ALL ACCOUNTS & MIXTURE: Remi Recchia

Your Dress Like Kerosene

I gave you the wrong directions
to my house,
my mouth.
I lay on the floor in the dark,
silencing the shutters.
Your headlights killed my
hydrangeas, melting
in the night,
and left my driveway to its peace.

The moon shuddered slowly
on its way to Zion,
sprouting tightropes from its roots
down to my chimney,
filling the soot with silver roses.
I laughed and my tongue
turned sour.
I laughed and my jaw unhinged,
became a beak,
became a hook.
It scooped up dried blood oaths
from your skin,
your lost corduroy pockets.

 

Strands of Hair, Tempest

I looked for feet I could breathe in
while you said you were running
on empty like your grandfather’s
lost car stuck on the road
outside of my left kitchen window.

I forgot to feed the birds,
I forgot to check the mail,

[there’s just nothing there]

I remembered to call you,
but didn’t. 

Your suitcase packed itself
slowly, a defunct assembly line
bruising oranges and swallowing
hairclips.
Two door springs caught your perfume,
smoked, on the way out.

I hid your spare key on top of the roof
to tempt the moon back in for dinner.
She stood me up,
I sat down and wrote my own newspapers,
the print died under florescence,
the paper burned,
I laid down on the floor,
a yellow chalk outline.


About the Author:
Remi Recchia is an emerging poet concerned with the moon, authenticity, and breaking the rules. He has been published in The Birds We Piled Loosely, The Blotter, The Laureate, and The Poems That Ate Our Ears and has a forthcoming piece in Glass: A Journal of Poetry. He will begin his MFA in Creative Writing Program at Bowling Green State University in Fall 2016.

About All Accounts:
All Accounts and Mixture is an annual online feature celebrating the work of LGBTQ writers and artists. For this series, we seek work from authors who self-identify as “queer,” while acknowledging that this designation is subjective and highly personal. Our goal is to provide a forum for writers whose voices might be mis- or underrepresented by the literary mainstream. 

ALL ACCOUNTS & MIXTURE: Taneum Bambrick

Biological Control Task 


Jim & I were taking lunch, sharing a crumpled
bag of goldfish below the dam
when we met Bill & Mike. 

They rolled down a window, pulled up
next to our truck & strained
their necks—looking over me
—to introduce themselves to Jim. 

They have the same face when I remember them. 
Two guns propped between seats, 
smell from the old engine. 

Tarp over a load in the bed. 
What’ve you got? Jim asked. 

They stepped out, undid a rope. 
Something soft hit
dirt on the opposite side of the truck. 

You might not wanna look. Bill glanced at me, 
slid the tarp off. The mound there
was grey & white at first I thought
dirty laundry. 

At least eighty seagulls just dead, 
ropes of blood at the chests. Shot so
their shoulders folded apart
like wet book covers. 

To protect salmon. 

Doesn’t make sense, but it’s not bad
getting paid to hunt. 


Mike motioned to a trash bag on the pile. 
Show them our girl. 

Bill drew it down, ripped the knot, lifted
an adult heron with a hole blown
out the chest. 

He held both webbed feet. 
You could look through her body. 

We found her in the road. Hit
by a hatchery cannon. 


The bird seemed frozen, 
wrongly intact—gold eyes cranked
open, neck coiled tight over her slaty back. 

When I cried it made them comfortable like I could be
a daughter, wife or something they knew how to see. 
Hands on my back. 

What’s the matter, Mike asked. Didn’t you care
about the gulls or were they too ugly?


About the Author:
Taneum Bambrick is a recent graduate of the MFA program at the University of Arizona where she received the Academy of American Poets Prize. She recently interned at Copper Canyon Press, and currently serves as an Associate Editor for Narrative Magazine. Her work appears in The Nashville Review, New Delta Review, and Cloud Rodeo. She writes poems and essays on her experiences working around the reservoirs of two massive dams.

About All Accounts:
All Accounts and Mixture is an annual online feature celebrating the work of LGBTQ writers and artists. For this series, we seek work from authors who self-identify as “queer,” while acknowledging that this designation is subjective and highly personal. Our goal is to provide a forum for writers whose voices might be mis- or underrepresented by the literary mainstream. 

ALL ACCOUNTS & MIXTURE: Andrew McKernan

Halloween. Trick --

Nate put a blow pop in my pocket.   I wasn’t looking.   Picture
the little piece of gum crystallized in its center, so pure, untouched
at least for months.    Tight.   Failed attempts to get the wrapper
off. He grimaces when I bite.   Says his bruises are from soccer.

More than our bodies between us, more girth and heft.   He was.  Barely
fit, ego to match. Some guys know what they want.    Sleep later.   Or rest
legs on shoulders, scruff patterns against my body.   The beginning
such a careful time.   Score the cardboard first.   It folds cleaner.

 

Let Us Race to be the First to Discover Flaws in One Another

Our romantic comedies stretch through 15-second YouTube
commercials -- excuse me, sponsored content -- and I
have Actors Guild membership from starring
in so many. Here is my quick draw: not his voice, or his
face, or the small tuft of fat around his waist. Faster.
Not passivity, or alacrity, his unironic way of saying
“bitch,” his racist posters of the Chief. Veto. Not this one’s
lack of love, not those protestations of affection, not his
texts too much, texts too little (texts misusing your).
Not broken English. Not replies with rote answers
not hours of ellipsis over careful texts ending
in a verbiose “ha ha.” Nein. It only hurts when you think
Maybe this time. Just like Liza Minnelli. Maybe he’ll
e special. Maybe he’ll prove you have a soul. Maybe


About the Author:
Andrew McKernan holds an MFA from the University of New Hampshire, where he was fiction editor of the literary journal, Barnstorm. His poetry and prose have appeared in Ninth Letter, Blunderbuss, Juked, Gabby, and other journals. He lives in Chicago and wants to be your friend; find him on Twitter @andrewmckernan.

About All Accounts:
All Accounts and Mixture is an annual online feature celebrating the work of LGBTQ writers and artists. For this series, we seek work from authors who self-identify as “queer,” while acknowledging that this designation is subjective and highly personal. Our goal is to provide a forum for writers whose voices might be mis- or underrepresented by the literary mainstream. 

ALL ACCOUNTS & MIXTURE: Robin Wyatt Dunn

Anne Sippi

by Robin Wyatt Dunn

The Anne Sippi clinic is in El Sereno in east Los Angeles, a quiet middle class neighborhood, where crazy people can come to live.

Crazy is not the PC term, of course, but still appropriate, even more if we were Japanese, in their reverence for broken things. Crazy comes from Old Norse ‘to shatter,’ after all.

The Japanese put gold at the broken places; and so it is in Los Angeles, our golden sunlight the balm still sought by so many thousands year after year, a pyramid scheme and a hustle but still also a genuine shelter, from the world.

I have the only single room, because I am not staying long. Every day the other residents stop by to tell me that they have been looking at the room, and will soon get it.

Thompson observes in Fear and Loathing that 1970 or so was the high water mark in the social and drugs revolution, where the tide broke, leaving us detritus on the beach. Los Angeles serves a similar fate, this bastion of the American Dream sublimed into our lust for fame and madness, but tempered by the Spanish culture of the city, excluded for long enough by a racist America that its values have nothing much to do with Hollywood and its empire and so are immune to its diseases.

This is why Anne Sippi is a strong place, nestled in what some would term “a bad area” but which is just a family neighborhood, with a quiet corner store that doesn’t mind serving the crazies, come down for their cigarettes.

Unlike so many nuthouses in America, Anne Sippi has open doors:  you can wander off whenever you feel like it. Get drunk, get high, come back, sober up, as you like. Though most of the residents stay on the grounds talking to themselves.

Like so many medical establishments, mental health was hit hard by the Reagan era and the following drive to get rich from medicine. So, one of the ways you can tell whether the quality of the care you will receive in a nuthouse is how run-down the place looks. If it looks bad, it’s a good place. If it looks polished, it will be a living hell.

Anne Sippi doesn’t look bad, just tired. Which is okay: we’re tired here.

I talk with the psychotherapist once a week there, and unlike other shrinks, whose chief concerns in my experience are either to a) sell more drugs or b) convince you that you’re sick, he only wants to listen, and to encourage me to get well, however I am able. A man with common sense, like Bernie Sanders, tragic because the personality type now seems so alien in the American landscape.

We line up quietly at night for our medicines but no one chases us down; no one, as I have seen happen elsewhere, is ejected to be homeless when they refuse to swallow.

Our doors are not locked.

I have had my car returned and am able to drive it on the freeways of Los Angeles, looking for work. I listen to the radio.

Most are “hard luck” cases, taken in here because no one else would have them. People too stubborn to quit, too much their own thing, too weird, too obstreperous, too loud, too creative, too ugly, old and poor, too happy, too jokey, too young, too everything, now rounded up in our few dozen bodies, and deposited with quiet ceremony to live as we like.

Most too are “lifers,” on disability, unlikely to live independently some would say, but many of them remain ambitious in that way, slowly winding their way through the corridors of the system, remaining interested in their treatment—that crucial ingredient which can only happen when you are free to choose your own health.

Force is anathema to healing.

This American legacy, of force, hovers over everything we do. I am glad there are still some places to escape it.

In many ways Anne Sippi epitomizes my experience of Los Angeles; the only city I have ever visited which withholds judgment.

Los Angeles is not sure about it yet. Not sure about you yet. You may be okay.

Yes, you will do crazy things. Run down the street naked if you like. I have. We are not surprised. Sometimes people do funny things. Los Angeles is prepared.

The heat too is crucial in the psychology of Los Angeles;  often too hot to think, we can sit silently in meditation. There is no need to be angry; we can seek stillness in whatever form most pleases us:  Buddhist meditation, beer and weed, a walk in the park, barbeques in the public parks, overflowing with bodies, calm and contained, mad inside, with some knowledge I am unable to capture.

Of course it is a sad place in a number of ways; these are hard luck cases. It is not easy to be hard luck. We can not blame each other for demanding why these afflictions came; we can only wait for the shouting to quiet, for them to come around to a state of mind where they can find their own answers.

Medicine is poorly understood. It is not chemical. It is social. It makes more sense to me than ever that “witch doctors” sang to the sick, especially the mad.

A song says: you are here, and so am I. This is a story I am telling you. I hope it makes you feel better.


About the Author:
Robin Wyatt Dunn lives in Los Angeles.

About the Series:
All Accounts and Mixture is an annual online feature celebrating the work of LGBTQ writers and artists. For this series, we seek work from authors who self-identify as “queer,” while acknowledging that this designation is subjective and highly personal. Our goal is to provide a forum for writers whose voices might be mis- or underrepresented by the literary mainstream. 

ALL ACCOUNTS & MIXTURE: Douglas Ray

The Art Teacher

After Robert Bliss’s Boy at the Barn (1964)

Robert Bliss painted Boston
Brahmin boys, his students

at Deerfield, each destined
for halls of plenty and power.

I’m sure he asked permission
to capture the lines of each

boy’s bare chest, the shadows
cast by hipbones on the tips

of their tight swim trunks.
Here he has a boy, posed

in plain trunks nowhere
near water, beside a barn,

and I feel like I have broken
into a private moment—no,

an intimate one charged
with desire, with sex or

at least the idea of sex, each
stalk of goldenrod fully bloomed.

The boy’s legs are spread
and his arms behind his back:

no resistance, complete trust
for his teacher to preserve

each part of his becoming
on canvas. His face is turned

away, and we can’t see
into his eyes, a sign, perhaps,

that he is unreal or just off-
limits; the source of desire

but beyond its limit.  I wonder
if Bliss ever forgot a boy’s name

or if, at graduation, when each
blue-blood’s name was called

he pictured them posed, learning
to be adored and to be beautiful?


About the Author:
Douglas Ray is author of He Will Laugh, a collection of poems, and editor of The Queer South: LGBTQ Writers on the American South, which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. A graduate of the M.F.A. program at The University of Mississippi, he teaches at Western Reserve Academy, a boarding school in Hudson, OH. sdouglasray.wordpress.com

About the Series:
All Accounts and Mixture is an annual online feature celebrating the work of LGBTQ writers and artists. For this series, we seek work from authors who self-identify as “queer,” while acknowledging that this designation is subjective and highly personal. Our goal is to provide a forum for writers whose voices might be mis- or underrepresented by the literary mainstream. 

ALL ACCOUNTS & MIXTURE: Chip Livingston

A Faster Scalpel

A house will bend, but pride holds me closed.
He was the forearm of our transferred dark,

morose flesh one loomed to adventure.
My complexion kicked till it widened.

I watched him watch his women, watch me.
I watched the explosion turn chaos

and the figure he played of you, you
carried through the collapsed family,

a bed dressed plump, and gracious
the faster scalpel. Señor noticed it was you,

me, noise, people, their rumors of a sky
to keep close, to see hope in an anesthetic

mother who thought that wood a friend’s
casket, mom who pulled gossip away

to some pressed dark locked parlor.
I plowed toward his bedroom, his want

told around the tender you pet
as bereavement, as rebellion full.

His will took the eyes of life. They stayed
peeled to the constant broke of abandoned

mornings. To death, Mother, he will save me
and flinch me loose from the bones of anatomy.

Everyone talking conquests, Quiet,
make something of your torture.

 

Questions for a Debut Novelist with Whom You May Have Fallen in Love While Preparing for the Interview

  1. Your book has an effective first-person plural narration; can you talk a little bit about you and I as a “we”?
  2. Did you feel that hug between the clauses?
  3. Are you a verb man or a noun man?
  4. A Brick or a Skipper?
  5. You write about the origins of your characters’ desires; what are some of your own fantasies and can you attribute them to certain triggers or expectations?
  6. Are the animals’ appetites in your writing a metaphor for your own hunger?
  7. When was the last time you fed?
  8. Your book is about how people handle and mishandle each other; I wondered if you would speak of how you wish to be handled.
  9. I’ve seen the tattoos on your forearms in previous interviews; do you have any tattoos on your torso?
  10. Do you mind raising your shirt a little higher?
  11. “You can say something truer in fiction by mythologizing it,” I quote. Care to co-develop a creation story?
  12. It’s hard to escape that you’re writing about mixed-race identity; do you have any Creek Indian in you?
  13. Do you want some?
  14. Will you share a personal experience with me in which the animal isn’t tamped down but set free?
  15. Do you kiss with your eyes closed? No. Don’t tell me.

 

Piss & Vinegar

(after Tim Dlugos)

Cut                                                                         Uncut

Top                                                                         Bottom

West Village                                                           Lower East Side

Rome                                                                      Paris

Cigarettes                                                               Crystal Meth

Yoga                                                                        Push-ups

P.C.                                                                           P.A.

Snowboard                                                              Skateboard

Rapture Salad                                                          Milanesa

Piss                                                                           Pits

Blue                                                                          Brown

Brown                                                                       Black

Black                                                                         Con Leche

Distracted                                                                 Distracted

Devotchka                                                                 Babasonicos

Forty                                                                          Twenty-eight

Banana                                                                       Salvation

Calvin                                                                         Lupo

Paper wallets                                                             Clay dolls

Tim Dlugos                                                                Julio Cortázar

Ft. Walton Beach                                                       Montevideo

Americano                                                                 Yerba Mate

Goat                                                                           Goat

Malbec                                                                       Malbec

Pot                                                                              Pot

Speedo                                                                      Speed


About the Author:
Chip Livingston is the author of the story/essay collection NAMING CEREMONY (Lethe Press, 2014) and the poetry collections CROW-BLUE, CROW-BLACK (NYQ Books, 2012) and MUSEUM OF FALSE STARTS (Gival Press, 2010). His novel OWLS DON’T HAVE TO MEAN DEATH will be published by Lethe Press in 2017. Chip’s writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, South Dakota Review, Cincinnati Review and on the Poetry Foundation’s and Academy of American Poets’ websites. Chip is on the faculty at the low-res MFA programs at Institute of American Indian Arts and at Regis University. Visit www.chiplivingston.com.

About the Series:
All Accounts and Mixture is an annual online feature celebrating the work of LGBTQ writers and artists. For this series, we seek work from authors who self-identify as “queer,” while acknowledging that this designation is subjective and highly personal. Our goal is to provide a forum for writers whose voices might be mis- or underrepresented by the literary mainstream. 

ALL ACCOUNTS & MIXTURE: Barbara Ruth

An Absence of Grace

Nonfiction

In Constantine, Michigan, where I grew up in the fifties, there were the families who gave turkeys at Thanksgiving and the families who received them. Because my family gave turkeys, I thought we were rich. In a parallel but converging reality, there were white people and black people, but, other than us, no Jews or brown people of any kind, in this village of 360. Because we weren’t black, I figured we were white.

I had other way to tell whether someone was rich or poor: the poor kids wore ragged clothes and had to take Special Education. The rich kids did not. I remember my horror when my name was called for Special Ed when I was in first grade, to correct my lisp. My classmates snickered. I complained to my parents, my father spoke to the principal, and I was returned to my regular classroom. Which proved that I wasn’t poor; my parents could make things happen. 

Some of my friends’ fathers were doctors and lawyers, as opposed to a school teacher like mine. But I perceived us all as equally rich. Chrissy’s swimming pool, Virginia’s horse, Laura’s fancy winter coat: I thought I was denied all of these because my parents didn’t like me as much as my friends’ parents liked them.

My friend Grace was poor. At her house there were no rugs on the floors and the furniture had cigarette burns. When we were there I made it a point not to look around so I wouldn’t embarrass her. Mostly I invited her to my house. It was easier.

After her first visit I waited nervously to see what my mother would say about Grace. I’d never had a close friend who was poor before. Mom didn’t allow me to play at some kids’ houses. And some she didn’t allow me to play with at all. Would Grace be one?

My five year old brother spoke first, after Grace left. “How come that girl talks so funny?”

“She has a southern accent,” Mom explained.

“She’s from Kentucky,” I announced.

“What’s Kentucky?”

“It’s a state” I said. “We drove there once. You were too little to remember, but I do.”

I could see he wanted to argue but couldn’t think of a response. He turned to my mother. “Is that how come she has such dumb clothes?”

“Grace’s clothes are not dumb!” I nearly yelled, embarrassed by my memory of her patched blouse and the obviously let out hem on her jumper.

“Grace seems very polite and her clothes are neat and clean,” Mom said. “That’s the important thing.”

“And she can sing good, too,” I added, sticking out my tongue at Bob when Mom turned back to the stove.

Grace and I were in fifth grade the year she moved to Constantine. Fifth graders all get Tonettes--rudimentary recorders--which we studied as an introduction to instrumental music. My father, the band director, came into our classroom for an hour a day and taught us how to play them.

We were all excited when he passed out the Tonettes. For six weeks we learned fingerings and embouchures, rhythm and notation. I of course had an edge because I had been taught to read music when I was Bobby’s age, and had already fooled around with the band instruments Dad brought home over the years.

For most of the kids, any instruments were new. While they puzzled over the mysterious language of musical notation, Grace caught on quickly. She drew staves with treble and bass clefs, half notes, quarter notes, rests.

“Did you learn this at your other school, Grace?” Dad asked. Everyone knew when a new family moved into Constantine.

She flushed, her cheeks bright in contrast with her azure eyes and black hair. “No sir.” Nobody called teachers ‘sir’. “We never had Tonettes at my old school.”

“Did somebody teach you music?” Dad persisted.

“Well, we listened to the radio and sang along.”

Dad looked puzzled. “Good work, Grace,” he finally said.

I warmed with pride and excitement. Maybe Grace would turn out to be a child prodigy.

At recess I told her, “I love to listen to the radio, too. I pull my portable radio off my nightstand and under the covers so only I can hear when I’m in bed. Late at night I can get jazz and blues stations from Chicago and sometimes Atlanta. What kind of music do you listen to?”

“We only have but one radio, in the kitchen. Whoever wants to listen sits at the table.”

The air between us turned sticky with tension, or maybe just my confusion. I seemed to have made a mistake but what was it? Breaking the awkward silence I asked, “What do you listen to?”

She shrugged. “Gospel music on Sunday. Back home we listened to Grand Ole Opry every night   but we can’t get it here.”

I had only heard of Grand Ole Opry from people who made fun of it - mostly my family. “That’s too bad,” I told her.

At the end of the six week Tonette class, everyone my father picked would receive a letter from him inviting them to join the band and assigning an instrument. We all wondered excitedly what we would end up with. You didn’t have to stay with the instrument Dad gave you to be in the band, but if you asked for something different, he would probably tease you about it until you graduated or dropped out of band.

Of course my friends would all get their band letters, even Chrissy, who never managed a decent sound out of her Tonette. It wasn’t because she was my friend; Chrissy would be asked to join because she was rich. And Lois, the one black girl in my class, would be asked even though she wasn’t rich. We all knew Lois was better on Tonettes than any of us. But even if she wasn’t, my father would invite her, expect her, to join the band because her family were all excellent musicians.

There were rules for who were assigned which instrument: only girls played flutes and only boys played tubas. It would be really embarrassing if you were assigned the tuba and you were a girl. Clarinets went mostly to girls, trombones, trumpets and saxophones mostly to boys.

The boys who couldn’t learn to read music but were rich got assigned drums. And the girls who were bad, i.e. sexual, did too. This was clearly my father’s construct; where he got it don’t know. But because “drummer girl” functioned as a self-fulfilling prophecy, or maybe because my father could intuit the girls most likely to get caught, over half the young women who played drums in the High School bands my father taught wound up pregnant. My father’s prurient disapproval of drummer girls weighted the air of both our household and the band room.

Of course I wanted to play the drums. How could I not? I had crushes on most of the drummer girls and eventually became friends with one who taught me how to hold the sticks and paradiddle.

But in fifth grade I was trying to be friends with Grace. I was sitting next to her when, right before the dismissal, the teacher passed out our post-Tonette letters of acceptance and assignment.

I jumped up as the bell rang, eager to compare letters with my friends. Chrissy and Laura both had “flute” written on their letters. No surprise there.

My friend Maryann was chosen to play French Horn, a great honor. The best musicians got assigned French Horn, or maybe clarinet, with the understanding that in a year or so they would move on to bassoon or oboe. Lois and I were both assigned “clarinet” but I knew hers meant she’d be promoted on to a double reed, while mine just meant clarinet.

I ran to Grace, who was hanging back, keeping to herself.

“What instrument did you get, Grace?”

“I didn’t get no letter.”

I couldn’t look at her. “There must be some mistake,” I said, but I knew it wasn’t true. My father didn’t make mistakes like that.

At dinner that night, I asked him why Grace hadn’t been invited to join the band. “She’s one of the best Tonette students,” I said indignantly. “She should have been chosen.”

He answered me in a calm voice. “Her family wouldn’t be able to afford an instrument,” he said. “It would be cruel to get her hopes up.”

“But what about Lois? Her family is poor but she got asked to join.”

“That’s because Lois, as well as being good in music, is a Negro. Colored people understand that music is important. Her parents will scrape together every penny they can to buy Lois an instrument, just like they have for the rest of their kids, and I’ll get them a special deal with the music store.”

“Can’t you get Grace a special deal, too?” I asked, working hard to keep my voice pleasant, so I wouldn’t be sent from the table. Conversations like this one were always on the edge.

“Even if I did at first, eventually she’d have to stop because her family wouldn’t be able to pay for her musical training. Lois will be able to go to music camp and maybe even to Julliard, on scholarships. But there aren’t any scholarships for underprivileged white girls from the South. That’s why it would be cruel to invite Grace to start.”

“But she’s so good,” I said, tears stinging my eyes. “She’s better than Chrissy and Laura. She’s better than me, better than MaryAnn. The only person who’s better than Grace is Lois.”

“Barb,” my mother warned, “watch your tone of voice. You know Daddy’s always been fair. Don’t you have something more pleasant to talk about at dinner?”

“That’s okay, Mom,” he said, lifting his bottle of Schlitz. “We’re almost done with this discussion.” He bent his head toward mine, his eyes commanding me to hold his gaze. “I know Grace is good. But that’s not what’s important.”

And that’s how Grace and I stopped being friends. After the band letters I never could figure out what to say to her.

Laura, Chrissy, me, even MaryAnn - none of us turned out to be very good on our instruments. We all quit, eventually.

In seventh grade our family moved. I kept in touch with Lois throughout high school. She was offered a bassoon scholarship to Juilliard but went to Michigan State instead, close to where my family lived. By that time she had joined CORE and was recruiting students to go South for desegregation and voters registration. Freedom Summer. The last time I saw her was in 1965 when I was home from college. I had joined SDS by then and invited Lois to my parents’ house for dinner. She was militant and beautiful and so self-possessed. She brought along her roommate, the first black Jew I ever met, and the three of us spent dinner talking about the Movement, ignoring my father’s sarcasm and my mother’s attempts to change the subject. Lois and Adisa shared an intensity, a passionate connection, that may have been attributable solely to revolutionary fervor. The three of us sang freedom songs as my father drove them back to the dorm.

And Grace? Her family moved back to Kentucky before the end of the fifth grade school year. We didn’t write. The next Thanksgiving a new family was living in their house and we brought the turkey to them.


About the Author:
Barbara Ruth writes at the convergence of magic and grit, Potowatomee and Jewish, fat and yogi, disabled and neurodivergent. She has performed her original work with Mother Tongue and Wry Crips Disabled Women’s Readers’ Theaters in the San Francisco Bay Area, taught in California Poets In the Schools in San Diego, co-conspired with DYKETACTICS! in Philadelphia and blogged at NeuroQueer. She writes biomythography in poetry and prose, and has been working on a novel since before writing was invented. She is 70 and lives in San Jose, CA. She is also a published photographer.

About All Accounts & Mixture:
All Accounts and Mixture is an annual online feature celebrating the work of LGBTQ writers and artists. For this series, we seek work from authors who self-identify as “queer,” while acknowledging that this designation is subjective and highly personal. Our goal is to provide a forum for writers whose voices might be mis- or underrepresented by the literary mainstream. Taken from Gertrude Stein’s poem “Rooms,” our series title appears in the line: “Cadences, real cadences, real cadences and a quiet color. Careful and curved, cake and sober, all accounts and mixture, a guess at anything is righteous, should there be a call there would be a voice.”

ALL ACCOUNTS & MIXTURE: Kathleen Balma

The Fountain of Relative Age

You dip in, become who you are.

A fun-loving fitness coach finally resembles
the twelve-year-old boy he emits.
His cannonballs punctuate bold yippees.

A third grade belle in terrycloth wrap, flush
with spelling bee medals, emerges a ripe twenty-two.
The neighborhood sociopath truncates
to toddler. He steps out of his blue
uniform and wails, confused. Responsibilities,

rights and roles reassigned
according to each new body, the world adjusts!

Except for those who don’t change, who swim for hours
unaffected. These get out, dry off, scarf down
their tuna salad sandwich halves, their Gala apple slices,
wondering why everyone took off.
 

Singularity

Job was a good man, not a wise one.
So says Maimonides, Spanish Jew and philosopher.
Job was a pussy. So say the marines. Hoo-ah.
Job was a covert narcissist
who saw his first wife and children
as interchangeable with the new set,
and really only wanted to be admired. So says pop
psychology. Job was a loyal subject.
So says God, an overt narcissist.
Like father, like son. Or should we say, the apple
doesn't fall far. Har har. Job was so
accustomed to a life of privilege
that when the biblical shit hit the satanic fan,
he asked, "Why me?" instead of questioning
his luck when times were easy. Job was a long-sufferer,
but not for life. So said every one of his slaves.
Job was a bit of a drama queen. So says a Greek chorus
of drag queens, who would know. Sashay. 
Job was lucky to be a son of Jehovah
instead of a daughter of Troy. So say
Cassandra and Briseis. Job was a snooze fest.
So say my students. Job was a cooperative learner
who did wonderfully in math and music this year
(Numbers, Psalms), but didn’t reach his potential
in science, and is too often on Cloud Nine. So said
his third grade teacher. Job was a farmer,
outstanding in his field. So said Job's obituary.
Job was neither good nor evil, but a complex amalgam
of positive and negative personality traits
that emerged or not, depending on circumstances.
So say the social sciences. Job was his DNA.
Even his mullet was predetermined.
So say the Minnesota twin studies.
Job was a good provider, but not a good lover,
and he never took me to Paris, though I begged.
So said both of his wives. Job was never
an eye for an eye kind of guy.
So say the theologians. Job was better than
his author—better, too, than this one. So say I.


About the Author:
Kathleen Balma is a Fulbright Scholar and Pushcart Prize winner from the Ohio River Valley of Illinois. She is a 2015 finalist for the Montreal International Poetry Prize and a 2016 Tennessee Williams Scholar at Sewanee Writers' Conference. Her poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Crab Orchard Review, Fugue, Hotel Amerika, The Journal, Mid-American Review, PMS: poemmemoirstory, Puerto del Sol, Rattle, storySouth, and other magazines. She lives in New Orleans.

About All Accounts & Mixture:
All Accounts and Mixture is an annual online feature celebrating the work of LGBTQ writers and artists. For this series, we seek work from authors who self-identify as “queer,” while acknowledging that this designation is subjective and highly personal. Our goal is to provide a forum for writers whose voices might be mis- or underrepresented by the literary mainstream. Taken from Gertrude Stein’s poem “Rooms,” our series title appears in the line: “Cadences, real cadences, real cadences and a quiet color. Careful and curved, cake and sober, all accounts and mixture, a guess at anything is righteous, should there be a call there would be a voice.”

All Accounts and Mixture 2016

SUBMIT HERE!

CutBank is excited to announce that All Accounts and Mixture: A Celebration of LGBTQ Writers and Artists will be back again for the third summer.

Taken from Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, and the poem “Rooms,” our series title appears in the line: “Cadences, real cadences, real cadences and a quiet color. Careful and curved, cake and sober, all accounts and mixture, a guess at anything is righteous, should there be a call there would be a voice.”

We're excited to make this an annual web feature. Submissions open May 18th and run through June 19th. Poetry, prose, visual art, reviews and interviews will all be considered, so get your work ready. You can find some of the past years' outstanding contributions here. We can't wait to see what you have for us.

Submission Guidelines:

We welcome all breeds of creative hybrid and collaboration. For this series, we seek work from writers who self-identify as “queer,” while acknowledging that this designation is subjective and highly personal. We believe the term “queer” connotes flexibility--we will not police your identity.

That said, our goal is to provide a forum for writers whose voices might be mis- or underrepresented by the literary mainstream, and we ask that contributors respectfully acknowledge this objective. Submitted content need not be LGBTQ-specific. Work must be previously unpublished. We will accept simultaneous submissions with timely notification. Allies are encouraged to contribute reviews of poetry and prose by queer authors from books contemporary to historic. We are also seeking provocative interviews with queer writers and artists.

Poetry:

Please submit up to 7 poems.

Prose:

Please submit up to 5,000 words of prose, fiction or creative nonfiction.

Visual Art:

Please submit up to 10 pieces of visual art. Please submit your work in JPEG format with at least a 300 dpi. Feel free to also link to your portfolio online if there are multiple pieces for consideration.

 

All Accounts and Mixture: Poetry by Max McDonough

Crabwise

 

The derelict box trap in the brackish creek

behind his grandparents’ campground RV,

padded with slime-reeds and a thick dark

stinking mud, was fun to

 

poke with a stick

from the footbridge above. Having been kicked

from home for the weekend, and don’t

come back, why—

 

he could hardly recall now that the trap’s cull ring

had released a chewed up

croaker into free-float

procession on the water’s leafed surface. So he kept

 

prodding, teased out a small green crab,

half-rotted, nipped at

by whatever else in there

had been living until it starved too, bait

 

for the next, kept going like that, more food

for the crab hatchlings

swarming the cage somehow this early

in spring, a milk-plume of teeth, feasting, tiny

 

enough he’d mistaken them

for water bugs until just then, and thought: brushed chitin

where the pincers will be,

eventually. He put down

 

his stick. Little aliens, lovesick—

            cast off, stricken atavistic

with growing—their charged tender

larval hearts molting.

 

 

Listen, Love

 

I never asked for yard work or its sadnesses,

August days filling green plastic barrels to the brim

 

with weed stalks, roots, unlucky worms. Weekends,

I coiled bare fingers around the furred blades stubborn

 

to survive. I had my stubbornness, too. My skin thinly

peeling, hours and hours I filled the barrels anyway, dragged them

 

wheel-less and scraping on the sidewalk, because my father told me to,

half a mile through powerlines scrub to the dump site.

 

My mother slept all day or shopped endlessly online

for dolls. At night, the foyer’s tall curio glowed, glass shelves

 

stuffed with her curated faces. Sometimes she’d sit in front,

stare up at them like limbed stars.

 

Each day returned to me unharmed. Each day

some morning thing came, beating its wings. My father who stayed

 

long on the riding mower for peace, I still hear him calling me

away from that house, to the backyard or needy lawn, his voice

 

straining, half-muffled by sliding door glass or an open screen.

Even now everything in me is lifting to follow it.

 

Male Pattern

 

Early fade, it has come to this, in the spring

of my twenty-second year, scrounging

through the insufficient sink light,

scrounging in the fresh, unwanted space

for an explanation

among the fallen stalks,

the mutinous

loosening, then gone. Outside, the night

magnolias have bloomed late

but white beneath starlight, & the dark

green leathery leaves are unerringly

dark, thick

as pauldrons, hexing

silver pebbles from their polish

& flinging them at the window, soundless,

so turning from the mirror, from my own

reversed face:

the hallucination of moths,

electric & mute, in the night somehow

still darkening.

 

*

 

Down, in the under-threading

of nucleotides, twisting

down from my mother’s father,

 

down in his pattern that is also

my pattern, there

he is, still

living, no hair, a box of cigars

tucked under his arm as he slips

 

out the garage, into the oil-

black air not yet

ruptured by police sirens, officers

 

knocking, pushing

open the unlocked door—

his wife in the kitchen only

 

just before, releases

her telephone cord

from around my mother’s neck.

 

*

 

Call once & hang up, then call again—he told

his mistresses. But my mother kept

receipts from his work pants

stored in a shoebox beneath her bed…

 

When she unfolded them crinkling

apart like the wings of dead insects

for her mother to see, proof—

& the disbelieving room

 

turned on its side, angry, then blue

light in the window glass—

 

does violence live in the genes?

 

Their story is telling itself

in the dormant voice

of a seed,

 

muffled behind husk, there, between

my ears,

 

my ears

ringing and ringing.

 

*

The years between

constrict. At dinner, my mother, testifying.

She’s the casual refugee, history-

 

keeper runaway

now laundry-queen, changing

loads between coating batches of raw chicken

 

with Shake ’N Bake, sipping

always on a glass of wine, swirling the ice.

At night, her erratic machines

 

sputter on fabric softener

satiny as moon, toxic soups of bleach, detergent,

routine, TV. She sets the glass

 

down again,

the hot iron fuming, her face lit

blue with dramatic crime movies, actors

 

she recognizes from other shows, other roles, faces

back-lit by a cathode,

shifting, troubled, familiar as her own.

 

*

 

In the half-image of the bathroom window,

my hair was white

dandelion fluff.

 

At the tip of each feathery strand,

the bulbous face

of a family member—some I didn’t

know I had remembered

until then, & they were all arguing

with each other, in the unintelligible language

of anger—snarling, nipping

with smokers’ teeth, threatening over

& over to sink the first

crumbling bite.

 

& beyond that reflected me,

the dark yard

of the anxiety I seemed to stand in—all of it—

erupted in gust,

 

the magnolia, the grass, the loose dirt

weighing the grass down to root, the little

dumb moths

the color of wishfulness, tumbling—

 

& one by one—mother, grandfather—then

in clumps, the seed stalks

of my family,  

my hair—whipped off

spiraling with diminishing screams away,

 

away from my newly bald & shining scalp.

 

------------------------------------------------------

Max McDonough grew up outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey, but escaped to Virginia at the age of sixteen. When night expeditions to the local Walmart parking lot there became too perilous an ordeal, he matriculated to the University of Virginia, where he dodged a pre-medical education and pursued a degree in English instead. He is an MFA candidate at Vanderbilt University, and has work appearing or forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Columbia Poetry Review, RHINO, and others.

All Accounts and Mixture: Poetry by Dominique Salas

Please, (With)Hold Me
 
This mattress is just
a thin(skinned) dummy
for the bitter
-sweet slick lacuna
of a womb’n; and yes,
I say womb’n in spite
of the fact that not
every womb’n will burgeon
a baby—she is
a biochemical potent
ial; and yes, I say womb’n
because not
every womb’n
who burgeons a baby
will keep the baby; and yes, import
antly, because not
every womb’n
who burgeons a baby
and keeps the baby
should call her
self a mother; and yes, finally
because I am
self-infatuated: I do not need
a mother. But I do
want to be
swaddled complete
with neoteric-new lungs—
seal unbroken—white
fluorescence unseen, a
doctor-man’s smack   
against my bottom
rewound. I am
only honest. [†]

---------------------------
[†] Just sayin’

 

A Girl Crush


Eeek, whatever to do
about the torque feral
between our hearts 
among other things? I 

told my mother & she saw
the calculations she 
redrew while re
fencing the argument be
tween the cellophane pages
of the old & new

testaments. I gave it true
to you. I said, this isn’t
only an experiment 
in elation borne of spec
ulation. But my mother,
she sat me on the bed
and told me that the 
experiment had been
tabulated. The normativity
in her wavers, split out of her
& hovers & it’s bottom
lip trembles, confused, but eggs
her on the shoulder blades. It is 
what it is, is what 

she says. Boys
will be boys. Play with your
sugar crumb toys. & my 
brother, too young to help,
does. He says, I never want
to suck on little boys—


St. Raphael School: With God All Things Are Possible


When we bound and gaggl’d up in
to social groups, I fell in love with
the discord of lady shackles: the ooo-
la-la so-subtle scent of perfume’d 
tampons wafting up from be
tween our thighs. Maybe
I miss that, the slow grind 
of time measured by the cool 
pollute of your words in my 
direction, shut in wide-
ruled school paper, folded 
again & again so I could pick up 
the work in unfolding you
r note before glutting up the doodlegrin 
slipped in & then at the end, slowly, 
rupturing my mouth radical-wide 
to gulp up the the itty bitty poison-winks
that dotted your ‘i’s: bones fashioning
the skulls. You’d want the pink
slip when you turned in work to Sister 
Rosa like that, playing witless,
playing like girls us girls could fit between
the serif’d lines of scripture forever, playing 
like our hands were cold during 
recess, whisper-growling, K.I.T. Don’t 
ever change.


playing right


the way i shout into
the fluorescence 
technicolor slurs of my
being does not effect
them: their lives & the serif’d 
bills in circulation,
cuffing certain neighbor
hoods; but they have a right,
they say, to voice that they are
confused; they say, oh,
can you please punctuate 
your body into tighter fabrics;
we need to see the silhouette
of your lot in life & could you, you
know, take this bottle of sun
screen & splat yourself white

before going into day
light. actually don’t
take walks with the sun
out, or late at night either, if you don’t have 
to & i am curtsies and shivers,

usually, but now, i am willing
to say, i’ve stopped bathing
in milk, hoping to whittle
into Cleopatra— no 
not the real one, 
the white lady one with a creamy 
disposition & and a nodding body.


Sonata in Jabón de Sangre


Since you’ve left, I get rest-
less near the cusp 

of the morning. An “eclipse

of sense” is what my therapist
eureka’d at me during the end

of our first session, me describing

what I do: I try to make myself 
wake up at night,

with my eyes closed, to grab on

to your far-away and pixelated
dream-face. Pretend 

it is happening now. Later, I decide

I am going to write 
the sonata 

we wrote together, 

in my dream. In it you whispered,
Ya vez, loca!  So I named it 

Llaves Locas. You would have 
hated it. But I keep your face,

on the inside of my dream-gauzed eye

lids, while I climb
down the stairs, saddle up 

to the piano, sit on bench, and reach

into the shallow wash basin full
of soap sediment and water. Dirty

is how the new rag feels as I plunge

it into the basin, wring it over my feet,
and scrub until the water flickers

and expands with red from 

my soles. Now, I can stand 
on the white and black 

enameled slabs, focusing 

the toes of my feet on 
the keys. 

 

Adolescent on the Way to Water


Whittling soft bark, thumbing the grooves gently, 
the transient caught me peeking from the car; 

As if to pluck me with his knife, he 

waved over while my father idled 
in the gas station’s. Hiking up my skirt 

I shimmied out 

of the car to him and sat down so naturally, legs crossed, 
in the ice machine’s shade. He stood & looked 

down at me. In the sun, the knife he used 

to scratch his beard glinted back and forth my face. Dizzily,
I waited for him to say anything. And when he did,

it went something like this: You look like you know what you could do

with a knife and some wood if I gave you the chance. Girl,  I’d pop out
each one of your teeth and make a new drama of constellations 

that’ll spread out our story longer than it will take the sun to die

— or maybe it went something more
 like I’d appreciate it if you’d take me 

to Alamogordo, little ma’am. 
Regardless of the exact positioning,

it was then I wondered:
Did he know I thought about feeling him 

on me, everywhere: on the pads of my 
fingertips, cliff of my nose, edged-lining 

of each toe, and in the silkened, scalloped 
world between my legs while 

my father’s keys hung heavy, 
ready in the slot of the ignition. 

--------------------------------------------------

Dominique Salas is an MFA candidate and instructor at New Mexico State University. She has recently appeared in riverSedge, Dead Flowers: A Poetry Rag, and The Blue Lake Review. 

All Accounts and Mixture: Four Poems by D. Gilson

American Music


It all begins with Elvis.
Or rather, the thing stolen.
It all begins in a cotton field
150 years ago with six million
black folk. Swing low, sweet
chariot, coming forth to carry.
Wait a minute. Look at that
white man shaking his hips
like it ain't no little thing.

At fifteen I do not speak
Spanish but listen every day
to Christina Aguilera’s
Mi Reflejo, butchering
Ven conmigo, ven conmigo, baby.
At twenty I fancy myself
a connoisseur, telling
the hot English professor I want
so badly to love me — 
All the other undergrads go on
and on about The Beatles,
but my deepest held conviction
is that Pet Sounds is the finest
pop album ever made.

Fuck me. In their twenties my brothers
love AC/DC and Black Sabbath
as my sister and I listen
to Billy Joel’s Storm Night,
especially its lead single
“We Didn’t Start The Fire,”
the song years later my freshman
civics teacher will have me
rewrite as a poem. Write your history,
she said to my impossible fifteen
year-old-self, the one with a (mostly
irrational) fear of school shootings
and adoration of Britney Spears
(jealous for her relationship
with Justin Timberlake). Or rather,
it all begins with my mother,
June Carter, a crackled twang
and strict household prohibition.
It all begins with my father, Johnny,
the poor farmer’s child, a whiskey
bottle in the third drawer
of his tool bench. It all begins
with them humming together —
We got married in a fever, hotter
than a pepper sprout, We've been talkin'
‘bout Jackson, ever since the fire
went out
— even though we only drove
to Sears and Wal-Mart, maybe.
Or at best, a town or two over.
But never to the places the radio buzzed
on about. Not Jackson. Not Nashville.
Not the Austin City Limits. We never
fell into a New York state of mind.


Sister Mary Chainsaw


This always happens. I give her
a poem. I say, Sister Mary Chainsaw,
here is a poem. What do you think
of it?
She powers up her Craftsman
42cc Chainsaw with its 18” blade
and two-year limited warranty, the tool
she always carries beneath her black robe.
The poem was about my brother,
how he failed me like my boyfriend
fails me. How they both like fishing,
an activity full of vivid language
and apt metaphor. I read the poem
aloud and Sister rolls her eyes.
She says, Goddamnit, son, ripping
the poem right out of my hands
and revving up a cloud of kerosene
exhaust. She hands the poem back
and it is just one line, reconfigured:

I love fucking,
            sometimes.

Sexual History


At seventeen, I let a man blow me
in the steam room at the Pat Jones
YMCA. For a year I buy OraQuick! 

(home HIV test, $49.99) with every paycheck.
from The Gap. At nineteen, I quit The Gap.
Buy blow for the skinny boy I'm fucking

and keep my mother's wedding ring
next to the bible in my nightstand.
At twenty my boyfriend calls me

Doubting Thomas. Traces my skin
with a red Bic pen and highlights
passages from Acts of the Apostles.

At thirteen, my father plays Johnny
Cash's "Boy Named Sue" in his blue
Dodge Dakota pickup. At twenty-nine

a condom breaks. On the retrovirals
every nightmare's the same: me dead
and lain out on a sawdusty bar, "Ring

of Fire" on the jukebox (and my dad
eating unsalted peanuts). At twenty-five
I headache from poppers. At thirty

I am celibate. At twenty-four, -six,
and -two, I masturbate. I am fifteen
again: retrograde in Ralph Lauren

Sport and never getting laid. At thirty-two,
I smell it on a boy riding the subway.
At twenty-seven piss play is child's play

and at sixteen I pray: Lord, let me have
some fun. At twenty-nine my doctor asks
for my sexual history so I open my palm:
                         the lord answers prayer.

Liner Notes

At seven, the first album I buy: Amy Grant’s Heart in Motion.
It was 1991, heaven on earth, five weeks of allowance saved
for an endless loop of “Baby, Baby” in my sister’s Geo Tracker.

Rumors fired about Amy’s affair with Vince Gill. She was hot shit
& the Church livid with Amy the smoldering pop star, Magdalene
in crushed wine velvet & gold chains. This was pop glam: the best-

selling Christian album of all time gone main stream. Of the album,
Wikipedia says, Another song with an overtly Christian themes
was "You're Not Alone" which referenced a greater power despite

edgy features like whipcracks and a screaming guitar solo. I was seven
in my sister’s Geo Tracker, every heart beat & taken with the notion
to love these women with the sweetest of devotion. OMG, Jason says,

my mother had ALL the Amy Grant tapes. Practically a breeding ground
for homosexuals with ambiguous religious beliefs.
Yes, it was 1991
& I was seven, in heaven watching my sister tease her hair in the rearview

mirror as her boyfriend Terry got us Diet Cokes at the Sonic Drive-In.
It was 1991. The Catholic hospital told Uncle Dennis, We do not treat
the disease of sin
, so our parents drove to Houston & picked him up.

Which is why I was in Missouri (heaven) with my sister listening to Amy
Grant in the Geo Tracker: Jesus hated whores & homos, but we loved
them. I was seven & baby, I realize there’s just no getting over.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

D. Gilson is the author of I Will Say This Exactly One Time: Essays (Sibling Rivalry, 2015); Crush (Punctum Books, 2014), with Will Stockton; Brit Lit (Sibling Rivalry, 2013); and Catch & Release (2012), winner of the Robin Becker Prize. He is a PhD candidate in American literature & cultural studies at The George Washington University, and his work has appeared in PANK, The Indiana Review, and The Rumpus, and as a notable essay in Best American Essays. 

All Accounts and Mixture: Poetry by Gail Hanlon

SHE LOVES YOU

She hadn’t finished her dream,
so I finished it for her.
I wanted it to be lucid.
So that she could move there
as she couldn’t otherwise.
I wanted to give it to her
as a gift, so I worked
all night on it. I made
her able to fly.

 

PUSH-PULL SUMMER

In the silence, small planes
purr along the coast

dragging banners of DARLING
over Shelter Island.

Clear decisions, Clare says, squinting
at a landscape of tiny red figures.

She bows over her laptop with a stack
of index cards full of sloppy Japanese.

Where’s the heat? Jamaal asks. He knows
the answer. In the repetition, he mutters.

His cherry-haired boyfriend sleeps with his ear
against a long cafe table, remembering a kiss.

His wet glass making the second figure 8 I have seen
today. Another infinity. The first was a blue 

rubber band twisted at Sunset Beach
where my sister pointed out a double rainbow

over the ocean. What’s it mean?! she asks
the Ethiopian driver standing next

to a long black car. What’s it mean?!
He shrugs. He could be

ferrying the dead. No,
he says. No secret.

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gail Hanlon’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Iowa Review, New Letters, Thrush, Cincinnati Review, Verse Daily, and Best American Poetry, among other journals and anthologies. She has a recent review in Tarpaulin Sky, published a chapbook, SIFT (Finishing Line), and was a finalist for the Iowa Review Award (2013). 

All Accounts and Mixture: "Corrections for My Erroneous Police Report" by Laurel Fantauzzo

Corrections for My Erroneous Police Report

 

OFFENSE: Traffic Stop 7
DATE: Apr 7 2001 3:13pm
LOCATION: Moorpark Rd, Thousand Oaks, CA 2
REPORT BY: Sherriff’s Deputy [name redacted] 1

Driver was contacted on a traffic stop under suspicion of underage driving. 8

SUSPECT: FANTAUZZO, LAUREL 
AGE: N/A 5
DESCRIPTION: MALE 4, SHORT DARK HAIR 3, HISPANIC 6
______________________________________________________________________________

1. The officer stared at me the way I could never stare at him. I was too frightened to look at his face, as if he were an animal that might mistake my eye contact as threatening.

2. It was a sunny day. We were on a street where immigrant families shared tiny condominiums. Rich girls at my Catholic school laughed at the Mexican condo kids, whose parents rode bikes to landscaping and nanny and cleaning jobs. My Filipina mother had bought me the battered, gray, used Lincoln Towncar I was driving.

3. I had my hair cut short because it was too thick and unruly when it descended to my shoulders. I hated blow dryers and flatirons, which, like makeup, seemed designed to steal sleep from women in the mornings. My hair that day was like a black helmet, tamped down with men’s styling gel from the 99-cent store. 

4. At first it felt like a special gift, this boy part of me in my girl body. When I was ten, three boys on a camping trip introduced me to the word tomboy, included me in all their tent-building and fire-starting, and presented me with a pair of boxer shorts as a kind of initiation gift. I preferred the flatness of boys’ shoes, the functionality of their pants pockets, the clean lines of their shirts. Boys’ attire made it easy for them to move, to run if they needed to. But I was no good at running, no good at sports. Coaches grimaced when I twice joined their teams in the boys’ baseball league. I wet my pants once playing right field. Tomboy was an incomplete term for me, as was girl, as was boy. Most of the time I felt there was no word for me. The day of my traffic stop I was wearing my uniform to my all-girls Catholic school, the pants-and-polo-shirt option, which the principal would ban in a few years, requiring every student to wear skirts and blouses. 

5. I was seventeen. Old enough to be in love. Which I was, with my friend Julia, who sat behind me in history class and would forgive me for my crush on her in two years.

6. My mother always left books about the Philippines on my bed. I read about World War Two, a dictatorship, and a handsome, dead young man, Jose Rizal. I absorbed scenes of defiance within agony, like a teenager refusing to dig his own grave for Japanese military police, and, in getting shot, winning his argument. I wanted to be part of that legacy. So when Californians tried to decipher my dark hair and eyes, I’d say “I’m half Filipina!” Whenever I tried to remind my classmates I was Filipina, they would interrupt me. “You’re white, Laurel. You’re white.” A scolding incantation. But when I wandered the aisles of 99-cent stores and tiny groceries, the workers would call to me. “Hola, ¿qué ’stá buscando?” It felt as if they were inviting me in. So I’d answer them in their language.

7. I’d encountered the police before, but my white father was always the one who dealt with them. When I was ten, the neighbor boys and I pelted an SUV with Nerf balls. We left no damage, but the driver called 911. My father spoke to the visiting officers in reasonable, collaborative tones, apologizing on my behalf. They left without filing a report. I felt relieved, protected. Three years later, my mother slapped my brother. In response, my father wrestled my mother to the floor. So she called 911. My father murmured to the police officersabout my mother’s behavior. He thanked them for visiting. The officers pulled my mother aside, asked her if my father had a gun in the house, then told her she could be cited for child abuse. She turned her eyes down, refusing to look at the officers’ faces.

8. I carried the weight of several selves as I measured what was permitted or prohibited in the spaces I traveled. My girl side, my boy side, my Filipina side, my white American side, my mother’s side, my father’s side, my side that wanted no part in sides. I felt suspended in my silence, waiting for the officer to decide what I was and what I had done. 

The officer finally spoke without apology, as if the error and offense had been mine alone. “You look very young.” 

Then he handed me my license and let me go. 

All Accounts and Mixture: Poetry by Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers

Alcatraz, Mars

They call us a citadel
in a blueless bay—

singular, like 
a snowglobe’s stark

figurine: grottos washed 
white as moons’  winter 

stomachs, something 
chiseled out of rib.

 

What they dreamed up 
again, in that old Roman 

way: the ruined cake 
of the Coliseum 

reborn, forever
in the bulwark’s grip.

 

The air here wants 
to close us in. O riprap 

memory, you are heavy
with salt.  I can’t breathe 

in this birdless bay.
When it comes to cruelty,

they are always wrong—
the old and new 

masters, the same keys 
cluttering the ring. Hear

the men and women kept 
in waxing, separate hives. 


On my pillow, I leave
a soap-carved likeness 

of my face,
locks of my own 

clipped hair. 
With a fork and spoon

I slit the roof. 
My leaving shadow

is blue-black, ragged 
as the folds of a wing.

 

Fearing, again, the swiftness
of my body,

the guard fires 
from his crow’s nest—

each shot useless, 
muted as  a feather

would be, in this air—

 


tell him I married a wave, 
broke through

each cloud ceiling. Gasped 
as I hoped 

for heaven’s thin, 
something blue 

above the ladder. This gunmetal 
smell on my hands.

 

Lolita’s Mars Rover Ballad

So this dune buggy trip
leaves me all rotten
inside. I’m sick of learning
landforms: dried-up lakebeds,

sore in their salts, all my wants
under haze and burned-up rubber.
Between winks of sleep, I see
canyons in split pastels

(my half-eaten jawbreakers),
pink clouds drifting above, bored
as a flock of sheep. I’ve re-counted
my bottle caps, pressed my lips

to glossy magazines. I taught myself
how to peel bananas with my feet.
So what? It’s a free country. I think.
But all time is stuck. I’m twelve

now and forever. I turn and turn and turn
but there’s nowhere else to go.

O Wow. More desert. Motels
crop up like mushrooms,
then poof. Long-legged,
neon signs erase themselves

behind the ugly dust devils.
Dress me up as another Dorothy,
braids, I guess, and dirty blue
gingham. Trade my **** again

for something made of candy.
A frontier ought to be exciting
things: cities made of windows,
secret red rock caves. Right now

I want more records. To get
myself a dog. Own a hothouse
where the sugarcane sways
like a bunch of girls dancing to the radio.

-------------------------------------------------------

Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers is the author of CHORD BOX (University of Arkansas Press, 2013), finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.  Her poems have appeared in Boston Review, The Missouri Review, FIELD, Crazyhorse, Washington Square Review, Guernica, and many others.  A 2012-2014 Kenyon Review fellow in poetry, she now lives in New Orleans, where she teaches at Tulane University.

 

All Accounts and Mixture: "50/50 Poly-Cotton Blend" by Kilby Allen

50/50 Poly-Cotton Blend

 

Sepia afternoon light filters through the display window, igniting dust motes,

illuminating the display windows full of secondhand hernia trusses on Flatbush. It’s a

little after five, and herds of homebound workers climb up out of the station, flooding the

sidewalks, an incoming tide.

 

“We closing in twenty minutes,” the West Indian woman behind the thrift store

cash register announces to the almost empty room, never looking up from her word

search. I flip through the shirts, feeling for that particular crush of poly-cotton softness, a

perfectly cured tshirt. One worn thin and drapey after two hundred spins in the dryer.

 

When you left, I lost half my wardrobe, an added bonus of gay girl break ups. Our

same-size jeans and shirts and sweaters, separated. Suddenly our shared studio closet was

all mine, four feet by two feet and cavernous. But you’ve been gone for three months.

Ninety-two days, and your toothbrush is still in the Happy Secretary’s Day coffee mug

next to the sink.

 

The shirts are organized chromatically, and I have searched through red, orange,

and yellow. Squarely in the middle of green, my fingertips graze shoulder after shoulder,

slide the wire hangers down the rack. So many shirts: all too scratchy, too new, too big,

and then, a prickle like static electricity when I feel a familiar weave--a tri-blend

crewneck, heathered green. I pull the shirt off the rack and the world lists like a ship. I

lean into the embrace of a one-armed mannequin. I know this shirt. 4-H Entomology

Camp 1995 printed in yellow letters across the chest. Impossible. Someone else in the

city went to the same summer camp, twelve hundred miles from here, fifteen years ago.

 

But there, on the tag, are my initials in my mother’s faded magic marker.

 

I let you wear the shirt the first time you slept over. You stole it. Even when you

moved in, mingled your clothes with mine, you kept it to yourself. And now here it is,

orphaned and smelling like old sheets, inexplicably found. Home again, home again,

wherever that is.

 

“Three fifty,” the cashier says. She doesn’t look at me, just holds out her left hand

for the bills as she circles a word in her puzzle, something long and diagonal. I pay for

my shirt and imagine you carelessly throwing it into the donation bin—good riddance.

 

The last time I saw you, two weeks ago, you were in the cereal aisle of the

market—our corner market, certainly inconvenient to the place you now call home. It

was just after seven and the crowd was so thick it was like swimming. I saw you with her,

the rugby player, your hand on the small of her back. Seeing you like that, I felt naked,

even in three shirts, a sweater, and my raincoat. I got what I needed and stood in line,

wanting to get away before you saw me. But then as I was standing there, you walked by,

so close I could touch you. I could feel the charged particles between us, but you didn’t

notice. Was I even standing there?

 

When I get to the apartment I will scour the place, I promise myself, sweep the

rest of you into the dustpan. I flick on the buzzing bathroom fluorescent and interrupt our

toothbrushes, still guiltily intertwined. I pick up yours, let it hover over the wastebasket,

then put it in my mouth, dry bristles rough against my tongue

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Kilby Allen recently received her PhD from Florida State and is currently in the process of moving to the Hudson Valley. Her work has appeared in Nashville Review, Drunken Boat, Day One, and elsewhere. 

All Accounts and Mixture: Poetry by Patrick Kindig

Superman

Your action figure body
could break glass. You took 
all the wrong things

from comic books: titanium
abs, an ass like two polished
asteroids. The impossible way

your back ripples
against itself. Plastic
-haired boy, teach me

compensation, how
to winnow myself into
a pearl. Teach me

about your jaw and 
the smooth sockets
of your groin. When

you raise your arms above
your head, your hipbone slips 
into the world. What comes next

seems obvious: we tilt 
our bodies forward 
and take flight.

 

Sea Urchin

Today I feel like I’m swimming
in blood. The world, after all, is usually 

colder than the body. Maybe this is why 
I love the winter thaw, the pear trees’

cum-smell, the air like a handful
of stomach muscle. The only edible part

of the sea urchin is its underbelly, 
you know. Let me tell you: the next boy I see

with his arms above his head 
won’t have time to count my teeth.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Patrick Kindig is a dual MFA/PhD candidate at Indiana University, where he writes poems and studies 20th century American literature. His micro-chapbook, Dry Spell, is forthcoming from Porkbelly Press in late 2015, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in the minnesota review, Fugue, BLOOM, Court Green, and elsewhere.

All Accounts and Mixture: Poetry by J.R. Toriseva

Visitation Pyre

No need to bore a hole,
set up a candle and peer through

Only minnows—
No need to dig in snow banks

for words, for worms.
Somewhere else this pond

would be ocean
and I would be cloud

The ice is that way, a shard
pushed into my center

Dark pond and I this far inland,
have only ourselves, each the other;

to remind ourselves where we are in
there, other than here.

This pond, frozen, has me
And I have chosen it,

for my lover, for my necklace, for my hand.
Dream the clamped podium.

Tear the collage of victims.
This pond my tarot card,

my altar, my ammunition. This pond my singing bowl,
sequestered from me, cornered by triple rows

of barbed wire, triple lines of corn, the intestines
of a silent fight looped around

the post. This pond across the property
line, a reverie, in a double time of rage.

The one who taught me that war is a strange sort
of laughter that can come at you years later in a corn crib,

who taught me how to place the stick perpendicular
to stop the wolf jaw from snapping down; who taught me to cut boughs

on place them on my back, to circle the pond, not walk straight across the ice
to prevent the wolves from attacking from behind at night,

for the first time his white china cup is cold. He’s not slapping black flies,
or whittling at the long dining table. My limburger eating, gray wolf quick

grandfather lies supine as if floating. Is it him? I’ve only seen him in motion,
watching orioles and song sparrows, sugar cube between his teeth, sucking

coffee, full of bracted honeysuckle and yarrow. Now, on the stretched water
surface of the pond, the blurred weave of the wool

shirt the polished sarsaparilla skin pulled tight over cheek bones away
from lips, his whole body larger in death, than life. The water buoying up the brown

shoulders, the leanness of his size. Reaching out to touch him,
I smile as his last words enter my palm. He sheds his skin, his scratchy shirt.

He rises, mist moving off the pond, a dragonfly splitting
its carcass. He rises where I can watch him. Eye on wing,

rough humming in the ear, the constant smooth, smooth, smoothing
of his palms available to me now. Here in the water is the chair where he sat.

Now only smooth wood. Is that you? Wearing your wool scratchy long johns?
Where are your rag weed pulling hands, your quack grass pulling thumbs?

Where are your straight lines of two-speared corn? Your high climbing
pole beans? Oh, here it is. Right here. I see my toes. It is. It is me.

 

Exodus: Amend 

Spring was here, then plunged: 

1. I know this road by heart 
2. even on a night broken brighter than day due to moon

3. Minnows 
4. my foot on iced gravel 

5. sound ricocheting across the crystal folds of fields 
6. 3. I came to listen to the water—foam 

7. the wind the rain came in on 
8. the wind on the frozen drum of the pond 

9. The form of the pond 
10. changes. Not in my mind 

11. But in front of my eyes 
12. My ice and slush expand 

13. to include arrival of bird, 
14. To the awakening of the fish 

15. To the invoice of cat tails. 
16. My mind holds all the cards 

17. My pictures of January holding 
18. the pond in white from the fierce 

19. sleep of February to the yawns 
20. of March. April’s shredding, the 

21. surface of the pond is unraveling 
22. It is cracking into a puzzle. Bordered 

23. by mud. The howl of the 
24. center, framed by dead grass
 

Unknown Things About Rain

Fresh from the gravel parking lot ritual in town, I brought death to the pond.
Slowly, holding the funereal cake. I left the white dissolving on the bank.

There is a window in my pond, the right pane shattered,
the glass shot through my de-iced voice, my knees mud-high in chore boots.

The cows come slowly forward, lowering
their heads to draw snow slush, nudging the cake to get to

the water streaming up their broad nostrils.
These walking mud puddles

sides matted with spring, the groaning of
the lilac crocus emerging, heads up

through the snow—much too early
and then turning translucent in the freeze

with their broad noses
they nudge in Spring,

with their wide hooves,
they skirmish through the pasture.

Wide enough for me to follow
winging oats, rolling ragweed, spreading rye

for bedding. Feeding the grey squirrels, lowering the light
Layering the darkness, adding to the roundness of the land. Death, now crumbs.

 

Water Mechanics

Here I am osprey and eagle
Here I am ladywalker and pikebug
Here I am amplified, a sound wave touching the far grass
Water, heal the split in my eye.

Let me be the water
away from the steel sink,
away from the certain mail box,
far from the rows of leeks.

Outlawed from the radish
this is the subway stop;
this is how I get home
where the mica shines.

Through the chalk and the small crushed
bones of squirrels
and snail shells;
this line cuts through the clay.

Leaving the gemmed skulls
and the footprints of foxes,
left unscarred by the plagues, the famine or the flu,
this is the stop

that signals my return home
this loop of water, a handgrip that my fingers have
sleeping out the cold
reached for, but never touched.

 

Case of Water

Memory skates below the surface
transport here, there, beyond & back. Aquifer.
Years forward. Years spilled. States of matter.

Hint of remembered. Far beyond the Ramblas in Barcelona,
she laughs the frontier and I step to
the round smooth pond of her face

her eyes, fish jumping, her mouth
the water lily, her nose a minnow
hooking round the bend, to look, to see,

where she smiles, I swim. Adherence. From the bottom
of the pond I looked up and saw an upside down
cathedral in Madrid. I saw the Alhambra

inside out. This fountain was fourteen paintings
from the Prado, a light bulb waiting to be screwed
in at the 14th step of a stone staircase on 21st calle,

this pond a faucet in the Call; periphery drawn by
others and ice. The boundary visible only to despair. This pond
glides underneath me everywhere. Meniscus. This pond calls me home

-------------------------------------------------------------

Awarded a waiter scholarship to Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Mary Merritt Henry Prize in Poetry from Mills College, J.R. Toriseva has taught for Mills College, California Poets in the Schools, San Francisco WritersCorps, and Literary Arts of Portland, Oregon. 
'Strip Uno' was published in Close Calls: New Lesbian Fiction, Susan Fox Rogers, Editor, St. Martin's Press. 'Encyclopedia of Grass' was selected for Best Canadian Poetry in English. 

All Accounts and Mixture: "A Small Happiness" by Katie McClendon

A Small Happiness

 by Katie McClendon

It happens fast, and over a period of months. When Ratchet and Lana finally break up, Ratchet doesn’t want to be alone so she spends the day in her mother’s garden in Issaquah, wearing sunglasses and sitting on a lounger while her mother gardens and lets her talk or not talk—depending on what she needs. She’s twenty-three and wants to be an adult about it, but it feels good to be cared for by her mother, who makes sweet iced tea and brings her little bowls of strawberries with the stems cleanly sliced and removed. Ratchet curls up on an outdoor lounger and cries. Lana told her their love was epic. It was their first, their hardest love. Ratchet doesn’t understand why Lana wants to date other people—to make some mistakes, to be frivolous, she’d said—because wasn’t the whole point to find the person who wasn’t a mistake? When she is taken over by the thought of Lana with someone else, she leans over and pukes on the stone pathway. Her mother helps her inside and fills a glass with cool water for her to drink. She wets a washcloth and places it on Ratchet’s neck, brushing the short black curls of her hair out of the way. It reminds Ratchet of being sick as a child, and she tells her mother she isn’t sure she’s going to get better. Her mother says, “Rachel, darling, I know it doesn’t feel like this yet, but it will get easier.” The first cut is the deepest, Ratchet thinks. The stupid song plays over in her mind.

That night, her father brings home a carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream and steaks to grill in the backyard. They eat together under the shade of Evergreens at the glass patio table. Her parents only ever loved one another, but they tell Ratchet about friends and family members who’d suffered broken hearts. They tell her about the hearts they’d broken before they met, making a night of it, releasing heartbreak into the air. As she cuts into the meat of her steak, slicing to feel the tear then pushing the meat aside, Ratchet thinks, I wish Lana was here. She wants to call her, but her mother suggests she give it time.

 

In Emma’s basement apartment, they listen to old records—Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Blondie—and drink whiskey sitting cross legged on the living room floor. The two of them have been spending a lot of time together since Ratchet and Lana broke up. They both work at a call center, cold calling to ask people about chimney cleanings or vacuums, depending on the shift. Emma helps the shifts pass, speaking in an exaggerated sexy voice about the dangers of a dirty fireplace to the strangers who answer, or drawing pictures on scraps of paper as the automatic dialer works through another set of numbers. Emma is not quite beautiful, with long dark hair and lanky limbs. There’s a strange charm to her face because of her openness. She doesn’t smile easy, but there’s an intensity to her gaze.  

Lana’s friends had been Ratchet’s friends, and since the break up she’s been having a hard time getting them to meet up. She reasons that it could just be the end of fall shift in Seattle, when things get cold and people stay indoors, agreeing to hangouts and then backing out last minute. Her mother has been leaving messages for Ratchet, but she approaches everything as if it is a bird with a broken wing, and Ratchet is tired of feeling broken in that way. With Emma, she is able to pretend for small moments that she is not shattered by Lana, that she is normal and whole and doing just fine. There is something about the way Emma allows her to try on different feelings—rage, detachment, grief, hope—that eases things. Lately, every feeling and thought is about a girl. Ratchet tries to remember caring about anything else. Tonight, Emma has been thoughtful about the lighting; the room is dim lit and soft, and she has unwrapped a tarot deck from a silk scarf and placed it in Ratchet’s hands.

Emma has dressed for the occasion, her long, dark hair wrapped in a half-hearted turban that keeps unraveling. She’s placed heavy gold bangles on her wrists, and they jangle whenever she lifts her glass to drink. Around her neck, she wears a giant piece of costume jewelry that seems all pendant, a deep green that Emma says helps her tap into her intuitive side. She’s wearing a cotton dress with thin straps and has wrapped a golden scarf around her shoulders for effect. Her mouth is bright red, and she seems to be leaving a trail through the house, the half-print of her mouth on glass rims and cigarette butts and half-eaten pizza slices. Everywhere Ratchet turns, there is a reminder—like evidence of a murder—of Emma’s mouth. Ratchet has shown up in the same baseball tee she’s been wearing for days, the same dark jeans. It took all she had to leave the house. She’s stopped washing her hair, and it’s sticking out from under her beanie because she’s given up on the idea of brushing it. Her mother calls daily to remind her to do the little things: wash her face, take out the trash, eat something.  It’s a relief to have someone to tell her what to do.

Shuffle, without bending the cards, and ask a question, Emma says. When you feel ready, hand the deck back to me. And then, after a pause, she says, You don’t have to ask the question out loud.

Ratchet tries to shuffle the deck as if they are playing cards, but they’re clumsy in her hands so she sets them down on the carpet and moves them around. They are slick, and she tries to think about love or about Lana, but the texture of the cards, the unmanageability of them under her hands is concerning. She isn’t sure of her question. When she looks up, Emma is sipping from a short glass and bobbing her head to the music with her eyes closed. Ratchet wonders what Lana is doing right now, where she is in the world in relation to them, how far away. She imagines Lana in her apartment curled up in bed, too grief stricken to move. Deep down, she knows that Lana is probably out dancing. Ratchet puts the cards back together, cuts the deck, and hands it back to Emma. She has the feeling that it doesn’t matter what question she asks, that the whole thing is just an excuse to stop being in charge of finding her own answers.

Emma lays out the cards. They have frightening images on them, lightning strikes a withered, solitary tree and three snakes coil around a sharp edged sword. Ratchet is nervous, but Emma says the cards represent change, and it’s no reason to worry. You already know things have changed, she says.

Ratchet wonders about this. At night, right before she falls asleep, she can forget things are different. During the day she has been thinking about other things, forgetting for a moment the absence of Lana. Her mother says this is progress, but it feels like moving backwards, like stepping back in time but only getting to be in the moments between the moments when she was with Lana—the moments when she could take things for granted, and she could do normal things like peel and eat an orange without thinking of Lana in a heavy, missing way.  

When Ratchet talks about missing Lana, Emma listens as if they are simply talking about two girls Ratchet knows, women Emma has never met. Ratchet is grateful for this, but she feels Emma’s desire to unclench her fists from the idea of Lana and shift the tight hold to her own heart every time Emma attempts to cheer her up, or steer her in the direction of moving on.

Ratchet leans back and closes her eyes. She feels the dizzy spin of too much whiskey, and when she opens her eyes Emma says, Change is scary, but we need the heartbreak to know the good.

Ratchet isn’t sure if Emma believes this. It’s a stupid thing to say. Before Lana left, Ratchet was deliriously aware of the good. Every cell of her body knew the high of being in love, of being loved. Ratchet is annoyed with the way Emma reduces matters of the heart to a platitude, and speaks as if she knows best when here she is, moving her hair away from her neck. Here she is, letting her hand graze Ratchet’s arm. Here she is, mouth bright and buzzed, and easy enough to kiss.  It reminds Ratchet of the time, a few days before, when the two of them went into a party store because Emma had said, We need to get supplies for your pity party.  Ratchet refused to stop sulking while they drove around looking for found items Emma could use to make sculptures, and Emma said, God damn it, I can’t take this one more minute, and drove with the radio blasting Cat Power to a place off 99. At the store, Emma picked absurd things from the shelves and shoved them at Ratchet: a yellow clapper shaped like hands that snapped like applause. Here, she said. Now, when you need to feel applauded for being the most broken hearted person in the world, you can just use this. Emma stood in the aisle, snapping the clapper slow and mean, her mouth pinched in anger. It was impossible not to think of Lana, and how—when Ratchet was upset—Lana would draw a bath and overfill it with bubbles, put on some moody music and pour them glasses of champagne. Ratchet sat down right there in the aisle, under the bright fluorescent lights, and cried, wanting and not wanting the bath and feeling terrible for wanting anything at all, and for having nothing to give. Emma stopped, and set the clappers on a shelf. She sat down on the floor with Ratchet, putting her arm around Ratchet’s shoulder, and said, That was mean. She leaned her head against Ratchet’s shoulder, and Ratchet had felt so hurt, but also comforted. It was strange to think, but Emma’s anger had sparked a kind of wanting in Ratchet, an ugly and selfish desire.

Some days, it is easy for Ratchet to pretend she is being fair to Emma, and asking only as much as she deserves. Ratchet quiets the part of herself that knows she just needs Emma to prove she’s worth loving—that Lana didn’t leave because Ratchet is wrong somehow. She ignores the part of her that needs to feel it is Lana who is broken, who is wrong about love. But in the basement, she feels the space around her opening up, wide and empty, and she is so alone in it, so she says, Be close to me. Ratchet stretches out her arm and waits.

Emma takes off her bangles and lifts the pendant over her neck. She unties the turban, letting her hair fall down her back, and sets it on the carpet. When Emma lies down next to her, Ratchet can feel her breathing shift. Emma is taller, and when she rests her head against Ratchet’s shoulder, she has to bend her knees. The record ends, replaced by the repetitive thrum and silence of the needle catching. Emma smells like cigarettes and whiskey and lipstick, and Ratchet says, Why do you hang out with such a miserable wreck?

I like a challenge, Emma says, and Ratchet feels there is more to it, but doesn’t know how to ask again.

The room tilts and Ratchet imagines that she is the stone being pushed up the hill in that Greek myth—she can’t remember the name of it—that will keep rolling downhill, only to be pushed up again the next day. Emma is the kind of girl who will keep pushing me uphill, she thinks. Her chest fills with gratitude. She knows it isn’t fair of her, but she needs to keep Emma close. For the first time since her and Lana broke up, she feels a small happiness. She shifts so they can see eye to eye, and realizes for the first time that Emma has one blue and one green eye. Her eyes are like a spell cast, and Ratchet pushes away thoughts of Lana, and of what will happen, and whether or not the feelings are real as she leans forward into a deliberate kiss.

At first, Emma is surprised. She pulls back and looks at Ratchet, her face scrunched as if she’s trying to see the smallest thing but can’t quite. Are you sure? she asks, and Ratchet nods. Emma’s face softens, but she hesitates. She looks pained, and Ratchet takes her hand and kisses the ends of her fingers. Between them, a charge begins, and Ratchet becomes lost in it.

Emma reaches for the hem of Ratchet’s shirt, lifting it slowly. Ratchet shakes her head and pulls the hem down and Emma nods. Ratchet begins to cry at the feel of Emma’s warm palm over her shirt. It sits on her chest, placed firmly over her heart as if holding it beneath the bone, keeping it still. I’m not ready, she whispers and Emma doesn’t speak. Ratchet looks into her face and sees such tenderness, and a little hurt, and can’t help but kiss her again.

To ease her guilt, Ratchet splits herself into two near duplicate copies in her mind—The Ratchet of Lana & Ratchet is separate from the Ratchet of Emma & Ratchet. They decide to keep things quiet. Not a secret, Ratchet says, but let’s just keep this between us.

 

One night, Lana begs her to come over, so Ratchet goes to her apartment. Lana answers the door in her pajamas, and whispers, I miss you. She looks as if she hasn’t gotten out of bed all day. Ratchet cries ugly tears and they have sex in the entry way, on the thin carpet. The intensity of Ratchet’s need is violent. After, they take a bath together and Lana admits that she’s been seeing someone in particular, and a few other people in general. I’m trying to figure out what I want, she says as she dissolves bath bubbles with her finger. Ratchet smacks the water like a child and enjoys the sting of it against her palm, smacking until it becomes ridiculous and her hands sink, aching, below the surface. Lana stretches back against the tub, across from Ratchet, her blonde curls sticking to the sides of her face, her lips red from kissing, her collarbone still a thing that can take Ratchet’s breath away. She watches Ratchet with the calm of a person watching a television show and Ratchet thinks she is going to be sick. Ratchet says, Is any of it serious? Do any of them know about me?

Lana laughs, a force of air from her throat, and says bitterly, They don’t know much about me. I prefer it that way. And then, as she lowers herself into the water, I can’t stand the thought of being in love again.

Ratchet climbs out of the tub and puts her clothes on without drying, leaving Lana scrambling to get dressed, calling out Wait, please, let’s talk.

Ratchet goes straight to Emma’s house. She stands in the living room and cries but they don’t talk about why. Emma helps her undress and climb into bed, kisses her hot forehead and lets her sleep. When Ratchet wakes up, Emma is at the kitchen table, the tarot cards spread before her. She looks over, and says, Do you want some tea?

Ratchet shakes her head. I’m sorry, she says. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

It’s okay, Emma says. She walks over to the bed and stretches out next to Ratchet, moving close to her, but Ratchet feels the tears coming again and says, Please. I can’t.

She gets up and puts on her shoes, and without kissing Emma, says goodbye.  

 

Several days later, Lana shows up at Ratchet’s apartment just before the bars close and asks if she can come in. She is tipsy, and had been out on a date. At the bar, she’d started flirting with other women as a sort of game, to see what would happen, and her date had stormed out, furious. She climbs into Ratchet’s bed without taking off her heels, still fully dressed, and says she’s tired and could she just lay down a while?

Ratchet goes to bed a little while later, after pulling off Lana’s shoes and hanging up her coat. In the early morning, Lana wakes and pulls Ratchet close and it’s so natural—like nothing has changed— it doesn’t even occur to Ratchet, until later, they should not have slept together.

 

Ratchet switches to night shifts to avoid being home if Lana shows up again. Emma leaves messages asking if everything is okay. She works in the afternoon, and when their shifts overlap she looks at Ratchet over the short cubicle wall but keeps to her calls. She’s stopped drawing pictures and passing them to Ratchet, who feels guilty for the way she’s treating Emma. One evening, they find themselves alone in the break room.

Hey, Emma says, without looking up from her copy of The Stranger. The fluorescent lights cast everything in a sickening bright.

Ratchet sits down across from Emma and reaches out a hand. Emma, she says.

Emma looks up, but her face is tense with anger. She looks as though she is trying not to cry.

Emma, Ratchet says again, and this time it sounds more like a demand. She hadn’t meant to make it sound angry, and feels terrible when Emma’s eyes grow wet. Hey, she says, speaking more quietly, Do you want to get a drink later? She isn’t sure if she asked because she misses her friend or out of guilt.

Emma looks down at the paper and doesn’t speak. After a moment, she says, Why have you been avoiding me?

I’ve just been dealing with some things, Ratchet says. I’m sorry.

Emma softens her expression and nods, What time are you off?

 

When they kiss, back in Ratchet’s apartment, Ratchet pours forth all of her desire to be loved and worth loving, as if sex is a bout in the larger battle to be worth it. She empties herself of every loving feeling, pushing out love until she feels cleanly hollow of it. In this way, she can give and also clear herself out of anything to give. Ratchet bites and bruises and suckles and kisses. Emma wrestles and smacks and pulls and chokes, until they pull each other finally into a sweetheart hold, spooning as their breathing slows.

After, as they lay together, Ratchet gives away Lana’s secrets like little treasures. She hated her father for being so detached. She never wants to be like her mother, an accessory for her father. She wanted to be fucked from behind while blindfolded. If she was naked, she cried when I kissed her kneecaps. She told me she loved me right before she came, but only  if we’d been fighting. She’s worried she will die and it won’t matter.

Ratchet talks because she thinks it will help, like lancing a wound and letting it weep. After, she is lighter, like what she knew of Lana is a pile of rocks she placed in another person’s pockets. Emma uncurls herself from Ratchet and moves away, not turning around. I don’t want to know these things, she says.

I’m sorry, Ratchet says but she doesn’t reach to pull Emma closer. Instead, she closes her eyes and focuses on the air between them, allowing the space to remain. It shivers between them, a chasm. It is not so hard, the distance, she thinks.   

In the morning, Ratchet wakes to the sound of a knock at her door. It’s early, but she can’t see the clock. Emma shifts, but doesn’t wake. As soon as Ratchet opens the door, Lana walks in as if she no longer needs to be invited. Lana looks disheveled, and her outfit seems more appropriate for a night out than an early morning walk. Ratchet catches her by the arm as she brushes past. Now isn’t a good time, she says.

I was in the neighborhood, Lana says, looking around the living room. Let’s get brunch. She moves toward Ratchet to pull her into a kiss, but Ratchet steps back.

It’s not a good time, Ratchet says. From the bedroom, she hears Emma stirring.

Lana shifts her head, listening. Ratch, she says, squinting her eyes and smirking, do you have an overnight guest? Her tone is playful, almost sarcastic, but Ratchet hears it waver. Under the smirk, she can see a pained expression forming.

Yes, Ratchet says, I do.

Lana whispers, Does she know about me? poking Ratchet in the chest in a way that feels half joke, half accusation. Is it serious?

The shifting from the room grows quiet, and Lana stands frozen, her finger still touching Ratchet’s chest.

I don’t know, Ratchet says. I’m trying to figure out what I want. From behind them, the bedroom door opens. Emma stands in the doorway, looking as though she isn’t sure if she should move forward or go back inside the room.

Hiiiiii, Lana says, stepping away from Ratchet, I’m Lana.

Oh, Emma says. She blinks fast, and puts a hand to her hair to smooth it. She looks defeated. Should I go? Ratchet hadn’t admitted to sleeping with Lana, couldn’t tell Emma she was working her way free of that old love, struggling to climb out from beneath the weight of it.

Ratchet looks at Lana, then at Emma, and the two distinct Ratchets she’s been holding in her mind dissolve.

I’ll go, Emma says, turning to get her things.

Lana looks so pleased with herself, so confident. Ratchet regrets hesitating for even a second. Emma, Ratchet says, stay.

Lana’s face crumples, the confidence replaced with confusion. But, she says, I need to talk to you.

Lana, Ratchet says, You can’t just come here whenever you feel like it.

But Ratch, she says, I need you.

Emma stands in the bedroom doorway. Ratchet can sense the anxiety in the shift of her movements. She thinks about yellow hand clappers and tarot cards, and herself as a heavy stone at the bottom of a steep hill. She thinks about Lana’s kneecaps and wildness, her ability to show up in any space exactly as herself, and how there is an invisible line of energy, like a thread of light, always connecting the two of them in a room. If she’d had a pair of scissors, she would have sliced cleanly through thread, would have cut out all of Emma’s sweet behavior, would have trimmed around the edges of herself, even, to be disconnected from this moment of having to make a choice.

I need to be alone right now, Ratchet says, keeping her eyes on the floor.

Do you want me to go? she hears Emma ask, in a timid voice, from the doorway of the bedroom.

Yes, Ratchet says. As soon as she says it, she understands that although it is a lie, it is the only thing she can say, and she imagines it leading the three of them back to a small happiness, and it is enough.

 -------------------------------------------------
Katie McClendon received her M.F.A in fiction from Purdue University. She is currently working on her first novel, and adjuncting at Indiana University – Kokomo and Loyola University in Chicago. She is a writer, a performative introvert, and a West Coast kid. Although she identifies as a fiction writer, her poems have appeared in Ante Review, Mare Nostrum and Portland Review. Her fiction has been published in SmokeLong Quarterly. One day, she’d like to work on a seven season television show a la Buffy or Six Feet Under. If anyone is looking for someone. To do this. 

 

All Accounts and Mixture: Poetry by Kayla Rae Candrilli

Insulated 

// 
my father, in the business / of construction, ripped open / a million walls, 
gutted them, / pulled the pink insulation / in strips, imagine some meaty / 
intestines or baby back ribs, / something that eats / or can be eaten. 
//
fiber glass, rock / wool, cellulose cancers / of lung meat blackening. / 
this family has a deep / history of emphysema / &  I’ve wrapped my lips / 
around so many cigarettes / my lungs are barrels of pressure / treated 
sawdust, about to burst / red blackened blood all over / the new tongue 
& groove / walls daddy built. 
//
& how my lover will squirm / when I cry out between the strikes / falling 
like a house condemned might / bend me over / a sawhorse, daddy
//
These stories are unrelated / & people keep confusing them. 

 

Safeword

Learning to have sex again is vocabulary 
lists and instructional books ordered off
Amazon. Learning the ropes is reading

the way ropes feel when they braid
into skin—burning braille. Vocabulary is mix
and match. Sub-drop. Fire play. Soft limit. 

At seven years old I would stare into mirrors, 
smack myself in the face to decipher 
how hard I hit and how hard I could be hit. 

Collared. Slave. Switch. Safe-word. 
When your safe-word is basic you call 
it what it is. Not fuchsia, not crimson. Red. 

Red swims upstream when I am beaten.
It paints me in lashes—lightning on a horizon
splitting the roll of mountains, of shoulders. 

I never do what I am told unless I am told
what to do. Malleability, I think, is flexibility. 
Open your legs, she says. Turn around, she says.

Learning to have sex again is translation,
tracking the way one thing becomes another.
My skin becomes her skin, torture becomes 

love, her palms become oceans—Pacific, Atlantic. 
I split open and sail on them. Red becomes us. 
We becomes the word spoken before sleep. 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Kayla Rae Candrilli received a Bachelors and Masters in Creative Writing from Penn State University and is a current MFA candidate at the University of Alabama.  Candrilli was awarded first place in Vela Magazine's non-fiction contest, and is published or forthcoming in The Chattahoochee Review, Puerto del Sol, The Boiler, Dogwood, Pacifica Literary, and others.