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K

Number 75
ALEIDOSCOPE
EXPLORING THE EXPERIENCE OF DISABILITY THROUGH LITERATURE AND THE FINE ARTS

Summer/Fall Online 2017

Reflective • Transformative • Eclectic

"Nothin' But Net" by Allan B. Goldstein

"The Stranger" by Gwenellen Tarbet

"Sixty-three Years is Not a Weekend" by Shirley Adelman
K ALEIDOSCOPE
Summer/Fall 2017
Number 75

EXPLORING THE EXPERIENCE OF DISABILITY THROUGH LITERATURE AND THE FINE ARTS

Contents  EDITORIAL NOTE  PERSONAL ESSAY
The Power of the Arts Sixty-three Years
in an Uncertain World 4 is Not a Weekend 16

Gail Willmott Shirley Adelman

The Race 62
 FEATURED ESSAY
Nothin’ But Net 6 Carolyn B. Fraiser

Allan B. Goldstein

 POETRY
Dearest Son, 5
 FEATURED ART
Fragments 32 Nanette C. Orange

Sandy Palmer

what goes 9

Gail Waldstein
 FICTION
The Stranger 10
Campfire 14
Gwenellen Tarbet
Fall Cycle 14

Roller Coaster 38 Secrets of the Stars 14

Justin Glanville Denise Fletcher

Sissy 54

Benjamin Toche

1
Whatever Should
Not Be Forgotten 19

Donna Tolley Corriher

Dopamine Agonist:
Parkinson’s in Chunk Form 24

He 24

The Wife 24

Catherine Strisik
Jim Stevens, Girl in the Window, 2016, abstract
linear acrylic painting, 21” x 22” x 1.5”

Bodily Humours 25

Toby MacNutt
Long Goodbye 53
 CREATIVE NONFICTION
Paul Smith The Collective 20
Rivers 26
Aaron Lefebvre
Maura Gage Cavell
Exchange of Vision 53

Yuan Changming How to Cry 27
Caregiver’s Muse 31
Kirie Pedersen
Brenda Kay Ledford
Three Stringed Instruments 61

Michael S. Morris My Friend Frankie 46
Dreamers 31
Ruth Z. Deming
William H. McCann, Jr.
First MS Attack 61

Joan Seliger Sidney The Shapeshifter 60
Hoarding 44
Kelley A Pasmanick
Linda Fuchs
The Sign 64

trismus 45 John Smith
 ARTICLE
infirmity 45
Fear and Loathing in Australia: An
XCI 64 Inside Look at Anxiety Disorder,
e. smith sleigh
James B. Nicola Shame and Stigma 50

Monica Cook
Muddy Hands 49
Offerings 65
Lynda McKinney Lambert
On Love 65  BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 66

Sarah Rehfeldt

2
Staff
PUBLISHER
Howard Taylor, President/CEO
United Disability Services

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Gail Willmott, M.Ed.
Kaleidoscope (ISSN 2329-5775)
MANAGING EDITOR is published online semiannually.
Lisa Armstrong Copyright © 2017 Kaleidoscope Press
United Disability Services,
ART COORDINATOR 701 S. Main St., Akron, OH 44311-1019
Sandy Palmer (330) 762-9755 Phone
(330) 762-0912 Fax
EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS email: kaleidoscope@udsakron.org
http://www.kaleidoscopeonline.org
Lorraine Abbott
Lynne Came Kaleidoscope retains non-exclusive world
Angela Miller rights to published works for purposes of
Kathleen Sarver reprinting and/or electronic distribution. All
other rights return to the writer/artist upon
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS publication.
Darshan Perusek, Ph.D.
We request credit for publication as
HONORARY EDITOR follows:
Phyllis Boerner Previously published by
Kaleidoscope: Exploring
the Experience of Disability through
MANUSCRIPT REVIEW PANEL Literature and the Fine Arts,
Fiction Review 701 South Main St.,
Mark Decker, Ph.D. Akron, OH 44311-1019
Bloomsburg University
Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania Indexed in Humanities International
Complete and the MLA International
Poetry Review Bibliography non-Master List. Listed in
Sandra J. Lindow International Directory of Little Magazines
University of Wisconsin-Stout and Small Presses, Magazines for Libraries,
Menomonie, Wisconsin The Standard Periodical Directory.

Submissions:
Email or online submissions preferred.

If submitting hard copy, send copies of
originals with SASE if you want your work
returned. The editors do not assume responsi-
bility for returning submissions without
ample return postage. Address all correspon-
dence to the editor-in-chief.

Kaleidoscope, beginning in 1979, pioneered the exploration of the
experience of disability through the lens of literature and fine arts.
Fiction, personal essays, poetry, articles, book reviews, and various
artistic media including two-dimensional art, three-dimensional
art, drama, theater, and dance are featured in the pages of various
issues.

This award-winning publication expresses the experience of disabil-
ity from a variety of perspectives including: individuals, families,
friends, caregivers, healthcare professionals, and educators, among
others. The material chosen for Kaleidoscope challenges stereotypi-
cal, patronizing, and sentimental attitudes about disabilities.

3
EDITORIAL NOTE

The Power of the Arts
in an Uncertain World
Gail Willmott

W
e live in a tumultuous and entertainment (often both at the same demonstrated the power of the arts to
very frightening time and it time). There is the power of music that subordinate and transcend disability.
lately seems to me that the reaches us on an inner and intangible Kaleidoscope shares the complexities
degree of uncertainty has increased level, causing our spirits to soar with of living with a disability while show-
exponentially. The level of anxiety and joy or to feel intense sadness, depend- ing those who are our “typical” peers
distrust around the world seems to have ing on the memories that are evoked that we are more alike than different.
grown more intense, even palpable, through listening. There are movies, Thus we help build a bridge that brings
leading to an increase in the level of some of which cause us to think and us closer to the day when disability
hatred and violence, both at home and feel more deeply, and some which does not represent “otherness,” but just
abroad. Despite such events, there are simply entertain and allow us to take another variation of human experience.
many people who continue to work a break from our daily concerns and
toward a more tolerant, just, and some- struggles. For many people, writing is There is definitely a transformative
day, a more accepting world. (Each per- a tool for expressing a myriad of ideas power in all of the arts which is what
son, depending on his or her beliefs and and emotions. makes them so important to our indi-
feelings, may find ways to contribute to vidual and communal lives. The fruits
this effort.) For those of us who do feel Please don’t make the mistake of think- of creativity can often remind us of our
weighed down by many of the present ing that I believe the above suggestions best selves. The arts can help sustain
circumstances, what can we do in our are somehow a panacea for all the seri- us in times of fear and trouble whether
own lives to combat fear and negativity ous problems faced by our world and on an individual, a national, or a global
and to hold on to a more positive view the people in it. For me they represent level. It is my hope that, at least to
of our fellow human beings? a strategy for coping with and trying some degree, this is what Kaleidoscope
to break the cycle of negativity and de- does for our readers.t
If our eyes are open, each day holds pression that sometimes envelops me.
many possibilities for creating positive
change. There is the joy of being with In the life of any person there will be
family and friends, reveling in their difficult circumstances which must be
successes and sharing in their struggles. accepted and coping strategies need
There is the wonder and beauty of the to be developed. Kaleidoscope tries to
natural world and our connection to present realistic pictures of living with
other species. Those of us who choose a disability. It is not always a walk in
to love and care for pets bring that the park, nor should it necessarily be
connection close to home. There is the seen as a tragedy. Through creative
pleasure of reading for learning and/or expression, the writers and artists that
we have published over the years, have

Gail Willmott

4
POETRY

Nanette C. Orange

Dearest Son,
Your eyes reflect a losing battle,
a fight to hold back tears
while witnessing my failed attempts
to walk across the floor—
legs that danced with time
don’t hold me upright anymore.

Your gestures speak of helplessness,
wishing you could trade
your heart for mine.
A priceless gift you offer—
no doctors or machinery.

Do not weep for me, dear child;
your mom will be okay.
No feeble limb or tired heart
can strip my soul of strength.

I’m still a tigress,
poised to pounce on sorrows
and preserve our fondest memories.

Though I may be bedridden,
the sun still beams for me,
offering another dawn
to see,
to touch,
and to love the son
who keeps me strong.

Previously published in the Survivor’s Review (2010) and
in the author’s book, Innermost Journey: Poems for a Lifetime,
published in 2013. Reprinted by permission of the author.

5
FEATURED ESSAY

Nothin’ But Net
Allan B. Goldstein

“D
oes everyone die?” asked When I informed Fred of Mom’s death, primitive, earthy, primal—no fooling
Fred, my sixty-two-year- he stunned my wife and me by im- around here. No filters. Just him and
old younger brother. mediately pointing to the ceiling of his me. Honesty. Okay, a big brother mo-
shared group-home bedroom, saying, ment, but nothing like my laying down
I didn’t know why this topic was on “I’m next,” remembering Dad’s death the law about brushing teeth or learning
his mind; maybe it was the unnaturally (which had occurred ten years earlier). to take a shower. Or excusing oneself
eerie light caused by the misty air sur- So I’m stunned no more, only saddened after belching. Or telling every girl that
rounding us on this warm, gray, early that because he hadn’t received focused you love her.
summer afternoon, as we watched a attention as a child, today called early
pick-up basketball game in a Lower intervention, I never had a brother to We were sitting on a wooden-slatted
Eastside park. knock around ideas with while growing bench, with curved, concrete supports
up (even if about death). And I had no reminiscent of the two benches fronting
I knew he was much more than the one to share reflections about the fre- the entrance to our New York Public
1950s label, “severely retarded,” which quent parental squabbles. Housing Authority apartment building
had coerced Mom to send him to Wil- before he and I were torn apart more
lowbrook State School for the Mentally I felt intrigued and perhaps a little sur- than half a century earlier. The unof-
Retarded over Dad’s wishes, where he prised, upon hearing Fred’s question ficially scheduled basketball game,
resided from age four to twenty. Fred about death. I teach disability studies which had attracted us to this spot after
had benefited from several decades of in a university, where I always invite our knishes at the famous eatery half-a-
community-based living and from my discussion about assisted suicide. The block away, included ten baggy pants,
guardianship for the past seventeen rights organization, Not Dead Yet ethnically diverse male players, aged
years since Mom died. I was no longer (NDY), professes that feeling a burden late twenties to mid-thirties, tacitly
surprised by his posing abstract ques- to family is the reason most disabled and without rancor, acknowledging
tions. I always believed Fred was ca- people cite for electing to die. NDY and repositioning for incidental fouls.
pable of abstract thought. He never be- suggests it is wiser to encourage society With the uneasy feeling of providing
longed in Willowbrook—nobody did— to help relieve that feeling rather than unspeakable news, I said to my brother,
but when expectations are low and your end a life.* Journalist Ellen Good- his rectangular-rimmed glasses framing
speech is difficult to understand, you man, in her July 1, 2015 “Opinionator” eyes directly fastened on mine, “Yes,
are just supposed to ingest, digest, def- piece, comments that although ninety everyone dies.”
ecate, and sleep: it is unimaginable that percent of American people now think
you might wonder about tomorrow. it’s important to have a conversation
about end-of-life care, only thirty per-
cent do so.** Perhaps my brother’s
question was his end-of-life talk. His
sincere need to know about dying was

6
My brother remained focused on me, my will includes a supplementary trust Why was Fred thinking of endings?
unlike several minutes earlier when he fund in case the remainder of his life is Maybe it was because we were sitting
was pointing to the Subway restaurant without me, which will not jeopardize together on a park bench by a basket-
sign above the storefront on the other his government financial support that I ball court experiencing energy show-
side of the courts and telling me he had consider payback for years of no educa- cased by running, passing, and shooting
been there, or at least one of its repli- tion and a dismissed existence. that would ultimately become depleted.
cas. Maybe because he’d soon be leav-
My brother looked away, not particular- ing for a three-night visit to Vermont.
“What do you think happens when we ly at the ongoing game, or the two lone Maybe because I’d soon be spending
die?” I asked. players shooting baskets on a parallel a month in South Africa. Or maybe
court. Or the Subway store. Perhaps he this was a special moment neither of
He placed his left hand under his was speculating, interpreting my non- us wanted to end. It was as if we were
droopy left eye and drew his fingers information. within a dream. A good dream. And
down his cheek. Sign language instruc- then Fred woke up—“Does everyone
tion had begun long ago to accom- “William Street will die,” he then said, die? Are you going to leave me? Am I
modate his difficulty making certain referring to his previous residence, the going to leave you?”
sounds. one that conquered the unease he ex-
perienced in the last of twenty years in We had begun the afternoon at a nearby
“We cry?” I said. I later learned that his his first group home which had become sporting goods store so that I could
sign might have meant “sad.” dysfunctional because finding compe- exchange a recently purchased pair of
tent supervisors and managers was very hiking boots. I introduced Fred to the
“Cry,” he said. difficult. familiar saleswoman, as having come
along to help me. So it was no sur-
“We’re dead. We don’t cry anymore. I “No, places don’t die; it will go on prise to her when upon arriving at the
think the people around you will cry.” forever,” I said offhandedly, not think- proper replacement shoe, I asked Fred
ing that buildings are knocked down to choose among the three available
It was only a few beats before he asked, because of disrepair or neighborhood colors.
“Who will die first?” redevelopment and service agencies
collapse, either because of corruption “I’m neurotic,” I told her, when offered
I’ve often thought that although I’m or plain old mismanagement. And I the choices. “He’ll help me.”
four years older than Fred, he will die hadn’t considered that changing resi-
before me. Perhaps it was his many dences is a kind death—the people my “Which ones, Fred?”
years of kidney dialysis and one failed brother lived with are no longer in his
cadaver kidney transplant prior to his life. But those are different kinds of “Those,” he said, without hesitation.
present, long-lasting successful trans- deaths, although they are endings. Fred
plant that made me think his health was was wondering about his ending—and I “You’re sure. These?” I said.
precarious. But he did dodge the conta- was captivated. My brother had voiced
gious diseases of Willowbrook, and as a a powerful question about a topic in- “Those,” he said, sagely nodding his
Willowbrook class member, he receives frequently discussed within our society head.
excellent medical attention. Since his due to unvoiced fears. Realizing that no
expression indicated more of an interest one lives forever, my wife and I have And the saleswoman agreed. “They
in making a plan than in being com- begun fulfilling a travel bucket list. will show dirt less.”
forted, I said, “I don’t know.” And I
really don’t, not anymore, which is why The neutral gray/blue “Beluga” color
meant I could also wear the shoes to
work with either brown or black slacks.

7
“Thanks for your help today, Fred,” I He looked at me. direct, to the point—no rim, no back-
said, as we stood up from the bench, board, nothin’ but net when selecting
the b-ball game having just ended with “Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, well “those shoes,” and asking, “Who will
the wearied players sprawling across maybe not strawberry, it’s okay to have die first?” It was easy to follow his shoe
the adjacent benches. We had been an- it.” choice, but although my response to his
ticipating his Vermont trip for several second question was honest, it was also
months—a scenic ride in a van with “Okay.” inconclusive, indefinite, and vague, be-
other people having intellectual disabil- cause who will die first? And who will
ities, overnight stays at hotels, stops at Fred repeats conversations, maybe cry?t
quaint village shops and a visit to Ben to make sure he has understood, so I
and Jerry’s ice cream factory. “Remem- figured we’d be discussing death and
ber, when they offer you ice cream, it’s dying again. Maybe the two of us are *“Not Dead Yet.” Not Dead Yet. N.p.,
okay to eat it.” Because of his too many simply morbid, Woody Allen clones, n.d. Web. 1 July 2015.
years on a dialysis diet, he habitually as we’re all from the same neighbor-
declined ice cream. hood, and so we can’t have a good **Goodman, Ellen. “How to Talk
time. Death and dying . . . Fred and About Dying.” The New York Times,
ice cream. B-ball and knishes. Hiking “Opinionator.” N.p., n.d. Web. 1 July
shoes and Vermont. Brothers. Fred was 2015.

Call for submissions K ALEIDOSCOPE
Gail Willmott, Editor-in-Chief

Kaleidoscope magazine has a creative focus that examines the experience of disability through literature and the fine arts. A
pioneer in the field of disability studies, this award-winning publication expresses the diversity of the disability experience from
a variety of perspectives including: individuals, families, friends, caregivers, educators and healthcare professionals, among
others. The material chosen for Kaleidoscope challenges and overcomes stereotypical, patronizing, and sentimental attitudes
about disability through nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and visual art. Although the content focuses on aspects related to disability,
writers with and without disabilities are welcome to submit their work.

· Double spaced, typewritten · 5,000 word maximum · Electronic submissions preferred
Email submissions accepted at kaleidoscope@udsakron.org or online at kaleidoscopeonline.org.

8
POETRY

Gail Waldstein

what goes
sweet laugh his mouth
perfectly cared for
teeth he forks food into
vacancy an avid
listener perfect dinner
companion well
costumed polite but
she must think for two

the insouciance of eyes trained
to pierce
mathematical mysteries
seer the helical knot
biochemistry he extracted
hydrogen from algae
cousin to fomenting red tides
she brushes his arm
periodically reminds him

his great gray head is
real black frames crease
temples like a posse closing in
the face posed below the mind
once facile in science
his questions querulous
old habit of inquiry
it’s new this mask eyes unblinking
longing to comprehend
suppose she’s not there

his minute organisms
had to be oxygen-deprived to
produce hydrogen energy
source fuel cells a kind of
battery necessary as his
own oxygen needs now
unmet hands tremble
palms brought proximate
finger tips steeple
he studies then hides these things
which remind all

they no longer grasp
pencils to calculate
barely remember
to hold a fork

9
FICTION

The Stranger
Gwenellen Tarbet

T
he sun umbrellas are a warm green in the early sum- She has the best cover of all in Jordan. His white cane tells
mer sunshine. A light breeze still carrying a hint of the world that he is visually impaired. Not so obvious are
spring imbues the seating area with the fragrance of his hearing aids. An unusual combination. It makes it okay
exotic coffees. Kayla, shaking with anger, approaches a man for her to lean on him in the sea of light and noise, drawing
sitting at the table near the door of the café. He is talking strength from one another. She doesn’t look weak cling-
with a woman at the next table. ing to Jordan’s hand, as they walk forward. She needs to
let Jordan know which way to go with gentle signals on
“Excuse me,” she says to the man. He stops in mid-sentence. his hand and arm. She pushes gently forward, or pulls back
His blue eyes are friendly as he looks up at her. when he needs to stop. By turning slightly left or right, she
helps him negotiate the maze of tables. Most people are
“I know you probably think you mean well,” she says. kind, and when they see his cane, they move out of the way,
a backpack or a purse goes under a chair, an outstretched
The onslaught begins . . . . leg is pulled in. At the till, he takes longer to make his order
because it’s hard to read the menu board. The server and
* * * the other customers are patient. Kayla is always surprised at
people’s capacity for kindness. It’s not something she can
The morning started out as an opportunity for Kayla and her take for granted. They move to the side to wait for their or-
husband Jordan to have a nice cup of coffee without the kids. der, still holding hands. Kayla leans into Jordan. He is a big
A chance for peace and quiet, a morning free of demands. A man and his solidity and the light smell of his soap mixed
chance to chat and sip coffee and enjoy the gentle sunshine. with his own particular smell comfort her.

Inside the café, Jordan and Kayla expected the sun to bounce “Our order is up next,” she says her mouth up to his ear so
off gleaming appliances and lose itself in dark corners full of he can make out her words.
shadows. They are used to the small tables being crammed
together and the path to the till being full of backpacks and A man cuts in front of them carrying his coffee. Like them,
purses and feet. The noise of numerous lively loud conversa- he appears to be in his early forties. He notices Jordan’s
tions melding into one indistinguishable buzz is familiar to white cane and stops. His face lights up like a child’s at
them. So is the fear edging on panic that Kayla experiences Christmas.
when confronted with this scene. Jordan takes her hand in
his and squeezes it. Does he know that she needs the reas- “I know what can cure you my man,” he says. “Look into
surance of his touch? Does he know that if it weren’t for the sun my dear fellow and you will put that cane down and
him, she would probably never leave the house? She hopes be free.”
not. She tries to cover her fear as best she can.

10
Kayla nods politely at the man, hoping this small acknowl- Except she can’t forget it. His words play over and over in
edgement will satisfy the stranger and he will go away. Jor- her brain like a feedback loop. She sees the stranger outside,
dan is still trying to see who is talking to him. He sees that and she can guess what is going to happen when they leave.
someone is in front of them, but can’t find his face to read his Her stomach roils in fear and something else. The beginnings
lips. of anger. She wants to hide, to flee, but the stranger has them
trapped in the café.
When they were first dating, she asked him, “What is it
like?” “What did he mean by looking into the sun?” Jordan asks
her.
“Imagine taping a piece of paper with two pinholes over your
eyes,” he told her, “and you have to make-do on what you She ponders what the stranger meant. The sun, the sun . . . .
see in the pinholes. Then take earplugs and shove them in No wait, he means to look into the Son. He means Jesus. He
your ears.That’s what it’s like.” means the Son is the cure. Their coffee has arrived and they
make their way outside, looking for an empty table. On cue,
She tried it once not long after. She didn’t like it. She the man near the entrance, yells one more time at Jordan.
couldn’t imagine going into the outside world like that. It
was hard enough going into the outside world without that. “Look into the Son man!”

She stands on tiptoe so that she can reach Jordan’s ear. “He “He means look into the Son, S-O-N, not S-U-N,” she ex-
says to look into the sun to cure what ails you.” plains to Jordan after they sit as far away from the stranger as
possible.
Jordan meets her eyes. “A blind man is supposed to look into
the sun. That will help?” The anger in her gut is hotter now, it is burning away the
fear. They try to enjoy their coffee, but she can hear the man
She shrugs her shoulders. The stranger hasn’t left, he stands talking to the customers around him.
in front of the couple, staring. Kayla shifts from one foot
from the other, restless. She is trying to avoid looking him in “He can throw that cane away man, I’ve seen it happen.”
the eye.
There it is again. The notion that illness or disability is
“The sun will set you free man.” He is shouting this now, caused from lack of strength, or morals, or adequate dietary
having spotted Jordan’s hearing aids. The din in the restau- fiber or any one of a number of random choices that people
rant quiets a little as people stop talking to watch the com- use as their own personal talisman. The notion that God
motion. strikes down the guilty with disease and disfigurement, or a
bad case of the hives. She can’t bear to hear another word out
Jordan and Kayla smile politely and hope the stranger will of that man’s mouth.
go away. With a final admonition “to look into the sun” and
with a hearty slap on Jordan’s back, he takes his coffee out “Wait here.” She tells Jordan.
into the sunshine. Kayla notices that he sits at a table near the
entrance. She gets up and crosses the pavement to the man. The sun
umbrellas are a warm green in the early summer sunshine.
“Seems kind of stupid to look into the sun.” Jordan says. He A light breeze still carrying a hint of spring imbues the seat-
smiles a little bit, but she can tell the man has annoyed him. ing area with the fragrance of exotic coffees. Songbirds and
She knew for sure he didn’t like the slap on the back. He pigeons are eating the crumbs from under the table where the
shrugs, the incident forgotten already. stranger talks to a woman at the table beside him.

“Excuse me,” she says to the man. He stops in mid-sentence.

11
His blue eyes are friendly as he looks up at her. in his chair. He probably really didn’t mean any harm. He is
probably not a cruel man. Kayla doesn’t care. The stranger
“I know you probably think you mean well,” she starts. looks utterly bewildered and confused. She realizes that
people at other tables are looking at her. She walks with as
Her heart is pounding. No, she will not give the stranger much dignity as she can muster back to Jordan.
that excuse. Anger burns away fear, and in this moment,
right now, she is free. Her hands are shaking so much she can barely drink her
coffee.
“How dare you,” she says.
“Did that help?” Jordan asks her.
The stranger frowns a little, he is clearly confused. Kayla
points at Jordan. Kayla bites her lip. “No.”

“How dare you humiliate my husband? How dare you turn
our outing into a circus of humiliation.”

The stranger shifts back in his chair and she notices his
growing unease. His emotional state is the last of her con- Her heart is pounding. No, she will
cerns at this moment. She hopes he feels like crawling into not give the stranger that excuse.
a hole. Her focus is to help the stranger along on his journey
into humiliation. There is no one in the world except Kayla
Anger burns away fear, and in this
and the stranger. moment, right now, she is free.
“You told him to look into the Son, to look to Jesus or God
or whatever to cure him. To cure him?” Her voice is low
and she is having trouble forming the words as they come
out of her mouth. In the future, Kayla will look back on this day and a part of
her will wish that this particular story ended there. That Jor-
“How dare you imply that his blindness is caused by a dan praised her bravery and she felt good because she stood
vengeful God! You know nothing about him, and you obvi- up to the stranger. However, life doesn’t generally work that
ously know nothing about God. He was born blind. What way. Seemingly unimportant events can be the catalyst, the
kind of a God would do that to a baby? Why would you tell beginning of a difficult journey. Going for coffee that morn-
Jordan that he is a walking sign of sin?” ing was one such event.

She put her hands on the table and leaned closer to the The silence in the car was awkward.
stranger. “You don’t know anything about his faith or spiri-
tuality. You know nothing about his journey. You don’t After several tense moments Jordan says, “I guess I’m sup-
know what a kind and honest man he is, or how smart or posed to be grateful to you.”
how good a father he is.”
Kayla swallows. “Why’s that?”
She takes a deep breath because she feels like she is chok-
ing. “You stood up for me, gave that guy hell.”

“You saw a white cane and you figured you had permission Kayla doesn’t know where this is going. “I don’t understand
to say whatever you wanted. Because he’s blind. You’re what you are saying.”
not being kind, you’re getting off at making a public spec-
tacle of him. So, I suggest, that before you worry about the “I could have stood up for myself.”
splinter in my husband’s eye, you take the frickin’ log out
of your own.” Kayla scoffs. “How were you going to do that? You
couldn’t even understand what he was talking about.”
She wants to spit in this man’s face, but she knows that
she can’t do that. Her anger is beyond expression. She tells “I could have asked him. I could have gone up and talked to
herself that she is angry on Jordan’s behalf. She is angry him.”
because someone she loves has been humiliated.

The stranger has backed away from her as far as he can get

12
“Then why didn’t you?” “But I didn’t marry you for you to take care of me. I mar-
ried you because I love you.”
“Because I wasn’t the one who was feeling humiliated and
hurt.” “So what am I supposed to do, stand back and just let you
go? Let people be mean to you?”
Kayla stares at Jordan in surprise. “What do you mean by
that?” “Maybe, yes.”

Jordan points to the road. “You’re going to rear-end that “I don’t understand,” Kayla says. “I don’t understand how
car.” Kayla sees the back end of the white SUV filling you can be mad at me for defending you.”
up the windshield and slams on the brakes. The anti-lock
brakes kick in and they barely avoid a collision.

Kayla’s hands grasp the steering wheel, her knuckles are
white. She wishes that they would stop
talking and just go into the house
Jordan is still looking ahead through the windshield, his
voice is flat without emotion.
and everything would be normal
and she could forget about this
“Does it embarrass you?” he says. morning.
“Does what embarrass me?” Kayla asks. She doesn’t like to
talk about it. “Don’t be silly,” she says.

“It’s okay Kayla, I mean I know it’s one thing to say to “Listen Kayla honey. I was like this before we got married.
yourself, My husband is blind and deaf, and tell people I know how to be blind. You can’t protect me from it.”
about it. People are always interested in it. But that doesn’t
cover the living with it. You know, the times when I’m five “I’m not protecting you from anything,” she says. “I’m just
steps behind in a conversation and say a joke at the wrong doing my job and taking care of my family. You know lots
time and you cover for me, or when I knock down displays of people would be proud of what I did there.”
at the store because they’re in the middle of the aisle and I
didn’t see them. Does it bother you to lead me around by Kayla carefully pulls into their driveway. She shuts off the
the hand? I want to know?” engine and pulls the keys out of the ignition. Jordan reaches
over and grasps her hand gently. She wishes he would let
“Why do we have to talk about this now?” she asks. go. She wishes that they would stop talking and just go into
the house and everything would be normal and she could
“Because, this guy today, was ignorant. He didn’t bother forget about this morning. She leaves her hand where it is.
me, but he really upset you. The whole point of this morn-
ing was to enjoy ourselves. To get us out of the house to- She looks up. His green eyes are focused on her face so
gether and have fun.” hard. He wants to make sure that he doesn’t miss a word of
what she says.
She snorts. “Fun is overrated.”
“Just doing your job?” Jordan says quietly. “Is that true?”
The light has turned green again. She concentrates on the
road. She hopes he will change the subject. Kayla looks down at her hand grasped loosely by his. Her
hand is clenched around the car keys. The metal is digging
“I mean, it’s not that you weren’t right,” Jordan continues. into her hand and she realizes that it hurts. She realizes that
“I think he was rude. But you didn’t ask me how I felt. If she didn’t notice the pain until now. She is tired. The after
it had really bothered me, I would have walked over and effects of her earlier anger. Her head is pounding and she
talked to him. I can do that you know. But you’re always feels nauseous. It’s like a hangover and all she wants to do
explaining me. Always giving excuses for me. It’s like I’m is go into the house and sleep.
a tornado and you’re the clean-up crew.”
She sighs, “It’s my job to take care of you and the kids.
“I’m just doing my job.” Kayla says. What else am I here for? Do we really have to talk about
this now? The kids are waiting inside.”

13
“Kayla, I’d like to think we’re more than a job. I know “I guess I hoped it would get better on its own. I’m afraid
you’ve been having trouble ever since Henry was born. you don’t love me anymore.”
I’ve watched you go deeper and deeper into yourself. It’s
been so long since I’ve seen you smile, or laugh. I miss that The sight of Jordan crying undoes her. He never cries. The
about you, I miss that about us.” words pass through her lips before she can bite them back.

“What do you want me to say to that? Okay, Jordan, I’ll try “Everything is so dark,” she says.
and perk it up a bit?”
She tightens her grip on his hand because she is spiraling
His eyes are full of fear. A part of her notices it, but mostly down to a dark silent place and she doesn’t know how to
she is too tired to care. stop.

“Because it’s like this,” she continues, “I don’t know what She clutches Jordan’s hand and begins to sob. “Oh fuck Jor-
I’m supposed to be anymore. I feel like most of the time I dan, I feel like I’m going blind.”
just run around taking care of everyone and no one notices.
You all act like that’s all I’m here for. Every day is just the He pulls her into his arms awkwardly because of the con-
same, I get up, I clean the house, I run errands. The house sole in between them. Nevertheless he holds her tight. His
gets messy, and there’s always more errands to do. It never hands tremble as he strokes her hair.
ends. It never changes. It’s all I can do to get through the
day. Then you come home and we don’t talk about any- “We can find our way together Kayla, I know we can.” Jor-
thing. I get your supper and I go to bed because I’m just so dan says.
. . . tired.”
Kayla desperately hopes he is right.t
She looks down at their clasped hands.

“Why now?” she asks. “Why wait till now to ask me?”

14
POETRY

Denise Fletcher

Secrets of the Stars
The stars hold secrets
to the universe
all varied in their
galaxies, the
ever-expanding
space changes
daily, even
instantaneously as
supernovas explode
and black holes
suck in gases from
nearby stars.

Rebirth is a natural
occurrence in the
evening sky as new
stars form like seeds Denise Fletcher
of the Acacia trees.

Fall Cycle
A motley crew
of trees grew a
Fine hue of red-
orange that fed earth
the dead leaves to recreate its birth.

Denise Fletcher

Campfire
The flame glows at moonlight
Embers float into the night
Elders gather ’round the fire
Small children join the choir

15
PERSONAL ESSAY

Sixty-three Years
is Not a Weekend
Shirley Adelman

C
arrying a book bag, purse, and cane, I pulled myself “They live far away, very far away,” she replied and then
up to the high step of a cross-town bus and aimed continued worrying aloud. “Who knows if he’ll see me, I’m
for the nearest vacant seat as the bus lurched for- so late, two hours, and I’m still not there.”
ward.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“I was in such a hurry, I forgot my walking stick,” said the
woman seated next to me. “You see my hand?” she contin- “Jefferson Hospital, my doctor is at Jefferson Hospital in
ued, opening her palm to reveal a large, reddened area. “I Philadelphia,” she answered.
can’t remember anything. I was supposed to see the doctor
two hours ago, so I was rushing and forgot my walking As I finished saying “Try not to worry. Soon we’ll be at
stick. That’s why I fell: I forgot my walking stick.” 11th Street,” the bus stopped in a maze of traffic at Broad
and Market.
With a sideward turn of my head, I looked at the woman
and was surprised by what I saw. Shiny, white hair, stylishly “I have a detour here,” the driver called out. “I’m going to
cut, framed a pleasant face, carefully made-up. Race Street, and I don’t know where I’ll be able to turn,” he
announced.
“I’m eighty-six,” she told me.
“What about 11th, have you heard if 11th Street is clear?” I
I had been thinking that she looked great for a woman in asked.
her mid-seventies.
“Don’t know. Look at this mess,” he said, pointing out his
“Oh, you look very good.” I told her. window to a bottleneck of cars, fire engines, and trucks. “If
you want to know where you’ll end up, get off here.”
“You don’t know what I look like inside,” she said. “I was
married sixty-three years, sixty-three years, and then my Meanwhile, the woman beside me was saying, “I’ve lost my
husband died.” mind since my husband died. I don’t know where I am. Six-
ty-three years I was with him. The doctor gave me medicine
“Do you have children?” I asked. to help me remember, and it made me worse. That’s why
I’m going to see my doctor now. I can’t remember. Sixty-
three years. Now I’m alone.”

16
A chill passed through me. are you? Do you need help?’ Nothing. My son is in Who’s
Who. He’s a famous professor. I’m not dumb. I helped
Turning to me, she asked, “Where am I?” out when times were tough. I took a job as a file clerk and
worked myself up to office manager. That’s how I have a
“Oh, there’s so much traffic, nothing is recognizable,” I re- pension. My husband said I was his ‘honey doll.’ That’s
plied. “We can get off here and walk to Jefferson Hospital. how he talked to me.”
I’ll take you to your doctor’s office if you like.”
“You’ve done so much. It’s wonderful,” I told her.
“It’s a good thing. I don’t know where I am,” she said.
“So, what’s your name?” she asked me.
As we stepped off the bus, I noticed she was carrying a
small, open basket, the sort that is filled with coconut and “Shirley.”
chocolate eggs for a child’s Easter gift. In the center of the
basket, a bright yellow chain with a single key rested on a “And I’m Sarah Hershey, just like the candy. Do you live in
round, paisley pillow. the city?” she asked.

“Thank you, thank you,” she said. “I’m so lost. I could “No, but I work in the city,” I replied.
never find the hospital from here.”
“Good, because I want to have you for lunch. I have a nice
As she continued the refrain, “I’m lost, I’m lost,” we inched apartment. I’ll make you a delicious lunch. You’ll eat at the
our way through the crowds on Market Street. I feared, at table with me. Sixty-three years I was married, sixty-three
the very least, the little open basket she carried so lightly on years. People tell me, ‘You’ll get over it.’ What do they
her arm would be snatched away. think? Sixty-three years is not a weekend.”

“It isn’t a good idea to announce that you’re lost in the mid- The sidewalks on 11th Street were dense with people rush-
dle of a crowd. Some people might take advantage of you. ing. I tripped over my cane. A couple of men, who must
And you’re not lost because I am taking you to the hospital. have been walking with their eyes closed, following their
We’re walking together toward Walnut Street,” I said. noses to the nearest eatery, walked into me.

“Everything looks different since my husband died. I don’t “Watch you don’t hurt yourself,” Sarah cautioned.
recognize where I am.”
As we neared the hospital complex at 11th and Walnut
“Where do your children live?” I asked. Streets, Sarah cried out.

“My son is in Bryn Mawr with his wife and family. It’s “Now I know where I am. But I never could have found
far. I don’t drive, but if I go to him on Sunday, he takes me my way by myself. Maybe,” she said, “God is helping
home. They’re busy. He works. His wife works. I was mar- me because I did some good things in my life. He knows
ried for sixty-three years. My husband was my best friend. I couldn’t find my way by myself. This is the building. I
We were a team: we did everything together. I’m mad at know this is where I see my doctor.” She pointed across
God. He took him and left me. I don’t eat. I can’t eat alone. 11th Street to a low, stone structure.
I don’t sleep. I can’t sleep alone. I pay a man in my building
ten dollars to take me to the cemetery. I go almost every day We entered the building and found there were no offices,
to talk to my husband. Where am I? I don’t recognize any- nor were there doctors’ offices in the next building Sarah
thing. The rabbi never came to see me. I gave him a check excitedly recognized.
for three hundred and fifty dollars. That’s what someone
told me I had to pay him for saying a few words, and I paid What are the subtleties we encode, I wondered, to distin-
him, gave him a check. Never once did he call to ask ‘How guish one gray façade from another and where do these

17
memories go? All this falling away of oneself that is ongo- The secretary look down at the day’s schedule and said,
ing: vanishing hair, flaking skin, teeth that turn from white “Your appointment was over two hours ago.”
to yellow if they don’t give way on a crusty roll, and we
think we can patch it up and walk into the grave whole. God “Mrs. Hershey has to see the doctor today. She must.” I
Almighty, I thought, everything has sped up but our falling insisted.
away hasn’t slowed down. The news is not good for those
who pause before remembering. “We’ll get a nurse,” was the reply.

“This looks like a building that might have doctors’ offices,” “No, no,” I insisted. Just then I spotted a doctor. How great,
I said, although entirely unable to see what distinguished it I thought, that they wear their title on their chests.
from the others we had tried. It did not, but a helpful man at
the Information Desk looked up the doctor’s office address “Excuse me doctor, there is a patient you have to see,” I
and provided an escort who held traffic while we crossed said.
11th Street. Lucky thing, I thought, the hospital information
person hasn’t gone the way of directory assistance or we “Oh, my doctor!” Sarah cried and threw her arms around
could have ended up in a deli. him. Almost singing the words, “I have a cake for you,” she
presented him with the basket she had been carrying. “It’s
“I told you. I knew this was it. I could tell from the out- my best coffee cake. You should enjoy it,” she told him.
side,” Sarah announced as we entered the building.
“This wonderful woman needs an escort home,” I told Sar-
Up the elevator to the fifth floor we went. First left and then ah’s doctor. “Please,” I continued, “she cannot leave alone,
straight ahead to the doctor’s office. This time I followed and bereavement support would be a good idea.”
Sarah.
“We’ve tried that,” the doctor answered.
“I’m so sorry I’m late,” Sarah said apologetically.
“Find someone who understands that sixty-three years is
“Late?” the secretary responded, “Your appointment is in not a weekend,” I replied.
four weeks.”
“Thank you,” he said.
“No, I got a call this morning, reminding me about my ap-
pointment today.” “You won’t forget to call me?” Sarah reminded me.

“Forget to call you? Never. I want a taste of your ‘best cof-
fee cake’ too.”t

18
POETRY

Donna Tolley Corriher

Whatever Should Not Be Forgotten
She did try hacking off her hair. He,
That didn’t work, Told his supervisor to go to hell,
So she went for flesh and they called in the professionals. Didn’t get fired,
“People have miscarriages all the time, Had his pay docked,
And it’s just meant to be. Came home,
You didn’t do anything wrong, And bitched to her.
Your body’s fine, (His therapy only cost a hundred bucks.)
You can have another.”
The cost of this—
Such a big bandage for two little cuts.
Two neat little slices about an inch and a half long, “I’m just really very tired right now,
(Only the second seared at the edges of the pain). Will ya’ll please just shut up!”
Someone is still talking. Sad smiles with deep, heavy sighs,
(One can’t listen and think at the same time.) And the door whispers shut.
It had almost worked; He comes back,
A bubbling of defiance at the first snip. To look at her and think how little she looks,
But other mirrors brought words: And smile at the hair.
Cute. He wants to hold her hand,
Waiflike. But sits down instead,
Elfin. And closes his eyes.
Pixieish. She sees him asleep in the chair.
His mouth is closed,
The sorrow of her eyes. He doesn’t snore,
What did they look like after the arm thing? That scowl between his eyebrows.
She’d fainted right after feeling nauseous. The sob releases and he is looking at her.
Remembered thinking, “They’ll think I’m trying to kill myself.” He does try to pretend that he loves her.
Sighing in futility, She remembers.
Saying words the doctors wanted to hear.
Maybe some other woman would help them get it.

19
CREATIVE NONFICTION

The Collective
Aaron Lefebvre

I
f you’ve seen any of Miranda July’s During the program, there was one How many deep, screechy, or whiny,
performances, then you know you instance when seeing was absolutely male voices had scattered their tones
can expect a few things: love, sex, necessary. In conjunction with Ms. among the acoustic abyss of the audito-
awkward situations, and often, art that July’s performances, she sometimes has rium that evening? Perhaps all but my
explores who people really are—unique the audience interact with her and with own, though I like to believe there was
and sometimes a little scary. What July each other. For this performance, words at least one other guy or gal removed
is really showing us is a mirror. Beyond were displayed on the projector screen from the performance.
the self all others are different, yet we on stage beside her.
are equally as strange, mysterious, or My voice did not register in the col-
terrifying, to them. Some of us see the “I’d like all the men out there to read lective, and if it had, would the others
reflections in mirrors such as July’s what they see on the screen,” instructed have coalesced more uniformly? Would
better than others, and seeing does not July. hearing myself say the words have
always mean sight, but rather, insight. made the collective voice feel more
A collective male voice swelled in successful? Did anyone notice that I
An increase of insight is something the auditorium. Men’s voices rose all did not speak along with the others?
I’ve gained as I lost my physical sight. around me. Distinguishing the words Would anyone have noticed if I had? I
But this does not help one move about was a feat unfit for even a god. Miranda had no clue what had been said by the
the physical world, or engage in it as July proved that large groups of men— men, though I could infer from what
those with normal sight may. At events even those involved with the arts, who the women said, and from the men’s
like Miranda July’s, I tend to sit toward are perhaps a little more sensitive and ill-fated attempt, that it had something
the front so I’m close enough to see even more effeminate—when speaking to do with speaking together. As for
something. I have low vision, and spec- together unrehearsed as a single unit, the women’s performance, I’ve often
tator events are tricky at times. Movie always fail. thought this is what the voice of God
theaters, ball games, concerts, and so might sound like, every voice that has
forth, present challenges to those like “Now I want the women to read what ever spoken or will speak, speaking at
me who live on the edge of seeing and comes on the projector screen,” July once. It was eerie to say the least.
not seeing. We see half of what most said.
see, and we’re always finding ways to Because the words being read by the
improve our chances of seeing more “We are all reading aloud, perfectly audience were so distant, and because
completely. I must always seek out a in unison, naturally, as if it could not there would be no hope of my see-
seat that allows me to enjoy what I’m be any other way,” the women of the ing them without aid, I was made an
trying to see. However, this event was a audience said together, clearly and observer near the back. This seems to
popular one, and most of the seats were resolutely. be my lot in life. Ironically, while I do
filled by the time I arrived. I sat near not see well enough, and must remove
the back, and I resolved to use my ears myself from many normal social inter-
as my primary source of information actions as a result, I become one who
retrieval.

20
watches, records, and is left to consider “In Chaing Mai, we have a metham- who was learning to kickbox—“She
things under a different gaze. With each phetamine problem. Last week, the likes the sport, but she cries during
encounter where I am removed from police caught a group of criminals with practice sometimes,” he said proudly,
the whole, my insight grows. a store of drugs worth ten million U.S. beaming—and how chilly weather (40
dollars.” degrees Fahrenheit) was too cold for
* * * him—and how he was too unfit to be
Intuition told me that the bike-tour a tour guide because he liked food too
On their rental bikes, my friends, darted guide wouldn’t normally be pointing much. He patted his paunch, and I told
in and out of Chiang Mai, Thailand, out the city prison, or admitting to a him I was in the same boat and patted
traffic. Bike riding, especially in un- group of U.S. tourists that Chiang Mai my paunch in return.
familiar and busy urban traffic, is an had a drug problem.
activity that would leave a rider with My tour mates had learned facts
poor depth perception in dire peril. I “Do you want to go to the last stop or about ancient Thailand, facts that one
watched them on their bikes from the head back to the office?” Dum asked wouldn’t necessarily need to go on
safer confines of a van, driven by one me. a bike tour to learn in this age of in-
of the staff from the bike-tour office. formation. While they were on their
Since I’d only really been impressed by journey through Chiang Mai, seeing the
I had expected the ride in the van to be the 900-year-old temple we’d stopped sights that so many tourists before them
quiet and a bit uncomfortable. Here I at, I said we could head back to the of- had come to see, I sat on the Veranda
was riding along with a man I didn’t fice, no problem. with Dum exchanging facets of our
know, from a different culture and so- worlds, learning more about life than
ciety. He was accommodating, and I’d My friends and their guide biked to the views of temples and monuments could
discovered that most people in Thai- last stop without us tailing them. hope to instill.
land, especially those who work in the
vast tourism industry, speak English The office was really a house with I waited for the rest of the group to re-
very well. a nice veranda wrapping around the turn as I enjoyed a cool bottle of water
front. Dum had me sit in a wicker and relaxed in the balmy shade of the
“There are bottles of water in that cool- lounge chair and he brought me another veranda with Dum.
er,” Dum, the driver, mentioned. bottle of water and a bowl of bananas,
along with the leftover jackfruit from When my friends came back, they were
“Thanks,” I said. the lunch we’d had at a temple during sweaty, breathing laboriously, and I
the tour. could tell that they were in an entirely
As he drove, he gestured to a long con- different state of mind than I was. I
crete wall to our left, my biking friends “You see that tree?” he said, pointing didn’t know any of what they had
whizzing along beside it, concentrating along the property to a tree behind him learned, but somehow I knew that what
on bike operation and possibly wonder- laden with green clumps of some fruit I had learned from a simple conversa-
ing what the next monument would unknown to me. “Young jackfruit,” he tion with a typical Thai man was more
be and what they might learn about it. said. “At the night markets sometimes inspiring.
Or maybe they were just hoping they you can get a stew made with pork and
wouldn’t be sideswiped and killed by young jackfruit.” He seemed very fond * * *
cars and trucks. of the stew, and believed it would be
something I would like equally well. Musical performances have always
“That is the prison,” Dum said. “Most baffled me. Music is auditory art, not
people are there for drug crimes.” The name of the stew has escaped me, visual art. When we go to see a musical
and I was unable to find it during the artist perform, it should be to hear the
“Drug crimes?” trip, but there were a few items that music they make. At least this is how
didn’t escape me. Some of which came I’ve always felt. There’s a great thrill in
from Dum’s discussion with me about seeing the musician or artist play in the
his real, contemporary culture. He told flesh, producing this music for us to en-
me about his five-year-old daughter joy in the here and now. Occasionally,
maybe more than occasionally, people

21
go to see a musical artist or band be- understood then that I didn’t need to way. We all want different things and
cause they simply want to experience see him. I actually enjoyed the music we all enjoy things differently, but that
the aura of that musician’s presence. more without being able to see what his doesn’t make one experience more sig-
The music may not even be that good, hands were doing. I could feel the mu- nificant than another. It’s what we make
but their performance and demeanor sic. There were fewer distractions that of it that matters, and mostly, it matters
on stage are so thrilling that it’s just as way. Still, there were distractions. to us alone. Collectively, we’re rarely
good a treat as hearing their music. in harmony about things. Even if we all
A few guys to my right were talking agree something is badass, we might
There was a time when this was true during one of his songs. think it is for widely varying reasons. If
for me. I’d go see a musical act just for we weren’t that way, the world would
the experience of seeing the musician. be a very boring, automaton-ridden
I didn’t go then as I would now. These place.
days I really want to hear music in real-
ity, as it actually breathes without all These days I really want * * *
the digital ghosts of studio engineered to hear music in reality,
sound found on a CD or in an MP3 file. We’re not always separated from those
as it actually breathes around us by things we can’t control.
Now, if I’m going to a musical event, it without all the digital There have been moments when I
had better be amazing because the mu- found myself walking alone, making
sic is amazing, not because the perfor-
ghosts of studio observations of my own accord. People
mance is amazing. This is because see- engineered sound sometimes mistake this for me being
ing the performance is really no longer found on a CD or affected negatively by what surrounds
fun for me. But music is really fun for me. Granted, I might look troubled,
me. Being disconnected visually really in an MP3 file. or—as I imagine my appearance—pen-
allows one—and maybe you’ve expe- sive.
rienced this in the car with the radio up
loud, or with headphones on and your In a small town along the Chao Phraya
eyes closed—to feel the music and feel River, which runs through Bangkok in
“I wish he’d play that song from You-
connected to the musician through the Thailand, the conditions to most would
Tube over and over. It’s so awesome
airwaves they produce. I came to un- appear poverty-stricken, or nearly Third
what he does with his hands. Looks
derstand this phenomenon several years World. With my friends, our tour guide
badass,” the one guy said.
ago when I went to see a solo acoustic led us through the community where
guitarist perform. houses sat upon stilts and lush greenery
“Yeah that whole video is badass,” the
surrounded us and exploded wherever
other guy said back.
Andy McKee, the guitarist, who has there wasn’t a path or road or stream
garnered some fame from a viral You- running to the river. One thing the
I wanted to chime in and say, “No,
Tube video was playing at the Thunder- guide mentioned was that people tend-
what’s badass is the music he makes
bird Café in Pittsburgh. I went because ed to place their wealth in their spirit
with those techniques. Who cares
I’m a fan of his work, and I write com- houses (small shrines on residents’
what it looks like? It’s the sound that
positions in the same musical vein he properties), most of which were ornate
he makes that’s badass, that’s what’s
does; he’s a great influence, musically and intricately laced with shiny gems,
important!” And I could have gone on
and artistically. assumedly fake.
and on.
I was far from the stage, leaving him Eventually, the guide took us to a pot-
But I didn’t. No one wants to hear a
obscured from my vision, but not tery studio where a resident demon-
guitar nerd argue about why guitar
obscured from my ears. I could hear strated how he spun bowls and other
music is so awesome unless they them-
every detail of the bronze strings of his artifacts, most of which were functional
selves are guitar nerds. Besides, every-
guitars as they reverberated and filled in design and likely not intended for
one who came to that show had differ-
the space of the room with sound. I
ent expectations, different hopes of how
the night might unfold. That’s okay. It’s
okay because we’re all different any-

22
decoration. There was a store next to “I’d like to live somewhere like this make sure they’re enjoying the time
the studio and kiln, which had loads of for a time. It seems simpler somehow. they’ve invested in watching you.
crafted wares. Many of the people in Maybe harder living, but somehow
the group bought items ranging from peaceful.” The most important thing to remember
teapots to cups to incense burners. when you go on stage is that the audi-
She nodded her head, but I don’t really ence wants you to succeed. And if you
While they looked around the shop, I think she understood. don’t, that’s okay. Chances are no one
took the opportunity to step out and is going to get upset about a song going
walk about on my own and see what I feel that way sometimes, like some to pieces as long as you recover and
I could. I found myself standing on a people don’t really understand your keep going. They’ll also forget your
small footbridge that spanned over a actions and the things you say. Some- stupid jokes quickly.
busy little stream. If I’d had the time, times, society might not have a place
or felt welcome to it by the community, in your personal forays into the world It’s a strange feeling at times, volun-
I would have walked along the heavily around you. When you find yourself se- tarily removing myself from the crowd
vegetated stream to see where it went cluded in social situations, or for some and putting myself in the limelight to
and what might sit alongside it, if any- reason there’s something inhibiting do something I rehearse utterly alone,
thing. your participation in a group, there’s something that I love, for everyone else
really no need to feel left out. You’ve to enjoy. The tables turn on me here,
“It’s kind of sad, isn’t it?” someone been given the opportunity to make it I’m no longer a part of the collective,
from the group asked me while I your own personal adventure. but I am now its head. I am no longer
looked on. the observer. It observes me, and I am
* * * now the one who asks it to come along
“I wouldn’t say that,” I said, wondering and make what it will from what I give
if she had misunderstood my solitary I stood on stage and blue and white it.
gazing session. “This just all feels lights obscured the audience beyond. It
familiar to me somehow. I had some was as if I was playing guitar to no one, I play a song on guitar for what is vis-
close family friends who lived on Pa- but behind those lights, in the darkness, ible, what is visible to anyone who
cific islands for a time, probably not was everyone. Being a solo performer might find themselves in my position,
too far from Thailand. One was a potter can be a lonely occupation. It’s very regardless of whether or not they have
and a lot of this reminds me of their different being on stage alone with all good, poor, or no vision. I also play for
home.” eyes upon you, than it is being in a what I know is there beyond sight, I
group or a band where you are a part of play to what I’m a part of, to a mirror
We turned to head back to the group another unit. made of people, all so different yet re-
and stopped to continue speaking under vealing at its surface what I often feel is
a canopy that held with some sort of When you’re in a band, you’re connect- so distant: me.t
bar set up. ed to it by music, and it doesn’t matter
what happens on stage because you’re
all in it together. If there’s a moment
between songs when anecdotes, opin-
ions, or jokes must be told, anyone with
a microphone on stage may participate.
As a solo performer, it’s entirely up to
you to take care of the audience and

23
POETRY

Catherine Strisik

He
does not stop looking
at my face, and even before,
he did not. The way he looks
as if his eyes stroke my cheek,
lips, the curve of the bowl
on the kitchen table, as if this is how
he wants to remember
me.

Catherine Strisik

The Wife
Father’s Day. The grill is hot. The coals are red. A stranger appears− Says hello at the
gate. In the physical form as husband. Come home. For a minute. So. The wife sits on his
lap, an unusual gesture for her in front of others. She is trying to find him again. Her
fingers in his hair. She is the mother of his last child. She is the gardener, and from the
garlic she planted last October, the scapes curl up and around themselves. She has her
needs. He has his. Now the breeze with its hint of sagebrush, its mid-afternoon palette of
wanderlust. Laughter from the others who do not know how to drink and drink and watch
and laugh at the same time. They need to be blind to the stranger and the wife. The most
beautiful animal of the day is the chestnut mare that gallops in the neighbor’s field.

Catherine Strisik

Dopamine Agonist: Parkinson’s in Chunk Form
When did the whispering begin, in which hour did the mistress entertain
her lips embracing the microphone would be so seductive and odd
to the listener who cannot remove his eyes from her
breath, those magenta and swollen lips. The listener, damp
with abundant dopamine, rearranges his shirt for the invitation, does
not think of a cool rock to lay his cheek upon. The mistress
gleams with sweat, wipes her neck. In the lapse between
public words, the private matters; I love you
whispered into the canals of the listener’s body. How every sound
hints. How each undraped phrase bargains; the listener
shudders, lured by her curve. Now,
the whispers say, seduction, and she cannot let go
her whisper. The listener. All.
All. Sheer affliction.

These three poems are taken from the author’s poetry collection,
The Mistress, published by Taos Press, 2016. Reprinted by permission of the author.

24
Toby MacNutt

Bodily Humours
i. forest v. honey

I stand and become the forest, bones
creaking like bees, buzzing
in the wind invisible. a drone, a hum

I find my direction hexed skeleton, honeycombed
from my own shadow. armature of hive.

ii. thread vi. blood

shoulders bound to hips capillaries branch
in fine lace spider webs, into fractal infinitude
dwindling
thought flows through my body
one by one they fray, like blood,
innumerable
inaudible perfusive,
tiny snaps.
red warmth

iii. air an eye in every atom.

swing on my trapezius
and slide down my spine.

iv. water

freedom

underwater
bulky body becomes
a sine curve

modulates thoughts

all waves flow.

25
POETRY

Maura Gage Cavell

Rivers
Scarlet stream, masks of brown, orange,
the membrane wreckage burgundy, and gold.
of what might have been. One has musical notes on it;
She howls as loudly one has New Orleans scenes.
as a werewolf might, A cherry candle burns
steps into the bath and through the window
to wash away the pain comes the scent
of losing a dream. of a fresh spring rain.
The water is so hot Her daughter’s painted wooden fish
she sweats lightly sits near the mask and is
as she uses a soft green, blue, red, and yellow
lavender cloth, painted and has antennae.
its thick comfort, to wash. Beside it is a Snoopy with a heart
The Tahitian vanilla fragrance, that glows. She dreams of the rivers
mixes with coconut scents. and lakes she used to play in,
She pictures blue skies, canoe through the strange
hot sand, multi-colored umbrellas. insects on the banks—beetles
As she opens the pink fizz ball, of orange and brown stripes,
bath salts the size of her fist, armor undersides. A rusty
she smells its railroad spike, like a weapon,
sweet pea fragrance, is by her son’s bed as she
drops it into the bath. towels off, walks around
It fizzes, turns the water the upstairs while no one is home.
into silk. On the shelves He has a toy warrior assassin
in her room, she looks at beside his pillow—a plastic model
the Hindu God Ganesha, from a game. It has swords
its elephant face, four arms, up its sleeve, on its back,
two legs, and she says at its side. She puts toner
a silent prayer to him, on a cotton ball, wipes her face
since he can remove obstacles. with its soft fibers.
He is modest, wise, and knowledgeable. Her husband’s panther statue
Should she try again? stealthily seems to move
What if she loses another one? into the pink Easter grass
His lotus flowers seem to live. someone left on his dresser.
His trunk is a curlicue, It shines in twirls and swirls.
his headdress gold and pink. She has calmed herself
His sweet foods wait near his feet. with what matters—
“With your two legs and four hands, those who are already here—
please bless me.” and relaxes into acceptance
On another shelf of what was lost.
she finds masquerade

26
CREATIVE NONFICTION

How to Cry
Kirie Pedersen

1.
IT’S BEEN A LOVELY DAY From early childhood, I suffered from depression. At vari-
(EVEN IF I DID WANT TO KILL MYSELF) ous times, I believed if I killed myself, I would assume
I find that being in a family is the most excruciating power over pain and death. I tucked suicide into my back
possible way to be alive. pocket, an option and sometimes a threat, to extract as
-Anne Enright, The Gathering needed. You can’t kill me because I’ll kill myself first.

“Who wanted you dead?” When I finally succumbed to ask-
Greetings all, ing for help, that’s what the grief counselor asked.

After a pleasant Thanksgiving with Mom and my siblings, “Oh, everyone!” I said.
where he won all the after-dinner games, my father suf-
fered a massive stroke. He’s currently on life support in the
county hospital. Mom was also admitted, so they are on the 2. IT WAS THIS
same floor! Mom seems more alert after her own stroke, When your parents die, your molecular structure breaks
able to walk and talk again, very sweet. I was able to speak down and is rearranged. You literally become a different
with her on the phone yesterday. person. -Marco Yglesias

Dad is not expected to live, and Mom is referred to hospice, The morning after my father died, I woke with energy and
meaning the final months of her life. enthusiasm. I loved my first espresso in the bright Manhat-
tan morning. I was ready to run out onto Broadway and
That’s all I know at the moment, receiving hourly reports dance around. Then my mood shifted. Marco, my partner of
here in Manhattan, but please send loving thoughts as we ten years, was distracted. He had a show coming up. When
all make this transition. he is concentrating on his work, he hardly acknowledges
me, and this makes me crazy. Or used to. In those years, if
The upbeat, even cheerful tone reveals the depth of my de- anyone ignored me, I felt invisible. I thought I can’t stay
nial, up to and including the exclamation point. And here’s one more second in this relationship.
the weirdest, and if anyone can explain it by logical means,
please let me know. My parents died exactly one year apart. “Are you ready to be a pioneer in the middle of nowhere?”
It was as though a hole opened in the universe and sucked I asked for the third time that morning. When he didn’t re-
them away. spond, I accused him of not caring about my feelings. My
father was dead, I wanted Marco’s attention, and it wasn’t
there.

27
“I’m tired of your feelings,” he said. He turned in a fierce I don’t know what I expected, but I was surprised by the
circle, like a little dance, and he pounded the air with his people in the group, men and women and teenagers, all
fists. “Why would I want to live in the middle of nowhere nicely dressed and smart and dignified. If I had rolled
when I can be in Manhattan?” around on the floor and sobbed, it would have been per-
fectly fine with them. And very quickly, I gave up my self-
I didn’t bother to respond. I could not wait until he left the absorption. I became interested in their stories and their
apartment, and then I could not wait until he returned. I lives. For one hour every week, I didn’t have to make tidy.
felt like a dog following him around, dependent on his at- I didn’t have to ignore my father’s passing. I could say my
tention. That day, across the nation in sunny California, a mother is dying. For one hour, I could rage at the dead or at
famous writer hung himself, and I totally got it. At least I myself, or I could feel nothing at all. I could even laugh if
thought I did. I was more arrogant then. I thought now he’d I felt so inclined. The counselor liked us to end with some-
captured everyone’s attention forever: Here is my pain and thing silly, so we could leave the room more light-spirited.
here its breadth and height and depth, its weight. This is
how grief smells.
4. THE SCENIC ROUTE
Addiction to family members impacts us on a cellular level,
3. HOW TO CRY and because of this, escaping is like withdrawing from
You only become yourself when both your parents are dead. heroin. -Grief counselor
-May Sarton
In Central Park on my last day before returning west, the
When Marco and I finally did return to the sea and sky of witch hazel started to bloom. Beside my west coast cot-
the Pacific Northwest, my father no longer in it, I was un- tage, the witch hazel my mother gave me burst with golden
prepared for the blow. Nearby, in her hospice, my mother’s stars. I heard her voice that late winter afternoon in Port
body died more slowly. For the year it took her to die, my Townsend: “Would you like that for your birthday?” And
universe shrank to the length of trails near our cabin, my she leaned over and swept the heavy pot onto her hip.
mother’s bedside, and, when I finally gave up, the bereave-
ment support group. Grief became a screen that separated me from those I loved.
Although I craved comfort, I forgot the rules of engage-
“Want something to take the edge off?” Sarah, my physi- ment. On some days, I couldn’t even remember how to
cian’s assistant, turns her face toward me, and for a mo- talk. But worst of all was the exhaustion. My limbs became
ment, I’m bathed within her gaze. I exist. “Yeah, a lethal in- heavy. I dragged myself from bed to espresso pot to shower,
jection,” I say. Of course I want something to take the edge and then onto the forest paths to walk for miles, while still
off. I think I’m funny, but Sarah turns back to the laptop she so tired I wanted to lie down among the mosses and sleep.
usually taps instead of looking at me. Suicidal ideation. I Several times, tended by my golden retriever and collie, I
could be in big trouble for letting that slip out. did. At night, if I finally managed to sink into sleep, I jolted
back awake, sometimes filled with terror, perhaps that of
If I wasn’t going to take medication, Sarah suggested a be- the child who’s lost her parents and thus becomes prey. Ev-
reavement support group. The hospital hosted one, a long ery night, I asked Marco to hold me. He wrapped himself
distance from my home but close to my mother’s hospice. around me like a warm fragrant blanket, and his touch al-
Crying lessons, I called it. I would learn how to cry. As my lowed me to relax in what felt like my own final days.
mother shriveled, I hunched into a brown metal folding
chair and shared secrets with strangers with whom I had As best I could, I passed Marco’s loving touch to my
nothing in common. Except, of course, death. We had death mother, although I dreaded visiting her and then felt guilty
in common. That thing, that word you weren’t supposed to for my dread. The hospice was a lovely arrangement in the
say any more. home of a couple who grew organic gardens, cooked meals
from scratch and allowed my mother and the other guest
But I didn’t want to listen to other people’s sorrows. I to eat or not eat as they chose. The only problem was that
wanted to writhe on the floor, my fellow mourners tossing most of the time, my mother had no idea who I was. As I
tissues at me, or at least kicking the tissue box in my direc- drove home, I imagined kayaking into the middle of the bay
tion. (Even handing a tissue to the weeper was suspect, the and how it might feel to slide, gently, into the sea. Before
grief counselor said. As if you were trying to stop his cry- my father died, my mother often kayaked alone, her arms
ing.)

28
whirling the paddles and her tiny body almost invisible in another job, and there I was assaulted. The following morn-
the shallow seat. “Should you be out there without a life ing, I woke at 4:30 to dish out pancakes and eggs to my
preserver?” I called from my cottage above the bay. She disheveled peers, couples leaning in toward each other after
shook her head at me. You really don’t get it, her look said. having spent the night together by choice. Standing there
behind the food cart, I fainted. Someone helped me to my
On that December morning in Manhattan after my father’s dorm room, and there, for the rest of that day, I pounded my
sudden stroke, when I was almost merry, some shock must head against the wall.
have exploded inside. By January, I was struck by every
cold and flu that swept through the city. Twice Marco After that, as depression descended like a dark funnel, I was
rushed me to the emergency room with kidney stones. Then determined to heal myself. Already strong, I would become
a tooth abscessed, requiring multiple surgeries, which then stronger. I trained as a healer, ready to fly at a moment’s
failed. I created a cave in our Washington Heights sublet, notice to tend to the hurt. I worked as a rape, assault, and
hanging double layers of dark curtains and settling into bed crisis counselor, taking double shifts on the holidays and
with two layers of wax ear plugs and a silk eye patch. I had talking callers down from suicide. I taught in an orphan-
fallen over some kind of edge, and some internal structure age. I took on high-risk foster children. I ran programs for
collapsed. I wanted to return to merry. I wanted to take disenfranchised youth and adults. I filled my home with
the scenic route, as my mother always called it, and arrive abandoned children, and while I was at it, with dogs and
someplace else. cats otherwise doomed to be killed at the shelter.

“Is this normal recovery from a bone graft?” I asked the Although not instantly cured, or even possessed of insight,
surgeon. it took the passing glimpse of a falling college-age girl in a
café for me to begin to unravel, to admit I’d spent my life
“No,” he said. fleeing rage and pain, thinking I could heal others rather
than tend my own wounds.
After a month in my isolation chamber, I started what be-
came the walking cure. I walked through Manhattan for
miles, up and down, back and forth along the streets, around 5. COMFORT MEASURES
the length and width of Central Park. I didn’t listen to music Social contact constantly rearranges our DNA. -Anna Fels
or talk on my phone or look at people or sights. I simply
walked. After doctors said my mother could no longer drive, my
parents were locked into a six-mile radius on our isolated
One night I was walking home alone at night, north rural peninsula. I obtained some forms from their doctor
on Broadway near Columbia University. As I passed a and downloaded others. You need to write your wishes, I
brightly-lit cafe, I glanced inside. At that precise moment, told them. My parents sat in their usual places at the table
a young woman froze in place, swayed slightly, and then we’d had since I was a kid, their one splurge, as my father
collapsed to the floor beside the bussing station. I wondered called it, covered with multiple layers of plastic so that de-
if I should call for help, but a policeman arrived almost in- cades later, the polished maple remained immaculate.
stantly, and then another stood in the street to flag down the
ambulance already wailing its way through traffic. My parents leaned over the bright-green forms called Phy-
sician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Paradigm or
I ran the miles through the dark to our sublet. Once inside, I POLST. They wrote rapidly, and without consulting each
tried to greet Marco, but instead I leaned against the wall in other or me. They knew exactly what they wanted and
the entryway, started crying and could not stop. I could not didn’t want. They shoved the green forms down the table
erase the image of the young woman’s body, replaying the toward me as if completing an exam.
image of her collapse again and again, an endless reel on a
horror film. “What about after death?” I asked. What did they want
then? This was when they glanced at each other and
“I wish that ambulance was for me,” I said when I could frowned. My mother wanted to donate her body for re-
talk. My heart was pounding. I learned later this is called a search. If nobody wanted her, burial. Where? They hadn’t
trigger seeing the young woman faint caused a flashback to thought about it. He didn’t need a grave, my father said. I
a buried trauma of my own. My first semester at college I could scatter his ashes across the bay.
held three jobs and still couldn’t make ends meet. I took on

29
“No,” my mother said. “You’ll be beside me.” When my After my mother’s burial, my father’s ashes tucked into
father shook his head, she raised hers to look him in the her coffin, I felt flattened. Every day, with my collie and
eye. “You’ll see,” she said, mock-stern. golden retriever, I roamed the trails through the forests
behind my cabin. These are the trails my parents and I and
I learned our family qualified for a site in the tiny village many friends maintained together. And still, once a week, I
cemetery, and I contacted the cemetery commission and met with my fellow mourners. Several of us lost significant
secured one of the final three sites available. One afternoon, amounts of weight, becoming almost skeletal. I could not
my mother asked me to take her to see it. Just six miles imagine how I had ever been able to do anything, or that I
from their cabin, the tiny cemetery overlooks the bay, the would ever again function in any kind of normal way.
mountains rising directly behind. Their plot was beside that
of the Native American founder of our village, who along The counselor said, “All responses are correct and normal.”
with her non-Indian husband purchased and then donated She added, “don’t rush your grief. Don’t take on anything
much of the land that comprises our tiny village today. new if you can help it.”
When I showed my mother the still unmarked plot and ex-
plained the details, her face was blank. A few in the group described the actual physical death of
their loved one, but some of us remembered regrets. “She
“You can have a line of poetry if you want,” I said, “On a wanted a scarf,” said a widower. He looked down at his
stone.” She shook her head. Once again, I wasn’t getting it. hands. “The scarf only cost six dollars, and I wouldn’t let
her have it.” One slept in her beloved’s shirt, and another
“Daddy,” she said. carried her mother’s purse. One could not bear to change
the sheets. One tore the clothes from her mother’s closets
That I could understand. She meant the grave was for him. and drawers and flung them into garbage pails, dragging
That he would die first. And she was, of course, right. them to a distant shed. A few days after her fiancé’s sudden
death, an accountant stumbled from the loft of her barn. She
I’d been frightened of my mother’s physical death, but with clung for long minutes before she was able to pull herself
the guidance of the hospice nurse, another member of our back up. “His spirit pulled me,” she told us. “He wants me
tiny rural community who’d known my parents for decades, to live.”
the days of what is called active dying were gentle. My
sisters and I had drops of morphine to ease my mother’s We also talked about where to live. Should she move closer
discomfort, and at times she seemed happy to hear us sing to family, as her sisters were insisting, and abandon the
every song we knew, including those she taught us when we house she loved? His kids, too, wanted him to shed the
were small. Toward the end, as my sister held our mother now too-large house. Or so they said. But then he’d have
in her arms, I read from a book my mother gave me when I to pack. Should this woman remain in her mother-in-law’s
was in fifth grade, Words for the Wind. I chose her favorite house even though the man who linked them was dead?
poem, Roethke’s “Meditations of an Old Woman.” For the
thirty minutes or so it took me to read the long poem, she One widow suffered none of these pangs. She only joined
stopped her intense breathing, opened her eyes, and fixed us once, and she spoke with glee of her husband’s death.
her gaze on mine the way a child does as she’s being read “My girlfriends and I are headed for Hawaii,” she said.
to sleep. At particularly beautiful lines, her eyes widened. I
read the final stanza: She didn’t need us, and we were glad. “Take us with you,”
What came to me vaguely is now clear, we murmured. But we lacked the will to minister such kind-
As if released by a spirit, ness or forgiveness to ourselves. In that icy Northwestern
Or agency outside me. winter, our grief seemed frozen into our flesh. We might
Unprayed-for, yearn for bright sun on sandy beaches, but it wasn’t going
And final. to happen. Not yet. Few of us could even manage hugs.
Despite the intimacy of what we shared, hugging was never
She closed her eyes and resumed her exit. the norm. We never exchanged numbers. We returned to
our warrens like snails to shells, to reappear the following
week. Until we didn’t. When we were done grieving, we
6. WAKE TO SLEEP simply vanished. Time collapsed and fell forward, moment
telescoping out of moment, until in some ways I barely re-
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. / I feel my fate member any of them at all but for that stretch of time when
in what I cannot fear. / I learn by going where I have to go. we embraced without touching.
-Theodore Roethke, “The Waking”

30
POETRY

The long-range effects of that time are profound. By surren-
dering to sadness and allowing my rage to emerge and then
Brenda Kay Ledford
dissipate, I was healed in ways I never expected and which,
every morning as I awaken with joy, surprise me. I find I
am now able to be present for others whose parents or loved
ones die. I don’t try to stop their sadness. I don’t really even
say very much. I’m simply patient, as others were with me.
Caregiver’s Muse
I feel a deep connection to these new grievers, a kind of The caregiver has no time
love that goes below surfaces. to play hide-go-seek.
My muse cannot hide,
Another change that takes me by utter surprise is that after I will find you.
a lifetime of significant depression, I am free of that yoke.
My choice of cure for what seemed unendurable was the To play hide-go-seek,
daily walking, along with what evolved as a daily practice exhausted to the core.
of simple yoga and meditation. Because medication doesn’t I will find my muse,
work for me as a solution, I had to find the patience and you are my best friend.
time to what, as I at one point joked, was half my days
spent in a kind of silent walking prayer. I also admit I feel a Exhausted to the core,
strong presence of my mother when I’m in the forest now, I must nurture my soul;
and I talk with her out loud if no one’s around. Perhaps the you are my best friend,
cure to the malady of depression for me was that walking keeping my life anchored.
and stretching and meditation can heal, if one’s willing to
take it incredibly slow. Light breaks through the clouds,
to play hide-go-seek.
The third and final change has been that my friendships I must care for myself,
have deepened. I no longer follow Marco around like an the caregiver has no time.
abandoned puppy expecting his focus to be only on me. We
talk with each other, and we listen to each other. I no longer
expect anyone’s focus to be on me, ever. This is a kind of
grace, and it characterizes my life today.t

A version of this work appeared in the Winter/Spring 2016 William H. McCann, Jr.
edition of Lunch Ticket, published by Antioch University,
Los Angeles.

Dreamers
Doug could not hear—
twin hearing aids turned up full,
said as much.
I struggled with walking, balance, playing ball
And social skills
Not to mention an IQ of 62.
Joe, Tommy, Steve and I talked of
College, career and family.
Our teachers and parents
Would have laughed.

31
FEATURED ART

Fragments
Sandy Palmer

Jim Stevens, Megghan, 2014, monofilament painting, 18” x 24” x 3.5

“My childhood vision was art, but it took a war, a stroke, and separation between each row you also see through the
and two little girls to finally make me see things as clearly image. Hundreds of strands hang in eight separate rows
as I did when I was a child.” within an acrylic encasement. Each strand a thin, essential
~Jim Stevens piece of the whole. Viewed individually, you’d see nothing.

J
Combined, what you see is amazing.
im Stevens is a man who defies logic by creating imag-
es in empty space. On strands of monofilament (fishing When Stevens was a young boy he was fascinated by his
line), the artist paints ethereal images that have been grandmother’s talent, and her art supplies, so one day he
mistaken for holograms and referred to as “captured shad- decided to sneak into her studio and take a piece of charcoal
ows.” Stop and think about that—he paints on fishing line! and some paper. Fearing she might not approve, he went
You can see the image, but with spaces between the strands around the side of the house, sat on the ground, and began

32
Jim Stevens, The Best of Us, 2016, abstract linear acrylic painting, 16” x 20” x 1.5”

to draw. “I don’t recall what I was trying to draw—a dande- in his head and one month after being shot, he began having
lion or some little flower. I was sitting with my back to the debilitating migraines. Twenty-three years later, during one
side of the house when all of a sudden this shadow comes of those migraines, blood vessels expanded and caused one
across the paper. Uh oh! But instead of being mad, I heard of those bullet fragments to shift, blocking blood flow, and
a voice say, ‘Well, if you really want to know how to do resulting in a stroke in his visual cortex. He was left with
that, you might as well come in the house and let me teach only pin-dot vision in both eyes. “I lost my eyesight in just
you.’” thirty minutes. My career, my future, and my self-worth
soon followed.”
When he was about seven years old, his dad asked him
what he wanted to be when he grew up and Stevens said Life felt miserably dark without sight and anger fueled his
he wanted to be an artist and writer. “My father exploded. days. “I took a crowbar to my motorcycle, destroyed my art,
He cursed and swore no son of his was going to grow up and almost anything else I could get my hands on.” After
to be a starving artist in an attic somewhere!” His father’s his divorce, adjusting to life as a blind man while raising
reprimand left an impression on him, in the form of bruises. two young daughters on his own seemed like a daunting
Lesson learned. task. He remained stuck in the mire of despair and indigna-
tion for a few years. This was a side of their father his girls
At seventeen, he joined the Army. By eighteen he made had never seen. They could remember a time when Dad
staff sergeant. Only one year later he was shot in the head had a passion for all things, especially art. When Sara was
during a combat mission in Vietnam. It left bullet fragments thirteen and Megghan eleven, they began encouraging him

33
Jim Stevens, Embers, 2015, monofilament painting, 21” x 28” x 3.5

to get back to the art that he loved so much. Even as young ent lenses, he learned to switch from one to another as he
girls, Megghan says they knew “he needed to focus that worked, constantly scanning, and maintaining focus. “The
anger and put it into something constructive. We knew it more I worked, the better I got and the more people no-
would be difficult and he might not be able to do some of ticed, the busier I got. It took four long years of dedicated
the things he used to do, but it would at least be an outlet practice, work, and persistence, but one day I realized I had
for him.” finally become so busy with my art I forgot to be angry.”

Art? Impossible, he thought. He was blind. But the girls At home one day, Stevens heard his six-year-old grandson
persisted until he promised to try. calling for help in the back yard. “He had his toy fishing
pole and a huge bird nest of tangled monofilament line and
Megghan already knew what she wanted Dad to do—she I thought, Oh yeah. The blind guy’s gonna help the six-year-
wanted a carving of a wizard with a big hat and beard. Ste- old untangle this. But as I was trying to help him the clouds
vens selected a piece of ancient ivory and began to carve, went overhead and the monofilament on my fingers seemed
but unable to fully see what he was working on, one day to ripple. I saw that. It was a gorgeous effect and I couldn’t
he became so frustrated he threw it across the room. “How get it out of my head.”
am I supposed to do this?” he snapped. “I can’t see!” Meg-
ghan picked it up, brought it back, and set it down in front He spent the next five months trying to work with the
of him. “Daddy, you promised not to quit.” Abased, he held monofilament in different ways to create art. Many attempts
the ivory in his hands. Using his sense of touch and a huge ended up in the trash but through trial and error, he learned
dose of patience, he began again. With only pin-dot vision with each effort. Eventually he found a way to etch and then
he learned to rapidly scan his eyes to help see the subject. It paint with acrylic directly on the monofilament. More than
took 900 tedious hours but he persevered and completed the one hundred painted strands, strung side by side, create one
wizard. Megghan, now an adult, still has it. layer of the image. He paints eight layers of the same image
to complete a painting but he shades each layer differently
After learning to carve again, he turned his attention to to create depth. Once all of the layers are painted, he trans-
drawing. “Gradually, over time, I taught myself how to fers the strands, one at a time, into a clear acrylic case. Each
draw, paint, and do scrimshaw again.” Using five differ- layer offset slightly. “My monofilament paintings are not

34
Close up abstract linear painting: Images are painted with
irregular lines on a clear acrylic panel that is then mounted
over a black abstract painting on a Komatex panel. The linear
image painted in white only becomes visible when layered
over the black abstract background.

Collage image showing part of the acrylic case for a monofilament
painting, strands of one layer on a layout board, side angle of
Embers, and photo of the artist using an Optivisor.

Close up monofilament painting: An average of 450 yards of mono-
filament line (roughly 129 strands across, 8 layers deep) is shown
here within an acrylic case.

flat visual experiences. They are interactive, engaging both ing with black paint on a smooth Komatex panel. Separate-
the eye and the mind’s sense of wonder.” On average, it ly, on a clear acrylic panel he paints a realistic image with
takes two months, working ten hours a day, to complete one white lines, leaving the negative space transparent. When
monofilament painting. His favorite one to date is the one of both paintings are complete, the acrylic panel with white
Megghan. He says, “It is the first monofilament painting I paint is mounted in front of the abstract painting with black
got right,” and it hangs in his living room. paint and the shading that creates the image is revealed.
A finished image appears only when the two elements are
Needing more and more room to work, the artist eventually combined. Slide a piece of white paper between the paint-
converted his two-car garage into a studio. His grandson’s ings and both the shading and the image seem to vanish.
toy fishing pole now hangs there in a place of honor. Realism and abstract art are combined to create one striking
image that is actually seen through empty space—one with-
In addition to the monofilament paintings, which have out the other and it is incomplete.
earned him multiple awards, he also creates what he calls
abstract linear paintings. Because he sees the contrast of Megghan is now her dad’s personal assistant; helping with
black and white best, he starts by creating an abstract paint- whatever is needed, including scheduling her father’s time

35
Jim Stevens, Three Eagles, 2016, abstract linear acrylic painting, 38” x 48” x 1.5”

and working to find new venues for his art. She is grateful and at 51 he became the oldest man, and only legally blind
to the folks at Veterans Affairs Recreational Therapy for man, to ever win the men’s fighting competition at Den-
encouraging him to develop his art and for displaying his ver’s multi-state Shaolin Kenpo Tournament of Champions
work just as other venues do in their art exhibits. She says, in 2002. His sensei made sure no one knew he was blind
“It is important to me when someone sees his work that until the competition was over. “I left the tournament with
they see it based on its own merit. I don’t want them com- a broken nose, three cracked ribs, a torn rotator cuff, a dis-
ing to a show to see what a disabled person does. I don’t located knee, and first place trophy as tournament fighting
want that to be the headline. I want the work itself to be the champion.”
headline. Then, by the way, you learn about the artist and
his history and what he’s gone through. It doesn’t define his He doesn’t practice martial arts anymore but he stays busy
ability.” with his art and involvement with two nonprofit organiza-
tions—A3 and VFW Post 1. Stevens serves as a board
Stevens emanates perfectionism. If he’s going to do it, he’s member and treasurer for A3: Adapt • Adjust • Achieve, a
going to work hard to do it right. If he doesn’t do it right chapter of the American Council of the Blind. He is proud
the first time, he’ll keep trying until he gets it right. Not just that they take an active role in assisting people with vision
as an artist, but in life. After losing his eyesight and finally impairments in their homes, the environment where they
pursuing his art again, his daughters also encouraged him need to live and adapt, with the assistance of aids and train-
to try martial arts. A blind man pursuing martial arts? Why ing. He is also the director of the Veterans Arts Council at
not?! He earned black belts in two different disciplines

36
Jim Stevens, Wolf, 2014, monofilament painting, 21” x 28” x 3.5

VFW Post 1 in Denver, the first and oldest VFW post in the
country, where they don’t have an open bar—they have an
art gallery and yoga instead. “We mentor and work with
veterans who are also artists or would like to be.” VFW
Post 1 is strategically located in the middle of the Arts Dis-
trict on Santa Fe in Denver and their gallery showcases art
created by veterans and promotes the sale of their work.

His aspirations to become an artist and writer have come to
fruition despite his father’s stern admonition. The award-
winning artist has received acclaim for his intriguing mono-
filament and abstract linear paintings. He has served as the
master scrimshaw craftsman for Fenton, a jewelry design
studio based in New York, and he has written three compre-
hensive books on the art of scrimshaw. It took many years,
and the encouragement of “two pesky little girls,” but he
achieved his dream. Fragments, slowly pieced together over
a lifetime, have revealed a true artist.

To see more of Jim Stevens’ work visit www.scrimshawstu-
dio.com. Kaleidoscope first learned of the artist by watch-
ing a PBS Newshour video online. To see the video and get
a closer glimpse at his intriguing work go to http://to.pbs.
org/2p8oDfG.t Jim Stevens, Wizard, 2001, ivory carving, 6” tall

37
FICTION

Roller Coaster
Justin Glanville

B
arely anything was moving. Just a few strands of waiting, he said, that was worst: sitting there, in that small
hair, waving in a breeze I couldn’t feel, on the head prison of steel and upholstery, waiting to take off. He told
of the man in front of me. A single drop of sweat me his palms grew so slick he couldn’t pick up the in-flight
running down my forehead. My eyes blinking, eyeliner run- magazine. His heart pounded against his ribs for the whole
ning. flight until they landed, and he took a twenty-two-hour bus
ride home. He asked his company to let him stop traveling,
We were trapped, Mark and I, at the precipice of the Beastly and they said no, so he quit.
Beast, a roller coaster higher than any hill in Connecticut.
And there were people all around us, letting loose little He’d been different when we first married. His favorite
screams. Somehow that was worst of all: knowing how thing to do was take road trips. He’d come home on a
scared other people were, but not being able to see any of Friday night after work and announce we were going to
them because it would be too terrifying to turn around. I Mystic, or to New York City. And we’d just go. I’d put a
could hear only the sounds of their fear. bandana on my head—one like I’d worn in college, paisley
and faded—and make sandwiches and pack an extra pair of
Here’s what I heard from behind: A girl and her friend, jeans. But it had been years since there had been a Friday
probably in the same sorority and on break from college, like that. Friday nights we went shopping for groceries. Sat-
trying to laugh at first and then falling silent. A father urdays we went to the movies. Routine. Safe.
soothing his bawling son—how old could the boy be? He
sounded no more than ten, much too young to be here— He was working in a small accounting office now, not far
and the mother even further back, repeating her husband’s from me. We had lunch together sometimes—forty-five
name. Just his name, over and over, because there was noth- minutes over sandwiches and Coke, then back to the eleva-
ing else to say. In front of me, a teenage boy put his arms in tors and the whir of artificial heating and cooling. Some-
the air and bellowed in a show of bravado, but then he, too, times during those lunches the boredom became almost
grew quiet and still. intolerable. I’d feel a scream rising inside me, silent but
shattering. Just chew, I’d tell myself. Chew.
Mark was sitting next to me and I put my hand on his leg.
However scared I was, I knew he felt worse. He had started We had come to the park with another couple, Carol and
having panic attacks two years ago, when he was on an Steve. They had begged us to come. I told Mark I thought
airplane to Des Moines—some business trip, one of a thou- it would be good for us. “Remember the road trips?” I had
sand he’d taken. But that trip was different. No one knew said, and thought I saw him wince. “It’s been so long since
why—not the shrinks, not Mark himself. He got nervous, we’ve done anything fun.”
and then more nervous, as they sat on the runway. It was the

38
“But I’ve always hated amusement parks,” Mark had said. “Too much for me, too,” Carol said. “You two go ahead
“Even before.” though. We had to twist your arms to come here and now
you’re going for the scariest ride in the park!”
This was how we both talked about the panic: in sentence
fragments. We left out specific words—they were too scary. Mark looked at me. I knew he didn’t want to say no in front
of our friends. His eyes asked me to let it drop. But I was
“You don’t have to go on any rides,” I’d said. “We’ll just go feeling selfish and reckless. And anyway, this would be
along and have a little fun.” good for him. That’s what the shrinks had said: Don’t rein-
force his anxiety. Help him confront his fear.
Finally, he’d agreed.
“These things are completely safe,” I said, using my work
But something happened to me when we got to the park. I voice. I’m a mechanical engineer. Quelling people’s con-
remembered being a little girl, and my father taking me to cerns about technology is practically my job. “Come on,
a similar place where I grew up in Ohio. I remembered my trust me. I work with this kind of stuff all day. They’re not
thin little-girl hair flying in the wind on countless rides—the that much more complicated than a ceiling fan.”
Tilt-A-Whirl and the Matterhorn. I remembered being fasci-
nated by the oily, heaving machinery hidden behind wooden “I’m not sure that would make me feel any better—riding a
facades. ceiling fan,” Carol said, laughing. I could tell she was trying
to keep the mood light. That’s what Carol did.
The four of us started with those rides: the old-fashioned
ones. I laughed and screamed so hard my face hurt. I bought Mark hesitated. I thought I meant it as a joke, but it came
cotton candy and shared it with Carol and then—because out cold, like a schoolyard taunt. “Come on, Mark,” I said,
who cared now?—an elephant ear, sandy with sugar, and and I imagine how my eyes must have narrowed and my lip
ate it all myself. We drank beer, even though Mark wasn’t curled. “Don’t be a baby.”
supposed to on his medication. I thrilled at my regression,
giggling and yelling and pointing. I saw Mark glancing at He looked at me with a mix of shock and anger, and a few
me a few times like he was embarrassed. I didn’t care. I seconds later we were in line, Carol and Steve waving at us
didn’t wipe the grease and sugar from my face and I felt with forced smiles.
free. When was the last time I’d felt free?
As we stood waiting, roasting in the sun, guilt overtook
We walked past the Beastly Beast. I’d had my eye on it me. What had made me act like that? But I tried to stay
since we’d arrived. It loomed in the background every- upbeat—more for myself than for him. “Thanks for coming
where we went: the highest coaster in the park, so vertical. with me,” I said. “This will be fun.” He didn’t answer.
It scared me and drew me to it. After two hours or so, we
walked past the entrance. Laughter, sugar, and beer fizzed in Now, stuck in mid-air, that seemed an eternity ago. The sun
my belly. “Let’s go,” I blurted. beat down on my arms and my skin seemed to be growing
pinker. “It’ll be over soon,” I managed to croak to Mark.
Mark grimaced. “Moll—” “They’ll fix it.” But I realized how unconvincing I was.
I looked at him, but he was away somewhere, looking
Carol laughed. “You’re a wild woman!” straight ahead, his eyes blank. “Mark,” I said. He said noth-
ing.
“Come on!”
I remember trying to focus on the safety bar that rested
“No way. I’d hurl on the people in front of us,” Steve said. in our laps. I studied the cushiony fabric that wrapped it,
He clapped his hands on his belly. “Weak stomach.” squeezed it with my fingers. I saw each little tear in the fab-
ric. I started to count them. I memorized their shapes. And
then I looked down at my shorts. The closer in I focused—

39
the smaller I could make my world—the better. I didn’t “Stop him!” yelled another, to no one in particular.
want to see what was outside the car. Not any of it. Not
the ocean or the sun or the tiny people down below. They I had to follow him. I had to stop him somehow, or if I
would only remind me how much space there was around couldn’t stop him, I had to go with him. I don’t know why.
us—how much terrible, empty space. Maybe I was afraid he would die alone. Or maybe I was
glad for the permission to escape—to move, to take control.
I tried reason. I was engineer; I knew coasters had gotten Maybe anything would have felt better than sitting there,
stuck before, and would get stuck again, and the techni- prone.
cians would know what to do. The problem was probably
just a matter of replacing a fuse or a wire. Any second they He had both feet on the tracks now, but he was still holding
would be climbing up to us, up the ladder I could see to my on to the side of the car, crouched. I remember his face. It
side, fixing whatever needed to be fixed. Or the ride would was still blank, his jaw clenched, and he was trembling a
start again on its own, and it would all be over. But then I’d little with concentration.
catch a corner of sky, or feel Mark’s scary silence, and the
panic would grow louder.

The panic, and the guilt. I had forced him to do this. I
thought of apologizing, but what would be the point when Letting go of the side of the car with
my offense was ongoing, was becoming exponentially my hands required a force of will I
worse the longer we were stuck?
never knew I had.
I felt a movement beside me. I was glad at first—he had
come back to life. He wasn’t in the grip of some irreversible
psychological melt down. I turned to him, and a sound left
my mouth—something like a scream, but thicker. He was I pulled up on the safety bar with all the strength I had, and
wiggling his way out from under the safety bar. He was try- it budged upwards maybe half an inch. It was enough to
ing to get free. start to work my thighs free. I rocked from side to side until
I got one of my legs out from under the bar. I rested it on
“Mark!” I yelled. “What are you doing?” the side. The other one was easier.

The other riders began to murmur, and then to shout. Mark “Lady, you’re crazy! Don’t do it!”
freed himself from beneath the safety bar and rose from his
seat. We were at the very crest of the hill, and fairly level, Mark was on the ladder now. All I could see were his hands
but he wobbled a little. and the top of his head. He had made it that far, at least,
without falling. I slid to the edge of the car, toward him, and
“Sit down, man!” one of the faceless people behind us started to climb out. I had to look down to find my footing,
yelled. A chorus of consent from the others: “Sit down!” and the view was surreal in its extremeness. Everything
“Don’t be stupid!” “You’re going to get yourself killed!” was so tiny and large, all at once. I tried to keep my focus
blurred so I couldn’t see details. I think that helped. I think
I pulled at his shirt, but he was stronger than me, and deter- it saved me: trying not to see.
mined. He was moving toward the side of the car, and I saw
where he was going: to the ladder. He was going to try to By the time my legs were out of the car, he was perhaps
climb down. five feet down the ladder. Letting go of the side of the car
with my hands required a force of will I never knew I had.
“No! Honey, no!” Why the pet name now, of all times? It I gripped the tracks, kneeling now, and crawled backwards
was preposterous that I should be wasting breath on “hon- until my feet reached the first rung. People on the coaster
ey” when I could have managed another “no” instead. were screaming at me.

He swung one leg out of the car. His foot found the steel of “Mark!” I yelled. I didn’t know what to say next. Did I want
the track while his hands held the side of the car. I clutched him to come back up? Or was I only calling his name, want-
his other leg with both hands, crying now, blubbering non- ing him to know that I was there?
words. He shook me off. He wouldn’t stop.
I inched down the first few steps on the ladder. I’d never
“Jesus,” said one of the men behind me. “He’s going to been so terrified, but somehow my body kept moving.
climb down!” Something beyond thinking took over. My eyes were like
lasers: I didn’t see anything except the metal of the rungs. I

40
kept repeating “Oh God,” over and over: “Oh God oh God “It’s going to move,” he said. I could barely hear him. His
oh God oh God.” I’m not religious. But I needed to say voice was flat. It was the first time he had spoken since the
something. stall.

We were on our own now, the two of us. I could see him There was a screech of metal, and the movement grew
below me, just his head and his hands. As I negotiated my stronger. I looked up. Far above, I could see that the coaster
steps downward an odd sense of almost-peace began to had started to move. Inching forward.
overtake me. It was better out here, on the ladder, without
everyone else’s panic crowding around, taking up all the “Oh my God, stop it!” I yelled. The coaster was going to
oxygen. And at least I had something to do now other than descend the first hill. I could hear the passengers above
sit in helpless terror and guilt. screaming.

I decided around the fourth or fifth rung that I would be In my peripheral vision, the spiderweb of the support beams
safer barefoot. I was wearing flip-flops, and they were mak- became blurry with vibration. My palms were slick with
ing me slip. Keeping them on my feet—the piece of fabric sweat and throbbed from the heat. Sweat poured down
pinching between my toes—only added more work. I shook
them off and watched them spiral away, hundreds of feet
down. Better. I could grip the rungs with my toes, flesh
against steel.
To stay still seemed the worst
As we descended, the people above were still calling to of all possible options—worse
us, but their voices were growing fainter. Instead I could
hear amplified voices from far below. Tinny voices through than continuing downward,
megaphones. “Attention, patrons on the ladder”—how ri- worse even than just letting
diculous that they called us that, “patrons” instead of some-
thing more urgent and less commercial like “refugees” or go and falling, hoping someone
“escapees”—“Stay where you are. I repeat: Stay where you below would catch me.
are. Help is on the way.”

To stay still seemed the worst of all possible options—
worse than continuing downward, worse even than just let-
ting go and falling, hoping someone below would catch me. my face. I looked down at Mark, to make sure he was still
To stay still would mean to stop doing, and the movement there. In an instant my glasses slid off my face, hastened by
of my arms and legs was all I had. We both kept going. the sweat. They were gone. I screamed. I could barely see
beyond the ladder. Just unfocused shapes all around.
The sun had been beating against the metal rungs all day,
and I felt like I was touching an iron. Each step became I could tell the coaster was beginning to go downhill be-
more painful. My skin seemed to be burning, and I imag- cause the passengers screamed louder and the structure
ined deep red lines forming on my palms and the bottoms shook more. I was still, paralyzed, knowing I might not be
of my feet where the rungs touched. There was still so far able to keep hold if I tried to take another step. I was crying.
to go—at least halfway. I remember trying to take my mind Between the sweat and tears, I was drenched. This was ter-
elsewhere. I thought of a beach in Georgia where Mark and ror: the body wringing itself out, trying to become smaller
I had spent a week last winter. But it was useless. All of my and drier.
mind was “heat” and “ladder” and “height” and “Mark.”
When I looked down, I could see the fuzzy shape of Mark
I thought I felt a vibration, a brief movement of the struc- below. I thought he was looking up at me, because I could
ture. But it went away, and I decided I had imagined it. But see the pink of skin more than the brown of hair. I yelled his
then I felt it again, stronger. Was it the wind? But there was name.
no wind. Just baking, still heat. The people on the mega-
phones were telling us to stop. The coaster was flying downhill now, a sound of thunder
and screaming, and the shaking became violent. My hands
“Mark?” I called, my voice shaking. “Are you OK? What is and feet gripped the rungs, but they were slipping. I felt as
that?” if I were being shaken from the ladder.

And then I heard it: a choked yell from below. I screamed
Mark’s name. I looked down, and I could tell his position

41
had changed. His shape was larger, extended farther away After what felt like an eternity the coaster reached the top
from the ladder. One of his limbs must have slipped. and stopped. Seeing it there, motionless, I felt nauseous.
What if we returned and it got stuck again?
“Mark, are you OK? Mark?” I had to scream at the top of
my lungs even to hear myself. “OK, now,” the man said.

No response. The coaster was far away now, and a silence I didn’t move.
fell.
“Go ahead,” he said. “It’s safe now.”
“Please say something!”
“No it’s not!” I blubbered. I thought of defying him, of con-
In retrospect, I think he must have needed all his energy just tinuing downward. But he would block me.
to stay there, to keep holding on. But at the time I was an-
gry. Furious. Why wouldn’t he say anything? “Ma’am.”

“Mark!” I yelled again. I got my hand to move first, probably because I could see it.
I could see and feel my palm—was it really mine?—clasp
And then there was a sensation on the ladder that was dif- around the burning rung above. I lifted a foot, unsure how
ferent. A regular tap, tap, tap. I looked down, and made far up I needed to move it. My big toe brushed a rung and
out a shape approaching from below Mark. It was a man. I found a hold. The burning was fresh and almost unbearable.
could hear static and indistinct voices on his walkie-talkie.
I switched to the other side. First my hand, then my foot. I
I couldn’t see exactly what was happening, but the man had made it to the next rung. It seemed to have taken min-
seemed to get behind Mark and give him a boost. Mark’s utes.
shape flattened against the ladder. “You’re OK,” the man
was saying to Mark. “Just hold on.” I took a breath. It felt “Don’t think about it so much,” the man said. “Just keep
like my first since the coaster had moved. going.”

The man’s voice became louder. He was addressing both My voice was shaking, outraged. “Don’t tell me what to
of us now. “Listen closely,” he said. “We’re going back up. do!” I said, like a child. I couldn’t even muster a proper
There’s another coaster coming. An empty one. We’re going adult curse. I thought of Mark. “Mark? Are you OK?”
to take that down.”
There was a pause. Then the man spoke. “He’s fine. I’ve got
“No!” I screamed. I was still crying. “I want to go down!” him. Keep going.”
The idea of going back would feel like giving up.
Each rung was a fresh, searing agony. The flesh on my feet
“Ma’am, just do as I say.” and hands must be blistered by now. I prayed for numbness.
Below, I could hear and feel Mark’s steps echoing mine,
“But we’re almost down!” and I felt a rush of tenderness toward him. Something about
his quiet persistence seemed so poignant. Not like my blub-
“You’re only about a quarter of the way. It’s safer to climb bering protests.
back up.”
We climbed the final few rungs and the coaster sat mo-
A quarter of the way? How could I have been so mistaken? tionless before me. It was only about five feet away, but it
might as well have been a mile. Reaching the ladder from
I could see movement to my left on the tracks, and the the coaster with my glasses on had been one thing, but now
chunk-chunk-chunk of another coaster making its way up I was blind. I would have to negotiate the support beams
the first hill. and track between me and this new coaster by feel. I could
see gaping pockets of sky between each piece of steel.
“Hold still until it stops,” the man said.
“Take hold of the first support beam with your hands and
The shaking was slight—barely noticeable. Nothing like the put your feet on the top rung,” the man instructed. “Then
roar and clatter of the descending coaster. reach for the track and put your knees on the support beam.
That’s the first step.”

42
My palms were slippery with sweat. Would they hold? A Somehow I managed to keep hold with my hands and my
sob shuddered through me. “I can’t do it!” I said. knees unbent. His voice came into focus. “Slowly! Take it
easy!” he said, as if that would do any good now. I stepped
“You have to.” one foot into the car, then the other, and collapsed onto the
seat. I was shaking.
He was right. My only other choice was to stay where I was
forever, or to let myself fall. If I chose the latter, I’d prob- I watched Mark repeat my motions. He stood. I had slid
ably take Mark and the man with me. The man repeated to the far side of the car so he could sit beside me. Mark
his instructions. It sounded like he was reciting a proto- seemed to consider the space for a moment. His blank eyes
col—like this was the method used by people who were focused, and then looked away. He put his foot in the car in
supposed to be on the ladder. That gave me some comfort. front of me, and lay down on the two seats in a fetal posi-
It was enough to make me move my hands to the first sup- tion.
port beam, and my feet on the top rung of the ladder. This
position was precarious enough to get me to move quickly “Mark, come back here! With me!” I needed to have him
to the next. next to me, to grasp whatever parts of him I could. But
he didn’t move, didn’t make a sound. I fell silent, Mark’s
I was on all fours. The position forced me to look down- indictment strong enough to reach through my fear. If he
ward, through the tracks. I couldn’t make out shapes but I would only look at me, or say something, I would know
saw movement far below, and vast amounts of space. The there was at least hope of forgiveness. But he was still.
entire structure seemed to sway sharply to one side as my
brain registered my position. Vertigo. For a moment I saw The man stood then, and reported our status using his walk-
nothing, just blackness. I wonder now if I passed out for a ie-talkie. I couldn’t see his face, but I knew he was regard-
moment, my body and mind deciding they had had enough. ing the strange situation before him—the couple in separate
But I wouldn’t give in. There was Mark behind me; I could cars. He sat down next to me, nimble, unafraid. He looked
hear the grunts of his effort. I had to keep going to give him so young, with a thin neck and wrists and thick blond hair.
room to move.
The man pulled the safety bar down onto our laps. “Sir,
I wrenched my neck upward so I could see the coaster. you’ll have to sit up,” he said to Mark. Still, nothing.

The man said something encouraging that my mind couldn’t “You’ll have to sit up so you can lower the safety bar.”
hear. “Now take hold of the side of the car. Then stand up
on the track and get in.” Nothing.

“Where?” I yelled. “The coaster won’t move until you do.”

“Where what?” That did it. Mark sat up, keeping his head pointed down,
and lowered the safety bar.
“Where do I hold? Where where where where where
where?” I was screaming now, trying to find a place to put The man spoke into his walkie-talkie, giving clearance to
my terror. release the ride. I thought of Carol and Steve, down below.
They had, of course, been watching the whole time, horri-
“The side of the seat. There’s a bar between the seat bottom fied. I thought of them looking upward, how glad they must
and the floor of the car.” have felt for the asphalt beneath their feet. How long had
the ordeal lasted—maybe half an hour? Twenty minutes?
I saw it. I held my breath and reached. I wouldn’t let myself And already I had forgotten what it felt like to have some-
look down. thing solid beneath me.

“Now stand up slow—” The coaster jerked to life and I was jolted from my
thoughts. We crept toward the precipice, and I barely had
I wasn’t listening. In my panic, I stood as fast as I could, time for dread before we were weightless, flying down-
and lost my balance. My knees bowed and I buckled over. ward. Somehow, after everything, I was screaming, eyes
My chin struck the side of the car and pain shot through my and mouth wide, emptying my lungs at the motionless man
skull. I could hear the man yelling, but couldn’t make out before me.t
any words.

43
POETRY

Linda Fuchs

Hoarding
My back up plan for my final release
When a prescription changes
I keep all the leftovers
And if a refill is available
I buy it and stash it too

These pills are sacred.
Do not touch them.
I never know when I will need them
but I am sure that I will

I know I have to time the refills just right
so the pharmacist will give me the meds
and not question me
I mourn for the hundreds of pills
my daughter found and discarded.

These pills are sacred
Do not touch them.
I never know when I will need them
but I am sure that I will

I have used part of the stash when life became too unbearable
I never took the whole stash because I was afraid
I would throw up and they would be lost to me forever
I hope that someday I will find the right balance
and quietly check out

These pills are sacred.
Do not touch them.
I never know when I will need them
but I am sure that I will

When I do check out, I hope it will be
like the song by Sarah McLachlan,
“In the arms of the angels, may you find some comfort there.”
I don’t wish to hurt anyone,
just to be released from my inner hell.

These pills are sacred.
Do not touch them.
I never know when I will need them
but I am sure that I will

Today, I have decided that suicide is no longer an option.
(I feel I have committed treason—
it was my security blanket, my comforter
I liked knowing I would have the escape when I truly needed it.)
Even so, I will honor my commitment.

These pills are no longer sacred.

44
e. smith sleigh

trismus
how is it that my mouth is welded
shut and my thoughts vaporize
into this desert brain dearth

tell me that deliberation is
vanquished by necessity
and I will tell you that necessity
need not infect the thing curled
inside my skull

it provides no answers today

during the descent, the sunset, the
last journey home only my feet
move automatically down this
path me, unaccompanied this
lonesome pass through time and
human shadow

this nothing left to say

tell me an unveiling will occur at
the end of my trek where dearth
becomes death
e. smith sleigh
becomes life again

infirmity
a slight of hand a thought sent to an imagined shadow
effervescent soda fizzing in the kitchen a bright light streaming
through the window in the other room dimmed by the fleeting
darkness of a cloud a creak in the floorboard house pops
somewhere in the attic

I hurt I’m drowsy my stomach growls I don’t understand why
the dog’s stomach growls too we’re both restless his stomach
rumble sounds like the word why I scream WHY into the ceiling
startled he falls off the bed

lost in hallucination the color spectrum and words roll through
my mind no one’s home clock ticking in the hall the mixer
just turned itself on

45
CREATIVE NONFICTION

My Friend Frankie
Ruth Z. Deming

T
here he is, Frank Kelso Wolfe, coming down the municating—telepathically—with Eddie Murphy.
stairs in his slippers and bathrobe. Whistling, he
looks around for his mom and dad. The kitchen “Mom and Dad,” he said to his parents as they sat on the
clock reads ten thirty. He’s slept late again, but who front porch. “I know it’s hard to believe, but Eddie Mur-
wouldn’t. It takes him hours to fall asleep. His mind is so phy—yes!—THE Eddie Murphy is talking to me this very
active, so filled with ideas. Already the little tablet on his minute. He wants me to open for him at the Steel City Cof-
end table is crammed with ideas for poems and paintings fee House.”
and sculpture.
He shook his head in disbelief.
A big man, with skin the color of cocoa, he fries a couple of
eggs, along with four strips of bacon, which he drains on a “Frank,” said his mother in that stern voice of hers he hates.
paper towel, helping himself to one hot delicious strip, and “Frank, did you take your medication?”
licking his fingers.
She was a take-charge woman, like his sister Nettie Jean,
Sitting at the table, he tries to taste each delicious bite, but while his dad, the retired assistant superintendent of Grater-
his mind is racing again, off and running like an overwound ford Prison, liked nothing better than to putter in the garden
clock. and perfect the art of relaxation. Frank still remembered
when his dad was spokesperson for a hostage situation that
Better not forget to take my pills, he thinks. In the middle ended with no one getting killed. Well, that time, anyway.
of the table is a huge white pill box. He pries open the Inmates in those days often came out to the house and
“Wednesday morning” container and empties five pills into helped do chores.
his hand. Friggin’ mental illness, he thinks. If only there
was a pill to curb that appetite of his. All those pretty little His dad, a superb chef, who did all the cooking—ah! those
pills—pastel blue, pink, yellow—plus a two-toned capsule luscious sweet potato fries dipped in honey mustard—
that reminds him of a car they once owned with a black top would tenderly show the inmates, clad in orange jumpsuits,
and red body—they make him fat as a house. how to boil an egg to make egg salad.

Downing the pills with a glass of Tropicana orange juice, Frank would stare at these men—white and black and
he remembers many a time when he purposely did not take brown—when their backs were turned. These were real
the pills. Talk about getting sick! There is no sickness in criminals, not actors on Law and Order. Just ordinary peo-
the world like becoming psychotic. He gives a soft laugh. ple who robbed banks, assaulted people, and forged checks.
“Jeez, what I put my parents through.” Last year, he be-
lieved he was a famous stand-up comedian and was com-

46
The only thing Frank did wrong was not take his medica- She was of no help at all, but just hearing her voice, a sort
tion. of raspy cheerful voice, made him feel better. For as long as
the phone call lasted, he forgot his agony. He would have
“Eddie Murphy! Do tell!” He gave a whoop and a holler stayed on the phone all day, but she always had things to
and cakewalked around the front porch. do. He could hear her doing things while he talked. Once he
heard her open a door and go outside. The birds were in a
His mother grabbed him by the arm and marched him into frenzy of chirping. They seemed to enter his own bedroom
the house. and fly all around, landing on his desk and computer and
book shelves.
She sat him down at the kitchen table, looked him over and
shook her head. Until, of course, he got off the phone and was left in misery
again.
They heard a squirrel running across the wire outside.
Oh, Lord, why are you punishing me?
“The squirrels have more sense than you do, Frank Wolfe,”
she said. * * *

* * * Books! Was there ever a man who loved books more than
Frank Kelso Wolfe? Frank was a biracial man, with a white
Frank got into the habit of sequestering himself in his room mom and a black dad. Back in the small town in Ohio
after he lost his job as a certified peer specialist. He had where they met and married, they encountered little preju-
actually earned money for being mentally ill. As a peer, he dice. On his own, Frank discovered Native Son by Richard
helped other mentally ill men organize their day and pre- Wright, the story of Bigger Thomas, who kills a white
pare for the world of work. In the morning, he would meet woman; The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, who paints
Joe or Big Sal or Bobby for breakfast at McDonalds. He himself black and finds out what it’s like to be black in a
would pay for their breakfast and his own, and while listen- white man’s world; and of course all of James Baldwin’s
ing to them, he would down three—yes, three—egg, cheese books. Who could blame Baldwin, thought Frank, studying
and bacon biscuit sandwiches. his kind, yet sad face on the book jacket, for living as an
expatriate in Paris.
But his chronic pain got worse. The pain in his feet, his
knees, and his hips became unbearable so he ceased leaving Frank also liked to page through his own books. He was
home and lost his job. one of those rare birds: a published poet. Had he really
written hundreds and hundreds of poems? Re-reading them,
His strong faith in God never wavered, but he wondered while lying in bed with a soft lamp illuminating each page,
why he was being punished. he silently thanked God for giving him the gift of writing.

He would call his friend Ruth on the phone. What he didn’t Today I shall cut myself shaving, and slap on some
know was that, if she was home, she would decide if she Aqua-Velva, just so I’ll remember the sting. / Last
had the strength to listen to him. night I brushed my teeth, then drank a glass of orange
juice, / so as to not take sweetness for granted. / My
“Hello, dahling,” he would say in a playful voice. And then bed, less and less a comfort, I make it every day
he would launch into a dissertation on his pain, especially despite / the struggle of standing, finding pleasure in
in his size 12 feet. “I’m holding on for one more day, sweet- things well ordered.
ness. I go down the steps on my butt. It’s the only thing that
gets me downstairs.”

47
From his bed, his eye fell upon the book The Red Badge of Their son had lots of practice. He was a stand-up comic and
Courage. He was in too much pain to pull it off the shelf, poet at the Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville. A born
but suddenly he had an idea. Since he liked it so much, why performer, his YouTube videos show him striding confi-
not read it to his parents? His dad, after all, was happily dently onstage, with the help of a cane, seating himself at
retired, and his mom could certainly take a break from her the mic, and speaking with intimacy to the audience, urging
housekeeping duties. Like her son, Cecilia was a whistler. them to give him a round of applause.
He loved the sound of her whistling as she dusted the living
room, with its old-fashioned furniture. Why buy anything The many sides of Frank Kelso Wolfe.
new when there was such loveliness and comfort in what
they already had. My God, he thought. What a legacy I’ll leave behind. He
knew for certain there would come a day; he knew not
The three of them sat in the living room. Frank opened the when, that he would end it all.
drapes so daylight could flood the room. From the purple
easy chair, he showed them the cover of The Red Badge of Lying in bed one night, he reviewed his life. It was a great
Courage, with the American flag carried by the standard- life, really. He knew this and hated to leave it, but he and
bearer of the Union soldiers, dressed in blue. the Devil duked it out. In high school, he had been a scholar
and an athlete. Had he known at the time that mental ill-
“It’s about courage,” he told them in his soft voice. He ness would stalk him for the rest of his days, he would have
dared say nothing about his failing courage in living with snagged one of the pretty cheerleaders in high school. He
his physical pain. He cleared his throat and began to read: was always attracted to white women, like his blond-haired
mother. He remembered Leslie, a short woman with huge
“The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, calf muscles, who tossed that star-spangled baton so high in
and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched the air at football games you thought it would sail up to the
out on the hills, resting. As the landscape moon. Yes, that’s who he would have chosen, little Leslie.
changed from brown to green, the army awak- Wonder where she was now and if she’d remember him in
ened, and began to tremble with eagerness at the obituary notice.
the noise of rumors. It cast its eyes upon the
roads, which were growing from long troughs of For three months, Frank and the Devil played catch me if
liquid mud to proper thoroughfares.” you can.

“Wait a minute, Sonny,” said his dad. “You know I ain’t so “Today is the day!” Frank would announce to himself, only
young anymore and I can’t hear you.” to find there was something worth living for the next day.

“All right, Dad,” said Frank. He pulled over the purple ot- Suicide experts know that once a person makes up his mind
toman and sat right in front of his father, who sat next to to do himself in, a calmness comes over him, like a lull in
his wife with his arm around her on what they called their the ocean waves.
“green davenport.”
A wordsmith to the end, Frank lay in bed thinking of all the
As long as I read, thought Frank, I will live. words for death. He deemed it cheating to use the diction-
ary. His was the Random House Unabridged, which was
And so they went through book after book. almost as fat as he was, he thought. His favorite expression
was “to croak,” a term his psychiatrist was fond of using.
He read them short classics like The Time Machine by H.G. He loved his psychiatrist and was sorry to disappoint him.
Wells, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, and O Pioneers
by Willa Cather. Should he write a note? Heck, his entire life of forty-five
years served as his note. There was one thing he had to do
“Never liked O Pioneers in high school,” Frank confessed. before he went to the other side. That little nephew of his,
“So I thought I’d give it another try.” Jamie, with his black hair and smiling face, he must see him
again.
“It’s good, Frankie,” said his mother. “And you read it so
well!” But the Devil was at his back. He couldn’t wait. He was
suddenly propelled to take action.

48
POETRY

He’d failed before, many, many times. “Failbetter,” was a
term dreamed up by the playwright Samuel Beckett.
Lynda McKinney Lambert
This time he would fail better than ever. He would succeed.

He placed his cane on his bed, along with one of the caps he
loved to wear. His married sister Nettie said he looked “so Muddy Hands
debonair” when he wore them. Dressed in a warm flannel
shirt, khaki pants, and thick socks and shoes, which cush-
ioned a bit of the pain when he walked, he looked around
his room, his sanctuary. “You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded
as the clay,that the thing made should say of its maker,
“Goodbye room,” he said and blew it a kiss, after closing ‘He did not make me;’ or the thing formed say of him who
the door. formed it, ‘He has no understanding?’”
(Isaiah 29:16)
He went up to the attic and let himself out onto the roof. He
startled a couple of doves that sat on the roof cooing like Breaking News: October 2007
pigeons. Everything he loved was in view now. His parents Visual Artist Lost Eyesight
were downstairs and had no idea what he was planning.
A neighbor across the street came out of her house in her I did not know night from day
white apron. Frank didn’t even bother to wave. He was in I could not see a clock - time vanished
the same kind of trance as when he wrote or painted. Look- phone numbers evaporated
ing up at the blue sky, he had a sudden thought. the colors on my palette
were one same shade of gray
This is the day of my death, October 7, 2014. normal was now upside-down days and nights

Spreading his arms out like a bird, he dove headfirst into I could DREAM
the ground below. The crisp autumn air against his face in layers of living colors
and body gave him a few moments of joy. And though she I still envisioned wonders
didn’t notice, he smiled at the woman in the white apron should try
and wished her peace. might try again
pick up a hunk of wet clay

Slowly, the muddy substance
Epilogue: Frank Kelso Wolfe was feted mightily after his felt like a new possibility to my hands
death. The funeral home was filled to bursting. Montgomery the clay brought back memories
County Community College, where he had taken classes
and was a member of the writers’ group, did a huge tribute My muddy hands
to him. His two-hour YouTube memorial video remains did the hard work
online. I was a dear friend of “Frankie’s,” as I called him, remembering
and used my imagination to write this story. His mom and muddy hands gave confidence
sister gave me permission to tell of his final days on earth.t ***
Reflection on “muddy hands”

I squeezed mud into treasures
wet clay gave me magic
spirit boxes for cherished objects
wall sculptures to honor the earth
the healing of my broken eyes
when I use my muddy hands
my vision is intact.

49
ARTICLE

Fear and Loathing in Australia:
An Inside Look at Anxiety
Disorder, Shame and Stigma
Monica Cook

I
A hand reaches out, but I can’t stand the feeling of anything
touching my tingling skin. I pull away and start to rock
am jerked awake from a sound sleep. back and forth as tears fall unbidden from my staring eyes.

The room is black except for a sliver of moonlight creeping I am bundled into the car. It is early morning, before sun-
through the hastily closed curtains. I try to wipe away the rise, and it’s been raining. The streetlights cast a jaundiced
miasma of sleep, wondering what woke me. glow across the road. I am watching the traffic lines whiz
past through a telescope. They are close and yet far away.
Without warning I am hit by a violent stomach cramp that
takes my breath away. A shock of fear surges through my “You’re just having a panic attack,” a bright-faced emer-
body and leaves my toes tingling and numb. I fight with the gency doctor explains in her cheerful voice as I recline on
web of blankets constricting me, pinning me to the bed, and the stark white sheets of a hospital bed.
stumble to the bathroom.
Just a panic attack, I think, but don’t trust myself to re-
When I finally return to the bedroom, I am sweating and spond.
shaking. I sit with my back pressed against the headboard
for support. My thoughts are not my own. They race in “Here’s a script for some anti-depressants. Get these filled
front of me, all around me, and only rarely do they settle as soon as possible and make an appointment with your
long enough to hear them clearly: crazy, sick, dying, heart GP.” She rips the prescription off the pad, gives me a per-
attack. functory pat on the leg and exits.

My heartbeat is a rhythmic pounding. It’s fading into the We leave the hospital and step out into a picturesque Ad-
background of the chorus that is my out of control thoughts elaide dawn. My partner puts a sympathetic arm around
and physical sensations. my shoulder as we walk back to the car. The surreal tunnel
vision has lifted and I am starting to feel normal again, if
“Are you ok?” I hear a male voice in the distance. Wherever slightly drowsy and embarrassed.
I am, I am outside the normal space of our bedroom.
There are no eerie church bells or swirling black clouds
overhead to signal that this event will trigger an ongoing

50
battle with anxiety, which, in some ways, has become the This is how anxiety develops into an anxiety disorder.
center of my life.
There are several different types of anxiety disorders: gen-
But I am not alone. According to the Australian Bureau eralized anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, social
of Statistics (ABS), anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety, PTSD, panic, and phobia. However, they all have a
mental illness, affecting 14% of Australians. A support ser- common element—excessive worry. Individuals with anxi-
vice based in Australia, beyondblue [sic], has cited a larger ety disorders take worrying to an Olympic level.
number, one in four. Both figures equate to a considerable
number of people who struggle and live with anxiety disor- Andrew, a twenty-five-year-old man from Queensland,
der in this country. worries about social situations. He imagines all the ways
in which he could potentially embarrass himself. He might
Most Australians will be familiar with the physical sensa- say the wrong thing, trip over a chair entering the room, or
tions of anxiety—unease, confusion, tightening chest, diz- faint. These potential embarrassments seem real, so real that
ziness, hot and cold flushes. The combination and extremity they trigger his autonomic nervous system and he panics.
of manifestations vary between individuals. Anxiety is a He begins to feel nauseous, shakes, and can’t breathe.
physiological response to our observations that has devel-
oped to ensure the survival of our species. For those with an anxiety disorder, the constant worry and
physical sensations become unbearable. You become an
Fear stimulates our bodies to release adrenalin and prepares “anxiety sniper,” constantly on the lookout for any symp-
us to confront danger by either fighting or running away. In toms or situations that may induce a panic attack or anxious
order to prime ourselves for the encounter, we go through feelings. Everyday tasks like grocery shopping, eating out,
a number of physical changes—heart rate increases, veins or going to the movies become a potential anxiety battle-
constrict, muscles tense, digestion shuts down, and our ground. Anxiety disorder can turn your life upside down
brain focuses on finding and assessing potential threats. and leave you clutching the nearest person or object for
This process is commonly referred to as the “fight or flight” support.
response.
A common coping technique is avoidance. You simply
While the “fight or flight” response is useful if you are avoid anything and everything that causes anxiety. For
being chased by a bear, it is far less helpful when there Alyssa, a twenty-four-year-old woman from South Austra-
is nothing tangible to fear. Carly, a twenty-one-year-old lia, this means avoiding social situations like the plague.
woman from Victoria, experienced her first panic attack in She will plan, practice, and prepare for any potential social
a shop. No bears in sight, Carly’s body prepared to fight or interactions, but in the end, she will find a reason not to get
flee and, without a clearly discernible reason for these feel- involved.
ings, she panicked. She turned her probing brain outward
and, finding no reason for the physical feelings she was ex- It’s a similar story with Carly, who experienced her first
periencing, she started to worry that maybe something was panic attack at the shops. She now avoids any situations that
wrong inside of her. Maybe she was going crazy. Maybe may cause her to feel anxious. She isn’t able to work, go
she was dying. out with friends or family, and she has developed agorapho-
bia—an intense fear, panic, and avoidance of being in pub-
When there is no discernible reason for your anxiety, you lic places. Agoraphobics can experience fear so intense that
begin to fear your fear. You start to wonder when it will they become housebound, unable to venture outside due to
return—at the shops, the post office, driving to work? Will an overwhelming feeling of impending doom.
you be able to escape the situation, return to a safe place,
and stop the panic? So, how do we deal with the mountains of (mostly) irratio-
nal worry, physical symptoms, and inevitable isolation of an
anxiety disorder?

51
As in my experience with the emergency room physician, feeling the same things and having the same thoughts.
the most common treatment for anxiety is medication.
While there is no magic pill to cure an anxiety disorder, If the ABS is right and 14% of Australians are dealing with
some people do find medication helpful in managing and anxiety disorders, where are they? Where are the more than
controlling their symptoms. one in ten people like me?

After my hospital visit, I folded the prescription for anti- People with mental illness can be difficult to find. We look
depressants up neatly and carried it around with me for a “normal” and, generally, there are no physical signs of our
couple days. In the end, I threw it in the bin. I wasn’t de- internal struggles. We are your mothers, fathers, aunts, un-
pressed. In fact, I was annoyed that the doctor made that as- cles, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. We might even
sumption about me. I didn’t accept medication as an option be you.
until I hit rock bottom.
When asked if he speaks openly about his mental illness,
I stopped going to university because I couldn’t sit through Michael, a thirty-eight-year-old man from Queensland,
the classes anymore. I began to imagine myself having a says, “I prefer to keep it private . . . some people don’t un-
panic attack and running, arms flailing and red faced, from derstand and look down on me.”
a lecture hall full of people. At all hours of the day and
night my whole body tingled with anxiety. I couldn’t sleep. The shame associated with having a mental illness is one
My nerves were strung tighter than a lute, playing the same reason why we hide away. After a panic attack or period of
tune: panic. high anxiety, I feel obliged to take a ride on the Shame Spi-
ral. I recite of all the ways in which anxiety has negatively
The first medication I was prescribed for anxiety made me affected my life. A chant of you’re a terrible wife, a horrible
sleep. While I was thankful for the rest and respite, the feel- daughter, a sorry excuse for a human being, a weakling
ings of anxiety and worry persisted. Eventually, I started plays on a loop as I circle downward into the dark abyss of
taking Zoloft. It made me jittery and tense, but I slowly be- the anxiety maelstrom.
gan to feel an improvement. While I still experienced panic
attacks and anxiety on a daily, even hourly basis, the symp- Sonia, a thirty-one-year-old woman from Victoria, is famil-
toms were muted and I was able to go back to university. iar with the negative and degrading journey. During periods
of high anxiety, her thoughts are a broken record, playing a
Gwen, a forty-five-year-old woman from Victoria, has distressing tune of I’m not good enough, I suck, I’m failing
benefited from the use of prescription medication to treat . . . I hate me. Given these patterns of thoughts, it will come
her anxiety disorder, but believes that other treatments may as little surprise that depression is a common side effect of
be useful. “Medication is not the perfect or only solution,” anxiety disorder. The compounding illness increases the
she says. “Cognitive behavior therapy is more valuable and negativity, isolation, despair, and judgement.
there are a host of other treatments people find useful on an
individual basis.” Not only are we judging ourselves, but we also worry about
being judged by others. In a study conducted by the Aus-
My biggest breakthrough in learning how to cope with my tralian National University on generalized anxiety disorder
own anxiety disorder didn’t come in the form of a pill. It and stigma, it was noted that “. . . stigma can be associated
occurred during the first therapy session I attended with a with increased psychological distress, demoralization and
psychologist who specializes in treating individuals with isolation and reduced employment and accommodation op-
anxiety disorders. portunities. It may also serve as a barrier to seeking help for
mental health problems.” So, not only is stigma making us
I was in a state of high anxiety, gripping the armrests of the feel worse, it also stops some of us from seeking help.
blue linen chair in her chilly office and trying to come up
with an exit strategy. What possible excuse could I use for Gwen fears that people have thought she should just “suck
rushing out the door and into the safety of the nearest bath- it up” when it comes to dealing with mental illness. “Unfor-
room? tunately mental health issues still aren’t seen as legitimate
conditions by a lot of people, so they see depression and
While I meticulously planned my escape, she began list- anxiety as a cop out,” she explains.
ing the physical symptoms of anxiety and wrote them on a
whiteboard. I was stunned. This was the first time someone At the onset of my latest period of high anxiety, I decided
had been able to verbalize exactly how I was feeling. She that I was done hiding. If someone asked why I had a day
was the first person to explain the “fight or flight” response off work, I plainly replied, “I get panic attacks and experi-
to me and it felt like someone had turned on a light. I wasn’t ence high levels of anxiety. So, I just didn’t feel up to com-
alone and I wasn’t crazy. There were other people like me, ing to work.”

52
POETRY

Reactions were varied. Some coworkers furrowed their
eyebrows and stared at me in disbelief. One, in particular,
found it impossible to believe. “Are you sure you have an
anxiety disorder?” he asked, obviously baffled. “You seem
so outgoing.” Others responded by telling me about their Paul Smith
own experiences with mental illness or friends and family
who suffer from the same condition. The more I opened up,
the easier it became.
Long Goodbye
I still have moments of doubt, periods where I fear that
people are judging me, or worse, feeling sorry for me. I The harder tissues—bone, sinew, nail, cartilage
persevere because I believe that talking openly and honestly Break, snap
about mental illness will reduce shame and stigma. Remedied with sturdy devices
By jolly men in overalls
beyondblue [sic] has recently launched a campaign titled, Softer ones, not susceptible to breakage
“My Name is Anxiety.” The television advertisements fea- But to infection and disease
ture men and women listing the common symptoms of anxi- Treated sometimes with medicines
ety. They are designed to help people recognize the signs More often with surgery performed
and seek treatment. By teams silent-faced in white smocks
Then there are neurons
The campaign is promoting education and understanding, Dislodged, misdirected, lost, wandering around
which is arguably as important for those affected by mental Beyond the reach of chemical and mechanical fixes
illness as those unaffected. They are opening the door for The subject of treatises
discussion and recognition. We are not alone. Resulting in splinters of verdicts
Treatment done in offices
“Whilst there are still some very negative feelings toward Each time a different building
the topic of mental illness, I think that just stems from ig- No need to worry
norance. It is like a fear of the unknown . . .” Carly says in Your name is known by all
regards to attitudes in Australia. “Eventually, hopefully, the
stigma will be lifted all together.”

After years of darkness, there is a dim light struggling to
reach me from the end of a long tunnel. I will no longer
hide or allow shame to keep me silent. I am not alone.t

Yuan Changming

Exchange of Vision
Jumping into her gaze
Like a naked village boy
Into a local autumn pond
I see her vision full of
Fishes swimming around
Among dangling grasses
Along folded sunlight

53
FICTION

Sissy
Benjamin Toche

T
he barrel’s insides feel like sand and the color of it is “Come on, Johnny. Come on.” She motioned again and
Sissy’s hair, smooth and warm. In the room, there are John swayed side to side as he stood, keeping a metronymic
fistfuls of it in the barrel and it hisses when I drop it beat that only he could hear. Leaving the fire engine, he am-
but out in the hallway it sounds like a soft snow. Sometimes bled toward the door where Christine stood with the broom
it goes on the wood floor and makes a tick, tick, tick, tick, and rug. “That’s a good boy, Johnny. Come on. Come have
falling out of my hands. Sissy comes into the light and takes a seat on the porch.”
me under my arms to the bathroom. Her arm comes in front
of my face and my mouth goes to it and she makes a sound Outside were mountains, great intrusions and bendings of
like the old dog that Papa took away last winter that didn’t rock, layered up and twisted against each other, the humped
come back. backs of slain trolls or sleeping giants, furred with green
that shaded into a rocky scurf toward the ridgelines. Fingers
* * * of rushing water coursed down the faces of the slopes, pour-
ing into the turgid river of the valley’s floor, itself a force
The hallway rug needed beating before Papa returned; that pounded over boulders loosed from the sides of the
otherwise, it might be bad. There was no augury of it, espe- very mountains it descended. The sky above was clear, save
cially not on weekend days when Papa left early and fished a low hanging gauze of cloud that gripped a few of the re-
away the day. He could be violent or benevolent or some cently snowed peaks. It was late August and the air smelled
point on the spectrum between those poles. It all depended of wet decay, heralding the winter. Christine pushed at his
on things out of Christine’s hands and beyond her ken: the shoulder and John folded his knees to sit cross-legged.
catch, or the weather, or the mosquitoes, or any of the ill-
formed thoughts that he ruminated upon as he stood on the “Stay on the porch where I can see you and I’ll be right
river bank. Christine rolled the cornmeal saturated rug and back.”
tucked it under an arm made wiry from physical labor and
a skin paled by high latitudes. She took the birch handled John sat on the porch and rocked back and forth on the gray
broom from its corner and motioned toward the center of weathered boards. He didn’t reply or give any signal that he
the living room where her brother sat in a corner of the had heard or would comply with her request. With his left
floor. He clutched a fleece garment and busied himself by arm he hugged the green fleece pullover of Papa’s while his
rolling a three-wheeled Matchbox fire engine in tight circles right hand searched for imperfections in the wood grain and
on the rude plywood flooring, the way a small child might. the raised heads of rusted nails. Christine bent and cupped
Save the arm that piloted the vehicle, John didn’t move. John’s chin. She nudged, forcing his eyes upward but he
stubbornly refused to meet hers. He mumbled a few dis-
54
jointed syllables and tucked his chin toward his chest. “About a pound or so.”

“Come on, let me see those eyes.” John lifted his chin in- He put his hands in the small of his back and stretched. “I
crementally and Christine caught the bottom slivers of the suppose that’s a good enough excuse. Finish that up and
earth-colored irises. It was enough. She turned and took clean them silvers.” He gestured to the sack on the porch.
the rug out to the three-stranded barbed wire fence that “I expect dinner on the table at six. Then you can grind up
stretched from the corner of the cabin to the road that led more corn to replace what he spoilt.”
away to the network of rural roads and highways. The road
was long and occluded by birch and spruce boughs that “Yes, Papa.”
scraped against the sides of Papa’s truck on his trips to the
river. Christine draped the rug, rubber side down, over the He turned and walked toward the cabin.
fencerow. She hummed and the notes, sounding like the
soft brushing of steel wool against a cast iron skillet, fell “Papa?”
between the tempo of the broom handle’s strikes and the
gentle high-hat sound of the rug’s dirt as it plumed away He stopped.
and impacted the dying grass. For a moment, Christine for-
got everything. “Johnny needs to be put in a school.”

A ribbon of gray dust snaking up from the trees signaled “That again?” He spoke over his right shoulder.
Papa’s approach. Christine heard the truck just before it
rumbled into view and up the parallel ruts of the overgrown “I can’t do anything for him here.” Christine held the broom
driveway. The truck’s rusted fenders rattled to a halt in front handle to her chest.
of the porch. Papa got out and reached into the truck bed
to haul out a burlap sack, the lower half of which was dark “How many years you going to complain about this?”
with moisture. He dropped the sack on the porch boards
next to John and came down the fencerow. “Papa, he’s wild and so big I can’t control him. He won’t
hardly look at me.” She rubbed a red blur on her forearm.
“How come you out here with this mess?” Papa pointed “He bites.”
with his gently sloping finger.
Papa came back down the fence and stood so close to Chris-
Christine kept up the rhythmic pounding of the rug, but tine that she could smell the rank odor of his unbrushed
spoke in the gaps of her swinging, “I had trouble with teeth. “Ain’t a thing wrong with that boy that a little disci-
Johnny.” pline won’t fix.”

“You forget your manners?” “Papa, I don’t mean anything by it. He needs help I can’t
give.”
Christine stopped beating the rug and faced Papa. “I had
trouble with Johnny, Papa.” “I imagine that you’ll manage.” He turned and walked to
the porch with a briskness that disallowed further argument
“What kind of trouble?” or petition. On the porch, he stooped and chucked his hand
under John’s chin. Christine saw Papa’s lips moving but his
“The usual. Got into the storeroom and into the cornmeal. I
spent half the morning cleaning it up, Papa.”

“We lose much?”

55
voice was cancelled out by distance and a sudden glacial Christine said nothing and put the cider jug and filled glass
wind that arose and swept down the mountain. John shook at Papa’s plate and sat at the table again. The room was
his head and gripped the fleece tighter. Papa looked down quiet except for the scratching of cutlery on old ceramic and
onto the top of John’s head for a long pause before he dis- the periodic gulps of cider or milk. Christine rested her chin
appeared inside the cabin. in her hand and watched Papa eat, which he did accord-
ing to an unwavering methodology. He cut a piece of fish,
* * * scooped potatoes, bit an apple wedge. The process repeated
until the victuals were exhausted. John, too, ate according
The porch is smooth like the undersides of Sissy’s arms to the same unwritten rules. They seemed to neither relish
when she sits close and reads to me in the evening after I nor acknowledge the food, treating it as if it were simply a
eat. The bag moves but the fish inside are dead and smell thing required, an anonymous task. Christine watched her
of the slow moving water that creeps in the ditch at the end father and brother and started to slip into a daydream when
of the driveway. Papa came and went away and Sissy is Papa’s voice brought her back to the table.
still down by the fence with the rugs and the broom and the
mountains behind her are big, too big, like the sky.

* * *
“Papa? Dinner’s ready.”
“You ain’t one to tell me my place.
I don’t provide for all our needs
Papa switched off the television and rose from his recliner. here to be lectured to by my
He entered the tiny space of the dining room to find John
sitting at the table with a red gingham handkerchief tied own children.”
around his neck. In front of him sat a plate of salmon fried
in cornmeal, mashed potatoes, and apple wedges. The food
was arranged on the plate so that each portion would not
touch. At the edge of his plate was a jelly jar full of milk
with a flexible straw hanging over the rim of the glass. Papa “Stop that, boy.” John didn’t look up and didn’t stop scrap-
sat and Christine came to the table and set his plate in front ing his fork tines across his plate. The noise was so com-
of him before sitting down to an empty placemat. mon that Christine had not even registered it.

“You ain’t eating?” “I said stop that.” Papa swatted at John’s hand and con-
nected with a sharp smacking sound followed by the clatter
“I had a little when I was cooking.” of the fork and the resultant silence that the overhead incan-
descent bulb strained to fill with its humming. John groaned
“Where’s my drink?” Christine frowned. Papa saw. “Don’t ferally and cut his eyes sideways at Papa. He held his hands
you dare to question me and what I like to do.” as if shadowboxing, opening and closing his fists, as he
rocked in his chair. His left arm bumped the plate which in
“Papa, I didn’t mean nothing—” turn toppled his half-empty glass of milk. The liquid pooled
on the tabletop as John began a louder and more insistent
He picked up his knife and stabbed it into the flank of the groaning.
fried salmon on his plate. “You ain’t one to tell me my
place. I don’t provide for all our needs here to be lectured to “Shut that shit up!” Papa stood. “And get a goddamned
by my own children.” towel to clean up your mess!” John sat rocking and Papa
waited and Christine watched.
“Yes, Papa.” Christine went to the refrigerator and got the
brown-glassed growler from the appliance’s top. She un- “Johnny, let’s go get—”
screwed the bottle and poured some milky cider into a jelly
jar. Christine moved to replace the bottle. “You shut your goddamn mouth! You’re half the reason he’s
so bad!” Papa stabbed his finger at Christine. She dropped
“Bring it.” her head and studied the puddle of milk on the tabletop as
it crept toward her placemat. “Boy, you get your ass up and
“Yes, Papa.” go get a towel. Now! I’m tired of this bullshit act like you
don’t know no better.”
“I work too damn hard not to enjoy myself.”

56
John rocked and stood and twisted his torso back and forth, “So help me God you are going to pay for this one.”
swinging his now dropped arms in shallow arcs. He walked
away from the table and followed a meandering course “You don’t hit him. Ever.” Christine loosed Papa’s arm and
into the kitchen and got the towel from where it hung on turned her attention to the milk. Papa took the growler and
the front handle of the oven. He returned in the selfsame repaired to his recliner in the living room.
fashion and dropped the towel onto the milk, mopping and
spreading little bow shocks of milk toward the table’s edge. * * *
Papa watched and his lips curled downward. Papa stood,
clenching and loosing his fists before raining backhands I sleep with Sissy on the floor of the bedroom and when it
onto John’s head and neck and streaming invectives into the gets cold when the snow comes she puts an extra quilt on
closeness of the dining room and in the pauses where Papa me and then her arm over the top. She gets close and I can
took breath John’s whimpering came through and the sound feel her breath on the back of my neck and smell the last
of John at the mercy of Papa’s rage welled up an untram- thing she ate for the night. Papa comes for her and she
meled spring of urgency in Christine that superseded any goes away with him and comes back later and her breath is
previous filial conditioning. She acted. faster like she’s just run up the driveway and it feels hot on
the back of my neck like a storm of butterflies and she hugs
me close and whispers that she loves me.

* * *
“Don’t you dare hit him again.” Her
Christine worked the stationary bike’s pedals that in turn
fingers wrapped around Papa’s powered the mill that ground the corn to replace the meal
corded forearm, gripping with an that John had fouled earlier. The bike droned in the confines
of the storeroom and there was little entertainment but for
intensity belied by the slenderness reading the labels of the fifty-pound bags of various grains
of the digits. or counting the rows of canned salmon, caribou, and moose.
There were sixty mason jars of each animal and the labels
of the grain sacks read “Product of the USA.” Christine
pedaled and let the hum of the mill burn away any thoughts
that sought to manifest themselves. She was so far into the
“Don’t you dare hit him again.” Her fingers wrapped around noise of the bike that the creak of the door went unnoticed.
Papa’s corded forearm, gripping with an intensity belied by
the slenderness of the digits. She had moved quickly and in “You going to be about that all night?”
his rage Papa had not seen the malign grace of her standing,
moving, and closing in on him. Papa stood with an igno- Christine didn’t answer but looked to her right where Papa
rant amazement of one witnessing an inexplicable force of leaned against the door jamb with the forefinger of his right
nature. The muscular tension of his arm remained and he hand laced through the handle of his third growler. Chris-
tried to force past the obstacle of Christine’s grip. She held tine looked away to the bags and jars again.
firm and a silent standoff blossomed into which John set
up a low moaning. He continued to mop at the milk which “Don’t mind me.” Papa motioned with the growler and the
now fell in several dribbling waterfalls from the tabletop to contents sloshed, the noise coming just over the whirr of
splatter onto the floor. bicycle and grinder. “Just come to get some cider.” Papa
leaned into the room and shuffled on heavy feet toward the
“You think you run this house?” Papa’s voice came through corner where a shelf held nearly identical brown-glassed
his teeth. bottles that ranged from floor to ceiling. Christine watched
him like one would watch a toddler just learning to walk.
“Johnny,” Christine bored bright eyes into Papa’s own dim
orbits. Her voice was a buttery softness, “Johnny, I want “Papa?”
you to go play with your fire engine and I’ll take care of the
mess.” John grumbled and left the towel to wander into the Papa turned.
living room.
“I’m sorry about earlier, Papa.”

57
“Is that so?” He approached the bike where Christine’s pale “Can’t it wait ’til after I put him down for the night?”
legs pumped. Papa dropped a drink-weighted hand on her
upper thigh and rubbed the downy expanse of her moving Papa came back to the stationary bike with the eyes of a
flesh. Christine focused on the sacks of grain. “What else?” man prepared for violence. “You telling me what to do?”

“I’m just sorry is all.” “No, Papa.” Christine glanced at the hard set of his jaw and
back down to the speedometer. Papa took a drink from the
“Mmhmm. You still got to pay.” jug without taking his eyes from her downturned face.

Christine eyed the defunct speedometer that rested on the “You finish. You wash up. You know where I’ll be.”
crossbar of the bicycle’s handles. “I know, Papa.” Her voice
barely edged out the whirr in the room. “Yes, Papa.”

Papa turned and shuffled through the door, drinking from
the opened growler again as he lifted a foot over the thresh-
old of the storeroom door. Christine watched his back as he
went and when she was sure he would not return she tucked
Papa dropped a drink-weighted her chin and allowed two inflamed tears to drop onto the
hand on her upper thigh and fabric of her shorts before she bent forward into the handle
bar and quickened her pace even more.
rubbed the downy expanse
of her moving flesh. * * *

Sissy comes to me in front of the television and kneels be-
tween me and the black screen. Her hair hangs across her
shoulder in a wet yellow braid that comes from the back of
“How you aim to?” Papa’s hand moved to her shoulder. her head and she smells fresh like soap that sits in the plas-
tic dish stuck to the shower wall. She wears a towel around
“I’ve got to finish this.” Christine’s eyes grew hot and her body and puts her hand under my chin but I don’t look
damp. up. Her voice says things and she holds the blue, soft leath-
er-bound book with the silver letters on the front cover so
“You wash yourself before.” that I can see it and she presses the book into my lap. She
opens the pages that feel like onion skins and points to one
“Johnny needs reading to.” of the black lines of letters in the middle of a page. Papa
comes and says something to her and she says she loves me
“I don’t know why.” Papa grinned as if privy to some in- and they go away to together.
comparable witticism.
* * *
“It does him good.”
John sat alone with the book of scripture in his lap. He
Papa harrumphed and eased up his hand until it came to rest glanced over the pages of text in the stupor of one presented
on Christine’s pink bicycle shorts, just at the intersection of with an incredible and keyless cipher, a codex from some
femur and hip. He looked down and flexed his hand and as impossible and dead world the only evidence of which lay
he did so he exhaled a thick, cider stained breath of expec- before the uninitiated reader. He flipped the pages and felt
tation. Christine looked at the hand and upped her pace. His the light touch of the gilt edges and the wisp of air that
hand slipped off under the motion of Christine’s pedaling escaped the leaves. John moaned, a long and low grating
and he wandered away to the shelves of growlers. He took sound that filled up the room. He put the book to the side
down a fresh container and moseyed toward the door. Papa and stared into the darkened rectangle of the television
stopped in the doorframe and pointed at Christine with the screen, shifting back and forth on his buttocks. John looked
opened jug. “You make this quick. Your punishment, and down at his hands where they picked at the plywood floor.
me, needs tending to.” The fire engine was missing.

“Papa, Johnny needs reading.”

“No. Right after you’re done with that cornmeal.”

58
John looked about himself on the floor and panned up in screaming mass of red face and shaking index finger. Papa
a jerky and haphazard fashion across all the horizontal pulled up short and raged while he latched his pants. John
surfaces in the room until his eyes raked the lumpy cabin watched Christine rock, nude, on the floor next to the bed
walls where antlers jumbled together in a piecemeal tack- as she gripped the back of her head. Papa secured his pants
ing. Further up, on a shelf near the ceiling, sat the right and drew back. The open hand blow rang hard and bright
forepaw of some long-slaughtered brown bear. John’s eyes across John’s jaw and his fingers loosed the broom handle.
descended in the same fashion to rest on the screen again. The broom tipped to the floor and John with it.
He wrenched himself from the floor and shambled into the
kitchen. He moved on arrhythmic limbs, sometimes drifting Christine launched onto Papa’s back and snaked her thin
to one side or the other, from the light of the living room arms under his chin. Papa gurgled and reached back over
into the gloaming of the kitchen. his shoulder for a handful of Christine’s hair. Papa tucked
his chin and threw elbows backwards with one arm and
In the far corner of the kitchen sat the birch-handled broom. reached for hair with the other. Christine jammed her
John moved to the handle and gripped it between thumb thumbnail into Papa’s right eye and grated the nail back and
and forefinger. The broom head trailed behind him as he forth as she tried to leverage her forearm into a choke again.
returned to the living room. John dropped to his hands Papa bellowed and Christine shrieked and the two spun
and knees to look under Papa’s recliner. He shimmied the around like some jigging conjoined monster, one clothed
broom handle up under the chair and swept back and forth, and the other not, dancing in time to a guttural symphony
banging against the chair’s springs and feet but of the fire of its own composing. The noise in the room reached an
engine there was no hint. John moved to the television stand unbearable pitch of wordless screams and scuffling bodies
and fished again, this time under and behind, but still found and as father and daughter grappled neither noticed that
nothing. The rear of the cabin’s only bookcase yielded the John had regained his footing and held the broom near the
same. John moaned through his teeth and pulled the broom bristles so that the tip of the handle touched the floor. John
to his chest, hugging it with both fists, fingers laced around cranked his head to the side and squinted his eyes to slits,
the wood. He silenced and the cabin followed suit. Look- watching the violence in his peripheral vision. Papa grabbed
ing around again his eyes moved toward the hallway; John a fistful of Christine’s hair and flung her from his back.
shuffled to the bedroom door. She bounced across the bed and thudded into the wall and
stayed limp where she fell.
John stood outside the door, broom in hand, and stared
down at the dented brass knob. He leaned his forehead to- “You goddamned whore!” Papa lunged toward the bed but
ward the door and rested it against the wood. From within the scream that issued from John’s throat halted his prog-
came sounds. John put his hand on the doorknob and ress. Papa turned in time to catch the brunt of the broom
watched it as he turned. handle’s impact on his jaw. The birch wood shattered and
splintered and Papa dropped hard to the floor. John looked
Papa stood, back to the door, in the middle of the room with down at the broken haft of the broom, now an ugly two
a grimy pile of dungarees and underwear around his ankles. foot long thrusting weapon. Christine did not move. Papa
His undershirt cut a wavering shadow across the backs of breathed in raggedly. John went to work.
his legs. Christine poked her head from behind the white
flank of Papa’s thigh and saw John in the doorway. She * * *
gasped and wiped the back of her hand across her mouth
and her head sunk. Sissy takes me down to the river to get the wet fish in the big
net and she opens them with the knife that shines the same
“What’s the matter, Christy? You ain’t even halfway there way fish bellies do in the sun and all the orange and red of
yet.” the fish spills out onto the smooth river rocks. Sissy throws
the fish insides into the river and I watch them run in the
Christine darted a finger toward the door. gray water that rushes past with a noise like leaves in wind.
I get in the truck and Sissy takes us from the river to home
Papa wrenched his head over his shoulder and saw John and I sit on the seat behind the glass and watch Sissy take
holding the broom to his chest and gripping the doorknob out the fish and go with them inside the house. Papa went
with his other hand. Papa’s shoved at Christine’s head and away and didn’t come back and now it is quiet at night.t
she fell back with the front seam of her towel opening up
as she tipped back and cracked her head against the bed
frame. With his other hand, Papa jerked up his trousers and
turned to face the doorway. He lurched toward the door, a

59
CREATIVE NONFICTION

The Shapeshifter
Kelley A Pasmanick

I
with scorn. Her older self would wear a snarled smile, con-
fident of her observation: You will never be anything other
was transformed in a Walmart. than what you are, while I can be whomever I want.

She wore a blue shirt with frills, as little girls do, and pink Today, her look was of undiluted curiosity.
shorts. Her hair was braided in the way that mothers are
wont to do, strategically off the nape of her neck in an at- I mimed the motion of walking, lifting my crutches and
tempt to make nice with the Georgia sun. then heavily replacing them in order to reproduce the cal-
culated vibrations, which meant that the rubber tips of my
My head was hurting from walking on my crutches. My crutches had made contact with the floor. “It was me.”
walk is a gallop. Left, right, left, right. The left always leads
because that side is dominant, a trait indicative of spastic “Oh!” she said with an understanding that would have
diplegia, a type of cerebral palsy. equaled learning the secret behind a treasured magic trick.
“What are those? Why do you walk like that?”
She heard the gallop first and came running, “Horsey,” she
said, coming around the corner in her own homage to my I crouched down with knees bent, my face toward hers, and
walk, a trot in the form of a skip, but I was not a horse. smiled. “I use them to help me walk. They’re like a second
pair of legs because mine need a little help.”
She looked at me puzzled, nose scrunched in Bewitched
mode, and looked both ways down the aisles, slowly, as if It clicked. “You’re an insect!” she said. “Cool!”
long-practiced to take that big-girl step of finally crossing
the street by herself. Laughter escaped from me at the originality of her connec-
tion. “It is very cool. You have a good day.”
“Where is it?” she said. “I heard it.”
“Okay, bye,” she said, with a snaggletoothed, missing-teeth
“Where’s what?” A smile began to creep onto my face. It smile and a wave.t
tingled, after lying dormant for the majority of the after-
noon in Americana gray.
For Mendel and the countless other children over the years
“The horse,” she said as she looked me over from top to who have dared to ask me questions rather than continuing
bottom. Had she been a few years older, I would have to remain afraid of me, I thank you.
cringed. That look would have been automatically infused

60
POETRY

Joan Seliger Sidney

Michael S. Morris
First MS Attack
i was entering my twenty-fourth year
Three Stringed Instruments when a bolt of lightning
struck my knee & sparks flew toe to thigh
What thoughts have I that would burst into flame
six weeks married i had no time
if not for bees buzzing for anything but sex & teaching
in the lemon trees through the rain still fears sneaked in

and the sun’s crowning flowers through the door that didn’t shut
blooming in its fulsome light till i gave myself to doctors
believing they knew everything
spent into an azure mist
amidst ancient electrical wires or with a snap of fingers
their genie would figure it out
holding together old telephone towers did you & your husband fight
as if three stringed instruments—
asked the hospital physician this
plucked by these fingers could be newly-married hysteria
into their wildest elements (Freud twisting weeping women’s

what thoughts have I minds around icy bodies) no
that would burst into flame i said from my bed I watched
leaves on the maple tree outside
if the dream of cooling seas,
had not called my name shrivel & flee across the street
in between as perfect patient i
and the seas are a conductor was passed from machine to machine
and the music is of rain.

Previously published in Bereft and Blessed,
Antrim House, 2014. Reprinted
by permission of the author.

61
PERSONAL ESSAY

The Race
Carolyn B. Fraiser

M
small outdoor garden ceremony with Carolina. We decided to take both
y nephew never paid much our families and close friends. With my my niece and nephew to the park as a
attention to me. sister and two nieces in the bridal party, special treat before school started for
my fiancé didn’t mind including my the fall. I never had spent an extended
I was the aunt who lived 3,000 miles nephew as a junior groomsman. Even time alone with the kids. My sister had
away in California and only visited though the nine-year-old rocked back always been with me. But we all felt
once a year. My heart broke when and forth and fidgeted during the re- it was a good time for me to recon-
he seemed not to even remember me hearsal, recognition began to set in. nect with them and for them to get to
when I returned to North Carolina for know their new uncle. Yet, I was afraid,
Christmas or Memorial Day weekend. “Is this my Aunt Carolyn?” He tugged unsure how long we had before things
He only approached me when prodded at my sister’s dress while we discussed became “boring” and they asked to go
by my sister to give me a brief half-hug details of the wedding that would take home.
goodbye before running off to the car place the next day.
to leave. At first, my nephew was quiet, but he
“Yes, it is.” walked quietly beside us as his older
“Don’t take it personally,” my mom re- sister took us on a grand tour of the
minded me. “That’s just the way he is.” “Is this my Aunt Carolyn?” he asked park. As the kids settled on the swings,
again and again. he seemed more at ease. The longer he
Although never officially diagnosed, rocked in the black leather seat, listen-
my nephew had shown signs of autism “Yes. Shhh.” My sister tried to continue ing to the chain creak back and forth,
spectrum disorder since he was very the conversation but was interrupted the larger his smile spread across his
young. He rarely looked me in the eye again and again. face.
and was easily over-stimulated by too
many toys or too many people. Only “Is this my Aunt Carolyn?” Sigh. Rec- When we stopped for lunch, my neph-
movies with music calmed his anxiety. ognition does come at a price. My sister ew’s interest suddenly turned toward
He’d stare at them, mesmerized for turned to me, “Are you sure you want us. He became very inquisitive. “Who
long periods of time, rocking back and him in the ceremony? He can’t even made the sandwiches?” “Where did the
forth in time with the beat of the music, stand still.” meat come from?” “What’s for des-
unaware of anything else—or any other sert?” “Is there anything else to eat?”
people—around him. “Yes,” without hesitation. “What are we going to do after lunch?”
I was amazed. My nephew had never
In 2012, my fiancé and I returned to A few months later, my new husband tried to chat with me. But today, I could
North Carolina to get married in a and I relocated back home to North not answer his questions fast enough.

62
We made no special plans for the af- Now that was a different story. Even as harder and harder, but my legs would
ternoon, wanting to allow the kids to a kid, I was a horrible runner. I could run no faster. I vowed that I would at
simply have time to play before school never keep up. As an adult, I was even least make it to the other side.
began the following week. As the sun worse. After four . . . five . . . or maybe
rose in the sky and the air steamed up, six car accidents, my knees ached at the My niece reached the finish line first.
we rested for a while under a tree. Both very thought of running or jogging. The My husband stumbled behind her. I
my niece and nephew were interested best I could do was a power walk but hung my head in shame. Flashbacks
in asking us questions, especially about even that tired me out quickly. from my childhood flooded my mind.
their mom. But the conversation had Last place. Always, last place. I was
come to a lull, and I again feared that My husband frowned. “You don’t have mortified. I couldn’t even keep up. I
my niece and nephew thought we were to run. You can stay here and rest.” wanted to cry, but most importantly, I
boring. didn’t want my niece and nephew to be
But my nephew was insistent. “No. embarrassed by me.
“Can we have a race?” The question No. She has to run with us.” I wanted
came out of nowhere. My nephew so badly to run with him, but I also I shook my embarrassment aside and
looked at me straight in the eye, beg- didn’t want to embarrass myself. I had looked up. Yards ahead, my nephew
ging for an answer. For the first time, yearned for an open door to connect had stopped to wait for me. He looked
he had suggested an activity. with my nephew for years. Here was straight at me, watching me stumble
my chance, but . . . across the field. Reaching out his hand,
Sure, it sounded simple enough. The lo- he beckoned me to keep trying. He
cal neighborhood park had a nice large Hesitantly, I agreed. gave up winning the race for me? I
field where the kids could run barefoot never felt so connected to my nephew
in the grass without getting hurt. No We lined our bare toes up along the as I did at that moment. Tears began to
other families were using the field at grass. When my husband yelled, “Go!” seep out of the corners of my eyes.
the time, so it made the perfect place My legs felt like weights. The kids and
for the two kids to race. my husband quickly sprinted ahead of As I reached him, he began running
me. I struggled to put one leg in front beside me and soon sprinted ahead.
“Will you race too?” of the other. When he crossed the finish line, he fell
and rolled in the grass with his sister
With every second, the group moved panting and gasping for breath. A min-
further and further ahead of me. At this ute later, I joined them on the grass,
rate, I would reach the middle of the laughing, gasping for air, and enjoying
field when they crossed the finish line. the perfect moment.t
How embarrassing. I pushed myself

63
POETRY

JOHN SMITH

James B. Nicola
The Sign
After going against the sign XCI
on a one way street
with grandchildren in the car, There comes a sudden gradualness
then blaming hydroplaning That’s noticed without noticing
for her sailing alone But on reflection.
across two lanes of an interstate,
it was time for our mother Then comes the gradual suddenness
to stop driving. That alarms, noticed when one’s not noticing
But her calendar was a map, But called.
booked with visits.
Her children too busy
to come to her house. Was the back this bent last year
Stalled between a steering wheel, The gait as slow
unsteady, or home alone, The swallowing so deliberate
the thought of not driving Its coughs so critical
drove her crazy, until finally, Sight and hearing quite this je ne sais quoi
she drove to church on Sunday, The holding of my hand so tightened yet tender
knelt and prayed to God The anecdotes so laughable
for a sign, anything The laughs so anecdotal?
to help her decide what to do,
when mid-prayer, The crying out at night
an usher stepped to the podium, Was it as frequent or as deafening
asked who among them The questionable stillnesses as piercing?
owned a gray Toyota.
Our mother stood, The kisses
straightened her hat, Were they quite this long
and said, I do. Or half as many?
The gentleman leaned in
to the microphone,
smiled, said softly, Well, And yet every visited room
you left it running Fills with the darkening radiance of
in the parking lot. Her presence for whatever time there is
And there it was, Gradual or sudden
as Mom tells it, As we take timeless delight
Loud and clear as a church bell. In the delay.
So she drove home
and turned in her keys.

64
Sarah Rehfeldt

Offerings
It doesn’t have to be much.
It hardly needs to be spoken,
a word –

Even
an ordinary,
somewhat rounded,
small,
imperfect pebble
pulled from broken fragments of shell and drift,
once polished,
placed inside the center of your palm
and held out to the sky,
will let the sunlight travel through it.

What little it takes.

Sarah Rehfeldt

On Love
I held on to one butterfly
and watched.
Nothing happened.

You held on to one butterfly
and let it dance.
Something whispered.
It soared above the trees
and landed.

Sarah Rehfeldt, A Light in the Forest

65
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Shirley Adelman is a former high school and college teach- Carolyn B. Fraiser is a professional writer and graphic de-
er from Pennsylvania. She has been published in academic, signer. Fraiser has been published in the anthology 21 Days
literary, and medical humanities journals in the United of Grace: Stories that Celebrate God’s Unconditional Love,
States, Canada, South Africa, and Israel. Most recently her Broadstreet Publishing Group (2015). She has also had sto-
poetry appeared in Canadian Woman Studies, Blue Collar ries published in various Chicken Soup for the Soul antholo-
Review, and Cell2Soul. Adelman says poetry sustained her gies in 2009, 2012, and 2014. She was the 2010 winner of
following treatment for breast cancer and a concussive ac- the Regional Short Story Contest of Country Roads Maga-
cident. zine. Fraiser’s disability is epilepsy. She and her husband
live in North Carolina where they are licensed foster parents.
Maura Gage Cavell is a professor of English at Louisiana
State University, Eunice. Her poems have been published in Linda Fuchs is retired and living in Columbus, Ohio. She
California Quarterly (2016), Westview (2016), Boulevard is the author of three books The Midnight Ramblings of an
(2014), and Poem (2014). She was nominated twice for a Insane Woman (2006), Life’s Complexities (2011), and Heal-
Pushcart Prize in 2014 and 2015, and was nominated for ing Times (2014). Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1999,
Louisiana Poet Laureate in 2015. though she is no longer able to work, Fuchs says, “The silver
lining is that I have discovered my creative side in writing
Yuan Changming, a nine-time Pushcart nominee and author and painting.”
of seven chapbooks, grew up in rural China. Now living in
Vancouver, Canada, he coedits Poetry Pacific. His poems Justin Glanville is a writer/producer living in Cleveland,
have appeared in journals and anthologies in thirty-eight Ohio. His credits include Sidewalks of Buckeye: One Sum-
countries, including Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoem- mer in a Cleveland Neighborhood (2016), New to Cleve-
sOnline, and Threepenny Review. Changming’s mobility has land: A Guide to (re) Discovering the City (2011), and two
been significantly impaired by herniated discs and osteoar- podcasts, “Watershed” (2017), and “Munchen, Minnesota”
thritis. (2016). Glanville received a Creative Workforce Fellowship
in 2012 from Cuyahoga County Arts and Culture.
Monica Cook is an expat American editor and author who
lives in Australia and is working on completing her first Allan B. Goldstein is a senior lecturer at New York Univer-
novel. She has had short stories published in After Lines sity, Tandon School of Engineering. He earned a master of
(2016), Another Time, Another Place (November 2015), and arts in disability studies in 2015. Goldstein has realized, rel-
Con(viction): Anthology of the Con, Vol.2. Cook’s panic dis- atively recently, the extent to which his life has been defined
order led her to pursuing writing as a career, allowing her to by his younger brother’s disability. He states, “As an actor,
write when and where she is most comfortable. I escaped into others’ lives; as an ESL instructor, I assisted
those seeking to fit in; as a writing instructor, I assigned
Donna Tolley Corriher is a writer living on the coast of disability-related readings; now, teaching disability studies, I
South Carolina. She draws inspiration from family stories, am involving my students directly with disabled individuals
the environment, and interactions with other people. to show that having a disability is not a tragedy.”

Ruth Z. Deming is a psychotherapist and mental health Lynda McKinney Lambert is an author and visual artist
advocate who has had her prose and poetry published in from Pennsylvania. Her book, Walking by Inner Vision: Sto-
Literary Yard, Mad Swirl Poetry Review, and Kind of a Hur- ries & Poems, composed of work written after she lost her
ricane Press. She is founder/director of New Directions sight, was published by DLD Books (2017). Her essays have
Support Group for people with depression, bipolar disorder appeared in Indiana Voice Journal (March 2017), Breath &
and their family members. Deming lives near Philadelphia. Shadow (Winter 2016), and Spirit Fire Review (September
2015). Lambert has received two In-Sights awards (2014
Denise Fletcher is a freelance writer whose poems have and 2016) from American Printing House for the Blind.
appeared in The Words Are In My Soul Literary Magazine
(April 2017), Please Tell Someone Anthology (January Brenda Kay Ledford is a retired educator from the Blue
2017), Drabble Quarterly (October and November 2016), Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. She has two poetry
and Praxis Magazine (September 2016). Fletcher has a books to her credit, Crepe Rose, Aldrich Press (October
psychiatric disability and is the author of the chapbook A 2015), and a chapbook, Beckoning, Finishing Line Press
Thread of Hope. (2014) and has self-published a fiction collection with Old
Mountain Press (April 2017). Ledford has won awards from
North Carolina Society of Historians, North Carolina Press
Association, and the Clay County Historical and Arts Asso-
ciation. Her disability is severe arthritis. She writes because,
“It is therapy to my soul.”

66
Aaron Lefebvre is a writer, musician, and freelancer in Kelley A Pasmanick lives in Denver, Colorado and is a
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His disability is low vision/blind- manager at an independent living center. She says, “I am
ness. He says, “I write because it helps me share my per- compelled to shift the existing paradigm of disability by giv-
spective and raise awareness. In a sense, I see the world in a ing voice and visibility to the high-functioning physically
way few others do.” disabled.” Pasmanick has cerebral palsy. Her fiction has
appeared in Wordgathering (Issue 34, June 2015), Queen’s
Toby MacNutt is an artist (textiles and dance), a writer of Mob’s Teahouse (September 2016), Umbrella Factory Mag-
poetry and fiction, and a teacher based in Burlington, Ver- azine (Issue 25), Breath & Shadow (Issue 1, Winter 2017).
mont. The author’s work is influenced by being transgen-
der and having a systemic congenital disability “affecting Kirie Pedersen is a writer from Brinnion, Washington. Her
multiple elements of body and life. I look at shapeshifting fiction has appeared in Mount Hope Literary Journal, Cease
and bodily fluidity with an experienced eye—a topic I often Cows Literary Journal, Ginosko Literary Journal, and
return to.” Eclectica Literary Journal. She received an Ink Award for
nonfiction from Magnolia Review. Perdersen shares, “I live
William H. McCann, Jr. grew up with severe learning dis- and write on the property on which I was born and raised.
abilities which lead to his being sent from his home in Ken- My parents are buried nearby, and so are the various pets of
tucky to a residential school in Wisconsin. He is a poet and a lifetime. I designed my gardens using native plants to pro-
playwright. He teaches developmental English and reading vide wildlife refuge. Myriad species find habitat here.”
courses at Bluegrass Community and Technical College in
Lexington, Kentucky. Sarah Rehfeldt is a writer, artist, and photographer who
lives with her family in western Washington where she is
Michael S. Morris’ poems have been published in Prairie raising a teenage son with disabilities. Her work has ap-
Schooner, Plainsong, Iodine, and Haight Ashbury Literary peared in Appalachia, The Awakenings Review, Blue Heron,
Journal. He was nominated by the Worcester Review for Chrysanthemum, EarthSpeak Magazine, A Prairie Journal,
the Pushcart Prize in 2012 and was awarded an honorary and Presence, An International Journal of Spiritual Direc-
membership in the International Writer’s Association. His tion. She is the author of Somewhere South of Pegasus, a
chapbook, A Wink Centuries Old, was featured in Minotaur collection of image poems. She was nominated for a Push-
Magazine. Sadly, Michael Morris died in February 2016. cart Prize for her poem, “Smooth Stone.”

James B. Nicola is a poet, stage director, composer, lyricist,
Joan Seliger Sidney lives and writes in Storrs, Connecti-
and playwright. He has written or contributed to poetry col-
cut. She has written three full-length poetry collections;
lections and other books related to the arts. He has received
Bereft and Blessed (2014), The Body of Diminishing Mo-
three awards for his poetry: the Dana Literary Award, the
tion (2005), and The Way the Past Comes Back (1991). Her
Willow Review Award, and the People’s Choice Award,
work, which focuses on the holocaust as well as her experi-
from Storyteller. His full-length poetry collection, Stage to
ence with multiple sclerosis, has also appeared in numerous
Page: Poems From the Theater was published by Word Po-
journals and anthologies. She is a writer-in-residence at the
etry (2016).
University of Connecticut’s Center for Judaic Studies and
Contemporary Jewish Life. Sidney shares, “It’s my athletic
Nanette C. Orange is a paralegal from Florida. She has
life that keeps me moving way beyond my wheelchair.” She
published two collections of her poetry, Innermost Journey:
enjoys therapeutic horseback riding, swimming, and adap-
Poems for a Lifetime (2013) and Soul Whisperings: Poems
tive skiing and sailing.
for Victorious Living (2006). Her work has also appeared in
Loch Raven Review (Spring 2010) and Survivor’s Review
e. smith sleigh “writes poetry in Robert Penn Warren coun-
(January 2010). Orange received honorable mention in The
try.” She taught at the college level and traveled extensively.
Bridge’s 2010 National Poetry Contest with the theme of
Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Paper Darts,
“Homelessness Hurts.”
Squalorly, Kumquat Review, Words Fly Away, and Prism
International. She has been a finalist in several literary and
Sandy Palmer studied graphic design at The University of
academic competitions including Eastern Kentucky’s aca-
Akron and is a freelance artist who works with a variety of
demic journal Nine Patch: A Creative Journal for Women
media. She contributes to Kaleidoscope as the writer of vi-
and Gender Studies.
sual artist profiles, having joined the staff as art coordinator
in 2002. Palmer is the full-time graphic design specialist at
United Disability Services.

67
John Smith is a retired teacher from New Jersey. He earned Benjamin Toche is a career preparation instructor for Job
a master of arts degree from Lehigh University in Bethle- Corps Alaska. His work has appeared in The Sonder Review
hem, Pennsylvania. His poetry collection, Even That Indigo, (February 2017), Unlikely Stories Mark V (August 2016),
was published by Hip Pocket Press (2012). Cirque: A Literary Journal for Alaska and the Pacific
Northwest (July 2016), and Sediments Literary-Arts Journal
Paul Smith is a retired construction engineer from Skokie, (May 2015). He is also an artist working in pen and paper,
Illinois. His poems and short stories have appeared in Junto watercolors, and oil pastels as well as woodcarving. Toche’s
Magazine (March 2017), Clementine Poetry Journal (Octo- writing, in which he tries to focus on empathy rather than
ber 2015), oyez review (Spring 2014), and Rockford Review pity, is inspired by his work with people with mental dis-
(January 2013). His short story, “A Christmas Tale of Hope abilities.
Retold,” was a contest winner in 2012.
Gail Waldstein, M.D. is a retired physician, poet/writer,
Catherine Strisik is a poet, editor, and dyslexia language and teacher of creative writing and yoga living in Colorado.
therapist. Her two poetry collections, The Mistress and Her collection of essays and stories, To Quit this Calling;
Thousand-Cricket Song, 2nd edition, were published in Firsthand Tales of a Pediatric Pathologist was published by
2016. Her poems also appeared in Journal of Feminist Ghost Road Press (2005). She has two poetry chapbooks,
Studies in Religion (2015, 2016), and Connotation Press: AfterImage, Plan B Press (2006) and The Hauntings, Swan
An Online Artifact (2016). The Mistress was nominated for Scythe Press (2014). Awards include a grant from Colorado
New Mexico/Arizona Poetry Book Award in 2017. She re- Council for the Arts in 2000 and a Helene Wurlitzer Foun-
ceived a Pushcart Prize nomination in 2016 and was a Cut- dation Fellowship in 2002. Waldstein was diagnosed with
throat Poetry Award finalist in 2015. Strisik’s husband, now macular degeneration and also struggles with depression.
deceased, lived with Parkinson’s disease for seven years.
Gail Willmott has been a staff member with Kaleidoscope
Gwenellen Tarbet is a medical lab assistant living in Pent- since 1982 and became editor-in-chief in July, 2003. She
icton, British Columbia. She struggles with depression and received both her bachelor and master degrees from the
controlling diabetes. Her husband is legally blind and deaf. University of Illinois. “This is a career I have loved for
Tarbet says, “I have noticed in my life with him that all thirty-five years—getting to know our contributors as well
people meet the challenges of disability in different ways.” as working with very accomplished and supportive col-
leagues.”

68
Jim Stevens, Heath Ledger-The Joker, 2015, monofilament painting, 21” x 28” x 3.5”

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