TABLE OF CONTENTS
ELIZABETH R. CURRY POETRY CONTEST WINNERS
(To Vinny the Lip)
Silver Alert: Blue Honda Accord, Lic Plate DNL-657
We Dream Big the World
The Glass Piñata
The Things that Happen Next
John Brown Spiers
Sunday Morning Blues Played Through a Blown Amp
Probabilities: An Inventory
The Bowery Bees
Christin O’Keefe Aptowicz
The Closure Hotel
Christin O’Keefe Aptowicz
Resurrections, a ballad
The Best Use of the Electric Chair
Despair Has Eyes
Advice from a Middle-Aged Man to his Teenage Self
Advice from a Teenage Boy to his Middle-Aged Self
The Big Bang
Jasmine Dreame Wagner
Empathy from Upholstery
Walt Whitman, Homeless and Pushing a Cart in America
On a Bus Headed East on Russell Thornburn US 2 in a Late Night Blizzard Years Ago
Near Death Experience
C. R. Resetarits
Where you from?
In Gold We Trust
And We Never Saw Their Eyes
Thrift Shop Model
The Tattooed Man
It’s Just a Bear
Princess Cathy in the Land of Regret
A Bunch of People Who’ve Died
At the Tennis Center
Getting Lost in the Suburbs of Memory
The Waiting Room
My Father’s Limp
TEXT & IMAGE
Boys Tell Me Things That Make Me Feel Uncomfortable
ELIZABETH R. CURRY POETRY CONTEST WINNERS
Even with this memory, there is a fixed distance.
The length of the body
and the longitude between
Do you want to stay?
In the house with the tea kettle and the warning ghost
Or the drama of origin—
The catalogue of things:
The human figure becomes a dishcloth—the archtypical
antihero. He is the last one indoors for
supper, the first one to see the clouds separate
into a September. If it weren’t for the month, the character
would ride his bike less often and we
wouldn’t know his mother died in August.
I know a good idea,
but it depends on snow.
not bulb. I was
This had more weight, more tiny nothingness.
(To Vinny the Lip)
Once a checkerjaw always a checkerjaw
can only mean that Tommy the Hunch
(recently hitched to a Blond Bullet)
was pulling a juicer for the Moth,
a juicer that crossed over
into Artie the Finger’s cellar symphony
of heads getting away from their hats;
if the Finger is a cocktail,
shaken not stirred,
the Hunch is a paperbag in the park.
So as the River of Whims would have it,
one of the Moth’s checkerjaws got a little salty
in the year of the dog,
nothing the Black Prince would notice,
but more than enough
for the Hunch to do a red-eye,
no questions asked.
But ain’t this salty pooch,
this shaved poodle from the stickhouse,
the Blond bullet’s blonde pusher,
and don’t the Hunch just give him a little window music
before the bleached teardrop starts spittin brine,
& there’s the Hunch
with a one-headed juicer
quickly becoming a two-headed twitch;
cooler than a flask,
the Finger gameshows the briny scratch,
& then slicker than snot on a doorknob
he hands the checkerjaw
to the Hunch for dessert;
now, solo, the Hunch squeezes the juicer
like just hocked his ticker
to the breeze and then for effect
deposits the valentine
under the checkerjaw’s tongue
for safe keeping.
Christin O’Keefe Aptowicz
The Bowery Bees
On the roof of the Bowery Poetry Club
are forty-five thousand bees. Like most
New Yorkers, the bees weren’t born there.
They moved. Location, location, location.
The roof is empty and private and safe.
Like most New Yorkers, the bees have
to work to pay the rent. They make honey,
two kinds: Wild Honey and Orange Blossom.
It’s for sale for $10 on the ground floor.
Like most New Yorkers, they are good
neighbors if you just leave them alone.
But sometimes, shit happens. The bees
have stung Bob, their landlord, the poet
who happens to own the club and its roof.
It didn’t hurt, he says, and isn’t it just like
a poet to see past the pain, all those barbed
stings meant to injury? And instead focus
on the honey, and the hum, and the hives,
those soft living cloud of sound which find
themselves finally at home right on top
of the Bowery Poetry Club.
I wish that I
could drink my
sorrow in great
Where she grew up
the houses were
guarded by concrete
lions. Who guards
I wheedle with some God.
Save her please and
I will be obedient
to your vicious ways.
Every wall has a resting place
kept warm though in the dark
it drains, overgrown with cracks
and grasses :you brush on footpaths
the way every greenhouse is nourished
heated by the mouth on your mouth
—another coat seems reasonable
so you paint this wall over and over
till what’s left standing overflows
never dries into that slow love song
from before the sun grew huge
it would fit into this room, had time
to stay and night not yet surrounded
falling behind, from far away
weeping into nothing at all.
I stole the newborn from next door. Then I gobbled him right
up, teeny fingernails and all. He curled and shrank inside me,
glad for a place like home. His parents, though distraught,
soon sank into sleep on the couch, lights still on. Outside their
window, I watched them breathe. I watched the moonlight
pool in their yard. I wanted to tuck a quilt under their chins:
they just needed rest. Though I wouldn’t show for weeks, I
hoped in nine months they might do the same for me.
Empathy from Upholstery
Some chairs are better to sit in when receiving bad news.
Molded plastic lawn chairs are appropriate for learning you
must serve burnt steak at the block party or that the litter of
bunnies you watched from the kitchen window was magicsliced
by the neighbor’s riding mower. Overstuffed settees
are ideal for insulating the sucker-punch of being asked for
a divorce. Or telling the children that Daddy disappeared into
a bottle-shaped organ. What of high-backed dining chairs?
They are best suited for disclosing unplanned pregnancies
at suppertime after soccer practice. So naturally, I am suspicious
when you hand me the furniture catalog, and there’s
an inviting wingchair dog-eared on page 36, begging me to
come rest awhile in its arms.
Looking upside down cumulo
cirrus clouds white on sky blue
linoleum in a backbend drinking water
as I saw a girl do on the talent hour
and knew I could too.
Mother wincing twisting
a nervous wedding ring recalls
the circus family she escaped
wide-eyes me whom she has strained
to train in domestic arts. From here I see
the undersides of things kitchen
table turquoise where legs bend to be screwed in
salmon upholstery pulled and tacked beneath chairs
cabinet bottoms where feathery paint strokes quit early
avocado-green blender rising like a skyscraper.
Ceiling’s a floor as white as a circus tent
carte blanche to all that transpires below and above.
I’ve drunk the water in the paper cup tilted with my teeth.
I rock back and forth to spring upright—sky and clouds
once again below me where they belong.
A pesar de haber vivido entre piedras y serpientes, en
el momento de ser decapitada por Perseo, Medusa tuvo un
pensamiento blanco y alado que brotó de su cuello.
Despite having lived among stones and snakes, just
at the moment when she was being beheaded by Perseus,
Medusa had a white winged flash of thought that sprang from
Probabilities: An Inventory
Footprint in a slab of stone,
the flattest moment of a sea,
a rook blindsides a queen,
cigarette smoke stuttering
in 80% chance of rain.
Secret bag of caramels in a lingerie drawer,
a postcard surprises with fractal confessions,
white lies lurk in the cavalier folds of promise,
the melody of a hyphen to uncommon degrees.
The way in is filament
for the way out:
fingers at attention in my rock paper scissors holster,
my fist rubbernecking knee deep in algorithms:
Waiter, make my thinking malted,
a layer cake of spider webs made spicy
with the stuff of the world—
the nervous matter of my mind
seeking anchorage in the evening
and morning wardrobes of Venus.
The way out weighs in again:
venture into the pyrotechnics
of another thunderstorm
for the next parade
of lottery numbers
from the neighborhood
convenience store, shoreline
between predictable barbs
This world is just small enough to be guided by a hand-held
device. Be careful—any particular button could destroy the
earth, a fact we foolishly dismiss as our fingers dance over
the numbers and the stories flash on the screen. The scenes
change from fire to ice, from love to murder, from rage to
sleepy children playing with dead animals. The remote never
lies—its power surmounts that of the box that contains it.
Change the channel—the movie you are spinning out is not
worth its plastic case. That is what you will discover—that the
animated bits of information eclipse themselves with the lack
of their importance, and it is truly and subtly dangerous to assume
otherwise. Watch your fingers! Don’t let go of the little
machine! Someone is watching you watch TV and gathering
information as to your most deeply held mundane beliefs.
A Bunch of People Who’ve Died
My Grandpa, heart attack.
My Grandma—I don’t know, old age, I guess.
My other Grandpa, drank himself to death, but it took
My other Grandma, drank herself to death, and my
Dad walked in as a twelve-year-old or somewhere around that
age and found her dead. My Dad dragged her to the bed, not
understanding death. He only told me that story once. I asked
if he would be OK with me writing about that ever and he said,
“Do whatever you want.”
A lot of other relatives, but I don’t go to funerals. It’s
like I want to forget them so that I don’t sit around thinking
about my dead relatives all day. It’s relatives I didn’t know that
well though, like aunts and cousins and stuff. My uncles are
crazy. One’s been in prison, a lot. And another’s a heroin addict.
And another’s a bit of a workaholic, working in the mines.
But they keep plugging away, refusing to die. It’s the nicest,
quietest relatives who’ve seemed to die the quickest. Like my
Auntie Sharon, who had a large pan full of boiling maple syrup
spilled on her at my mother’s wedding. That didn’t kill her, but
it was something else years later. And another relative who
was flying a small plane he crashed on an island in Lake Superior
during winter. He survived the crash, but then froze to
death. I didn’t go to those funerals though. I told you that. If
people don’t go to my funeral, I’ll understand.
The E-4 on my opposite watch in Rota who fell from
a roof. The rumor was the Guardia Civil threw him off it. They
told us during orientation to run if the Spanish police were
ever coming to a bar or restaurant we were at, that they beat
up Americans, that they might even kill you. I always ran if I
ever heard the cops were coming, even if I didn’t do anything
wrong. I don’t know what happened to that E-4 exactly, but I
saw his wife the week after he died. She didn’t say hi to me.
All the guys on that plane that crashed off base. Diego
Garcia. Standing on the beach, I watched the Search and
Rescue. It was a warm February night, not far from the equator.
I went back in the barracks and watched TV in the rec
room. It was always empty at night. David Letterman used to
come on at around noon. Late Night at noon. But they’d do
reruns around midnight or so.
This guy in a helicopter that ran into electrical wires
just off base on Skaggs Island. I watched him die through binoculars.
I wrote about it before in a short story called “War” in
Oklahoma Review. My Dad read that story and said it had too
many f- words. I couldn’t really see what was going on inside
the helicopter though. It was too far away. Although I used to
have nightmares where I was seeing the guy burning. But the
older I get, the further the helicopter gets away.
This Marine who shot himself in the mouth while doing
patrol around The Bullring, which was the name of the
barbed-wired building where I worked as a CTO in Spain.
I hated that building too. This other Marine who drank himself
to death on Diego Garcia. His barracks was right across from
mine and the MPs placed police tape all around the part of the building
where they found him dead.
This guy in boot camp where the company commander
drowned him during training, holding his head under
the water as punishment. But he held him under too long. I
got pneumonia in boot camp and lost fifty pounds, but I didn’t
die. My Mom said that when she came to visit me at my company
C060 graduation I looked like an Auschwitz survivor.
I’m doing these deaths out of order. It’s just how they
come to me. I think that’s it for the military. I actually thought
there’d be a lot more of us that would have died when I was
in the military, but it was just these people. I didn’t know any
of them very well. Everybody I knew well lived. The people I
knew well used to get in trouble a lot though, like having to
go to Captain’s Mast and be put in the brig and stuff like that,
including me, but that’s a different story.
This girl in high school who got leukemia.
Those kids in high school who committed suicide. I
think it was like three. Two of them had the same last name,
but I don’t think they were related. One of them was really
mean to me. He used to make fun of how skinny I was. I used
to think about punching him in the face, but I never did. After
he died though, I forgave him. The other kid with the same last
name had a good sense of humor. I was really surprised when
he killed himself. He did the car exhaust thing in the garage
that people do. If I ever killed myself, I wouldn’t do it that way.
I’d do it some other way. I always thought drowning would be
a good way to do it, but then my cousin died drowning and
then I hated drowning from then on. And my Mom said that
she has thought of killing herself by drowning too, which I
didn’t like her telling me.
The guards in the prison where I was volunteering. It
was a correctional facility for inmates with a history of violent
crime or mental health issues. The head of the volunteer program
told me to never turn my back on the prisoners. Basically
always keep them in front of you. The prisoners all had pencils
for the class, so they could stab you with one of those and kill
you pretty quickly if they targeted the right place. When the
prisoners found out about the guards who died, they didn’t
seem like they enjoyed the news as much as I thought they
Everybody I know from college is alive, except for my
old Religious Studies professor. I had him for Witchcraft, Magic,
and the Occult and Goddesses. He went to Harvard. I think
it was non-Hodgkins lymphoma that he died from. I went to
his office and he told me he couldn’t live anymore, that the
pain was too much, too constant. He was a nice guy. During
office hours, he gave me moonshine he got from a juke joint
in Mississippi and also gave me books by Mary Daly, Charles
Bukowski, and Malcolm X. He told me not to read Martin Luther
King, the Bible, and books about Gandhi. He said life’s
more complicated than that.
I was going to say my heart back in 2005. That’s
when Julie left me. But that’d be corny. I’ve thought about
suicide though, but I don’t know how to do it. I won’t kill myself
though, if you’re wondering. I have a book coming out
next year, so that’s keeping me alive. That’s what I like about
writing. I’ve always said that if I ever really want to kill myself,
I have to first write a suicide note and the suicide note has to
be at least 250 pages and then when I get done writing it I can
try to send it to a small press and see if I can get it accepted
for publication and, if so, that’d keep me wanting to be alive
for longer. I think if you write a suicide note that’s only a few
pages long, people could care less.
The Waiting Room
My god, we are all terminal cases under the gruesome
fluorescent light bouncing off the once creamy walls.
The chairs are orange, designed in the fifties by an Italian who
considered style more than comfort. The plastic heats up your
fanny while you try to find a comfortable position.
It’s four a.m. the doggie hours, the end of sleep approaching
for sleepers, but for us—the start of a long day. The
magazines reflect the doctors’ discards—Golf Digest, The
Allergy Newsletter, Hospital Purchasing New, Forbes, and
month-old TIME and Newsweek, capsulized data for chatter
at the club.
A girl rocks back and forth her arms wrapped around
her stomach, her mother goes out for a smoke and returns
trailing the odor of burned tobacco. We are waiting for news
of my mother who got up to go to the bathroom and fell and
broke her arm. She disappeared behind those doors some
The girl with the stomach problem is making funny
noises, a sort of singing groan. The doctor finally appears in
flowered scrubs and takes her into the bowels of the emergency
The clock ticks over the melted snow on the dirty
yellow linoleum floor. The door outside door opens and two
EMTs rush in carrying a board between them, a bundle, a pile
of blankets. The doctor takes them right inside. A man and a
woman follow. Her ankles are bare, hair flying, pajamas sticking
out from under a raincoat. He wears a wrinkled pair of
khakis under a Bills jacket. He wears no socks either. They too
take a seat on the orange chairs lining the abutting wall. He
puts his arm around her. She studies the puddles on the floor
as if they were runes spelling out the future making a tuneless
sort of noise, rising and falling, softly.
The doctor comes back into the waiting room and
demands in a loud voice, “What happened!” The questions
come in a hard, insistent voice. They stumble, talking over
each other, until the man takes over. The doctor is mad at
them and they don’t know why. He answers, his voice rising
with each answer until, “we found him in the crib.” And “crib”
becomes a growl that breaks into a gasp a drowning man
might make bobbing into air.
The wife makes a terrible sound, a terrible moan that
increases in intensity until she sinks to her knees, as if following
instructions in the mass—let us all kneel there on the dirty
wet linoleum. She makes no other sounds. Her husband lifts
her; the doctor takes them back inside. We wait again, our
silence different. We breathe back into the fluorescent gloom
all that we can offer them.
Deep red walls pulsate with human noises booming,
Over faint, annoying strains of disco, waiting people
spill in among tightly packed diners at the black lacquered tables.
It’s the early ‘80s era of Studio 54, and cocaine is flowing
freely along with champagne and money among professionals
in New York City. From across the room a pale hand is waving.
I locate the face, almost translucent in the narrow beam
of an overhead spotlight, of my friend Melissa from college.
We were the two in our group of friends who didn’t wait or
barely waited for Wellesley to end before marrying two close
friends, both preppie, both at Harvard and members of private
eating clubs, both named John. Less than five years later
Melissa and I are both single again, living and experimenting
with the wilds of New York’s edgier Upper West Side—not
the East side where our ex-husbands and most of our former
friends and relatives live.
I cross the room. Melissa’s bright red very fuzzy sweater
looks itchy, she must never sweat or scratch. Her eyes are
black with shadow, her apple cheeks further rouged by the
heated restaurant. On her arm a thick white bandage. “Melissa!”
I say. I’m almost on top of her before I can be heard.
Introductions are made and her dinner companion, a black
man, turns his head with a perfunctory half-inch nod. Handsome
black face, elegant clothes, very white teeth. A fleeting
smile. Colors have been mixing with impunity for decades but
less among my friends. Black, red, white—no room for nuanced
I have to ask, “What happened to your arm?” Our
friendship is based mostly on our similar pasts. Once or twice
a year, I call and we have lunch. Not much more. From the
instant she begins her fast-talking Midwestern twang, Melissa
is brilliant, also gorgeous and talented—dancing with the
American Ballet Theater from the minute she moved to New
York, then getting a social work degree. Friends of John and
Melissa were surprised when they married, he quite conventional
from old money; she more glamorous, maybe a little
flaky, definitely not stolid—not what was expected for John.
Melissa tells the story of her bandage: of putting her
key into her office lock at the street door, absorbed in listening
to the walkman covering her ears, a man pushing against her,
demanding her purse. Then he sliced her arm with a knife.
“Ohmygod,” I say, looking toward the boyfriend to share my
shock. He doesn’t look up. Why would I question such a story?
After Melissa dies, a mutual friend berates me, “Come
on,” Jon (a third John but no h, Jewish) snips, sipping his seltzer.
Behind his head looms blood red leather of a Queen Anne
chair, one of many scattered around the hushed dark wood,
Harvard Club library-looking room on a late fall afternoon.
Some graying heads dozing. “How could you believe that?”
Jon asks, pointedly staring his astonishment. “The boyfriend
did it.” To my puzzled forehead, “He sliced her arm.”
“The guy sitting right there? The guy at their dinner table?”
I struggle to switch images from boyfriend to slicer. Jon
sneers, angrier, “He was the boyfriend at the time.” I’ve had
bouts of gullibility, once reading the Lampoon issue of TIME
magazine, not realizing the joke, chiming in with off-the-wall
quotes from the articles until someone set me straight. Later I
wonder if Jon—brilliant defender of criminals including the guy
who pushed a talented violinist off a subway platform—had
been me, at that moment in the red and black restaurant, if he
would have recognized the elegant date as the slicer.
Blindsight is a neurological disconnect in which a person’s
brain convinces her that she is blind, although some
part of the brain receives visual signals: when interviewed, she
becomes thirsty—she grabs the glass of water in front of her
that he/she cannot “see.” With blindsight, I know more about
Melissa than I think I do.
Icy white tile floors, snowy white sofas, billowing white
curtains, white broken up by many mirrors—the white East
Side apartment is where Melissa lives first in New York City
with her husband John. In the kitchen, white, white, white,
appliances, floor, curtains. Frothy white mounds of duvet and
pillows, more mirrors, in the bedroom. To the white apartment,
Melissa brings clients from her Legal Aid office. I admire
Melissa for her work with needy people, envy her helping
them, being willing to bring them home. I consider social work
school but never get there. In the white bed late one night,
John discovers Melissa with one of the black clients; the white
In noisy restaurants, Melissa and I meet for our lunches,
competing at our tiny tables for who orders less—smaller
and smaller appetizer salads—exchanging news at a highspeed
pitch, each taking over when the other stops to eat or breathe,
neither challenging the other, no one really listening. If
I’m completely honest, maybe I wouldn’t stay Melissa’s friend.
Matching her fast-talking exhausts me: after one lunch I go
home for a nap.
When Melissa tells me about being caught in bed with
her Legal Aid lover, I smile good for you, for exhilaratingly inappropriate
sex (at 16, he’s about half our age), for breaking the
mold, for venturing beyond the milquetoast world we come
from. Because to disapprove or look worried might risk losing
Melissa’s friendship. I work hard to avoid the pain of loneliness,
I’m struggling, too. I stay her friend but I don’t help her.
The afterimage remains: a muscular black backside among
the powdery white puffs.
Then Melissa lives alone, for a while moves in with, later
marries a Legal Aid lawyer, Steve, whom I meet, dine with,
once or twice. Again I envy Melissa, her poverty lawyer of high
morals and convictions, a man who doesn’t reach for lucrative
salaries but dedicates himself to saving the disenfranchised, a
good man. Right?
Wrong again. At the Harvard Club Jon tells me Steve
skipped town after robbing Melissa blind. As a condition of
agreeing to get out of her hair, Steve makes her sign every
check in a book of checks, and then takes off around the
country in the new Porsche she bought him, continuing to
drain her bank accounts. Whatever could have happened
to persuade Melissa, smart as she is, to sign those checks?
When Jon tells me about Steve as part of a chain of events
leading to Melissa’s death, though, the memory comes into
focus: Melissa telling me bits of the Steve story over one of
our lunch salads, something like, “He has my checks, he’s
spending my money.” I don’t get it, but I don’t question her.
Melissa and I don’t pry. We’re WASPS, we follow the WASP
rulebook for question-asking that brooks no probing, especially
into matters of money.
One morning several weeks after the black and red
restaurant encounter, Melissa is slumped on the black couch
against a wall outside the office of Dr. S., a psychiatrist whom
I see on Melissa’s recommendation for biofeedback—my jaw
is out of whack from asking questions, doing interviews for
work, nothing personal. I’m surprised Melissa’s here—she
didn’t say she was his patient. Or did she, and I wasn’t listening,
blindsight for the ears. The doctors’ lounge is busy, no
low lighting or white noise machines, more like a hospital than
a private practice waiting room. Melissa is wearing the same
fuzzy, glitzy sweater, her evening sweater in the morning.
Melissa is a prolific discount shopper with so many designer
clothes she has metal racks to hold them like those at museum
coat-checks. Another tidbit from Jon at the Harvard Club,
near the end of Melissa’s life, her boyfriends, by now more
than one, wheel these clothes racks out along the Broadway
sidewalk in front of her building to get quick cocaine cash.
In the sunny morning doctors’ office, Melissa’s eyes
are ringed with black, painted on, maybe not? She looks frail,
a limp doll propped up against the black couch back. WASP
etiquette includes rules that limit conversations in doctors’ offices.
Without questions, we don’t know what we don’t know.
On a family ski trip in my teens, our bus is in an accident on
the snowy mountain road, one of its wheels over the cliff and
something else with headlights barely visible in the valley below.
Is anyone hurt? Our bus turns back so we can spend the
night nearby and the next morning some of our parents give
formal statements about what happened. I should remember
at least that we got a day’s reprieve from skiing, from lugging
heavy equipment, from standing in freezing cold lines, from
worrying about falling or falling behind the others—although
once on the slopes, loving the dark pine woods, the hard- earned chili and hot chocolate after hours in below-freezing
cold and wind. About the accident, we kids are expected to
follow the adults’ lead, otherwise to say nothing. People tell
you what they want you to know. The result for me, besides
that image of the bus wheel hanging over the cliff, is no memory
Maybe Jon is more perceptive than me because he’s
a lawyer and Jewish: he asks personal questions. My Jewish
friends know about helping people in trouble, bringing casseroles,
dropping by—WASPS order take-out and lock doors.
On the other hand, I first met Jon on a blind date and after a
few meetings told him we should be friends. “How can that
be?” he kept asking. “What do you mean? You’re not attracted
At the Harvard Club Jon tells me that for months after
meeting Melissa, he’s in love with her, he wants her to be his
girlfriend, he wants to rescue her. I am not sure how boyfriend
and rescuer are related in his mind, or if they were in hers. Or
why or how Melissa said no to his offers. Jon thinks she was
coming around before she died.
Days after her death, it’s time for my next appointment
with the psychiatrist. Although I’m not a psychotherapy patient,
Dr. S. usually talks to me for a few minutes while hooking
up the biofeedback machine, maybe in order to charge the
insurance for his time. Usually he asks how it’s going, and I
say, ok. Today, I say, “I guess you know about Melissa.” “No,”
he says, expressionless, maybe already distancing himself.
“She committed suicide,” I say. I tell him the short version of
what I learned when Jon called me in the late-night hours: she
took a lot of cocaine; then feeling too high and maybe ready
to die, she took Valium to calm down, a lot of Valium. Then
she asked someone to call 911. In the ambulance, she said, “I
don’t want to die.” In hindsight her heart attack—how cocaine kills—
is deemed a suicide.
Dr. S. says, “Too bad. She was doing so well with me.”
Self-centered, cold, avoiding malpractice? Or like me? I also
thought she was fine. I leave him furious, I quit biofeedback.
Melissa, many of our New York friends, me—we are
privileged, careless, maybe desperate. We are among the first
generations of female college graduates expected to have
serious work, even professional careers. In the fall of 1968
my mother packs me off to college with clothes for Harvard
football games and husband hunting. By the following summer
of 1969, I’m going to nude beaches and Cream concerts
in Berkeley, Greek dancing in the Palo Alto hills. The following
spring, I am on strike against the war and at the same
time preparing to marry a naval officer: no one questions the
conflict. Now single in New York, we work, go to discos, stay
up too late, choose the wrong men, have extra money for
discount designer clothes and cocaine—how better to follow
up the rebellions of our 1970s, breaking out and away from
everything our parents missed.
A banker friend of mine takes so much cocaine she
leaves for work one morning without her glasses, her vision
so bad she takes the wrong subway and then has to go back
home and start over. We are all riding that train, blinding ourselves
to the pain and boredom of figuring out who we are,
afraid to grow up.
Melissa and I share similar childhoods—successful
corporate lawyer fathers and mothers who didn’t work;
leaving home in 9th grade to attend Connecticut boarding
schools, until only recently called “finishing schools,” far from
our families; and then Wellesley College. We both have frizzy
hair, rebellious unless we sleep on painfully enormous curlers
or iron our hair straight until it falls out. Also like Melissa, I
move to New York with a guy, my boyfriend at the time, and
then we are both unattached. I move in and out of various
living arrangements, house-sitting a friend’s co-op, sharing
with another boyfriend, trying a new building where a childhood
friend lives. I have trouble settling, agreeing to any one
life. Melissa and I take cocaine, joke about it over our tiny
salads. When Melissa gets me a blind date with a childhood
friend, I expect upstanding, nice Midwestern. When he rips
my clothes off I’m shocked—destroying WASP property—but
sorry he doesn’t call again.
Surrounded by ochre sands and tall saguaro cacti,
framed by distant shadowy mountains, two decades after
Melissa’s death I am visiting my sister K.’s treatment center. K.
and I face each other in straight-backed chairs, the other participants
seated around us in a cheering-on circle. K. tells me
I’m responsible for her cocaine abuse because I introduced
her to her supplier, Melissa. I protest. I had no idea Melissa
was dealing cocaine, assumed she was like me, buying it occasionally
for parties, and wasn’t she a serious person with a
social work degree? I am not believed, no one cares. I know
the truth: even if I’d been aware of Melissa dealing cocaine,
all the more reason to invite her to a party with my sister and
friends—we were all doing it. In the clear desert air, the caring
person I want to be would never introduce her little sister to a
At the Harvard Club Jon gets to his point: I was Melissa’s
friend, I could have helped her.
My tiny overheated apartment dining room is crowded
for the June 9th birthday of Jon and me—also the birthday of
about 20 other people I’ve met over the years, all of us Labor
Day babies when I finally do the math. Wine bottles, take-out
salads, desserts cover the party table. Jon and Katie meet
Melissa—I barely notice—so that when everything turns out
the way it does, the fault is mine. I see the logic. I’m inviting
friends to my house, I should know them better, have become
close enough to them to know whether they deal drugs and
when they are in trouble.
Most of my information about Melissa’s past I’ve heard
through the grapevine. During college, her prominent lawyer
father dies falling from a Milwaukee bridge, at first explained
as fainting from the flu, unquestioned until a few days later,
then the truth that he committed suicide. Melissa has three
sisters, to me sounding idyllic, a gaggle of girlfriends to trust,
sympathize with, share clothes.
When first married, John and Melissa have a formal dinner
party, lots of small dining tables: the three sisters are there
working, passing food and washing dishes throughout the
meal, moving among us and standing at the sink where we
see them, but not sitting or talking with us. For the 1970s,
even among those from wealthy backgrounds with servants,
the arrangement seems odd—we should be passing and
washing all together—but at the same time incredibly generous
Later when we live in Manhattan, Melissa’s mother is
diagnosed with liver cancer—a death sentence, Melissa tells
me. Months pass. At our lunches, I ask about her mother.
She tells me about her mother’s boyfriend, then about their
trip abroad. One day a phone message, her mother has died,
Melissa is flying home to Milwaukee. I leave a message back,
maybe later we talk briefly, probably not much. I don’t understand
the enormity of a mother’s death, I’m not close to
mine: for the first five years of the 1980s, she stops talking
to me, then becomes a falling down drunk for ten years until
her death on a dark autumn morning. Afterwards as winter
looms I struggle to get out of bed, set a second alarm, buy
another clock with a light that gets brighter as the time nears
to wake up. I lie there, light shining and alarms ringing, unable
to move, thinking about my kids not getting to school, finally
throwing myself onto the floor, all this for a mother who was
absent for the previous 15 years and most of the time before
that. But when Melissa’s mother dies, when she is barely 30,
I feel nothing.
I misunderstand my friendship with Melissa. She has
three sisters and talks about at least one other friend, so how
is it possible I’m the one who lets her down?
If we ate more lunches. If I called more often. Melissa
doesn’t call so I don’t either. Melissa always looks perfectly
coifed, garbed, and chipper. I try to match the look, not probe
beneath it. We grew up with such formality. That day at the
psychiatrist’s office it doesn’t occur to me to say, Melissa, you
look terrible, let me help you, bring you to my house, feed
you. Instead, afterwards with my freshly-released jaw I hurry
to work, talk on the phone for hours, reclench my jaw, hold
onto that jaw instead of on to the people close to me. In the
years afterwards I cannot forget the image of Melissa on the
couch, looking as if things were really bad—so thin but so
fashionable that I don’t worry. And then it’s too late.
Recently I read about “The Longevity Project,” a study
that found the single greatest predictor of a long life to be conscientiousness:
conscientious people are prudent, persistent
and well-organized—more likely to live healthy lifestyles and
take medication as prescribed, find themselves in healthier
situations and relationships. I might be persistent, and Melissa,
well-organized; but neither of us has a great shot at longevity.
Yet I’m still here.
My carelessness hurts people. Melissa does not survive.
I resume life without Melissa. Over those salads, across
those tiny tables, with other people, Melissa is as clear to me
as if it were yesterday, not 30 years ago—her brown curls and
dancing smile and sweet Milwaukee accent. During a brief
bout of mid-life piano lessons, I choose “Sweet Melissa,” because
I like the song, only later making the connection to Melissa.
I remarry, move to Europe where there are no drugs in
our lives, have children. Knowing about carelessness, I worry
about my children. More friends die—AIDS, cancer, a murder.
I can’t stop thinking about Melissa, about how she might have
lived, about how she died instead.
Over time I see Melissa clearly, her fragile beauty carefully
delineated. But blindsight is perennial, catching me by
surprise when I least expect it, only nowadays I work hard on
strengthening the lens.
TEXT & IMAGE
Authors Bios & Q/A
In addition to providing a biography, our contributors answered the following:
1. If you were a shoe, what kind would you be?
2. What’s your favorite place in nature?
3. What’s the best thing you can buy for a dollar?
4. Favorite invention?
5. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
6. What would be the first thing you did if you stepped on the moon?
7. If you were dying, what would you pick as your last meal?
We hope that you enjoy their answers as much as we did.
Jeffrey Alfier has work appearing or forthcoming in Connecticut Review, Dos Passos Review, and South Carolina Review. His latest chapbook is The City Without Her (Kindred Spirit Press, 2012), and his first full-length book of poems, The Wolf Yearling, is forthcoming from Pecan Grove Press.
1. The kind that never wander into minefields.
2. The Rheinland-Pfalz.
3. That coffee people keep telling me I can buy with only a quarter.
6. Go find and kill all those spiders I saw on Apollo 18.
7. Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Little Debbies—all that shit that’s supposed to kill you.
Adam Berlin has published two novels—Belmondo Style (St. Martin’s) and Headlock (Algonquin Books)—as well as numerous stories and poems. He teaches writing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City where he co-edits J Journal: New Writing on Justice. Visit his website at www.adamberlin.com.
1. Nike Air Luna.
2. The Hana Coast, Maui.
3. Four bananas on 145th Street.
4. Sealing sticks at asiabyfrida.com.
5. Crayola Aquamarine.
6. Break the long jump record.
7. My Mom’s veal parmigiana, linguine with pesto, an ice-cold Sapporo, and a slice of Atkins apple pie with chocolate ice cream for dessert.
Zan Bockes (pronounced “Bacchus”) earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Montana. Her fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in many magazines and anthologies, and she has had four nominations for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry collection, Caught in Passing, is forthcoming from WordTech Communications.
1. I would definitely be a soft shoe, or a knee-high slipper filled with goose down.
2. My favorite place is Corrick’s Bend on the Blackfoot River in western Montana.
3. My best buy is reading glasses from the Dollar Store.
4. My favorite invention is Sticky Notes—they’re good for random thoughts and have just the right
amount of stickiness.
5. I would be a Periwinkle crayon, but you can only find it in the 64 color box.
6. My first step on the moon would be a giant leap, but not for mankind—I’d just want to see how
high I could jump.
7. My last meal would be my favorite—a huge bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats with soy milk and half and-half.
Joseph Bodie was born like most, unceremoniously and without his consent. That’s not to imply that he regrets the occurrence. An awful lot has happened since then, but presently he is happy and working on a few short film projects.
1. Hemingway’s never used baby shoes.
2. The top of a mountain. Any mountain.
3. Your favorite iTunes track.
4. Does Spotify count?
7. Shepherd’s pie and a pint of Guinness.
Anthony Isaac Bradley‘s stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Penduline Press, Main Street Rag, Moon City Review, Cave Region Review, Elder Mountain, and The MacGuffin. He was a finalist in the Moon City Review 2011 Short Story Contest, judged by Kevin Brockmeier. Anthony studies creative writing at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, where he lives with his cat and the ghost of another.
1. I would be one used by Tom Waits to store old cigarette packs in.
2. My favorite place in nature is the one where I do not have to listen to people talk about television.
And where I do not have to wear clothes.
3. Old country music records at a flea market.
4. My favorite invention would have to be poetry teachers. Otherwise I would not be here.
5. If I were a crayon I would be red, so that baby editors could begin practicing at an early age.
6. Draw my ray gun, of course.
7. I would choose vegetarian lasagna with a side of cheese ravioli. And I would request it be prepared by Tony Hoagland.
Joseph Bruchac’s poems have appeared in over 500 magazines and anthologies over the past five decades. His work often reflects his Native American (Abenaki) ancestry. His most recent volume of poetry is a bilingual collaboration in English and Abenaki with his son Jesse entitled Nisnol Siboal/Two Rivers (Bowman Books, 2012).
1. I could say a moccasin, seeing as how it’s our old traditional style of footwear (mokasin just means “foot covering” in Abenaki).
2. My favorite place is by a quiet Adirondack mountain sitting on ancient boulder and hearing the whistling of the wings of the loons as they circle over.
3. An hour’s worth of parking in front of my favorite Thai restaurant.
4. Has to be the personal computer. I couldn’t have succeeded as a poet or fiction writer as much as I have without it. Considering how often I revise everything.
5. Brown—the basic color of the Earth and her peoples.
6. Gasp for breath and then die? Folks, I have no interest in going to the moon.
7. How about something that would take me fifty years to eat, washed down with water from the Fountain of Youth? But, more seriously, probably strawberries—the fruit that we say is waiting for us in the Sky Land where those sweet berries are always ripe.
Mary Carpenter leads writing workshops in the Washington, D.C. area. She has written books for young adults about Temple Grandin and about dolphins lost in Hurricane Katrina. Her essays have been published in The Washington Post and literary journals, and she has reported on medicine for TIME and other publications.
1. A black suede ballet flat.
2. A secluded mid-Atlantic beach.
3. Paper and pen.
4. Electric teakettle.
6. Touch the ground to see how it felt.
7. Grits, raisin bread, coffee ice cream, chocolate chip cookie.
James Cho is a James A. Michener Fellow, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and won the Bethesda Magazine Short Story Contest. His stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Solstice Literary Magazine and Conte: a Journal of Narrative Writing. He received his M.F.A. from the University of Miami, andnow works and lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
1. A flip-flop.
2. A beach. Specifically, the beach in Manuel Antonio National Park, where I spent part of my
honeymoon and several subsequent vacations.
3. A chocolate eclair or strawberry shortcake ice cream bar. Very few things remind me of my
childhood like those two things, when I would buy them for a quarter.
4. As a writer, I should say the printing press, but damn it I do love my iPhone.
5. Blue Green. I have problems making decisions sometimes.
6. Bounce like a kid in a moon bounce tent.
7. This one is easy. Korean BBQ.
Tobi Cogswell is a two-time Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee. Credits include or are forthcoming in various journals in the US, UK, Sweden and Australia. Her fifth and latest chapbook is Lit Up (Kindred Spirit Press). She is the co-editor of SanPedroRiver Review.
1. Ballet slipper.
2. Whidbey Island.
3. Payday candy bar.
5. Burnt Sienna.
6. Long jump.
7. Lunch at the French Laundry with Jeffrey Alfier, Ken Meisel, Larry D. Thomas, Ricki Mandeville, Darla McBryde, and my son.
Arleen Ruth Cohen is a professional artist and poet who has travelled extensively. Arleen had had one article and over 250 poems published in newspapers, anthologies, and poetry manuscripts, the most recent of which include The Quintessential Cat, Whispers and Shouts, Bard Annual 2012, Paumanok, and Paumanok II.
1. A leather sneaker.
3. A chocolate bar with almonds.
6. Look around.
7. A steak, a salad, artichokes, broccoli with garlic oil. For dessert, a fudge brownie with pistachio ice cream.
Alyssa Cooper was born in Belleville, Ontario. An author and poet, her work has been featured in numerous literary journals, and her first novel was released in October 2012. She is currently attending college in Oshawa, where she lives with her typewriter and her personal library.
1. A flat soled Mary Jane, preferably with flowers embroidered on the toes; they’re
comfortable,cute and youthful, but can still pass for professional if they try hard enough.
2. Deep in a forest that’s dark, damp and quiet. I like to live in the mulch and watch the mushrooms grow.
3. Plastic bubble rings from coin turn machines. I need one for every finger.
4. I’ve always been a huge fan of manual typewriters, especially the original three-bank models. I’ve got my own Underwood Standard Portable, and I’m currently in the market for winged Oliver.
5. Has anyone else seen those confetti crayons, that are every colour of the rainbow? I’d be one of those.
6. I’ve always wanted to see how high I can jump in low gravity.
7. My last meal would have to be a last buffet; I couldn’t possibly pick just one thing! The buffet would have to include spaghetti, cabbage rolls, chicken wings and funnel cake.
Paul Cunningham earned his B.A. in English from Slippery Rock University. He currently manages Radioactive Moat Press and his writing has appeared in publications including Witness, A capella Zoo, Diagram, H_NGM_N, and others.
1. A filthy one.
2. Someplace shrouded.
3. Goodwill LPs.
4. David Byrne.
6. That flagpole does nothing for those pores . . .
7. The last pages of The Passion According to G.H.
Genevieve Fitzgerald was born in Queens, New York, read English for a year at Oxford University, is the mother of three children and currently lives in Raleigh, NC. She facilitates a community writers’ group and a writing workshop for children. Her poetry and prose appear in several journals.
1. A red suede short boot with fringe.
2. Mermaid Rock on Brant Lake.
3. Peppers at the farmers’ market.
6. Probably call out a litany of saints like my grandmother used to do.
7. Lobster ravioli.
David Galef is a professor of English and the creative writing program director at Montclair State University. He has published over a dozen books, the latest of which are the short story collection My Date with Neanderthal Woman (Dzanc Books) and the translation Japanese Proverbs: Wit and Wisdom (Tuttle).
1. An old white Keds sneaker, size 9, the kind that I wore before I grew up and adopted new footwear.
2. I like to lie under a tree with enough shade so that I can read.
3. Most dollar stores sell keychain flashlights that can show me the way home.
4. Tough one, but maybe word processing software, since I write all the time.
5. A tasteful gray.
6. Leap to test the one-sixth gravity.
7. What else but fried chicken?
Bull Garlington is a syndicated humor columnist, author, and Alabama expatriate. His collection of short stories, King of the Road, is available for next to nothing on Amazon. Seriously, it’s a steal.
1. A single, worn-out boot, left and forgotten on a back porch, my mate having been carried off by stray dogs.
2. Being mauled by bears.
3. Seriously? Where do you shop?
7. An all you can eat fried catfish buffet.
Corey Ginsberg’s work has most recently appeared in such publications as PANK, Subtropics, Gargoyle, the cream city review, The Los Angeles Review, Puerto del Sol, and ThirdCoast. When she’s not writing, she mostly spends her time feeling guilty that she’s not writing.
1. The most stable, least smelly running shoe at the gym.
2. The ocean at dusk.
3. 20 limes at the ghetto-fabulous grocery store near my house in Miami.
4. It’s a tie between KenTacoHut and baby leashes.
5. Olive green.
6. I’d like to say it would be the Moonwalk, but I’m sure I’d be so excited and scared I’d pee a little in my spacesuit instead. I don’t imagine NASA would be thrilled about that.
7. Mashed potatoes, spaghetti with Ragu, dirty vodka, and Coldstone cake batter ice cream.
Emmett Haq is a graduate of Medaille College in Buffalo, New York. He has studied with Dr. Ted Pelton and is an editor and proofreader at Starcherone Books. Emmett has another publication forthcoming in Many Mountains Moving, and currently lives and works in Houston, Texas, as he prepares to begin his graduate education.
1. Probably loafers, the kind with the tassels on top.
2. The fields and forests near my current home in the Houston area. This neighborhood is still
in the process of development, and there’s a lot of natural beauty and places to explore that
haven’t been destroyed (yet).
3. A cold beer, if you can find the right gas station in Buffalo.
4. The Internet is both my favorite and least favorite invention. It’s made it so much easier to connect
with other people and all the wonderful and horrible things they have to offer.
5. Indian Red [discontinued in 1999].
6. I’d think of a memorable catchphrase that people could misquote for decades afterward.
7. Chicken korma, a strong IPA, and something fattening for dessert which I’d never have to worry about. Probably baklava.
Teresa Hommel lives in New York City, writes short fiction, and works on her memoir. One of her stories will appear in Rosebud Magazine #54. She grew up in Missouri where the chickweed and violets grew foot-deep across the back yard, and minnows and crayfish swam in the creek.
1. I would be a flip-flop with arch support.
2. Sitting on a branch halfway up a tree.
3. A moment of pleasure if I give the dollar to a homeless old woman.
4. The wheel, as used in roller skates, bicycles, trains, and airplane tires.
7. Morphine injection.
Stephen Kaplan has published poetry in a number of journals, including ONTHEBUS, Midstream, Tribeca Poetry Review and two New York City themed anthologies, Tokens and Bridges.
2. Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
3. A couple of stamps.
4. Motion picture camera.
5. Ultramarine Blue.
7. Nothing, not hungry.
Nate Liederbach is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing and English Literature at the University of Utah, author of the prose collection Doing a Bit of Bleeding (Ghost Road), co-editor of the anthology Of a Monstrous Child: Creative Writing Mentorships (Lost Horse), and Managing Editor of Western Humanities Review.
2. Good sense.
3. Sentimentalizing early driving moments.
6. Barry Hannah & Fiver (Watership Down).
7. Twenty nickels.
Toshiya Kamei holds an M.F.A. in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas. His translations include Liliana Blum’s The Curse of Eve and Other Stories (2008), Naoko Awa’s The Fox’s Window and Other Stories (2010), and Selfa Chew’s Silent Herons (2012).
Emma Koch, is a first year student at the University of Chicago where she studies religion and occasionally slams poetry. Her work has appeared in the online publication em:me magazine and her black out poetry can be found at the blog www.biblicalsubtraction.tumblr.com.
1. Gray wing-tips with black velvet laces. I like pretending I’m classy.
2. Anyplace with a sufficiently climbable willow or magnolia tree.
3. Depending on your familiarity with Baltimore, an excellent, perfectly spiced, deliciously crispy samosa.
4. Aspergillums, a tool used by priests to sprinkle holy water on things. I mean, they have a
wonderfully silly name and getting sprinkled with holy water can be a pretty introspective experience.
5. Wine red or dark maroon. Both are very elegant and, as stated in the answer to question one, I like pretending I’m classy.
6. Marvel at how amazingly infinite, lonely and beautiful the universe is. Then I’d probably have a panic attack and have to leave.
7. The best coffee ice cream you could imagine and a cup of perfectly brewed tea.
Robert Krut is the author of This is the Ocean (Bona Fide Books, 2012) and The Spider Sermons (BlazeVox, 2009). His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including The Cimarron Review, Smartish Pace, Inter/rupture, Blackbird, Poetry Vinyl, The Mid-American Review, and more.
1. Converse All Star.
2. Canyon de Chelly, Arizona.
3. Three songs on the jukebox.
4. The wheel.
5. Outer Space.
6. Take gravity-less steps.
7. Fried chicken from Willie Mae’s Scotch House, New Orleans.
Mark Lewandowski is an Associate Professor of English at Indiana State University. He is the author of the story
collection, Halibut Rodeo. His stories and essays have also appeared in many journals and anthologies.
1. Merrell Moc.
2. Serengeti Plain.
3. A cup of Starbucks at the cafe in my university’s library.
5. Blood red.
6. Sing The Grateful Dead’s “Standing on the Moon.”
7. My wife’s smothered pork chops and pot de crème.
Marc Mason is a professor at Arizona State University. He teaches courses in critical reading and thinking, and in how to be academically successful. His previous publications include The Joker’s Advocate and The Aisle Seat, as well as the graphic novel Red Sonja: Raven.
1. I’d be a black, high-top athletic shoe. They provide comprehensive support, which is what I try
and do for my students. Plus, they just look cool.
2. The top of Mt. Floyen in Bergen, Norway. I was there this past summer and I found true peace
and tranquility there for the first time in my life.
3. A fountain-poured root beer. That would also be the best thing you could buy for two dollars.
4. Nothing beats the bicycle for best invention ever. I have no idea what my life would be like without one.
5. I’d be a black crayon. It’s my favorite color, and no matter what you use it to draw, it’ll look slimming.
6. While I’d like to believe I’d come up with something classy to say after landing on the moon, the temptation to gloat might be overwhelming. I think I’d spike a football and yell “Suck it, haters!”
7. A deep-dish pepperoni pizza. If I’m lucky, the pizza itself might kill me before whatever disease I was fighting can do the job.
Gary L. McDowell is the author of two collections of poetry: Weeping at a Stranger’s Funeral (Dream Horse, forthcoming) and American Amen (Dream Horse, 2010), winner of the 2009 Orphic Prize. He’s also the coeditor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (Rose Metal, 2010). He is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.
1. Air Jordan 11. The 1995 edition of Jordans are the pinnacle. Size 11. White/Black-Dark Concord.
2. Lake Big Arbor Vitae in Arbor Vitae, WI.
3. A 50 oz fountain drink from the gas station across from campus is $0.69. I’d pocket the change.
4. I’m rather partial to the Internet.
6. Hit a golf ball. I’ve always wanted to drive it 400 yards.
7. Homemade tacos.
Donnelle McGee is the author of Shine (Sibling Rivalry, 2012). He earned his M.F.A. from Goddard College. He is a faculty member at Mission College in Santa Clara, California. His work has appeared in Controlled Burn, Colere, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Home Planet News, Iodine Poetry Journal, Permafrost, River Oak Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and Willard & Maple, among others. His work has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Donnelle lives in both Sacramento and Turlock, California and is the proud father of two beautiful kids.
1. I would be a blue suede puma.
2. The coastline in Mendocino, CA.
3. A small bag of sunflower seeds.
6. I would think of my kids and shout—“Hey kids, I got the moon for you!”
7. Lots of chips and spicy salsa.
Kathleen McGookey’s work has appeared in over forty journals and ten anthologies. She has published a book, Whatever Shines (White Pine), a chapbook, October Again (Burnside Review), and a book of translations of French poet Georges Godeau’s prose poems, We’ll See (Parlor). She lives with her family in Middleville,
1. A fleece-lined slipper.
2. Lake Michigan.
3. Two used books at the Caledonia library’s used book sale.
4. The waterski.
5. Jazzberry Jam.
7. Noodles and cheese and cherry pie. Also a spinach salad.
Kelly Miesko is a recent Slippery Rock graduate who currently splits her time between Washington, D.C. and Western PA, working part time jobs in both places while looking for a more permanent life. She spends much of her time thinking of leaving and living, but never doing so. No guts, this girl.
1. A light-up jelly shoe.
2. Any large body of water, preferably one surrounded by woods.
3. A cup of coffee—probably weak coffee for a dollar, but coffee nonetheless.
5. White, because it rarely gets used, and I don’t like to be used.
6. Probably fall off the edge and free fall back to Earth.
7. A giant cheeseburger covered with bacon, soft pretzels from Hills, a cold, fizzy Dr. Pepper, and an entire pumpkin pie.
Patrick Moran is the author of three collections of poetry, Tell a Pitiful Story, Doppelgangster, and The Book of Lost Things. He is currently an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
1. Black Chuck Taylor.
2. My cottage in Northern Wisconsin.
3. A Salted Nut Roll.
4. The direct drive turntable & speakers.
5. Venetian Red.
6. Play Frisbee Golf.
7. A bowl of Captain Crunch w/crunch berries.
Dave Morrison is like a carpenter missing fingers—do you worry about his ability or applaud his devotion? Morrison’s poems have been featured in literary magazines and anthologies, and read on Writer’s Almanac. Morrison’s eighth poetry collection, fail, was published in 2012.
1. Engineer boots.
2. Where the ocean touches land, particularly the Maine coast.
3. Two first-class stamps.
4. Van de Graaff generator.
5. Plaid (I’m not sure they make this anymore).
6. Make a dust angel.
7. Something that takes a very long time to eat.
Brian Michael Murphy’s poems have appeared in the Birmingham Poetry Review, the anthology Cap City Poets, and are forthcoming in Kweli Journal. He is an instructor at the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop, and a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Studies at Ohio State. He blogs at raisedbymovies.blogspot.com.
1. Very comfortable brown leather dress shoes. The soles have been replaced once or twice.
2. The Mediterranean Sea.
3. Half an order of fresh hand-cut fries at Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace.
4. The transatlantic telegraph cable.
6. Take a step back.
7. Spaghetti cacio e pepe, made by my Nadia.
Maggie Lynn Negrete is a native of SW PA and a Vassar College alumnus. She is dedicated to nurturing the creativity of children and adults as well as furthering her family heritage of printers, illustrators and civic custodians. Currently, Maggie is working on a serial fairytale comic, Adventuring Princesses.
1. My red cowboy boots.
2. There is a stand of virgin hemlocks at the Laurel Hill State Park.
3. I wish I could cross reference to verify cost/benefits, but probably a can of beets.
4. The printing press!
5. Spring Green.
6. I’d look to the sky.
7. A rare steak with a side of spaghetti.
Christin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s most recent awards include the ArtsEdge Writer-In-Residency at the University of Pennsylvania (2010-2011), an NEA Fellowship in Poetry (2011), and the Amy Clampitt Residency (2013). Her sixth book of poetry, The Year of No Mistakes, will be released by Write Bloody Publishing next year. For more information, please visit www.aptowicz.com.
1. A sturdy, broken-in boot with a thick sole.
2. On a lake at dusk.
3. Cheap ice tea in a can.
4. The Internet.
6. Kiss the ground.
7. Pumpkin cognac cheesecake and a great cup of coffee.
Amélie Olaiz was born in León and lives in Mexico City. She is the author of Piedras de Luna (2005) and Aquí está tu cielo (2007). Her work has appeared in Prohibido fumar (2008), Antología mínima delorgasmo (2009), and Three Messages and a Warning (2012), among others. English translations of her fiction have appeared in Ephemera and Phantom Drift.
1. Without a doubt, I would be a mutant shoe: a lambskin slipper for winter, an espadrille for summer, a leather moccasin for autumn, and a tennis shoe for walking in the woods and playing tennis.
2. The woods and the sea are both my favorites, depending on the season.
3. An iPhone photo application.
4. If I put on my scientist face, it’d be the telescope. If I’m in my intellectual mood, the printing
press and the fountain pen, but if I tell the truth, Mac and iPhone.
5. I would definitely be a blue crayon.
6. To look for the rabbit.
7. Vitamins for astronauts of the universe.
Kristen Orser is out to pasture in the West, but is upstate New York through and through. She is the author of Winter, Another Wall (blossombones); Folded Into Your Midwestern Thunderstorm (Greying Ghost); Wilted Things (Scantily Clad); Squint (Dancing Girl Press); and E AT I (Wyrd Tree).
1. I’d like to be the kind of shoe worn while picking the radishes, sweeping the front step, and shopping for pork loin. A loafer, sans penny and tassel, might be a boat shoe. And who doesn’t need to grip a wet deck?
2. For longer than I wanted to, but less than I should have, I lived in Ithaca, NY. It’s full of folded places, like the pools above Buttermilk Falls which take you to Bear, Larch, and Finger Lake trails. During the winter months, the rims are impassable, but you can find a way to see the frozen things and feel completely still while the falls push through and secretly exhale into cracked ice.
3. On Margarita Island, Tito bought me a bag of papayas for one dollar. We ate them in the street
and talked about Armandro Reverón’s dolls. It was his dollar and I still owe him something more.
4. At four, I asked my father how to tie a knot. He taught me to tie my shoe, gave me The Ashley
Book of Knots, and said I had a lot of practice ahead. There is a knot for everything, and a discovery each time a piece of string comes together in a new and purposeful way. It’s beautiful to see intention and accident make the smallest bit of string do something entirely unexpected.
5. Orange. Absolutely.
6. On the moon, it would only make sense to wish you were on the next thing your eyes could see. I imagine I’d immediately want something else—like being on a star.
7. A beef on weck from Eckl’s in Buffalo, NY.
Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. For more information, including his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities”and a complete bibliography, please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.
2. Wooded trail.
3. A bagel (without butter).
6. Look around.
7. Potato dumplings that come out grey. Nobody knows how to make them that way which assures me of a long life.
Randy Phillis has had work appear in a wide range of journals, including Iowa Review, Denver Quarterly, Florida Review and South Carolina Review. He also published two books with small presses, and teachers writing and American Literature at Colorado Mesa University, where he also edits Pinyon.
1. A flip-flop.
2. A mountain lake.
3. A McDouble.
6. Kick rocks.
7. T-bone steak and fries.
Eve Powers holds a degree in vocal performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, a first prize and honorable mention from National Pen Women’s literary competition, has been anthologized three times and published in many journals. She is listed in Poets & Writers Directory of American Poets and Fiction Writers and resides in Hawaii.
1. I would wear flip-flops (or as we call them here, slippahs) and kick them off to go barefoot in the sand.
2. Maha’ulepu cliffs and beach on Kaua’i.
3. A big bag of Asian long-beans at the Koloa farmer’s market.
4. The solar-powered automobile.
5. The glowing red and yellow of a mango.
6. Dance hula in the low gravity!
7. Kalua pork and rice.
Laura Ramos is a former magazine editor who lives north of Chicago. Her work has appeared in B O D Y, Southern Indiana Review, elimae, The Prose-Poem Project, and elsewhere. She teaches writing at StoryStudioNorth Shore.
1. A black boot with gum stuck to the bottom.
2. Anywhere my corgi can run without a leash.
3. A stamp or two.
4. The pill.
6. Forget to say what I’d practiced to say a thousand times.
7. Anything with cheese because I can’t eat it in real life.
C. R. Resetarits’ latest work appears in New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, Helix, dirtcakes, and Aries. Her essay on “Emerson in Paris,” will appear in Paris in American Literature: On Distance as a Literary Resource ed. Jeffrey Herlihy and Vamsi K. Koneru (Rowman & Littlefield,2012)
2. The back garden of a good English country pub.
3. The silence of small children.
4. Mr. Coffee.
5. Yellow-green or Green-yellow.
7. BLT on wheat, pale ale, chips.
Ron Riekki’s last book was How to Kill Yourself with a Gun and a Bottle of Pills (Original Works Publishing). His next book is The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (Wayne State UP, 2013.) After that, he’ll be published by Michigan State University Press in 2014.
1. Tom Araya’s top hat. Or more precisely Tomás Enrique Araya Díaz of Slayer’s Abraham Lincolnstyle top hat that he wears every time they perform “War Ensemble.”
2. Two old college friends of mine, Josh Cox and Brian Sefferlein, both do amazing Axl Rose impressions. I think the only thing better would be if Axl Rose walked up to me and did a flawless Johnny Cash. You don’t see a lot of those. And you should. The world needs a hell of a lot more Johnny Cash impressions.
3. I think the least funny person on the face of the earth is David Sedaris.
4. I have to quote my older sister, “I keep reading about people getting shot at gun shows.” There’s something beautiful about a person getting shot at a gun show.
6. I don’t know, but maybe one of the worst things in the world is when you have a boss who doesn’t understand how messed up the office is.
Helen Rugierri lives in upstate New York and has a book of poems from Kitsune Books, Butterflies Under a Japanese Moon. A new book—The Kingdom Where Everbody Sings Off Key—will be out in May from KelsayBooks. She is working on a book of creative nonfiction pieces about women in extreme situations like the woman in “The Waiting Room.”
1. I’d be a pair of snake skin stilettos with four-inch heels.
2. My favorite place is the shore. sucker all the way out.
3. I love to go into the Dollar Store because I can afford everything!
4. Sanitary napkins.
5. Big Apple Red.
6. I’d check to see if I had enough fuel to get home.
7. I’d have Zuppa Inglese—an Italian dessert with an awesome calorie count.
Rikki Santer is an award-winning poet whose work has appeared in numerous publications including Ms. Magazine, Poetry East, Margie, Asphodel, Alabama Literary Review, Potomac Review, The Adirondack Review, Grimm and The Main Street Rag. Clothesline Logic was published by Pudding House as a finalist in their national chapbook competition, and her latest collection, Fishing for Rabbits, was recently published by Kattywompus Press. She lives in Columbus where she teaches literature, writing and film studies at a local high school.
1. Ruby red slippers—
2. toes point coquettish under a waterfall’s canopy.
3. Inside back pocket, a pack of pop art pens from the dollar store—
4. with the erasable promise of pencil for an eternity of start-overs.
5. How many flavors of flesh can a crayon box hold?
6. Nibble the cheddar rim of every lunar crater
7. then savor Alice’s drink-me potion to aid the swallowing of Morpheus’ blue pill—last notes for a lifetime.
Marian Kaplun Shapiro is the author of a professional book, Second Childhood (Norton, 1988), a poetry book,Players In The Dream, Dreamers In The Play (Plain View, 2007) and two chapbooks: Your Third Wish, (Finishing Line, 2007); and The End Of The World, Announced On Wednesday (Pudding House, 2007). A Quaker and a psychologist, her poetry often embeds the topics of peace and violence by addressing one within the context of the other. A resident of Lexington, she was named Senior Poet Laureate of Massachusetts in 2006, in 2008, in 2010, and 2011. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2012.
1. The kind I can never wear–glamorous, elegant–AND comfortable, instead of just comfortable!
2. Now this is truly impossible–so many to choose from–we return to a lakeside cabin in Rangeley,
Maine each summer because it is so lovely and peaceful, but there are other, dramatic and magnificent places we have visited, as well as the beautiful woods in back of our house.
3. One piece of wonderful chocolate in Paris. But the ‘dollar’ is in Euro currency.
4. The computer. Without a doubt. I couldn’t do my writing without it, because of neck/back problems that are exacerbated by old-fashioned typewriting.
6. Sing. Then write a poem.
7. Hot fudge sundae! Now does that qualify as a ‘meal’? Guess not. So add spaghetti with mushrooms and meatballs.
John Brown Spiers lives in Athens, Georgia, in a house with many animals. His writing has appeared in A Bad Penny Review, Phantom Drift, and Hyphenate.
1. Probably a pair of moccasins. The kind with a dependable sole, so you can pad around the house all day but go and play with the dog in the yard without having to change.
2. Anywhere there are a lot of trees. Forests are good for this. Also, old neighborhoods. I think it’s good to feel a little small and a little young. And a little hidden, so other people have a hard time seeing what you’re up to.
3. The first two things I thought of were “a bottle of water” and “a deck of cards.” But I’m not sure you can get either of those things for a dollar. I’ll hold out hope that I’m wrong, and you can get
both. In which case, the answer depends on whether you’re in need of purity, or sin.
4. Earplugs, followed by headphones.
5. Cornflower blue. I don’t know why. But I hope it’s a big box of crayons, or I won’t exist.
6. Marvel at humanity’s achievement, my own insignificance, and my ability to have either done
enough math and physics to have become an astronaut, or earned enough money to buy my
way onto a spaceship, all at the same time.
7. I haven’t had a terrible, wonderful box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in a long time. I don’t know if it’s defeatist, to return to a bad habit just before death, but I think I would like to eat that.
Ronald Steiner’s poems have been published at 4and20poetry, Short, Fast, and Deadly and most recently at Workzine. He has been writing poetry, short stories, and songs for over fifteen years.
1. Los zapatos de las estrellas.
2. Dan’s Descent along the Appalachian Trail just west of Port Clinton, Pennsylvania. If you time it
right, you will get a vertical wind from the valley below.
3. A thank you card.
4. The word processor, and the Internet.
5. Burnt Sienna.
6. Urinate, I’m only human! Then I would write a poem.
7. Swedish Fish.
Catherine Sustana’s work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Arts & Letters, Crazyhorse, Quarterly West, and many other journals. She lives in Los Angeles, where she is working on a novel.
1. Something that never wears out, I hope.
2. Not telling. There’s no one there, and I want it to stay that way.
3. A contribution to anything in #4, below.
4. Any device—like the LifeSaver bottle, the LifeStraw, the Solarball, or UV Waterworks—that helps improve access to clean drinking water for the millions of people around the world who don’t have it right now.
5. The color doesn’t matter. What matters is hanging out with the other crayons.
6. Wave and hope someone was watching.
7. I think food would be the last thing on my mind.
Russell Thornburn is the author of three books of poems, and currently an artist-in-residence for the Mojave National Preserve. His poetry documents two weeks spent in the Mojave Desert with his son, whose photography will accompany his poems in an exhibit at the Desert Light Gallery, Kelso Depot Visitor Center. Thorburn’s debut fiction, Ninety-Five Flies in the Shade (Marick), is forthcoming in 2013.
1. The lost shoe of a private detective found in the Sonora Desert.
2. The prehistoric lake at Soda Springs, outside Baker, California, in the Mojave Desert.
3. A dollar buys a dark chocolate Hershey bar.
4. A mouse trap that doesn’t kill (tube leading into a jar with cheese).
6. Pee into space.
7. A burrito from Hugo’s, in North Hollywood.
Chrys Tobey has her M.F.A. from Antioch University. Her poetry has been published in many literary journals, and her chapbook, Wash Away: Marie Antoinette Visits my Mind (Finishing Line), was published in 2008. She has work forthcoming in Rio Grande Review, Cloudbank, and the Minnesota Review.
1. Converse, before they were owned by Nike (I shake my fists!).
2. Any body of water without sharks.
3. Mmmm . . . maybe a song.
4. The Sticky Note.
6. I would write a poem. We need a poet to write a poem on the moon!
7. Alaskan King Crab Legs.
Jasmine Dreame Wagner is the author of two chapbooks: Rewilding, winner of the 2012 Ahsahta Press Chapbook Contest, selected by Cathy Park Hong (Ahsahta, 2013); and Listening for Earthquakes, first runner-up for the 2011 Caketrain Chapbook Contest, selected by Rosmarie Waldrop (Caketrain, 2012.) Her poems and short stories have appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Blackbird, ColoradoReview, Indiana Review and elsewhere.
1. Black leather ankle boot.
2. A bog.
3. A slice of pizza.
4. The wheel.
6. Take off my helmet.
7. Mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and figs.
Dale Walkonen is a poet and playwright. She taught at Concordia College, Sacred Heart University, the College of New Rochelle, and Highland School. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College (B.A.) and Boston University (M.A.). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Eclipse, The Chaffin Journal, Primavera, and The Westchester Review. Her full length play, Mayday! Mayday! received critical acclaim.
1. Cerulean blue sneaker.
2. A redwood forest.
3. Cup of tea.
4. Hot water.
6. Dream on—to the planets and beyond.
7. Fresh air near a waterfall with blueberries and papaya.
Michael Watson was born in Whitehall, Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and currently a student in Rutgers University’s Creative Writing M.F.A. program. He lives in Philadelphia.
1. If I were a shoe, I’d be a boot.
2. My favorite natural place is the Delaware and Lehigh River Trail in Bethlehem, PA.
3. The best thing I can buy for a dollar is cheap coffee.
4. My favorite invention is the electric guitar.
5. If I were a crayon, I’d be indigo.
6. The first thing I would do after I stepped on the moon would be to take another step.
7. My last meal would be fish tacos and chocolate milk.
Lilo Way’s poems appear in Poet Lore, Avocet, Common Ground Review, the Bear Deluxe, Third Wednesday, Soundings, Northern New England Review and Australia’s Cordite Review. She has received grants from theNEA, NY State Council on the Arts and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation for her choreographic work involving
poetry. She can be heard as a reader on NPR’s Selected Shorts.
1. Sss . . . No shoe.
2. The list would fill a chapbook.
3. A mechanical pencil.
4. Contact lenses.
5. Creamy butter yellow.
6. Excuse myself.
7. I’d skip it.
Paula Weld-Cary writes fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in many journals including Portland Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Atlanta Review. She is a human rights activist who lives in Rochester, New York.
1. I would be the shoes worn by Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.
2. Beneath a waterfall, especially those in the high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains.
3. A chocolate bar with almonds.
4. The acoustic guitar.
5. Midnight blue.
6. I would take another small step for mankind/womankind.
7. An apple, so I could plant its seeds.
Monica Wendel is the author of No Apocalypse (forthcoming, Georgetown Review) and the chapbook Call it a Window (Midwest Writing Center, 2012). She is currently the writer in residence at the Jack Kerouac Project ofOrlando, Florida.
1. I hate shoes. This is why I have frostbite in a toe.
2. The abandoned airport runway near Jamaica Bay.
3. A Metrocard. No, wait, actually you can’t buy that for a dollar. A slice of pizza, I guess.
4. The printing press (duh).
5. I hate crayons. See question one.
6. Take off my moon-shoes and feel some moon-dust between my toes.
7. Roasted squash, kale or collard greens, chickpea curry. Basically anything West Indian.
Steve Westbrook (according to Google) leads Taekwondo classes, sings “I’ve Got Jesus,” arrests Texans, sells real estate, wears a T-shirt that reads “Buddha is my Om boy,” teaches English, practices Jazzercise, suffers numerous pathologies, and publishes poems in journals like Clementine, Literal Latte, The Los Angeles Review, and Rattle.
1. Chuck Taylors, most likely the discounted factory rejects.
2. The parts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua where the jungle meets the coast, or anywhere you might look up and see monkeys and sloths cavorting in the canopy.
3. A kiss from a toothless woman at a kissing booth.
4. Clean drinking water (or the technology that enables it).
5. Cornflower blue.
6. Step on the moon.
7. Burmese tea leaf salad, vada with coconut chutney and sambar, vegetarian cao lau, cardamom ice cream, absurdly dark chocolate, cafe sua da, Trappist ale. Yeah, I’m a bit of a foodie.
Kirby Wright was a Visiting Fellow at the 2009 International Writers Conference in Hong Kong, where he represented
the Pacific Rim region of Hawaii. He was also a Visiting Writer at the 2010 Martha’s Vineyard Residency in Edgartown, Mass., and the 2011 Artist in Residence at Milkwood International, Czech Republic. He is the author of the companion novels Punahou Blues and Moloka’I Nui Ahina, both set in the islands.
3. Stamped postcard.
7. Double sausage and onion pizza.
Justin Zipprich is a writer of stories, screenplays and comedy sketches living in Los Angeles. Justin has had stories published in short story anthologies: Luscious and Dark Light 3, as well as a Best Screenplay nomination at the Action on Film for my script One Moment.
1. I would be a sandal. Of all the shoe types, it would be the most freeing and comfortable for
me and the foot inside it as well. Imagine being an unrestrained foot seeing the world, free of restraints, that is the true life for a shoe-foot partnership.
2. The beach is my favorite place in nature. So many advantages of being there: the sand beneath your toes, the vast ocean out in front of you. Plus I got married on the beach so the beach will always be a special place to me.
3. . Easy, buy a lottery ticket. There’s such a thrill in scratching a lottery ticket, that thirty seconds of imagining what you will do with the money you win is truly a great time. And even if you lose, there’s always a dollar sitting around to try again!
4. An oldie but a goodie: paper. Especially with a bad memory like mine, without paper I would be completely lost. Good for notes, airplanes and writing first drafts of anything, paper is truly the greatest invention, second only to the pen.
5. Atomic Tangerine. Who wouldn’t like that color? It’s either a bizarre superhero or the best fruit I’ve never tasted; either way, it’s the coolest color to be.
6. Go immediately to the dark side. Someone has to find out what goes on over there and I’m just the guy to find out.
7. Anything made by the best cook I know, my wife. Let’s go with the steak quesadillas.