2022 Truckee Meadows Community College Reno, Nevada
The Meadow is the annual literary arts journal published every spring by Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) in Reno, Nevada. Students interested in creative writing and small press publishing are encouraged to participate on the editorial board. Visit www.tmcc.edu/meadow for information and submission guidelines or contact the Editor-in-Chief at email@example.com or through the English department at (775) 673-7092. The Meadow is not interested in acquiring rights to contributors’ works. All rights revert to the author upon publication, and we expect The Meadow to be acknowledged as the original publisher in any future chapbooks or books. The Meadow is indexed in The International Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses. Our address is Editor-in-Chief, The Meadow, Truckee Meadows Community College, English Department, Vista B300, 7000 Dandini Blvd., Reno, Nevada, 89512. The views expressed in The Meadow are solely reflective of the authors’ perspectives. TMCC takes no responsibility for the creative expression contained herein. Cover Art: Untitled #7 by Lily Hargrave, www.tmcc.edu/meadow ISSN: 1974-7473
Poetry Editor Lindsay Wilson Prose Editor Rob Lively Editorial Board Erika Bein Karly Campbell Maddie Dolan Rebecca Eckland Jeannie Harkema Erek Lively Jordan McGlynn Jordan Mumm Virag Nikolics Rebecca Obinique Technical Consultant Ron Marston Cover Art Lily Hargrave
Table of Contents Nonfiction Ruby Peru The Penis Goes 21 Fiction Shellie Richards Something’s Bugging Me 38 Kolena Jones Kayembe We Convert Under Pressure 44 Melanie Unruh Prayers I Said 64 Daniel Deisinger Against the Flow 79 Scott Ragland For Sale By Owner 99 Marlene Olin Que Será 101 Benjamin Murray Eggs and Paintballs 128 Forest Arthur Ormes The Training of Zebras 146 Huina Zheng Bones 179 Patrick Dawson The Hands of Che Guevara 193 Poetry Alice “Lucky” The Ambulance Took Away Lacerenza Another Person Today 8 Robin Gow filaments 9 Kolbe Riney plenty 11 big love 12
Patrick Meeds Minor Miracles in Time Travel 13 Thirty Thieves and the Thunder Chief 14 Matthew Burnside A Tooth is a Tree 15 Merlin Ural Rivera The Walk 16 Richard Martin Ode to a Newport 17 More Than Myself 54 Christine Neuman How to Write a Poem 18 Casey Fuller Lesson Number One 19 Melanie Perish Those Seen Driving West 26 When We Broke Up 27 Susan Landgraf Widow Blues 28 Richard Baldo The Last Gifts We Gave Each Other 29 Daniel Edward Moore Less Bombs to Ponder in the After-LIfe Glow 30 Sean Prentiss The Things I Hate 31 Kelly M. Houle Little Ears 33 David B. Prather Journal Entry: Rain Crow 34 Rebecca A. Eckland Crows 36 Erek Lively The World 55 Austin Crago My Father’s Orange Tree 56 Simon Anton Nino Diego Baena New Year’s Day 57 George Perreault early one morning 58 Matthew Baker Ferrier 60 Murray Silverstein Pandemic Aubade with Dying Scene 62 Taylor Graham This isn’t an Elegy. Caldor isn’t Dead 63 Gina Stratos Tyrone 90 Cutter 167 Nichole Zachary My Heart May Burst From My Chest 91 Ten Feet Below My Driveway is a Field 170 Xochitl Nunez-Gutierrez Then Do not Go on a Double Date 92 Alexandra E. Quick Love Before Your Porchlight Went Out 93 Cindy Aguilar Mi Alebrije 94 Karley Pardue Fiori di Como 95
Jordan Lee Mumm In Montenegro, the Day I Loved You 96 Two Months After Mailing the Poem About Your Eyes 97 Jesus I. Jimenez Agramon Because I Want to 98 Mark Sanders Out Here in the Country 115 In February on Farm Road 116 Erin Wilson Pastoral 117 Jordan Deveraux Ghazal 118 Simon Perchik * 119 Kate Case Rebirth 120 Benjamin M. Vandevert The Room I Grew Up In 121 Ace Boggess Yesterday 122 Christopher Locke Heat Wave 123 Sergey Gerasimov A Whispering World 124 Kimberly Ann Priest Through the Window 125 Laura King Post-Menopausal Vulture Watcher 126 Jeff Whitney Grasshoppers Have Invaded Las Vegas and Experts Say It Could Last 127 Jacob L. Ledesma Originality 141 Heather Arbuckle I’m Nobody to Judge 142 Sunday Ritual 169 Drew Cannon Cleave 143 Nathan Graziano Nathan J. Deer Buys the Beer 145 Sonya Dunning First Birthday 162 Laura Read Pink Moon 163 Dear Sylvia 206 Jesse Curran Letting Go of Me 165 Jaclynn Kiessling A Six-Year-Old at the Bar 168 Susan Johnson Candle Thin and Candle Tricky 171 Lenny DellaRocca St. Dominick’s Orphanage, 1945-1950 172 Oscar Hernandez The Young Man Who Preferred Education 173 John Sibley Williams sky burial 174
Danielle Shorr Girlhood Eulogy 175 Julie Weiss San Jose, California Shooting Duplex 177 Annie Brown Checkers with Grandpa 178 Jeff William Acosta Aubade with the World Ending 209 Daylight 211 Joseph Fasano The Vow 213 Narcissus 215 The Source 217 Contributor’s Notes 224
8 The Meadow I go to college and live at the women’s shelter, so instead of homework I do shelter work. Everything I have achieved in my life I have done out of selfishness for myself, so I can help others. My caseworker is barely out of college, and I have made myself her success story. I like myself because I am with me 24 hours a day. I am a good person. I care about everyone, but I care about me the most. Once or twice I got lost in the shadows, and I made my own light. I can be my own star, navigational compass, and even a lighthouse. A blind lady hangs out in the hallway. I always ask her if she needs anything. I am happy she always tells me, No. One time she said, Yes, I almost ran away. I stayed and asked what she needed. She asked me to read to her. I was so happy. I read to her and tried to make her see. Today, when the ambulance shows up there are two people inside it. The ambulance also has a person in the back when they drive away. There is always a bed open at the women’s shelter after they leave. The Ambulance Took Away Another Person Today Alice “Lucky” Lacerenza
The Meadow 9 filaments Robin Gow when the birds died we collected them in a glass holy-goblet. blew on them softly until they turned to light. still though, on the right afternoon i will turn on a fire & hear a thousand wing-beats. nestlings falling toward flight. during the years without a sun we had no idea what each other looked like. spent our days re-telling the stories of our lives until they were as short as a sentence each. “i caught a devil in the creek rocks” & “my mother couldn’t remember my name” & “without the smell of lavender i’d be dead.” i want to learn to catalog my losses without living only for them. this is easier said than done. here is where the birds died. we have light because the birds folded inward & opened orchidly onto the room. my sentence is “i was a girl & then, i was a boy & now i am a prophet.” i saw feathers behind my eyelids since before i knew what they were called—
10 The Meadow thought of them as collected eyelashes. i try to blink as often as possible. pretending what i see is a series of photographs. one following the other. maybe there is a lake kept by the gods where a polaroid of every second lives. if i could i spend the rest of my days swimming there in search of an image of the last bird. her wings are what make every shadow in me. i would steal her image for myself. maybe slip it beneath my pillow as i slept. absorb some of that boundlessness. commiserate over our desires to fracture in illumination. a loon calls as i turn on my desk lamp. outside, a flock of yesterdays passes beneath the always. i take a picture of my hands & add it to the inventory.
The Meadow 11 plenty Kolbe Riney didn’t know, don’t know / why you’d want more / and that’s why I never understood / goldilocks leaving a bed too big for her / Like, I want / to be too comfortable / actually / I want to be the softest thing possible / Like, we’re both really full / and covered in fur / and settling in for a really long nap / And I want our table to be a spool of thread / where we hold mouse tea parties / and use the yarn to knit sweaters / for our neighbors / the frog, toad, and mole / but like, enough sweaters, you know? / like, enough to clothe the whole village / like, I want them to have extras! / and when we talk, I want every word / to feel like blowing kisses / and for every step to be like walking home / from the bar with your best-best friends / where we can’t feel our legs moving / and we just got done laughing / and everything is pink / And mostly, I want us to wake up in the spring / and gather blackberries in picnic baskets / shaped ideally for someone with silly-big paws / and I want to spend all afternoon making jam / and eating more than enough extras on the side / until our lips come back sticky and purple / and when we kiss, we don’t even wipe it off.
12 The Meadow big love Kolbe Riney Today I find some of the clearest / photographs ever taken / of Jupiter / Her surface, a pastel blue and coral / acid trip of ever- / swirling eddies / And that makes me think, you know / that maybe Jupiter is a dancer / and also a curly girl / and she’s definitely bisexual / that I know for sure / And I think Jupiter / likes to wear denim jackets / with the patches on the sides / that say, LOVE THE UNLOVED / and fuzzy pink leg warmers / and scrunchies / And I think Jupiter is a lover / of all those hated / by the world, like / she has a pet rat / and feeds the possums on her doorstep / and she never clears away her cobwebs / And I think Jupiter understands me / like, I think she’s right / here with me, hoping / for a softer year: / a year / of romantic / comedies without the misogyny this time / and books / where people love each other / in the gentle way / and nothing else / and men you meet in bars / who order the super fruity cock- / tails and sip them through a swirly straw / without any shame / And the truth is / I think Jupiter can’t tell the difference / between loving and being in love / because when it gets big it all feels / like the same thing / even with strangers / and so every friend she’s ever had / still feels like a lover / And she’s really big, you know! / she’s like, really big / and she relishes it! / like, she licks her fingers / and even takes / samples from the grocery where she works.
The Meadow 13 Minor Miracles in Time Travel Patrick Meeds I keep a clock in every room of my house and they are all set to slightly different times. That way I can move from room to room gaining or losing minutes as I go. If I get bad news on the phone in the kitchen I can just step into the living room where it’s a five minutes earlier and it’s like it never really happened. If you ask the piano in the hall what time it is, it will say 4/4 or maybe 6/8 if it’s feeling jazzy. What else would you expect a piano to say? Was the song written today? 400 years ago? Doesn’t matter to a piano. It’s made of wood, and in the old days, ivory. Just like Washington’s teeth. Did you know that John Adams wanted him to be known as His Highness, Protector of Their Liberties. Their being the thirteen original colonies. A little much if you ask me. But then nobody asks me. That probably has something to do with my inaccurate timekeeping or where I keep my piano. Give me a break though. It’s heavy and after the accident my doctor told me I would never play again. Of course that was then. This is now.
14 The Meadow Thirty Thieves and the Thunder Chief Patrick Meeds In one square inch of sky there are so many stars But that doesn’t change the fact that Iowa City is far away from here. It has nothing to do with gravity. Nothing to do with longitude and latitude. Counter clockwise just feels more natural. I mean let’s be honest. We’ve got this whole thing ass backwards anyway. We should be focused on entering the water with the smallest splash possible not plugging our noses and screaming cannon ball as loud as we can. Hey look at me, look at me. Someone tricked you and made you believe that’s all it would take to make you happy. As if Everything needs a fresh coat of paint once in a while. Sooner or later everything decomposes. My friend Mike used to do this trick at the bar where he pulled himself through a metal coat hanger but we forgave him. We still loved him. But what do I know? The last decision I made was twenty years ago and it was wrong. Yes, I have ghosts it’s just that they’re not all dead yet.
The Meadow 15 A Tooth is a Tree Matthew Burnside Boy is burying a tooth in the earth. “A tooth is not a tree,” mother has tried her best to teach him. Boy is insistent though, all gunked up with dreaming. Every night his parents bicker, shaking their pillows. Help is needed. Professional help I mean, father decides, as Boy watches tooth slumbering in a hole in the backyard. Definitely not natural, mother agrees. It is agreed then. Boy will receive help. Years of sessions go by and Boy is still gunked up with dreaming. Mind full of dreamy cobwebs. Sleek nets to catch all the ghosts haunting his dreamy heart with ghostsinging. It is futile, reports the professional one day. Boy is beyond help. A tooth is not a tree! mother yells in a fit of desperation, shaking him like a pillow. If only they looked outside they’d see skeletal branches tickled by the sun—beautiful white boughs holding up the entire weight of the sky. Boy feels tooth in his heart blooming its big roots out into the wide world. One day, an orchard of teeth. Boy forgives, because Boy sees. It’s not their fault some people never learn to see beyond the windows.
16 The Meadow The Walk Merlin Ural Rivera Day four—the sun is still black, the dust roasted brown like torrefied wheat, a splash of salt-white air above the desert. Forward burst those who know where they’re going, a wondrous perestroika blooming in their heads, not a drop of sweat on their silk ties, ambitions tall like sequoias. The jugglers—a slow parade— are left behind, eyes in the sky, and questions, questions curving in the air like slimy intestines. Yet another poète maudit among them, and a brush-biter with blue teeth, cigarette-slim dancers and trumpeters blowing moonlight out of horns. Tongues red and slippery, lead-heavy with wine, like soldiers out of harness, they trudge along aimless, and dream of sixteen cups of coffee, and opium, things promised to them at the edge of the world things that children, hereabouts, pay to see. The tide, they say to those ahead, the tide is ebbing.
The Meadow 17 Ode to a Newport Richard Martin They’re made in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Salem is short for Jerusalem. I was smoking and drinking in line for a haunted house and this Mormon Girl coughed at me. Later in life she marched for We the People down a hall crowned with tobacco leaves that will soon be either demolished like a Confederate baby-killer or called only acanthus leaves, renamed like a highway heading South towards Freedom/Past where the Native Peoples dwell and smoke tobacco as ritual. God, I miss ritual. Probably needing a smoke like never before, feeling the tobacco mixed in my blood like myrrh mixed with the wine Matthew begged Jesus to drink just outside Jerusalem’s tall walls. I too would beg to join them in their circle, sitting on one hand and keeping my white mouth shut so as not to be as some strange snowman piping off sorry… sorry…. over and over wide eyed and scared like the last kitten in the box. I hope I would feel welcome in their ritual in a way that only people with iron hearts can feel and in a haze of everyone’s charcoaled breath and eased constitution was a law they have learned worth teaching by putting fire to leaf and lesson to lips.
18 The Meadow How to Write a Poem Christine Neuman First, read two collections of poems by Sacramento, California poets. Then, when that doesn’t give you any ideas— ponder about last year, when you actually had a life, before Covid-19 shut down the world. Right when you started going to the SPC and met a hot guy who asked, Do you want me to sit with you? Then walk outside until the leaves turn to brown-yellowish mush, then you know you’ve gone too far turn back around lay in the mud and stare into the sky, until the clouds turn into an older man’s long earlobes. Take the night off. Fuck it, take the whole week off. Take shots of vodka and then tell your ex you love him. Wake up, take it all back. Imagine yourself happy. Then take that back too. Offer to walk your neighbor’s dog, leave it at the park. Then, when your neighbor knocks at the door give them an alias, after telling them you have no idea what they’re talking about. Go to the grocery store after masturbating. Buy yourself a cake. You deserve it.
The Meadow 19 Lesson Number One Casey Fuller you don’t have to believe in fate or faith or god but believe me when i say i was stuck for three hours driving my mom’s four-door hyundai sonata or whatever it was sitting next to my favorite poet who i just picked up at the airport completely inconveniently placed between the largest city in the pacific northwest and two military bases that just seemed to let all our soldiers out improbably on leave so there we were my hero and me in my mom’s hyundai or whatever it was where he was catching on i knew about his recursive and unfurling clause-laden constructions seemingly unattached to life in any possible way until their ends suddenly sucker punch you in such a way you end up repeating a small set of
20 The Meadow luminous words for years when i asked him why he titled his poems using lines from other poems he looked at me in what i thought would be much more just smiled and said to confuse my lovers he had flip flops on a heather blue t-shirt a small satchel a baseball cap that referred to nothing no luggage smelled of coconut soap and only had one change of clothes i looked at him closely to remember for us all when he asked to stop off at a grocery store he said he really had very little to teach anyone as we walked in a run down thriftway he bought a bag of spicy pork rinds and two twist top bottles of chardonnay and as we were going through check out he held up his three items and whispered to me in words that seem to bookend a mysteriousness lesson number one
The Meadow 21 The Penis Goes Ruby Peru I must have been in about the third grade when my mother told me how a woman gets pregnant. I hadn’t asked and wasn’t the least bit interested. In fact, when sitting in the bathtub, I used to place a washcloth over my vagina in order to avoid contemplating its mystery. Shame around bodily functions permeated the atmosphere of our home without ever being discussed or rationalized. One day, Mom simply walked into my bedroom, shut the door, and said, “I’m going to tell you where babies come from.” I now suspect that, like the “there is no Santa Claus” conversation, this had been brought on by my older sister finding out and my mother trying to make sure I heard the news from an adult first. But whatever the reason Mom chose to have this conversation on that particular day, she wasn’t any more eager for it than me. Her rigid posture and pinched face made her look as if she had fallen into a vat of discomfort. Wherever babies came from, it was clearly nowhere good. I knew the grim expression my mother wore. I had seen it many times. It meant that, like a self-programming robot, she had set herself on a mission to complete an unpleasant task, and no power on Earth could change her course of action. I knew I could have picked up my oboe and marched around the room squawking out “Hot Cross Buns,” pausing only to smash the bedroom window with my rusty horseshoe collection and impale myself upon the shards, and she would have just spoken louder. My parents were atheists, or agnostics at best, but behaved just like the strict, fifties-era protestants they had been raised to be. It simply never occurred to either of them to change their attitudes or ethics when they ceased to believe in the
22 The Meadow very premise behind them. Religion-wise, I only know that my mother always had great admiration for Quakers and the Amish and Laura Ingalls Wilder—notions of wholesomeness, that, I think, centered around the idea of well-behaved children and beautiful, handmade quilts with which to cover their genital-free bodies. Doing her impersonation of a modern, open-minded, TV-type mom, she sat on the edge of my bed and performed what some people might consider a comforting smile. “When a man and woman sleep together,” she said, “the penis goes into the vagina.” She added something about sperm and eggs and ovaries, but my mind was already whirring. I fell into a great quandary trying to figure out how a penis could “go” into a vagina while their respective owners were asleep. I was particularly confused by the way she said, “The penis goes.” It gave the distinct impression that penises did things on their own, without their owners’ consent or encouragement. The penis goes to the grocery store. The penis goes to a matinee. The penis goes to the vagina. Who knows where it’ll go next? But how does it “go?” I wondered. Does it detach? Does it fly? Does it grow legs like a fish emerging from primordial ooze? I wondered if the hapless penis knew where it was going, or if it simply wandered around until it bumped into something, perhaps a vagina. As my mother droned on about who-knows-what, I reasoned that the detachable-flying-penis line of reasoning seemed untenable, so I came up with a second theory. In order to unite these particular organs while in the land of nod, the man and woman in question would have to fall asleep without underwear, lying close together, then thrash around so much in their sleep that his penis happened to slip inside her vagina. Highly unlikely, I thought. In fact, it now seemed a won-
The Meadow 23 der that humans had populated the Earth at all, and it made sense that babies were often referred to as “miracles.” Perhaps this was why people didn’t like to talk about baby-making. The project’s very hopelessness aroused anxiety. At the time, I was known as a violent sleeper, and whenever I slept in the same bed with my sisters, they’d wake up with my hand flopping over someone’s face or my toenails digging into someone’s leg, so I assumed the hypothetical pregnancy-seeking man and woman were like me, only worse. These poor parasomniacs would have to simultaneously endure grand mal seizures in order to conceive. I tuned back in to Mom’s lecture once more when she admonished, “You must be very careful not to get pregnant by accident!” This mysterious statement, and the stern tone in which it was couched, seemed to imply that one could engage in both purposeful and accidental activity while asleep. And, for some reason, I was already to blame for failing to discern the difference. Clearly, I thought, if a girl didn’t want to get pregnant, all she had to do was not sleep in the same bed with a boy, which, since I wasn’t even friends with any boys, seemed pretty easy to achieve. But if, for some reason, I had to sleep in a bed with a boy—and I tried to imagine what epic natural disaster or overcrowded Christmas gathering would engender such conditions—I ought to keep my underwear on. I resolved that, if such a situation should arise, I would wear underpants, a union suit, and flannel pajamas to boot. Still, I couldn’t get over the serious warning about the possibility of accidental pregnancy. It was as if she thought I might carelessly fall asleep somewhere outside the house or, perhaps, allow a stranger to fall asleep inside it. And yet, our house was no open-doored community center where neighborhood boys wandered inside at will to show off soapbox derby cars and
24 The Meadow bear glad tidings on lazy summer days. No. The whole idea of accidental pregnancy simply made no sense at all. My mother then presented me with a boxed set of books called The Life Cycle Library, which she instructed me to consult, should I have any further questions on the matter. Questions? Yeah, I had a few, but “inferring information from the context” was a scholastic skill at which I excelled, so I felt confident I could read between the lines here. The only explanation for all this came to me quite clearly. Our street must be chock-full of incurable somnambulists who roamed, zombielike, up and down the length of Finlandia Court at night, wandering into one another’s houses and launching into epileptic seizures in other peoples’ beds. Any pregnancy resulting from such an event, I deduced, would certainly qualify as accidental. I thought perhaps Mom’s admonishment to avoid accidental pregnancy was simply a roundabout warning to lock the front door. I resolved to lock my bedroom door, too, and perhaps push a chair up against it, just to be sure. As a final precaution, I thought, I could make a habit of sleeping in three layers of clothing, although I didn’t really want to. Strangely, my mother used to pat my bottom sometimes when I came downstairs in my nightgown to say goodnight. The idea was to make sure I wasn’t wearing underwear. “The body needs to breathe!” she used to say, creating an uncomfortable intimacy that existed in no other context. Now, with the marauders to fear, the requirement for the body to “breathe” made even less sense. I had no idea how I was supposed to prevent pregnancy while also letting my body breathe but deduced the expected precautionary measures must have more to do with locked doors than extra clothes. Thus far, however, I hadn’t seen Mom being overly concerned with fortifying the premises each night, so I thought perhaps the responsibility for this fell to me. I imagined, with the setting of the sun, I’d shove our massive dining room table up
The Meadow 25 against the front door. That ought to do it. Finally, and with clear reluctance, Mom asked, “Any questions?” I felt sure I had filled the gaps in her sketchy explanation of the sex act well enough, so I shook my head no. Somehow, I knew it would be silly, or at least frowned upon, to ask for details about the sleepwalking, epileptic neighbors—by far, the only interesting part of this entire sordid tale. Since she hadn’t discussed the neighbors directly, I assumed their nightly forays were another taboo, unmentionable subject. When Mom left the room, she pulled the door shut behind her, as if to quarantine me with my dangerous, new knowledge. I opened the first book of The Life Cycle Library and felt almost flattered at how drastically my mother had overestimated my reading ability. The book was as dry and technical as a furniture assembly manual, with fewer pictures. Furthermore, its chapters discussed all kinds of irrelevant topics like fallopian tubes and cervixes and gestation periods. There was nothing in the book at all about the real issue we had just not discussed. I stuck the stupid books on a shelf and contemplated my grand, four-poster canopy bed, where I used to feel like a princess and now felt like a sitting duck. I lifted up the coverlet’s edge to examine the empty space beneath the box spring. While it still seemed vaguely plausible that a penis could go to a matinee, I felt it highly unlikely that sleepwalkers would crawl under beds. The minute I hear an intruder, I thought, I’ll just dive under there.
26 The Meadow Those Seen Driving West Melanie Perish We travel California 37, Sears Point Road inland past Vallejo, the sky smooth with raw-silk clouds. Through my window flats near the overpass. There may be birds, but I see three small tents, one patched with duct tape; a man wearing two coats, carries a duffle, a plastic sack. Marks of ragged, no wings in sight. You look out your window, think you see a raft of canvasbacks, but we are late. You wonder if you will ever be able to show me the locked-lace and waxy feathers up close. We see no spindle-legged sanderling, no deep diving duck. Some lives are not wild, but both visible and invisible. Are they forgotten? It is too late for yellow-headed blackbirds to mate and raise young. Dirty white deli-bags blight the roadside, blur by. A leather-faced woman walks the narrow dirt shoulder. Her back to us, she pulls at her camo jacket, adjusts the straps of her pack. Ahead, a turn twists like rope through belt loops, like the serpentine neck of a heron. We stop for gas and bathrooms before Guadal Canal Village. You read me facts about salt ponds, terns, a snowy something. I do not see most of what you say.
The Meadow 27 When We Broke Up Melanie Perish for her When my words were whimsy our days were wings and touch. Your hands were slow, my mouth on your mouth found tongues had a language where vowels shaped breath and sighs were better than punctuation. Both of us thought we spoke and listened. Neither of us imagined our lives were written with different alphabets. My dictionary included contradictions to your father; and the photo that proved me right. Your lexicon had too many synonyms for silence or omission. Both of us know the range of a father’s voice. Do not remember me as a fragment. Do not remember me as the thorn in your family’s pride. The patriarchs are mesmerizing as the wrinkled air above the road with its hot, thin shimmer—but this signals thirst. Remember me as the woman committed to voice. Remember me as the heart that breaks and breaks open.
28 The Meadow Widow Blues Susan Landgraf Yes, he and I had holes in our commitment, but we’d taught ourselves to darn. We’d used words that cut and ripped, but we learned to curb our tongues. These is old blues We were gonna make it to fifty stepping right or aside: One two one two three. We laughed at the holes in our shoes. We danced a ragged tune. and I sing em like any woman do Some countries a woman throws herself onto a pyre and burns. Me, I went out and bought a single bed after I picked up the urn. These the old blues Last week I found a check he’d signed. Today I found a knot he’d tied. But there isn’t even one map to be found that shows me where he’s gone. my song ain’t enough my song ain’t through It’s no fun cooking for one. No fun going to a party, sleeping alone. Some days I can’t help myself: Mother Fucker, please come home.
The Meadow 29 The Last Gifts We Gave Each Other Richard Baldo You stood there as I backed to the door. I am sure you wanted me to remember you this way, still mine. You leaned slightly back, your hip and hands against the top of your desk. Your ex will arrive in twenty minutes to resume his place and take mine. Reconciled, ready to pack your office, to move west, you gave me that naked look of yours, posed in your office tableau. I reconciled myself to close the door on Venus uncovered. I took you in and left you there as the door closed on the slit of eye contact, cut off. You always said you liked the feeling of the wet stream as it runs down the inside of your thigh, the white result of the last goodbye.
30 The Meadow Less Bombs to Ponder in the After-Life Glow Daniel Edward Moore meant meeting was easy it was March in Seattle with evening chilled like an iced black coffee and your platinum hair a radar for aliens guiding us both to the Victrola Café, wearing what the future would need from our past: my ox blood Doc Martens and your silver fur coat. Only a gun could have stopped me from feeling how fast my feet could run in leather, how majestic a fox looks praying while falling, but I didn’t have a bullet to my name no tiny killers in my pocket size heart to convince you to take me back to my place where in an hour I was dialing your number to tell you I was done pondering.
The Meadow 31 I hate your thin lips and how you talk tonight at Jewel’s Bar about always wanting to paint a picture so perfectly that every viewer possesses a single shared image. I hate how not a single painting of yours hangs on my walls four states away. I hate how you no longer paint, how you’re so much a could-have, should-have, almost-did but now all that remains from those days is your smoking. You used to have a brush in one hand, a cigarette in the other. I hate those Marlboro Lights and what they might do to you in twenty years, not that it’s my concern since I only see you maybe once every two years. I hate how even though we haven’t spoken in years, you turn to me at the bar, cigarette between fingers and ask, Do you remember that first night we made love? I hate how the bartender can hear my whispered, Yes. I hate that while we talked The Things I Hate Sean Prentiss
32 The Meadow about those old days of love, you drank the bar dry. So did I, but I hate it still. Though I understand your drinking because I’d drink as much as you if I drove a forklift, if I lived, still, in this dead-end. And I hate how tonight, after the bar, we return to my cabin, our favorite place in the world, the slow river outside, and you turn to me, swaying, and ask, Do you want to have a child with me? I hate how surprised I am. I hate how I have no idea that this was where tonight was going. I hate how badly I want to say, Yes. So badly, Yes. Yes. I hate how I remain silent. I hate how I say nothing. I hate how soon you drive away.
The Meadow 33 Little Ears Kelly M. Houle The harsh words still ringing in our ears sting like the wedge of light in our eyes every time the door swings open, but when it closes we begin to see each other again, searching the table for signs of all the ways we are the same—two glasses, water, a slice of fresh lemon, napkins we place on our laps, the kind of bread you have to break then hand to the other, the plate to collect the pits of bitter olives we tolerate on our tongues, the songs not so different from the day we first kissed, the way we sat in silence afterward, taking sips of wine, confessing our desires to the dish of little ears in butter and garlic, we wanted to share, take turns slipping the curled folds into our mouths, we closed our eyes, swallowed them whole.
34 The Meadow Journal Entry: Rain Crow David B. Prather Supposedly, mourning doves mate for life, which means their instinct for courtship rituals is used only once. After that, there is only nesting or grief. Grief is an instinct, almost a punishment for loving what we cannot hold onto, no matter how hard we try. I don’t mean to question the claims of ornithologists with the word supposedly. I believe the science and observation. Bald Eagles and Mute Swans also practice monogamy. The Whooping Crane, too. And there are others that show their devotion in feathers and flight, migration and molt. This morning, one dove calls for rain, which is what my grandmother taught me, to believe in superstition, explanations of the world through fear and fantasy. Now that I am older, I feel the approach of clouds. Why don’t I sing? Why don’t I go to the door and croon for the coming storm? Plaintive. That’s another word. Especially when I turn the television on in another room to keep the house from feeling lonely. I’d be lying if I said the house was not a symbol for me. Prevarication runs in my veins. And the dove is purported to be a symbol for peace, but I haven’t seen much of that around here lately. Though I must admit the hour is still.
The Meadow 35 Barometric pressure drops too slowly for a storm. Maybe a light rain or drizzle, just enough to keep me indoors, haunting every room. I wouldn’t normally think myself a ghost, but this trill and coo is spiritual. No wonder the gods choose birds as vessels. My favorite dream is the one in which I can fly.
36 The Meadow Crows Rebecca A. Eckland Yin and yang are not circles but oppositional fields Vibrating through bird nests, tangled into the feathers Of a baby crow fallen from the nest he brought home. The crow nestled on a white towel on the kitchen floor scattered With birdseed constellations when I came home from the office to find He was determined to save it. Are mysteries born into the dark matter of the universe Black like my suit and tie? When I was an athlete, I thought I knew What strength was. Saving time by traversing space. It catches up to me, in my bruised ribs and fractured pelvis. That makes me wonder if a strong woman is a monster— Frankenstein and neon green: One leg up, an arm’s length away Primal womb, the body’s language, a spiral ontology And centrifugal forge around which a murder of crows At twilight sculpt orbits in stardust. Meanwhile he, on the kitchen floor, tiny seeds turned to dust Trying to feed the baby crow with a fused beak: I’d rather die than. Google tells me that it won’t; evolution Hates domestic scenes. I wait until the pink winter sky turns dark
The Meadow 37 When solar flares and electron clouds collide above a bare tree To return the baby to its nest in an industrial park. He does it for me—for love, he says —And tells me about snow that looked like stars —A gentle lullaby—the sounds Of the world falling asleep. But I tell him I promised long ago I’d never be a mother.
38 The Meadow Something’s Bugging Me Shellie Richards The Metamorphosis is a novella written by Franz Kafka and published in 1915. In the story, Gregor Samsa, a salesman, wakes to find himself transformed into a roach/beetle. His sister Grete (pronounced Greta) is compassionate at first, bringing him food and even defending him. But she soon tires of Gregor’s bug-state. This is a story told from Grete’s POV set in contemporary time. The homemade poster sign on the door said, SOMETHING BUGGING YOU? ALL ARE WELCOME in large, black Sharpie print. Grete Samsa walked inside the plain, one-story brick building and straight over to the folding table with coffee and doughnuts. She poured a cup of coffee and mixed in a bit of dry powder creamer, took a sip, spat it out in the garbage can, and tossed out the remainder. Nothing tasted good anymore. Across the room, people had already begun to sit in a large circle, shifting their fannies in the metal folding chairs and greeting one another. Grete picked at the doughnuts, mostly fresh. Glazed, jelly, powder, and sour-cream cake. Nothing looked good. Empty-handed, Grete walked slowly to the circle of chairs, her balance off today, though she couldn’t say why. “Welcome, everyone!” Max, a Unitarian minister who led the support group, spoke. “I see a lot of familiar faces around the room today. Is there anyone here who is new?” An old black man raised his hand. “Welcome!” everyone said in unison, and Grete thought the collective voice sounded cultlike, something out of Waco, Texas. “A couple of housekeeping notes before we get started. There’s a signup sheet for snacks on the table next to the doughnuts; if anyone would like to bring something next time,
The Meadow 39 that would be greatly appreciated. Also, we’re nearly out of coffee cups.” “I can bring snacks on Thursday,” a faceless voice volunteered. “Great, thank you.” Max clasped his hands. “Okay, let’s get started. Who would like to share first, please? Anyone.” “I’ll go.” A middle-aged woman wearing a quilted jacket and orthotic sneakers stared at the floor as she talked. “Walter and I celebrated thirty-seven years of married life last month, right around the same time he started to change. First, it was just his torso. A thorax. He woke one day with a thorax where his torso had been. Walter had a small tattoo, his only one.” She palmed her heart. “My name in tiny letters on his chest. Gone. Erased. But, I was steadfast—thankful even, that I could still look into his big brown eyes, talk to him at night about the news, share a bowl of popcorn while we watched a rom-com.” She dabbed her eyes with a tissue. “Then…he just…” She began to sob silently into her quilted sleeve. “Take your time. We’ve all been there,” Max soothed. She looked up and scanned the circle. “He’s an ant. My big, handsome 6’3”, 250-pound man is a big red ant. I still love him, I do. But every day he walks the same route, to and from the sugar bowl, back and forth, back and forth. He’s created a tiny pile of granules in the corner of our kitchen. I haven’t cleaned it yet because it seems to mean something to him—this tiny pile of sugar. Last week, I noticed others following him, all in a line, back and forth from the sugar bowl to the corner and back again. He has friends, now, other than me. He was my best friend, my only friend, and now he has dozens and I’ve got no one.” She blew into her tissue. “I just don’t know how much more I can take.” Silence fell across the room, people nodding. Grete understood. They all understood. It occurred to Grete that Gregor had no friends, and she felt her heart thump with gratitude.
40 The Meadow The thought of more than one roach sent a chill down her spine. She was grateful for this group, too. Until she started coming, everything that had happened to her had felt like some sort of sick inside joke. But there were others who suffered. And for that, Grete was thankful. A young guy broke the quiet. “I get it. I hear ya. My girlfriend Jessica—” he held up a photo of a beautiful girl standing on the beach, “—this is her before. She’s a wasp. A fucking wasp. Of course, I still love her, but she flies at me all the time and if she stings me, that’s it. She’s getting the fucking swatter.” He clapped his hands loudly, and Grete jumped in her seat. “I know what you all must be thinking, but I’m allergic and she knows it. I’m scared out of my damned mind. Scared of my girl who I loved.” The black man spoke, his voice measured, and Grete thought he sounded like Morgan Freeman. “My lady is a tick. Last week, I looked everywhere for her. All over the house, tore the place apart. Guess where I found her? On me. Never mind where. Not important. What could I do to remove her from my…self? I couldn’t take a match to her; I’d killed her. My sweetheart. I got some tweezers, careful not to squeeze her too hard, ya know? And I plucked her off my…well, I got her off of me.” His body shook with the memory. “She’d been on a while so, ya know, she was full of blood. Doctor says I might have Lyme disease now. What do I do, y’all? She’ll be back. I know it.” He dusted some powdered sugar from his jeans. Grete was beginning to feel better about her home situation. Gregor was a roach and so far, the worst thing he’d done was crawl across a photo, leaving an iridescent trail of some kind, and while he hadn’t eaten his bread or milk, he’d finished most of the rotted cheese she’d set out for him. She wasn’t one to share, but she needed to get this off her chest, hear herself say the words out loud about the brother she’d loved. About her fears. Maybe if she gave voice to them, got them out into
The Meadow 41 the world, she could look at them, beat them. Before she could speak, another began talking. “My wife Sheila.” He bit into a sour-cream cake doughnut and chewed; food spilled from his mouth as he talked. “She’s my worst nightmare. We’d had a fight, a biggie, the night before. I was seeing this other lady…a bartender I got friendly with one night. Sheila found out about it, and we had a huge fight. She threw things at me, smashed my new TV in the middle of a Cubs game and poured out all of my scotch. Macallan. I didn’t care. I just wanted to make it right with her and now…I can’t. Worst part is she’s a black widow. She hasn’t tried anything, yet—she just watches me with all those eyes. It’s creepy as hell. She positions herself so that the red hourglass is always in view. And I know she’s doing it on purpose. A red hourglass where her beautiful breasts used to be…so perky and full. Anyway, point is I’m scared. She scares the hell outta me. I don’t want to kill her, but if I don’t kill her, she might kill me, right?” There was an audible “ooh” from the crowd. Everyone certainly had their individual circumstances. Again, Grete thought about Gregor, about how she’d felt sorry for him at first, how she’d sobbed into her pillow and then brought him food…moved his furniture in his room so he could crawl where he wanted, hide when he wanted. Now, she was tired. Tired of listening to her parents’ complaints, tired of being the only one to take care of Gregor, tired of waiting on him to change back into the human he once was. Now, she just wanted to smash him. To hear the snap of his legs, the crack of his belly, and watch whatever insides he had ooze out all over the floor. Is it murder if you kill a bug? Do they even have souls? She was angry at the world. Gregor had been their family’s sole income for years. Her parents didn’t work and she was in school, and now everything had gone to hell. She rubbed her legs together and flapped her arms. Everyone was watching her now. Talk. Say it.
42 The Meadow They are waiting. Grete spoke, her voice stronger than she expected. “My brother Gregor was a successful salesman. He put food on the table for my family. Bread, fresh fruit, and cheeses from the market. It seems like so long ago now.” Grete looked at the group, making eye contact with each person around the circle, their faces twisting at her words. Clearly, they were uncomfortable in their metal chairs. Grete felt perfectly fine. In fact, as she talked, she began to feel as light as a feather. “At first, I took him food. I pitied him, my poor brother who’d done so much for us.” Grete paused and looked out the window at the passersby all in shorts and skirts. Warmer weather meant bare legs. Grete licked her lips as she talked on. “Wasn’t long before I figured out Gregor wasn’t interested in fresh bread or milk, and I swapped his daily snack for rotted cheese and fruit,” Grete continued, distracted by the woman next to her in short sleeves, her pale, fleshy arms crossed tightly as she sneered at Grete. “He spends most of his days crawling up and down the walls, but last week Gregor came out of his room for the first time. Mother says he was showing off, being obstinate. We’d had some boarders, and he embarrassed our entire family.” Outside the window, a sparrow pecked at the ground. Grete instinctively shrank, making herself small, invisible. The bird frightened her, and she wondered if anyone else felt the same way. Glancing around, she could see that indeed they did. They were horrified; their faces told the story. A man across the room rolled a newspaper and eyed Grete suspiciously. Was he going to hit her? Suddenly, the woman next to her spoke, interrupting Grete. Why was she interrupting? “Like most of you, I’ve lost someone close to me. Beth was my best friend…” Grete spoke out. “Excuse me, I wasn’t done talking…” The woman looked at Grete with disgust as the man came at
The Meadow 43 her with a rolled-up newspaper, when suddenly Grete bit the woman’s arm, sucking her fill. The man hovered, newspaper in hand as Max slowly lowered the man’s arm. “No violence here, please. She’ll be gone in seven days. Let her be,” Max reasoned. “She bit me! That little bitch bit me!” the woman wailed and, grabbing the rolled-up newspaper, came at Grete with all of her temper. Grete ducked and darted; she swarmed without a swarm. “Let Grete finish talking,” Max urged. “She’s not talking! She’s buzzing! We can’t even understand her anymore!” “Remember,” Max calmly reminded the group, his hands motioning to tamp down the emotional boil, “we are here to learn to accept one another. This is a safe place.” “I can’t take it no more.” The young guy screamed and swatted the air as Grete buzzed above his head. A group conscience took hold. It was Waco. “Get her!” Max lunged, throwing himself in front of the woman with the rolled-up newspaper. “Violence is not the answer!” Max’s lamentations rang through the air, falling on unsympathetic ears. “Outta my way, skeeter-lover!” The large woman shoved him to the ground, her Route 44 Cherry Limeade spilling everywhere, people sliding, one man licking the floor instinctively as his legs shrunk and were replaced by six fuzzy protrusions. In the mayhem, the woman with the rolled-up newspaper got what she wanted. Grete’s body lay in pieces on the ground. Max shook his head in sadness as he gently scraped Grete from the floor. As the group began to file out, the old black man called Max to the table. Grete had signed up to bring snacks to the next meeting. “Look at this.” The man pointed to the sheet. Beside her name on the signup sheet, O-positive.
44 The Meadow We Convert Under Pressure Kolena Jones Kayembe Materials under high pressure cannot retain their shape. Almost anything when subjected to tremendous pressure turns on it itself: expanding, collapsing, or converting into a denser form. I pass through the sliding doors. Catch my breath. Fight off the spins. The woman behind the desk, lips ironed into a negative smile, hands me clipboard, which I pass off—my hands are shaking. The cashier asks for a credit card and the man next to me hands one over. The best I can do is collapse into the chair against the wall, waiting for a nurse to appear with a chair on wheels. She guides me into it, handling me like a porcelain vessel on the verge of cracking and, together, we glide through a nondescript corridor. Tracks of fluorescent blaze above and the speckle of linoleum slaps below. Wheelchairs serve a purpose, but I hate them because they make me feel weak. I used to push my father around in one when he became too ill to use his legs. Up and down linoleum halls we’d race with an imaginary wind at our backs. Spinning out of control, we’d use those wheels to outrace the shadows tethered to his broken body—temporarily holding off the unseen messengers exhaling their conclusive intentions down his neck. I block out the smack of rubber as we roll through two sets of double doors into a large room that smells of homelessness, discharged pus, and bleach. The ceiling is perforated. Cool white shines down. Gross. My skin looks blistered and mottled. A landscape of ruddy undertones, I’ve turned a pigment of rust that’s made by the application of pressure and heat. ‘Trauma’ is stenciled on several of the doors to smaller rooms; places filled with appliances that function as trackers,
The Meadow 45 benefactors and, in some cases, electrical heartbeats. Action lights up the triage. The nurse’s station bustles with activity. Beds are full of patients. We roll past a man’s space that smells of cold cuts and bile. Seated in the upright position he caresses a mangled, hairy leg with bone protruding through the shin at a, curiously, near right angle. Dried vomit is stuck to his chin as he rocks gently and hums, finding comfort in his own internalized, self-soothing rhythm. Dropped off at bed number five we’re told someone will be with us shortly because my case is urgent—the word used, in fact, is ‘acute’. My boyfriend helps me out of my clothes and into the gown folded neatly on the bed. I grimace as his fingers brush the welts on my back. The touch ignites a cauterizing burn, which suggests I am losing control over a body that is rapidly compressing. 20:17 | 100/70mmHg | ♥ 80 bpm | 37.9 °C | SpO2 92% A woman in navy scrubs approaches my bedside. “My name is Katherine,” she says, explaining that’s Katherine Old World style, with a ‘K’ instead of a ‘C’. Surrounded by a cloud of lavender, rubbing alcohol, and hint of jasmine, Katherine hooks me up to various machines so I, in part, become automated. The plastic clothespin hugging my finger glows red and I channel E.T., pointing the digit at my boyfriend. He reaches out and nervously laughs. Katherine’s eyes skip between the Timex on her wrist to the internal workings posted on the screen. I take a peek at the monitor, pretending to know what I’m looking for while ignoring the obvious, which is: it’s become a challenge to breathe. Katherine asks a series of questions I try to answer. Pretty in a Kappa Kappa Gamma way, she is tall and bronzed, thin and cute. Ponytail swishing, her hair gleams like solar flares while her upside-down, heart-shaped face is highly expressive, relaying more than words ever could. See those benches ofwww.tmcc.edu