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Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation 

Poetry. Fiction. Essays, Art 

VOLUME 1 ISSUE 3 Full 2010 

12001 CHRLON RD. 

Los Angeles. CO 90049 

flUDEMUS Art and Literary 


Kathleen Rrhizh- eoitor-in-cheif, m editor, lrydut 

[ORRAINE BEDROS- Ron-Fiction Editor, poetry Editor, layout 
LAUREN DELGflDO- fiction editor 




Subscriptions- $15 
Ruck Issues- $R 

Current issues- $10 



BY IMDGE-2000 








you wanted rhyme | wanted reason 
rngie at her rosdand's fonerfll 
My Body. Betrayer 





Carroll Son yang ; playing Cards and jades 15 

Nob 55 

phyllis rawley ; the pain eqdotion 2d 

IE Van UawkinS; Family Iaaoition BO 



MRRISSR FESTH : Orinthdldgy 40 






















Here we are— the third issue. Here 1 am -the last founding 
member of Audemus. I'll spare you the gruesome details of the 
threatening emails from disgruntled submitters, the tarnished friend- 
ships and the imfamous hand trigger to the skull move 1 ultimately 

This issue welcomed new faces and the opportunity for posi- 
tive changes. 1 not only continued as Art Editor, but took on the role 
of Editor-in-Chief as well. Incoming Senior, Lorraine Bedros, made 
contrubutions as Non-Fiction and Poetry Editor, as well as layout 
designer. Recent graduate, Lauren Delgado, came on board as Fic- 
tion Editor. She also contributed a Non-Fiction short-story entitled, 
"0 Brother, Where Art Thou?" 

The personal pleasure cultivated from my experience working 
on Audemus is publishing what was once the unseen and unheard. 
This issue was no different as it features up and coming talent in- 
cluding photographer, Amy Yates and writer, Marissa Festa. 

Will 1 cherish and long to relive my beginning and final days 
working for what remains to be a very green college journal? ...No. 
But please, dear reader, do not misconstrue my curt tone as an un- 
appreciative one. My time here was spent well and 1 look forward to 
what will come next. 

Tentatively yours, 






Four poems 


Come and see the science of hesitating: 
Watch this fog hand slip over my mouth 
turning basic blood to magnet metal 

So I've stayed in this city, towing my demure doubt 
along the same shiny geography 

1 know home, this tiny earth 

Of gold cliffs and the people that hang off them. 

Here the tide works without the moon, 
Pulling hearts out of empty bellies 

The fog and tide and absent moon, they work together to crush this quiet 
want of new jj 

Of girls with sour, coastal blood entertaining God in some big city 

Magnet blood doesn't speak easy 

It lingers; it waits until the hanging-floor drops 

To say its last words 

All the same old 

internal idioms; bating breath drying ink bleeding thunder 

We lay on a bed of shrinking futures 

We will hem and haw on the same gilded cliffs 

As the changing mornings wait for me to leave, take chance, eat new air. 

Maybe there's a little moon tonight 

A motel-lit silver or gold, I'll be looking for it 

from the boulevard 

1 never left. 


The ash man of broken ribs, 

Pieces of rock and skull and night that shone like crossing guards, 

Fitted his fresh death on pavement, his roots stretching so far into the 


He is a concrete throat, glass teeth, and oil. 

Wife will weep a stupid song about blunt death. 
\l Use her salty taffy eyes to stick and construct a new life, blunt life. 

The baby bride will turn her brain in bed 
Her scream 
His theology 

Staring dutifully at the histories it has made, 
the snatchings of mortalities and grooms 
The sky, half godless, maybe hateful, 
will watch and maybe shake its head. 

1 try to imagine the depletion of me 

if it were only physical 

some leprosy or a queer blackening of limbs 

but the de-glowing is all here of course 

a hermetic little assault 

taking place so grandly on mount corpus callosum 

it makes my laugh a straight line that cannot index what is funny 
it makes me read my beloved jew-hating poet even all the damn foot- 
with minimum outrage 

1 ask; where are my onomatopoeias? 

not many know the demands of the most pitiful operatic (solo) in 

all the despondent correspondence 

all the endless whining sopranos 

But this year hear the pledge of potential: 

the restoration of tender tongue 

meet the one who will remark so remarkably, and hiss at silence 

with a beamy full-glass axiom 

goodnight cruel calendar 

goodnight old-you, you maven of the morose 

now is the hour to evict the sullen spores and remind you of this dusty, 

pitchy laugh 

and say goodbye 

to being glass without the gleam 



In conflict, my teeth stay under-gum 
we rage eloquently, 
fight legally 

1 cry in tremors 

Thick in my throat, gurgling blips 

But never smack, hiss, swear, throw house-wares, raise voices 

The tear reddening my left eye is syllabic 

The salt and spittle drying on my pants is an impossible shape 

But earlier, it was guilt 


We impart and emote with polite shrapnel 

would-have's premise 

could-have's conclude 

More dangerous than pitching glass tumblers 

My features lose symmetry, the hard edges soften 

In indoor voices, we play the hanging jury 
and keep the thin words swinging 
Like a noose 

Playing Cards and jades »««>« 

Spanish Hills Country Club. Staff break room. You and 1. Sixteen 
and Sixteen. The employees surrounding us were older, a tad jaded, trails 
of leathery wrinkles on worn out skin made more prominent under the 
fluorescent lighting. Feathery, charming, gray haired bartenders and 
chain-smoking waitresses. Gold diggers. Con artists. Pretty, but not terri- 
bly. A warning. 

1 was barely nubile, a hard green plum. You were hardly virile. 
Your hands were only floppy fumbling paws, too big for you. We were so 
little in the room. They mocked us. Hemmed us in with hairy knees and 
cloudy teeth. They flit their weary lived-in eyes about, without us. 

1 said something about not doing so well in college math. You looked 
at me across the lunch table while the others were smoking and gossip- 
ing over day old poached salmon and leaky Creme Brule. The chatter was 
muffled as if we were drifting off to sleep, but we were alert. Hyper alert. 
A warning. 

Two first spring foxes came face to face. 1 was wearing a female cum- |J 
merbund and slippery black heels. Suffocating. You were in a starched 
white caddy uniform. Your skin so bronzed. Your eyes, looking me over, 
were huge and stricken blue under the flickering lights. 1 knew 1 was 
blushing madly. Perhaps 1 was emitting some young bright light, the type 
of light we are blessed with only on rare occasions, even when we are 
too old for it. 1 saw your pupils expand and contract. Your lips curled 
into a disarming half grin. 1 swear that was the moment that the deal was 
sealed. The trajectory of our lives changed at that exact instant. Look at 
your palm. It's etched there, in the V of the 1st branch. You said, you 
could help me with the math but only if 1 would teach you to dance. 
Later that afternoon, in my bedroom with the curtains' burgundy drawn 
and that ratty shag carpeting under us, we made marker drawings on 
typewriter paper, like children do. You kissed me real. 

Remember, we would sneak out and cruise in your mocha flavored 
Oldsmobile, gliding and creaking over creviced asphalt, as if at solid sea. 
Inhaling the fertile rows of farmland, the sweet stench of it. The Santa 
Ana winds whipping our fingers as they dangled out of the windows 

making wavelike motions. Just like unmoored anemone. 

We would end up at the state beach and pull in to watch the 
phosphorescence breaking. We called them "stony lightning ghosts" 
in the ocean. We were stony lightning ghosts. We tried to speak 
poems out into the night. You and 1 would try to make fumbling 
love. Hiding in the lifeguard tower with a plaid blanket over us. Our 
vapors separated from the fog of beach by nothing. One night we 
even dared to lie down on hard tar of the windy Pacific Coast High- 
way, kissing until we heard a car speeding towards us. We fumbled 
on skinny legs and tripping hearts towards the ocean and when we 
got to the black foamy edge, 1 think 1 said 1 would die if you died. 1 
think you said me too. 

The August heat is oppressive. 

Star Jasmine replicates. 

Fevers cool slowly. 

Stars litter the ginger smoke sky. 

Salty waters. 


You passed me from friend to friend, let them feel me while 
1 was slung over their laps with my head lolling. 1 saw my own 
hands grabbing blue jeaned thighs and jaw lines as if for dear life. 
The fingernails were long, rounded and cherry red. You convinced 
me this looked sexy. 1 saw my polished hair on their laps next to 
half open zippers. They lifted up my shirt. Bra-less. Felt me roughly 
and laughed. One of them dared to kiss a nipple. 1 felt the electric- 
ity in that, even though 1 didn't want to. One of the boys snarled 
and threw me on the grass. You flinched and some of your playing 
cards dropped to the ground. You picked up the cards neatly. Your 
jaw was tight. 1 thought 1 saw a thick vein run down your neck and 
disappear into your shirt. Your pretty lashes were a bark-tinted veil. 
1 wept very quietly in the wet grass. Just feet away from you. My 
heart was scratching at your pant leg. Scented summer. The crickets 

were deafening. They were never louder again. You weren't smiling 
while your friends were laughing. Pounding one another senselessly. 
Drunken horseplay. 

You were not. 

You just were. 

My clothes were here and there, the sleeveless bluebell blouse 
flung behind the coiled garden hose and brave, white silk skirt 
draped over the dog bed. My beautiful tortoise shell barrette trapped 
under your heel. 1 never did find that again. Or even one like it. 

The side of my face was pressed into the ground. Some people 
say you must hug the merciless ground to know true misery. No, 1 
said that. My hand felt the pebbles of your suburban landscaping. 
Piles of small white grains littering the paths. Crushing clover. The 
smell of gardenia and orange blossoms was unbearable. The stars 
twinkling? Outrageous. 1 even whispered in a rasp for you to hear 
"fuck you, stars." 

Your friends stumbled indoors with heavy faded feet. You 
sat there alone. Smoking Camel Lights with long draws. Swigging |7 
gulps of beer uneasily it seemed, wiping your lips on your bare arm. 
1 could see the full light of street lamps and the heavens shining off 
of the trail you left. Your hands that handled me were now shuffling 
four or five cards over and over. 1 know you were looking at me. 
You kept swallowing. You thought my eyes were closed but they 
weren't really. You knew that. We stayed that way for a very long 
time. Listening to Led Zeppelin, through a sliding glass door, a crack 
in the kitchen window, a muffled song seeping out from somebody's 
home sweet home. Weren't we like a "living reflection of a dream?" 
1 like to think you are still holding your cards in a way. Jacks. 
Queens. Diamonds. Hearts. Buried under Spades. Aren't all scenes 
just cinema? All cinema part of a collective cliche? I'd like to be- 
lieve that. I'd like to think, that in a way, I'm still pressed into green 
blades bending under my weight and you are still waiting to be a 






The Pain Equation 



1 only had four minutes of pillow talk before 1 lost my husband to 
sleep. 1 asked, "Do you remember when 1 wasn't always in pain?" 

He rolled over to spoon my body in his. "Yes, and you will too." 

1 wasn't able to stay in the position long. His body heat set off a 
Of] wave of hot flashes. Steam passed from my body through my skin and 
left me glistening, every pore active with fine beads of sweat. 1 slid the 
covers off and let the cool March night air fall over my body like fine silk 
cloth. A needle sharp pain pierced my head from the front of the scalp to 
the back with lightning speed. It shot into my eyelid. 

Chris sensed it. He hugged me tighter. 1 waited for him to fall 
asleep, then got out of bed to wait for the nightly dosage of pain relievers 
to kick in. 

1 remember years ago, when a majority of my day wasn't focused 
on overcoming and beating back the waves of pain. There was even a 
time when 1 enjoyed pain. It was good pain, the kind that usually devel- 
oped thirty-six hours after a hard work out, really long run, or vigorous, 
rough sex. 1 remember the satisfaction of my resting body speaking to my 
mind, 'Yeah, you pushed me hard, and 1 liked it' It was rewarding, being 
able to push yourself harder through the pain to that last mile. 

I began race-walking at the age of nine, after watching Christoph 

Hohne win the Gold in the 1968 Olympics 50km race walking competi- 
tion. He beat his nearest competitor by ten minutes. His body was lean, 
focused and in control, gliding along with hips that moved in a rhythmic 
rotation. 1 was drawn to those hip movements, an exaggerated walk that 
gave him his seven-minute mile. 1 was impressed by this muscular body, 
and the next day 1 stayed after school at the track, pumping my arms and 
pressing my heels down onto the ground, trying to emulate his stride. 1 
loved the look of his body and wanted one like it. Fellow students teased 
me about my peculiar gate from the bleachers, but that assured me 1 was 
doing it right. 1 kept walking that day and over the next week 1 ruined 
my school shoes. 1 caught hell from my mother for it. 

Race walking was not a sport in our high school gym teacher's 
repertoire. 1 learned to sprint, hurdle and push the shot put. 1 was fairly 
capable over the hurdles and had the bursts of energy for the sprints, but 
taller, thinner girls had better speed and endurance. 1 excelled at shot put, 
combining a burst of adrenaline and thrust for a successful 40 feet scores. 
1 won the high school competitions. 

The gait came easily to me. 1 could walk a mile leisurely in twenty 
minutes, but reduce that to twelve minutes if 1 race walked. My home was Tj 
1.3 miles away from school, and my quick gait often made the difference 
for getting to school on time. My track friends ran alongside me and tried 
to learn the gait but gave up because it was easier to run than learn the 
Olympic technique. 1 kept at it, but it would be another ten years before 1 
ever met another race walker. 

When 1 left home for college, 1 found the college sports filled with 
the traditional track and field options. But 1 walked all over town, hun- 
dreds of miles in running shoes that wore out miles before 1 could take 
them off, shin splints that burned more than alcohol on a cut, and thighs 
that rubbed and chaffed and blistered. Most mornings started with a 
three-mile or 5k walk and double that on weekends. 1 walked through my 
twenties and began finding race walking competitions to enter and some- 
times win. As a 20K marathoner, 1 loved the sense that 1 was covering the 
globe, making the planet smaller, easier to control. 

Marathons are brutal to the body when covering hard surfaces for 
several hours of repetitive motion. After mile 18, an all encompassing, 
shooting pain accompanies every lift and rotation of my hip, calves, arms 
and feet. Sometimes sports bra rubbed me raw, until the rash so blinded 

me with pain 1 either stopped walking or lifted the bra over one or both 
my breasts, freeing them to flop along in the breeze 1 created. 

With a six-hour race 1 planned for pain, prepared for it and learned 
to push through it, because 1 knew there was a prize - finishing and win- 
ning over pain. Sometimes it came with a blue ribbon or a trophy and my 
name in print. 

My walking and racing opportunities shortened when 1 took a 
position working for an aviation consultant. The nature of the business 
kept me flying at a moment's notice to various countries. Uncertain of 
my safety in middle and far-east nations, 1 was limited to the hotel tread- 
mills. After a mere 30 minutes 1 found it too boring. And when my walk- 
ing buddy remarried and moved away, 1 moved my seven pairs of run- 
ning shoes from the front closet to my back bedroom. 

In 1995 1 worked in an executive recruiting firm, took the profits 
from that job and started my own firm. My business was prosperous and 
1 walked more hours a week than 1 worked for the next two years. During 
that time 1 met my husband. 

Two years into marriage, 1 was cleaning up a back closet to make 
22 more room for my husband's stuff. On the top shelf 1 came across my old 
walking trophies and was suddenly ashamed of the dust on them. Each 
particle of dust matched each pound I'd gained while sitting and snug- 
gling contentedly on the couch next to my husband. My pre-sunrise 
walks were replaced with breakfast in bed courtesy of my husband. Dis- 
comforted at the shape 1 was in, 1 talked my husband into heading back 
to the gym with me. 1 hired a trainer to kick-start my body into gear, 
while my husband lifted weights and boxed. Three months into training 
1 dropped 32 pounds, saw muscle definition and ached wonderfully from 
the workouts, but was worn down with fatigue. 

One early March morning, 1 left my gym after a particular grueling 
stairs routine and headed straight to a meeting downtown. Another rider 
and 1 entered the elevator when 1 felt a sharp, intense pain grabbing my 
chest. The rider exited on the second floor and now alone, 1 doubled over, 
gasping for air hanging onto the railing to avoid collapsing. 1 stead- 
ied myself in the corner, slowly leaning back up as 1 caught my breath, 
grabbing the railing so 1 wouldn't fall onto the floor. The pain subsided 
as quickly as it came. 1 left the elevator and went into the meeting. Ten 
minutes into the discussion my host stopped his presentation, watching 

me drip profusely in sweat. 

"Are you alright?" he asked. 

"1 think so. 1 don't know why I'm sweating so much." 

1 completed the meeting and left with a handful of soaked Kleen- 
exes. 1 continued all morning like this, drained of energy, skipping lunch 
to run errands. On the way back to the office, my chest began to burn 
again. Instead of returning to work, 1 chose the hospital. 

Twenty-two hours later, after a normal EKG and cardiac stress test, 
and twenty sufficient hours of observation, the cardiologist suggested, "It 
was probably pleurisy. That's an inflammation of the lining around the 
lungs and should clear up in a couple of weeks, but your heart is fine." 
He patted me on the shoulders, smiled and left the room. 1 dressed and 
made an appointment with my internist for a follow-up. 

Later that month, 1 noticed a lump under my right armpit, and 
made a mental note to watch it and see if it was there the following 
week, but 1 got busy and forgot about it. 1 scheduled myself for my an- 
nual mammogram in June. 1 always test in June in honor of my aunt's 
birthday and survival from breast cancer. My radiologist found no lumps, 
and 1 had the feeling of completing another hard mile in a race and felt 9^1 
good that 1 was being so proactive with my health. 

A week after the Fourth of July, 1 was in D.C. on a lobbying trip. 
Exhausted after a day on the hill, 1 crawled into bed rubbing all the parts 
of my body that ached and noticed a new lump in my groin area. This 
lump was larger and harder than the one under my arm. Worried for the 
rest of the trip, 1 kept touching it to see if it was gone or tried to squish 
it and make it go away. When 1 returned home two days later 1 went 
straight to bed, worn out from the travel. The next morning 1 started to 
get out of bed and found my leg wouldn't hold my weight, and 1 col- 
lapsed on the floor crashing into the nightstand and overturning the 
lamp. Chris rushed in to the bedroom and lifted me back onto the bed. 

"Something is really wrong." 1 said. 

"Let's get to the hospital." His face was drained of color, and eyes 
wide opened in fear. 

"No, 1 can't stand the emergency room and on a Saturday. It will 
be a zoo. I'll go to our clinic on Monday morning." 

On Monday a nurse said it looked like a hernia and sent me for a 
sonogram and set an appointment for me with a surgeon. The next day 1 

let the surgeon feel around without saying a word. 1 felt like 1 had been 
holding a lie in all this time and my body was now about to be caught. 
He calmly washed his hands, sat down across from my husband and me, 
and said he would only know for sure when he opened me up. If it looked 
suspicious, they would test it for cancer. 

"No one said that word before." 

"If the lymph node looks suspicious, we'll send it to the lab and 
we'll know within twenty-four hours." 1 couldn't believe that his calmly 
delivered words and tone left me with such feelings of fear and anxiety. 
My surgery was scheduled for Friday morning and twenty-seven hours 
later, after a cardiologist, internist, podiatrist, radiologist and a gynecolo- 
gist had all missed it, a surgeon found Hodgkin's lymphoma. Cancer of 
the lymph nodes 

There was no emotion, no excitement or fear about the hereafter. 
1 looked around the room. The sun was high, just arcing toward the west 
and 1 wondered what 1 would miss most? Only Chris, my husband came to 
mind. 1 emerged from my bedroom feeling like a shaken fighter but ready 
for another round in the ring. A refrain from our favorite singer Amanda 
24 Marshall's song, "Trust me Baby This is Love," rolled into my thoughts, 
" more mountain, hey so what..." 

1 swore in those few moments while walking down the hallway to 
the den, 1 heard my father's voice saying "Buck up kid, you'll be all right" 
as he had said to me many a time when 1 was a little tomboy falling out 
of trees or crashing my bike. 1 walked into the den to share the news with 
my husband with a smile. Taking another deep breath, straightening up, 
shoulders back, 1 said calmly "It's cancer." The color drained from his 
face, his mouth dropped open, and he sat down as if he'd been punched 
hard in the chest. 

He stood up and took me in his arms and asked, "What do we do 

"1 don't know." 

1 went to the Internet and researched the disease, treatment mo- 
dalities and the location of a local oncologist. 1 then called a nurse friend. 
Her sister happened to be a board certified oncologist and well respected 
in the state, and the best news of all, she could see me Monday. We got 
packed and on the road in two hours and drove the twelve hours to Dal- 

Dr. Mary Martin has a cancer treatment center in Fort Worth and is 
known across the state for her early assessments and aggressive, effective 
treatment strategies. 1 learned that Hodgkin's was the best cancer to get, 
with an 84% recovery rate, and given my otherwise healthy body, 1 felt 1 
would do well in treatment. 1 made a mental note to thank my trainer. 

"The disease typically strikes Caucasians, teenagers, young adults 
and males. Cancer is identified in four stages ranging from 1 to 4. Four 
is the worst. You are Stage 3B, the 'B' meant 1 was symptomatic." Dr. 
Martin relayed to me on the phone two hours after 1 returned to my 
friend's home. And though 1 needed to be in treatment immediately, the 
treatment was pretty standard so that she said any oncologist could treat 
it successfully. 

"1 would cut back on the wine during chemo as it causes back 
pain." Chesbro said. 

"Oh shit, how does one get through this then, weed?" 

There it was again, the anticipation of pain, the pain it would take 
to survive. The victory this time for winning would be the trophy of my £5 
own living body. 1 focused again on the doctor's words. 

"After two months of treatment 1 want to do another set of CT and 
PET scans. We are looking for a 50% reduction in your nodes." He went 
on to tell me, "If after six months we don't see a satisfactory reduction 
in the nodes, you will need a bone marrow transplant, preferably from a 

On the first day of treatment my husband drove me to the cancer 
clinic, got out of the car, and walked over to my door to assist me out of 
the car, a gentlemanly habit he had trained me from our first date. But 1 
froze in the seat. 1 couldn't move. 1 looked up at him feeling my lip quiv- 
er and said, "1 can't do this." 

He knelt down beside me, holding my hand and said, "1 know Hon- 
ey," and he waited quietly. The tears began to roll down my cheeks and 1 
felt like 1 was about to face the hangman's noose. When ten minutes went 
by he asked me, "You want to go home?" 

"Yes" and with that, he gently shut my door and came back into 
the car. 1 placed my hand on his before he could start the motor. "Wait 
with me here; let me find some courage. 1 seem to have misplaced it." 1 

closed my eyes, leaned back in the seat, and breathed deeply and slowly. 
1 focused only on my breathing, its rhythm and speed, as if 1 were prepar- 
ing to lift something heavy or karate chop a block of wood. 1 squeezed his 
hand and said, "Let's get this started." 

The porta-cath was foreign and still sore, but the nurse explained 
that without it the chemo destroyed the veins and this tubing would al- 
low the drug to reach the needed area faster. 1 was nauseous during and 
immediately after that first 3-hour treatment session, but 1 felt fine for 
the next seventy-two hours. When the seventy third hour came 1 started 
thinking, "Wow, 1 can do this." 

Ten minutes later, the nausea started. 1 started to feel like 1 needed 
to puke, so 1 sat down on my office couch and thought 1 could let the 
wave pass. The next ten minutes went by like a tornado, whirling about 
in my head. 

With each subsequent chemotherapy treatment 1 either slept at 
home or went to work with nausea, pain and weakness. The nausea af- 
ter a chemotherapy treatment came four hours earlier each time until the 
nausea arrived on the same day, causing me to miss work more often. 
JJG And my body was a wreck. My fingernails and toenails turned black and 
blue. My skin bore age spots. One reaction from a chemo treatment made 
my skin turn to carbon paper, so that any scratching or pressure made 
a permanent scar. My hair was in amazingly good shape, with only the 
gray, the newest hair, falling out. 1 added vitamin and homeopathic sup- 
port, so that each day 1 took forty-one pills to repair and boost my im- 
mune system and weakened body. 

1 learned about acupuncture for the treatment of nausea and added 
it to my after-chemo treatment modality after the eighth treatment. The 
needles were painful, but lessened the nausea and kept the ache out of my 
hollow feeling bones. My nerve endings were beginning to show signs of 
damage, with shooting sharp pains traveling through the nerves for no 
apparent reason. 

1 completed a second round of CT and PET scans, and on my birth- 
day in December I got the call from my doctor that 1 was cancer free. 1 
still had another two months of chemo to go. 1 completed my final che- 
motherapy treatment, the eleventh out of twelve treatments. 

Now it was time to feel my muscles strain and move again, pursu- 
ing health and strength. 1 couldn't wait to feel the road beneath my feet, 

and 1 was mentally ready to circle the globe before the sun rose. 1 could 
hear my old path along the mountain road call out to me again, teasing 
me with an early bloom of California poppies. But my body had tricked 
me during the treatments. Instead of losing weight from the constant 
nausea, 1 had put it on, 40 pounds in six months, due to steroids and in- 
activity. 1 was sluggish, out of shape, and now weakness and atrophy set 
in. My muscles ached from dawn to dusk with my newest pain, neuropa- 
thy, which was described to me as a disease or dysfunction of the periph- 
eral nerves. 

The nerve damage remained. 1 could work all day at my desk, oc- 
casionally getting up for the bathroom, coffee or a meeting and not feel 
any pain until 1 got in the car and headed home. The pain traveled ran- 
domly, striking every conceivable nerve in my body. It worsened when 1 
sat or lay down for twenty minutes or longer, and subsided only when 1 
was physically active. 

Dr. Crouse explained that there were two types of neuropathy, and 
that a nerve conduction test would determine if it was major or minor 
damage. Major nerve damage is pretty much irreversible and is misery on 
earth, bumping you up to an eventual dosage of Oxycontin or a morphine 97 
drip. The standard test consisted of painful needle pricks with electricity. 
No major damage was found although the test doesn't detect the minor 
nerve damage; Crouse said it is controllable and possibly reversible over 
time. My treatment would be a cocktail of traditional pain medications 
combined with new drugs like Cymbalta, Palomar or Lyrica, used primar- 
ily for the treatment of depression. 

1 tried changing my exercise routine to evenings, to allow me to 
stay active longer in the day. That delayed the pain, but had the nega- 
tive effect of less hours of sleep. 1 tried acupuncture, massage, hot show- 
ers, cold showers, light therapy, Native American sweats, Reiki, cupping, 
Brain Gym, oil essence, color therapy, Holographic Repatterning therapy, 
daily fresh juiced vegetable drinks made for nerve support, mega dosage 
of vitamins and supplements. 1 drank acai, mangosteen, goji, pomegran- 
ate, and bilberry super juices. Most of them were too acidic for me, and 
made my intestinal track crumble into diarrhea. All the healthy boosts to 
my system had no effect on the nerve pain. It continued to increase. 

1 began to wonder if other chronic sufferers found some nobility in 
all this suffering and created religion to honor it. My mind wrangled for 

a purpose to continue with the depressing cycle of pills and pain. When 
an old friend, a shaman in the Huichol Indian religion, came to visit in 
El Paso, 1 asked him if we would do a sweat for me. We were joined by 
a couple of friends and we drove out to the New Mexico desert where he 
owned land and had a ceremonial sweat lodge and two adobe brick huts, 
one for a reprieve from the hot treeless desert sun and the other for food 
storage and sacrifice preparation. Between the three buildings was a large 
fire pit which we used to cook on, heat the rocks for the sweat lodge, 
warm ourselves at night and keep the coyotes and rattlesnakes at bay. 

The sweat lodge was set a foot into the ground which gave it a 
ceiling of three feet in a round mud and straw structure about twenty feet 
in diameter. It could comfortably hold ten people if no one wanted to lie 
down. The door into the lodge required that you crawled in and settled 
yourself in the near total darkness. Once everyone was inside, the only 
brief light came from the glowing lava rock preheated in the fire pit. A 
fire tender waited outside the lodge and kept the rocks hot and ready for 
the lodge when needed. Chris and 1 sat together, touching lightly in the 
pitch darkness and suffocating heat. With the shaman we waited, prayed, 
£fj shouted, chanted and inhaled burnt sage. The darkness was overwhelm- 
ing, thick and almost choking, and we were not able to see any move- 
ment or light except for the glow of the red rocks that were brought in 
with us. 1 leaned back against the adobe walls and let the sweat pour 
down me, centering myself to let whatever spiritual realm work itself 
over me. Then as if on cue a nerve ending sparked and 1 knew the sweat 
and the hope 1 held in it for divine intervention was over. 

My once meaningful work became just a job, something 1 did be- 
tween pain pills and sleep. And though 1 was grateful that my marriage 
was a sanctuary, the meds deadened my libido, and for the first time in 
my marriage, 1 started to fake my orgasms. 1 had had enough of El Paso 
and decided it was time to fill those moments of pain free, lucidity with 
something more purposeful and beautiful. 

We moved to Los Angeles. 1 loved the city and my new job, but 
this began the period of time 1 called the three states of hell: neuropathy 
while resting, angina-like problem while moving, and the drugged mal- 
aise in between. After four nights in a row of waking up at 3:30 after 
only three-four hours of sleep 1 began to believe that suicide was a ratio- 
nal, loving and unselfish choice. 

1 lay in bed, my husband asleep, and the room a comfortable tem- 
perature, no dreams, just pain. Getting up and taking another pill would 
make me oversleep, and 1 typically couldn't fall asleep again till dawn for 
one more hour of sleep. Something had to change, as 1 felt 1 was driving a 
car with no breaks toward the end of a cliff. 

What still remained was the spiritual side of pain. When 1 closed 
my eyes 1 let the nerve endings shoot off like an electrical storm on a hot, 
dry night in the desert. 1 felt the sensation of power ebbing and flowing 
in random patterns throughout my body, discordant and without rhythm. 
1 began to medicate and listen for my body to drink in the drug, through 
my blood vessels. 1 felt the throbs become duller as their bolts lingered 
but were softer, but before shutting off altogether, there was always a last 
big spike, which caused me to jump with the pain strike landed behind an 
eye socket or in breast tissue. 

1 listened for a message in the pain, and wondered what lessons 
the nerve endings could teach me. Was there a toggle switch that 1 could 
mentally control or even stop the pain if something was massaged or 
controlled through meditation? There had to be a solution other than 
drugs or death. And though 1 watched my belief in a higher power fade 9Q 
away, 1 cringed at the thought of ghosts. 1 understand that it's supposed 
to be the unresolved emotional, physical or mental pain in life that brings 
ghosts back to try to repair the area of pain. If that's true, then death may 
not be peaceful and pain may be eternal. 

At the present level of 3200 mg of Neurontin for the resting pain 
and 100 mg Palomar for the moving pain, 1 no longer dream. My mind 
attempts to dream during the day and 1 see visions from the lack of REM 
sleep. What seemed like a really great plan for a new project or presenta- 
tion, when attempting to write it, comes out incoherent on paper. Now 
I've learned the difference and the similarities between exhaustion and 

I've never forgotten that joy is fleeting and that pleasure is just a 
state of being 'pain free'. Knowing now that a day is not promised, re- 
quired a certain carefree mentality, or my morose moments would take 
hold and never let go. 1 choose the funny movie vs. the drama, the com- 
edy club instead of the live music and all the orgasms, the tastes, the 
smells, the sounds, the touches and the beauty 1 can squeeze in. Damaged 
nerve endings remind you above all else that you are painfully alive and 

the senses more heightened and eager for stimulation. 

What a nice thing our body does for us: it compensates. It natu- 
rally becomes a hedonist when pain is the thief of normal pleasure. I've 
broken both ankles, suffered a concussion, torn tendons from numer- 
ous falls, and dislocated a shoulder from skiing. I've taken a few licks in 
fights, been chased by a bull, and crashed bicycles and cars several times. 
Beaned in the head with foot and soccer balls, second-degree burns, heat 
stroke and cocaine overdose, abortion, and four surgeries. And now 1 
added near death poisoning through chemotherapy to the things that 
make up my life. 

Today 1 identify as an intentional hedonist. My purpose is to find 
and relish the moments of joy and pleasure and to celebrate the happi- 
ness that comes with it in an ethical manner. A lazy hedonist only takes 
his or her pleasure when it is convenient, free or easily stolen. But as a 
true follower 1 look for pleasure as a right and a gift not to be wasted. 
Looking for pleasure in everyday things makes getting out of bed a joy 
of discovery. 1 still wake up with back aching pain when 1 get out of bed 
and pain in my legs and feet when they hit the floor for the first few 
Qfj steps out of bed. But the world welcomes my mind not in the past news 
stories, but in the advertisements for the future things to do in my home 
here in Los Angeles. 1 determine the handful of pills 1 need to take for 
the day and set about looking at what's ahead — work, love and pleasure 
in each day. Each day 1 still enjoy the opportunity to face the duality of 
pain and pleasure, and as 1 get older those polar opposites are sharper 
and in more focus. 1 can let pain dominate the other emotions or experi- 
ences, but 1 choose not to. 1 am reminded with each flash of dolor that 
my brain works, and so does my body and my ability to live life not as a 
victim of pain, but strangely with it. 


[OR ETTA poems 


the day you thought you had enough water, 
and wanted to be carried to high ground, 
i was imagining what it would 
mean for me to lose my mud. 

god has allowed some magical reversal to occur, 
(this incident is about your fear of changing, 
not mine.) 

in myself i am. 

i build to fit in 

with my surroundings- 

sometimes, even now, a reed in a bed of music; 

other times, a right-foot pivot in a whirl; 

always a very great ornament indeed. 

oh! joy for this soul and this heart 

who have escaped the earth of water and clay 

to now be in the hands of the beloved; 

to now sing as my own flint, my own spark. 




I'm more familiar with the smell of rain 

On busy streets, and desert heat that whips 

Through mountains spreading sparks-those crazy bits 

Of desert dust that people try to blame 

Their fits on. 

Cotton has a way 
Of making noise, a kind of screech that twists 99 

My spine and makes my teeth burn with an itch. 

And my mother changed up bedtime stories 
Making them gory, horrifying us 
Into laughter. 

1 can live on tortillas and butter. 




near the base of the family sepulcher, 
before the wind from the bright 
glossy brass drifted from a 
weathered mouth, a low grito. 

behind, the rows of cold, polished stone 
worn from dress shoes stepping and scraping, 
viejas of high-heeled mud 

whispering of old stains 
(some among the group, the toxic, 
singeing, cheap, infectious, turgid 
chisme with slight smiles, and hushed 
hot-voice covered mouths, 
tethered tongues). 

Ya llore mucho, mi amor. 
Ahora me levanto. 

she began con grito, 

a new world, as Xipe Totec— 

bold, burgeoning through those 
she's sacrificed, down around her, 
the old, protective skins. 

first the skins, then the low hopes 
from exhaustive fits, one by one. 

rebirth will be divine. 

but for now, 

the stiff itch from shedding, 

and the lessening of rot. 




On flat land, 1 fear the wind 
And the immeasurable distance 
1 can tumble. My ankles are weak 
And I've short nails on small hands. 

These things 1 let loose in a sigh 
Against the airplane window. 

1 grew up in Wisconsin, in a valley 
With mountains all around me. 
Said the woman next to me. 
She waited until 1 turned- 
It took me a long time to adjust 
Living differently too. 

Maybe she heard me breathe heavily, 
And from the comer of her eye, 
Saw me write on my napkin 
That 1 grew up penned. 

How so, 1 asked, just to be sure. 

1 just felt safer, 1 don't know how else 

To say it, being enveloped. 



When 1 should be stretching my limbs 
When my legs should be running the rest 
Of me away, when my feet 
Should be sounding out self-preservation, 
1 am betrayed with a dance that isn't mine. 


] stopped wearing short dresses and skirts 
At the age of twenty-three. My legs 
Became the permanent residence 
For tributaries: double-crossing 
Blue, two-faced red, and sometimes 
Deceitful green. They pay in pulse to 


The things 1 am averse to 

Begin irritating me in my right eye. 

They swell and sag it with 

A weight 1 can't blame on dust, 


Something 1 ate, the rain. 
You'll know what to look for: 

A twitch in my right hand 
And its slow ascension 

To push back an honest answer. 





1 hail the waitress with a half-salute. She wiggles over to me, ad- 
justing the paper headpiece that is both amusing and degrading. Rosie, 
her nametag declares. "Well, Rosie" 1 say, "I'll have two eggs over easy. 
And a coffee, black." This was always my victory meal, a simple reward 

for ajob well done. 0R|MTHDLOGY BY M^SSA FESTH 

1 look out the grimy window at the crows pacing the parking lot. 
Over the past few weeks 1 had gotten a vaguely threatening impression 
from the birds here. 1 figure after Hitchcock had made them and Bodega 
Bay so wickedly famous, they must feel pressure to live up to their repu- 
tation. A few ravens land on my car and stare into the diner at the de- 
pressing clientele. 1 watch as more land on the hood of my grey Chevy, 
guarding it like expectant feathered gargoyles. They're just giving the 
public what they want, 1 think. 

While folding the plastic menu, 1 notice a streak of blood on my 
white shirt. A couple specks of browning DNA right there on my sleeve. 
I've already been to three different dry-cleaners this week, figuring my 
usual cleaners would soon grow curious about my growing collection 
JH of blood-soaked V-neck cardigans. Still, there was something satisfying 
about seeing the blood on my clothing. It was one of those details 1 knew 
that my fellow diners would only recall afterwards. When a tarty blonde 
will later report here, underneath the unglamorous lighting of an all 
American diner, she will give some sensational narrative and everybody 
will recall what it was like to dine at the same counter as a monster. 

Monster. 1 roll the word around my mouth for a while. Inspired, 1 
try to predict what my moniker will become after 1 make more progress 
- once 1 get my sleeves a little dirtier. 1 have to think of something be- 
fore somebody appoints some embarrassing title onto my work. The Beast 
of Bodega. No, too old-fashioned. Maybe "The Brute of the Bay"...? So 
broody, 1 think, wondering if the alliteration is really necessary. 

1 look out the window again, as the parking lot slowly becomes an 
aviary. Two young boys are trying to shoo the birds away by squawking 
and clapping their hands. It's clear that they haven't mastered the lan- 
guage. The birds continue glaring, un-amused at this role reversal. 

Then it comes to me. The Bird-Catcher. An obvious metaphor 
couched in cheeky British slang.. .but hooky and memorable. 1 smile 
at the name, remarking how accurate it is. Soon my reputation will be 

grander than Hitchcock and his chirping actors. Everyone will know how 
1 plucked these innocent girls from this dozy coastal town and wore their 
blood to lunch. 

Rosie interrupts my self-congratulation by setting a brown plas- 
tic plate in front of me. Her smile looks forced with years of experience. 
Strangely, 1 almost feel bad for her standing there in her yellow dress, 
poised with a golfer's pencil and pad of paper. 1 chew my over-over-easy 
eggs but they're a disappointing reward, comparable to eating a novelty 
rubber chicken. 

1 salt my final bites and stare at Rosie in the diner's kitchen. Be- 
hind the line-cooks, she punches her lengthy beige timecard. 1 stretch my 
neck upwards to watch her remove her recyclable crown and sad badge. 
My eyes follow her procession of goodbyes. First to the cooks, then the 
waitresses, and finally the teenaged hostess at the front door. 

With her uniform hidden underneath her dark coat, 1 notice her 
features. Somehow her waist looks smaller with the extra layer on, which 
1 attribute to the trickery of pastel polyester. 1 watch her in the parking 
lot shooing away the crows surrounding her sedan. 1 throw eight dollars 
onto the countertop and quietly laugh to myself as 1 realize tipping her A] 
now would be pointless. 

1 put my overcoat on, concealing my stained shirt, masking any 
evidence of villainous intent. Walking out of the Greasy Spoon, 1 see 
Rosie persuade the final bird away from her with wild arm waving. This 
display is certainly her most elaborate farewell. 

How rare for me to know her name - and now to have a name of 
my own. It will be a new, personalized advantage for the main event. 
A seal of officiality. 1 start to whisper Rosie, Rosie, Rosie under my 
breath, waiting for her to reverse out of her parking space. Getting into 
my Chevy still garnished with fowl, 1 wait until she turns left out of the 
diner's lot. Driving behind her on Highway One, 1 see her gamine reflec- 
tion in the side-mirror. My heart rate and car accelerate as 1 imagine the 
quiet clip of her wings. 
My sleeve is still wet inside my coat. 

Rosie, Rosie, Rosie. 

One more crow for the murder. 




Amy Yates is here to "protect, harbor and constrict." Well, 
not Amy herself but rather, her photography. In her latest series, 
titled Boxed In, Yates examines the notion of "reactions to restricted 
space" as she captures nude subjects as they are individually con- 
fined in a 2 V2 x 2 ] h wooden box. During the process of this inter- 
view, Yates was finishing her last semester at the University of San 
Diego and wrote to me about her last two series and early life raised 
by a creative family: 

1 grew up in Redlands, California, where 1 was raised by a writer and a 
professor of Shakespeare who both valued the importance of the arts, 
and have pushed me to think creatively since 1 could walk. 1 can't 
remember a time in my life when 1 wasn't creating or studying art— 
whether seriously or playfully. 

When did photography become your medium oe choice? 

In high school, 1 took a painting or drawing class every year, but it 
wasn't until 1 got to the University of San Diego that 1 had done any 
photography. After 1 took a beginning black and white class, 1 was 
never without my camera. 1 discovered that 1 loved the camera as a 
medium because of the limitations. A photograph is real. Each pho- 
tograph captures a moment in time that can't be changed, and what 
is in the frame actually happened. My approach became progressive- 
ly complex and ambitious and, 1 suppose, darker, as 1 became more 
serious about photography. 1 started to photograph startling scenes 
with the hopes that the viewer will think about that moment in time 
really happening-that moment being real. 


1 think it became an issue of problem solving. When 1 began making 
photographs, 1 wanted them to be "pleasant" or "happy" or "beauti- 
ful," but once 1 finished one, 1 would be content and ready to move 
on. There was no problem or issue to be solved in my work, so it 
wasn't something that brought in a lot of attention. When we look 
at something that's pleasant, we take it for what it is, enjoy it, and 
move along. But if we're confronted with something that may be 
uncomfortable or confrontational (in art) 1 believe, at least for me, 
that it creates a connection with the viewers, because the viewers 
are faced with a problem and want to understand it-they want to 
figure out why they are uncomfortable. 


Initially, 1 was merely interested in watching people through a lens 
and seeing their initial reactions and movements. These reactions 4u 
were mostly those of discomfort, and discomfort began to be what 1 
liked to capture. This led me to realize that 1 have an interest in the 
disturbed. 1 started to move my subjects into a studio and stage the 
scenes. 1 had my subjects remain hidden or reserved-the opposite 
of what 1 believe is a stereotype of the "glamorous" or "beautiful" 
studio photograph. 

Several of Yates' images featured in this issue (four to be exact, including 
the cover image) are from a series titled girl with the long hair. what is 
the focus of this series? 

The series, (]IRL WITH LONG HfllR, investigates beauty by directly mixing it 
with unsettling images. It investigates transformation in that my 
subjects seem as if they are trying to change, but there is a constant 
struggle to do so. It interrogates the anxiety of fitting in. 1 chose to 
photograph a "beautiful" girl with long blonde hair (or what 1 have 

seen to be a common stereotype of beauty today.) 1 wanted to take 
this "beautiful" girl and create images that hide her from the viewer, 
or make her un-beautiful. 1 manipulated light to create eerie, un- 
canny feelings. Yet the light itself is beautiful. There are oppositions 
here of subject vs. beauty, and beauty vs. happiness. What is most 
important to me is continuing innovation, so these photographs 
struggle to discover insights through fresh juxtapositions that, 1 
hope, counter expectations or habitual ways of seeing. 

and from Girl With [ong Hair arrives your latest series, boxed |n, which was 


For my show, BOXED |N, 1 wanted to take my work a step further. 1 have 
always photographed women surrounded by darkness, and 1 would 
bind them in string, or their own hair to create a sense of confine- 
ment, which was surrounded by negative space. 1 decided that 1 
wanted to explore the body, and the body being confined in a literal 
sense, and that is what led me to the box. 1 built a wooden box, 2 
1/2x2 1/2 feet, and put my subjects inside. 1 also decided to photo- 
graph men as well as women. 


The concept I'm working with is about confinement. 1 am investi- 
gating the ambiguity of the box as a metaphor. These photographs 
are about reaction to restricted space. My subjects may appear to 
be "boxed in" and trying to escape as if from a cell or a trap (or 
resigned to their condition), and yet simultaneously this enclosure 
seems to provide shelter and protection and can be seen as a type 
of armor— a protective shell. My subjects are nude, making them 
extremely vulnerable and uncomfortable, a condition enforcing the 
ambiguity of the box being either their sole protection or their soli- 
tary confinement. 

What other external sources influenced [jIRL WITH LONG HfllR and BOXED |N? 

One of my favorite photographers, who highly influenced Girl With 
Long Hair is a photographer named Mario Cravo Neto. He photo- 
graphed different spiritual and religious aspects of the Afro-Brazil- 
ian culture in Brazil that play out in his use of eggs, birds, animals, 
fish, and bones combined with the nude human body. They are 
somewhat startling images to me, but I'm sure that is only because 1 
am a North American viewer. Other photographers who have influ- 
enced my work are Edward Weston and Ruth Bernhard. They each 
work with the female nude. Yet they work with it in a sensual way- 
something 1 am trying to avoid in my work. 1 also really admire the 
work of Diane Arbus and Nicholas Nixon. 




Everything 1 do is shot with film. 1 have messed around with digital 
a bit, but have never been satisfied. It basically comes down to the 
film grain versus the digital pixel, as well as the printing process. 
1 shoot with medium format cameras (a Pentax 6x7 and a Hassel- 
blad 6x6), so, while my film is still not extremely large, it is much 
more detailed than 35mm film, and, in my opinion, digital images 
as well. I'm sure that could be argued, but from personal experience 
as well as working with other serious artists, 1 have found that film 
is the way to go. Also, 1 can't imagine replacing hours spent in a 
dark room with hours spent in front of a computer screen. That just 
seems absurd to me. 

If you'd like to learn more about Amy and her upcoming work, 
email her at 


IB \ ■ ■ 

■ 1 vi 

|1 V j 

Ik ■ 









So much la-la-la 

1 have been known as Negro 

Sable Mother's genius was on me. 

1 did not go to banks; 

Humans could not budge me, 

1 was all at once unmanageable. 

The word Art, 1 made that. in 


1 married a mathematical topologist. 

( Not much was available.) 

He had sixteen sayings and at night 

Would pray " Babylon, Babylon 

To translate is to betray " and fall asleep. 

1 would look at him over the cigarette smoke and scowl in the dark. 

The cattle once stolen become domestic beasts. 

Hear now, the essentiality of love 

In a bed, of sex in a bed, a kind of bed, 

On a ship, or a bedship, the arms of lovers enjammed 

Unto the dawn, the chests of lovers beheld and spun 

Of all the blue darkness that lives behind closed eyes 

And of all the red spotted darkness that shakes behind desire there, 

And all of this held against the shamed-whispering cries of childhood 

In a broken down penny arcade in Visalia, 

Or a beat shaft card room of Chiang-Yuan, 


Or a miserable sweat box in Chichen ltza, everyone is eleven once, 

Every one is blistered of loneliness; 

To and fro that longing rests, finally, upon the life of another. 

A man, a woman, a scrap of time and try, and Love, 

The cosmic linguist, the one who cuts along the joint, 

The one born last, Hermes, the forge stone. Love, 

That sings the song of open passages, in languages found 

In sleeping bibliographies, Love, who cries for the broken lexicon, 

And for the alternating seasons of raven; 

Papa Legba, open the gate, the barrier of difference, Love 
Is dancing in the backlogs, and shouting with tears, Come 
And let us run in the dissolving day. 

Stolen butter should never be the basis of marriage 
Krishna will steal the heart of anyone, then disappear. 
Hermeneut, decipher the rags of the belly, 

Unplait these dripping brains, 

Make me pure again, like 1 never was. 

A man comes and begs admittance. 

Long ago 1 lost a hound he says. 

Zeus himself is the uninterpretable speaker 

And we stare into the misunderstood, 

The world, our beloved illegible codex 

While the children of woman and man 

Eat the dirt on the outskirts of 


And are trapped in history. 




They always said the blind poet from Argentina did such and such, 

That his mother fed his eyes and wrote his mail 

And that his arms were brown and white and blind 

As they crept in the house on their typewritten requests for bread 

And paper, Mas papel, Mama, IMecesito 

Papelitos para la ropa de mis hijos. Mama ? 

Perhaps the cynic thinks that there were times 

When his mother hated him for his eyes 

Perhaps the cynic thinks that there were times 

When his mother wished that she had only held 

Her legs together and refused the seed. 

Perhaps the spirit would have come to her again, ul 

But it is an unnecessary train of thought, 

She did not stiffen to refuse his father, 

She let her legs fall apart like leavening yellow cakes, 

Like splitting nut halves, green and awake, 

Two pink and sticky fig bodies, her thighs 

Ruffled open in brown, luscious skin. 

Of the blind poets' paternity we do not know much else. 

Perhaps the cynic thinks that there were times 

When the city could have used another worker in the plaza, 

Another hearty body to lay the columns in, 

A sweaty face and a healthy back 

To carry the sacks of cement 

Along the treacherous road of the quarry, 

A man, with heart and limb 

To offer his energies for the land and for the state. 

What is this poetry anyway ? Can you eat 

These spotted white loaves of words ? 


Can the children eat these visions ? 

And of his brilliance, his dripping tongue and shocking brain, 

His never-was-ing eyes, his so - called gifts, 

His naked eyes alone in the stabbing darkness, 

His naked eyes alone at the top of the stairs, 

His naked eyes encroaching on a vision too terrible to speak, 

A vision that groans behind the lids and must be born out, 

A monstrous human vision chased by death 

And the blinding reality of disconnection from 

Every one, every where. 

Grey shadows lap and laugh across the rug shirrs, 

The little dog licks a new patch of dusty fur, 

Silent tea leaves muddy the side of the demitasse, 

And soak in their slitherage and in their waiting. 

The poets' room is cool, as time lightly calibrates 

In the hollow dancing clocks on an afternoon of old flowers 

And the occasional fly. There are no words today. 

The metronomic brethren of his mothers' house, 

their polar eyes of tick and tock, regard him always 

In the house of glass, his mother feeding and 

Wiping him from infancy through his genius, 

Her ministering thumbs, her needly golden thumbs 

From the caverns of almost too, too much. 

In the great white house in the jungle 

Where the white hides in the brown, the poets' eyes 

Bead and swell and know a subtle language. They elide, 

1 will tell of our sweet scented kisses 

Of the fallen decades, 

From the dusty tens and twenties 

Of calendars past 

1 will tell of your hot blown skirt cuffs, 

The blue velveteen purr in the crushing embrace 

1 will tell of your white smudging eyes 

In the blinding sunshine of Buenos Aires, 

The women staring us down for our love, our youth 

Their tight Modotti hands braiding spells in the husks 

Their knowledge of blood and freedom mashed 

Between the powdered kernels, the sweet technology 

Of time and chlorophyll 

1 will lay my heart down like the labourer in his cot 

1 will lay my blind pen before the alter of My Eyes 

1 will ... 

The blind poet sits choking in the sunshine on his bright memories. 

His old skin hangs like the crepe dangles of Christmases past, 

Solemn old paper twists of rainbow DNA, 

Strung out like flags of mediocrity, old skin and hair 

Hanging like the funereal banners of an ungrateful town, 

In an unfinished, mauve appointed Social Hall, 

So long, Sorry to see you go, Thanks for the things you did, 

What were those things you did ? 

The blind poet from Argentina, a good moniker, but only 

If you like that sort of thing. 

His tears and longings are the same as ours, 

He is no bright Moshiach, 

Get a hold of yourselves, artists. tjQ 

He sits with a crooked look on his old face, his mouth aslant and wonder 

ing if all of his letters in ink 

Amount to the brief signs of a child 

Standing before the morning glass, 

Pressing finger messages in melting condensation. 

The poets' eyes are shut so tightly together in his blindest reverie, 

Even the closest investigation of breath from his mother, 

Coming in with the tray of coffee and pan dulce, will be shut out. 

In the room there is a high scent of moss and jasmine and seashells. 

Somewhere in his breath there is a little flame of magick. 

The Spirit will come back another time, and the children will eat 

And thrive on his visions. 

he sat there telling her some of the truth during the self 
congratulatory I'm - so - generous part of the constantly 
running, invisible documentary of his life, presumably 
filmed by the angels and the ghost of ingmar bergman. 
the continuity was amazing except for those times when 
the machine was on the fritz, whole sections of the time 
he'd lived in idaho were missing, and most of his daugh- 
ter's pubescence, and there was that one section during his 
second marriage that had someone's entire thumb in the 
lens, he absolutely never thought of those times though, 
so it was really a blessing in disguise, trouble was one 
day, one of the lost sections showed up on the front porch 
when his girlfriend was home and dressed for company, 
she said how the hell are you and showed the section 
around the house, the lost section said it was comfortable 
waiting for him in the living room, and, drinking tea out 
RJ. of the girlfriend's china, told her all about the rape and the 
photos, about the big n slutty porn and something about 
tax evasion, the section was calm and pulled no punches, 
after a while though, he said he couldn't wait any longer 
and stiffly stood and walked out of the house, when her 
boyfriend came home, all he said to the news of the return 
of the lost chapters was that if she'd really loved him, she 
wouldn't have brought it up. later that night he shoved 
her awake in the lamplight and with it tight between his 
thumb and fore finger, snubbed his cigarette butt out on 
the pink area between her labia and the close canal, lucky 
for her, the constantly running, invisible documentary of 
her life had a finicky record button too. she would hurt for 
a few days, but pain never killed anyone, like he always 



My sweet life as a killer began one afternoon in our Greenmont 
Village tract home, a sunny Californian modern sort, with ample op- 
portunities for sunbeam dust viewing. Oh, the splendors of eating sunray 
diamond dust and boogers, sprawled out on plush cream carpeting. It 
happened one "after school special" hour, the first murder. A common 
species of housefly, to which 1 will affectionately refer to as Nub, became 
my lovely victim. 

Nub was a portly humzer with oil-spilt skin of the most gorgeous 
and winning green, six legs of ridiculously crimped, split ended lashes 
and last but not least, those glorious melt- in-your-mouth wings. Angel 
wings. At first, 1 simply desired to play with him, perhaps only a minute 
or two. Those perfectly spaced fractions of time strung out in a quivering 
line to form two of the most despicably horrid and positively final hours 
of Nub's life. 

At first, 1 flirted with him, dangling him by a prickly leg, pinning 
him down with a steady and focused fingernail, staring into his kidney 
colored eyes. Those plastic eyes. You dare observe me? It was then that 


1 snapped. Staring back into those costume bead eyes plugged so surely 
into his face. 1 knew 1 had to destroy him. 

1 began with the legs. Plucking one with a certainty 1 had never 
known before, it slid out easily with its sac of thigh guts or fly muscle 
(one can never be sure about these things.) 1 thought 1 saw him cringe, his 
eyes pleading and his head moving back and forth in half-rotations. 1 put 
him on his sea of creamy forest floor and watched him walk tight circles. 
Round and round he went. Where are you going and where have you 
been? No one knows except for God and me. 
Oh Nubkins. Oh Nubbie. Oh Nubbles. 
He peered up at my bloated red face and sweat beaded summer- 
time-fun nose. His head cocked to the side as 1 gently closed my grubby 
pinchers on his protesting wing. That too slid out easily, as he watched 
twitchingly. 1 proposed a test. Could this half-winged and partially de- 
limbed speck in time actually maintain flight? 1 cupped my hands creat- 
ing a dark and moist tomb for his plump body and then 1 threw him. 1 
threw him as high into the atmosphere, universe, galaxy, as he might go. 
The throw put my shoulder out a tad. Transcendence is rough. 
Sfj He floated through paths of warming sunlight, his eyes colliding 

with minute and swirling dust pubes. He watched me kneeling there with 
my head flung back and my shoulders taut, waiting. At the climax of his 
ascent, fear seemed to paralyze him. There began his descent, the star of 
his very own "Apocalypse Now." What an awkward and wobbling mass. 
His remaining wing flapped solo, causing him to lose control. 

Land on my forehead and tango with my lashes. Roll down my 
cheekbone and catch on my sweater sleeve. Flick you off. Spiral butt dive. 
Crash landing. A great insignificant thump on the floor is what you are. 
You are nothing. 

Are you alive? 

1 leaned over him, breathless. My god, he had survived. 1 stripped 
him as he helplessly submitted to my sickness. Most of the legs were eas- 
ily persuaded, except the last. This being more securely anchored into 
Nub's onyx greenness would only break in half. Half was enough. Now 
his glorious wing, the envy of all earthbound insects, this wing must be 

I'm taking you, rainbow. Coward. With his eyes clouding over in 
pain and a quarter rotation of his head, he pleaded silently... Pluck! 

Now he lay there to my satisfaction. A nub. A black smudge to 
be devoured by time. His death was inevitable, as is mine, and yet the 
way in which he went would be so outstanding as to warrant vows of 
silence amongst his family and friends. They would never speak of the in- 
cident after the initial discovery. Even then, it was with hushed jaws and 
bent heads that they ate him. 

One would think that at some moment 1 would have been gag- 
ging on overwhelming guilt and remorse, dripping tears of repentance 
and snot sorrow, caressing wooden rosary beads and praying for my dark 
murderous heart to be healed. Perhaps 1 should have rethought my ac- 
tions. Probed my motive. Discovered the source of such impulse. Imple- 
mented a plan to stop a re-occurrence. Ah yes. One would think. 








1 bent over my uncle's 52 year-old grave on Memorial Day, the 
holiday 1 once considered the holiest and most exciting. It was the day 
1 stuffed myself with barbecue, took part in my family's ritual of honor- 
ing our dead, and later had an adventure so exhilarating, it left me out of 
breath. By my own insistence, the adventure had long been discarded, the 
aftermath of a youthful rebellion where 1 was the unwilling leader. Now, 
over thirty years later, the barbecues were no longer and it appeared the 
ritual was coming to an end. My family was in jeopardy of being left with 

Food was my comfort and my obsession; a plateful of my favorites, 
the equivalent of being held tightly against my grandmother's bosom. 1 
ate solid foods before any other patient in my sixty year-old pediatri- 
cian's history. By the time 1 reached elementary school, 1 had become 
an eating machine, my gift for devouring prodigious quantities of food, 
legendary. "Baby, don't you ever get full?" 

In the safety of the family cocoon, 1 ate at will, attacking the 
dinner table as soon as whoever blessed the food had uttered the last 
"Amen." Family members and visiting friends sat at the dinner table 
shaking their heads in disbelief as this extremely thin boy, oblivious to 

their astonished stares, polished off one overflowing plate after another. 
Holiday dinners were the highlight of my year each with its own distinct 
style, ritual and menu. 1 excitedly circled them on our calendar. 

New Year's Day dinner menu was the only one 1 couldn't envision 
except 1 knew there would be collard greens and black-eyed peas. 

"Papa always made sure we had greens and black-eyed peas for 
New Year's," Mother would say. "Greens for cash; black-eyed peas for 

Mother enjoyed trying something "different" (her favorite word as in 
"Turkey 8t cranberry dressing. Nobody's done that around here. Yes, I'll 
have that; that would be differenf). Pork loin, beef, duck, ham, chicken 
and tuna, in a multitude of guises have all made their appearances over 
the decades alongside numerous dessert and side dishes. 

For days after the dinner, 1 filled my plate with a variety of mouth- 
watering dishes including my favorite, Mother's potato salad which we 
only had on the holidays, each spoonful a symmetrical delight of potato, 
boiled egg, dill pickle, celery, onion, and green pepper perfectly seasoned 
with salt, black pepper and paprika with a dash of mustard for "color." 

Easter dinner was at the family house after church services. This 
was followed by an afternoon Sunday School program which my brother 
and 1, wearing our new Easter clothes, would take part, the length of our 
Easter recitations increasing each year as demanded by Mother, a former 
Sunday School teacher and director of the Easter program before we were 

July 4th at my Aunt Ophelia's was more a party than a family 
dinner. Fancy cars lined the streets, many of the owners cool-looking 
outsiders from Chicago (which we called "The City") wearing resplendent 
clothing, laughing loud and guzzling the finest beer and whiskey. Food 
was everywhere. Mother was an excellent cook, but Aunt Ophelia was an 
artist. Her German Chocolate Cake - baked on an oversized cookie sheet, 
the texture a cross between a brownie and a cake - was a masterpiece; 
after each bite, 1 would shake my head and chuckle the way Mama did 
when she was moved by some real good preaching. 

Good people reigned here. No matter if my uncle had gotten 
drunk and violently cursed his sisters, he could return and be instantly 
embraced by Christian forgiveness from my grandmother and some seri- 


ous southern-fried chicken with rice or beef and vegetable soup made 
with vegetables from Mama's garden and on Thanksgiving, turkey, dress- 
ing and numerous side dishes. 

After our meal of barbecue, spaghetti, cole slaw and potato salad, 
it was time for a car ride in Florence's sky blue Cadillac, Calvin and 1 
whispering in the back seated next to Mother; Mama quietly sitting next 
to Florence who was engaged in non-stop conversation with my mother. 
Their voices rose and bounced front seat to back, back to front with gos- 
sip and running commentary. 

"Look at that," Florence said as she drove past a woman walking 
down a sidewalk. "She knows she's too big to be wearing a dress that 
tight. In bright yellow, no less. Why didn't she just do yellow and black 
horizontals like a big fat bumble bee and get it over with?" 

After a short ride, barely fifteen minutes, we'd arrive at the cem- 
etery, where my grandfather, his sons Robert and Hoyt and three other 
sons who died at childbirth were buried. Outside the cemetery's gate, ven- 
dors noisily sold plastic flowers, wreaths and American flags to families 
and friends who were, according to my mother, "throwing away money." 
DT Our plastic bouquets had already been purchased days before, and far 
away from the cemetery and its inflated prices. My mother and aunt were 
almost fanatical in their quest to save a dollar; no need to waste one 
here, the flowers were soon going to be tarnished by heat, rain, and the 
cemetery workers. 

Inside the gate, near the entrance, Florence honked and waved at 
her friend Jerry, who was in charge of the cemetery, as she drove past the 
main office. No matter where we went, Florence knew someone, and most 
times, it was the person in charge. The cemetery building was a blur of 
action: throngs of visitors entering and leaving the office carrying list- 
ings of the whereabouts of their deceased family members and friends. 
We never went in. We intuitively felt our way around the grounds, the 
locations of the graves and the ordeal of the deaths - Hoyt murdered 
at high school when he was 16, Robert at 38 of cancer, and the sudden 
death of their father - forever etched in Florence's and Mother's memo- 

Our bag of plastic flowers and a small shovel in hand, we walked 
past a large sign prohibiting planting flowers at the gravesites and head- 
ed to the section where my grandfather was buried. We would spread 

out, inspecting graves, removing leaves, grass, and dirt that covered the 
flat headstones we couldn't read through the dust and grime until finally 
someone called out, "Here." 


Husband and Father 


We continued to my two uncles' graves, each in a different location 
(There was no money to buy a family plot; funeral needs were addressed 
one dead relative at a time). At my uncles' graves, we repeated our ritual: 
the removal of weeds, dirt and debris, a short remembrance, and the plac- 
ing of artificial bouquets. Somehow, the unmarked graves of three still- 
born babies were lost. 

We'd solemnly enter Florence's car. She'd pull out driving slowly 
around the cemetery, furtively spying the grounds as if she were on a se- 
cret spy mission like our TV heroes from "Mission Impossible." We joined 
her, "Mission lmpossible's" theme playing in our heads. Bom Bom Bom 
Bom Bom Bom Bom Bom Twiddle dec Twiddle dee. 

"There!" All heads turned to a vacant area. Not a mourner in sight. DQ 

Florence wheeled her car to the side of the road. Calvin and 1, car- 
rying bag and shovel, exited the car, my excitement so intense, my legs 
fluttered in spasms as 1 walked. Florence and Mother followed after us, 
Florence admonishing us for our unnecessary exuberance while Mama 
remained in the car, frowning in disapproval. We branched off in differ- 
ent directions searching until one of us called out, "Here!" 

We gathered around the grave. To the outside eye, we were a 
family at the grave of a loved one: the bowed heads, prayer; the digging 
around the headstones, the removal of weeds. Carefully looking around, 
we removed the potted plants from the dirt, then walked determinedly 
to Florence's car, but not so quick as to draw attention. Mama scowled 
disapprovingly as we neared and opened the trunk where we placed the 
flowers in an empty box. We'd close the trunk and return to the deserted 
area, spreading out until someone called out "Here! "An other grave with 
prohibited planted flowers. There were signs everywhere: 

PLEASE: Do not plant flowers or trees at the gravesites. 
They will be removed. 
Thank you, the Management 

Jerry, the cemetery manager, constantly complained to Florence of 
the difficulty of maintaining the grounds when visitors failed to comply 
with the cemetery rules banning potted plants, flowers and trees. The day 
after Memorial Day, workers went through the grounds removing and 
destroying whatever planted flowers the workers didn't take home. Jerry 
told Florence she was welcome to return first thing that morning and 
help herself to any planted flowers on the premises, as long as she was 
discreet. The next morning, she was on her way to work in The City so we 
took our potted plants while we were at the cemetery. 

We would make several trips around the park, locating sections 
with the fewest mourners, Calvin and 1 excitedly searching for our bounty 
quickly transforming into poses of grief whenever passing cars or walk- 
ing mourners approached. Occasionally, 1 would shake my bowed head 
overcome by grief, then do a little wail - the first indication of my pro- 
pensity for acting. 

The families who honored their beloved with those forbidden flow- 
ers would have been devastated by our act sometimes done less than 
Cj4 fifteen minutes after they left the gravesite. Touch one of our relatives' 
graves and an indignant scripture-laden torrent (with a few choice curse 
words, most likely from Florence) would storm down upon you. Of course, 
she would have never planted prohibited flowers, which were against the 
rules and a waste of money. 5/?eknew better. 

"'Do Not Plant Flowers Please' signs everywhere," she would say as 
she drove around the cemetery. "They capitalize the please; they beg them 
not to plant flowers and still ... Don't these people know how to read? 
Every year. Tisk. Tisk." 

At home we'd inspect our stash with the same glee and awe Calvin 
and 1 had when we dumped our Halloween candy onto the kitchen table 
after a night of trick-or-treating. Before us was a trunk full of wax bego- 
nias, purple and yellow pansies, bright orange and yellow marigolds, deep 
pink petunias and miniature rose bushes. "These flowers would cost us a 
small fortune in the store," my mother and aunt would exclaim as they 
divided their bounty. Florence's would go in the yellow brick flower box 
cemented to the front of the family house; Mother's, next to the hedges in 
our front yard, near her peonies. 

Eventually, like Halloween, the adventure portion of our Memorial 
Day ritual was discontinued because Calvin and 1 had grown too old for 
the activities. What we had once thought thrilling had branded as "coun- 
try" and "embarrassing." My brother and 1 didn't mind placing flowers on 
our dead relatives' graves, in fact, we looked forward to it but we were 
NOT going to remove them from anyone else's, prohibited or not. 

Who mentioned it first, 1 can't remember, but once taking the 
flowers was questioned, a cloak of embarrassment darkened our once ex- 
hilarating Memorial Day anticipation. We could never again dig them up 
without being acutely aware that we were digging up the good, though 
ill-advised, intentions of some grieving family. They could be from the 
grave of someone whose relatives we knew! We could get caught! By 
someone we knew! It could/would get back to our junior high school. 
We, who attended church every week, sometimes twice a week, made top 
grades and were lauded by our teachers; we, who rode around in Cadil- 
lacs and looked down on our supposed-lessers, were part of a Mother-led 
band of thieves who stole flowers off dead people's graves. 

The scandal would spread faster than an Internet urban legend. 

We had been very lucky all those years: not one moment of un- Cj^j 
easiness or potential discovery. Mother was a respected former Sunday 
school teacher; Florence was one of the first and few blacks working in 
the business offices of the International Harvester Corporation, our church 
clerk, President of Robbins' United Way, President of the Wonderette's 
Social Club and Daughter Ruler of the Elks. A society lady. 

Yes, a scandal. 

The next Memorial Day, the ritual of cooking the barbecue and 
its aroma were tainted by our repulsion towards our former adventure. 1 
eyed my brother - "You do it. No, you. You're the oldest", he stared back. 

Normally, he would complain endlessly about being the youngest; 
this was the first time he ever saw it as an advantage. 1 had no response 
to his argument; it was up to me. 1 pondered soliciting my grandmother 
in our intervention; she had often quietly expressed disapproval of our 
adventure but was always respectfully dismissed and pooh-poohed as too 
naive, sweet and impractical. After waiting hours for the right moment 
- through the marinating, the cooking, the basting, and the application 
of sauce - 1 had the opportunity to bring it up: Florence mentioned the 
cemetery. 1 took a breath working up the nerve to tell my mother and my 

aunt that 1 thought they were stealing and 1 didn't want to be part of it 
anymore; and if they continued, 1 wasn't participating in any part of Me- 
morial Day including placing flowers on their beloved father's grave. 1 
took another audible breath (it was more of a sigh) hoping she would ask 
me what caused it. She said nothing. 1 was so nervous, 1 could only eat 
three plates of food. 

"Get the shovel out of the shed," Florence instructed us after we 
completed our meal. 1 looked to my brother who returned my stare, our 
facial muscles and internal dialogues in full debate: 

"Now. Now's the perfect opportunity. Do it now." 

"No, you do it." 

"No, you. You're the oldest." 

"Only by eleven months." 

"You're still the oldest." 

"Yes, 1 am ... Dammit!" 1 fidgeted. My lips sputtered and Calvin 
quickly deserted me, escaping to the shed. 

During the ride to the cemetery, my brother, his facial muscles 
gesturing frantically, eyed me during the entire ride. 1 waited for the op- 
DD portunity to speak up, prepared to pounce on any word or sentence re- 
lated to flowers or graves. Mother and Florence were passionate women, 
not easily crossed; even their normal conversations had the volume of a 
verbal heavyweight-boxing match. Usually, 1 ignored them, treating their 
voices as noisy background music, but during this ride, 1 imagined those 
voices turned angrily against me, the leader of this mutiny, this personal 
affront to their values and their revered and much-quoted father. 1 finally 
opened my mouth and the words fled back in. They too, were afraid of 
the Hawkins sisters. 

We entered the cemetery and passed the sign about planting Please 
don't. Maybe everyone would obey it this year. PLEASE. 

At the graves of my grandfathers and uncles, my heart pounded 
louder than a twenty-one gun salute. 1 didn't hear any of Florence's or 
Mother's remembrances. 1 was too busy rehearsing my speech. 

We returned to the car, the silence broken by the guns popping in 
my chest. Florence spotted a deserted section. "There." She stopped the 
car. Calvin and 1 eyed each other then uneasily exited the car. Florence 
and Mother followed. Ghosts and zombies pointing at me stood protec- 
tively in front of their graves daring me to enter. 1 froze. 

"We don't want to do this anymore," 1 blurted. 

"What?" asked Florence. 

"It's wrong." 

Mama gave a vigorous nod. 

"Jerry told me to take them," Florence said. "He's the manager. It 
wasn't my idea. He suggested it. See those signs? Those flowers are going 
in the garbage tomorrow." 

"Then come back tomorrow ... today, it's stealing." 

My talkative aunt turned silent. Mother bowed her head and, un- 
like the bowing we did around our pretend family's graves, this one was 
sincere and full of shame. 

From that day on, the adventure portion of Memorial Day was 
over. They quietly entered the car. 

They weren't thieves. They were pragmatic and damaged by pov- 
erty. No matter how much their lifestyles contrasted with those around 
them, no matter what type of car driven, how much money in the bank, 
Florence and Mother were forever wounded by their father's death. They 
were still the two oldest unmarried children; Florence, twenty-one, and 
Mother, sixteen, feeling the tremendous pressure of financially support- D7 
ing their timid unemployed mother and five younger brothers without 
going on government assistance. 

Memorial Day, 2008, Calvin, forty-seven, is driving us to Burr Oak. 
Seated next to him is his fiancee Carol. My eighty-three year-old mother 
sits next to me in the back. She and Aunt Ophelia are the only two re- 
maining of Mama's eleven children. The radio DJ is urging listeners to 
call in: "Come on, people, call in and let us know: What happened back 
in the day that you want to bring back?" As we ride, 1 think about past 
Memorial Day dinners, barbecue, my family, and potted flowers. 

We pass sales people by the gate hawking plastic American flags 
and fancy new plastic arrangements fashioned after license plates, 
brightly colored roses embroidering the edges - in the middle, words pro- 
claiming father, mother, grandmother, son, daughter, brother, or sister. 
As part of our tradition, we have already purchased our plastic flowers. 
In mother's lap are ten bouquets - Mama, my grandfather, Florence, five 
uncles, one of their wives and a cousin. 
There is a sign near the entrance: 


March 15 - April 1 

June 15 - July 1 

October 5 - November 1 


on grave. Thank you, the management. 

In a few weeks, even the plastic flowers will be in danger. 

Cemetery employees direct the busy traffic. Droves of families 
move throughout the cemetery, some with kids, many carrying food. A 
forlorn-looking woman sits in a lounge chair. Next to her is an empty 
chair. Aside the chairs is a freshly-covered grave. Calvin drives by the 
temporary information booths located outside the cemetery office. People 
walk away with sheets of paper as we pass. 

"Mo, it's Memorial Day. This is what we do for you, dawg," a 
young man nearby shouts loudly in anguish as we spread out searching 
for Mama's grave. 1 turn to a group of young men in oversized white t- 
DQ shirts and baggy pants. They drink from pint bottles of what 1 assume is 
alcohol. A man takes a toke of marijuana then passes it to another. One 
man takes his bottle and pours alcohol on his dawg's grave. "We here for 
you, dawg," he exclaims, his wounded voice echoing through the park. 

We continue searching for Mama's grave. "We walked from Flor- 
ence's grave to visit Mama after Florence's burial," 1 say. "It wasn't far 

We spread out until Calvin says, "Here." 

Mother rifles through her bag of flowers and removes the prettiest 
one, a spray of radiant yellow roses with a dust of sparkles on each petal. 
Yes, Mama would have approved with a sweet, appreciative smile. Carol 
tenderly rearranges the slightly scrunched bouquet as if taking special 
care for the gentle person on whose grave they would lay and whom she 
has met only through story. Calvin takes the hoe and chops around the 
edges of the headstone. 1 brush away the dust covering the headstone. 
Clean for another year. We are silent, reverent. We quietly walk away. 

Florence's headstone lies at the foot of Albert's grave as if she is 
still responsible for watching over her misbehaving younger brother and 
is prepared to act as interference between him and his wife, just as she 

did in real life before they divorced. 

"Albert's still stalking Mildred," 1 joke. 

"She was one patient woman," Calvin says to Carol as he chops 
around Mildred's headstone and chuckles. "He drank too much, followed 
her, cursed her, stalked her. They got divorced and she still had to put up 
with him. He loved her - he just couldn't handle it. She was there till the 
end. Even at his funeral." 

We enter the car and drive to the section where Ernest is buried. 
We have trouble finding his grave and, again have to branch out. "Here," 
Calvin yells out. We repeat our ritual - Calvin chops with the hoe; 1 brush 
away dirt. 

"This was my favorite Uncle," he says to Carol. 1 see images of a 
happy young Calvin in Ernest's filthy truck on their way to the junkyard, 
with a grin so wide you'd think he was on his way to the circus. "Albert 
was later ... Ernest died early. He drank way too much and loved getting 
on Florence's nerves. Florence would fuss and fuss." 

"Pulled a pistol on him one time," 1 add. 

"Pistol pointed at him, her body and head around the corner," he 

1 idly look around for potted plants but don't spot any. 

We get in the car and head to Butch 's, my mother's youngest sib- 
ling's grave. A few weeks before 1 left for my freshman year of college, he 
was robbed, tied-up, beaten and left in a ditch to die, which he did a few 
days later. Before his funeral, 1 accompanied Florence and an adult male 
cousin to view his body at the funeral home. 

It wasn't Butch. No sign of him that 1 could see. It was someone 
else, some bruised and mutilated stranger wearing his clothes. 

"1 did the best 1 could," said the undertaker. Florence nodded. 

My cousin wanted to leave the casket open so everyone could see 
the reality of what was done, perhaps prompting guilt and outrage and 
someone with information to step forward. 1 didn't think my sensitive 
mother and grandmother could take the spectacle. Even tough Florence 
had taken a quick look then turned away, telling me, her voice breaking, 
"You look at him." This last image of Butch and my new awareness of 
man's capacity for violence haunted me for years. 

We held a family meeting and discussed having an open casket 
funeral. Florence acquiesced to my assertion that the open casket would 



just be too much for family members to bear. 

Finally, nine plastic bouquets down, we search for Uncle Robert's 
grave, the last one we need to find. "It's not that far down," Mother says 
to me after 1 break from the group. She mentions her half-sister Willie: 
"Poor Willie, no one visits her grave." 

The strongest memory of Willie, who died of cancer in her late six- 
ties, flashes to me: Walking through the cemetery on the way to Ernest's 
gravesite after his funeral, she spotted a ragged, plastic flower covered 
with dirt and picked it up. 

"Aunt Willie, what are you doing with that?"A cousin exclaimed. 

"I'm going to put it on Frank's grave." 

"That nasty thing?" 

"It's more than the son-of-a-bitch gave me when he was alive." We 
all laughed at this blunt, plainspoken woman until Mother, her face trem- 
bling with grief as she walked toward her brother's fresh grave, jerked 
around and shot us a withering look that stopped us dead in our tracks. 

Calvin finally finds Robert's grave. "Here," he calls. 

"That cancer got him," Mother says. "Took his leg then his body. 
Right after he opened his gas station. That cancer. Poor Willie. 1 should 
have bought her a flower. No one visits her grave." 
"Pretty soon, no one will visit ours," Calvin says. 1 brush off the head- 

He says what 1 am thinking but unlike him, 1 can't find any humor 
in my thoughts. 1 am saddened. The youngest person surrounding the 
grave is my forty-eight year-old brother. 1 don't have any children. Cal- 
vin's three children are all grown. His daughter lives in Los Angeles. One 
son is so busy in the corporate world, if we see him twice a year, it is an 
exception. The other son, a late discovery, is new to the family without 
any sense of our past. Uncle Albert's son, Alvin, is the most likely person 
to take up the mantle - he has occasionally visited the cemetery - but he 
is forty-four. 

No new generation is learning our history, our rituals and tradi- 

tions. No one will clean our headstones, lay plastic flowers and tell our 
stories. Our graves will succumb to dust, leaves and cemetery neglect. 

1 ponder what can be done to halt what seems an unthinkable 
inevitability until 1 realize my sentiments are one of a middle-aged man, 
who like my eighty-three year-old mother, has seen too much death. 

"Next time 1 will get one for Willie," my mother mutters again. 
"She didn't have any children." 

1 am angry. Angry at the cruelty of age, of death, of change, then 
realize in shock if someone looked for the culprit responsible for weak- 
ening our family traditions, a finger would be pointed at me with my 
no-children, once-a-year-visiting-for-a-week life. 1 was one of the many 
post-Martin Luther King golden boys and girls taking advantage of prog- 
ress, leaving our African -American communities to make our mark on 
the real world, and rarely returning. 1 don't feel guilt as 1 come to this 
realization, just sadness, and an acute awareness that with everything 
comes a price. 

It took my mother's Alzheimer's to bring me home. She no longer 
cooks so Carol and 1 have taken over the cooking duties. 1 bake German 
Chocolate Cakes from Aunt Ophelia's recipe. 1 receive praise for them, but 71 
1 am merely a talented forger imitating a master. 1 make potato salad like 
Mother's, each spoonful a symmetrical delight of potato, boiled egg, dill 
pickle, celery, onion, and green pepper perfectly accented with salt, black 
pepper and paprika, with a dash of mustard for "color." 1 bake hams and 
cover them with cloves and pineapple, like Florence. 

My mother, eighty-three, wearing her regal church hats, her 
crowns, still attends the church my grandfather helped found although 
in a different building. She chats and visits her lifelong girlfriends, who 
unlike my generation, remained in town. Aunt Ophelia is ninety-one and 
healthy, her Thanksgiving dinners and July 4th parties distant memories. 
Christmas dinners stopped with Mama's death in 1986. 

Calvin has started a new tradition where our family and friends 
gather on Labor Day in addition to New Year's Day for potato salad, spa- 
ghetti, cole slaw and barbecue cooked slowly over simmering coals with 
a container of water at ready for errant flames. 
1 stand, eager, my empty plate in hand. 





Brother, where art thou? 

By Lauren delghdo 

One sigh of relief. 1 pull into my driveway and 1 am home at last. 
Just finished another day of relishing in the futile efforts of professors 
attempting to instill knowledge into my stubborn mind. 1 stumble out of 
my car just to smell the aroma of burning charcoal in the air. Pop didn't 
really trust the use of propane grills. He considered charcoal to be more 
natural, which in turn, blessed whatever he was grilling with winning 
taste. 1 walk closer to the door, and 1 hear muffled voices. One more sigh. 
But not of relief. 1 unlock the front door. 
7^ 1 turn left and head for the dining room and almost instantly, 1 

smell something. The kind of stench that reeks terribly putrid. Twisted. 1 
disregard it. 1 get to the dining room and it's time for pleasantries. Time 
to greet the llnavoidables. Aunt here, Uncle there. Then 1 wave at Pop 
from inside and give a kiss to Mom. My only truly sincere moment. 

1 look to the end of the dining table and there he is. Smiling. 
Laughing raucously, as if he was trying to entice feelings of jealousy from 
the ones that he seemingly loves. Back from the United States Air Force. 
Wearing his fucking camouflage suit. Whatever they call it. He looks at 
me, his eyes flashing something that causes a piercing siren to erupt 
from within me. 1 go to hug him. He wraps his arms around my waist. My 
stomach twitches. My hips expand. Even my hips were trying to evade 
whatever his arms were giving off. He motions for me to greet Monica. 
"Monica, the Fiance." The kind of creature with the sheer and unsuspect- 
ing credulousness that he absolutely craves in people. 

1 can feel more eyes on me. 1 glance quickly at my mother. In that 
instant, her eyes visit mine. Her beautiful eyes, conveying a kind of hope. 
Understanding this, 1 sit down, facing him. Mom asks me how my day 
was. 1 throw in a one-word response. And just that one word prompts his 

propeller to start. Anything will get that bastard to start up and aggran- 
dize himself. He begins to speak. And 1 exercise restraint. 

The unsullied asininity of his words enters my ears as malicious 
minions spawned only from his ridiculousness. Fabrication decorated his 
pathetically pallid existence. My ears secrete sharp pain as 1 can hear the 
shrieks crying out from the nasty creatures that are his words. My nose 
tweaks. My face disassembles. As 1 sit there, broken, he presses on. 1 bite 
down, clenching my jaw while 1 feel all rational thought erode in my 
mind. God, 1 can feel the evil critters eating away at my brain cells, put- 
ting my countless marijuana fixes to shame. Food's ready. 

As 1 sit there, eating my grilled tilapia, 1 watch as he voraciously 
tears apart his rare steak. That poor animal. Killed for the sake of human 
consumption, only to end up trapped in the trenches of his fervent in- 
ferno. As he speaks, 1 can see the blood of his rare steak in combination 
with his beastly slobber fly out of his mouth, escaping what would be 
a hellish abyss. He grabs his cup to drink and water drips onto his uni- 
form. Fucking Neanderthal. 1 sit back, still watching him as he wipes his 
uniform. His uniform which he thinks glorifies him. It's too bad that the 
green patterns only serve to look like scales. With every gesture and move 7^ 
he makes, 1 can hear his scales crackling. Snapping. His reptilian form is 
finally beginning to present itself. 

After dinner, 1 venture out to the backyard. 1 look through the 
clear sliding door. The veneer separating my presence from his. 1 see him 
talking, but 1 don't hear him. Outside, out here, 1 am free. 1 check the 
time on my cell phone. 5:17pm. Not long until his flight back to Texas 
departs. 1 see him get up. Monica too. Pop gestures for me to come back 
in. 1 oblige. As he leaves for the front door, he hugs me one last time. My 
body cringes. His repugnance is inescapable. 1 close my eyes as he says 
goodbye and 1 say hello. To peace of mind. For she is finally beckoning 
me home. 




[RUREN DELGflDD is the fiction editor for Audemus Magazine. She graduated from 
Mount St. Mary's College in May 2010 with a BA in English Literature. Writing 
has always been her main medium of expression. Her writing is her voice. Lauren 
currently lives in Los Angeles where she continues to write with plans to pursue 
graduate school. She hopes to pursue a career in teaching as well as in writing. 

MflRISS FESTR graduated from Mount St. Mary's College in May 2010 with a BA in 
English Literature and a minor in Philosophy. She is currently living in Los Ange- 
les and writes a travel blog that can be found at: 
Marissa plans on pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and continue her passion 
of writing, travel, and photography. 

PHYLLIS RflWLEY is the author of three books on career tips for teenagers and young 
adults. She has an MFA in Non-Fiction Creative Writing from Antioch University 
of Los Angeles and currently working on her childhood memoir as a military brat. 

flMY YflTES did her undergraduate study at the University of San Diego where she 
majored in Visual Arts with an emphasis in photography and a minor in Art His- 
tory. She graduated in May 2010, and is currently staying in San Diego to work on 
her portfolio and apply to graduate school. Amy became interested in the camera 
as a medium because it is limiting. "Each photograph captures a moment in time 
that can't be changed, and what is in the frame actually happened." A photograph 
is "taken," and she became interested in a photograph by playing with the idea of 
stealing reality. From the moment she began photographing, she has been perceiv- 
ing her surroundings as if through the lens of the camera-cropping the world- 
even without a camera in hand. It has become her way of seeing. Currently, she 
is also looking at artist residency programs, with somewhere in France as her first 
choice. After an MFA, she sees herself going into teaching. According to Yates, 
however, "the future is never as clearly in focus as a photograph." 

UNIlfl RRVENSWOOD'S work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flaming Arrows (Ireland), 
The Wilshire Review (Los Angeles), Enigma Magazine (England), Poetry Salzburg 
Review (University of Salzburg Press), Poetry Magazine (US), Caterwaul Quarterly 
(US), BlazeVox (US), Rivets Literary Magazine (US), Relief Magazine (US), Unlikely 
Stories (US), Break the Silence (US), Underground Voices (Los Angeles), ReadThis 

(University of Montana Press) and on PBS. Her story No Impact Organ was re- 
cently featured on the No Impact Man Project website in. She holds a BFA (Music, 
Theatre, Fine Art) from The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and an MA 
(Humanities; Emphasis in Creative Writing) from Mount Saint Mary's College. She 
has lived extensively in the US, Ireland and the UK. She is presently in Los Ange- 
les pursuing her Ph.D. 

CflROLL SUN YANG is a lone wolf with dance cub (a.k.a a son.) She is currently sling- 
ing food in Highland Park and earning her MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Antioch 
University Los Angeles. She just started a list of "Best Inventions" and so far it 
is going well: Glitter, windows, gorilla glue, black eyeliner, hoodies, jeans, boys, 
sperm, eggs, boyish girls, girlish boys, feathers, wood grain, paneling, plywood, 
rubbermaid shit, qwerty, "like" and "like", punctuation, punk, ink, sharpies, theft, 
netflix, peer to peer, vans (auto), pot pies, libraries, cuss, youtube, twine, branches, 
creeks, weed, wildflowers, heart, instruments, implements, iphoto, lanterns, sauces, 
red velvet, velvet paintings, dives, colored light bulbs, microsoft word, tape mea- 
sures, diners, animals, cumulonimbus clouds, chameleons on hieroglyphics, digital 
pianos, green tea extract, atkins, bobby pins, undershirts for boys, gems... She is 
frequently found screwing about on Facebook, being certified as a Psychosocial 
Rehabilitation Specialist, or confusing the hell out of other mammals. 

LEVRN D HAWKINS describes himself as "one who uplifts, an artist striving towards the 
truth" and " as a bridge between races, sexualities, religions, believers and non- 
believers." He has performed and read at venues and events across the country, 
and has been published in publications and anthologies such as the LA Times, LA 
Weekly, LA Frontiers, Sacramento News ft Review, Spillway, Voices from Leim- 
ert Park, and Children of the Dream: Our Own Stories of Growing Up Black in 
America. A self-help and personal development enthusiast, Hawkins was awarded 
a scholarship to the Norman Mailer Writer's Colony, on a chapter of a memoir that 
he is currently writing based on his struggles to mentor his adult nephew. Hawkins 
is a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently working on his Mas- 
ters degree in Creative Writing at Antioch University, Los Angeles. 

[DRETTfl CDNTRERflS calls herself a Los Angeles native, a foodie, a dancer, and a night 
owl. She received her B.A. in English with a Creative Writing concentration at 
UCLA, and her M.A. in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis at Loyola Mary- 
mount University. What she wants to write about and what she ends up writing 
are sometimes two totally different things. According to Contreras, "What exists 
in-between is what keeps me writing. There is always something that manifests."