To Save a Life

Co-Winner of the Movable / New Ohio Review Writing Contest

by Kari Gunter-Seymour

Featured Art: Aperture, by John Schriner

We did what we could,
hid the bottles, drove what
was left of him deep
into the yawning hollow,
built a campfire, drank water
from a long-handled gourd,
a galvanized bucket.

We set up tents for triage,
counted his breaths, worried
over irregular heartbeats,
sweats, persistent vomiting,
his jacked up adrenal system.

We waited. Listened for a canvas
zipper in the night, each long slow
pull a call to duty, our legs folding
over duct taped camp stools,
tucked tight around the fire,
his gut-punch stories, stenched
in blood and munitions,
overpowering the woodsmoke’s
curling carbons.

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Home Fires

By Anne Kenner

I didn’t want to live on Sonoma Mountain. I was busy in San Francisco, with my job and my children, our friends and activities. Cities had always been my preferred environment; I like the noise and jostling crowds. But Jim needed more room and fewer people, country vistas and wide-open spaces. He wanted privacy and verdure, bike paths and hiking trails. So I agreed to look for them with him, first in Carmel Valley and finally, one afternoon, by myself in Sonoma county.

The real estate agent selected a few houses that fit our careful budget, and pointed to the first on a map, three miles up Sonoma Mountain from the valley floor.

“That one,” I said, “is too remote.”

“Don’t worry,” she assured me, “we won’t stay long.”

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Triage

By Lance Larsen

Featured Art: Fresh Air, by John Schriner

My job is to mow. My job is to coax the prairie
around my  mother-in-law’s house into green
chaos, then decapitate it on Friday till it looks
like carpet. My other job is to say dang
it’s hot and enter the kitchen and sip juice
and nuzzle my beloved at the stove when her
mother’s back is turned—an eighty-seven-year-old
back but still super quick. My beloved
has her own job—open and close the fridge,
push me away, and keep some things
cold like cucumbers and Gouda and yogurt,
and others hot like caramelized onions
and yesterday’s sweet and sour, and pretend
her mother’s Alzheimer’s is a shrine we’ll visit
someday like the Taj Mahal and not daily triage.
I still have other jobs, like having cancer cells
burned from my face at 3:00. Or is it 3:30?
I check my phone. Oh good, 3:30, more time
to decapitate the prairie and sip juice
and maybe swim slippery laps at the rec center.

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Pretends Everything Is Fine

By Beth Andrix Monaghan

Featured Art: Mom, by John Schriner

During my daughter Izzy’s third-birthday party, I was singing “Happy Birthday” when pain clenched my abdomen. At first it felt like a menstrual cramp, but it progressed to constrictions that made me want to lie down on the floor. I forced a smile, reminded myself that I felt close to pretty in my orange-and-white-flowered maternity shirt, and served the cake. Later, at the hospital, they stopped my preterm contractions with an injection and sent me home on bed rest. I was twenty weeks along.

The contractions continued in lesser degrees over the second half of my pregnancy. I spent hours lying on my left side, a position that the nurses on my OB’s triage line said would calm down the cramping. But new problems arose. I kept showing my husband, Patrick, the spot on my right side just below my ribs where I felt like something was ripping inside my stomach. My OB said it was probably just a ligament. 

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The Natural World

by Chris Crockett

Featured Art: Cosmic Eye, by John Schriner

The moon rises
to the left of the kitchen sink.

I go outside to check on
the world’s artistry:

Moths and stars;
bats whose blind ping-pings

pinpoint insects,
accurate as an adding machine.

Horses are head down in the soup
of flooded grass fields;

All day long
they solve their hunger.

Everything partners and trades
nutrients. Billions

unseen in the black roots.
Inaudible hum.

My fingers  keep time
to a barely comprehended

background beat.


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Partition

by Carolina Hotchandani

Featured Art: Fissure, by John Schriner


In your version of the story, people butter their fingers 

with notions of God, splitting India into a smaller India, 

a new Pakistan. The way a single roti’s dough 

is pulled apart, the new spheres, rolled in the palms, 

then flattened. The idea of God—the destroyer of human bonds, 

you will say in the diatribe I know well—the reason for new 

borders, new pain to sprout on either side of a dividing line. 

You’ll go on. I’ll picture the edges of your words blurring 

to a hum as I think of how to wrest your rant from you. 

A rolling pin barrels over dough, widens the soft disc, 

makes it fine. You are fragile. Like a story that stretches 

belief. Like a nation. Like a thin disc of dough that sticks 

to a surface, tearing when it’s peeled back. I don’t know 

how to part the story from the person and keep the person.


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12th and McGraw

By Hillary Behrman

Featured Art: Epidermis, by John Schriner

I moved fast always hoping to slip into the house and up to my room unnoticed. I made it to the first landing of the wide staircase before I heard the pop pop and grind and looked up. My little brother, Alex, was perched above me, kneeling on the long cushioned window seat. His chicken-wing shoulder blades stuck out on either side of his old fashioned undershirt. The afternoon light, filtered through the two-story stained glass window, hit his pale skin and formed a glowing checkerboard of red, yellow and green patches all across the back of his shorn head and bent neck. He gripped the plastic handle of a large Phillips-head screwdriver with both hands, pumping it like a tiny jackhammer straight out from his concave chest, shattering square after square of swirly rainbow glass. He must have been at it for a while, because by the time I reached him the first three rows of bread-slice sized panes were gone.

My brother was a watchful, wary sort of kid, circumspect in all his actions by the age of six in a way I still can’t manage in my thirties. I gave him a quick once over. I didn’t see any blood, so I left him to it. The snap crackle pop of each new shattered pane followed me up the stairs to the next landing and down the long hallway to my room. I wasn’t an idiot or monster. I was fourteen. I got it, Alex’s desire to expose that house to the elements, chip away at its candy colored Victorian shell.

I kept listening until the sounds of Alex’s demolition project stopped. The silence freaked me out way more than his vandalism. I don’t know why. I should have been thinking about broken glass and the paper-thin flesh on the undersides of his skinny wrists all along. But I wasn’t. He had seemed so preternaturally competent back then. I don’t know why I finally had the sense to sprint back down the hall. Alex was curled up on the window seat, his cheek pressed into bits of colored glass. I don’t know why there wasn’t more blood, why the cuts weren’t deeper. I scooped him up and carried him up the stairs.  He stayed limp and floppy until I reached the third floor, where he wrapped his legs tight around my waist.

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Bumping Around

by Eileen Pettycrew

Featured Art: Vaider, by John Schriner

Then I saw a man sheltering from the rain
inside a concrete circle meant to be
a work of art. I didn’t want to think
he was homeless, just a commuter waiting
for the light rail. Forgive me,
I’ve seen trash spilling from hillsides,
tents popping up like mushrooms in the dark.
Mattresses, ripped tarps, lamps, rugs,
metal and plastic twisted into a pile
reaching the top of a broken-down RV.
Last week I saw a flag flying at half-staff
after another mass shooting,
and underneath the flag, an electronic billboard
that said Walk Away from Joint Pain.
Forgive me for thinking it was a signal
to drag my sorry body up and over the wind,
to rise like vapor, like water cycling
around the earth, sky to land and back again,
one big circle that never ends.
Let me feel a little love for everything.
The steaming pile of wood chips, the barren
stumps, the grove of trees still bearing
open wounds from February’s ice storm.
The days I shivered in a cold house,
bumping around in the dark with a flashlight,
hoping the batteries would last.


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The Year After Jeff

By Andrew Polhamus

February

The evening after Jeff hangs himself my friends and I meet up at Stephen and Danny’s new house. We converge in a neighborhood of brick rowhouses and form a circle of denim in a tired living room. There are six or eight of us, not here to sit vigil, but for lack of better ideas and a nagging feeling that we shouldn’t be alone. We speak in the circular logic of boys, too old to be thinking this way by our mid-twenties, but too inexperienced to handle it any better.

“He could’ve called me,” says Kurt, who is taller and more handsome than the rest of us and was closer to Jeffthan anyone. I’m annoyed with myself for noticing how nicely Kurt’s good looks carry grief, turning him from a jock in a t-shirt emblazoned with the name of a hardcore band into something romantic and world-weary.

“He always used to call me,” Kurt says.

“He didn’t call you because he didn’t want to,” I say. “It wasn’t you.”

“It wasn’t that he didn’t want to,” Michael says. “He just didn’t.”

“We don’t know what he wanted.”

“Well, we know he made up his mind.”

“I think we have bed bugs,” Danny says, his heavy Italian brows furrowing. The conversation drifts to pest control for a while.

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Dear Austin,

By Brian Builta

A year after your death we keep receiving college brochures
telling you how nicely you’d fit at certain institutions, under a
pine I guess, or next to a Doric column. The earth would bear
you up. In youth group one of the leaders reads about Jesus
raising Lazarus from death. Lazarus’ sister says to Jesus, If you
had been here, my brother would not have died. Your sister leans over,
says Same. She may be pissed for some time. Sometimes we
think of you as Judas, hanging there, unused coins scattered at
your feet. For a minute it helped to think that God also lost
His son, but then, you know, the resurrection. I’ve been
assured by Fr. Larry Richards you are not in hell. Something
about full consent of the will. The way you made your grandma
heave, though, I’m not so sure. Still, I said a few hundred
thousand Divine Mercy Chaplets for you, so by now you
should be on some beach in Costa Rica blowing through a
palm toward a new day, rising.


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If

By Marie-Claire Bancquart
Translated from French by Claire Eder and Marie Moulin-Salles

We had a ribbon of words to say
like the machines with their coffers of signs
prêt-à-porter.

We would have finished going over them.

Returned to the first ones
we would pronounce them with our renewed body.

Dead horses climb back up the trails.

Silence.

They would carry us finally toward
            our solemn communion with objects.



Featured Art: Eldridge, by John Schriner

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Margins

By Marie-Claire Bancquart
Translated from French by Claire Eder and Marie Moulin-Salles

Eating the apple
I eat enigma
and I glimpse us in the mirror the apple and me
inaccurate and profound.

Something trembles inside us with mouths
of saps and metals.

Long trees
go out from us toward the suburbs of the horizon.

Is it us
at the center?

Or the center of the drift?



Featured Art: Reflection, by John Schriner

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To the Israeli Soldier—

By Emily Franklin

Featured Art: Sur La Plage, by John Schriner

I believe it’s possible to know someone’s name and have them be a stranger. I know you are Ihran, but in this world of being able to locate anyone (elementary school bully, heartbreaker, former colleague), I cannot find you. There’s the cruelty of having you Un-Googleable and also the relief of you receding in the rearview mirror of my past.

France. Summer, 1988. I’m an American studying in Villefranche-sur-Mer; a teenager unmoored, supposedly learning to be more fluent in French, but really gathering intel—where to buy oversized icy beer down the hill in the dark, a shack where the old French men gather in stained overalls and barely register me—seventeen and desperate to keep from being fully seen. I tuck my face behind a swathe of blonde hair and order beers – ten francs each – for me and the friends I’ve made. Anandi is Canadian-Indian, Caroline is Korean-American, Everly is from the American South with the drawl to prove it.  I’m just blue-eyed and blonde, a master at sourcing beer or soft cheese or finding the hidden beach where we wind up the following day.

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Ice Cream

Co-winner of the Movable / New Ohio Review Writing Contest

By Kandi Workman

Featured Art: He’s Got the Works, by John Schriner

“Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.” – Simone Weil

1
“Drop ’em dead like a dealer.”

“What’s that mean?” I asked.

He turned his slim face away from me, looked toward the muddy Elk River flowing with ease, shifted himself around on the cement ledge, kicking his dangling legs back and forth, bouncing rubber heels off the wall. We’d been sitting there for a while, talking, enjoying the late afternoon in early Spring. In the low light from the sun, the black-lined ice cream cone tattoo on the right side of his face, high on his cheek bone, just under his eye, stood out. I sometimes forget it’s there. 

“Drop ‘em dead. That’s when your sales go up. It’s really fucked up. Addicts find out your shit killed somebody, they want your stuff. That’s just how it works.”

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What We Did at the End of the World

By Sunni Brown Wilkinson

We played charades to words we’d forgotten. We made a fire of them with our hands.
We wrote songs on the piano, gave them names like “Fox and Mouse” and “Lightning Chase.”
We watched our parakeets dance in front of their tiny yellow-framed mirror.
We watched them sleep, three on a perch, with their quick beaks tucked in.
We made bread. The top cracked open and we peeled it back and spread butter on
and ate it. We didn’t wear shoes. We wrapped ourselves in scarves.
We opened birthday cards to listen to the music hiding
behind the plastic button. We opened and closed, opened and closed until the songs grew tinny.
We gathered snail shells from the garden. 47. We saw one naked at the base of the daisies.
We made music with ice and water and glasses. We hummed under the covers at night.
We waved tree branches like arms. We waved at the stars. We waved at our silent neighbors.
We taped song lyrics to doors. We swept the fuzz from the rugs
into piles of gray hair. We lifted them carefully when they huddled together like a nest.
We listened at the door of an uncracked egg.
We watched the quail scurry across the street, that one feather on their heads quivering
in the wind like the feathers of great ladies in the movies we watched at night.
We dreamed of the sea untangling its wide blue braids.
We opened our mouths in the morning and salt leaked out.
We called each other dear and laughed at words like rudbeckia. We planted
rudbeckia. We danced like it. We wore yellow too.
Just before we flew away, we were mirrors. That deep. That true.


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