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Thursday
Aug282014

Instructions on How to Play the Comb

Katharine Rauk

If you practice, you just might make it as big as Mrs. Delilah's hair once she no longer has to get her son to the bus stop but can fill the extra hour in an empty house teasing herself into oblivion.

Take a comb. Fold a piece of waxed paper over it. Blow.

When Mrs. Delilah stands in front of the pull-down Map of the World she is nothing you could moor a boat to. Nobody cries Rapunzel! from the small island of light her bedroom window casts upon the grass.

Listen. It's not true that the hair of the dead continues to grow.

No one can tell what Mrs. Delilah is thinking as she shuffles our papers, but "Grass is the beautiful uncut hair of graves" is what she says.

Make sure you hum into the teeth of the comb. The song is your voice standing in the doorway with muddy shoes and a suitcase of strange souvenirs.

 


 

Katharine Rauk is the author of Basil, a chapbook published by Black Lawrence Press in 2011. She has poems published in Harvard Review, Georgetown Review, Cream City Review, and elsewhere, and she is an assistant editor of Rowboat: Poetry in Translation. She lives in Minneapolis and teaches at North Hennepin Community College and The Loft Literary Center.

Illustration by Alex Fukui.
 

Tuesday
Aug262014

Anna Maria's Guide to Resurrection

Sara Seyfarth

Anna Maria cradled the empty soup can between her palms and knelt at the base of the crooked oak behind the trailer she now shared only with her father. The tree was dead, like her mother. The can was the last piece to fix that, though. Well, that and the wait.

Seven years was a long time, but that was all right. Anna Maria had thought it through. When the girls on the playground had explained all the steps—and there were a lot of steps—this last one had made her pause. She would be nearly seventeen when it was finished.

But then she'd remembered the day she had finally gotten through a pop spelling quiz without missing a single word. She'd run until her legs nearly gave out, almost the entire two miles home. When she'd stumbled in the door, too winded to speak, triumphantly holding up the paper with "A+" scrawled across the top in red, her father had glanced up from his newspaper and grunted. He may have said "good." But her mother had abandoned her dinner preparations mid-baste and taken the crumpled paper from her sweaty hands. "Oh, Anna Maria," she had said, and she had beamed.

So on the playground, Anna Maria had closed the notepad with the detailed instructions the girls had provided, thanked them, and left. She didn't know why girls who had never been friendly to her had suddenly shown her such kindness, but then again, since the funeral people she didn't even know were offering her wisdom, prayers, and something called "condolences." (Not to mention an awful lot of flowers that were dying all over their trailer.) At least this was advice she could use.

So on the playground, Anna Maria had closed the notepad with the detailed instructions the girls had provided, thanked them, and left. She didn't know why girls who had never been friendly to her had suddenly shown her such kindness.

Some of it had been easy. First, peanut shells from the floor of Mansey's Tavern. She'd had to sneak in after dark and crawl under some feet for those, but it turned out people were more interested in the girl on stage than something bumping their legs. Three stones from the bottom of a river took barely half an afternoon.

The claw of a hairless beast might have been hard except her Aunt Aggie had one of those cats, and Anna Maria's mother had always helped trim its nails. Aunt Aggie had cried a little when Anna Maria offered to help, but it had been easy enough to swipe one of the clippings when they'd finished. It was nice to see her, too. Her face was round, like Anna Maria's mother's. When Anna Maria looked in the mirror, she saw something different. Something hollow.

Anna Maria had been worried about trying to get a piece of Bobby Cloverton's hair. "From the root," Stephanie had said on the playground. "Or it won't work." Bobby was one of the meanest boys in the school, and yanking on his head could easily lead to having her face smashed in the dirt. In the end, Anna Maria had worried for nothing. He'd been dozing during recess one day and she'd snuck up and plucked a hair right from his head. When he jumped and screeched at her, she assured him she'd saved him from a bee (or maybe a horde).

The biggest item, and the one that nearly ended her quest, took nineteen days from playground to success. For most of that time, Anna Maria had been convinced it was impossible.

Then she'd remembered the sunny day when Jason Brinton had jumped out from behind a parked car so she would swerve and crash her bike. He and his friends had all pointed and laughed at her while the hot cement burned her torn up skin because she was too embarrassed to get up.

Her mother hadn't told her to "find something in common" like their guidance counselor or to "ignore them until they get bored with you" like her father. Her mother had hugged her into her warm, vanilla scent and said, "oh, Anna Maria" in the same tone she'd used when Anna Maria's favorite hamster had died. Then she'd taken her to the bathroom and washed her cuts and bandaged them and smiled at her.

Anna Maria tried to keep that memory fresh in her mind while she'd stared at the item on her list. Mrs. Olinskey's spit. If resurrection were easy, Anna Maria reasoned, then everyone would do it.

Anna Maria tried to keep that memory fresh in her mind while she'd stared at the item on her list. "Mrs. Olinskey's spit." If resurrection were easy, Anna Maria reasoned, then everyone would do it.

Mrs. Olinskey was their fourth-grade math teacher. Anna Maria's mother said (when she was alive) that Mrs. Olinskey reminded her of her grandfather, who worked the fields from dawn to dusk and wasn't interested in anything but food and sleep when he was done. "Stern" was the word she'd used, but Anna Maria would have said mean.

Anna Maria had thought of hundreds of ways to get Mrs. Olinskey's spit, but they all included getting other stuff too. Gum or a soda top or a straw or a licked envelope. Stephanie hadn't been as clear about this as she'd been on Bobby's hair, but Anna Maria hadn't wanted to take any chances. She was pretty sure pure was better.

So she'd taken a little sample bottle from the science room, then she asked. Mrs. Olinskey had looked at her like she'd lost her mind along with her mother, but after Anna Maria explained that she was working on a "project" and yes, it was helping her move past her grief (whatever that meant), and thanked her for her "condolences," Mrs. Olinskey spit in the bottle. A session with the guidance counselor seemed like a reasonable exchange.

Shells, stones, claw, hair, spit. Anna Maria could feel them beneath her, buried in a circle under the dead oak in her backyard. The soup can would complete the set. She dug a small hole and buried the final piece, then sat inside the circle and asked for her mother, as she would do every night for the next seven years.

It was really not so long to wait to hear "oh, Anna Maria" one more time.

 


 

Sara Seyfarth likes to nerd out with spreadsheets, still uses a flip-phone, and is lucky enough to have a day job doing something that matters. She grew up in Michigan as a bit of a wanderer with a family that moved every few years, so her imagination was her constant companion. She wrote her first (short!) book at age nine and has been telling stories ever since.

Illustration by Meghan Irwin.
 

Thursday
Aug212014

Cherub

G. Taylor Davis

Cherub

The heart of a cherub
is a miniature TV 
that shows a looped 
clip of a cherub 
doing exactly what 
the cherub does 
The cherub procreates 
by painting smaller 
versions of itself 
on blank porcelain 
The cherub drops 
a porcelain vase 
with a ring of 
tinier cherubim 
dropping tinier vases

 

The Elephant

I took you for the lion you were
when strung out you held up
a bag of crystals No sleep under
your eyes Tell me the story
about your crackhead brother
again Tell me how you were
visited by aliens The proof
to pilot your insight I knew you
when you couldn't stand
Leaves of Grass Now you farm
double rainbows there Don't you
see the condos and power plants
spring up Don’t you notice
the bills for the electric
circus This is not
the Transcendental age
This is I don't give
a fuck about ages
This is running out of room
in the alphabet Scouring it
with a blunt spoon You are
a lion I am the elephant
You have orange fire
around your neck Your words
and your tears have teeth
My hide is six feet deep 

 



G. Taylor Davis
lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he works as an English teacher. He will miss durian when he teaches somewhere else. He is published in The Boiler and La Fovea, and upcoming in Shampoo and Terminus.

Illustration by Bethany Cynthia Knowles-Thompson.

Tuesday
Aug192014

Jujugoo

Alison McCabe

We sit, legs crossed, arms limp, palms open and resting on k­­­­nees, in the jungle. Or not the jungle, but on the rooftop of FAO Schwartz. There's a thirty-foot polyurethane talking tree below us, with stuffed teddy bears and lions and frogs lining every shelf. Mosquitoes are also out. And when Bart undoes his ponytail, he looks like Tarzan in a North Face fleece.

Tonight is the night we are to join our inner jujugoo. That's what Lucy calls it. And everyone agrees because no one can think up a better name.

We hum, but we're otherwise quiet. Below, people eat, shop, walk, and up top, Lewis burps and, at that, everyone loses it. A cloud of tuna wafts through the air like a fat, sweaty ghost.

A police car flashes its lights and we see it, but not at us. On the rooftop, we know we're free to do anything. And maybe we will.

Lucy speaks first. She says we should make it official, our crew, by cutting the tips of each other's fingers or sealing the deal with a kiss. Lucy says, once in, there's no getting out.

But no one wants to kiss Terrance, and Bart fainted last time he saw blood.

'We could take off our shirts,' I say, 'and do a massage train.'

I want to take my shirt off because Melanie is here, and I've been doing sit-ups for eighteen days straight.

I want to take my shirt off because Melanie is here, and I've been doing
sit-ups for eighteen days straight.

Some like the idea, but Lucy says the stakes need to be much higher in order for the meaning to stick. And of course, once she says that, everyone agrees. Myself included. 

I do, I look up to my friends. I marvel at their talents. Lucy has her cherry stem. Bart has his Rubik's cube. During Super Bowl, in Melanie's basement, Terrance outshines the halftime show with his flawless recitation of all fifty states. In alphabetical order. Five beers in.

Jackson has his karaoke. Charlie, her invisible ink. When it's a full moon, Samantha can read auras and, even though we don't believe her, she still carries this around, like a talisman, near and dear.

Mark can stand on his head. Kelly runs marathons in giant, gray cities and on switchbacks up Mount Lemmon. Jesus has his name.

I can't wiggle my ears. I can't curl my tongue. I type with my two pointer fingers because, six years ago, in sixth grade, I got a C in computer class, and only by sneaking peeks under my cardboard box when Dr. Erlick's back was turned. Twice, I quit a summer job after the first day. Once, I presented my PowerPoint in bio lab with pen ink smeared on my face. 

At least I have them, my friends. And, as Lucy says, we'll have each other forever after we do what we do tonight. After we decide what it is we should do. Once in, there will be no getting out.

Will has his MDMA. 'On a rooftop?'  I say. 'You'd have to be crazy.'

Then I immediately regret saying anything because, last winter, Will missed three weeks of class after he pulled every last hair out of his head.

Melanie hums. 'Jujugoo jujugoo,' she says. 'Come on, guys, don't you feel the connection?'

I try. I even squeeze my eyes shut.

When I open them, Melanie is rocking back and forth, and I can see the perfect space between her breasts every time she leans forward. There's nothing I can do about that now, but I'll save it for later.

In ten minutes, we'll be hungry, and decide that initiation should consist of eating twelve spicy burrito bowls in twenty minutes flat. In two hours, we'll call it a night. In two weeks, we'll think back and laugh. In two months, we'll think back and laugh. In two years, we'll think back and smile. In two more years, we won't think back. Somewhere down the road, FAO Schwartz will close, and we'll see the For Rent sign or read about it in papers, and remember the night, decades ago, what we did and did not do, and how each one of us, apart now by miles and,  in some cases, no miles at all, won't likely return to the jungle.

 



Alison McCabe
was born and raised in the Garden State, and now lives in the Sonoran 
desert. She teaches Creative Writing and Composition at the University of Arizona where, in 2010, she received her MFA. Alison's fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in American Short Fiction and Third Coast. She's currently at work on a novel.

Illustration by Leigh Luna.
 

Sunday
Aug102014

Look Out for the Shark

Jeff Tigchelaar


The thing about a shark is—teeth.

                        — John Ciardi

I'd like to rethink the shark.

^

Sharks want to eat people
less than people want
to eat sharks. 

Last year alone, people ate 98.7
million more sharks
than sharks ate people. 

^

New Yorkers bite people
more than sharks bite people. 

There are more reported bitings
of people
by people
in New York City each week
than shark bites in the world in a year. 

^

Early this morning a sixgill sawshark
surfaced like a dolphin, embodying
grace itself
for one backflipping, semicircular moment. 

^

More people are killed each year
by falling coconuts than by sharks 

^

Sinister grin. Menacing frown.
How would you like it
if your default mouth was scary? 

^

If we name them, they might become
less terrifying. Think of the sharks
as Kyle, maybe. Brenda.
Jennifer.
Larry. 

Picture them nuzzling
their shark-spouse or -partner. 

Picture a group of them huddled, chuckling.
Larry has told a self-deprecating joke. 

Once, he passed a mirror on a shipwreck
and shuddered. 

^

Sharks would perhaps cuddle pandas if they could.
Koalas—if only they could. 

How do we know they don't want this,
deep down… 

^

We are not the only ones with fears. 

You're thinking of minnows and nice warm pockets
when suddenly—a pair of dangling limbs. 

Swimmer X is scared shitless, of course.
But you, too, are afraid. And perhaps even more so. 

It's not as if you've planned the "attack"
when you find yourself gnawing through some torso. 

^

Spielberg took to calling his shark Bruce.

Sometimes Bruce would fall apart on the set. That's why
they had to rely on the music. And the suspense—
the implied or impending presence of Jaws—
proved more effective than showing the "real" thing. 

Besides: Bruce had sunk to the bottom again. 

^

Poor shark.                                                                            
Poor sharks!
Six basses, eight celli, four trombones and a tuba
have become the soundtrack to your life.
Two notes, increasing in speed and intensity.
Two notes. No escape. Thanks,
Composer John Williams. 

^

Everyone blames the shark.

Fucking Bruce, the young director was known to shout.
I'm over budget, past deadline, Roy Scheider
is my lead since Hackman
and Newman
and Voight
and Duvall
wouldn't touch a Giant Shark flick and a rookie director,
and now it turns out Dreyfuss can't
stand Robert Shaw, and Robert Shaw
can't stand Richard Dreyfuss. My stars
hate each other and everyone hates me, even the extras.
They're sick of freezing their asses off,
pretending it's summer when the water's cold as hell. 

And on top of it all, my shark doesn't work.

Even when he stays together, Bruce looks like he was made
by a blind kindergartner. 

They call the movie Flaws behind my back.

In other words: I'm fucked.
The film's going to flop and I'll never direct again. 

Damn you, Bruce. Cheap, cross-eyed phony.
You can't even handle saltwater. Corroded
piece of shit. 

^

If anyone should be pissed,
it's the sharks. Fishermen
haul them aboard, saw off their fins,
then dump the marred creatures
back into the ocean
where they writhe, sink,
suffocate and die—
for a cup of
soup. 

^

For the love of God: Look out for the shark.
Someone's got to. 

^

During the premiere, a nervous Spielberg
stands in the lobby. A man
dashes out of the theater, vomits
in the nearest trash bin,
then rushes back in. 

The director looks up
and grins.

 



Jeff
 Tigchelaar's poems have appeared in journals including Pleiades, LIT, North American Review, and The Wallace Stevens Journal, and anthologies including Best New Poets and A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford. His blog, "Stay-at-Home Pop Culture," is published by XYZ Magazine, and his first poetry collection, Certain Streets at an Uncertain Hour: The Kansas Papers, is forthcoming from Woodley Press.

Illustration by Dan Forke.