Illuminati Girl Gang out now with my poems in
I go to the pool to see her. The orange girl. I call her this because she is. The unreal color of fruit.
I live in a building that is as big as a block. It used to be a factory, I guess. It is full of people with very small dogs. The halls are long and clean and smell like dog shit.
In the pool I float on my back. The water is so chlorinated that when I shower it off afterwards my eyes burn from the run-off. I float on my back in the pool in the south and look at the sky.
There are cats that live in the courtyard. Eight of them. A ninth showed up last week but there are only ever eight piles of food, so. The last cat is black and white. Larger. Everyone knows he’s not meant to be here.
On my back I see a too blue sky. There is dark around the edges. I am pleased by it and worried. The darkness and rumbles. If I don’t see the girl. Whose name is probably Jenna. Straight hair in a straight cut. The word which looks so much like another.
The room I live in is painted red. Or ochre. I don’t know. It’s a deep fake color not like any fruit, not exactly. I look like a small bird in the room. Or feel like one, surrounded by cats. Waiting to be eaten.
There are pitter-patters all the time. Rain, small dog feet. The sounds of marbles being rolled back and forth, a floor above. When I go to sleep, I can hear a sheet of water sloshing back and forth above me. I know it is a toilet flushing but imagine a room two inches deep with clear water. There are no dogs here, or cats. A golden fish which never shits or dies.
I see a sky with a horrible sheen. It comforts me to know the danger. Coming. If I pressed myself against the hard jet of water.
Alone in my room I wear a long dress. The girl is surely at work. I am not, do not, am not. A small pain pinches off my left hip. An egg. I go to the pool to see.
I need a horrible sky but here there is not. When I hear the dogs and rain I miss the up-there, its predictable cool. I step into the water, float into the water, water down the day with a wet wrath. My hair in a matted wreath about my empty head.
The building is all exposed brick and long legs. I-beams jut out of the walls, what pretense. Of course this is what won me to it. In the absence of the real, the rusted copy. But the appearance of life just deadens, no, deadpans.
See her walking. Unbearably. Little spikes cobbling over the street. But her eyes are grey and this becomes brighter.
The cats know me. They don’t know me. After a month of watching rain fill the little bowl I leave out. Of squatting on the ground. Of moving snails out of water swells. One cat comes close. What’s called tortoise-shelled, but really is the color of mixing chocolate and woody moss, different dilutions of milk in ruddy coffee, a burning and churned. Coming close to see and moving snails I name her Iris Rainbow and crush one under my wobbling street cleats. An accident.
In the water she sits on a brick ledge and gasps. Her breathing. My own room is ruddy too.
For days. Days through which I am quiet. Gasping. Days rasp forwards. For days I watch the water.
The day I will tell about is this. She came. Orange Jenna in her pink bikini. She shines with water though she is not wet. I am on my back, looking at the blue sky, not hating it. O.J. watches nothing but grows. She crooks her long arm around to unhook the pink neck.
In another life I am biking alongside the river. A real place. Each block rising as high as humanly possible. Just as high as possible. The buildings there fill with little dots and paint over. Sometimes I go high into the sky with that paint. See other buildings and the thickest water gilding deeply.
In this one her back dips so uniformly. Iris Rainbow speckles the brick. Down here we are fake orange. Colored in.
Anne Marie Rooney is the author of Spitshine (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2012), and The Buff (The Cupboard, 2011). Her writing has been featured in the Best New Poets and Best American Poetry anthologies. Born and raised in New York City, she currently lives in New Orleans, where she is a teaching artist.
"Drank A Pine Tree"
In a week you can so love someone
Take them to the woods
Wrap them in a fur cloak
Point out tremendous lichen
Singe a steak bone
Then move into the woods
This is an experiment
Like a sugared nut that settles the stomach
Like how the planets are confused
This is why a dull tuft of grass greeted us this morning
This is why the doctor saw a sickly robin
The world is ending in preparation for a new one
The dumbest luxury we invented were cruise ships
and drinks of electric colors
I am sure of this
Like how God is on a mountain
On all the mountains at once
How he hides from us
Because we are terrible to eachother
Like how we say, this book is for you
And for you, and for you
But it is for no one in particular
"You Should See My White Vest"
My dad said it looks like a woven cloud
And my mother laughed and laughed
Your father is a lamp! Is a table!
He is under a curse
He is secretly leaving the country
and we must intercept him
Before he throws paint on the Vatican’s ceiling
Before he rips off the Pope’s rings
He should see my sloppy garden
My hot soup
He should see the way I drift in the house
Smoke in my ears
A sugar cube in my mouth
How I poison myself with dove meat
He should see my doves
Their enormous cages in my house
On top of the house
A large yellow parrot in my basement
He should see my projects
My origami fortress
My other origami fortress
Natalie Lyalin is the author of Pink & Hot Pink Habitat ( Cocounut Books, 2009) and the chapbook, Try A Little Time Travel (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010). She is a co-editor for Agnes Fox Press. She teaches at the University of the Arts and lives in Philadelphia.
a magazine of 18
a terminus 8
adjoins more prizes 21
again 8, 23, 25
all around 13, 23
and a hand 31
and a resemblance 14
and action and voices 19
and Caesar 30
and emergencies 47
and roses 4
and the intention 30
asks many more 26
can change to filling petunia 60
can perform aquatics 53
can see the condition 47
comes extra 32
for me 26, 27
go around 24
has a dress 34
has charm 6
has sparks 25
in a flash 59
in a mess 34
in order 34
in reserve 47
makes a sound 13
oh yes 17, 25
says pardon 33
to a throne 27
to me 11, 15, 19
to please me 22
together 8, 17
try again 10
until tomorrow 19
very well 25
with firmness and pride 32
with industry beside 32
you don’t say so 25
yes address me 29
yes Miss 29
exactly 22, 37
naturally 35, 42, 43
naturally celebrates 25
separately all day 27
(an instant of) 9
(careful don’t say anything) 19
(cherished and flattered) 35
(does that astonish you) 15
(don’t think of it) 32
(enormously and with song) 61
(I have no use for) 11
(I say) 27
(in time) 24
(keep it) 17
(mentions the bee) 45
(reminder of present duties) 43
(such a good example) 29
(the best and only seat) 43
(the charm) 43
(the hill above) 11
(three eggs in) 55
(very fatiguing) 14
(what is earnest) 17
Lifting Belly is
a chance 48
a credit 54
a great luxury 18
a language 17
a miracle 48, 52
a persuasion 18
a picnic 11
a special pleasure 14
a success 14
a third 18
a way of sitting 16
all there 7, 12
all right 13
an acquisition 16
an exercise 13
an expression 16
an occasion (to please me) 9
current rolling 15
easy to me 43
famous for recipes 52
favored by me 35
for me 48
full of charm 41
hilarious, gay and favourable 9
in bed 59
most kind 22
my joy 14, 29
necessarily venturesome 42
no joke 6, 9
not an invitation 32
not noisy 16
not so kind 13
not startling 19
not very interesting 7
so a measure of it all 11
so able to be praised 11
so accurate 6, 32
so adaptable 16
so bold 43
so careful 13
so clear 12
so cold 6
so consecutive 12
so dear 13, 20, 53
so droll 16
so erroneous 6
so exact and audible 18
so exciting 26
so generous 54
so good 37
so high 7
so kind 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 32, 42, 47, 55
so kind to many 10
so kind to me 10
so long 15
so near 13
so necessary 9
so nice 26
so pleased 56
so orderly 36
so recherché 27
so round 24
so satisfying 12, 15
so scarce 9
so seen 15
so simple 13
so soothing 10
so successful 54
so strange 21, 53
so strong 6, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17
so strong and willing 10
so strong and yet waiting 10
so sweet 12, 58
so warm 13
such a reason 16
such a windmill 11
such an incident in one’s life 9
such an experiment 13
such exercise 9
the only spectacle present 17
the understanding 16
to jelly 20
Page numbers refer to the 1989 edition of Lifting Belly by Gertrude Stein (Naiad Press, Tallahassee). Astrid Lorange writes on indexes and Gertrude Stein, and is currently finishing her dissertation, which is a critical index of Stein. She was previously written Eating and Speaking, Minor Dogs, and Pussy pussy pussy what what. She lives in Sydney, Australia.
At 8am Catherine called me. Catherine is my manager at the dungeon. We get along fine for the most part, but it was strange for her to be calling me this early in the morning- most men don’t want to get abused until after noon. I was drinking coffee with Anna when she called. Most mornings Anna and I drink coffee together.
“Hey,” she said, sounding breathy, panicked.
“Hey Catherine, what’s up?”
“Lulu got in a fight with Hector last night, we are at the police station. I’ve been here all night, so I’m going home soon. She’ll be at work around noon, probably.”
“Can you take her home with you tonight, after work? She doesn’t have anywhere to stay right now.”
“Oh, sure. Yeah go sleep, I’ll see you tomorrow maybe.”
Anna was calmly staring at me when I got off the phone.
“What did you just agree to babe?”
I don’t know how she knew. It must have been my tone. Anna is one of those insightful people who can decipher feelings just listening to the tone of your speech.
“My friend Lucia got beat up by her boyfriend again, but it sounds like this time she is pressing charges. She needs a place to stay for a while,” I said, knowing before I finished saying it that Anna was going to be uncomfortable.
“You know how dangerous this is, right?”
“Yes.” I lied. It hadn’t occurred to me until right then that Hector was violent and obsessive and that sometimes people can make bail.
“She can’t stay here.”
I looked at my coffee while I thought of what to say next.
“I know that sounds cold. My family is coming in three days. We have spent so many years not living in chaotic homes anymore, and my mother worked so hard for us to be safe. I just can’t put my family in that kind of danger,” she said. She looked so unhappy just then.
“I know. I’m so sorry. I didn’t even think of you.” I wanted badly to cry at that moment, but it wasn’t appropriate, so I just kept staring at my coffee.
“It’s okay. You just want to help her.”
“Can she stay for two days? Until I can arrange for her to stay in a shelter or something? Please? She has nowhere right now.” I kept trying to look up but it felt impossible to take my eyes off my coffee while I pleaded.
“Alright. Are you sure he’s incarcerated right now?”
“Yes.” I lied again.
Anna got up and walked to the bathroom. She ran her hand over my shoulder as she walked past, and then closed the door. I called Rachel and arranged for her to pick Lucia and I up from work so we could try to get some of her things out of her apartment.
That night Lucia slept in my bed. It turned out her boyfriend was incarcerated with three felony accounts because he pointed a loaded gun at her head during the fight. We tried to go to her apartment to get her things, but their roommate changed the locks. Our police escorts banged on the door with their batons shouting “Police!” but no one answered. I was sure that the neighbors were all standing still just behind their doors, looking through the peepholes at us. I wanted to go slap every door in the hall when I looked at Lucia, whose legs were shaking. Nothing happened. We all looked at each other. The policemen looked just as lost as we did just then and we felt like a bunch of children who had run out of games to play but still had plenty of daylight. After a while I shrugged and turned away towards the stairs.
“It’s fine, I don’t want my things anymore,” she said to me while she followed the policemen down the stairs. On the way down the three flights of stairs in the Bronx I caught one of the policemen looking at my legs. It was the same man who asked us all what our ethnicities were before we went over to the apartment. We answered him: half-Italian half-Swedish, half-German half-English, and half-Puerto Rican half-Irish. That was stupid of him, I thought, my legs are too skinny to peek at, he should have looked at my tits. We walked to the car with Rachel. There was a ticket on the window because she parked in front of a fire hydrant.
“Where are you girls going now?” the policeman who looked at my legs asked.
“To my place, back in Bushwick,” I said to him. I was hoping he would offer to fix the ticket for us but he didn’t.
“From the Bronx to Bushwick? No wonder you girls get guns pressed to your heads.” We all shrugged and stepped in the car and drove to Bushwick in the middle of the night.
Lucia sat in the backseat. She was quiet for most of the ride home. She stared out the window when we went over the bridge. I tried to point out the big red moon to her but she was in a daze while looking at the city skyline. It felt strange to see someone who was a native New Yorker stare at the skyline like that. Most people from here don’t look anymore. I kept reaching my arms behind the seat to squeeze her legs. “Hi,” she would say, in this little tiny child voice. I just kept thinking about how much I hoped that Anna would be asleep by the time we got home.
Benny and The Jets came on the radio and Rachel and Lucia both made excited little squeals. For a little bit everyone seemed comfortable and normal. I turned up the volume hoping that if it were louder things might get a little better. We all sang the chorus as loud as we could, but it would become awkward right after, because no one knew the rest of the words and Lucia would go back to watching the skyline until it couldn’t be seen anymore.
The toll to enter Brooklyn was five dollars and there was a moment when Rachel was digging through her quarters to see if she had enough and we all got quiet. I wondered what happened to people who arrive at a tollbooth and don’t have the fee. Right as we pulled up to the window Lucia pushed a five-dollar bill up front and I felt shitty taking it, like I should have been more prepared. We had to take it from her because neither of us had five dollars on us and we were all tired and wanted to go to bed. I thought for a while after that about being a mother some day. Suddenly, it seemed like a really bad idea.
At home there was nothing to drink. Anna was either asleep or not there. Rachel left. Lucia and I walked her out, and then walked to the bodega. I told her about my neighborhood on the walk. How children out number adults, how summers are crowded, how even the drug dealers care enough to walk me home when I am drunk late at night. We arrived at the small late hours window.
“Two forties of Olde English, thanks papi,” I said.
Lucia pulled money out of her purse. I tried to get mine faster.
“I got this honey,” I said to her. She winced.
The man shuffled to the back of the store and came back with our malt liquor. We had already placed a five-dollar bill on the lazy susan inside the bulletproof glass, waiting for him to give us our drinks. He had no front teeth and Lucia liked it when he talked.
Inside my apartment we sat at the red kitchen table and talked about things that didn’t have a lot of meaning, but it wasn’t small talk either. Lucia played with the little scraps of paper and stupid figurines lying around. Her fingers looked pretty to me. I didn’t want her to cry anymore. She was a good sport. We drank our forties until they were gone and we felt tired.
“Do you want to sleep in my bed with me Lu?” I asked her, trying not to sound too worried.
“Is it okay? I can sleep on the futon.”
“I want you next to me.”
“Okay, yeah, me too.”
We undressed in my room and then took turns shuffling quietly back and forth to the bathroom to do things like brush our long hair and wash off our make up. When we would pass each other I kept thinking about life changing or comforting things to say, but when the sentences came together in my head they all sounded like a cheap self-help book you find in the check out lane at the grocery store. We stayed silent and crawled into bed together.
Lucia turned away from me. I thought she might cry. I expected it, but she didn’t. I watched her breathe, evenly and with what seemed like precision. After a while I knew she was asleep. I pressed my belly to her back slowly and then put my arm around her. In the morning I woke up that way, still. I don’t think either of us moved at all for nine hours.
I got out of bed and smoked a cigarette on the balcony. Anna was making coffee when I came into the kitchen.
“You know, statistically speaking, she’s probably going to go back to him,” she said while starting the stove. I could see that Anna didn’t like having to say what she was saying. I thought of all the stories she told me about her father being in and out of prison, in quick succession, trying to piece something together of all the sad information I had acquired from the women I knew, but failing completely.
“Yeah, I know. So what should I do?”
“I really don’t know.”
When I came back into the room she had finally moved. She was on her back with the covers kicked off and her soft little arm above her head. She was sleeping still, but it seemed like a shallow sleep. I moved really slowly when I got back in bed with her and laid on my stomach. The sun was coming in through my white gauze curtains. Her black hair looked blue and her face was almost as white as Xerox paper. The morning light is the nicest in my little apartment. By the afternoon it’s grey and too soft. I decided to watch her chest rise and fall as long as I could before the light would shift and become ugly, and then we would have to leave. Back outside, with too much daylight left.
It was about an hour before she woke up. She looked at me and stretched, rubbing the tops of her feet on the bottoms of mine for a second. The whole time I’d been watching her I was trying not to plan out what I was about to say, but I couldn’t stop myself from running over all the possible reactions that it was about to have.
“Hey girl, we need to be at work in an hour, let’s get up. I made you coffee.”
“Oh,” she said, not really a part of the day yet. I tried to look cheerful. I got her the coffee I had made.
“So, you can only stay here for two more days. Anna has family coming and she feels a little uncomfortable with the whole situation. You know, we want to help. Maybe you and I could call in sick today and just look for new places for you to stay. Or we could go to work and worry about it later. It’s up to you, I guess.”
Lucia stared at a stack of books and reached out to touch their spines while I talked. She sat up and blew on her coffee, which was already tepid. We sat there quiet for longer than was comfortable. I got up and grabbed my towel. I held it up in her view and motioned to the bathroom, “I’ll be back in like, twenty minutes.” Lucia nodded and I walked away.
When I came out of the shower no one was there. I looked around and couldn’t find any of Lucia’s things. On the kitchen table I found a note.
I’ve decided to stay with my aunt, who lives on Long Island, for the week. Lucia can stay a while longer than expected. My family is with me. Please tell her she is free to stay in my room for the next eight days or so. I love you.
After reading I sat at the table, wrapped in my towel for a long time. I thought Lucia might be getting breakfast from the bodega or maybe tampons or something. An hour passed quickly while I played with the little figurines we keep at the table to make it look more cheerful. Lu never came back. I called work, told them I would be in a few hours late. I asked if Lu was there. She wasn’t. I called a few other people. No one had seen her. It became dark outside and I never went to work. Eventually I got dressed and walked around the apartment until I was sure I wouldn’t see Lucia again. The pajamas I lent her were neatly folded on the end of my bed. I smelled them and they still smelled like her. I changed into them, with a guilty feeling that what I was doing was perverse. I went to bed, but didn’t sleep.
Kendra Grant Malone was born in 1984. Her first book of poetry, Everything is Quiet, was published by Scrambler Books in 2010. Her second book of poetry, Morocco, co-written with Matthew Savoca was published by Dark Sky Books in 2011. She lives in Brooklyn.
I wondered if it was possible I’d been older once. When I turned 14, I felt sure I’d already lost my virginity, but I couldn’t remember specifics of even having kissed a boy. I felt experienced, but I didn’t remember enough to bother with all the courtship needed to be sure, so I just went on believing. I remember sitting on the lawn and trying to work my fingers into the earth, and getting my hands buried deep enough that my wrists felt cool within it, and I remember the effort it took to pull them up, and thinking for a second that these weren’t my hands. My hands had been different. I remember thinking they looked longer now, that the palms opened wider. I remember thinking I might never be the same. I stared up at the sun until I noticed the light burning my eyes, and I closed them, pulled my dirty hands to my face to find some darkness. When I opened my eyes again, everything looked clearer. I could see veins in my legs that were closer to the surface than they’d been before. The grass looked sharper. The dirt clumped in pillowy mounds around the holes in which I’d hidden my hands. I could feel a face right in front of my own, but I was alone, and I knew that if I wasn’t alone, it was just some other version of myself that was nearby. I remember feeling breath on my cheeks, and running inside, my muscles tight, the door taking too long to swing shut. I sat on my hands on the nice pastel floral couch and I massaged my memory, trying to remember how long I’d been outside, trying to remember when I’d last eaten. I looked for all of my answers in the world. I stood to look out the window. I memorized the empty garden and closed my eyes, trying to imagine I was seeing myself sitting out there. I tried to imagine I was both inside and outside, and I paced my memory like that alone for an unsure amount of time. I fell asleep on the living room carpet, and woke when my mother arrived home. She was shaking me. She thought I’d passed out. I woke confused. She looked at my hands and ushered me into the kitchen. She washed my fingers gently, with warm water and soap that smelled like tea, scrubbing my nails with the nailbrush she used after gardening. She put me to bed and in the morning there were no smudges on the sofa and the holes where I’d buried my hands in the yard had swallowed themselves.
Jac Jemc’s first novel, My Only Wife, will be released from Dzanc Books in April 2012. Jac is also the author of a chapbook of stories, These Strangers She’d Invited In, that sold out at Greying Ghost Press last year and the poetry editor of decomP Magazine. She blogs her rejections at jacjemc.com.