elsewhere / 9


The trouble started when my parents called me downstairs to perform tricks for their bombed friends who were over for an impromptu party, the natural outgrowth of a Friday, this one stretching until Sunday night. I'd been asked to do tricks on several occasions. My best one: penny-snatching. My ambition to become The Guinness Book of World Records holder. At the time, it was seventy-two pennies, attempted and caught, by a Belgian Olympic weightlifter whose hands were rumored to be as large as a normal man's foot. My personal best thus far had been thirty-two pennies out of forty attempted. But I was young, and the record could be achieved, assuming continued practice and a growth spurt. “Go ahead and show them,” my mother said. “They'll love it.” My father whispered theatrically, “It's really quite daring. I hold my breath every time he does it.” So I prepared myself, lining my pennies in stacks of ten across my forearm, concentrating . . . holding . . . holding . . . . This time, though, the pennies scattered, like buckshot, rather than dropping neatly into my palm, nicking four people in the eye and chipping Mr. Engler's front teeth, hospitalizing Jean Brokkow, whose mouth was opened at the time of contact, laughing at a joke my father told her, the flirtation the very thing that mis-calibrated my concentration, so in reality it was my father's fault, not mine. But that remained our little secret.

Dreaming of Roy Orbison

My father loved Roy Orbison, loved the juxtaposition of that quivering falsetto, the girlish sadness of those high-pitched songs emerging from the black jeans and satin shirts, the plastered jet-black hair, the dark sunglasses that made you wonder if he was blind. My father died years ago in Las Vegas. I didn’t go to the funeral because I was pregnant and only sixteen, already suffering from toxemia and the varnish of my shame. In the strange time after the birth, I kept dreaming of Roy Orbison. Each night he would take my hand in his, and I would be surprised by the smallness of his fingers, the soft, pink palms, the guitar-calloused fingertips. He escorted me to a theater on top of a hill and sang: I’ll be cry-yyyy-in’ over you. Cry-yyyy-in’ over you. Oh, what can I do-oo-oo? It wasn’t sad in the dreams, just tender and high-pitched, and each time, as he crescendoed, I feared that his voice would crack, and the crack echoed like a ghost sound in my head. On those nursing nights when I dreamed, I didn’t make the connection, didn’t even think about my father’s love of Roy Orbison. Only now, years later, my own son living with my ex-husband several hundred miles away from me, do I really miss my father, really sense that he is gone and will never return.

K. L. Cook is the author of three books of fiction: Last Call, The Girl From Charnelle, and most recently, Love Songs for the Quarantined, winner of the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. He teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing and Environment Program at Iowa State University and Spalding University's low-residency MFA Program. His website is klcook.net.

The City of Subdued Excitement & The No Good Really Bad Hangover

Here voices are burnt by cloves laced with nicotine. A man carries a stigmata ashed into his forearm from a lit cigarette. A comet breaks through the glass of a garage door to live in the arm of another. At night, the moon conjures the gremlin inside of us & our long fingers peel eyes from neighborhood-watch signs. This is the nature of scars —an ache for an echo we can’t find the source to. We take to the neighborhoods with names & steal their deadfall. When that isn’t enough we come for the fruit on the bough, & when that isn’t enough we come for the bloom. Dew woken, we suture impending scars, our hands & mouths sticky from night. Strangely, it reminds me of the time you say, that ski van will rape you. Our hands don’t cover our mouths, our mouths do. We find blood instead of a Rorschach test on the corner of Railroad & Holly, it works just as well. You say you saw Shiva in the stains there, but I wonder aloud how you can see seven days of mourning. No, you say, as a man pulls a tallboy from his cubs jacket, interrupting says, you want? I see it, my mouthless face, & think of the van —rusted & paint peeling. We have so many names for the same thing. I know you by many, even the ones we have yet to invent. You keep saying, I’ve liked you —always, like some kind of mantra, like I need it. I get into the van. I take my chances. Scars the map we live our life by.

The Facts of Turquoise

i didn’t come to love turquoise until you died. it was almost winter, & the chill could have been turquoise – it could have been the way the sky seems to mackerel, or the stone in someone’s throat. it was the mole resting on the crest of my wrist. the stone i couldn’t get out of my shoe. i didn’t see you everywhere — but i did see turquoise. saw the seagulls who flew to great heights smash dun shells onto dun stones to crack them open, to find what little meat was inside. it never worked. cracked against the rude earth, agates gleamed like eye teeth in the wreckage. i scoured the corpses for turquoise. i never found any. not that i wanted to collect the stones, i wanted them – yes, i did. but i knew they weren’t for me, knew that the seagulls would flutter drunkenly down again, would ferret them out, only to let the turquoise rain down in some cyclical, ageless storm. you always loved the ocean. i walk into the frothing surf, wait for the burst of summer blackberries (which you also loved). when i eat them, they will taste of turquoise. they will crack my teeth & i won’t be wise enough to cry.

Like, Are We Trying to Hang the Moon Together Now

     there is no nail in the sky. we have not thought to bring any. the moon oscillates from a cord on your index finger. i think to lick it. i do not lick it. instead, i suggest blue tack, of which we also have none. the moon is getting farther + farther away from us. every year i try to hold you closer, but the span of your arm hinders satellites. you lift me to your shoulder so that i may see where your arm + the moon have gone off to. it is glacial + when the far-flung light finally touches you your opaline skin glitters. now to lie cool, in the crook of your arm a moment — cruel the way some stars who’ve illuminated you for centuries may already be dead. as i speed up, i slow down, still the moon (i think) gets fatter + fatter. they say if the full moon loves you, why worry about the stars? but earth is so very far away + not even pale. not even a dot. the stars are so thin here. one day if there are still days, if there are still stars, i happen upon the moon. i have experienced so many things that have yet to happen. i have seen the moon fall from the peak of your index finger. the moon an egg, see it crack open, filled with blue tack. like, we are trying to hang the moon together now

Kat Finch is a Zell Fellow at the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers' Program. Her first chapbook, Birds with Teeth, is available from alice blue press. You may find her work in Black Warrior Review, Whiskey Island, Muzzle Magazine, & Timber Journal, among others. In her spare time she works at Wolverine Press, a letterpress studio, where she is the Chapbook Series Editor.

What I Feel is Real is Hot

What I feel is real is hot. The sun on my face and ocean emotion growing planely. I open out like a number sliding out in a line moving out into darkness. Not like a road, for I do not drive, but like the light of the moon effusing fat and clearly everywhere.

My name is a situation. It has been forgotten, how long I have twitched. How long I have been sitting at the water waiting for the right book and a new book. The feeling of sun on me now is now yesterday, now skimming away from here-goes.

I take off the glass. I take off the dry silk and take off down the river. It is small like a river and long like a river and along it love rock-flays, rocks. A little yellow pencil draws the shore as endless lightwaves. It draws it as such as such is its color. Impossible to be a color other than mother.

Now the sea moves to and I trust it. I trust the blueness on the glass, I trust the watery elbows of water, I trust the fight we will fight against big oil slagging on in. I turn my face up into the thing that colors the water, the sky, the thing that jumps its what-is-blue down onto it, down off. And I feel that color too.

A lyric spreads round what softness I am yielding. What hurt in the speak-place and black envelopes coming open. Why is more not dark. Why is more water the color of twilight than morning. Time slides into time again and again I am spread, smoothed, am a large sheath palming out wider.

I trust it. I do and I trust the hand that quells down my skin-y cloth. What can I do but wrap it. What can I do and where I am warming is hot, is impatient, is has-all-day-to-slim. It would rather I folded than felt more water what I’ve felt.

Anne Marie Rooney is the author of Spitshine (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2012), as well as two chapbooks. Her work has been twice featured in the Best American Poetry anthology. She currently lives in New Orleans, where she works as a teaching artist.

The Printmaker

At zenith, wrinkled in light divided and lost in a depth. A hum haunts the bristling hours within arbitrary lines. Who took him to this talk? Everyone never spoke. They are all inside. If he hibernates this winter he’ll miss none of it, apart from confession seen through its surface. On the big hill behind a brown house, an abstraction is not meant to evade. For the copperplate printmaker, past magic is the admission of an inability to fully act if he’s surrounded by a certain atmosphere. He wanders his distant property to remind himself what I feel is mine when constructing the horse’s frame, with snow, jacks and mother.

Terrell Jamal Terry's poems have appeared in West Branch, Washington Square Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Green Mountains Review, Juked, Whiskey Island Magazine, and many other literary magazines.

from Helen or my Hunger

—"Helen must remember other loves, small things"—

Every word tastes of its context. A stem, inflamed, ragged. The part I remember. The part I don’t remember. Someone draws my blood and I blink back the gray. When I sit in a public space my legs take up less room than his.

I believe very strongly in permanence. I keep pulling at the stretch mark on my side. The tea olive is golden-lined, and follows me to my new house. The men are different now but also the same, covered in crumbs, draping.

He plumbs old friends. He says, Who doesn’t love to be an instrument? My mouth now on the book, on the symbol. An ancestral swallow. I watch a cooking show and let my face wander back toward the blood.

Standing with other women I remember the tribe. A glass museum of bobbing last names. I read for the silver rub of my brain about hunger and the factory. A woman wears a green shawl and calls herself meshugganah into the feather mattress, in words like ravenously and starved.

Once I met my sister in a room and fought to be the first body to pass through. She told me this is now your weight. This is now your fight. Now I watch the documents collect in me, newly-swallowed moss forming a belly. A lineage in brassy spills.

In front of a mirror I measure myself in several forms, none of them manageable, none held back. Imagine a string holding you up, I hear. You have two parts to your ribs, keep them buttoned together. Here is a song in another language; I’ll ask you to hold it still.

There are 85 different kinds of pain, my physical therapist and I discuss, after he gives me two broken pieces of dark Venezuelan chocolate. The kind of pain, he says, that makes you withdraw, only applies to a quarter of the 85. The rest we were born for.

Don’t mind this language, its shriek, a fuming, less limited self. I fold my hands. I read Middlemarch. Ants fall from the ceiling and onto my bedsheets. When I roll them in my fingers they smell like dark metal. This is a symptom.

Can I mouth this myth again and again? Will it make me unsexed, undergrown? Is there ever a bird less beautiful than man? Stop tucking in your tailbone, he says.

I resist his pity his pity, well-oiled, my voyeurs a side wish. His pity. He tells me to land softer; I land a plunge, away. Off-stage I pull in.

Gale Marie Thompson is the author of Soldier On (Tupelo Press) and two chapbooks, If You’re a Bear, I’m a Bear (H_NGM_N) and Expeditions to the Polar Seas (Sixth Finch). Her work appears in Gulf Coast, Guernica, Denver Quarterly, Volt, Sixth Finch, The Volta, and The Colorado Review. She is the founding editor of Jellyfish Magazine, and she lives, writes, and teaches in Athens, GA.

The Enormous Man

An enormous man, the likes of which we have never known, is not destroying our city. We are not screaming in our streets. We are not frantic. The enormous man, sitting placidly on an undeveloped hillside, is not creating havoc, storming through our financial district. Our skyscrapers are not crashing to the ground all around us, and our women and children are not running pointlessly for their lives. The mayor of our city is not calling in the National Guard to rescue us. Our police force is not firing automatic weapons and watching as their ammunition falls to the ground like so many small-mouthed insects, having done nothing to even slow an unstoppable presence in our midst. We are not clinging to frail hopes that are on the verge of expiring with us. Water mains have not burst where the enormous man might carelessly have stepped but didn't. Our supermarkets have not stopped raising and lowering prices in competition with each other. Our realtors and meteorologists have not stopped forecasting. Our investment bankers have not stopped reminding us that retirement will be here sooner than we think. Our preachers have not stopped preaching the benefits of a long life salted with sacrifice and faith. The enormous man who is not destroying our city is not making threats and is not giving ultimatums. The enormous man is not demonstrating awesome strength. The enormous man is not making us wish that equally enormous heroes would come to give him a challenge he would not soon forget. The enormous man has not harmed us or our city in any way, and, regardless of his size or potential for causing us pain, we find ourselves hesitant to fear or mistrust a man who has not wronged us. The enormous man stares blankly at us, and he is clean-shaven; for these things we are grateful.

Stephen Tuttle lives in Utah and teaches at Brigham Young University. His fiction has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Black Warrior Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, and The Normal School.