Poetry

Throwing off the covers and other poems

by Charles F. Thielman

 

Throwing off the covers

I decide to keep my appointment

with what light remains, still hearing

the voice before waking.

 

Boot-prints in blue snow to a barn,

thick blanket waiting on stall rail.

 

Hands and breath on coarse mane,

we canter into what dawn skies offer.

 

Twin trails of breath fog dissolving

while branch shadows form

 

and begin to pull back

from a white field.

  Owls fly into dream,

 my throat close to her muscled neck.

 

 

My transit across thin crust

 

A cliff’s turned collar sheds sunset gold.

 

Bare rock darkens to accept

what the night sky lowers

through dense steam onto stone,

 

into river breath and this truck driver’s gaze.

Pulling freight between white lines and starlight,

 

wanting to hitchhike upriver, scrape the dust

of many roads into a slow, cool swirl near

rapids, then lay out naked beneath shimmer,

 

breathing in and out, waiting for a crescent

to silver a clear path to needed change.

~

I see all women in the sway of river birch.

 

I lay out on warm stone while bats

wing-brush ciphers, dusk rolling

dark blue thighs onto the burlaps of sky,

 

my transit across thin crust is a mural

hinged on trust and faith. I imagine

 

the moon lowering a lace sari onto two lovers

sleeping back-to-back. Raising my arms,

I spread the ten roads of my fingers

 

inside cool river breath and this light.

 

 

Outtakes and Embers

 

You rock on a wooden porch,

ignoring the blurs of passing freight.

 

A train’s wail shrapnels the forest

as pain ricochets inside arthritic joints.

 

Night bends down onto all fours and enters

the river as you wave to the paper-boy,

 

his fingers darkened by newsprint.

Your veins grown thick carrying

 

a host of illusions, hands cupping a lock

of hair, dream dissolving from touch

 

on touch, outtakes and embers

shelved close to an unfinished painting.

 

The portrait of her, graying in oak shade,

carved initials barely visible,

 

first love in an oval of green moss.

Her voice glides out of river fog,

 

birds singing to the sun-melted horizon,

easel and canvas waiting near houseplants.

 

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Charles F. Thielman was raised in Charleston, S.C., and Chicago, educated at red-bricked universities and on city streets, Charles has worked as a youth counselor, truck driver, city bus driver and enthused bookstore clerk.

Married on a Kauai beach in 2011, a loving Grandfather for five free spirits, Charles’ inspired work as Poet and shareholder in an independent Bookstore’s collective continues! He organizes readings at the store.

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-5-G_jaoJY for a sample of Charles participating in a group reading at said store, Tsunami Books.

And not a few of his poems have been accepted by literary journals, such as The Pedestal, Poetry365, The Criterion [India], Poetry Salzburg [Austria], Battered Suitcase, Future Cycle, The Oyez Review, Poetry Kanto [Japan], Tiger’s Eye, Every Writer’s Resource and Rio Grande Review!

Art by Sheila Lanham

 

 

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Fiction

The Secret of Jehrico’s Creek

by Tom Sheehan

In the heart of darkness, in the heart of night, Jehrico Taxico told his wife Lupalazo about the secret of the creek he had been swimming in for weeks and weeks, practically every time on his way home after leaving Bola City on a new search for old goods promising new values. It was said by a traveling drummer by the name of Epaminondas Anganistopolus that the Mexican junk collector had the “Midas Touch.”

Jehrico whispered beneath the blankets to his wife, “Ah, Lupalazo, la señora más querida de mi corazón, I have been keeping a secret from you that must never escape your lips once I tell it to you, and if you even think of it, think of it in the language of our other country, the language we have taught our children so they will know two ways of talking without a split tongue.”

Slightly worried about some strange encounter he might have come through, Lupalazo, hugging him, said, “Dearest heart, what makes you wait until the darkest of nights to tell me a secret that must weigh on your soul. I feel fate is come upon us.” She nestled closer to him and threw one leg over him, a move he had loved from the very beginning, in the shadows of the same creek, but under the trees.

“Oh,” he said, “la señora más querida de mi corazón, dearest lady of my heart, it does not twist the tail of fate, this secret of mine, unless we let go of its tail so bad men can twist it, make it dance for them.”

Lupalazo, the only true lady of his heart, beautiful the whole day long, nudged him with the length of her body, and said, “The husband of the house will now tell his wife the secret he has held away from her, from the mother of his children, here in the heart of darkness, here where we begin each new child of ours, where her ears are sharp as a night creature and her tongue is as silent for secrets as the day owl.”

Jehrico, knowing he could hold nothing more from her, slipped his hand under his side of the bed and took hold of a small goatskin pouch, which had rough but loose contents. Into her hands he placed it and said, “This is the first part of my secret.”

The goatskin pouch she immediately squeezed in her hands, shook at her ear, and smelled close to her nose.

“I smell the creek in it,” she said, “and feel some hard parts of earth. Do I dare think what you have thrust at me, this pouch, has something precious in it? Must it be of value comes to you and once was left to become dust, but with your hand and eye see more value in it? From where do these hard parts of earth come from if that is what they are?” She was then sitting up in bed, alert as ever, tossing the pouch from hand to hand, and Jehrico knew she was enjoying some moment of true expectation.

She could not see his broad smile, but knew it was there; his voice told her.

 You and everybody in Bola City know I swim and wash in the creek every day I can. I do that for you and for the children so they will learn by watching us, and for me and my good being. And fate it is and fate is what this is and what you cannot speak about. Cannot tell one living soul on Earth. That will bring the hounds on us, the bad men, the robbers, the thieves. They do not find things like Jehrico does, but take what is not theirs from all others.”

“Oh, my savior, dearest Jehrico, my heart pounds now, not with a new value coming, but that we will share a secret between us alone and no one else in the whole world around us. That is a grand feeling and swells my heart again.” She dropped the goatskin pouch over the edge of their bed and hugged him again and again.

Then, when her heart had been fully exposed, she said, “Now you can tell me, my Jehrico, for my ears alone.”

Joy was busting all the stretch of skin on his body. “I wash and swim in many places on the creek, but in one place, near where we met for the first time, I just put my hand down alone the bottom of the bank and squeeze some mud through my fingers until I find some of these.” With a quick hand he picked up the pouch from the floor, untied the rawhide lacing about it, and dumped, unseen but felt, a small pile of gold nuggets into Lupalazo’s lap.

“I dare not scream, Jehrico,” she said, “for that would be part of the secret. Is it really gold? Does it come to you when you don’t have to dig into a mountain of the gods, or work all day down in a hole in the ground where the gods may point fingers at you? Does it come that easy? Say it is so, my dearest one of all men. Say it comes easy to you after all the work you have done around here near Bola City.”

Jehrico Taxico, lover of the woman he had freed from slavery, finder of gold by his bare hands, smiled at Lupalazo’s excluding her children from the last comment. “It is the way a mother should love her children,” he thought, “above all else.” He was next in line for her and that was good enough for him.

“Yes, that’s the way it comes. It does not happen every time, of course, but enough times so it brings me back the way a ghost town calls me from its long, long sleep, saying I missed something special on my last trip there.”

“Who, besides the love of your life, has seen you swim and wash in the creek?” The tone of her voice was touched by anxiety.

“The freighters and the coach drivers along the creek and a few others who waved from the saddle as they rode past. But not one soul has seen me put any of the gold in my pouch or hide it near the same place I swim. Not a single person have I seen.”

“When do you go swim again?” she asked, her head at a coy angle, images running in her head.

“You do not come with me, Lupalazo. You do not come where others may see what happens.”

 “I want to see the joy on your face when you find the pebbles in your hands full of mud at first. I will love to see that.”

 “No, dear wife, but you will know the joy the next time I come home. I will not hide it from you.”

“You are wiser than me,” she said, and nestled close to him again. Beneath her legs she could feel the scattered nuggets. “The little devils,” she thought, “that make men change, make women fall in love so easily. But they will not change the man of my life, the father of my children.”

A look he did not see came across her face, a preface to an idea shaping its form in her mind, and it finally came free. “Dear heart of mine, you keep on the trail, you work hard, but time will come when no people remember we live here in Bola City on the side of a hill.”

It puzzled her even as she said it, and thought it also puzzled her man, but she knew it was true. She had seen parts of life pass so quickly, lives here and gone, villages here and gone, relatives here and gone, the other place here and gone.

She could not stop talking about the idea building inside her head. “The people will not remember you and Lupalazo and our children, like I have been cut away from my village in the mountains of Mexico, I who am a Yaqui Indian, who looks ever for Yaqui leader, Ave’lino Cobayori Domingues Urquides, who came from Sonora Mexico to these plains and these mountains. If he survives, it is not him by his Yaqui name, but he has become someone else in order to survive.”

Some of her argument lit up in him, and part of it was lost. It was evident that she knew many things he did not, but he did know that gold was not that important; he had gotten this far without it, gotten this far with found junk.

For all the month of hot July and part way through hot August, Jehrico went searching the prairies, the dim canyons, the mountain trails, and paid several visits to his old mine where he had brought back dear friend Molly Yarbrough’s best gift ever, the gentleman named Ash Worthley, the pair newly married and living in a fine new house at the edge of town.

The useless mine, Jehrico had decided, could be used as a decoy of some kind, a way to throw bad men into the dead mine and off his ordinary trails. Fate said such men would find out about his secret in some odd manner.

And so it came down to Jehrico’s detecting one day, on a side trail in the mountains, two horsemen hanging back on the trail, but never leaving it. And it was him they were following. One of them sat a pinto and one rode a big gray, a proud horse that made Jehrico think his rider was the boss of the two. The men looked like drovers just off a cattle drive, clothes rough, hats beat up by trail dust and weather, but sitting their mounts as if they were born to the saddle.

With artful deliberation, leaving only slight trail signs, but always visible trail signs, Jehrico went to the mine where he and Ash Worthley found not a speck of gold and left it that way. Now, for the great junkman of Bola City, the mine that had yielded nothing had become a thing of value. The two horsemen, he was sure, would enter the mine once he left it, just as he had planned. True dust did have value, he had always believed; the mine was proof of it once more to the Mexican junk collector, Lupalazo’s husband, father of her children, one of Bola City’s leading businessmen, and dearest friend of Molly and Ash Worthley, now off on their path to happiness.

In spite of omens, life was good.

He left one of two picks stuck between two chunks of rock, as if he had just toppled them from place and was trying to break them apart. He stayed in the mine for several hours, and every so often snuck close to the entrance and looked for signs of the two men. They were not too careful and Jehrico caught sight of them just about every time he looked, where they had secreted themselves across a stretch of a rocky surface and behind a fallen chunk of rock bigger than both horses. They were, he believed, waiting his departure, waiting to see what he brought out of the mine and might add to the saddlebag on Mildred the mule standing as if at attention in front of the mine.

The two men, from what he detected in them, would not harm him, wanting to check the mine for gold before any other steps were taken. They could always come back to the mine, the way now known. And he was also sure they would not prevent him from leaving.

All his thinking told him someone knew he had come into possession of some gold nuggets. As much as he tried he could not figure out who it was; it was not Lupalazo he knew with deep faith. Somewhere there had been a break in the trail.

A quick thought said it had to begin at the creek.

He waited another hour, making what noise he could to keep the spying men alert, until he made his way out of the mine, put a handful of nothing into Mildred’s saddlebag, gave her a good share of water, and sat up on her backside. He touched his heel to her flank and they started back toward Bola City, at least two hours away on the trail.

Riding easily on Mildred, he had no need to look back over his shoulder at the mine. The men would soon be in there, looking for the strike: if Jehrico Taxico had found gold, it had to come from this mine, as they would most likely believe

 And he’d not tell Lupalazo about the strange riders who had followed him for half a day and searched his dead mine. Some signs are too ominous to understand and he did not want to disturb her normal routines.

But he knew what the horses of these men looked like: he could pick them out of any hitching rail in Bola City any day of the week, and all the nights included too. Their colors and lines stayed in his mind.

It was new friend Ash Worthley who told Jehrico what he had heard in the saloon, from three men seated at a table in a far corner. He said he remembered every word, had not let them know he was listening to them, which was easy because they had been drinking for a good part of the afternoon, according to the barkeep.

“Them fellas came in afore noon and been at it since then, Ash. Seen one of them around, name’s Skid Polk, worked now a year or so at The Bell Bar spread down river. Never saw them other two though. Not in here.”

The sometimes hushed talk of the three men, the sometimes grunts of approval or discordant disapprovals, was reported by Worthley to Jehrico, much as repeated here:

First man: “Humph! You sure the stupid Mex junkie’s found gold, Skid? If he did, it has to be from that mine he works up near Topaz Pass. Me and Burkie went there must be five or six times and can’t find nothin’. Ain’t that right, Burkie? Huh, huh?”

Second man: “I swear that’s the truth, Skid. Not a bit of shine anyplace, like there never was any there any time ever. Whataboutthat? Whataboutthat? You sure about what your nephew said? Ah, kids play games even when they’re dreamin’.”

Third man: “Yuh! Yuh! He swore up and down about it, and the kid’s no dummy. He knew what he was hearin’ from the Mex kid, and just like I said … the Mex kid says his pa found some nugget, and then he said, ‘What’s a nugget?’ like the little dummy don’t know nothin’, and my smart nephew tells him it’s kind of a furry prairie critter so nothin’ gets spoiled ‘cause he knowed damned right well I’d be real interested and he comes onto a cut of it.”

First man (who’s probably the boss, inferred by Worthley): “I believe him, both of ‘em. We just watch the Mex some more and let him lead us to it. It sure don’t look like the mine’s the place. It’s as dead as the bank got closed down in Tremelin up the river.”

Jehrico, hearing all that Ash Worthley knew, stayed in town that night to keep his eye on things. He had seen Skid Polk before and saw him ride off, toward the Bar Bell spread down the river. He figured Polk would not go near the cabin and Lupalazo and the children; it was the other two he was concerned about. They had taken a place to sleep at the back of the barbershop, rooms at a premium in town. He didn’t know where their horses were, but they had to be close by.

For his night watch, Jehrico set up in an alley between the last two buildings in town, on the opposite end of town from the slow rise where his cabin was located. Mildred was as quiet as ever, resting from her normal rigors of carting junk.

Well before the dawn flash put a hazy light on the eastern sky, Jehrico heard two horses on the dusty road heading out of town. He and Mildred, quiet as scroungers on the hunt, followed at a safe distance, and he was glad the two men did not go near his cabin on the slope. It was the slight bit of light that showed him the two men who’d been in his mine, who had trailed him there, whom he was now trailing. He’d not get too close, not go too fast, and smiling at the last part because Mildred never once went too fast at anything at all, except for good grain or fresh water.

It was soon apparent that this type of work at this time was not for Jehrico. As he turned one sharp turn in the dusty road, he realized he had lost sight of the two riders in the growing light of dawn. Perhaps they had turned off the trail and were headed north or south … or were hidden, in an ambush set-up.

He brought Mildred to a standstill with a quiet command, but he had already been caught unawares, for the two men appeared at his side directly from clumps of brush at the side of the trail. Their guns were on him.

“Don’t move a muscle, Mex,” one of them said, “or we drop you off that critter in a hurry. Then we’ll go back to town before it really wakes up and raise a bit of hell with your woman and the kids. All that less’n you tell us where you found the gold and where you hid what you found already. It ain’t in that dried up mine that never was in the first place. We know that.”

The final word was the final threat. “You ain’t got a lot of time to do what I say, Mex.”

Jehrico was filled with a real fear, imagining the men loose in his home, anger making decisions for them, and greed, getting something for less than honest work. There had to be a way, and the most apparent one was to give them at least a clue to finding some gold. He might get a chance to escape.

“It’s down near the creek, off to the southwest there, past that hill you can see in the distance. It’s down there.”

The rifle barrel was jammed into his stomach. “Listen, Mex, you tell us any lies and we start breaking fingers, busting hands and leg bones, croaking you piece by piece so you can’t ever crawl home to that woman of yours, that squaw woman. We know all about her, Injun come over the big river.”

The rifle thrust came again, and harder than the first time. “I ain’t kiddin’ none, Mex. You remember that. And remember the squaw and the kids playin’ at her skirts. We ain’t afraid of doin’ things up the old fashioned way.” He jabbed Jehrico again and toppled him from Mildred’s back.

“If I don’t get there to show you, you won’t find the gold, and there’s no digging with it.”

The last part caused a change. “Okay, get back up there on that damned critter and we’ll go look.”

In an hour they were moving along the bank of the creek where Jehrico and Lupalazo had found their first joys and where he had found his gold strike. He searched out for some excuse, some way that he could get out of this problem, get free of these bandits, thieves, kidnappers, and once more enjoy a swim here with Lupalazo.

He made up his mind he’d delay as long as he could, perhaps time and fate to bring a stage or a freighter along the road, drivers recognize him, determine there was a problem to be solved.

“It all looks the same to me. I was only here once and it is hard to remember where I was.”

The rifle found his gut again, a thrust like the thrust of a bighorn bull. Pain shot down his legs, leaped onto his back, made him dizzy. “I have trouble remembering. There should be trees near here. He had seen a clump of trees down the creek a hundred or so yards. The trees presented only a short time of delay, Jehrico realized. Mildred would make it in little time, mere minutes.

“The man on the big gray said, “Down there! See those trees? Is that it?”

“I think so,” Jehrico said, ”but I get dizzy when you pound my belly with your rifle.” Each complaint might add but a few seconds or long minutes, but he’d keep trying. With no weapon he was at their mercy.

When they reached the clump of trees, the boss said, “Is this it? I’m getting damned tired of you playin’ them games on me. Is this it?” He knocked Jehrico off Mildred’s back once again, and yelled, “Show me where you found the damned gold. Now!”

They now were opposite the turn of the creek, and a growth of trees that formed like an umbrella over one spot, where he and Lupalazo were first wholly introduced. The scene came back to him in one image and one emotion and he saw Lupalazo as he first saw her. If he was to die, the time was full of her.

Jehrico, be delaying, got the rifle barrel right in the middle of his back again. Pain shot through him and he promised he’d never yield, then thought it was useless. He didn’t want the gold. He wanted Lupalazo and the children. How could he trade them for gold, and then, when he was jabbed once more by the rifle, again in the back, he believed they’d never let him go. They’d shoot him and toss him into the creek, right where the gold was.

He spun on his heel and said, “Why should I tell you and know you will kill me when you find the gold hidden in the trees.” It was his last ruse and last comment on the matter.

But concurrent with his kidnapping, his intuitive Yaqui wife had had not stood still in her home, wrapt up in her children. She had gone into town and called Ash Worthley from his work. There was a flurry of activity soon thereafter in Bola City, in the saloon, at the livery, at the general store.

As Jehrico Taxico was jabbed one more time by the rifle barrel, a shot came from the other side of the creek, a shot that knocked the bandit boss unconscious, and froze his partner upright in the saddle.

Jehrico saw Ash Worthley and the sheriff and a more men from Bola City with their guns trained on the second kidnapper.

And beautiful Lupalazo was shouting out at him, “Marido, querido corazón, estamos aquí. Estoy aquí. Estaremos en nuestra casa pronto.” And she said it in English so all could understand what was important in life: “Husband, dear heart, we are here. I am here. We will be in our home soon. I knew you would end up here, if you could help it.”

For closers, the Yaqui maiden, freed from slavery by her own junk collector, said it in her Yaqui language, knowing none of them understood it, including her husband. But she’d tell him in the night, under the cover of darkness and a blanket, in the secret confine of their home.

 

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Tom Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry Regiment in Korea, 1951. His short story collections are Epic Cures and Brief Cases, Short Spans, from Press 53; and From the Quickening and A Collection of Friends, Pocol Press. He has 20 Pushcart nominations, 325 stories on Rope and Wire Magazine, appeared in 5 issues of Rosebud Magazine, 6 issues of The Linnet’s Wings and 8 issues of Ocean Magazine. His novels include Vigilantes East, An Accountable Death, Death of a Phantom Receiver (an NFL mystery). Milspeak Publishers issued eBooks: Korean Echoes, 2011, nominated for The Society of Military History’s Distinguished Book Award and The Westering, 2012, nominated for a National Book Award. His newest eBook, Murder at the Forum, is released January, 2013 by Danse Macabre/Lazarus/Anvil Fiction.

His work is in Wherever It Pleases, Nervous Breakdown, Troubadour21, Stone Hobo, Faith-Hope-Fiction, Canary, Subtle Tea, Red Dirt Review, Nontrue, Danse Macabre, Nashwaak Review, Jake’s Locked-Room Anthology, Ray’s Road Review, The Best of Sand Hill Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Dew on the Kudzu, Blue Lake Review, Slice of Life, Blue Ridge Literary Prose, KY Story, Eastlit, and many more Internet sites and print magazines.

 

Art by Sheila Lanham
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Poetry

The Carving Station and Bronco Busting

by Jessica Tyner

 

The Carving Station

 

Miguel fed me sips of whiskey as he stitched
a nadie te pareces desde que yo te amo
across my rib cage in between
moles and scars and halting English,
discarded fragments of the cancer.
In the undergrad days,
my professor said always, always
have beautiful words –
other than your own –
running through your head.
You don’t want to wake up
locked in solitary confinement alone.
Every day comes in the end.
The malignancy is the shackles, you
were the padded walls
and a Chilean poet was my grasping hope
escaped from my slipping mind,
a pedestal beneath carved breasts.

 

Bronco Busting

The years whipped strap burns through my fingers,
gnawing on slippery palms as I scrambled
to tie-down rope you,
a cowboy cinching a calf’s noose.
We were in Pendleton,
the last stop on a lifetime of pulling leather.
You bought me a Stetson and snapped
roll after roll as the Indians strapped
on paper numbers and feathers,
dancing for the white crowds.
You,
above my huckleberry, I thought impossible
to break –

clove-hitched to my post
as I slipped hobbles over your boots
in our heat-soaked boom town,
manure cloying as a perfume.

 

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Jessica Tyner is originally from Oregon, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and has been a writer and editor for ten years. Currently, she is a copy writer for Word Jones, a travel writer with Mucha Costa Rica, a writer for TripFab, a copy editor at the London-based Flaneur Arts Journal, and a contributing editor at New York’s Thalo Magazine. She has recently published short fiction in India’s Out of Print Magazine, and poetry in Slow Trains Literary Journal, Straylight Magazine, Solo Press, and Glint Literary Journal.

 

 

Art by Sheila Lanham

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Poetry

Prelude in B Flat Major and O

by Changming Yuan

 

Prelude in B Flat Major

you

you are

you are bits

you are bits of pasts

you are bits of others’ pasts

you are bits of other beasts’ pasts

 

or are you sums of your own human presents?

 

 

O

 

a rope loop propped up with hope

to lasso words running amuck

 

a mouth reshaped, repositioned

to pronounce the roundest vowel

 

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Changming Yuan, 4-time Pushcart nominee and author of Allen Qing Yuan, holds a PhD in English, teaches independently and edits Poetry Pacific in Vancouver Yuan’s poetry appears in 619 literary publications across 23 countries, including Barrow Street, Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, LiNQ, London Magazine, Poetry Kanto, Paris/Atlantic, Poetry Salzburg, SAND and Taj Mahal Reivew. Poetry submissions welcome at yuans@shaw.ca.

 

Art by Sheila Lanham
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Fiction

The Most Popular Kids in School

 

by Geoff Schutt

 

Eleanor wanted to do good but every time she tried to do good, something happened and it ended up she was like screaming for attention or help or who knows what.  But she screamed inside where nobody could hear her.  Oh she tried to do good, yes she tried.  Like when school resumed after Christmas break.  In an instant, this turned into a bad year for the school.  It suddenly would be remembered as the year the popular kids were killed in the car crash.  It happened on the way to a New Year’s Eve party.  Everybody was in shock.  These weren’t kids nobody talked to.  They were the most popular kids in school.

 

Eleanor’s new best friend after Christmas break was H.P.  H.P.’s real name was Helen (her middle name was Penelope).  She wore black jeans, black socks and black high tops.  She wore a blood red sweatshirt along with a red beaded necklace and red boomerang earrings.  Her fingernails were painted red and her lips black.  This was how H.P. looked every day.  This was her look, and Eleanor thought H.P.’s look was beautiful.  She thought H.P. was beautiful.

Eleanor and H.P. were in filmmaking together.  This was one of the few classes that mixed the social groups.  Eleanor was a phase four (the highest phase) student in the honors classes, on track for college, while H.P. was phase three, which meant she might go to college or she might not, and nobody cared much either way, sort of the same way people feel about a middle child.  That’s what H.P. told Eleanor, at least.

H.P. said it was dangerous for her to be friends with Eleanor.  This was crossing the barriers.  You have to be careful to not cross the lines, H.P. said.  But they were friends in spite of their differences.  Eleanor wasn’t sure exactly why H.P. liked her, but she knew why she liked H.P.  She liked H.P. because H.P. was a rebel and she actually did and said what she felt.  It had become more and more difficult for Eleanor to do and say what she felt, especially the more she tried to do good.  When she was little, she was more daring.  Maybe her psychiatrist was right.  Maybe she was just going to explode one day.  Maybe he was right about this one thing.

 

Their assignment was to make a short film that they would show at the end of the quarter.  There was a tradition at Great Falls High School.  The filmmaking class was so popular and students got into making their movies so much that at the end of the quarter, there was Premiere Night for parents to come watch the creations projected on the big screen in the auditorium.  It was usually a popular event among students not in the class as well, because a lot of them ended up starring in the movies.

 

Everybody wants to be famous, H.P. said.  H.P. said why not make a movie about the popular kids rising up to heaven.   On the way to heaven, they would offer last messages to their friends and families.  H.P. had actually been friends with one of the popular kids, Theresa Depinet.  They double-dated once the year before.  H.P. said she didn’t wear as much black then.  They went out with college boys.  They went up to the lake.  One of the boys had sex with Theresa, but afterwards nobody was the wiser and when Theresa died, she had this kind of angelic aura about her.  H.P. said Theresa would have liked it that everybody thought she was a virgin when she died.

 

Mr. Selby, the filmmaking teacher, told the students about irony, and how to build dramatic tension, and how the filmmaker could really play with the audience’s mind if he or she was good enough.

Cool! said H.P.

Cool! Eleanor agreed.  (She though H.P. was one of the best friends she’d ever had.)

H.P. asked Mr. Selby, What about violence?  How do you explain all the violence in movies?

Mr. Selby seemed taken aback by the question.  He smiled and blinked his eyes and Eleanor could see he was absorbing H.P.’s words and trying to figure out her motivation in asking the question.  For example, was she being sarcastic or was it a serious scholarly question.  Eleanor watched his jaw and began to count inside her head.  It was only seconds but already seemed like a terribly long time, since Mr. Selby was quite the talker when he taught.  And sure enough, he moved his lower jaw from one side to the next and Eleanor was thinking, this is it, this is when he talks, when H.P. spoke again.  Mr. Selby simply watched her in amazement.

Playing with people’s heads makes the violence necessary, doesn’t it? H.P. said.

 

H.P. squeezed Eleanor’s arm on the way out of class.  Eleanor glanced at Mr. Selby, who was leaned over his desk, tapping his fingers and staring back with such intensity it made Eleanor turn away.  She knew it wasn’t her he was staring at but H.P.  The two of them did not get along.  It only made Eleanor like H.P. even better.  H.P. didn’t care what Mr. Selby thought, and that was so wonderful, and H.P. liked Eleanor, which was also wonderful.

 

The other three popular kids who died were Jeff Nealy, the football star, Judy Minus, the cheerleader, and Whitney Colman, the soccer player. H.P. already had the parts cast.  Rodney Crandall, the druggie, would play Jeff Nealy.  The Thai twins, who had proper Thai names but everybody called them JoJo and Sandy, would play Judy and Whitney, and H.P. herself would play Theresa.  It was all against type.  Which was sort of like irony, H.P. said.  Just like Mr. Selby said.

 

Eleanor was going to direct and handle the camera. She had an old camcorder at home.  She wanted to film this on videotape.  She didn’t want it to be all glossy and polished like it might be if they used the school’s fancy equipment. Glossy and polished was the last thing this particular story needed.  Mr. Selby told Eleanor this would be fine, as long as the project itself was completed.  He actually seemed pleased that Eleanor wanted to try something different, even if it was using outdated technology.

 

H.P. said it was going to be fucking incredible, this movie, and when Rodney Crandall died of a drug overdose someday, HBO would snap up the rights and H.P. and Eleanor would be rich.  On top of getting a guaranteed “A” in the class, of course.

They began filming at an abandoned house on the edge of town.  The house had been empty for almost two years, but lots of kids partied there, H.P. included.  H.P. kept trying to get Eleanor to go with her and party at the house but Eleanor was anxious about who else might be there.  But now that they were making a movie, it didn’t matter.  Eleanor had an excuse.  When she had a reason to be somewhere, she felt herself come alive.  She wasn’t so introverted.

They were in the attic.  Eleanor sat Indian-style, her elbows holding up the camera.  H.P. remarked that Eleanor was becoming quite the filmmaker.

Eleanor told JoJo to begin whenever she was ready, to just improvise something, anything.  Just remember you’re Judy the cheerleader and you’re dead and you’re on your way to heaven.  But when JoJo started, she pretended she was going into convulsions like an epileptic, and Eleanor had to stop filming.

What are you doing? she asked JoJo.  JoJo said she didn’t know how a cheerleader was supposed to act on the way to heaven, except maybe give a cheer.  Except if she was dead, she couldn’t give a normal cheer, right?

H.P. came over all disgusted like.  This isn’t working, Eleanor, she said.

It will work just fine, Eleanor said.

Well, let me be Theresa.  Film my scene now, okay?  H.P. said.  She glared at JoJo, who merely shrugged her shoulders.

Rodney was in the corner of the attic smoking a joint with Sandy.  The smoke was drifting toward the camera.

Like clouds! Rodney exclaimed.  On the way to heaven!

Sandy couldn’t stop giggling.

Eleanor zoomed in on H.P.’s face.

My name is Theresa, H.P. said.  Everyone in my family thought I would grow up to be someone perfect.  They said I would have a good job and a good husband and a couple of good kids, who would also grow up to be perfect.  Perfection runs in my family.

She said, I had sex and I liked it and I would have had sex again and I would have gotten pregnant and I would have gotten an abortion, maybe two abortions by the time I finished high school.  And after all of this I wouldn’t be able to have children anymore and I would not be able to attract a good husband and I would have to work at whatever I could get just to keep on living.

H.P. smiled:  It’s the goddamned awful fucking truth!  I swear it on a stack of Bibles!

Eleanor lowered the camera.  She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.  She couldn’t even speak, she was so in shock.

H.P. was yelling at her.  I’m not finished! H.P. was saying.  Keep shooting, Eleanor! she was yelling.

So Eleanor put the camcorder on her shoulder and refocused on H.P.  She would’ve probably done anything H.P. asked her to right now.

H.P. lifted off her top and said plainly, Look at me now, look at what I’ve become.

Then she stood up.  It was over.

Rodney was clapping his hands.  He was telling H.P. she looked just like Ellen Barkin in that really ancient Dennis Quaid movie, the one about New Orleans, The Big Easy, he said.  Rodney’s older brother had a copy of that movie and he just lusted and lusted over Ellen Barkin, except that by now, she was probably like 90 years old or something and all wrinkled.  Rodney said this to his older brother and his older brother gave him a black eye.

 

The next day, H.P. began dressing differently and nobody but Eleanor seemed to notice.  H.P. started acting differently too.  She was dressing and acting like Theresa Depinet.  And suddenly she and Eleanor were not talking like they used to.  There was this gap between them.

Mr. Selby asked for progress reports.  He wanted to see some of the rough video.  Doesn’t matter how much you’ve shot or edited, he said, just matters that you’ve got something.

Eleanor handed in a video of the cast at the beach.  It was cold and there was snow on the ground.  They had driven up to Lake Erie.  Eleanor filmed for about ten minutes.  She had them get into their swimsuits and splash around.  She had JoJo and Sandy act as if they were drowning.  All this to prove to Mr. Selby that they were working on something.  Eleanor didn’t want anyone to know about the real movie.

The more H.P. was becoming Theresa Depinet, the more Eleanor was taking control.  As Theresa Depinet, H.P. was hanging around Rodney.  She liked dangerous, stupid boys.  They were becoming quite the item.

Everyone watched everyone else’s rough videos.  Mr. Selby said no one could copyright an idea, so they were welcome to steal from each other if they saw a particular camera angle they liked.  With such a small amount of film, they shouldn’t be able to get the complete plot anyway.  But it was obvious that Bryan and Ed were making a cops and robbers movie and Greg and Nanette, who were going together, were filming a love story. They even wrote a song for it. The song was so sappy, it was kind of good, Eleanor thought.

*

Eleanor sneaked into the gym after school.  She thought they probably had fifteen minutes if they were lucky enough before some custodian kicked them out.  It was JoJo’s second try at being Judy Minus.  Eleanor had the idea to have Sandy as Whitney Colman the soccer star kick the ball so it hit Judy on the sidelines as she was doing a cheer.  The ball would symbolize death, which was coming for her.  As JoJo fell to the ground, she would say something profound.  But when the soccer ball hit JoJo in the legs and she fell she screamed to Eleanor that this was real, turn off the camera!

Eleanor was not to be dissuaded.  She zoomed in and got the perfect anguished, pained expression on JoJo’s face as she sat on the ground holding her leg and rocking.

Sandy came from nowhere and put her hand over the lens.  Please, Eleanor, she said.

Fine, Eleanor said.  She was so pissed.  She was supposed to be the director and yell “Cut,” not one of the actors.

JoJo was crying.

 

*

Eleanor was telling H.P. her ideas about their movie.  She started getting really excited, talking about freedom of expression and non-censorship and pushing the limits, but H.P, was oddly quiet.

Finally, H.P. said, You’re not from Great Falls, are you Eleanor?

Eleanor didn’t know what this had to do with anything.  No, she said.  We moved from Toledo after my mother left.

Well, H.P. said, if you were from Great Falls, if you were really from here, I mean, you’d know what it comes down to.

What does it come down to? Eleanor said.  I don’t understand.

We know we probably will never leave, H.P. said. It’s part of who we are. It’s in our blood or something. If we go away to college and don’t come back, we never come back.  If we stay, we stay. It’s like all or none.  It’s about limits. There are limits on everything, even us.

Eleanor was shaking her head.  No, she said.

I think I’m staying, H.P. said.  She was avoiding Eleanor’s eyes.  She was looking off into the distance.  I think I love Rodney.  I think Rodney loves me.

H.P. – Eleanor said.

Wait, H.P. said, let me finish.  This movie was a stupid idea to begin with.  I mean, it’s not like I’m going to college and never coming back, you know?  I’m staying, Eleanor, or else I’m coming back to stay.

It’s just a movie, Eleanor said.

No, H.P. said.  No it’s not.  It’s not just a movie.

So what are you saying? Eleanor said.

She had no idea why H.P. was turning into somebody else. She wasn’t even being Theresa Depinet now.  She was somebody else Eleanor didn’t recognize.

Eleanor, you’re not even listening to me, H.P. said, and she got up and walked away.  But she stopped, and they looked at each other.  H.P. said, Eleanor, finish the movie if you want, but count me out.  Count Rodney out too.  Okay?

No, Eleanor was saying, like over and over, like No no no no no no.  After H.P. was gone she was still saying it.  It didn’t make a difference how much she was saying it.  It was those stupid popular kids.  It was this place.  It was Great Falls. And it was like she wanted to do something good again and she found herself screaming inside instead.

Well, she would do it without them.  Without any of them.  She didn’t need them.

 

*

There were two weeks to Premiere Night.  Eleanor talked with Jeff Nealy’s parents on the telephone.  She lied and said she was on the yearbook staff.  They were planning a special page to honor Jeff and the others, she said.  What they need was a good picture of Jeff.  What they wanted to use was not a school picture but something informal, candid, something that showed Jeff being natural.  Jeff’s mother said it wouldn’t be a problem.  She thanked Eleanor and said she appreciated everything Jeff’s fellow students were doing.  She said she knew how much Jeff liked everybody, and she was glad so many kids liked Jeff, too.

Eleanor called Judy Minus’ parents, and Whitney Colman’s parents, and Theresa Depinet’s parents.  All of them said basically the same thing. Yes, they’d be happy to help. Eleanor rode her bike to their houses to pick up the pictures.  But before she left their houses, the parents invited her inside and told her stories.  Mostly, the stories were about small things – those kinds of memories that happen quite by accident but the memories that end up meaning the most.  These weren’t memories about who was Homecoming King or who was the best cheerleader or who had the most friends and was most likely to succeed based entirely on that.  There were random acts of kindness nobody would have thought of from one of the popular kids.  There were hopes and dreams.  There were even insecurities.  Some of the insecurities were so familiar, Eleanor found herself wiping a tear from her face.

 

Back home, Eleanor went to the garage.  She turned on the light, which was just a light bulb hanging from a wire.  She placed the pictures on the ground. Each set of parents had given her several photographs to choose from.

Eleanor pushed the light bulb so it was swinging in wide arcs back and forth.  She was standing on a stepstool and pointing the camera from above at the pictures under the slicing spotlight.  Here was Theresa standing beside a horse at summer camp.  Here was Jeff in his football uniform after a game, his face all sweaty and dirty, but with a huge smile.  Here was Whitney in shorts and a t-shirt, soccer ball at her feet.  Here was Judy, next to her brother.  Judy’s brother’s name was Tim.  He was a senior.  The thing about Tim was, he could make people laugh when they didn’t feel like laughing.  He was always going around telling jokes, even to strangers in the hall.  He told a joke once to Eleanor.  In the picture, Tim’s arm was around Judy’s waist.  They looked like anybody’s brother or sister during the good times.  It was a tender photograph, and just looking at it made Eleanor sad.

 

Monday and Tuesday, other kids were bugging her about the movie.  Everyone wanted to hear it from her – what was her movie really about?  What was she trying to prove, anyway? People were getting the idea that Eleanor was really going to slam the popular kids, was going to slander their names, was going to try to present them as frauds somehow.  You can’t be popular and show weakness, after all, and Eleanor was going straight for the jugular.  She was going to make the popular kids bleed to death, right there on the screen, so they’d die all over again in a bloody mess that everyone would have to witness.

Eleanor didn’t know why everybody was saying these things, of course.  Nobody knew what was in her movie.  It was probably H.P.  Now in class, H.P. sat with Rodney.  They didn’t talk to Eleanor, or else Eleanor didn’t talk to them.  Same difference.  She was hurt and they didn’t seem to be hurt.  It wasn’t fair.

 

She skipped school Wednesday and Thursday. Premiere Night was Friday.

 

The principal, Mr. Gladdis, called Eleanor’s house on Thursday and left a long message on the machine.  He wanted to see the movie before Premiere Night.  Otherwise, he said, she wouldn’t be allowed to show it.  He sounded all patronizing when he said he knew Eleanor would show good judgment and he was sure everything was fine.  But she should let him see the film ahead of time.  He was quite adamant on this.  Mr. Gladdis called back two more times, but Eleanor just let him speak to the machine.  Then she erased the messages.

 

Eleanor decided she would have to skip school Friday as well.  She couldn’t take any chances.  She was trying to be brave about the whole thing.  And yes, it was true that in the beginning she wanted to be daring and bold and maybe even shocking.  It was different after she talked with the popular kids’ parents. She would have never cared so much if they had lived, and that was the truth.  Eleanor also knew enough that their parents had probably been all cocky when their children were alive, but now that they were gone, they just missed them so much.

 

*

The door to the auditorium was unlocked at six.  Great Falls High School was the only public high school in the county.  (There was also a much smaller Catholic high school.) Great Falls High School had fifteen hundred students.  The auditorium had eight hundred seats and every one of those seats was filled by six-ten.  There was an overflow crowd outside.  The screening didn’t start until seven, and Eleanor showed up shortly before seven.  She watched the crowd of people gathered outside the auditorium from a safe distance, from the baseball field across the street.

At seven-fifteen, she decided to make her way inside, even though she would still have to get through the people hanging around the door.  She tried to be nonchalant about her entrance and she walked with her eyes toward the ground and her video held snugly against her body.  But somebody recognized her.  Somebody said her name and then they were all looking at her.  She didn’t want to look back at them.  She kept her eyes down and tried to push through them to the door.  They wouldn’t let her.  They were crowding around her and then she lost her balance and the video went flying.  She was on her hands and knees trying to get it back but the people were stepping on it.  They were crushing it!

 

Eleanor looked at them. She wanted to get a good, good look at these people.  But their faces all seemed blank to her.  The most popular kids in school were never coming home – but just the same, and this was a fact of life that Eleanor was just learning, they were never, ever going to leave home, either. The most popular kids in school were even more popular now. Someday, there would be a monument built in their honor. Someday, somebody might even make another movie about their lives. Eleanor had grown to like the popular kids – as human beings, not for being popular.  She had really grown to like them, after talking to their parents, after feeling the grief up close. But now she hated them all over again.  Now she screamed out loud – for the first time, she was screaming out loud, and this felt so good!  She screamed until everybody gave her breathing room, until they gave her space.  And then she kept on screaming until she wept.

 

(excerpt from a novel in progress)

 

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Geoff Schutt’s short fiction has appeared in The Quarterly (edited by Gordon Lish for Vintage Books/Random House), The Best of Writers at Work, The Wastelands Review and The Laurel Review, among others.  He has received three artist grants for his fiction-as-performance art from The Arts Commission of Greater Toledo. After living in Ohio for many years, he now resides in the Washington, D.C. area.  His novel-length work is represented by James McGinniss of McGinniss Associates Literary Agency, New York City.   More about Geoff Schutt is available at his blog, “This Side of Paradise,” at http://geoffschutt.blogspot.com

 

Art by Sheila Lanham

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Poetry

It Rained on Lake Erie and other poems

by John Dorsey

 

it rained on lake erie

those summers when my father

would us pack into the car

transplanted into some

tiny wooden bungalow

just off the highway

 

a crumbing drive-in sign

advertised skin flicks overhead

as he fried potatoes

his fingers coated

in day old grease.

 

we listened to the water sing

through the mouths of seashells

bottling moonlight

with the whispers

of wayward fireflies.

 

our nights spent peacefully

sleeping

under blankets

of

stars

 

 

Rebirth of the Wild West
12-14-12


I think Cole Younger
might feel a bit out of touch.

The thing about tragedy now
is that our monsters are more real
than imagined.

Bullets don’t play favorites.

They don’t ask history
to do them any favors.

And the thing is
it’s never our kids.

It isn’t Nirvana bootlegs
and a little grass
or cowboys and Indians anymore.

The moon has become irrational
with blood lust
and its victims
just get younger
every day.

 

 

Indianapolis at 2:37am

a fish flops
a line turns inside out
there is no sun here
only here
i get it

 

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John Dorsey is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), and Leaves of Ass (Unadorned Press, 2011). His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He may be reached at archerevans@yahoo.com

 

Art by Sheila Lanham

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Poetry

broker and other poems

by Christopher Mulrooney

 

broker

they tell me why it doesn’t why tell me eh
of course it could down to this

and then up to here but don’t know

why up to me

it couldn’t never panpipes and all

to a condo in Philadelphia and a farm lot out west
for the private plane and Margaret and the dogs
the worm that bit the apple
on the evolutionary ladder
good old

the propulsive speed at the blanched wilding
speaks courses of reservoirs in the main forests of Central Park
and the long days at the office end in
mirrored bedrooms and solitaires

seen it and forgotten

what a story get it down

 

hostages

I claim them up own
the first days regard me
with an uneven smile
it goes all around
you can see it from the back

the saintly smile

it goes down from the trickling streams on mountainsides
it gives a partial splash of success
in the bourbon
you passed over at the bar
wonderfully so

 

outrider dance troupe

sad-eyed on the peripheral vision of the director
it’s loopy after the fashion of men trained for the dance
an acceptable conclusion

at the fence you would say peeking about
not liking what it sees

 

the happy gauntlet is down

and you can believe it
whomp you upside the head
a destroyer toilet
stranded and so on a long change of scene
the world is your oyster cracker
tenuously connected somewhat goes with something
Mabel’s home pie and assorted goodies
right on the menu all you have to do is point
to coin an expression

 

it’s a rap party

the Jungleland cruise safari
up the wickets down the bowls
everywhere the boaters flying freely
could you the argument please sustain
across the bar doubly syncopated
around the bend into the home stretch
with a stare from hungry children after the war
commercially successful pictures with big eyes

 

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Christopher Mulrooney has written poems in Tulane Review, Compass Rose,  Or, Pacific Review, Mot Dit, Orbis, Weyfarers, and Otoliths.

http://cmulrooney.tripod.com/ut/

in this issue_Art by Sheila Lanham

painting by Sheila Lanham

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Poetry, translation

Variations of myself in two allotments

by Raúl Renán

translated by Fer de la Cruz

 

One only eye takes care of my surroundings,
with no fixed point, the landscape covering
my body —– can be heard.

By going around with words said for the grass
of birds, while the pinpointed structure of the poem
on the tip of my pencil… can be read.

By juggling every gesture on both hands
upon finding oneself among opposite maneuvers
of dialogic writing. Coming from each
side of the conversation, converted wide
and left and with its own
eloquent accents: as one that
tosses on the floor the other´s say,
as the other is brought by its pulse,
rightfully clockwise
sure of itself while growing on its distance
from the first. Both may be continuity:
adjoining, never! Disjoining, yes!
But less and less
never the
less.

 

Variaciones de mí en dos medidas

Un solo ojo cuida mi derredor,
sin lugar fijo el paisaje cubre
mi cuerpo —– se oye.

Ir diciendo palabras para el pasto
de los pájaros, y en la punta de mi lápiz
la estructura afilada del poema… se lee.

Andar a dos manos los gestos al encontrarse
en las maniobras opuestas de una
escritura dialógica. Vienen de ambos
lados los parlamentos parlados
a diestra y siniestra con sus propios
acentos elocuentes: uno que trae
tirando el decir contrario y otro
que viene del pulso a derechas
con certeza a modo de alejarse
del otro. Los dos pueden ser continuidad:
no contiguos, sí sintiguos
no obstante.

 

 

 

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Raúl Renán (Mérida, 1928) is one of Yucatán´s major living poets. He grew up in Mérida but moved to Mexico City fifty years ago, where he was an editor and a workshop maestro of generations. Most famous for his experimental works, Raúl Renán is author of more than 40 titles of poetry and fiction, such as Catulinarias y Sáficas (1981), De las queridas cosas (1982), La gramática fantástica (1983), Viajero en sí mismo (1991), and Los silencios de Homero (1998).

Fer de la Cruz is a Yucatecan poet born in 1971. He has received two national, two regional, and one state-wide poetry awards in Mexico and is a member of the founding faculty at the School of Creative Writing of the State Center of Fine Arts, in Mérida. He is also coordinator of the Historic Mérida branch of Centro de Idiomas del Sureste, where he was a teacher for 20 years. He holds an MA in Spanish from Ohio University and a BA in Philosophy. As an independent editor, writer, translator, and cultural promoter, he has participated in cultural festivals, conferences, and book fairs in Mexico, Cuba, France, and the United States. His poems appeared in the books “Redentora la voz” (Ayuntamiento de Mérida, 2010) and “Aliteletras. De la A a la que quieras” (Dante, 2011), as well as in the chapbooks “La cuenta regresiva. Radiografía urbana mesozoica” (El Drenaje, 2012) and “Seven Songs of Silent, Singing Fireflies” (JKPublishing, 2008): delacrux@hotmail.com.

around and about_Art by Sheila Lanham

painting by Sheila Lanham

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