Light Bulb to Simulate Moonlight / Ekphrasis

Light Bulb to Simulate Moonlight / Ekphrasis

She exited the automatic doors, possibly for the last time. The letters on the front of the building were bright against the nighttime sky. “BARNES MEDICAL CENTER” lit up the sidewalk, illuminating her trip home.

This park had become to familiar. The rusted trash cans that lined the perimeter, the big oak tree that hung over the few benches that weren’t covered in graffiti, and the cramped playscape with run-down equipment–they were always there.

She made these trips to and from the hospital every single night for the past seven months. Her university was on the other side of the city so she visited him on her way home, but it still wasn’t enough. She didn’t know how much time he had left, but she knew it wasn’t long.

“He’s been having more trouble breathing,” the doctor said, and she nodded.
“He hasn’t been sleeping very well either.” She nodded again.
“The heart is starting to be affected…”
“…not responding to treatment…”
“…we’re just trying to make him comfortable.”

She had wanted to say something back to the doctor, but she just couldn’t. So she nodded. She knew this was going to happen eventually. Most parents don’t outlive their kids, but she wished he would.

She sat down on the tattered swing he used to push her on when she was still a kid. Every Sunday her parents used to walk her down to this playground, just a few blocks from their house. They would play on the slides, swings, monkey bars, even the half painted teeter-totter that made a loud creaking sound whenever it moved. But now, she was an adult. Her height made her feet drag in the sand beneath the swing, and she was about to lose the one parent she had left.

She looked at her watch; it was getting late. The light from the moon shone against the chains that held up the swing as she pulled herself up. With one last look at the playground, she turned around and walked home.

 

 


 

Artwork by Katie Paterson shown at the Guggenheim museum as part of their Storylines exhibit.

 

Hands

Hands

Your hands, strong and steady
when I am neither.
You wrap yourself around me
and I suffocate in your
warmth until I forget how to be
anything but yours.

Your hands, selfless and skilled
in the art of holding others’
weight. They carry more
than they were designed for,
but never shake.

Your hands, soft and subtle
on my skin. I feel the
creases in your palm
as it glides back and forth,
etching your story for me to
read when I lose
track of my own.

Your hands, more than
hands. Ocean tides
that ripple across the earth
and leave people questioning
what they were ever
afraid of.

Lit Mags: Why’s Yours Better Than Mine?

Lit Mags: Why’s Yours Better Than Mine?

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference—A three-day caffeine fueled convention where us new writers feel overwhelmed in a sea of established publications and end up leaving with an array of different literary magazines we had forgotten we even grabbed.

At your first AWP Conference you’re going to want to grab as many books and magazines as you can hold without thinking of how you’re going to bring them back home (and consequently making a Target run to buy a duffel bag for your new “souvenirs”). Will you actually end up reading all of these magazines? Of course not. Most of them will end up on your coffee table at home, sprawled out in a way that will make your guests feel like they’re around a real-life literary intellectual.

All of the magazines I picked up during my first AWP experience are interesting reads, but as everybody does, I have my favorites. As an editor of one of these magazines, I find myself very critical of others, as if mine is the best of all-time and everyone else should strive for the greatness of a state school’s magazine. Comparing them can seem almost impossible because every one has their own aesthetic and goal, but there are a few basics that every magazine should be judged on: length, genres, and quality of content. Although, no matter how high the magazine rates on those three scales, personal preference always reigns when deciding which one will be the number one, re-read cover to cover, all-time favorite.

****

Thin Air Magazine—Volume 20: 7.5 out of 10 Folded Pages

Thin Air Magazine is run out of Flagstaff, Arizona. They have a total of eight editors and 30 editorial assistants, which is an overwhelming number of people working on a magazine that has just over 100 pages. The Northern Arizona University’s MFA Program publishes this magazine annually, as opposed to others who try to get editions out bi-annually, quarterly, or even monthly.

The hundred pages of this magazine hold 49 different pieces, which I would say makes this edition’s length short to medium, although since they only publish annually you’d think they would have a longer edition. However, being titled Thin Air Magazine, having a thinner volume can just be part of the aesthetic.

They don’t take much creative risk with the genres, only publishing the three basics: nonfiction, fiction and poetry. Art is not included, at least in this edition, which creates a monotonous yet solid look for the magazine. A quick flip through it only shows larger black text on yellow tinted pages, the only varying faction being the spacing on the pages of poetry. The prose was short and to the point, the longest piece being only eight pages long. This magazine is primarily filled by poetry with this genre having over 20 more pieces than fiction and nonfiction combined.

As for quality of content, I was greeted with writing that completely met my expectations for a magazine run by students in a Master’s Program. There were no plot holes in the prose, no convoluted or confusing poetry, and no major grammatical errors. Overall I felt that this magazine was a very standard literary magazine; it was accessible, easy to read, and contained some very interesting pieces of work.

****

Whiskey Island Magazine—Issue 66: 6 out of 10 Folded Pages

Whiskey Island is a literary magazine that has been running for over thirty years from Cleveland State University. They only have five actual editors, but they have eight readers and four interns, which brings their staff total up to 17. They take submissions only two times during the year, August 15th—November 15th and January 15th—April 15th.

This magazine is more dense than the last, with a total of 135 pages. The 65 different pieces of work fit into this medium sized magazine nicely, with the poetry weaved in with the prose. The cover art is also very intriguing. It’s an intricate acrylic painting of a man (who somewhat resembles a zombie) from the neck up, opening his mouth, and a black and white bird is perched on his lower lip. The whole painting is done in greyscale, which gives the magazine an eerie vibe.

Other than the cover, there is no art in the magazine. The editors of Whiskey Island only publish fiction and poetry, creating a very slim window of pieces they will accept. The poetry overpowers the fiction in this edition, with 53 poems and only 10 fiction pieces. I personally love a good nonfiction piece, and the fact that there are none makes this edition feel like it’s missing something to me.

This magazine has some very different types of content. Most of the poetry was fairly easy to follow, and used the white space of the page very well. For the fiction, most of it wasn’t really my style of literature.  Most, if not all of the pieces were interesting and caught my attention, but I couldn’t personally get invested in any particular story enough to say that I truly liked it. Fortunately, a lot of people enjoy their types of fiction stories which is why the magazine is so popular when they publish issues.

****

Front Porch Journal—Issue 31: 9 out of 10 Folded Pages

Front Porch is another one of the literary magazines I looked at while attending AWP. Similar to Thin Air Magazine, this journal is run by a group of students in an MFA program, but instead of Arizona, they’re based in Texas. They are an online-only magazine right now; partly to create a way for the authors whose work they publish to be able to share it with their friends and family easily, but also partly because of how expensive actually printing the magazines is.

For length, this edition published 21 different pieces, arranged in rows of three on their webpage. The genres are all mixed together, which means that if a reader was just trying to read all of the poetry pieces, they would still have to scroll through the whole issue. Each piece of work is accompanied by a square photo right above the title, some that are related to the piece of work (like a picture of the book for a book review, or a picture of the subject for an interview) and some are artist submissions.

Front Porch Journal publishes more than just a few genres, and have enough editors to make it work. They publish fiction, nonfiction, poetry, interviews, and book reviews, and art, even having a link on the bottom of their issue to read biographies about the artists who are featured. Each genre has an editor, plus they have two executive directors, two managing editors, a blog editor, a copy editor, a public relations manager, and an associate editor. Along with them, they have a number of student readers to help with choosing pieces for inquiry. Their decision to publish many different types of work makes their magazine a bit more broad, giving more people reason to read.

The quality of content in this magazine is very high. Each piece is looked over seriously before being accepted, and then thoroughly read and edited by the editor for that genre. Since their acceptance rate is so low (15-20 pieces accepted for every 150-200 submitted), they really only pick the work they believe is the best quality. Their interviews are straight forward, the reviews are informative, and I find their literary pieces to be thought provoking and exciting.

****

Literary magazines come in all different forms—there’s no right way. The dedication spent making a magazine that keeps readers interested, helps new writers get their work seen, and has an editorial staff who love what they do, creates a space for artistic expression that cannot ever be measured by a scale.

The Relativity of Pain

The Relativity of Pain

I am comforted, oddly, by the possibility that you cannot compare my pain to yours. And, for that reason, cannot prove it insignificant.

-Eula Biss

 

When grass is cut, it emits chemicals. Green leaf volatiles and oxygenated hydrocarbons mix together to create that fresh cut grass smell. The scent is refreshing and calm, but this release of chemicals is a cry for help when the plants suffer tissue damage. The chemical concoction alerts certain insects to come and eat the smaller ones feasting away on their leaves. There’s no concrete evidence that these plants can feel pain, yet they know when they’re being hurt. These blades are cut, ripped up by small hands, eaten by bugs and dogs and cows. They have no defense.

*

The third time I broke a bone, I fractured the growth plate. Cracked. Ruptured. Shattered. The doctor told me I was being brave. What else could I be? At nine, I couldn’t do anything but stare at my twisted wrist. Every touch from my doctor agonizing. The padding slithered around my arm, each layer of wet cast mold clung. A purple cast for purple skin.

*

There are many studies that show animals feel emotional pain more than physical pain, will even choose the latter. In just one study, a mother rat walked across an electric grid 58 times to bring her babies back to their nest, getting shocked with each step.

*

My father died when he was 39. The funeral was held at our church. My father was cremated, so he had no casket. There was only a blueish grey marble box which looked too small to hold him centered on a table at the front of the room. The church had always taught me that suicide was a sin, yet there we were. Celebrating the life of Mark Perrin. Over the years I’ve wondered if the pain of a bullet equates the pain of an unhappy life. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Pain cancelled out pain.

*

Pain:  /peIn—From the Latin “poena”

  1. n. “Punishment; penalty; suffering or loss inflicted for a crime or offence.”
  2. v. “To take pains or trouble; to exert oneself with care and attention; to endeavor or strive for a particular result.

I used to think pain was only our suffering, something we received. But pain is no longer the consequence, it is the action. We take pains—they are ours. We give them homes with hardwood floors and blue shutters. We let them grow within us until they give us our desired consequence. No pain, no gain.

*

The doctor said four to six weeks for my wrist to completely heal. At school my friends signed my cast and bombarded me with questions.

How did you do it? Did you cry? How bad did it hurt?

How bad? I didn’t know how to explain it. I’ve never understood comparisons of pain. My broken wrist did not feel like a kick to the shin, or a fall off a bike, or being bitten by a dog. It felt like a broken wrist.

*

Aristotle viewed pain not as a sensation, but an emotion—a passion of the soul. The soul produces the pain. It comes from within.

*

NFL icon Doug Flutie’s parents passed away just one hour apart from heart attacks. His father died first, followed by his mother. They had been married for 56 years. The extreme grief and shock of the loss of a loved one can put stress on the heart, causing chest pains, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and can even lead to congestive heart failure. Broken heart syndrome. The emotional pain becomes tangible.

*

At school, my brother and I were put in grieving classes. We had to talk about our feelings and how we were dealing with things—how we were trying to move on. The teacher gave us a paper with an outline of a person and a list of colors that represented different feelings. Sadness, fear, guilt, anger, jealousy, nervousness, and happiness, but I wanted to color my body pain. She said most children mistake mental pain for physical pain, but there’s no mistaking how my stomach churned and eyes burned when I saw his empty parking spot in the driveway.

September 13, 2015

September 13, 2015

She opens her eyes, the surroundings foreign. Her eyes try adjusting but light breaks the window, illuminating the room. She rubs them, charcoal mascara clumping and breaking off onto her cheeks. The bed comes into focus and she’s lying sideways—they’re lying sideways. His body mirrors hers. He inhales deeply as his body turns ever so slightly to stretch. She looks at her phone—9:46am. They’ve been sleeping for a few hours. With a small kiss, he wakes. They lock eyes and he smiles, warming her in a way the blankets cannot. He opens his phone and starts scrolling. As she recalls the events of earlier this morning, exhaustion falls back over her. She reaches out for him and takes his hand in hers, their fingers intertwined in mid-morning calm. He squeezes slightly, assuring her. She thinks about Friday, about him, about them—her head spins. “Just friends” was a concept she believed in until this moment, seeing a future in his eyes. She lays her head next to his and melts into the comfort of their morning.