by Mary Paynter Sherwin
This is arbitrary and subjective, like so many phrases doled out in recovery, meant to comfort you in those days of relearning the topography of the inside of your stomach and listening to a less sparrow heartbeat, so let us instead note a term that enters the arena of the wasting and proud, the word is movement and we can define movement as a noun, a unit of motion expressing action, and that it requires direction from a fixed starting point, [example: pinking shears, two directions across a plane, reduced to single movement away from the pattern, towards a dress, towards the argyle in socks, towards ill-fitting clothes at the back of the closet, towards the musical phrase that ends on a fourth, towards two 1-inch cubes of cheese for lunch, towards falling, towards the shell that makes no sound, towards the tyranny of centimeters pulled left along a leather belt, towards the sun, towards seven stones measurable in fabric, towards kits and instructions, towards pinking shears] and in this example you must continually remind yourself of the term in the arena surrounded by an audience of eyes and how they can assess to the gram all successes and failures, losses and gains and losses and losses and gains.
Mary Paynter Sherwin’s work is heavily influenced by her knowledge and love of science, religion, and art. Her work has appeared most recently in Drash: Northwest Mosaic, Unswept, and Sparkle & Blink. She was also recently named one of the Northwest’s most innovative poets by Rattapallax. Mary holds an MFA in poetry and will be teaching a January Term class at Saint Mary’s College of California on the influence of copying. She lives in Oakland with her husband, David.
photo by schappisschnap
by Stanley Noah
The Titanic goes down.
The Carpathia rescues survivors.
The Carpathia goes down.
57 survivors, one is Frank Buckles.
Buckles became a Japanese POW, civilian internee.
Frank Buckles meets President
George W. Bush.
Frank Buckles dies as last American
WWI veteran, age, 110.
Stanley M Noah has a BGS degree from The University of Texas at Dallas. And have been published in the following: Wisconsin Review,Nexus, Main Street Rag, South Carolina Review, Poetry Nottingham and other publications in the U.S.A., Britain,Canada and New Zealand. Winner of The Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest, 2006. Poet of the month, Sept., 2009, fullofcrow.com.
photo by DazzieD
Video courtesy of Queer Rebels
Indira Allegra is a poet and interdisciplinary artist whose work explores forms of queer intimacy, text, trauma and racial identity through performance, video works and handwoven textiles. A 2012 Lambda Literary Fellow and Voices at VONA Alum, she has contributed works to “25 for 25: An Anthology of Works by 25 Outstanding Contemporary LGTB Authors”, “Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art and Thought”, “Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two Spirit Literature”, “Konch Magazine” and “make/shift Magazine” among others. Indira reads and performs work in the Bay Area and New York City. Her experimental videopoems have screened at film festivals internationally. In the Bay Area, Indira’s textile works have shown at the Alter Space and College Avenue Galleries. She is currently completing her first collection of poems entitled Indigo Season.
by Brittany Wason
you wear your “swim trunks” a little too short
when we see each other
for the first time in months
(since the last time you didn’t call me)
you kiss me on the cheek so French
you are just saying hi and you’re
trying to fuck me
You shoot fancy scotch (for taste)
to rub out the evil
stuck in your teeth
courage swells in your chest
you grin like we’re on a tour of your Norwegian castle
the hotel you tucked girls in corners in
Originally from New Hampshire, Brittany Wason is currently a Poetry Candidate at Saint Mary’s College of California.
photo by brianac37
by Fernando Meisenhalter
My German relatives are visiting us in Mexico City. They are my uncle, aunt, and a cousin my age who I’ve never met before. I don’t speak German, so I’m ignored during the hugs at the airport. I am also excluded from subsequent conversations. German has now become the official language in the car ride back home. I have become a foreigner in my own family.
My parents are so cheerful they don’t seem like my parents at all; they appear to be normal, good, happy people. It’s a family that looks like mine, but is not really mine.
I wonder how long this charade will last.
“Fernando, get the Löwenbräu,” my dad says once we get home.
“What Löwenbräu?” I say.
My father looks at my uncle as if to say: This kid isn’t the fastest ship in the fleet.
“The beer, get the beer,” my dad says. “The beer I told you to put in the fridge.”
“Oh,” I say. “I forgot to put it there.”
My father’s face changes instantly from happiness to pure rage.
“I TOLD YOU TO PUT THEM IN THE FRIDGE!” he says, clenching his teeth. “I ask you ONE THING, one thing ONLY, AND YOU CAN’T EVEN DO THAT!” Then he slaps me across the face.
The slap hurts, but worse is that the loud sound startles everyone, like the smack of a whip.
“Don’t just stand there!” my dad says. “GO GET IT!”
My dad turns to his brother and smiles again, nervously, trying to cheer everyone up, but the mood in the room has shifted.
My cheek burning, I hurry to get the beer.
The next day I take my cousin with me to school. He’s never been to Mexico before, so everything is new to him. He doesn’t understand Spanish and he’s very quiet in class. I wonder what he thinks about us Third-Worlders. Do we seem weird? Does he pity us? Do we disgust him? What little we manage to communicate is always in English because we both studied it at school.
My cousin comes alive in math class, where he helps me with algebra. But I cannot grasp the exercises, and after a while, in frustration, he gives up, refusing to provide me with any further assistance. I can tell we won’t get along.
During recess we play soccer and from the start he distinguishes himself as a superior as well as popular player. Everyone seems to be calling out his name.
“Hey,” one of my classmates says as he runs past me, “we like your cousin. He’s not like you.”
After the game, my cousin starts chatting up some of the popular girls, communicating via gestures and broken English. I later find out he got invited to a party.
“Why can’t you be more like your cousin?” my dad says. “Look at him: he’s been in Mexico just two days, and he’s already making friends. You’ve been here your entire life and you don’t have a single friend. How can anybody be so inept?”
He slaps me, but I don’t feel ashamed anymore. By now everyone knows I’m a battered kid, despised by my own parents. I don’t need to hide it.
Matters get worse. Later that week, some of my classmates invite my cousin on a trip to Acapulco.
“Look at your cousin.” My father says. “He’s enjoying life while you just mope around the house with that pathetic look on your face, watching TV all day. I just don’t get it.”
My cousin comes back from Acapulco with a tan and a bright smile. He learned to water-ski and snorkel. I have never done either of those things. I have never been to Acapulco. Everyone smiles at him, asks him questions, talks to him, ruffles his fine blond hair. My cousin has also learned a few Spanish phrases, which he repeats in a thick German accent.
“Oye, compadre,” he says while everyone laughs. “Quiero cerveza.”
I have to admit, he does sound funny.
“Soy muy macho,” he says, while everyone looks at him admiringly.
“I’m macho, too,” I say, trying to join in the fun. But I sound too eager, letting out a forced chuckle to support my own joke. I also imitate my cousin’s thick German accent, thinking that might be funny. But no one laughs. In fact, my dad gives me the dirtiest look he’s ever managed to cast upon me in his long career of hostility and contempt.
“That’s not funny, Fernando,” my father says. “You’re mocking his accent. You can’t speak a word of German, but you think it is okay to make fun when others try to learn Spanish. That’s disgusting. Go stand in the corner, and think about what you just did,” he commands.
“I was just trying to be funny,” I say.
But it’s no use. The corner is my destiny.
The instant I leave the room, the laughter resumes. I hear my cousin carry on with his halting Spanish phrases, “Oye, loco,” and then adding, with erroneous grammar, “quiero mucho cerveza.”
All the grownups giggle.
“Oh,” I hear my mom sigh. “He’s so wonderful. I wish he were my son.”
My relatives are leaving today. My parents drive them to the airport. There are goodbye hugs and kisses at the international terminal, my uncle and aunt holding those blue and yellow Lufthansa tickets in their hands. My cousin avoids hugging me, but as a departing gift he gives me a bar of chocolate. It is good German milk chocolate, my favorite kind. I take it with a faint smile.
“Danke,” I say using the only German word I know. My cousin walks back to his parents. It’s obvious they told him to give me the chocolate, that it wasn’t his idea. I can tell because he never looks back at me. Not once.
It’s a very quiet ride back home in my parents’ car.
A month later a letter arrives from Germany. My cousin committed suicide. He hanged himself from a swing in a playground in Hanover. His test scores were too low, the letter explains, and he didn’t get into a high school with a college track. He couldn’t handle the feeling of failure.
“He was such a good kid,” the letter concludes, “so noble.”
I look at my father nervously. Will he ask, why him, why not you? Is he going to explode now, unleash his Old Testament fury upon me? This could be the worst beating of my life.
But my dad only shakes his head from side to side in what appears to be sadness, and says: “Well, he wasn’t going to make it into college, so he saved his parents the disappointment. He was a good kid. It’s too bad things didn’t work out for him,” he says, wrapping up matters in an all-knowing tone.
“Oh,” my mom says, “he was such a wonderful kid, but he was weak; too fragile.”
They continue drinking their coffee and reading the paper.
This time I want to be beaten. But my dad just keeps sipping and reads on.
All of a sudden I realize I am lucky to be the family’s designated loser because no one expects anything from me. There is no pressure in my life, no expectation. I was born a disappointment, I could fail a million times, fail always, and it wouldn’t make any difference. I’m free.
I go to my room and pull out the chocolate bar my cousin gave me. It’s intact. For some strange reason, I haven’t been able to eat it.
There’s an empty feeling in my chest. I think of my cousin, the cousin I didn’t know well, didn’t even like, but whom I now somehow miss.
I tear the wrapper and break off a square of chocolate and put it in my mouth. It tastes divinely. Then I break off another square, and another, and another; and one by one, I eat them all.
Fernando Meisenhalter is of German ancestry and was raised in Mexico City and therefore grew up under great stress, but he still loves both sauerkraut and guacamole.
photo by LWI