip over my shoelaces.” And she said, “Look,
I’m booked for August.”
4. Snoopy. I must have left him behind in México,
and sometimes I miss him terribly.
5. Dirty laundry.
6. “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus.
7. I like the rubber duckies! I’d give them all to my
son and ask him to share them with me. With the
money I’d buy a coffee plantation in México and
worry a little less.
8. My son’s name, Matei.
Dion N. Farquhar is an ex-New Yorker living in Santa Cruz with the love of her life and their twin teenage sons. A poet and prose fiction writer, her poems have appeared in Fifteen Project, Wheelhouse Magazine, Epiphany, Otoliths, Poems Niederngasse, AUGHT, Xcp: Streetnotes, Rogue Scholars, City Works, Boundary 2, Hawaii Review, etc. Her poetry chapbook, Cleaving, won first prize in the 2007 Poet’s Corner Press and is available from dnfarquhar at yahoo.com.
1. Ability to fly; air travel’s a hassle and expensive; driving’s too slow.
2. A yogurt.
3. Too shy to use them/too smart to respond to them.
4. The elephant and the eagle.
6. If I dance to it, I like it.
7. Head for the bank and put the bag in the trunk.
Maureen Tolman Flannery’s latest book Ancestors in the Landscape chronicles her upbringing on a Wyoming sheep ranch. She and her actor-husband Dan have raised their four children in Evanston, IL where she works for a prosthetics company. Her other books are A Fine Line, Secret of the Rising Up, Remembered Into Life, and the anthology Knowing Stones: Poems of Exotic Places. Her work has appeared in fifty anthologies and over a hundred literary reviews, recently including: Georgetown Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Xavier Review, Calyx, Pedestal, Atlanta Review, and North American Review.
1. I would choose the ability to will myself to any place on the globe. With this
power I could not only be in all the marvelous exotic places I dream of seeing (Petra, Cappadocia, Agora Watt, etc.), but also maintain the relationships which become strained by physical absence. I could spend a day with anyone I wanted to be near—provided, of course, that person didn’t call authorities to protect them for this possibly demented super-hero womanmaterializing inexplicably before her/him.
2. In Tepotzlan, Mexico, for the equivalent of a dollar, you can buy a small piece of a local tree bark that is carved into an intricately detailed dwelling, so charming, so inviting, one would almost wish for the superpower to become tiny enough to live inside.
3. “Do your kids know you’re here?”
4. Muno, (toddler-ese for “Bruno”) was the name of my son’s bear. He was made of sheepskin and had a dignified, imposing presence. He was able to wield great influence in the days of his being the principle advisor to the king of the house.
5. I wish I were allergic to any meat with fatty or disgustingly grisly components.
6. “The Macarena.”
7. Take them both to a war-torn city, or refugee settlement, and give each child a goofy duck with the explanation that it would accompany a micro- loan to his or her family for whatever project they felt most potentially empowering.
Allen Gee teaches fiction writing at Georgia College, where he is the faculty Fiction Editor for the journal Arts & Letters. His novel, Far From the Beautiful Country, is currently being represented by Gail Hochman.
1. The power to inhale carbon dioxide and pollutants, to save the Earth from
2. Hershey’s Mr. Goodbar!
3. “Hey, look at you.”
4. Snoopy, given as a childhood Christmas gift.
6. K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s “Get Down Tonight.”
7. Give some of both to charity.
Jean Giovanetti (jgnotes.blogspot.com) writes flash prose—short stories and essays around 1,000 words long. Her flash written memoir, One Asian Eye: Growing Up Eurasian in America, was published in December 2004, has sold internationally and is required reading in private colleges and major universities across America and Canada. Described as “deceptively simple,” her work has been featured in: Driftwood, The Journal, Thema, Timbuktu (Wales) and Generation X. She is currently compiling fiction and nonfiction available for purchase through the Amazon Shorts program, as well as working on a new collection exploring truth, the search for meaning and what to eat for dinner all in 25,000 words or less.
1. Flight. I hate to wait in airports.
2. Two rides for my kids on the mechanical fire engine at the mall.
3. “Has anyone ever told you, you have one really sexy eye?”
4. A white cat the baby sleeps with at night.
7. Donate the duckies, collect my family, and get the hell out of town.
John Glass is a freelance writer and freelance percussionist from Mobile, Alabama.
He moved to New York to focus on his writing and his music in 2005. By day, he works as a construction contractor and by night he works on his poetry and his percussion. John plays with several symphonies and jazz groups in the NYC area, and he writes a regular column on his website <http://www.johnglass.org>.
1. It would be super speed. I love the Flash, and being a very fast person my self, I like the concept of mind-blinding speed: racing through town, picking up a college girl’s falling books, putting a bad guy back in prison, dashing through the bakery and filching a warm danish off the tray…. This is what I live for.
2. Reese’s Pieces!
3. “Did it hurt?” What? “When you fell from heaven . . . ”
4. My Pooh-bear when I was a kid.
6. That stupid “Friends” theme. I was at a bar in Lafayette, LA., and it was
7. Throw the duckies in the trash and take my wife to the Bahamas.
8. My favorite word is probably “kaleidoscope.”
Mike Goodwin received a bachelor’s degree in creative writing with minors in both film studies and literature. Born in New Jersey, he grew up just outside
Philadelphia until moving to Slippery Rock to attend the university, all throughout maintaining an intrigue with writing. Over the course of his studies, Mike has amassed several collections of poems that await publication.
1. Invisibility so as to disappear from the world at will.
2. A taco.
3. Any line that necessitates a man becoming an obnoxious prick.
4. Several stuffed monkeys.
5. Obnoxious boxes and my own attitude.
6. A Kiki Koutsaflakis original.
7. Give away the ducks.
Willa Granger lives in Mamaroneck, New York, but would like to mention and praise her place of birth, Sumneytown, Pennsylvania. She learned about poetry under the guidance of Mr. Michael Sofranko. This is the first time a poem of hers has ever been published and she is glad that this specific poem will forever bear that honor. She cites the Pottstown Diner as a big source of personal inspiration.
1. I wish I could read minds…to help my poetry.
2. A cup of coffee.
3. Never heard one…
4. My Blankie.
6. “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl).”
7. Build an army of rubber duckies and paper money cranes to defeat all the
John Grey is an Australian-born poet, playwright, and musician. His latest book is What Else Is There from Main Street Rag. Recently in The English Journal, The Pedestal, Pearl, and The Journal of the American Medical Association.
1. Flight. No more airport delays.
2. A download of “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues.
3. “I hope you know CPR because you take my breath away.”
4. My wife’s teddy bear. When I met her, she had one. Now we have thirty.
6. “Color My World” by Chicago at my wedding.
7. Dump the bag full of rubber duckies on my boss’s desk. Quit work.
Morgan Harlow’s fiction, poems and essays can be found in: Blue Mesa Review,
Controlled Burn, South Dakota Review, Washington Square Review, War, Literature & the Arts and elsewhere, poems with audio in the online journal Not Just Air, and a long poem forthcoming in Descant. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and children, where she is at work on a novel.
1. Teleportation; what we engage in, on a human scale, when we read or
2. A pocket-sized notebook.
3. “Where’ve you been all my life?”
4. A Baba Louie doll, the Sancho Panza like deputy to Sheriff Quick DrawMcGraw of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series, went everywhere with
me during my preschool years in the early 1960s.
5. Any event featuring potluck, gift exchanges, or clowns.
6. A local hardware store jingle.
7. Keep the money and give the ducks away.
Scott Hempel is just a traditional, small town, blue-collar working, Western Pennsylvanian who enjoys the arts.
1. Invisibility, after all, don’t most writers have an inherent desire to be invisible?
2. If you’re lucky a cup of black coffee.
3. Anything said by Quagmire.
4. A bear that I’ve had since inception.
6. Drinking > dancing.
7. Recreate the song “Rubber Ducky” from Sesame Street.
8. Lately, it’d have to be “Jarkko Ruutu.”
Donald Illich has published poetry in: The Iowa Review, Lit, Fourteen Hills, Passages North, Roanoke Review, and Cold Mountain Review. His work will appear in future issues of The South Carolina Review, Combo, and The Distillery. He is a technical writer who lives and works in Rockville, MD.
1. Invulnerability. You could do anything and no one could hurt you.
2. Probably a single condom.
3. “Are those pants mirrors? Because I can see myself in them.”
4. Cookie Monster. He portrayed the awful Ronald Reagan for me during the 1980 elections, which I watched as a too-serious eight-year-old. Reagan and too many cookies have always been my mortal enemies.
5. Low self-esteem.
6. “The Hokey Pokey.”
7. I become a super villain who uses rubber duckies (filled with poison gas,
explosives, throwing stars) as his gimmick.
Allison Joseph lives, writes, and works in Carbondale, Illinois, where she’s on the faculty at Southern Illinois University. Her most recent books include Imitation
of Life (Carnegie Mellon University Press) and Worldly Pleasures (Word Press). She was awarded an Illinois Arts Council Artists Fellowship in poetry in 2007.
1. My superpower would be the ability to defeat writer’s block wherever it thrives. Writers could call out for my assistance in their hours of darkest need, and I’d supply them with just the right phrase, sentence or line to get their writing mojo working again.
2. One dollar? Hmm. I’d say a pen, but it’s hard to buy just one pen any more. So I’ll say a pack of gum, sugarless, to help me defeat my sugar cravings.
3. Worst line: “You must be a laser, because you’re set on stunning.”
4. There are two—Bear and Cub—they are married, they live on my bed, and like Pinky and the Brain, their goal is to take over the world.
5. Chocolate, only because I wouldn’t eat so much of it then.
6. “State of Shock,” an awful duet between Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson.
7. Found the “Rubber Ducky Center for Writers.” It would give away fellow-
ships to needy writers, provided each recipient would adopt a ducky and give a safe space in which to thrive.
8. “Mourning”—a beautiful and sad word. It may not be my favorite word, but it has a lot of depth and dignity to it.
Susan Kelley is an SRU alumna pursuing graduate work in rhetoric at Carnegie Mellon University. She has authored several poems and short stories while focusing on her work in speechwriting. Susan is the proud mom of Daniel, Elizabeth, and Peter—for whom her story is both a caution and a memory.
1. The ability to make things into other things, like people into frogs or water into coffee. Why? Because you can always use a little change, right?
2. Four gumballs from one of those swirly gumball machines, because it’s really fun to watch them come down the swirly thing, and then they are nearly impossible to eat!
3. Not used on me, but . . . “I’m the tongue wrestling champion of the world, you want a shot at the title?”
4. My son’s teddy bear, Byron, because it showed me the full capacity of lovethat a child can have, even for a bear with a tattered “lucky ear.”
5. I wish I was allergic to fine jewelry, because I’d have saved myself a heap of money.
6. “Lucky Star” by Madonna. And I actually danced to it in public!
7. I’d tape a dollar and my address to each rubber ducky and put them in various rivers and streams, just to see what I’d come up with. The rest of the money I’d spend on that jewelry I’m not allergic to!
8. “Pusillanimous,” because it sounds so damn insulting even out of context.
Philip Kobylarz has recent work appearing in: /nor, The Iconoclast, Visions International, New American Writing, Prairie Schooner, & Poetry Salzburg Review.
1. Invisibility as writers are always behind the scene; this would cure the taking care of hair factor.
2. An intimate visit to a female entertainer or Chippendale dancer.
3. “Could you ever, (pause), love a guy like me?”
4. Currently my giant teddy bear that’s also used as a bean bag type chair and sleeping companion (after watching horror DVDs).
6. C+C and the Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat (EverybodyDance Now).”
7. Visit impoverished places in the U.S. and abroad to give away my rubber duckies and the million.
Amanda McQuade attended school in Ohio, where she studied American Literature. Recently, her work has appeared in Glass, MO: Writings from the River, and Ruminate. She has lived in many places, but for the moment she and her husband live in Los Angeles.
1. I would be invisible so I could see and not be seen all at once.
2. A chocolate bar to share after dinner.
3. That one about heaven losing an angel. Awful.
4. Kermit the Frog. I loved his legs.
5. See #2.
6. Perhaps “Purple Rain,” but I was six.
7. I would take a bath in a million dollars? Nah, I’d do what everyone would
do…immediately stress over both the duckies and the money.
In the 1990s, Stephen Mead’s poems began appearing in literary journals, but after moving to Massachusetts, Stephen concentrated on painting. In 2000, Stephen started seeking publication again for his writing and art combined. Since then, his work has appeared internationally. In 2004, Stephen began experimenting with poetry/art hybrids, creating award winning e-books such as Heroines Unlikely. From there, Stephen began experimenting with his art/poems as films. In 2006, Stephen released a CD of poems set to music, Safe & Other Love Poems, as well as three DVDs. In 2007, print editions
of his work were distributed by Amazon.com.
1. I would be Naked Oratorian, an operatic superhero who could stop weapons in mid-flight by my multi-octave voice.
2. Dollar Store flowers I make use of in paintings.
3. Sorry, can’t really think of one. I don’t get out much.
4. A pink teddy bear dyed blue when just a kid. Gender-role brainwashing?
5. Hateful ignorant people I would projectile vomit on.
6. “The Electric Slide.” I’d never heard it before and tried to slough my way through.
7. Take the money; run; give the duckies to my friends to photograph on their travels.
Laura Miller graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in creative writing. She finished a novel last May and is slowly working on a rewrite. In the real world she works in a special education classroom and spends her spare time chasing her eighteen-month-old daughter, Analiese. Her poetry has been featured in Origami Condom and Main Channel Voices.
1. Time travel, because I’d rather be somewhere else.
2. Breakfast burrito at McDonald’s.
3. “Wanna go golfing?” (used by me).
4. My husband.
5. My mother-in-law.
6. “Mmmbop” (actually, I still like that song).
7. Make a raft from the duckies, float away, and buy the first island I come
to (unless it’s Alcatraz).
8. “Au pair” (technically two, but who’s counting).
Julie Mitchell was born and raised in Los Angeles, and eventually migrated to the Big Island of Hawai‘i near Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on earth. Her creative writing has been published in the literary journal Hawai‘i Pacific Review and the anthologies Love Shook My Heart and Just The Good Parts. Her commercial writing appears regularly in the Hawai‘i Island Journal and has also appeared in Honolulu Weekly and Honolulu Magazine.
1. Either a) the ability to adapt to any climate, so that I could withstand anything from the icy Antarctic to the sweltering Sahara desert, and thus experience nature fully on its own terms in only my own skin; or b) the ability to empathize in some way with any individual, so that I could find redeeming qualities in everyone (even the seemingly most despicable persons), and thus help forge more connections between, and humanity among, all peoples on the planet.
2. 33.3 additional long distance minutes on my calling card.
3. Don’t use ‘em, don’t respond to ‘em, don’t remember ‘em. A person has to be seriously original to catch my attention.
4. There are two: C.C., an outspoken, precocious, bordering-on-obnoxious tan “black bear,” and Micah, a shy, kind, and hesitant brown “black bear” (two of my myriad alter egos; both youngsters of the teddy bear variety).
5. Chronically needy people (I call them energy vampires).
6. Too many to count.
7. Run, laughing all the way to the bank, then take a nice long soak in a hot bath nestled amongst my floating yellow flock.
8. Asking a writer what her favorite word is is like asking a kid in a candy store to pick “just one.” I’ll just say that, today, I’m enamored by the word “inexplicable”—how it tumbles around in my mouth; the sound of its rhythmic, hard-edged syllables.
Karen Neuberg lives with her husband in Brooklyn, NY and West Hurley, NY. Her work has appeared in: Diner, 42opus, DIAGRAM, Coe Review, Free Verse, and Riverine, An Anthology of Hudson Valley Writers, among others. She is a recent nominee for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net and holds an MFA in poetry from the New School.
1. The ability to speak and understand every language in such a way that it helps bring about peace. Not that I know how having this superpower would work to actually bring about peace. Perhaps I’d choose whatever superpower would bring about peace—or at least one that wouldn’t make a bigger mess out of things than they already are.
2. Coffee and a buttered roll.
3. “Can I touch your hair?”
4. Winnie the Pooh.
5. I already have enough allergies.
6. “Disco Duck.”
7. Enjoy it all and set the duckies free.
Michelle Panik O’Neill’s fiction has appeared in The Summerset Review, Stone Table Review, and SN Review. She has an MFA from the University of Maryland, and a BA in Writing and Art History/Criticism from UC San Diego. Michelle and her husband live in San Diego.
1. Speed reading. With it, I could finally make a dent in my to-read list.
2. A big, crunchy apple.
3. I don’t know. But some guy once tried to pick me up while I was having
brunch with my mom at a beach bar.
4. I don’t currently have any stuffed animals, and can’t remember any from my childhood. So I figure none had much influence on me.
5. Traffic. Maybe I could get some type of handicapped placard that would let me use the carpool lane.
6. Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” at my wedding. I loved every second of it.
7. With the money, fly myself, my husband, and my brother out to Hawaii, where our parents live. Use more money to purchase fire crackers, and use the fire crackers to blow up the rubber duckies in fantastic flash on on a lava field. Then fly home and give the remaining money to
8. Will a phrase suffice? Pari passu.
Radames Ortiz’s work has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies including, US Latino Literature Today and Is This Forever, or What?: Poems and Paintings from Texas. He was also awarded a 2003 Archie D. and Bertha Walker fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and was nominated for a 2003 Pushcart Prize. He was also selected for two consecutive years to be the Naomi Shihab Nye Scholar and was invited to read at the 2007 Poetry at Roundtop Festival. He currently teaches poetry workshops for Writers in the Schools in Texas.
1. Teleportation. That way, I can teleport to NYC for a hot dog and then to France to enjoy it at the Seine.
2. Bail Out, starring the international superstar David Hasselhoff.
3. “Are you menstruating? Cause, you have been on my mind all month long.”
4. Gizmo, from the movie Gremlins.
5. Having to work full-time.
6. Justin Timberlake’s “Bringing Sexy Back.”
7. I would invite Dolomite and his army of ninja bitches over to my place, so we can kung fu kick rubber duckies till our hearts explode.
Scott Owens’ second collection of poetry, The Fractured World, is due out in August. He is also author of The Persistence of Faith, from Sandstone Press. He will be the visiting writer next fall at Catawba Valley Community College, and coordinates the Poetry Alive reading series in Hickory, NC.
1. The ability to slow the passage of time so that I could get more done and
enjoy more of life.
2. A good cup of coffee.
3. “That dress would look great beside my bed in the morning.”
4. My two-year-old daughter’s bear.
5. Toilet cleaner.
6. “Stairway to Heaven.”
7. Endow a creative writing scholarship and take a bath.
Laurel S. Peterson is an Associate Professor of English at Norwalk Community College, where she teaches creative and expository writing, and interdisciplinary courses in the arts and social sciences. Her writing career has included a column for Gannett suburban newspapers on local history and serving as editor of the literary journal Inkwell. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in: The Atlanta Review, The Distillery, Poet Lore, The Rio Grande Review, The Texas Review, Thin Air, Yankee, and others. She lives with her husband in Connecticut.
1. I would choose to be able to disappear at will from one location and appear at will in another. Really, clicking together the red shoes is so much more appealing than the drain on psyche and purse that is coach class. But the lure (close to lurk, see question eight) of travel…
2. Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” on iTunes. OMG. Hilarious.
3. “Hey, do you play basketball?” “Yeah. So I’m tall. So what?”
4. Curious George. I still have the one my Great Aunt Alice gave me when I was nine and having a really crappy life. A friend told me ten years or so ago that he was now worth around $500. Who knew? Aside from that, George had style and someone who loved him, and he was relentlessly himself.
5. My colleagues.
6. See question two. It’s still going to go on my new iPod.
7. I commit myself to putting one in the bathroom of the loveliest suite available in every five-star resort in the world. I should run out of money in, what? Three days?
8. “Lurk.” Fun to do, fun to say, fun to write. Close to lure, also great fun.
Ed Piskor is a frustrated writer who needs the use of pictures to help tell the stories he has in mind. He’s worked on many comics and graphic novels such as American Splendor, Macedonia, Wizzywig, and The Beats. Check out some more comics and art at www.edpiskor.com.
1. Heat vision. The “Why” portion of this question will be answered below in regards to the rubber duckies question.
2. One hundred little, red candy fish.
3. I never really heard a particularly bad line used but I am curious to know if anybody ever really tried the line “Sit on my lap and let’s talk about the first thing to pop up.” If anybody was ever successful with that one I’d like to know.
4. The one that holds my kilos of crank and PCP within.
5. I totally wish that social obligations resulted in my immediate hospitalization from comatose boredom due to other people’s boring existences. I’m perfectly happy with my own boring life.
6. I bet there’s not a soul who can produce evidence that I ever danced a step in my life. I have trouble walking half the time.
7. I would dangle the bag of rubber duckies high in the air (maybe with a simple pulley system). I would put the million dollars directly under the toys within a chalk outlined circle. Whenever somebody would be
tempted to grab the loot and step within the circle I would use my heat vision and melt the rubber duckies dripping scolding, molten rubber all over the greedy bastard.
8. “Gravitas” (Howard Stern fans will understand this one).
Donna Pucciani has published over three hundred poems in the U.S. and U.K., including such journals as International Poetry Review, Mid-America Review, JAMA, National Catholic Reporter, Valparaiso Review, and Spoon River. She has won awards from the Illinois Arts Council, Chicago Poets and Patrons,
and various state poetry societies. Her books include The Other Side of Thunder (2006), Jumping Off the Train (2007) and Chasing the Saints (2008). She currently serves as president of Poets’ Club of Chicago and lives in the Chicago metropolitan area.
1. The power of persuasion.
2. Toenail clippers.
3. “Wanna see my poem?”
4. My husband.
6. “It’s My Party & I’ll Cry if I Want To.”
7. Go home and take a bath.
8. “Grunt” and “Epiphany” tie for first place, closely followed by “Zanzibar,” “Magnolia,” and “Jejune.”
Brady Rhoades’ poems have appeared in Amherst Review, Antioch Review, Appalachia
Review, Blue Mesa, Red Rock Review and Windsor Review, as well as the anthology, Homage to Vallejo. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in poetry in 2005. He recently completed a themed collection of poems, several of which have been published, titled Insomnia (notes from expeditions). He lives in Fullerton, California.
1. To be invisible. I could go anywhere and no one could get to me.
2. A newspaper.
3. “Would you like to be my future ex-wife?”
4. My girlfriend’s bear, who wields little influence.
5. Wine; I’d drink less.
6. “I Want to Make it with You.”
7. Give away the ducks and invest in turbos.
Ruth Rouff was raised in southern New Jersey, near Philadelphia. Having majored
in English at Vassar and earned her teaching certification through Saint Joseph’s University, she currently works as a freelance educational writer. Her poetry has appeared in a number of literary magazines.
1. I would have been England at the time of Elizabeth I because of the great writing. Shakespeare, anyone?
2. Candy bars—I think some are still under a dollar.
3. “What is your sign?” (Heard).
4. A white owl. Not overly cute, but sensitive-looking.
5. Red meat.
6. “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”sung by Rod Stewart.
7. Open a recycling plant and recycle them into something more practical.
8. “Bread.” I love to eat bread.
Jason Schneiderman is the author of Sublimation Point, a Stahlecker Selection from Four Way Books. His poems and essays have been widely published in journals and anthologies including Best American Poetry, Teachers and Writers, American Poetry Review, Tin House, and The Penguin Book of the Sonnet. He is the recipient of the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America. He has received fellowships from Yaddo, The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and The Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference. He is currently a Chancellor’s Fellow in the Doctoral Program in English at the Graduate Center of CUNY.
1. I would have a photographic memory with complete recall of everything I’ve read and where I read it, down to bibliographical referencing info. Mysteriously, this would give me amazing martial arts skills.
2. The best thing you can buy for a dollar is chocolate.
3. “You know, your clothes would look great on my bedroom floor.”
4. Well, there’s Bear and Little Death, and they’re both pretty important to me. Couldn’t really pick one over the other.
5. I wish I were allergic to Urban Outfitters–oh wait, I am.
6. I think that JC Chasez’s “Some Girls (Dance with Women) [Rap Version]” featuring Dirt McGirt might take the prize.
7. First, get rid of the rubber duckies. Next, invest the million dollars. Finally, live on the interest.
After a decade traveling as poet-in-residence, Sandra Soli served nine years as columnist and poetry editor for ByLine magazine. She holds an honors MA and is a frequent speaker at writing conferences. Published widely in lit journals, her work has been featured on NPR and nominated for a Pushcart. Sandy is a past author of the month for Highlights for Children. Her new poetry chapbook, What Trees Know, is a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award.
1. Flying at warp speed. No shoes needed. Isn’t everyone sick of standing in lines at the airport?
2. A three-way tie: postage for submissions (at least for now), Snickers bars, and single dip ice cream cones.
3. Worst pickup line: “Can you drive a boat?” (It worked. I married him.)
4. The most influential stuffed animal in my life was Panda, the only lovie I was allowed to pack for the journey to America. (I was born in England.)
5. Allergies to bad manners and arrogance, but I was taught in childhood to overlook both.
6. “The Twist.”
7. Travel first class to Lake Como and set them all free.
8. A tough question: Possibilities.
A two-time Minneapolis Poetry Slam Team member, Ezra Stead recently went to the semi-finals stage as part of the 2007 Soap Boxing Slam Team, the first ever National Poetry Slam Team from St. Paul. Ezra is also half of the Twin Cities hip-hop group Mess Crew, as well as a Film, Video & Screenwriting
student at Minneapolis College. For more information on Ezra and his work, visit myspace.com/messcrew and myspace.com/filmezra.
1. Does the ability to travel back in time count as a superpower? If so, I’m
2. My ten-track EP “Sun 2Tied U Ova.”
3. “Can I buy you a drink, or do you just want the money?”
4. My roommate Steve.
5. Lies, because then I would know for sure if I was hearing one.
6. Probably something by the Black Eyed Peas.
7. Donate the rubber duckies to a children’s charity and spend the money on hookers and blow.
Katherine Streeter lives in New York, where she illustrates for various publications,
designers and agencies globally. She has balanced her career in commercial art with teaching and creating work for gallery exhibits. Currently, she is part of an exhibit touring in Italy: “The Fabulous Coloured Pencils of the World,” which has the work of 25 women illustrators from around the world. You can see more of her work at katherinestreeter.com.
1. Time travel.
2. A winning lottery ticket.
3. “Will you marry me?”
4. An antique bear that my friend gave to me named Henry. He is quite
innocent and sad looking, thought i’m sure he was well-loved by some
one who has been gone for a long time.
5. Obnoxious people.
6. I’ve never been caught in some embarrassing way, but I have danced to
a lot of funny music. When I hear songs from childhood T.V. shows like
Electric Company and Sesame Street, I can’t help myself.
7. I’d like to say I’d do something creative, like cast all of the ducks
in gold as part of an art installation,but in reality, I’d probably give the
ducks away and use the money to travel and buy a huge studio along the
Jennifer Weathers currently attends the MFA program in poetry at the University
of North Carolina at Wilmington, where she also teaches undergraduate
creative writing. Her fiction has appeared in Wilma!, and her poems in SNReview, Prick of the Spindle, The Pedestal Magazine, and Poetry Miscellany.
1. If I could choose any superpower it would be the ability to fly. I would
plan on doing nothing positive with this power except not driving during warm months.
2. A lottery ticket.
3. “So, you from ‘round here?” Gets me every time! I am, in fact, not from
around here. Such insight!
4. My stuffed dog Laddie, who was given to me as an infant by my grandmother. I still have it.
6. As of the time of this response, I have never been caught dancing to any
7. Take a bath.
Brandi Wells is graduating from Georgia Southern University with a BA in Writing and Linguistics. Her work can be found in Vulcan, Agua, and quite a few online journals.
1. I’d like to teleport. I get carsick, so I can never go anywhere. If I could teleport, I could go really neat places, like Japan and to pay my power bill.
2. Four gumballs from the candy machine at the video store. Those gumballs are huge and I think if you buy four, the likelihood of getting a blue one increases.
3. The whole, “You look tired. You’ve been running through my dreams all night” one. I’ve never heard a real person use it. Just movie people. I think movie people can get away with stuff because they’re rich and not real.
4. I have a Mickey Mouse that my father gave me when I was three. Growing up, I blamed stuff on the mouse. I figure I would’ve gotten in more trouble if I hadn’t had that mouse as the fall guy. Poor thing, he has no pupils now. They faded after I put him through the washing machine.
5. I’m already allergic to almost anything scented. Perfumes, candles, cleaning products, most deodorants. Maybe I could be allergic to radioactive sludge. That way if there was some lingering sludge around, we’d know right away.
6. “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.”
7. I could have one of those games where you flip the duckie over and win a prize. Only I’d be sitting there with my million dollars laughing at folks when the bottom of the duck said “NOTHING.”
Lisbeth Wells-Pratt is a creative writing and theatre major from Slippery Rock University. Her publications as of late have been severely lacking. However, she does publish a weekly editorial which receives many snide remarks and sidelong glances. Besides having an interest in the grotesque, she acts in theatrical productions, and works in a library with books and glue. Thus, these oddball interests and hobbies result in free time during which she composes poetry that she hopes is peculiar, as well as intriguing.
1. I would choose the ability to fly, it would save me money, irritation, and a download of Google Earth.
2. A bag of pretzels.
3. “I wish I was your derivative so I could lie tangent to your curves.”
4. Sassy. She was a stuffed cat that, after a while, my dad washed. I didn’t like her as much after that, I thought she smelled funny.
5. Seafood, so I could stop lying to people when I say that I’m allergic to it.
6. Probably “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. It’s only incredibly embarrassing.
7. I visit big cities all around the world, fill the rubber duckies with cement, then glue them to sidewalks. I then set up video cameras and record the interaction. Hilarity thus ensues.
Shanti Weiland is author of the chapbook Daughter En Route and winner of the Joan Johnson award in poetry. She received her PhD in English at University of Southern Mississippi and currently teaches at Yavapai College in Arizona. Her poetry and essays are featured in: The Coe Review, The Rockhurst Review, Mochila Review, The Alembic: An International Magazine, The New Delta, Dispatch One, Plum Biscuit, The Gihon Review, Rio: A Journal of Arts, Steam Ticket, Diceybrown,
Seven Seas Magazine, and the anthology Great American Poetry Show.
1. The ability to dematerialize and rematerialize. No more airports!
2. A bottle of bubbles.
3. Idiot: “Are those space pants you’re wearing?”
Idiot: “Because your ass is out of this world!”
4. Squirrel Squirrel Squee.
6. Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
7. Buy a ship with a big bath tub.
Gerald R. Wheeler’s (Katy, Texas, www.runningcolors.com) photography, fiction, and poetry have appeared in numerous literary reviews and magazines including: North American Review, Louisiana Literature, Cape Rock, Peregrine, Iron Horse Literary Review, Antietam Review, Kaleidoscope, Riversedge, Big Muddy, War, Literature & The Arts, Equine Journal, Horse World and elsewhere.
1. France: free healthcare and education.
2. McDonald’s hot fudge sundae.
3. “Nice pins.”
4. One-ear teddy bear.
6. “Heartbreak Hotel.”
7. Give away rubber duckies.
Helen Wickes was born on a farm in Pennsylvania. She’s spent most of her life in Oakland, California where she worked for many years as a psychotherapist. Her first book of poems, In Search of Landscape, was published in 2007 by Sixteen Rivers Press. She’s had poems published in: Zyzzyva, Runes, Santa Clara Review, 5 A.M., and The Bennington Review. You can hear some of her work on “At the Fishouse.”
1. Ireland—great writers, great horses.
2. Dark chocolate M&M’s.
3. Heard this one: “You look a lot younger than you probably are, don’t you?”
4. Siamese cat.
6. I really, really don’t dance—titanium hip joints.
7. Take the money, drop the duckies.
Mark Wisniewski is the author of the novel Confessions of a Polish Used Car Salesman, the collection of stories All Weekend with the Lights On, and the book of poems One of Us One Night. His work has appeared in venues such as: Poetry, The Southern Review, Poetry International, Glimmer Train, and TriQuarterly, and he’s won a Pushcart Prize, the 2006 Tobias Wolff Award, the Catturalla Award for Best Short Story for 2006, the 2007 Gival Press Short Story Award, and a 2006 Isherwood Fellowship.
1. X-ray vision. Women.
2. A Kit-Kat bar.
3. “I write poetry.”
4. A teddy bear won at a carnival in Northern California.
5. Shaving cream.
6. “Karma Chameleon.”
7. Discuss with accountant charitable donation of duckies.