March 2023

I dislike order and disorder, in that order.



Cover and Event Images: 50 Great Ghost Stories, artist(s) uncredited

Bronwyn Hughes
“Poplar Grove”

I exhaled into my truck's breathalyzer blow box, hoping mouthwash wouldn't trigger a false positive. While I waited for it to greenlight, I groped under the seat, where I kept a supply of condoms. Found some crushed fortune cookies there too. Feeling lucky, I tore one open and fished out the paper slip: _Do not mistake temptation for opportunity. _I hated getting sayings instead of fortunes, so I opened another: A very attractive person has a message for you. Much better.A few minutes ago I was doodling on the want ad section of the Mobjack Mirror when she called."Nick," was all she said.I hadn't heard anything from Lexi since the marine police arrested me for criminal trespassing at Poplar Grove. She would've been arrested too if I hadn't convinced the law I was alone. She didn't accept any of my calls during my whole legal ordeal. Not during my arraignment, not during the week of my court hearings, and not during the nine months I sat in prison thinking about her. Maybe that's why I got a DUI right after my release. Thanks to Lexi, at twenty-five I already had a decent arrest record.Her voice still sounded throaty, a little deeper than I remembered. Sweet and relaxed, it reminded me of how she'd say my name after sex or when she wanted a backrub, a sleepy question and command all-in-one. After a long silence she whispered, "Meet me at Poplar Grove," and hung up.Hell, I'd swim there if I had to. I slid a jimmy hat into my pocket.Beep. My truck's V8 roared to life. I tore down the gravel lane so fast, Jojo's pack of one-eyed rescue dogs gave up the chase, barking in a thick cloud of dust.Nobody in Mobjack had given Poplar Grove a thought in forty years, not until Lexi and I got caught living there in secret all summer. Everyone knew John Lennon and Yoko Ono had purchased the colonial plantation in 1980. They never had a chance to move in because John was murdered soon after they bought it. Yoko ended up donating the property to a local charity that couldn't afford the maintenance, so nature rewilded it.Weaving expertly between potholes on Jojo's lane, I slapped the steering wheel to the beat of the song stuck in my head: One thing I can tell you is you got to be free… It was my Grandpa Chesty's music, but I loved the Beatles too. He always played it whenever we fished together.I sometimes thought of Poplar Grove as our octopus's garden because we felt safe there after I helped Lexi escape from her psycho ex-Marine boyfriend. The only access was by water since the woods had swallowed the gravel drive. The left side of the house's wide porch and vine-covered columns sagged like a stroke victim. Spirits haunted the second floor, howling at the top of the formal staircase whenever it stormed. We used the downstairs to cook in the huge fireplace and to sleep on the screened porch, where we caught a breeze from the river every night. Down by the water's edge, inside an old tide mill, we cleared away snakes with my hunting rifle to make the loft our headquarters.To bring in a little cash, I tried to restore the mill to working order. I wished I hadn't busted a hole in the retainer wall before I figured out the mill pond was essential. When the gate opened, sluicing water was supposed to turn a big wooden paddle wheel, rotating the axle that drove the gears inside the mill house to grind corn.After the retainer wall caved in, I damaged the sluice gate too. Now the only way to make the water wheel turn was to pull down on it with all my weight. We stole dent corn from a nearby farm to grind into coarse yellow flour. Lexi had the idea to call it "Antebellum Artisan Grits" and sell it to come-heres at the farmer's market on Saturdays. But after a week of me forcing the wheel, we only had a pitiful little pile of cornmeal. I was exhausted and my palms were full of splinters, so we gave up. Instead she sent me into town to sell fresh oysters from the back of my truck. The cash paid for the few things we needed -- mainly soap, matches, and cooking oil. The rest of the time, we worked in our vegetable garden, searched for our chickens' eggs, and fished for croaker, oysters, flounder, crabs, and -- when we were lucky -- striped bass. My Swiss army knife came in handy filleting the fish. Food never tasted so good.We got away with living there until I got sloppy at the end of the summer. I set fire to my burn pile on a Monday, thinking the come-heres had gone back to the city. Turned out _that _Monday was Labor Day. Someone called the fire department, which was all it took to ruin everything. The marine police came ashore with weapons drawn. As they cuffed me and read me my rights, I caught Lexi's eye. She was hiding in the loft of the tide mill, peeking through the tiny window. That was the last time I saw her.Oh jeez-us fuck. My truck was on a collision course with Jojo's Camry. I stomped the brake so hard that my back end fishtailed into the ditch. Now I had to think up a good lie quick because Jojo thought my "Lexi obsession" was keeping me from getting "serious" about life. Every time I hummed a Beatles song, she knew I was thinking about Lexi, and she'd say, "Didn't you learn anything in prison, Nick?"Jojo's air-conditioning didn't work, so her windows were down. Her little boy waved at me from his car seat, making me wince. I forgot I had promised to watch Damian that night while she went to a town hall meeting. She was running for a seat on the school board.She stopped right in front of me, driver's door facing my grill like I had T-boned her. "What the hell, Nick?" She got out to inspect the angle of my back wheels. "I'm already late because I stopped to pick up Hardees for you guys."From the ketchup all over Damian's shirt, I could see he already ate his.Jojo and I grew up across the creek from each other, best friends at home but we hung with different crowds at school. She looked like a tall, skinny dude with a buzz cut and tats on her scalp. The left side of her face drooped like Poplar Grove from a stab wound inflicted by her daddy before he shot himself in the woods when we were thirteen."It's an emergency," I lied. "Chesty needs my help.""With what?""Move your car forward so I can get out of this ditch. I might need you to take the wheel while I push."She walked around to my passenger window and cupped her eyes so she could see inside. "Why are you wearing your good shirt?" she hollered through the glass.I cracked the window. "C'mon, I need to go.""I know you're lying, Nick. Chesty's working the sound booth for the debate tonight. I just saw him at Hardees, and he didn't say anything about needing your help.""Okay, fine. It's none of your business where I'm going, but I'm in a hurry, so could you move?"She opened Damian's door and took him out of his car seat. Buckling him into the passenger seat of my truck, she said, "You're going on an adventure with Uncle Nick." Then she got in her car, threw my Hardees bag out the window, and backed a quarter mile down the lane, hitting every pothole.I knew her meeting was important to her. A trans boy wanted to use the boys' bathroom at Mobjack High, causing everyone to lose their minds. After Jojo's injury the queer kids were the only ones who let her sit at their lunch table, so all these years later, when the bathroom issue came up, she felt a duty to defend their rights by running for the school board. She didn't expect to win, but she wanted to stir up the debate. I never figured Jojo for a politician, but she was getting all into it.I put my truck into four-wheel drive and spun out of the ditch, facing back toward Jojo's double-wide. Since Damian had to come along, I needed to pick up some of his things to keep him busy while I was with Lexi."Wait here, little buddy. I'm gonna get you a clean shirt.""I need to make a poop.""Okay. Thank you for telling me." I tried to sound relaxed, but I was dying to get to Poplar Grove. It wasn't unusual for him to sit on the can for forty-five minutes or more.I unbuckled him and carried him to the door so Jojo's dogs wouldn't wild him. While he sat on the potty, I gathered some of his bedtime things, thinking I'd put the passenger seat down and tuck him in for the night when I got to Poplar Grove. The September sun wouldn't set for another two to three hours, but maybe when I parked in the woods, the low light would make him think it was bedtime."How's it going in there," I called through the door after pacing for twenty minutes."Not yet."I reached into the fridge for a beer, popped the top, and gulped it down.Damian was singing a Beatles song, "Ob-la-di, ob-la-da…" After Jojo picked me up from prison and I moved in with them, I taught him a bunch of Beatles songs so we could sing something besides "The Wheels on the Bus…."I reached for a second beer and drank it just as fast. After my third he announced we were out of toilet paper. He wasn't happy using a paper towel, but he could tell I didn't care. I threw a clean shirt on him and buckled him back into the truck._Oh jeez-us fuck. The breathalyzer.I had to wait an hour per drink before it would let me drive. I pictured Lexi, barefoot in a sundress, her wavy, caramel-streaked hair pulled to one side, waiting for me at dusk beside the mill pond.I looked down at Damian's little rib cage. "Hey, buddy. Do you think you could do a big favor for Uncle Nick?"_He nodded eagerly."I need you to sit on my lap and blow into this machine as hard as you can."After three tries -- beep -- my truck's V8 roared to life, and we were on our way down the lane again, singing "Yellow Submarine."Turning onto the state road, I ran into traffic backed up a mile from the high school auditorium. I should have taken Jojo's jon boat to Poplar Grove, but I thought it would be quicker to park in the woods and hike in. I had no idea how many people cared about high school bathrooms. Everyone was coming into town for Jojo's debate, choking the roads with pickups, like when the A&P put all their meat on sale before going out of business.I didn't want Lexi to get tired of waiting and leave, so I texted: On my way. I didn't expect a reply. She never returned my texts.Damian tugged on my arm to play with my phone. Jojo only let him use educational apps on her phone, but I let him play Doom on mine. The pixelized demon scared him but he kept playing.I hadn't returned to Poplar Grove since my arrest, but I heard the come-heres had fundraised to clean it up after my trial drew attention to its rundown condition. When I took the stand, I admitted I knew the property was a historic landmark, but I thought that was because John and Yoko had owned it. Turns out slaves built the tide mill, which produced the grain that fed George Washington's troops at Yorktown during the Revolutionary War. It wasn't even the haunted old house that mattered, just the tide mill. According to the prosecutor, I caused major damage to one of five remaining tide mills in the whole country.I wanted to keep Lexi out of my legal mess, but my lawyer said her testimony was the key to my defense. He said there was a fine line between trespassing, which is illegal, and squatting, which is not illegal in the state of Virginia. He made a big deal out of the fact that we didn't break any windows or doors to enter the house. But when the court called Lexi to testify, she failed to show up. Without her testimony my lawyer couldn't convince the judge I was playing house. Instead he bought the prosecution's argument that I was using the place as a hideout for running drugs.The traffic started to move.Oh jeez-us fuck. The sheriff waved me over. He wanted me to pull onto the grass inside the parking lot, so I had to open my window to explain I needed to get by, that I wasn't trying to go to the town hall meeting.He stuck his face in my window. "Who's this young man riding without a car seat?"I could tell he was sniffing for alcohol, so I tried not to breathe."This is Jojo's boy, Damian. I'm babysitting.""Where ya headed?" he asked, scanning the cab of my truck for any excuse to arrest me."Just drivin' around. Maybe to the lighthouse."The line of trucks behind me started to honk while he lectured me about not having a car seat. Before letting me go, he pinned me to the headrest by pointing his fat finger in my face. "Make sure I don't find you back at Poplar Grove."After he let me go, I made up lost time by speeding. Damian and I sang "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."When I turned onto the fresh pea gravel paving the long driveway to Poplar Grove, I understood for the first time why a guy like John Lennon would have bought this place. Huge poplars lined the drive for a half mile or so, like a proper estate. At the entrance, marked by two brick gateposts, an official plaque said Poplar Grove was on the National Register of Historic Places."If John Lennon hadn't been killed by that lunatic fan in New York," I explained to Damian, "he'd be an old man by now.""Are you sure John lemon was the best Beatle?" He made a sour face."Hell yeah I'm sure. He would have played surprise concerts for us. Come-heres would have listened from their docks, and from-heres would have pulled up their fishing boats. The acoustics over the water would have been phenomenal."Every other tree on the long driveway had a shiny new No Trespassing sign stapled to it. Prison hadn't changed how I felt about my right to be on this land. Come-heres thought they owned their slice of shoreline because they filed a deed somewhere. But my from-here ancestors had lived and died in tidewater Virginia for sixteen generations. Hell, I grew up here before the roads had signs. I was born knowing the rhythm of the tides in every creek and inlet feeding the Chesapeake Bay. So who exactly was trespassing?I put my truck into four-wheel drive and cut left between two poplars onto the edge of the cornfield. The farmer bushhogged an accessway twice a year to bring in his planter and harvester. I found a shady spot in the woods and pulled in.Texted Lexi: I'm here.Handing Damian my phone for something to play with, I told him to stay in the truck while I looked for somebody. He started to cry. I tucked the bottom of my pant legs into my socks. "Don't worry, it's just to avoid chigger bites," I said, kissing him on top of his head. "I'll be back in a few minutes." Outside I waved to him as I locked the doors remotely.Approaching the house, I paused at the top of the hill to get my bearings. The place was almost unrecognizable. All our hard work making paths between the pecan orchard, rain barrels, rope swing, fire pit, and our tree fort, ruined. The old house looked sterile under several coats of white paint, and the columns seemed naked without their vines. Like suburban landscaping, half-dead grass carpets had replaced the patch of wild blueberry bushes sloping from the house to the water. The tide mill, I was glad to see, still looked the same.I imagined Lexi watching me from the loft. To give her time to come out, I peered through the wavy glass window into the room we used as our kitchen. Someone had filled it with old-timey furniture. Rugs on the wide-plank floors and paintings on the walls made it look like a funeral home.After a while I figured Lexi wanted me to come to her, so I headed down the lawn to the tide mill. As I reached for the wooden latch, someone inside giggled.Lexi never giggled.I eased backward, across the sharp oyster shells surrounding the mill house. The door flew open. Three guys sprang out, tripping over themselves as they tried to grab me. I recognized them from high school, the douchebags who harassed Jojo and the queer kids. Shoving them away, I knocked two to the ground and pushed the third into shallow water. I braced for them to come at me again but they were too drunk. They clutched their guts, laughing."C'mon, Nick, you know it's funny," the one in the water shouted.Their motorboat was tied to the top bolt hinging the sluice gate. The gunwales sat below the busted retainer wall, hidden from view as the tide went out."We're just messing with you, dude," the one on the ground said.

Lexi and another girl stumbled out of the mill house with handfuls of beer bottles for everyone. Lexi hung back, avoiding my eyes. She looked totally different. Combat boots and a miniskirt. Hair cut short with dyed-black bangs. I squinted to make sense of her new shoulder tat: _Let it be._The other girl tried to give me a beer but I wouldn't take it. One of her breasts was much larger than the other, which distracted me.Putting her face too close to mine, she slurred, "Lexi's with Dylan now. This was his stupid idea." More giggling.My eyes darted between Lexi and Dylan. Adrenaline drained from my fists. I felt like my feet weren't connected to the ground, like I was falling backward."Are you ticklish?" the asymmetrical girl asked, not waiting for my answer.Suddenly everyone froze. All eyes fixed on something behind me. I hung my head and raised my arms to surrender, certain the sheriff had followed me. Strike three. I turned around, trembling, expecting to see his weapon drawn. Lexi and the others skittered like fiddler crabs back to their boat.When I lifted my eyes, Damian stood by himself at the top of the hill.With tremendous relief I dropped to one knee and reached toward him for a hug. He toddled down the hill like a rag doll into my arms.As I carried him back to my truck, he clung to my neck, resting his head on my shoulder. His bottom lip quivered as we bounced along the uneven cut-through. When I pulled onto the smooth pea gravel, he started singing "Octopus's Garden.""We don't sing that one anymore," I snapped.He fell asleep on the curvy drive back to Jojo's. My eyes and throat stung from Lexi's betrayal, making me drowsy too. The rumble strip jolted us both awake.Approaching the high school, we ran into stopped traffic again as the town hall meeting let out. To avoid the sheriff, I hid my face under a baseball cap and looked down. Damian's little sneakers barely hung over the seat. I reached across his lap to buckle him in, surprised he didn't weigh enough to trigger the seatbelt alarm.That's when I noticed. He had carefully tucked his pant legs into his socks. I imagined him taking his time to do it right, unlocking the heavy door to slide on his belly all the way down to the ground, alone in the woods, searching for me.I tossed the cap behind my seat and started teaching Damian "Fool on the Hill," both of us smiling back at the sheriff. He waved us through.

Susan Eve Haar

I'm peeling the fibrous skin away from a stalk of broccoli when the knife slips and pierces the ball of my thumb. Blood rushes up through the tiny hole. I press my forefinger against it hard, and sit down for a minute, waiting. But when I remove the pressure, the blood wells up again. Such a tiny hole and so much blood. I wrap my thumb in a piece of paper towel and go back to work, pouring out bread crumbs for the chicken. I soothe myself, mincing garlic and slicing mushroom. Jed comes into the kitchen, six and sweet, my boy nudges me gently, bumping up against my legs."Can I cook?"I pull out a stepstool and place it next to me, in front of the stove. He watches contentedly. The chicken spatters."When do you add capers?" he asks."When everything else is ready." I reach behind me for the vegetable steamer. As I turn, I see him reaching into the pan. I knock his hand back. He wobbles on the stool, and I grab him by the shoulders, steadying him."I just wanted a mushroom," he protests."The pan is hot. You know that."Setting him back on the floor I take away the stool. He's fighting tears."If I get down the dishes, can you set the table?""_Will _you set the table," he says, triumphantly. "I can do it and I will."I smile at him and take down the plates. He sets the table carefully, folding each paper napkin a different way."Look at this one!" Jed holds up a napkin. "It looks like a duck or maybe a ghost.""You are my silly goose.""Where's Molly?""She's in her room."We can both hear the music Molly is blasting out of her computer. The green smell of broccoli fills the room, and I dump it in the sink, running cold water over it. Steam mists my face."I'll get her," Jed says, matter of fact. Of course he knows we've been arguing. I let him go to her first, hear him hopping down the hall, humming. I dry my hands, then follow. Molly's door is already open."Momma! Mom!" Jed shouts. I'm immediately furious; she's hurting him instead of me."Don't you touch him!" I fling back the door. Jed is staring at Molly, transfixed. She sits on her bed, her head turning slowly to the right. Her eyes roll back, the whites revealed, traced with fine red veins. She jerks, her spine stiffens, and she begins to shake. I grab her, holding her in my arms like a baby. But Molly is not a baby. She is large and strong and slippery with sweat. Thrashing, unconscious she struggles to free herself. I pray for strength. If only I can hold onto her. Jed cowers in the corner sobbing."Get out!" I cry, but I don't look to see whether he's gone.


The trees outside Molly's window are casting shadows on the ceiling. They look like giant insects doing battle. Jed tries not to look. His mother is fighting his sister. She's wrestling with her. Molly is like some huge doll that's gone berserk."GET OUT!" Mama's mad, but he has to help fight. He flings himself on his mother's back. Mama doesn't even turn to look at him. She doesn't know who he is. He has to make her know."Mama!" he shouts. The room is loud with music, and Molly is making a growling noise. Some animal spirit is in her; it came in at night and went into her through her ear holes and eyeholes and mouth. Jed flings himself on his mother and sister. He is strong in his legs, and he tries to kick them apart. His mother covers Molly with her body. She roars at him."Get off!" She sounds dangerous, but Jed doesn't care. He digs his nails into her arm, scratching, but she doesn't even turn. He grabs at her hair, pulling. He has to drag her off; she's stuck onto his sister's bad electricity, and he has to save her. Becca turns, grabs Jed by the arm, and flings him off. He starts to laugh, then stumbles backward. His forehead hits the corner of the old metal night table by Molly's bed. There's a slice of pain and then a hot rush; something pours over his cheek. He wipes the wet away. Blood. It soaks his eyelashes and drips down his face, warm and sticky."Mama!" he screams.She turns to him, holding his sister, pinned in her arms. He knows it is his mother, but she's also a stranger, this terrible woman cursing a torrent of bad words."What the fuck, Jesus Christ!" Becca lets go of Molly and swoops to pick up a dirty T-shirt from the floor. She reaches for Jed, who starts to howl. Becca grabs at him and Jed twists to escape. He jerks like a fish on a hook, but she has him by the wrist."Stop pulling and let me look!" Becca kneels in front of him, tipping his head back. She spits on the edge of the T-shirt and wipes the matted hair off his forehead."Christ. You're going to need stitches." The flesh is sliced down to the bone. It peels back from his forehead, just above the eye. She dabs at the edges of the wound, trying to ascertain its length. The gash starts to bleed, scalding his eye."I'm blind!" Jed screams."You missed your eye. Now hold this, and push." His mother is pressing the shirt hard above his eyebrow. "Wait."Jed closes his eyes, but he can still see Molly thrashing. He curls in on himself like a snail, trying to disappear. His mother is smashing something in the kitchen. She is smashing and smashing, like she's breaking whatever is not broken. Then she comes back with a bag of ice wrapped in a dishtowel. She squats down and pulls back the T-shirt gently. Jed screams, but she presses the ice bag firmly to his forehead."Hold it like that. Don't move."The dishtowel is sticky and cold, and it smells like old meat. He thinks he's going to throw up. He wants to tell his mother, so he opens one eye. His mother is leaning over Molly, who lies limp. His mother has her head on Molly's chest; maybe she is listening to her heart. He hears the front door open and his daddy's footsteps, even and heavy. Then he sees his dad, standing in the door. His mother sits up and turns."She had a seizure. Jed's going to need stitches."Jed thinks she wants Daddy to get the big needle now, and he starts to scream. His father picks him up and carries him into the bathroom. Jed sees blood on his dad's hands, and he gags, throwing up on his father. The vomit stings his throat, but he feels better."Hey, champion." Dad cleans them both up, and makes Jed rinse out his mouth with water. He peels away the dishcloth and throws the ice into the sink. Blood runs in a rivulet into Jed's eyebrow."Christ. I'm taking you to the hospital."Jed howls. At the hospital terrible things happen, and they will hold him down and sew him with a giant needle. He's crying so hard that he's choking."What's that car you wanted? You saw it on TV."Jed catches his breath, shuddering. "The one that turns over? The red one?""As soon as we're done, I'll get it for you. I promise. Just concentrate on the car," his daddy says, carrying him outside.Jed remembers how shiny it is, and the redness like a cherry. It has a remote control and black buttons."What about Mommy? She should come too.""We'll call her."Jed sighs. His mother would know to sing to him, and to bring along Icky, his rabbit.It is only in the cab that his daddy asks, "What happened, Jeddo? How did you get hurt?"Jed pauses. Something happened, he wants to tell his father, his mother turned into a monster and his sister turned into a devil. The room turned around and there was blood everywhere and he was all alone. But all he can say is "Mama threw me, and then I hit."


Dan is working on something under the sink when Jed wakes up. Jed can see his black boots sticking out and his blue-jeaned legs. It makes him feel good -- his dad is always fixing things. Jed has just got fixed at the hospital, and now he is at the studio, on the couch, and his dad has ordered pepperoni pizza from Domino's, and it came, just like in the commercial. And then the sink was stuck, and water coming out, and now his dad is underneath."Dad," he says, "I need you." He's confident that his father will come out. His father has been extra good because Jed is wounded, like a soldier. But his father stays under the sink."I don't want to have to raise my voice," Jed warns. That's what his teacher says. "Dad!" he shouts. "Dad!""What?" Dan bangs his head as he wiggles out, a wrench in his hand. "Shit. What? Are you all right?"Jed knows no one is supposed to say "shit," but he doesn't tell his father that."Mom always says to blot the pizza. You forgot to blot it.""Okay. What do I blot it with?""Napkins."Dan gets up, rubbing his head. He puts down the wrench, gets a bunch of napkins out of the bag, and blots the pizza. Pools of pepperoni grease make fat circles on the napkins. But then the cheese begins to stick."You don't know how to do it." Jed begins to cry.His dad sweeps Jed up, hugging him. He's wearing a thin white undershirt. His chest hair pokes through, and he has streaks of grease on him from the sink."You want to do clay?""There's water on the floor," Jed points out.His dad puts Jed down carefully and throws his shirt, then his sweatshirt and his socks into the pool of water."There. Now we can do clay."In the back of the studio is the room where his father works. Dan has painted it cardinal red, unlike the rest of the studio, which is white as a bone. It is littered with the strips of metal he uses like papier-mâché, bales of chicken wire, rags that look like Jed's mother's old green towels torn in strips, and coat hangers cut into pieces. It is here that Dan builds up forms around thick wire frames, moons and goblins and faceless sheep. Jed tries to believe they are friendly, but he's afraid to be in there alone. In the red room, Dan also mixes clay and lets it sit out in trays. The clay is a dirty red, as if some of the color has fallen off the wall. There's a worktable in the red room, smeared with dried clay. Dan picks Jed up, puts him on the table, then he scoops up a gob of clay and splats it down."Okay. Just don't get it on your face."Pulling up a chair he sits down next to his son. Jed squishes the clay between his fingers. It is wet and good, and he forgets about the pizza."I'm going to make you something, Dad. I'm going to make you a turtle."Jed pulls off a piece of clay that's not too soppy. Rolling it into a ball he squashes it flat. It makes a sucky noise when he lifts his hand off and he laughs."I'm getting a beer." Dan stands up. "Don't fall off."Jed pinches off more clay and makes a head and four legs and a tail, which is getting too long. He uses his thumbnail to scratch a line pattern on the turtle's back."How do you make a turtle smile?" he asks his dad when he comes back."You tickle him.""You sound like Mom.""I'm not Mom." Dad sits down watching. Jed has finished the turtle, and now he's making a rabbit that looks like a dog."Does it look like a rabbit?" He frowns at the lump of clay."Make the ears longer."Jed squeezes an ear, but his fingers slip and it breaks off. "Oh," he says sadly."We'll fix it."Dan gets up and comes back with a white plastic knife. It looks like it came with takeout, Jed is thinking Chinese food, but that comes with the sticks. "Here." Dan neatly crosshatches the stump where the ear was, and then the end of the ear itself. He picks up a squirt bottle."A little water, and the joint grabs. The crosshatching makes it work." He holds the ear in place. "Count for me." Jed counts to twenty. "Okay, let's see." Dan takes his finger away, and the ear holds."The turtle's for you. And this is for Mom," Jed says.He begins a dog. He's thinking about Angel, Sam's big fat dog that farts too much, but he only pinches out two legs, and the chest is too flat. It is a man dog. He is going to tell his dad, but his dad is going into the other room. This time he comes back with a ginger ale for Jed. Jed swallows fast and the bubbles come up his nose. His dad drags a wooden structure out from under the table. Light trickles through the high windows."Is it time for school? I need to go home. We're supposed to bring in egg cartons."But his dad doesn't hear him. He's working now, cutting a large piece of chicken wire and draping it over the wood. As he molds it the surface rolls and bulges. Jed gets down from the table. He has finished the ginger ale, and he wipes his hands on his pants, goes back to the couch, and eats a piece of pizza. It is yucky and delicious. When he's done he wants to watch TV, but there is no TV here. He goes back to look for his dad. He's still working. Jed sits on the floor. It is none too clean, and when he kicks, little clouds of dust jump out. His head hurts. Maybe he should be asleep."Why do you cut up hangers?""To anchor the chicken wire so it keeps its shape," Dan answers, moving around the piece."You're looking at it upside down. This is the top." Jed points."Maybe. It's too early to know.""How do you know when you know?""You just do."Jed goes back and lies down on the couch. There's no cover, so he pulls his dad's jacket up to his chin. It's easy to shut his eyes because one is so fat it wants to close anyway. But it feels all wrong. There's something about the light in this place; you can't see anything except the sculptures. It's like there are invisible men all around, you can only see them in regular light, so here they can sneak around. This is bad light, though Dad says it's good for showing. But it doesn't show the bad guys, who are swishing around closer and will find him soon. Though they are blind, they have tremendous sniffers."Dad!" Jed calls. "DAD!" but Dan is far away.Jed hurls the jacket off and dives onto the floor. He rolls, then gets up and runs for his life. He smashes into his father."Jesus, what the hell are you doing? Did you open those stitches?"Dan hauls Jed up onto a stool and squats in front of him. He pulls off the clear tape where it has come loose."It's okay," he says with relief.Carrying Jed back to the couch Dan fetches a quilt with yellow and white stripes. He covers him and turns down the lights so there is only a glow."I want to go home," Jed says."Not yet.""It's my fault.""Hush, buddy, it's been a long day.""I want to call Mom.""When you wake up.""I got on Mom's back. I was helping Mom, but it was too scary, so I fell off.""That's how you got hurt?""Uh huh," Jed says sleepily. "But we are boys, so we don't have to worry." He pats his father, who leans forward to kiss him. "Where are you going to sleep?""On the mattress.""The mattress in the back?""I'm bringing it in here next to you. If you roll off, you'll squash me.""Like a bug.""Like a bug," his father says. Jed shuts his eyes, and Dan kisses him on the tip of his nose. Jed thinks it is kind of an adventure really. He will give the dog man to Molly, or maybe to Mrs. Prescott, for the special shelf when you go into class. He listens for his dad, dragging the mattress, and pretty soon he forgets to listen, and he is asleep.


The studio is a large white box at the end of a dirty corridor. The walls are pockmarked from fragments of projects still nailed to the walls and sculptures long gone. It is the furnace where Dan bakes his memories and ideas and, perhaps, where his heart resides. By the door there is a series of white feet, castings he takes every year of his children's feet, walking, side by side, up the wall. They grow in size as they rise, white as angel's wings. Jed's six pairs stop before Molly's, which proceed up the wall as if she has gone on by herself. There is a bathroom, and a room with a mattress, and now a second smaller mattress for Jed. In the middle of the loft floor are two red leather chairs, extracted from a Cadillac. Becca sits in one chair, with Jed cradled in her arms. Dan sits in the other, watching them. Molly, who has been orbiting the perimeter of the loft uneasily, comes and sits on the floor by her mother. She pats the top of Jed's foot, and he kicks her in a kind of greeting."Did it hurt?""Oh yeah." Jed nods. "And I was screaming because the needle was at least eleven inches."Molly leans over and kisses her brother's knee. He reaches and pats her hair."It hurt the worst in my whole life. And the doctor was wearing shorts because he was playing a game, but he came right away.""Golf," Dan adds.Molly looks across at her mother; Becca hasn't spoken since they came in. She'd heard her mother talking to her father on the phone in the laundry room, pleading."We've been camping. Though we usually eat out. We sleep in our underwear, and I am building Egypt. Do you want to see, Mom?""Sure."Jed slides off Becca's lap and runs to the small room in the back. He comes back with a cardboard box. There is a plastic camel glued to the bottom; a haphazard pile of tiny bricks rises next to it."You see?"Becca peers inside and nods. "Egypt, definitely. So, is the camping trip over?""It's been so fun." Jed pries up the camel with his fingernails. "Except for the doctor." The camel comes loose, and he holds it up triumphantly. "Now we can go home.""Stay awhile, Champ. We'll go to the movies.""Please," Becca whispers. "Please don't do this."Becca is rocking Jed in the leather chair, but now she stops. She sits very still. It has never occurred to her that her life could come undone. Could uncurl, weightless, adrift from gravity, and float away. She watches herself rise like a speck, a filament in the light of the loft, floating upward. It is Molly's shoulder against her knee that brings her back. She is squatting by Becca again, examining her brother's face."Will it scar? Will he have a scar forever?""There'll just be this thin pink line, and then it will turn white, and fade, and get smaller, and then you'll only be able to see it if you know it's there."Dan listens to his wife with his eyes shut. If he looks, he will forgive her."Let's walk them to the door." Dan stands and reaches for Jed; his fingers graze Becca's as she helps him lift their child. Dan pauses, then swings Jed onto his shoulders."Duck!" Dan says as they head out the door, keeping his voice light and buoyant. When they reach the stairs, Jed starts to wiggle, struggling to slide down his father's back, but Dan keeps his hands firmly clamped on Jed's thighs."No," Dan says sharply, the playfulness gone. "Stop it!"Jed throws one leg over his father's shoulder. For a moment, he dangles backward. He reaches out his hands, like a baby monkey falling from a tree. The cement of the stairway is rising up to meet him, and he lets out a cry. Dan turns, pulls him up, and clasps him in his arms."That was so stupid. You could have fallen." He deposits Jed on the cement landing and walks down the stairs in disgust. Jed starts to cry, whimpering quietly. He lies down on the cement. Molly drags him up."You cry too much," she says, leading her brother down the stairs, but she squeezes his hand in a secret code that only they know. Becca follows. She is the catcher, she thinks. She could have caught him if he fell. At the doorway Dan pauses. He kisses Molly on the forehead and Becca on the cheek."Aren't you coming with us?" Molly asks. He shakes his head, squats down, and turns her face so their noses touch. He rubs his nose against hers."Now give me a butterfly kiss," Dan says. Molly bends her neck and flutters her eyelashes on her father's cheek."Did you feel?""Yes," Dan answers. "I feel everything."

Angel Dionne
Three Poems

“Vulgar Little Trinkets”

Winter is for mining crystalsit’s a banner of shadowed sky --a cat shivering in the alleyway.
Winter brokers a deal with God,_and a white background is always easier to work with. _
_Winter sells handmade objects, _Sells peculiarities,little knick-knacks and tchotchkesVulgar little trinkets_and creatively crafted creatures _In the shape of tiny deer and marionettes.

“Edible Bivalves”

Eight edible bivalves connected by fifteen adductor muscles.
Their electric groans, upsetting to the small bowel,
are generated by the oscillation
and acceleration of sand granules.
In swamp-dwelling dreams they synthesize.
In dreams of bedding,
dreams of tattered tongues,
and swollen fingertips.
In hair torn from sea-scalp
and translucent sea-foam skin.
Edible infaunal bivalves -- intercourse on mudflats,
on molten earth,
on treetops of quivering loins,
infested with burrow worms
treating the throat to an episode of dramatic irony,
treating the fingers to a gelatinous symphony.
Just another species of worshiped parloudre.

“Ancient Language”

In the garden centipedesspeak their gargled tongueof ancient hieroglyphicsvisual poemslamentful songs_comprised of dust and soot. _
Fertilizing engorged tomatoes.Twisted vines.Immoral._Depraved. _
Night spins the moon across the sky.

Howie Good
Four Collages

“From The Retina Of A Drowned Man”

“Nameless Faceless”

“Ministry Of Culture 2.0”

Laura Carter
Two Poems

“A Lunar Poem”

Misplaced at outset
rises to greet beginning —
it waits its turn in line
like looking for a sign
one way to begin offing.
Helen was a good girl?
parse her with his vision cloth?
He copies her face in spades
an edge of a pencil
delicately sharpened
between rock and —
places make edges sing;
Paris did parse her with
a similar magic -- -- --
a pyramidal
belonging to
his own body
-- -- -- Inside a story
knows a different speed —
her horoscope is true
sun is a disk
in the center
of fashion
like it is possible to mime him
by caring for
removal of jam, no force
required to do
what an angle can do —
sleeping by an inkwell
a nude Futurist paints
her eyes
she has even opened
them to share with moon —
whose moon?
An exaggerated set of
pronouns makes a case
a crystalline fall
-- -- -- -- -- -- --
An exaggerated set of
compromises meets its maker
is not impressed -- -- -- --

“Apocalypse Don't Matter”

Sugar collapses, a bird
of starship collective; plants
gather in sanitary
senses and replant selves
with similes of smiles —
caught hands -- -- --
Sugar collapses, low
like money
driven mad by whitest bird;
sugar dances white
in temple -- -- --
with a body -- -- --
Apocalypse don't matter, baby
to you or your mom
in honey body
Form don't matter, doll
you say one thing and mean others
as if to say that
others' ornery
fashions are becoming something new —
hey hey hey how is a body drawn?
New humanists go:
with an eye of god
as you
hunker down and blend in with salt
of a city
-- -- -- in ovums -- -- -- cows are
humbling themselves before him
and every little Ava-bird
lapses in softest middle
an occupied
state of a union there
under Frank's law
People, ready?
People, ready to take back badger land?
And every little badger is a spout of
insistence on one way to perish —
manning ships with stilts
they delete you from your vision
but you bloom anyway —
a bloom
an aversion to thinking?
One nation under them?
O say can you cry?
O say is a fever -- -- --
O say is a fever a milkstain?
O say is your hand a new rope?
As enigmatic as trip stones
as bewildered as sight
a soloist feels sad
at loss of his apple
you were wondering what fell into you
one day before she came
to build a new visage in your center —
you were wondering what she
might have to tell you
About sound
in roomiest virgin house
is an allegro
of a new posture
like walking out into a city
shrouded in fruit trees
so say to pay
_forward _for islands
who will come after you
you were listening
to adagio interludes, slow
like honey there
No apple there
to erase tissue —
baby birthmarked blue.
No apple there in cerebellum
or in hippocampus
for how you are erased becomes
a story of some age -- -- --
Go to a fount
as if dwelling with a wordling
becomes a synonym -- --
Wait what what?
Dialogic insistence
remembers to shuffle
along a path
way to find middle, again
drawn in by kneltness
of you

Heather Rutherford
“Alone With Elvis”

Beth married Elvis at the courthouse three days after she told him she was pregnant. She'd spent the last four months quietly, secretly vomiting in the last stall of the women's bathroom at work and pretending to drink coffee and beer. Her pants had grown tight; her fear had grown unmanageable. Elvis, her first, was the first baseman for the minor league team that employed her as an administrative assistant. When she told him she was late -- very late -- he'd whooped, scooped her up, spun her around. She'd rushed behind his truck, vomited in the parking lot.When he said, "We're getting married. We'll be a family," Beth stopped crying.After a city hall ceremony, they waited at the kitchen table for Beth's mother to come home from work.Her mother pushed through the apartment door, eyed them, and said, "Let me change out of my uniform and get a shower." She disappeared into the bathroom that she and Beth shared.Beth took Elvis's rough-knuckled hands across the Formica table. "This'll be hard. She had me when she was seventeen. She didn't want this for me.""But, darlin', you're nineteen and have me." He squeezed her fingers and grinned.In awe of her handsome, her tall, her strong Elvis, Beth couldn't believe that he'd loved her back. But he had. He did.He said, "I have a job and Mama and Daddy will help out."Beth loved his confidence, his optimism. She said, "Let me do the talking."


Beth's mother went still and silent as Beth dumped the baby and the marriage out into her tiny, dark kitchen."Ma," she pleaded. "Say something."Her mother flicked her eyes at Elvis. "How old are you?"He straightened up, broadened his chest. His spiked, gelled hair, black and shiny, grazed the light dangling above the table. "Twenty-four, ma'am.""How much do you make playing baseball?"His Adam's apple, covered in black stubble, slid down his throat. "Well, I don't know the exact figures, the total, I mean. But it's more than I need. My check's direct-deposited into the bank back home. In Tennessee. I get three hundred dollars a week, walking around money.""You get?" She glared at Elvis, then turned to her daughter. "My God, he's a puppy who hasn't grown into his legs."Beth opened her mouth to object to this comparison, but Elvis spoke first. "My daddy's my manager. His name's Elvis, too. He's named after the real Elvis, and I'm named after him. Daddy handles the money."


They drove south to Tennessee to celebrate the news with his parents. Hoping to calm her nerves, she replayed what Elvis had told her of his conversation with them."Well, of course they were surprised," he'd said. "I won't lie, Mama's disappointed she won't get to plan a wedding. Daddy said he's proud of me doing the right thing. Being a man and taking responsibility. But they're more than happy about their first grandbaby."Her nerves hadn't calmed the least bit. Jangled and jittery, she stared out the passenger window at I-40. "Baby names… Do you have any ideas?"Her husband snorted. "Hell yeah, I do. It's Elvis. If he's a boy. And Maria if he's a girl."Beth flinched. Maria was his mother's name. Elvis sang along with the country song on the radio. The gold wedding band on her left-handed first baseman flared in the sun as he drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.She'd tucked the baby name library book into the outside pocket of her overnight bag. "I was thinking something more… I don't know, like William or Thomas?" She reached for the book.He shook his head. "No way. Elvis the Third." He glanced at her. "What's wrong?"Beth pulled her hand back into her lap. Her voice cracked when she said, "I love you. But I can't name our child Elvis. Between you, your father, and the real Elvis: that's too many Elvises."His jaw grew hard. Beth wished he'd shaved the prickly black fuzz that shadowed his chin. "Well," he said. "I didn't know you hated my name.""I don't. I don't hate your name. I want our baby to have his own name. Or her own name."He planted his baseball-mitt-sized hand on her belly. "It's a boy in there. I can feel it. Mama said when she was expecting, she knew I was a boy. Can you tell? Does he feel like a boy?"Beth stared at him. How could she know what a boy felt like? How could he expect her to? In the most neutral way she could muster, she said, "I don't know.""We'll ask Mama when we get home. I can't wait to get some real, home-cooked food. You gotta learn to make my favorites. She'll show you -- ""Elvis, I've been cooking since I was eight years old, since I could reach the stove, the microwave.""I mean cooking for a man." His fingers splayed across her bloated abdomen. "You and your mama make food out of a box."Beth had nearly unraveled with relief when Elvis said_ I do_. She didn't want to appear ungrateful. "I don't have the time or money to cook gourmet meals for you. I work and go to school -- ""Well, you don't have to do either of those anymore. We'll live here, at home, when the baby comes. So you won't be alone when I'm on the road.""What? I thought we were getting an apartment back home.""Back home?" He pointed to the exit sign. His hometown was speckled against a mountain. Clumps of split-levels sat behind cars that languished in varying states of disrepair in gravel driveways. "_This is home." He patted her knee, turned into town. "Look. See how nice this is?"Beth craned her neck, turning her head to look up and down the street, hoping there was more to "downtown" than one block. Elvis parked in front of an insurance office, where a woman sat at her desk near the front window, painting her nails.Elvis softened his voice. "Remember when we first met?" He waited for her nod. "And I took you out to dinner at that real nice place? You told me you didn't want, you didn't need, _fancy. You wanted quiet. You wanted safe. Here it is. Now you're my wife, with my baby in your belly; it's my job to keep you both safe."Beth thought of her thirty-six-year-old mother, eyes hollowed with fatigue, her expression bitter with disappointment. Until that moment, Beth had felt sure she'd escaped her mother's manless, poverty tightrope existence. But Elvis planned to leave her alone while he traveled with the team, the team that had been her life since high school graduation. She would be alone with his family, alone in his town, her income gone. She imagined herself sleeping alone in his childhood bed, under an Atlanta Braves quilt, hand-stitched by his mama, while he signed autographs outside locker rooms up and down the east coast.Beth thought she felt very real Baby Elvis flutter inside of her. She turned to his father -- the puppy who hadn't grown into his legs -- and said, "I can't."He yanked his truck into gear. "You can."Beth pushed open the door. Only a week ago, she'd bolted out of the same door and vomited. She stepped onto the sidewalk and took the biggest risk she could imagine by standing on uneven cement, staring through the open truck door at her Elvis. She needed him to take her seriously, park his truck so they could sit down -- maybe in the empty diner, a HELP WANTED sign in its window -- and compromise. She shuddered at the chance he'd shout at her, "Get in the goddam truck."Instead, he smiled. "What in the hell are you doin', darlin'?" He reached across the seat, held out his hand. "Come on, now. Get back in the truck. We'll talk it out."She hesitated, rubbed her wedding band with her thumb.He wiggled his fingers, a "come here" gesture.She said, "We'll talk before we get to your parents' house.""Sure."Beth took Elvis's hand, his fingers warm and strong, and he hauled her into the truck without leaving his seat. He pulled his keys from the ignition, dropped them into the cup holder, and turned to her.He would never have left her alone on the street. He was a good, responsible man who loved her. He wanted this child, their child.Unsure where to begin, she stalled. "Can you give me a minute?""I can give you whatever you want." He kissed her on the cheek. "But I can drive and talk at the same time, you know." Elvis joked when he was uneasy.At 4:30 this morning, they'd tiptoed out of his apartment, muffling their laughter at whoever snored and sprawled on his roommate's couch. Elvis had insisted on leaving in the dark early morning. He'd said, "Mama gets dinner on the table at 5:30 every night. I know better than to be late."Beth forced out, "I don't want to live with your parents. You didn't ask how I felt." Beth expected him to argue, but he only blinked. "It's important to me to finish school and work.""You want to tell me how you expect to take care of our baby while you're doing that?""Elvis -- ""That's no way to raise a child, Beth.""How would you know?" Her raised voice surprised both of them. "We can't go to your parents' house yet. We need to get on the same page."He shook his head, snatched up his keys, started his truck. "They're expecting me. Us."Beth had learned about probability in her business math class. She wished she could plug into a formula: "risk of becoming her mother" and "risk of living with Elvis's parents" and solve for "how to be happy enough." If she didn't finish school, she'd never be an accountant. If Elvis got called up to the majors, would she need to be an accountant? If she didn't finish school and Elvis never played for the majors, would they -- would she and her child -- be trapped in his parents' house?He slowed the truck, turned into a smooth, newly asphalted driveway. "Here we are. Home."The neighbors had gravel driveways; Beth wondered if Elvis's salary had paid for this upgrade.His parents -- soft, round, old -- rushed into the front yard to greet them. Elvis looked nothing like either of them. His mother wore an actual apron over her dress. Elvis Senior's hair appeared to have been very recently dyed very black. Dark stains smudged his hairline at his forehead and temples. Beth caught herself. They loved her Elvis. Surely, she'd find a way to love them, too.Elvis' father whacked his son's right shoulder. "Junior! Welcome home!"Elvis shook his father's hand. "Good to be home, Daddy. I go by 'Elvis,' now, I've told you that. Hey, Mama." He bent down and hugged his mother long and hard."Don't be silly!" Laughing, she stood on her toes and held Elvis's cheeks in her hands. "You're Junior, and this little one…" She turned to Beth, placed both hands on her abdomen. "And this is Elvis the Third. You can call him Tripp! Welcome home, Betsy."Beth endured a hug from Elvis's father, allowed his mother to guide her inside and tie an apron around her expanding waist. She helped make biscuits while Elvis and his father watched and yelled at something on television. He hadn't looked at her since they'd arrived.She excused herself to "their room," Elvis's old room, and found a peeling wood crib with rusted hardware at the end of the bed. The bedsprings creaked when she sat on the quilt sewn of his childhood baseball jerseys.She called her mother.

Kathleen Zamboni McCormick
“Patchouli, Bras, And Friendship Bracelets: Harvard Square 1971”

You can't believe a girl with all Bella Giovanni's money -- and who may already, at the age of sixteen, be almost famous in the world of ballet, at least according to her impeccably coiffed and attired mother -- would want to be friends with you. But she does. Bella shows up one September morning in 1971 in your junior class at St. Michael's High for Girls in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her erect stance and general poise, which you later understand are from years of dancing, radiate rich snobbery, and everyone in your good Catholic class, except you, despises her on sight.As the smart girl, no one's that wild about you either, so you make a point to talk to Bella at your first change of classes. A week later you've already visited her at her house -- or mansion as it appears to you -- and the two of you are sitting on the grass for lunch and laughing up a storm, even though those annoying little black flies are everywhere. You take turns calling on the phone every night, squeezing the time in after your dinner and before hers. Bella's explanations that her parents need to "unwind together" before they can eat still doesn't help you understand why the rich have dinner so late."Aren't you starving?""Nah."And then you remember that as a dancer she's used to not eating.Mrs. Giovanni proclaimed last week in her marble kitchen that Bella's destined to become a world-class dancer and that her "ridiculous decision to give up her place at the prestigious Cambridge International Dance Academy this fall" -- the reason they moved to Belmont in the first place -- is "just a phase."But Bella insists she wants to stop dancing and have a normal life, "just like you." You laugh at that one, choosing not to disclose that your normal parents are infamous for fighting more loudly than anyone else in your whole lower-class neighborhood, Mother at the lamppost across the street screaming that she's going to leave him this time, him with his head menacingly out the living room window forbidding her to move a muscle.You promise to introduce Bella to Harvard Square since she hasn't gone yet, announcing that it's one of the coolest places in the world, filled with antiwar protests you attended regularly -- on the q.t. of course, parents'd die if they knew, but no need to reveal that -- not to mention the hippest bookstores, clothing shops, coffee houses, and that's in addition to all the famous people who've lived there throughout history. You tell yourself you didn't mean to imply to Bella that you live much closer to the Square than you actually do. But you feel the need to continue the façade. Face it, Harvard Square is one of the only interesting spots you know, so you have to make the most of it to impress Bella.You rehearse some of the Square's key points for her visit. How it's been a site of political radicalism since the Colonial period. That Anne Hutchinson settled in Cambridge when she first arrived from England. How Harriet Jacobs lived right on Mt. Auburn Street -- close to the hospital where you were born -- when she escaped from the South and slavery. And then there's Margaret Fuller and e. e. cummings. Julia Child and Fannie Farmer, whose cookbook your mother swears by. And of course, Longfellow. Your eighth-grade class visited his house on a school trip. So you could even recite "Paul Revere's Ride," "Evangeline," or some of "The Village Blacksmith." You plan to casually point out when you're at the Harvard Coop record department how the Square is really the center of folk music, that singers like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez always used to play there. Would again, not that you could know that.You weren't familiar with most of Cambridge's famous residents until Mrs. Ellis ("that fanatical feminist pinko gowny," as Father calls her) and her family moved a few doors down from you three years ago because of Mr. Ellis's work at Harvard Med. Mrs. E, whom you babysit for, and also frequently help after school as her "personal assistant," is your secret role model, even though Father tells you to stay away from her. She's taking as her mission to radicalize you, teach you basic stuff she can't believe you don't know, as well as to protect you from what she calls your father's "corrosive patriarchal excesses." It's because of her you know all you do about Harvard Square, but you're planning to regale Bella with the depth of your knowledge as if you were born with it.You arrange for Bella to get off her bus -- which actually does go directly to the Square -- at the stop on Garden and Craigie so you two can enter the Square together. "I'd like you to walk just how I go," you say. You fail to mention that while you do use those streets to get to the Square, you walk down a lot more before them.It took you two long years to assemble your ultimate Harvard Square outfit, even though you imagine it looks like you just threw on whatever was lying around. Most central to your outfit is a pair of Levi's button-fly bell-bottoms you bought used on the not quite so trendy part of Mass Ave. (actually, in truth, outside the Square) for $2.00. The jeans have that great worn texture which Mother doesn't understand is completely different from your cousin's hand-me-downs you sometimes have to wear, or your old clothes that are just out of style.Your super-flat, brown, 100 percent leather sandals were from an end-of-season clearance at Thom McAn. The sandals didn't sell well because customers who shop in a store like that don't care whether shoes are real leather. Or have a toe ring. They just want something padded and uncool. The store basically gave those sandals away to make room for winter stock.Because the sandals are so flat, the back of your pants drags slightly when you walk, and the fabric is beginning to unravel. Something else your mother hates. She's constantly threatening to hem them. It's impossible to explain how absolutely perfect that bit of fraying is. You hide your jeans in the back of your closet when you go to school, safe from her needle. And the washing machine.Once you turn the corner from your run-down street and your parents can no longer watch you from the front window, which they do incessantly, you shove the dutifully conventional windbreaker you wore zipped to the neck when leaving the house into your handwoven, multicolored Peruvian shoulder bag you got for seventy-five cents on sale at a fair in the Cambridge Common because it was ripping at the top. You darn it with invisible stitches inside to stop any more strands from coming loose. No one would know.Well out of your parents' sight, you walk up Concord Ave., gently swinging your bare arms in the warm September sunshine, feeling the tie-dye tank your best neighborhood friend Agnes made you for Christmas. Ag managed to shrink the fabric in the dying process, and you love how the top hugs your tiny torso.You pull your hair out of the tight elastic Mother insists you wear to keep it "tamed," push it forward onto your face, and tie a rawhide headband -- thriftily made from one of Grandpa's discarded boot laces -- across your forehead. You feel your hair begin to swell in the humidity and imagine you'll soon look like Janis Joplin. You won't, but the thought is good for your self-esteem.Then a touch of that white lipstick you got for ten cents at Woolworth's.By the time you're a few blocks up Concord, you remove a black mini vial of patchouli oil from your back pocket and rub some on your wrists and neck. At home, you keep the oil and the headband hidden in the back of your bottom drawer.Slowing to a saunter in the perfect weather, you feel…almost free. Just one more step to go. When you reach Huron Ave., rather Clark Kent-like, you take a slight detour and slip into the phone booth on the corner to perform your well-practiced bra removal -- easy when you're just wearing a tank top, which you can effortlessly reach under to unhook the bra, then slip it off through an armhole. And when your privacy is assured by the expanse of graffiti on the booth.Maybe hard to believe now, but people did things like that back then. Taking their bras off in phone booths. It was 1971 and the '60s were really catching on, particularly among girls your age. There's no way you'd appear in the Square with a bra on, even though your breasts are pretty small. Remember how you begged Mother for a bra in the eighth grade so you'd seem more grown up? Working for Mrs. Ellis, you learn how bras are just one of an infinite number of capitalist and patriarchal ways of repressing women. Plus no matter how you pin them, bra straps end up showing in a skimpy tank. Which totally ruins the look. Bra strap etiquette has certainly changed. At sixteen, you'd never have imagined that displaying bra straps could become chic, normal, even part of a fashion statement.When you exit the phone booth, the wind is blowing and you can smell your patchouli. You sigh contentedly. The fragrance of Harvard Square. Finally, you reach Bella's designated stop. The sun is so bright, you put on your John Lennon-like granny sunglasses (Zayre, Fresh Pond Shopping Center, last season sale, fifty cents). As the bus exhales to a noisy stop, you jump back. Not far enough. The "Pffssst!" of the driver pumping the brakes sends hot air and dust right into your face, and you're glad for those glasses. The door opens, and a smiling Bella descends the three large bus steps.But what's she wearing? A floral, short-sleeve cotton shirt that buttons up the front and appears to have been ironed. Possibly starched. A green sweater tied over her shoulders. Coordinating green Bermuda shorts with a thin leather belt. How could Bella look so uncool. So preppy. Yes, even though Lisa Birnbach's Preppy Handbook didn't come out for almost another decade, you'd seen Love Story, and you and Agnes fell in love with Ali MacGraw's preppy fashion. But Mrs. Ellis had laughed at you and said, much to your embarrassment, "Ryan O'Neal falls in love with Ali MacGraw because she looks rich. She's wearing the uniform of the wealthy, even though she's supposed to be poor." Perhaps the only thing Ag's mother, your mother, and Mrs. Ellis ever agreed on, for quite different reasons, was that dressing like a preppy was just too much. That reinforced your and Ag's pursuit of hippie clothes."I'm so excited, I even brought my camera," Bella says, giving you a little hug. You (you!) feel oddly ashamed for her (Bella!) thinking of walking around the Square wearing a getup like that.Turns out Bella's observed how you're dressed too. "You look…sort of like a hippie," she murmurs, and you imagine how cool she's thinking you are. "This'll be such a great day, and I'm totally prepared to admire lots of historic brick buildings. My mother even gave me an extra roll of film."Brick? Most of the houses in Cambridge are wooden. Gradually it dawns on you. Bella is dressed to visit Harvard University.Not Harvard Square.As you grab her arm to stop her walking into oncoming traffic and wonder if she isn't used to streetlights because she's lived in the suburbs all her life, you two collide. It's then that you -- in your flat leather sandals with that great toe ring -- notice Bella's footwear. Saddle shoes with bright white socks. How did you miss them? They appear excruciatingly new. You bet her mother bought them just for the "Harvard" visit.Bella stops to take a picture of what she says is a "Colonial Revival." It looks the size of a small school to you. "Imagine," Bella beams, "living there, you'd experience the elegance and culture of a bygone period. It's a good thing my mother hasn't been to Cambridge. It makes Belmont feel somehow…less impressive." You cringe, wondering what she'd say if she saw where you live. And you realize she can never visit your dilapidated three-family, where its bygone period is much more likely to create experiences of sagging porches, clogged toilets, or woodworm.As she goes on about "roaring fires" and "butler's pantries," you notice more disturbing sartorial details. She's wearing a headband, but not like yours. It's the horseshoe-shaped kind that holds hair back and sits just behind one's ears. Further, it is the same green as her Bermuda shorts and sweater.You wince, recalling the black velvet stuffed headband Mother had given you for Christmas one year when you were young, before you knew Mrs. Ellis or anything about being cool or how repressive most female apparel and accessories are. "Don't use bands like that!" Mrs. Ellis said when you wore it to your babysitting interview, pulling it off your head, then massaging your scalp and finger-combing your hair forward. "The patriarchy's afraid of women's hair. Just think how Milton goes on about Eve's tendrils." It took you a bit of research to realize she was talking about the Eve of "Adam-and-.""Doesn't that headband give you a headache?" you ask and encouragingly offer to store it in your bag. "Oh, not at all. It's really comfortable because it's padded." She squeezes your hand. "But thanks for asking."So you hurry Bella along to Brattle Street to Longfellow's House, which is renowned, you think, not for its architecture, but because Longfellow lived there and, before that, it was George Washington's headquarters for almost a year in 1776. "Oh what a gorgeous Georgian," Bella calls out, reaching for her camera again. "Georgians are my father's favorite. All that symmetry! Windows. Shutters. Columns." She makes such a racket that the crowd at the entrance stare at you. "Since he's an architect, my father's always whisking Mom and me on trips to appreciate the 'best examples' of different styles. Wait till they see all these pictures from just one walk to Harvard Square!"A bit annoyed at her obsession with architectural styles and that she hasn't noticed either your patchouli scent or your bralessness, you decide not to take the Longfellow House tour and head for lunch to the Kite and Kestrel Coffee House on Mount Auburn Street, where you talk about Mrs. Ellis and the lecture she gave on the feminist pacifist Vera Brittain in this very space about a year ago. And how you helped with putting posters up everywhere in Cambridge. And with seating everyone and giving them programs you helped to design. And that now you're Mrs. Ellis's personal assistant as well as her babysitter.Bella's never heard of Vera Brittain, and you promise to let her borrow Testament of Youth, which Mrs. E gave you an inscribed copy of right after her talk. When you leave the K&K (as Mrs. Ellis calls it), you point up Mount Auburn. "Later in the afternoon, we'll go to the cemetery to visit the graves of famous writers and feminists.""Is Vera buried there?" Bella asks. And you forgive her architectural excesses. She can't help what her father teaches or doesn't teach her."No, no." You smile. "Brittain was British and she's buried in Newcastle-under-Lyme, in Staffordshire. In England," and think you can't help what Mrs. Ellis teaches you either.You stop at Bailey's, explaining that you're now back on Brattle. "The ice cream here is world-famous," you say, even though you're not sure that's quite true. But the crowd in Bailey's confirms your assertion.As you eat your ice cream, with hundreds of others, window-shopping in Brattle Square, Bella says, "I had no idea your life was so…interesting and exciting, and that you already have a real job. I can't wait to meet your parents. They must be so liberal." And it does start to dawn on you that Bella would probably like you just as much if you hadn't felt the need to dissemble about who you are and where you live. But you don't know how to change what she thinks now.Stopping to listen to a street singer who sounds amazingly like Pete Seeger, you try to show Bella how the Square is a triangle formed by the intersection of Mass Avenue, Brattle Street, and Boylston. You didn't recognize the triangle until Mrs. Ellis explained it. "Having a bird's-eye geographical view is a good place to start when becoming familiar with a new place, don't you think?" you say, directly quoting Mrs. E."Definitely," says Bella, her eyes flitting from one direction to another.

"And now it's just up Brattle a little further to my favorite store, Funk." Funk is a dark, cool hippie space with Joan Baez in the background and patchouli in the air -- incense, candles, and oil. The scent grows stronger as you make your way through the tiny store to the two women in the back where they're sitting together, both knitting, in an egg chair crammed into the Indian madras fabrics hanging from the back wall. They're the ones who gave away those "patchouli minis" last Christmas with every purchase. You bought Agnes a patchouli soap so you could get a mini oil for yourself. Your parents hated the smell of it. You suspect patchouli oil is meant to disguise the pot the women smoke in the back of the store behind their multicolored crystal gemstone curtains (which they sell in the front). They swish in and out in a floaty sort of way that makes you can't wait till you're old enough to smoke pot. But in the meantime, you visit Funk as often as you can.The two women greet you warmly. "This is my new friend, Bella," you say to the one whose long gray hair is permanently crocheted into purple yarn to make totally cool dreadlocks. "She's just moved here," you add as if to explain why Bella is dressed so differently. You want to introduce them to Bella but have no idea of their real names. Only Purple Dreads and Medusa, your secret monikers for them. You understand that Medusa is a protective symbol, not just a monster like the patriarchy represents her."Hi. Did Bridget bring you in to buy some clothes?" asks Medusa, whose brown hair quivers in hundreds of skinny, long ringlets as she gets out of the chair. So she thinks Bella's oddly dressed too.Bella seems confused."Not today, thank you," you hastily add. "We're here for embroidery floss because we're making each other friendship bracelets.""What are they?" asks Bella."A surprise for you, a welcome to Cambridge and the Square…and thanks for being my best new friend," you say, giving Bella a little hug. You'd brought three dollars that Mrs. Ellis gave you last week for cleaning her apartment. Which Mother -- "If-You-Want-to-Clean-You-Should-Start-with-Your-Own-Room" -- has forbidden you to do."And it's all my treat." You beam as you lead Bella to what Dreads and Medusa call the "fioselle basket."You take out a skein of yellow floss and hold it up to a black light. For a few moments you and Bella just enjoy how it glows.Dreads drifts closer. "Girls -- and some guys -- make super-groovy bracelets out of these delicate fibers with different kinds of stitches and knots. We have free patterns every month, and Bridget never misses one," she says in a voice as soft and silky as the floss itself."Oh," says Bella faintly, seemingly mesmerized by Dreads."They do it for someone special to them as a symbol of friendship. Hence the name."Agnes's parents won't let her wear a friendship bracelet because she rather stupidly took them into Funk after they went to a matinee of A Hard Day's Night at the Brattle Theatre. They freaked out so badly at the smell, the black lighting, and especially at Purple Dreads and Medusa -- who did rather untactfully tell them they might have been the oldest shoppers who'd ever come into the store -- that they forbid Agnes to have anything associated with Funk. Of course the two of you go in all the time, or used to before Bella."That's so lovely," Bella says to Dreads, then grabs your hand. "Are these bracelets a Harvard Square thing?"You begin to wonder how much Bella has missed out on with all her dancing and architecture appreciation. Or whether it's their money that keeps her insulated. "Friendship bracelets are made throughout the world, but date back to ancient Central America." Funk had a special paragraph on their history in the friendship bracelets pattern last month. You're proud to repeat it to Bella in front of these lovely patchouli women who've been so generous to you -- not only with the bracelet patterns but letting you hang about the store and try on so many shirts and jeans, even though you hardly ever can afford to buy anything."Well read," says Patchouli Dreads."And remembered," says Pot Medusa.When you explain to Bella that she can choose any of the hundred or so colors of embroidery floss overflowing from the basket and that you two can make different styles of bracelets for each other, she cries out, "Oh no. They have to be exactly the same." And then she blushes, probably for being loud, and whispers, "Wouldn't that indicate a stronger friendship?"Dreads winks at you and waves as she and Medusa glide through their gemstones into the back room.Bella starts reading the directions on one of the patterns. "What's a 'hitch' mean, Bridey? Oh, this is really hard. I can't do a thing with my hands. I'm just not clever that way."Eventually you decide your bracelets will be identical using the "Double Wave" pattern. And exactly the same colors -- Oxblood, Mustard, and Shaman Turquoise.Bella says she'll have to make the bracelet with your constant guidance and invites you over next week to teach her."Don't go to her place," says Medusa, freshly back from her tokes behind the beads. "Come here next Saturday, and we'll guide you through all the stages of your first bracelets.""Maybe Bella can try on some of our clothes too," says a glassy-eyed Dreads. "More like what they wear in Harvard Square."Medusa pulls out a long-sleeve rainbow tie-dye shirt -- "new for the fall" -- and points to a pair of button-fly bell-bottom jeans hanging from the ceiling. "And if it gets busy in the store, you can do the bracelets in the back room."As you and Bella leave, you dab a sample of patchouli oil on her wrist. You feel so pleased she's met Dreads and Medusa, two important women in your life, though you decide not to mention your speculation about pot in the back room.You wonder why you were so impressed with Bella's house last week. Fancy neighborhood. Huge dance studio-basement. The cul-de-sac. And all that art and architecture in the house. You remember Mrs. Ellis saying that nothing's better than feminism and hippie love, and you imagine, with your help and maybe a little from Dreads and Medusa and possibly even Mrs. E herself, that Bella will be transformed by Christmas. Or at least in time for the vernal equinox, when Funk has all sorts of special events.And all that will start when the two of you come back next weekend."Let's leave Mount Auburn Cemetery for another time, okay?" you ask Bella."Sure," she says, bringing her wrist up to her nose. "I love this perfume, Bridget. It's not like anything I know. It's the smell inside Funk, right?"You nod. "To me, it's the fragrance of Harvard Square.""And you've had it on all day, haven't you?"She did notice."I definitely want to buy some when we come back next week."Maybe her transformation's already started.You walk the mile or so home. She takes the bus.The phone is ringing when you walk in."It's that Bella," Father says, sounding annoyed. "Didn't you just see her?""I talked with my mother, and she's going to give me some of my Christmas money early so I can buy a whole outfit at Funk on Saturday," says Bella. "You'll help me choose everything, right?""Of course I will, and you can try on stuff all day," you say. "It's great about the Christmas money." You feel happy for Bella and yet also mildly disconcerted. You can't help but think how long it took you to keep visiting Funk, ingratiating yourself with Dreads and Medusa, so they'd show you, then once they got to know you better, let you try on more and more examples of cool clothing, clothing you could only afford to buy elsewhere. One piece at a time. Totally on the cheap. But each piece full of meaning.And then you think about Mrs. Ellis. And what she's always calling class consciousness.And how different from you it is for Bella to just be given enough money to buy as much as she wants at Funk. All at once.And you wonder if you're starting some kind of transformation of your own.

Jasper Glen
Three Poems


I dye my skin in the sandboxWave handyman overFinger myself a dollopOf thin handcream.Jeans rub too tight.Too bottomhot.Quick, lookshod,Pretend to repair shades.Hi sun was illusoryIf you look at it.The 'I can't quiteCaption it' face,A tort-laid bruiseBon, my hormonesRaged. You and meIn the playpoolTogether, sexualOui, ya, salut?

“Drop Acid”

Drop acid in a stand of pinesAnd find yourself trying to find the acid.Drop acid in a stand of pinesAnd find yourself delivered,Perpendicular to the river,Fall like a plot, say fuck it,I'll be the river then, deliver meFish-tail -- shake these skins offChance to vanish-ville my silverMolars opalescent cones styledRodpole; aquatic trill, I mean gillsDeep: to ossify the sessile elseWarped in extrasensory sleep.Late for breakfast eggs.This place is a huge waste.Can nothingness be unencapsulated?


Art: life of endless recreation,Really swill waves in sanctimoniousPhrasolms. A bell in a beauty box,For instance, victim spot, notoriouslyDifficult well…
At night I need release the art.Fly my pantalons wet with nutrition'cross my bedcrease; girls easilyCrinolined there where I feelOne for the first time lying/falseAsleep.

Martin Perlman
“Garden Party”

Late afternoon. The light of day was turning golden and more cars were haunting the streets. We'd come out of the neighborhood market whose owner was happy to see us depart. Proprietors are like that – they take our money easily enough, and then go stiff to let us know it's time to leave."You fellas take care now," the grey, old owner had said as Jones continued to finger some packaged cupcakes."C'mon, Jonesy," I said, "time to eat.""There's plenty to eat in here." He ran his fingers over the cellophane."You boys want anything else?" asked the old man with that rising tide of frustration we love to hear."No, no thanks," I said. And taking the grocery bag, I moved out."See you soon, Pops," said Lion, the last of us to leave. He'll often lag behind.Dog greeted us outside. "Good Dog," said Jones. "Good boy." The mutt jumped around us. "We got food for you, too.""Where are we dining tonight?" asked Lion, his slanted eyes following the traffic."Over there," I said. Across the street a row of high bushes promised a private eating site. "We're just in time for our reservation."Against the traffic light, we spilled into the street, a driver complimenting us with "Watch out, you jerks!" Jones found that funny.A curving asphalt path led into a tidy park, which had the standard pretty flowers and trees. I'm not big on gardens or roses or hosts of golden daffodils, except when I'm looking for a place to eat or crash."Hey, Lion," called Jones as he danced around Dog, "stay off the path. Walk on the grass.""Oh, yeah, sorry," said Lion. That Jones is great. He was waving his walking stick, a piece of barkless wood, so twisted it wouldn't help a humpbacked midget.They skipped around the flowers for a while, but I wanted to put the package down and eat. I saw two groups of benches, one at the other end of the park, the closer two benches were only twenty-five feet away. Some guy was sitting there, reading and pretending like he hadn't noticed us.Now Jones and Lion were chasing Dog. All three were barking. I headed over to the set of benches where there was plenty of room for three or four people. "Say, can we sit on your bench here?" I asked politely.Lion looked over my way. "Yeah, nice bench. How you doin'?" he asked the sitter."Here we are, boys," I intoned.Bench boy was roughly our age, late twenties, except his hair was shorter and his jeans weren't as faded. He tried to be friendly. "Have a seat," he said awkwardly, retreating over to the far end.Lion and Jones took to the bench. I sat on the ground facing them and began pulling stuff out of the bag–bread, bologna, liquor, beer, and dog food for Dog."Wait, wait," said Jones. "He's studying." God, he can act serious. "We don't want to bug you."Our bench mate had closed his book. He was adjusting his clothes and acting like he wanted to go. "Actually, I'm not studying," he said. "Just reading." I couldn't see the book's title. This was his chance to exit.Jones nodded as though the information was important. "Hey," said Lion, who sat between them, "want something to drink?" Lion is always the friendliest of our group. If folks are going to take to us, they warm up to Lion first. He looks like a lion, his hair and beard mane-shaped. A friendly lion.Our new companion said he didn't want anything to drink. Still, he didn't leave. Jones had lit up his corncob pipe, which this time had real tobacco in it. With his goatee and thoughtful manner, he reminded me of a college prof. My goatee wasn't ever going to come in as well. Lion had the thickest growth."Well, how about a sandwich?" Jones asked between puffs."No. Thanks anyway," said the reader.I adjusted my flat brimmed hat, my constant companion since a stay up North. A Black dude had given it to me. He called me his soul-brother. I took that as a real compliment.
"Oh, are we gonna get drunk," said Jones. "Hey, John, open up that stuff."
"Okay, my good man," I said.
I glanced at Reader. He ran his hand over his dark, collar length hair, which I'll bet had been longer in his younger days. The guy was a warmed over liberal, once borderline hip. He'd smoked grass though he wouldn't shoot up. I can tell.I opened the booze and the divine scent of alcohol carried around us."Nothing like getting drunk," said Lion. He almost nudged Reader and held back. He sometimes knows when he's going too far.We passed the bottle around and took deep swallows and our conversation turned, as usual, to past drug experiences, beginning with grass and hash highs, then crossing into the hallucinogens, psychedelics, gradations of acid, the hard stuff, shooting up, crystals, sunshine. We'd not tried Drano. Yet.
"He said it was THC," said Jones, "but I like didn't believe the dude. So, I tried it and one, one shouldn't be allowed to experience such ultimate pleasure, you know?"
"Yeah, there's bound to be an equal bad lurking around with it," added Lion. He was finishing up a beer. He's a fast drinker.Dog barked."Hey, Dog's gotta eat," said Jones."Shit, I'm sorry, Dog," I said. I rummaged around in the bag for the can opener. Reader was looking at the trees in the distance or seeming to. I wondered why he was sticking around. Anyone who stays more than a couple of minutes, I begin to have my suspicions.I didn't have a bowl for Dog, so I tore part of the paper bag off and used it for a plate. Dog's not particular though. He's eaten off all kinds of gear, even Frisbees. Dog's traveled with Jones for a long time, and when we all linked up last year, he became the group mascot, though undependable. One night at a rest stop, somebody ripped off my backpack and Dog didn't say a word. I don't need that.Jones was talking to Lion and including Reader in his gaze: "I used to work in this ping pong table factory, and like everyone there was a freak. We'd bring our stashes to work, get high, and have a wild time building ping pong tables."We were all relaxed now, except Reader. He'd say "Uh huh" or "I see" in answer to our stories, even as he watched us with quick glances to make sure we weren't going to shoot him up, steal his phone, and even take his shoes. I call it controlled nervousness."Long time ago, when I first became a bike courier in The City," said Jones, "I was clean cut. The administrative assistants went wild over me. Within six months I had tattoos, a nose ring and green hair. They called me the Bad Boy."Lion took a stretch. "I worked as a bus boy at this all-girls camp," he said. "Oh, man, like you can't imagine how horny those young girls could be.""You know Canada?" I asked the party at large."Yeah, they've got the best speed up there," shouted Jonesy. He likes speed."I miss the pits," said Lion. There was a moment of nostalgia-filled silence as we remembered the vanished slam dancing events we'd attended."Pass that bottle around again," said Jones. "And let's have some sandwiches.""Candy's dandy, but liquor's quicker," I announced. Everybody laughed, including Reader, and Lion said he didn't understand."Never mind," I answered."I don't touch it. I don't shoot up anything," Jones was speaking to Dog who had finished eating and sat contentedly at my side."I did," I said. "Not recently."Jones took up his crooked stick and pounded its rounded end in the grass. "I go overboard in anything," he admitted. "I know what'd happen if I shot up.""Look, I'm okay. I've still got an arm. See?" I rolled up the sleeve on my corduroy shirt. Reader acted as though he was back to reading that book, but his momentarily disapproving frown showed he was aware of my outstretched arm. Was he a sociology major? Did he want to codify our behavior markers?"Time for the main course," I said. I opened the bologna package and slapped the meat on our bread. No mustard. "We forgot the mustard," I said."I'll eat anything," said Jones. I passed sandwiches all around, except to Reader.Jones dropped his empty beer bottle on the ground. It rolled toward Reader, who brought his feet in slightly to avoid it. Jones took an almost delicate bite of his sandwich."I have a way of living," Jonesy began explaining. "Like I don't tell, say, a Jesus freak how to live; I don't tell you, John, how to live. I just want to live like I want to live."That's just what Jonesy had been saying to this cute girl near the campus a few days ago. She'd listened for a minute, a fairly long time, actually, to put up with Jonesy, then said "Bye" in a snotty tone and walked away."I guess she didn't want to rap," Jones had said. She was too dressed up in designer jeans for his tastes anyway."How do you think she saw us?" I addressed the group at large."Easy," said Jones. "Homeless,""Addicts," said Lion."How about vagabonds?" I asked. "Has a nice ring to it."Looking up from his book, Reader made a little twist with his mouth and remained silent as though he was too polite to engage in our conversation, so I directed the question directly to him: "How would you describe us?"You might have thought I'd asked him about his personal habits, but I maintained my gaze even though he found something interesting in a nearby tree. "C'mon, give us a word.""Okay." He stroked his beardless chin. "Vagabond is a romantic version of what you are. Wanderers. Carefree." He pulled in a breath. "I'd go with vagrants."We were struck by his willingness to partake of our conversation although Lion asked what was the difference between vagabond and vagrant. Both Reader and I exchanged a hint of a smile."Well," I said, "I do believe our reader friend here thinks we are more the vagrant type, more disreputable and low-life than your average vagabonder who is known for a carefree approach to the wandering life."Lion had stopped listening to my oration and was on to the next subject."I was hanging out in another college town. A Saturday night. See this guy had a speaker system set up in his apartment," Lion began explaining to Reader. "He put on Space Odyssey –2001. And this chick comes out and starts dancing—in the nude."_"I just don't believe there's any future in anything," said Jones. "This is it.""Liquor is my god," said Lion."Some people worship certain gods," said Jones. "I have my own."Lion turned to Jones as if he'd been following the whole conversation. "You believe in Nothingness?"Jones was ready for that one. "Why even categorize that far?" he answered.I lit up a joint. "So here we are, friends," I said. "We've been here two weeks. Gainesville is okay. It's comfortable. College towns are comfortable. Athens, Boulder, Eugene."Then Reader said another full sentence. "It's a good a place as any to ponder metaphysics." The words came out as if he had unintentionally coughed them up.I let that line hang in the air for a couple of beats. "That's true," I said, holding in a laugh, "the nature of things." Lion looked confused. "This city has a university. Lots of thinkers here. Students searching for Truth. A lot of business majors, though. What do you teach?"I had caught him off guard."How do you know I teach?""I know.""Freshman English." He said it as though I had caught him in a lie. He didn't like talking about himself. "Comes with working on a Ph.D.""Yeah, and orals and a thesis. All that stuff."That got a nod from him.Jones had passed the jay to Lion who took a toke and offered it to our new friend. He said no thanks. I'd have been impressed if he'd accepted it. I couldn't figure him out. Shy/not so shy. Tense/not so tense. Was he going to put us in a story?"Madison is the most together place I've ever seen," said Lion. He shook his head and his mane did its little dance."You know something, Lion," I teased, "for someone who claims to live in the present you spend a hell of a lot of time in the past."Lion didn't have an answer for that, so I watched Reader / now Teacher. Silence can be threatening. Finally, in one of his endless shifts on the bench I saw the name of the book he was reading."You like that Hemingway stuff?" I asked."Some of it, especially his short stories.""You think he's a good writer?"Our new friend sat up firmly for the first time that day. "Hemingway has his moments, a fair number of them," he said clearly and evenly, a momentary staking his ground. And then he folded and couldn't hold my gaze. A clean, well-lighted place. . .The liquor bottle was empty, and I'd finished my second beer."Nada," I mumbled. The golden light was gone, replaced by a cloudless dusk. I couldn't see the street traffic behind the hedge, and it was quieter out there now."Jonesy," I said, breaking the silence, "did I tell you about this strange guy I met yesterday at the student union?""No.""He stopped me as I walked into the building and said hello. You know, we're usually the ones who stop people, so I was surprised. He had a wide smile and that put me on my guard.""Jesus freak," nodded Jones."He asked me if I went to school here and I said no, that I'm just passing through.""Great," said Jones."Then he asked me if I believed in living a community-oriented life. I knew where he was headed. I started laughing. I said, "Shit, man, I live totally on my own. Completely independent from the rest of humanity.' The guy dropped his smile. He said, 'I feel sorry for you. I'll pray for you.' I was walking away and I threw back at him, 'Don't worry about me. Have a nice day.'""Yeah, that's how you have to be with those Jesus freaks. They can pester the hell out of you." Jones laughed but I didn't.Reader was rising to leave. "Nice listening to you vagrants," he managed to say. "You're like time travelers from the Hippy Age."Not a bad line, I thought."I don't mind the simple life," said Lion. "I'm part of the earth.""Down in lovely muck I've lain," I recited. "Right, Lion?""In lovely what?" he asked."Happy till I woke again," answered Reader.I stood to face him. "You stayed around us. You listened to us." I held out my hand and when he clasped it, I put my lips to the back of his hand like he was the Pope.Boy did he want to leave as I continued to hold his hand. I could feel the blood pulsing through the back of his hand. Lion and Jones kept their distance."Tell me," I said solemnly, "did you ever want to forget it all and just walk away, head out with backpack and sleeping bag, ride the rails, follow the highways, live free and easy?""Well, I___." Reader retreated a step. I maintained hand contact and took a step forward."Roam from field to field, taste summer's pride, be a literate bum?""Everybody thinks about those things at one time or another," he said, trying to breathe evenly."Yet you never did it, did you, never took a leave of absence, never disappeared into the night?""No," he said, his hand gripping mine more firmly. "I never ran away."I dropped his hand and wanted to add, "How dare you, sir?" Lion and Jonesy were watching me like I was a stranger. Sometimes I want to punch both of them in the gut."Listen," said Jones to Reader, "next time you smoke a jay, take a drag and take it in, and blow it out for us. We'll feel it, you know?"Lion nodded."If I still smoked, I'd do it," said Reader, his book held protectively by his side.Jones and Lion were laughing and talking as Reader forced a goodbye wave and walked at an even pace, but I could tell he wanted to get away faster."Nice dude," said Lion. "You can stop shakin' now," he called out after him."Leave our friend be, Lion," I said, watching Reader's exit. "You know sometimes I don't know why I stay with you guys. It sure isn't because of your intellectual prowess." They both turned away from me. "C'mon," I said in a conciliatory tone, "Let's check out this fertile ground and find our accommodations for the night."

Matt Dennison
Two Poems

“The Man Who Whistled This”

Lord, I'm just talking here --
not praying, not asking, just talking.
Maybe someday I'll understand my part
in all this -- rub the belly of my crook-potted
father for luck with the crink-siding's fecal
matter of the barn, those dainty clappers
of time fully colt-throated. Maybe not.
But I sure would like my happy back.
It's good to rub one's eyes at times like this.
I'd rub my eyes back to youth, but there's
nothing there to see. What the fuck, God,
I need a memory, a solid. As for the rest --
all shake and fallow. My mouth grows
weary from not speaking of the kiss.
Do not bring to your lips those things
you cannot say grace before I was told
when forced into the anchorhold
to feast upon the breast of night
in culprit with the idiot salvation
of the cat's self-licking for no suitor
other than Death -- an example for all,
I guess, for the best part of prayer is
the lack of words, I've long believed,
where everybody's memory arc is finally
cast into the hot lakes puddling our eyes,
tampered with fossil feet. We cannot see
the smoke of the postcards trapped in this
stroke house, but we've got to have this
house beneath our feet, to be the dog
that digs the grave of wooded belief
before Life's hard-on of gristle and rust
bespokes our weary engines. In short, God,
I'm trying to tell you the name of the town
where my chickens are, my roostless siblings
and sires -- those hard-spun knuckles extruded by
the awarenal teeth of night as the sudden birds,
crotch-stabbed in ecstasy, gypsy their way
into glass. Amen.

“Tonight This Night”

Once I sprung myself from
the heartland factory trap I
could not be stopped I was a
bullet aimed at the heart of the
matter I FLEW to the ocean that
swallows the sun bounced off its
brittle morning twice but on that
lucky third thrust pierced a house
of mad men walking up the morning
coast feet bare pants rolled up pipe stuck
in mouth JAUNTY I was playing with dogs
laughing children telling musical life stories
with others slowly the ocean opened its mouth
gulped the sun's fallopian swim to the morning's
east birth slowly I walked faster stronger deeper
did my footprints break the waves at my passing
through less light dogs children others deeper
did I walk longer could not stop the heart of
matter closing in yes it was dark could
still see little rested little took a step
another walking fast as before sun
swallowed cannot see ocean only
hear waves when seen seem small
under black sound huge don't look at
sky for fear of God's Great Knowledge
of Infinite causing Infinite Fear for speck
of dust seeing behind clouds into Heaven's
Heart of Matter begging take my wish away
on this ultimate falling up into spiraling hole
spinning down Pray for Hand To Catch Me
but do not believe so close eyes with own
eyes ears with own ears and know with
own knowing that tonight this night
is New Year's Eve forever.


ANGEL DIONNE is an English professor at the University of Moncton Edmundston campus. She finished her PhD in creative writing at the University of Pretoria in 2020, and she is the author of a chapbook of strange flash fiction entitled Inanimate Objects (Bottlecap Press) as well as co-editor of an anthology entitled Rape Culture 101: Programming Change (Demeter Press). Her work has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, JAKE, Sein Und Werden, The Molotov Cocktail, The Missing Slate, The Peculiar Mormyrid, Crack the Spine Anthology, Everyday Fiction, Narrow Doors in Wide Green Fields, Surrealists and Outsiders, Good Morning Magazine, Garfield Lake Review, and Litbreak Magazine. She currently lives in Canada with her wife and cats.BRONWYN HUGHES is a certified public accountant who recently completed her MFA in creative writing from Randolph College. She enjoys beekeeping, filmmaking, and boating on the many creeks and rivers feeding the Chesapeake Bay. Bronwyn lives in Tidewater, VA, with her partner and a Maine coon cat. Her work has appeared in Atherton Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Evening Street Review, Isele Magazine, Hawaii Pacific Review, The Quiet Reader, and Sinister Wisdom.HEATHER RUTHERFORD is published or is forthcoming in El Portal, Euphony Journal, Life in 10 Minutes Online Magazine, Literally Stories, The MacGuffin, riverSedge, and Stirring: A Literary Collection. She has attended numerous writing workshops, including Teaching Writing in the Community; classes at the Virginia Fine Arts Museum Studio School; and “Life in 10 Minutes,” a Richmond writing school, online magazine, and press. Heather grew up in upstate New York and escaped the cold by attending the University of Richmond to earn a bachelor’s degree in English literature. She and her family live in Richmond, VA, where she taught yoga and meditation for fourteen years and writes and edits the yoga center newsletter. Heather has raised two kids and several Labrador Retrievers, including two yellows named Huckleberry Finn and Scout Finch.HOWIE GOOD, Ph.D. professor emeritus of digital media and journalism at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of some dozen poetry collections, including most recently The Horses Were Beautiful from Grey Book Press and Swimming in Oblivion: New and Selected Poems from Redhawk Publications. His handmade collages have appeared or are forthcoming in Mayday, Sulphur Surrealist Jungle, Defunkt, Drunk Monkeys, Blue as Orange, decomp, The Offshoot, Mad Swirl, Mercurius Magazine, Scapegoat Review, Wrongdoing, Willows Wept Review, Writers Resist, Kitchen Table Quarterly, Mobius, and Otoliths. He co-edits the journal Unlost, dedicated to found poetry.JASPER GLEN's poems appear or are forthcoming in AGOTT, Amsterdam Quarterly, Apricity Magazine, BlazeVOX, Cathexis Northwest Press, Fauxmoir, NiftyLit, Posit, Phantom Kangaroo, Tofu Ink, WordCity Literary Journal, and elsewhere. He holds a BA in philosophy and a JD. He lives in Vancouver, BC.KATHLEEN ZAMBONI MCCORMICK’s writing has been published in Apricity Magazine, armarolla, El Portal, Euphony, Flights, Good Works Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, South Carolina Review, Tulsa Review, Maryland Literary Review, and many other publications. She has received numerous awards, including the 2016 Foreword Reviews Gold Medal in Humor and the 2019 TopShelf Book Award for First Novel (under 60,000 words) for Dodging Satan, which was shortlisted for a Rubery Award in Fiction. She has participated in many writing conferences and served as keynote speaker at a number of meetings, including the 2009 International Conference on Reading and Writing in Malmö, Sweden, and the 2015 University of Florida Writing Program Conference. She has a PhD in English from the University of Connecticut, was on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University, and is currently Professor of Literature and Writing at Purchase College, SUNY.LAURA CARTER lives and writes in Atlanta, where she got her MFA in 2007. She has hosted many reading series and also published nine chapbooks and numerous book reviews and individual poems.MARTIN PERLMAN is a writer living in Seattle. Previous published work has been included in Rosebud Magazine, Santa Barbara Connexions, Skeptical Inquirer, Drash - A Northwest Mosaic, and Catamaran (winter 2023). He wrote a whimsical novel, Thinks Out Loud, A Blog at First (Marrow Press). In his non-writing time, he likes to bend notes on a blues harp.MATT DENNISON is the author of Kind Surgery (Urtica Press, Fr.) and Waiting for Better (Main Street Rag Press). His work has appeared in Verse Daily, Rattle, Bayou Magazine, Redivider, The MacGuffin, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and Cider Press Review, among others. He has also made short films with Michael Dickes, Swoon, Marie Craven, and Jutta Pryor.SUSAN EVE HAAR is a writer and playwright living in New York City. Her essays and short stories have been published in CRAFT, North Dakota Quarterly, Pembroke Magazine, and other places. Her plays have been published in The Best Women’s Stage Monologues 2020 and 2018, Monologues for Headspace Theatre: Radical Thinking Inside a Box 2019, and The Best Ten-Minute Plays 2018, all published by Smith & Kraus. Her work has been produced at a variety of venues including Primary Stages, Women’s Project Theater, and the Edinburgh Festival. She is the winner of the 2021 Chester B. Himes Memorial Fiction Prize and the recipient of a Sloan Foundation commission. Check out susanevehaar.com.

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SORTES is a spinning collection of stories, poems, songs, and illustrations to help while away the wintery June nights. It’s an oddball grabbag wunderkammer mixtape offering distraction and refreshment.We have neither theme nor scene. Each issue is its own creature. We publish both the sufficiently strange and insufficiently boring: swart stories, hoity poetry, magical surrealism, beatnik travelogues, hard modern haiku, pulp, fantasia, antibiography, crooning balladeering, experimental sentimentalism, and grainy sideways photography.We also host online readings, old time radio performances, and other beloved gimmicks as they occur to us. Previous issues are available via the site’s Archive link.


SORTES considers unsolicited submissions of poetry, prose, illustration, music, videos, and anything else you think may fit our format. Feel free to poke us; we’d love to find a way to publish dance, sculpture, puzzles, and other un-literary modalities.SORTES is published quarterly. Each issue includes approximately ten works of lit, visual, or performance art. We like a small number of works per issue: artists and readers should have a chance to get to know each other.SORTES, you’ll notice, is primarily a black-and-white publication, and we like to play with that (by featuring monochrome videos and photography, for example), but we’ll happily consider your polychrome submission.Submissions are ongoing throughout the year. We consider artists with both extensive and limited publishing experience. We accept simultaneous submissions but please inform us if your work has been accepted elsewhere. And while there's no restriction on the number of pieces you can submit, please have a heart.There’s no need for an extensive cover letter or publication history but please tell us who you are, what kind of writing or art you do, and a bit about what you’re sending us. There are no formatting requirements for text submissions. There is no fee to submit. Please send submissions as email attachments whenever possible; multimedia submissions may be sent as links.


You asked and we provide: what's up with publication rights and ownership?Simple: When you publish with us, you give SORTES one-time publication right for your work. You retain all right to your work after publication. Work published with SORTES will remain available via our online Archive.While SORTES retains the right to link to or excerpt your published work, we do not have the right to publish your work in new formats (including print). If we would like to pursue publication of your work in new formats, we'll ask you and hopefully agree to terms.


SORTES was created by Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum and Kevin Travers. It's edited by Alec Calder Johnsson, Aria Braswell, Emily Zido, Gabrielle Decker, with additional verve by Betsy Herbert, Brenna Dinon, Britny Perilli, Kelly Ralabate, Nick Perilli, Rosanna Lee Byrnes, and Victoria Mier. Many of us live in Philadelphia but we invite writers and artists everywhere to live the SORTES dream.


SORTES regularly offers readings and performances.
For upcoming events, please check here and our Facebook page.

Coming Up:

A Reading For

SORTES Issue 13, “You And I Should Own A Copper Mine”

Sunday, April 16, 2023* @ 7pm EST

You and I should stay in more.  You and I should write all the books we'll never get around to reading.  You and I should Zoom room to room.  You and I should tune into SORTE's Issue 13 reading -- live via Zoom! -- where we'll meet some or all of the following stars:Angel Dionne
Bronwyn Hughes
Heather Rutherford
Howie Good
Jasper Glen
Kathleen Zamboni McCormick
Laura Carter
Martin Perlman
Matt Dennison
Susan Eve Haar
We tried our best, but our host will be editor Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum.
All SORTES events are free, public, and incontrovertible.

ID: 826 7516 0639
Passcode: 834062
Call in: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kbnUFjupWu



“Scary SORTESies To Tell In The Dark,” October 30, 2022

On October 30, 2022, Radio SORTES presented three ghastly and unnerving old time radio stories, including original adaptations of Arch Oboler's "The Dark," Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains," and
and Oscar Wilde's “The Canterville Ghost,” plus poetry from "Weird Tales" magazine.
Our infernal Radio SORTES Players included Betsy Herbert • Brenna Dinon • Christina Rosso • Demree McGhee • Emily Zido • Evan Myers • Iris Johnston • Kelly Ralabate • Lino • Luke Condzal • and Rosanna Lee Byrnes. The performance was written, produced, and scored by Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum.Radio SORTES is an unnatural extracurricular extension of SORTES magazine, whose events and readings are always free, open to all, and ideally less than two hours. See SORTES.co for inexpressibly brilliant literature, art, and upcoming events.

A 1950s Western / Sci-Fi Double-Feature, February 25, 2022

The talented Radio SORTES Players performed two old time radio episodes broadcast live via ethereal wireless right to our audience's home receivers.We galloped into the unknown with a 1950s western / sci-fi double-feature: The Six Shooter episode “Battle at Tower Rock” and the Dimension X episode “A Logic Named Joe” -- each with music and convincing sound effects.The all-star Radio SORTES players were: Abbey Minor • Betsy Herbert • Brenna Dinon • Brian Maloney • Britny Brooks • Daniel DiFranco • Dwight Evan Young • Emily Zido • Evan Myers • Iris Johnston • Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum • Kailey Tedesco • Kelly Ralabate • Kevin Travers • Luke Condzal • Nicholas Perilli • Rachel Specht • Rosanna Byrnes • and Victoria Mier.Radio SORTES -- an unnatural extracurricular extension of SORTES magazine -- was produced and directed by Kevin Travers and Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum. Radio SORTES is always free, open to all, and less than two hours. See SORTES.co for upcoming events.

The 39 Steps, February 19, 2021

The Radio SORTES Players performed this classic adventure story, written by John Buchan and adapted by Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum from Hitchcock's 1935 film and the 1937 Lux Radio production. It starred Brenna Dinon • Heather Bowlan • Rosanna Byrnes • Betsy Herbert • Iris Johnston • Warren Longmire • Brian Maloney • Britny Brooks • Nicholas Perilli • Kelly Ralabate • Dwight Evan Young • Emily Zido • Victoria Mier • Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum • and Kevin Travers.

Halloween Eve Special, October 30, 2020


Suspense, "The House in Cypress Canyon"


Inner Sanctum Mysteries, "Voice on the Wire"

The Radio SORTES players presented a live Halloween Eve special: two programs of classic old time radio horrors. The shows -- including dialogues, music, and sound effects -- were performed for a live Zoom audience.The Suspense episode “The House in Cypress Canyon” was originally broadcast December 5, 1946 and the Inner Sanctum Mysteries episode “Voice on the Wire” was originally broadcast November 29, 1944. Both programs were performed by Kevin Travers • Sean Finn • Britny Perilli • Don Deeley • Brian Maloney • Betsy Herbert • Kyle Brown Watson • Nicholas Perilli • Emma Pike • Susan Clarke • and Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum. Between episodes, we presented an original commercial in period style written and performed by Kevin Travers.

Odd Lots

Announcements & Correspondence

Like any worthwhile literary journal, SORTES would love contributors and audience to fight amongst themselves. Our sweeter readers should email us to compliment our stellar authors and artists, while spicier fans may want to howl and snip and issue manifestoes. Between the two groups, we know our favorite.Or perhaps you have an announcement about an art project, band formation, upcoming travel, impending marriage, &c? Why look beyond quarterly SORTES and your local society pages?Be a part of the problem! Comment on our stories and poems, other letters, and the SORTES demimonde in general by emailing


"peeling the yellow wallpaper" by Monica Robinson is an experimental collection of prose, poetry, and art created as a reaction to (and distinctly not a retelling of) Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," which is unfortunately more and more relevant by the day. This eclectic collection was released September 10, 2022 at a party held by The Spiral Bookcase and is available both from spiralbookcase.com and the author's own sites mrobinsonwrites.com and etsy.com/shop/captalucem.


No Gimmicks

“SORTES continues to ascend the summit of artistic authenticity with every new issue its editors publish, showcasing the works of talented writers in a clean format that is accessible to the reader. There are no gimmicks here or busy links to click through, just the authors and their words. Read em'.”

James Feichthaler, September 8, 2022

James, we appreciate your words mammothly but we delicately disagree: SORTES is one transparent gimmick after another. It's a ruse wrapped in a gambit baked inside a flaky shenanigan potpie.

Missed Connection

“You: M/early 30s olive skin and a nose like a fleur-de-lis, burgundy sweater, pumpkin scarf.Me: F/38 eating olives out of pumpkin rind, lily patterned dress
The bartender sent me a glass of burgundy 'from the gentleman' and you tipped your hat. We talked about SORTES, the paper magazine on the internet, and sang karaoke of our favorite submissions. Drunk on bons mots and pithe, you knocked over the wunderkammer and were ejected by the bouncer. Let's meet and collage a poem!”

Iris Johnston, September 12, 2022

Me: That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said about my nose.

Credit and Debit



A SORTES Sampler 2

SORTES is a mostly online journal, you know, but periodically we go physical.We’ve just published A SORTES Sampler 2, this slender tasty book collecting weird fiction by Max D. Stanton, surrealist collage art by Danielle Gatto Hirano, and a poetry cycle by Uri Rosenshine.It’s a handsomely designed but affordable little snack of a book. We have incredibly limited copies on hand, and every day they become incredibly more limited, so leap today.OR BUY IN PERSON: If you’re in Philadelphia, please gobble up your copy from:Brickbat Books
Head & Hand Books
A Novel Idea on Passyunk
The Spiral Bookcase


+ $3.49 shipping in the US

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