spring 2015

– Alejandro Escudé

It’s a testament to the grand will of men
and the state of the world;
I stand and grill sausages for the birthday crowd,
my son’s 7th. And he inevitably approaches:
“You should turn down the back burner.”

“Is that right?” I say. But I don’t do it.
All they need is one successful entry
and it’s over—soon, they will stand in your place
and snicker, the worst is the snicker.

His woman will assure that he knows what he’s doing
much better than you do. And you know
you shouldn’t think of her as his woman,
but she is.

Then, the other one comes to say you should spread
the sausages at the bottom
of the grill instead of keeping them up top
and that you should open the lid.
“You don’t need the lid closed,” he says.

And I say, “Is that right?” And I don’t do it.
Halfway through it all
I go into the kitchen to grab the large plate
to serve the sausages on

and when I return I find the back burner turned off,
the grill lid opened.

Alejandro Escudé

The lice my wife found on my daughter’s head
changed our plans for the day. We were going to go
to breakfast after dropping my daughter off
at preschool. Now, people squirm around me as I read
the latest poetry at the bookstore. Outside, the blue sky
hums a warning. Telescopes are sold in the store
next to this one, along with hunting rifles.
In line, faces like the blank pages of the plastic-
wrapped journal I pick up; I like the look of it, the feel of it.
I also like the feel of the poetry book I’m skimming.
A black cover, the title in a funny font. I inhale the dry
air-conditioned loneliness of bookstores, the echoing
simplemindedness of those buying a velvet headrest
or a tiny lamp that clips onto the spine of a book.
What a strange creature, lice. The expert says lice need
the warmth of the scalp. Next day I run the thin, wiry comb
through my daughter’s hair and dip it into the solution.
Two dots on the paper towel, one a dot and the other a dot
with a tail. We should be happy to find the tail.

– 

Alejandro Escudé

You thought it
was going to happen
sitting there—your Chair and you talking candidly
about the state
of the world, looking up at the famous nobodies
turned
somebodies over time, the green sports cushion
behind, the
standard gold trim around the high school gym.

Nothing
happened, no language invented, no fire in that one’s eyes.
No penetrable
discernment. In the moments that linger
there are many
options: you take the one that is offered
because you’ve never really been the go-getter, the
cement-hearted manager
or the
iron-throated soldier that rises up the ranks. 

On one of the
portraits hanging in the gym, a strong young black woman
in a basketball
jersey smiles, the Golden Gate behind her.
On another, a
coach, last name Cruz, poses in front of a wavy American flag
like GI Joe— on his jersey: U.S.A. Baseball. The superego
only gives flak.
Never goes
slack. 

Still another
portrait shows the face of a football kid you knew
back in high
school—you now working as a teacher
where you were
once a student. The boy killed by a drunk driver,
only sixteen
years old. He was not your friend. In his eulogy, the boy’s father said
all his son
wanted was for more people to go to the football games. A dying wish?
Multifarious
assertions. All of us, one wingbeat from deliverance.
A meal every
five to six hours. And still more portraits line the gym. 

In the field of
time, many elephants pass; throngs, legions, couples.
The moguls of
the present. One oil fire is lit, another goes out.
Skyscrapers
like velvet matchbooks, no tenants, only an invisible series of cash machines
pumping out
coin-operated angels into the hot black breath of the city night.

You have
entered the geekdom honeycomb—safe, finally,
away from the broken blinds,
one edge
cracked off so that the neighbor’s house shows, a jigsaw puzzle
consisting of a
single piece.

The tiny
journals do well to contain the worries that pound their chests like chimps.
They rattle
around in their cages, behaving more like cinema chimps than real ones.
The cages will
hold them to certain times, so you can sleep the sleep of fathers,
which is both
somnambular and unperturbed, a flight of cormorants
and one
interstellar bead pumping out red recesses.

Sean Howard

and to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
walt whitman, leaves of grass

just as some children think
if they close their eyes
you can’t see them.

absurd! & when
we close the
eyes of the

dead?

***

…butterflies, bees for the dying
king: lear catching his breath in

the meadow.

***

or webern, grieving for
his mother, returning
again & again

to light and blow
the wick of music.

***

…but esoteric? dawn
to dusk, rosicrucian

sun.

***

that we die, of course, but
the way the wind does,
leaving us in peace.

Sean Howard

i

plutonium: tomb
essence… (mechanics

furnishing your home?)
tragicomic: state as super-

man. precise beyond
anything reason-

able

ii

businessing our
own minds. (ejacu-

quations.) oath: by no
means natural
… christ

knows – ‘more &
more about the

cross’

iii

‘god’ – remains
significant? science:

reorganized religion. (the
correctly chosen people.)

uniform – the be-
lief in conform-

ity

iv

bohr’s ghost: ‘all we know, the
nature of the discussion…’ (orbit-

uaries.) little boys: ‘the super
position in the plane!’ ham-

let’s prescience: silence,
the state’s conclus-

ion

Kirbee Veroneau

Henry
was ten years old, rambunctious and invincible. He had a vast imagination. He
loved to play make-believe games and explore all day long when he wasn’t at school. He loved stories, and
fairytales were his favorites; he loved reading about castles, dragons,
knights, and damsels in distress. He would often be found roaming around near
his home in Long Island, brandishing a stick that he would undoubtedly call his
sword and chasing a fierce dragon that would undoubtedly be his incredibly
gentle Golden Retriever, Max. On the bright, clear Saturday afternoon, Henry
ran through the forest near his home. His mother had made a crown of twigs and
leaves for him that he wore with such pride it could’ve been made of gold. His light blonde
hair shone brightly in the sun and his clear blue eyes bore the expression of
hunger. Hunger for adventure, that is. He tapped on the trees with his long
stick as he ran farther and farther, not paying attention to exactly where he
was going until he came across a beautiful cottage. Max was panting, loping
lazily far behind him. When Max finally caught up, Henry turned and looked at
his golden friend. He pivoted back to look at the cottage, which was decorated
with a huge garden, filled with flowers and vegetables. The house itself was a
pale yellow with white shutters, and Henry thought it looked like something in
one of his stories. An iron gate encircled it, and so naturally, Henry was
determined to climb it.

Neither
walls, nor gates, nor anything else could keep Henry out, as his mother had
learned with a resigned smile when he was merely six years old. She had barricaded
Henry’s birthday presents in
their basement, stacking as many things as she could find in front of the
presents so as to be sure Henry wouldn’t come across them while he was playing. Henry, of course, had
viewed this as an obstacle course and climbed through the multiple chairs,
tables, and various other junk items that had been in the basement until he got
to his presents. Unfortunately, he had knocked things down on his way through
and was unable to find a way out. His mother heard him shouting and when she
came running, she smiled to herself. “You silly boy,” she would always say.
Henry remembered it fondly. He loved when he outsmarted his mother, because she
was the smartest lady in the whole world. Henry smiled and knew he must climb
over that gate. Knights were adventurous after all, weren’t they? He was going
on an adventure.

And
so it was with some effort that Henry hauled himself over the gate, swung his
legs over the iron bars and let go, landing with a thump onto one of the flower
beds. He stood up, brushing the dirt off of himself and when he looked up, he
noticed a man standing there with a trowel in a gloved hand. He wondered if the
man had been standing there the whole time. Surely not, no one outsmarted
Henry, after all. Did they? The man looked old, with graying hair and
lots of wrinkles. His eyes were a deep blue and he found himself looking
anywhere but at them. Henry felt very uncomfortable standing before him, as if
he had done something very bad. He half expected his mother to come up behind
him and shake her head playfully saying, “You silly, silly boy.” But she did
not. He twisted his fingers together nervously and stared at his feet. He
turned his head and looked at Max who was whimpering behind the gate. His
cowardly dragon. The man cleared his throat and Henry snapped his attention
back to him. The man then said, “You’ve ruined my flowers.” He did not seem angry; it appeared to be
more of an observation, like it’s raining or today would be a nice day for a picnic.

Henry
stared back down at his toes and said in a small voice, “I’m sorry.” There were many things his
mother could say, but she could never call him impolite.

“What
are we going to do about this, then, hm?” The man said in the same nonchalant
tone. Henry shrugged. Then the man said, “How about this? I have a hobby of
painting, so if you let me paint you, I’ll call it even, and you can run along home. I haven’t had a person to paint in years now. You’d be doing me a favor. I’m a lonely man.”

Henry nodded, sneaking a glance up at
the man’s face. He met his
gaze with those piercing blue eyes and Henry was forced to look away.

“What’s your name then, son?”

“I’m Henry.”

“Henry,
that’s a nice, strong name.
Yes, I think you’ll do just
fine. I’m Mr. Calhoun.” There was a pause that
seemed to go on for hours before Mr. Calhoun added, “Here, why don’t you follow me inside and we’ll get started. It’ll
just take an hour or two.” The old man placed a very firm hand on Henry’s
shoulder, steering him inside the house and closing the door carefully behind
him. Henry remembered his mother saying something about not trusting strangers,
but surely that only applied to normal boys. Henry was a knight; he could
defend himself if need be. A small voice in the back of his head told him to
run but Henry pushed it away; he would not be rude. Knights weren’t rude. “Chivalry is dead,” his
mother would say sometimes at the end of a particularly bad day after she’d had sip or two from her Grown-Up
Cup. Not with Henry, no sir. Chivalry was very much alive.

Inside,
the house was very bright. Sunlight poured in from all over, yet even in the
warmth, Henry found that he had goosebumps. Paintings were hung up all over the
walls, containing vast landscapes and towering buildings. Henry gaped at the
skill of the man. He wished he was good at something. “Everyone has talents,”
his mother would tell him, “but not everyone knows what they are right away.”
The more he thought on it, the more he missed her. He wanted her to cradle him
in her arms and read him a story. Max would lay at their feet and Henry would
say, “You are my best friends,” as he ran his fingers through Max’s thick coat, tightly nestled in his
mother’s arms. His mother
would smile sadly at this, for reasons he did not understand. He would kiss her
on the cheek and she would hug him tightly. Sometimes, she would cry and hug
him so tightly that he almost couldn’t breathe. Right now, he wanted to cry and hug her so tightly that she
couldn’t breathe.

Henry
didn’t know why, but he
wanted to leave this place. Mr. Calhoun opened the basement door with a slight
creak and Henry looked toward him.

“Come
on, son, the materials are down here,” Mr. Calhoun said and began to descend
the stairs. Henry followed cautiously and as soon as he was all the way down,
he saw the dozens of paintings hung all over the walls, just like upstairs.
These were of people, children mostly. As Henry looked up at them, examining
the incredible detail, they seemed almost too real. The boy he was looking at in the painting had light
blonde hair like him and was sitting just outside of the cottage. A breeze
appeared to be blowing through one of the trees, and Henry noticed that the boy’s hair seemed to almost blow in
the wind. “This way, Henry,” Mr. Calhoun said, before Henry had time to explain
what he had seen. He saw that Mr. Calhoun was holding an easel, brushes and
some paint. His lips were drawn in such a smile that Henry was reminded of a
crocodile. He turned and followed the man into the center of the room. There
was a stool placed there, and Mr. Calhoun motioned for him to sit down. Mr.
Calhoun sat down across from him, preparing himself to paint.

“Turn
your head a bit to the side there Henry, yes that’s it,” he said. Henry had turned his head,
and he could see the children now, staring back at him through the paintings.
He felt very unnerved. They appeared distraught, their eyes wide and their
mouths turned down in frowns. Some even looked like they were screaming. He
glanced back at the blonde boy he had been studying before and was surprised to
see that the boy had moved. Now, his slight smile was turned down in a
look of disgust. He was standing, and his face seemed to take up almost all of
the frame. It almost reminded him of one of his stories.

Henry
blanched and exclaimed, “That boy…he moved!” He turned his head back to look at Mr. Calhoun.

The
old man looked angry for only a second before his features smoothed back over. “You have quite the
imagination, Henry. Come, why don’t
we go outside?  The lighting will be much
better, don’t you think?”

“Okay.”
Henry stood up and was almost to the stairs when Mr. Calhoun called him back.

“Henry?
Can you grab that stool and bring it upstairs?” Henry nodded and doubled back
to pick up the stool. He grabbed it, hoisting it up and ascending the stairs.
He could hear Max barking from outside, a loud howling sound. Max never barked
like that, maybe something was wrong; maybe he should go check on him. Just as
Henry was about to go out the front door to check on Max, Mr. Calhoun looked
down at him and smiled that crocodile smile again. Then he said, “Henry, go out
through that door there,” he pointed at the back door, “I think we’ll go out onto the patio in the
back yard. I’ll be right
there, I just want to grab a glass of lemonade. Would you like some?” Henry
shook his head and quietly replied, “No, thank you.” His mother had taught him
never to accept food or drink from strangers. What if Mr. Calhoun was an evil
wizard, trying to fatten him up so he could eat him like in Hansel and
Gretel
? Instead, he walked to the back door, opened it, and went outside.
He could still hear Max barking when he sat the stool down on the patio. After
what seemed like a long tim, Mr. Calhoun reemerged, and Henry noticed that Max
was no longer barking. Mr. Calhoun wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead, and
Henry noticed that he had no lemonade in his hand. His mother always told him
how observant he was, how smart he was. It made him feel like a detective when
he noticed things that others didn’t,
which was quite often as it just so happened. But today he was not a detective;
today he was a knight. Even so, his stomach tightened, and he felt very nervous
again. Mr. Calhoun set up his easel and mixed his acrylic paint together,
creating some very vivid colors.

“To
the side again, that’s it.”
Mr. Calhoun said as Henry turned his head to the side once more.

“Mr. Calhoun?”

“Hm?”
Mr. Calhoun said, his eyes on his paint.

“Where’s Max?”

Mr. Calhoun licked his lips and stopped
mixing his paint for a moment before he looked
up at Henry again, “Max?”

“My
dragon. Well, only he’s not
really a dragon. He’s my dog,
Max. Mom always laughs and says he’s a cowardly dragon, but he’s not.”

Mr.
Calhoun smiled, only it didn’t
quite reach his eyes. “Oh, Max. Maybe he went home.”

Henry pondered this. Max had never left
him before, never gone home without him. Cowardly as he might be, he was the
most loyal dragon — dog — in
the whole world. Henry said nothing for a while until he asked, “Where is your
lemonade?”

“My
— oh — I drank it inside. Why, would you like some?”

Henry
shook his head again and then, remembering his manners, said, “No, thank you.”

“You’re a very well-mannered young man,
aren’t you?”

Henry
nodded, “Yes, my mother taught me all my manners so I can have  chivalry.”

“Oh
yeah? Chivalry, is it? And where’s
your mother now?”  

Henry
shrugged, “Home, I guess.”

Mr. Calhoun nodded, his mind on his
work, and the subject dropped. Henry looked out over the yard and saw the wind
rustling through the trees. This reminded him of the boy in the painting and he
asked, “Mr. Calhoun?”

Weary
of questions, the man replied, “Hm?”

“Why
did those children in the paintings move? I saw them.”

Mr. Calhoun stopped and raised his eyes
to meet Henry’s. He had a
hungry look in those piercing blue eyes that the boy had not seen before and in
response all he said was, “Make sure you hold very still, now. You’re going to make a lovely addition
to my — ah — collection.”

Thomas Pescatore

I was climbing across
rooftops sky deep
purple outlines in black,
on all fours I moved,
there were no windows
no lights no doors,
I traveled miles in seconds
a giant on the top of the world,
an endless city under my hands
my feet,

until I peered down
below, into the bottomless
gulf beneath me,
and shrinking I fought to
find a way down, a way inside
blank structures that began to split apart
or maybe had always been apart,
I had just been so large,
too large to really see,

*

I was walking into a
condo on the beach, sky still blank
dark, I saw from sliding door,
great tsunami crashing toward me,
an image like a painting,
and smashing through
the walls the waves struck me
oily, sandy, dark brown liquid
in my mouth,

I began heaving, spitting,
another wave was on its way,
larger than the first, I had no time
to escape,

*

I was moving along a city wall
at great speed, escaping something,
I bounded off and into an alley,
moving fast, I slid into an open
basement window thinking,
“they’ll never find me,”

*

I was walking in a department store
clutching a small orange cat to my chest
there were people there, buying dolls
the whole store full of dolls, I couldn’t make
them out, a girl asked me about the cat,
how long I’d been holding him,
it felt like hours but I couldn’t tell,
I couldn’t know,

“A long time,” I said,
“A long time, I guess.”

Alec Solomita

Your heart is a weed,
promiscuous earth-spawn,
nasty as nettles.

 Your heart is an undocumented alien,
welfare pirate,
squatter.

Your heart is a motorcycle gang,
swollen,
savage,
loud. 

Come to me my melancholy baby.

Ross Knapp

Our bodies bow,
need

Littered across
our wasteland

Endless numbed
dulled love