New Ohio Review Issue 19 (Originally Published Spring 2016)

Newohioreview.org is archiving previous editions as they originally appeared. We are pairing the pieces with curated art work, as well as select audio recordings. In collaboration with our past contributors, we are happy to (re)-present this outstanding work.

Issue 19 compiled by Connor Beeman.

Letter to Gone Lover, Late May

By Laura Maher

Featured Art: Idle Governer by Horatio C. Forjohn

If I needed to make a list for you
of all the beautiful things that have gone
on since you’ve left, the first thing

would be the line of bats leaving
the bridge at sunset, hundreds,
flying into the sky until they disappeared,

the effect making the mountains
to the west look more like a scrawled
suggestion of words than a skyline.

Read More

Revery

by Elizabeth Murawski

Featured Art: Sunset by Frederic Edwin Church

Too many women to count
rode behind him in helmets,
clung to his waist, wedded

to the wind in the dark
as the bike’s headlight pierced
the wooded hills, scaring

a deer, sending up an owl
in an explosion of wings.
I knew there were others

in line, grateful to share
one hour with the blue-eyed sun-god
worshiped for his light.

Always the nagging fear
he was never really there.
I saved his green bandanna for a year.


Read More

Prayer While Driving Home After My Yearly Physical

By Robert Cording

Featured Art: The Pink Cloud by Henri-Edmond Cross

Sixty-six, my shoulders rounded, my arches flattening,
I am, Lord, a small man, now a full inch shorter,
I’m told, than I once was. And so I pray

that my end-of-life diminishment might prove
the occasion
for some late opening of my cramped borders,
this no-exit, small country of the self.

Lord, what I wouldn’t give for a lifting up
to be free of this strange human gift of making
something less out of something,

Read More

The Stability of Floating Bodies

By Craig Bernardini

Featured Art: Dublin Pond, New Hampshire by Abbott Handerson Thayer

It was never my intention, when my father came to live with us, that he would live in the pond. Things just worked out that way. This was shortly after my mother died. My wife and I had never really spoken about what we would do in the event that one of our parents died. It had always seemed a little premature to have that discussion, at least where my parents were concerned. They were in their mid-seventies, enviably lucid, and as healthy, according to their physicians, as most Americans ten years their junior. But then maybe it always seems too early to have that discussion. Or maybe it was just that I could never imagine them apart. They had done everything together, my parents, gone everywhere together. There had been something almost tyrannical in their solicitousness about each other’s welfare. One day, it occurred to me that I didn’t have a single picture with just one of them in it. Were I ever to try to crop one of them out, the other would remain in the shape of the border traced by my scissors. Growing together, my mother had said to me not long before she passed, was the key to a healthy relationship; and grow together they had, like skinny trees, the trunks of which wound round each other in acts of mutual strangulation.

Read More

Sky

By Luiza Flynn-Goodlett

Featured Art: Dark Clouds by Louis Eilshemius

The caul we’re born beneath, its gaze drives
mystics to fits. Constant as parents never are,
it blinks back cumulus to examine us, offers
no opinion. Unlike old gods, nothing troubles
it—rains withheld, not censure, just drought.
Some tire of scrutiny, shelter in offices, under
newspapers. It doesn’t mind, proffers an open
eye to all—the seabirds that caw at its margins,
delayed ships, the drowned who clawed toward it.


Read More

Black Ants

By Fay Dillof

Featured Art: Crumpled and Withered Leaf Edge Mimicking Caterpillar (study for book Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom) by Emma Beach Thayer

Unable to sleep,
I imagine a blob
of ants, erupting
from a faucet.

If they puddle,
that will mean sleep.

But if each ant
descends on a crumb,
steals what it can
and lumbers robotically off,
which they do,
branching in veins across the tile floor,
then I’m left
listening to the sound
of my two sisters
downstairs
in the summer kitchen
where they’re making
my mother laugh
without me
again,
carrying their prize
over invisible trails.


Read More

Etymologies

By Krista Christensen

Featured Art: Abstract — Woman by Carl Newman

It is out of a need for precision that I search for words, wading through thesauri and dictionaries and            -pedias, crawling into the tunnels of -ologies and -onomies and -ectomies, mining deep for a more accurate reflection of self than dry medical terms like bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.

I’m not even sure how to pronounce that last word, though it’s a thing that’s been done to me. Perhaps the two o’s bleed together into one sound, like the two o’s in moon, my two ovaries like white orbs hovering in one sky: oophorectomy. Or possibly the two o’s mirror the guttural softness of the pair in brook, like the one tinkling through the lot behind my home: oophorectomy.

Read More

Lieu d’hiver mémoire

By Angie Estes

Featured art: The Sky Simulated by White Flamingoes (study for book Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom) by Abbott Handerson Thayer

You can find them each year
                for a brief while only
in winter—a drop of red and yellow
                              sealing wax dashed at the end of
                 their stems to prevent the loss
of moisture—because the squat,    
             copper-russeted pears of the ancient
variety Passe Crassane will not ripen
                                 on the tree no matter how long
                you let them hang, as if they had taken
St. Catherine of Siena’s advice
                 to Make yourself a cell in your
own mind from which you need never
                               come out, the way the goldfish
            on late autumn evenings
circle all night, flicking
                their tails in the fireplace.

Read More

Stick Season

By Sydney Lea

-for Peter Gilbert

the one that precedes my season is the one that always shows
in those quaint calendar photographs, the one that brings the tourists
to a scene that is sumptuous, granted—exorbitant on the sidehills,
most of the leaves incandescent, drifting or plunging downward
to scuttle along the roadbeds like little creatures reluctant
to be seen, yet wanting us to notice them after all.

But give me this: middle November, season of sticks,
of stubborn oak and beech leaves, umber and dun, which rattle
in gusts that smell so elemental they stab your heart.
The trees—the other, unclothed ones—are standing there,
gaunt but dignified, and you can look straight through them
to the contours of the mountains, stark, perhaps, but lovely

Read More

Good for What Ails You

By Elton Glaser

Featured Art: Winter, Monadock by Abbott Handerson Thayer

He too would live: like the rats among the ruins,
but nonetheless alive.
                               —Antal Szerb, trans. Len Rix

It’s the first fresh day
After a winter so hard
I disappeared inside myself,

Nothing out there but cardinals
Like drops of blood against
The creamy desecrations of the snow.

Ah, there’s the shit we need,
And the shit we don’t need,
And the shit we end up with.

I seem to be returning to
Some form of infantile intelligence,
On the sloppy side of the brain:

Read More

A Meadow

By Lee Upton

Featured Art: Autumn (L’Automne) by Arthur B. Carles

The wife isn’t supposed to know, but Lucy knew. She knew about her husband and her best friend, Maria. Had known for nearly two years. And now Maria’s brother—a stranger—was coming to visit. Did he know about Maria and Owen? Did he think he was visiting to reveal the affair, to confess on Maria’s behalf? Lucy hoped not. She would resent that.

Read More

Phone Call

By Stephanie Rodgers

Featured Art: Figure with Guitar II by Henry Fitch Taylor

When I got the phone call, I listened
to my sister’s voice give
no hint, at first, that overnight,
like that, her life had changed.
I said hello and flipped through
a book on the nightstand, knowing
deep down, from all my missed
calls, that she was preparing
to tell me something
important. How are you? I asked,
trying to delay what I knew already
I didn’t want to hear. And after
her silence, then, I sat straight up—I was still
in bed—my eyes blinking
awake, the automatic
coffee pot dripping into the quiet,
and I said it: What’s wrong, Heather?

Read More

We Remember You for Now

By Stephanie Rodgers

Featured Art: Figurative Abstraction by Unknown

Now when my heart beats, it sounds like
crunched leaves skittering, the revving up

of a broken-down Honda. I can’t visit him
at a cemetery, or even the park. Scatter

my ashes there, he asked, and then injected
god knows how much, enough to warrant

a coroner call. Hahaha. Joke is Heather said nope,
stuffed and stored him in the back

of our mother’s closet. He lives there now,
sucking up the radiator heat. Joel, damn,

man. Come back and lick the spilt fizz off
the Budweiser can again. No one here

Read More

Necessaries

By Tina Tocco

Featured Art: Still Life by Earl Horter

We’re in Omaha when I know. You’re out bootlegging—running, you call it—for that man from Tinker’s, a deacon at First Baptist, he says, though his name is Kinsky. I curl on a cardboard cot imagining my quilt from Pomeroy’s when the big Chicago woman, hair steam-strung from the laundry pots, stands downwind. “Only two reasons to stay with a man, but only one to stay with a man like that.” She has brought the necessaries. They clink in a feed sack the pattern of girls’ dresses. There is not much for me to do, but I do it quietly. It’s one jug of Tinker’s mash for quietly. The Boston girl, she warns, paid three.


Read More

That Boy’s a Catch

By Tina Tocco

Featured Art: Country Road in France by Henry Ossawa Tanner

“Your daddy and I just figured all this nonsense would be over by now.”

My mother has just dropped six spoonfuls of instant coffee into a mug filled with hot water from the bathroom sink. Her spoon chinks and chinks and chinks and chinks the side with the chip. I sip the tea I brought from Berkeley.

“You’re thirty-one, Tanya Grace. I hope someone’s told you what that means.”

My father has read what he can of the newspaper. He has shaved off the end of his pencil and is circling the houses locked in foreclosure. He and Uncle Rex can be in and out in under an hour, the knobs and faucets silent in the sacks my mother sews.

“Four sweatshirts wide,” she used to tutor, “so the stuff don’t clang so much, like.”

Read More

The Present

By Billy Collins

Featured Art: Oak Leaf Edge Caterpillar (study for book Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom) by Gerald H. Thayer

Much has been said about being in the present. I
t’s the place to be, according to the gurus,
like the latest club on the downtown scene,
but no one, it seems, is able to give you directions.

It doesn’t seem desirable or even possible
to wake up every morning and begin
leaping from one second into the next
until you fall exhausted back into bed.

Plus, there’s the past to wander in,
so many scenes to savor and regret,
and the future, the place you will die
but not before flying around with a jet-pack.

Read More

A Box of Records

By James Haug

Someone placed a box of records by the curb because it was hoped that someone would want to take them away. They’re records no one wants but maybe someone will want them. Someone driving will stop. Someone walking will stop. That is the pleasure of looking through records. Then the sun clears the tree across the street and shines on the records and makes the colors of the record jackets festive even as it robs them of their pigments. Someone will stop and rescue them from the sun. Someone will look up at the empty house behind the box of records at the curb to see if someone is watching. The people on the jackets smile and smile with their best hair, maintaining resolve all night in a box by the curb. Someone will stop and bring them home and listen to what they have to sing. Someone will carry them off out of the rain. Someone will spread them on the grass to dry.

Read More

My This, My That

By Sarah Brown Weitzman

Featured Art: Paris Bridge by Arthur B. Carles

To live in the moment is probably good advice.
What else is there but the now
of which nothing will remain but memory
already fading and unreliable.
My past is a pile of losses: parents, pets,
childhood, a hometown, ideals, and god.
Born to a countdown yet I make claims
to “my this” and “my that.”

But what can we ever possess?
Last night’s symphony, the blurred faces
of our dead, the way the wind slid
through the dogwoods of youth
are what we may possess just as the sun
possesses the windowglass it shines through.

Read More

Pie

By Micheal Chitwood

Featured Art: Main Street, Montreal by Louis Wiesenberg

That his old Impala still ran
was a miracle. The blue puff of exhaust
and the way the engine rattled on
for a minute or two when he turned off the ignition.
A miracle. He shaved maybe once a week.
And his clothes. The wrinkles and stains
held them together.
But he came to the diner every Tuesday.
Where he got money no one knew.
He would nurse his black coffee
and have a piece of pie.
He wanted to talk about God,
mostly to the county deputies having lunch,
who talked to him as a way of keeping an eye on him.
“God’s grandeur is in his silence,” he told them.
“And the silence is immense and not all that quiet.”
He looked into the bowl of a spoon
as if he was looking into a river.
The deputies joshed with him.
They told the waitresses he was harmless
if a bit ripe.
There was plenty of coffee.
Sometimes a waitress would give him another wedge of pie,
cold lemon, warm apple with a dollop of whipped cream.
The deputies paid, winked, and left.
The leather of their holsters squeaked.
Outside, the afternoon filled the sky.

 


Read More

Safety

By Catherine Carberry

Featured Art: Abstract – Two Women With Tennis Racquets by Carl Newman

When we came to Montana we weren’t going to be cooks, but that’s how we ended up. Blair got me the job, she’s the real chef. In the kitchen, after the Eggs Benedict disaster, I mainly swat flies and hang amber strips of flypaper from the ceiling. The goal is to keep moving to outpace the flies. They’re everywhere and some of them bite.

Read More

Depleted Uranium and Other Facebook Posts

By Okla Elliott

Featured Art: Evening Tones by Oscar Bluemner

We read about depleted uranium
and try to imagine the scientific facts
about depleted uranium.
What does depleted even mean in the context of uranium?
So we Google it and learn something horrendous.
Or rather something interesting
that has been turned to horrendous purpose.
And so we join a protest against depleted uranium
even though our friends tell us there are more pressing
matters right here at home. How can you post
on Facebook about depleted uranium? our friends ask.

Read More

Chemistry

By Micheal George

Featured Art: Steps by Manierre Dawson

Sunday at one o’clock, my sister Denise arrives at my father’s house in Elizabeth, New Jersey. We don’t hug; I know that many siblings engage in this ritual, but it’s never been our way. Instead we share a kind of wry, shy smile, a brief flash of eye contact that’s almost like flirting. I ask her how she’s doing, and she says she’s great.

“And Dad?” She nods toward our father, who is reclined in his La-Z-Boy, watching the Cooking Channel.

“He’s great too.”

Denise doesn’t ask about me; such questions we probably both understand as unnecessary formalities. I can see through the window of my father’s one- story bungalow that her camera crew has arrived behind her, and are unloading equipment.

Read More

Night Blind

By David Yezzi

Featured Art: (Untitled) Nightscene of Park in a City by Unidentified

There’s a spot
at the top
of the street,
where the lamp

is out, that’s
the darkest
part of the
block. I don’t

go that way
at night, though
it would be
all right,

I’m sure. No one’s
there, just
a chained-up dog
in the damp air,

and branches
too dark to see
like black water
churning.

 


Read More

Aubade

By David Yezzi

Featured Art: (Untitled) City Scene with Playground by Unidentified

Some mornings I wake up in my old house,
half-conscious, squinting at the seam of light
gilding the edges of the flowered curtains.
I can imagine—actually feel, in fact—
that I am back there, where three flights down
the city’s up before me making noise:
a woman in green unchains the gated park
and the cross street fills with taxis. The light turns.
And in my half-lit bedroom, I am held
by a taut web of untold activity.
It surrounds me and carries on without me.
I breathe it in, smiling, lightened somehow.
For a moment then, I recognize myself,
before I’m back here where not all that much
goes on and the day begins its long goodbye.


Read More

Face to Face

By James Lineberger

Featured Art: Bowl of Flowers by Morton L. Schamberg

Back when our son died
I already suspected
that you and I would be having these
conversations sooner or later
but what I had not anticipated was your laughter,
the role-playing and costumes
and all the faces-on-parade,
as if you can’t decide which one to wear,
for there’s hardly a moment
when the one I’m talking to
is not some other you
like last night before I even had my apnea headgear
fastened securely
there you were peering at me up close
through the plastic mask,
only suddenly you weren’t you at all
but the image of my father
struggling to maintain his balance as he pisses
on the kitchen floor,
Read More

Here’s My Love Poem

By James Lineberger

Featured Art: Flowers from the Mesa, by Mary Vaux Walcott

If I didn’t love you
would I stand
there holding the car door so you
don’t hit yourself in
the head with it no I could just
step back and let it
happen and who would know the difference
except me cause you wouldn’t
remember what
went on anyway and when
we finally hobble inside Hardee’s with you
holding on for dear life until
I get you seated while
I order and then I surprise you by
bringing us a couple of cinnamon raisin
biscuits you think if I didn’t
love you I would sit there unprotesting while
you ignore your bacon and eggs
and gobble down both cinnamons dripping
the icing all over your fingers
and brand new sweater

Read More

Old Married Couple

By Robin Messing

Featured Art: (Untitled–Group of Flowers) by Mary Vaux Walcott

They couldn’t part with things, so in the end, they lived with everything. Two toaster ovens, two coffee makers, two waffle irons, two sets of dishes, two couches, two coffee tables, two beds. Their former spouses would not have tolerated it. But together, something different happened.

Ben toasted an English muffin in his toaster oven, and Sophie toasted a piece of leftover challah in hers. Ben poured coffee from the percolator pot that his former wife, Edna, had bought decades before at a hardware store on Avenue J. Sophie brewed coffee in a Mr. Coffee pot that her former husband, Sam, had purchased after their glass percolator pot, slippery with soap, splintered in the sink when Sophie dropped it.

Sam died first, four years earlier. Six months later, Edna passed, both from cancer. Two years ago, Sophie and Ben married—a small ceremony in a shul on Coney Island Avenue.

Read More

They Used to Be So Valuable They Were Free

By Susan Blackwell Ramsey

Featured Art: 2019 Ohio State Map by Ohio Department of Transportation

Road maps may have gone to slide-rule heaven,
      but they were king. Swelling huge in glove compartments,
refusing to be refolded, snickering
      as we wrestled them wider. Marriages
foundered: thin lips, insults, tears,
      shouts as The Map went hurtling through the window
to pirouette in the car’s diminishing wake
      before drifting down to tent the roadside weeds.

Read More

Query

By Sandy Gingras

Featured Art: Vase of Flowers by Unidentified 

(double space between paragraphs and indent throughout)

Use polite address: Dear Mr. Neil Augustus,

How you picked aforementioned specific agent: I met you at a “A Hook for Every Book” writing workshop at the Holiday Inn and we made an interpersonal connection: At the opening reception, we both took an orange cheese cube from the buffet, and I said, “Hi.” I hope you remember me.

Read More

When We Were Neanderthals

By Chrys Tobey

Featured Art: Peacock in the Woods (study for book Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom) by Abbott Handerson Thayor & Richard S. Meryman

I hunted deer for you. I scratched your back with stone tools
and we swaddled each other in fur from sabre-tooth cats

and laughed as we said, burp me. We’d say things like, You know
what they say about a large cranium.
I’d chase a woolly mammoth

just because you thought it was sexy. We’d snort chamomile
and talk about how after we’re dead others will ponder our

Read More

Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle

By Ösel Jessica Plante

Featured Art: Group of Abstract Nudes by Carl Newman

There is something crooked about his mouth,
and though he’s obviously going to go bald soon,
his eyebrows are like kind, squat
temples above his eyes, one pupil dilated slightly
more than the other. This is what’s it’s like
to be single—to stare at a picture of a man online
and wonder, what does he smell like? What
would it feel like to wake up beside him
after two years of living together? I want
to believe that all relationships are mistakes
waiting to happen, have that built-in obsolescence
and are the reason why I finally like that saying
about the woman, a fish, and a bicycle. I like
imagining that fish upright underwater with its fins
spinning in loose circles the same way we pedaled
our feet in the air today during yoga to warm up
our thighs. Love’s made a fool of me once Read More

Critical Learning Period

By Chelsea Biondolillo

Featured Art: Designs for Wallpaper and Textiles: Birds

1. CRITICAL LEARNING PERIOD

Songbirds, or Oscine Passeriformes, with fixed song repertoires learn to sing in four steps. The steps are studied, in part, because many linguists believe that these same four steps describe human language acquisition.

The first step in song acquisition is called the critical learning period. This is when chicks begin to recognize their parents’ voices along with neighbors of the same species, and they differentiate between those voices and other sounds.

Read More

Bank Shot

By Greg McBride

Featured Art: Horse Race, Siena, Italy by Walter Shirlaw

I asked about the old days, when they
were my age—my mother scrambling eggs,
Dad and I at the table. He aimed a glance
sidelong at her, then took a shot toward me:

             We’ve been very lucky, Son.

He must have meant their gamboling, teenage
marriage after weeks of jitterbug jokes
and getting-to-know-you’s in the Abilene
Lady Luck pool hall in 1941.

Her silence like the hush of a tournament
match, the cue’s tip skittish at the ball,
probing for angle and spin, velocity,
the all-important leave and follow-on.

By now—both gone so long, both unlucky—
I understand his game, how words can
travel in disguise, their spin covert,
as on that morning when his mumbled plea

caromed off me—sharply, as off
a felted cushion—and spun toward her,
determined at the stove:

             Come on, Honey, let’s play.
             Let’s keep the run alive.


Read More

Cousin Josh on Family

by Anders Carlson-Wee

Featured Art: A Lizard, Jamaica by Frederic Edwin Church

You ever had some loose screw try to tell you
your friends is the family you choose?
Well I wouldn’t bottle the breath of the minister
that delivered the message. The family you got
is the only family you’re gonna get,
take it or leave it. Wanna know what I got?
I got myself sisters. Two of em. But that’s all I got
to say about that. That’s all I ever knew
to say about my sisters: There’s two of em.
I bet I coulda stomached a brother better.
Even when I was a little grommet I wanted
a brother, so I practiced on this pet lizard I had.
He was one of them color-changers that could
change his skin to blend in with whatever’s
below him. I named him Tony and took him
around with me. Showed him how to do
whatever I was doin. Talked to him and tried
to explain things. I remember wearin tie-dyed shirts
and puttin Tony on my shoulder so I could
watch him change. One day I had him on the back
of my hand while I was hot-wheelin down the street
and he jumped off and I ran right over him.

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Cousin Josh on Doomsday

By Anders Carlson-Wee

Featured Art: Burning Oil Well at Night, near Rouseville, Pennsylvania by James Hamilton

It don’t matter what you believe. All the Christians
know it’s comin, all the scientists know it’s comin.
Could be a chunk of the sun wipin out the grid j
ust as likely as the Lord Himself snuffin us out
one by one like a bunch of candle wicks.
Could be a oil shortage. Or the souls of the dead
come back to reckon. My buddy Critter figures
it’ll be the Lake of Fire––all the flesh dripping off
our dicks while we drown at the same time
over and over forever––like it says in the Bible.
But most folks won’t tell you what they believe.
My ma, she never broke silence on the issue.
My old man, he says I’m crazy. Says I’m gonna drink
myself to death before anything else gets the chance.
Me myself, I got my chips pushed in for somethin natural.
A meteor maybe. Or a polar flip. But like I said:
when you’re throwin pies, it don’t matter much what the flavor is.

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White Earth, Minnesota

By Anders Carlson-Wee

Featured Art: Hudson Valley, New York in Winter by Frederic Edwin Church

The volunteer staff at Saint Vincent de Paul
made too many sandwiches, expecting more.
When the drunk Indian came in from the winter
wearing some kind of neck-warmer pulled up
over his nose, they were able to give him
three for now and seven in a Ziploc bag. He sat down

Read More

A Million Tigers Who Aren’t Mad at You

By Sandy Nietling

Featured Art: Abstract–Flowers in the Left by Carl Newman

My Mexican boyfriend cannot tell me if he’s ever killed a person. This is not because of a language barrier on either side. I asked my question clearly enough, and he is a good conversationalist with a decent English vocabulary. Still, Raf furrows his dark brows for a long moment, apparently needing time to puzzle through the facts as he knows them. Finally he frowns. “I’m not sure.”

When I ask my American boyfriends if they’ve killed someone, they laugh the way that they’re meant to laugh. Then, while they’re busy being surprised or trying to work up a clever response, I can worry about the papers I have to grade or how much longer the sliced pineapple in the refrigerator will last before I have to give it to the orioles in my backyard. That’s why you ask about death in the first place. It’s supposed to buy conversational elbow room, but Rafael has done the unexpected and provoked my attention instead of letting it drift away. It is not until later, in the dark of my bedroom, that he is relaxed enough to explain his crime.

Read More

Jenny Perowski is Ahead of Me in the Grocery Store Line

By Julie Danho

Featured Art:  (Untitled–Flower Study) by Mary Vaux Walcott

If an Amish family can forgive the man who burned
their land, surely I can say hello to Jenny Perowski,
who used to call me “fattie fat” in seventh grade math
and had boys call my house, pretending to ask me out.
That was twenty years ago. Now Jenny, if not fat exactly,
is puffy as a slightly overstuffed chair. I’m thinner than her,
and my pleasure feels more whiskey than cream, makes me
want to pour out her Kors bag to rifle for candy, then slowly
eat it in front of her like she once did to me. I know
her cruelty was, at best, a misdemeanor. But anger
is like a peppermint in a pocketbook—everything inside
takes on its smell and taste. I could break it in my teeth,
make it disappear. Instead, I savor the mint, let the sugar
line my mouth like fur, linger far past what can be called
pleasure. How good it would be to be better than this.

Read More

Grammar School

By Mark Belair

Featured Art: Project for an Overdoor by Carlo Marchionni or Filippo Marchionni

Through the municipal green, overpainted wire mesh
obscuring the grammar school basement windows

comes the spank of a basketball not engaged in any game,
just pounded in place in an empty, echoing cafeteria, then

an outside metal door gets gut-punched open to release
gruff-voiced janitor, belt keys jangling, cursing at the world

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When Mr. Bridges Died

By Mark Kraushaar

Featured Art: (Children Swimming) by Unidentified 

When Mr. Bridges died I knew
the whole eighth grade would have to gather
in the gym and sit there on those cheerless,
folding metal chairs set up by string-bean
Donny Graf the constant burper.

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Siccità

By Stephan Jarret

Featured Art: The Hills by Preston Dickinson

To my grandmother, Francesca, the cliffs of Wilmerding, Pennsylvania resembled Italy’s Amalfi coast. Only, when she looked over the edge, the valley was waterless. Not even a polluted stream that dried out in the summer months. “Siccità”—drought—she used to say, when she led me into our backyard and squinted with high-angle menace toward the neighboring town of Pitcairn. At night, the phosphorescent sign of Randy’s Brew House shrouded the valley in faux-oceanic cobalt blue, offering “HOT GIRLS” and “FREE PRETZELS.” Still, the lower hillside was anything but arid—peppered with trees, I thought— so I tried to mention that something was sustaining them. “What?” she’d say, either incredulous or deaf.
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Directions

By Matthew J. Spireng

Featured Art: Village Street by Alice Pike Barney

This time, giving directions to a place
I have never been, an address
I have only passed so I could tell another where

it is, I have explained: across the street from,
a few blocks down from, between this
cross street and that, a little yellow awning

across the front, the name in big letters above it,
and if it is dark, will there be
light on the awning, or will its color be gone,

indeterminate? Tell me, will you, if I arrive
first and find a better way to describe, how
can I reach you, or must the first suffice?

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Fantaisie

By Donald Platt

Featured Art: Garden Flowers by Edna Boies Hopkins

                               Each person is
a solar system, the bits of birth’s Big Bang orbiting
                               some sun that both attracts

and repels. Elliptically, my mother orbits her own death,
                               that great shining
ball of fire I cannot look directly at. She draws closer to it,

                              then pulls away. She rotates
as she revolves. Together we write her obituary. Born.
                              Schooled. Worked as. Read More

NOR 19 Feature: Manipulating the Reader

Featured Art: Sketch of Church Tower and Roof Top by Arnold William Brunner

We often say that a story, a movie, a song, or even a commercial about sad dogs is “emotionally manipulative.” We use this phrase not only to discount a particular piece, but to condemn it. What, though, constitutes literary emotional manipulation? Is there such a thing as a benign manipulation, a justifiable heart- tugging? And what specific moves can we identify that make the difference between effective and ineffective narrative manipulation, between a moving poem and a mawkish one?

We asked five writers—Rebecca McClanahan, Debra Marquart, A-J Aronstein, C.L. Dallat, and Matthew VanWinkle—to respond to those questions.


I Second That Emotion

By Rebecca McClanahan

Featured Art: The Tower, Cathedral of Torcello by Cass Gilbert

A few years ago, I attended a literary gathering and heard four poets and memoirists read from their work. They were all accomplished writers, varied enough in their approaches to evoke laughter, sighs, nods of acknowledgment, a collective gasp at one point, and, toward the end of the evening, some tears as well. Tears are not uncommon at readings, of course—I have cried at several—but in this case the tears came not from audience members but rather from one of the readers, who had warned us that she might “choke up” because of the emotional content of the autobiographical piece she was about to read. Her introduction, followed by a tearful presentation, suggested either that the work was too new to share publicly or that she had planned her reaction and was intentionally manipulating us. As she spoke, I sensed listeners growing more and more uncomfortable, as I was. Some leaned back into their chairs, some crossed their arms. The more emotional the reader’s performance became, the less effect it seemed to have, an unfortunate outcome, especially given that the work was potentially moving in and of itself. But it was as if the writer did not trust the work, or perhaps did not trust us to do our job as listeners: to bring our own emotional response to the work.

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Tell it Cool: On Writing with Restraint

By Debra Marquart

Featured Art: Hill with Trees by Eleanor Harris

For years, I’ve encouraged students to “tell it cool” when narrating a tale that is harrowing or emotional. A cool narrator can be a buoy in rough waters. I’ve always thought this advice came from Hemingway, but at this moment as I search my bookshelves for the place where Hemingway said it, I can’t put my finger on the quote. I know it’s in there somewhere, likely in one of the letters (bossy letters full of unsolicited advice and signed “Papa” when friends were just writing to ask for money).

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“Staying with Argos” Odysseus and His Dog

By A-J Aronstein

Featured Art: Clearing after September Gale–Maine Coast by Howard Russell Butler

Argos, the loyal dog of long-suffering, well-tanned, always-oiled Odysseus, appears only once in The Odyssey. At the sight of Odysseus, who returns to the island kingdom Ithaca after 20 years, Argos dies. Bam! Kaput. Struck down by a Zeusian thunderbolt. At this point in Book 17, no one other than the reader knows the true identity of the disguised and smelly Odysseus, who dresses like a beggar. Escorted by his loyal swineherd Eumaeus, Odysseus pauses to observe Argos from the distance of a few steps. But he can’t even pet the pup before steering back toward his wife’s suitors, whom he’ll slaughter in due course. Ar- gos dies almost immediately after Odysseus turns away. Though the encounter takes fewer than one hundred lines, its brevity should not trick us into thinking about Argos’s death as a merely sad aside. A closer reading reveals how Homer manipulates his audience before the final act, using Argos to orient our empathy toward Odysseus. Moreover, if we stay with Argos a little longer, he reveals something essential about fiction’s capacity to wrap epic emotions into even the tiniest moments.

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Yeats and Heaney: The Poetry Without the Pity

By C. L. Dallat

Featured Art: Genip Tree in the Mountains, Jamaica by Frederic Edwin Church

When W.B. Yeats dismissed Wilfred Owen’s World War I poetry as “all blood, dirt & sucked sugar stick” (and omitted Owen, Sassoon, and Rosenberg from his 1936 anthology), he was making a powerful statement, not just about dis- taste for sentimental language and the role of pity in poetry, but about the poet’s duties and limits. He had already excluded writing war poetry from his own list of obligations in 1915’s “On Being Asked for a War Poem,” but only later became more coherent on the abjuration of pity as an unfit subject.

This is, of course, the Yeats whose career started in the mists and myths of a Celtic twilight amidst a flurry of pre-Raphaelite sentimentalism and romance, who wrote of tragic heroes, of “The Pity of Love” and “The Sorrow of Love.” So before reaching for his famous poem, “Easter 1916,” where Yeats does appear to address war and politics, we should take a momentary look at that early work.

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Designs Less Palpable: Emotional Manipulation and Even-Handedness in Keats

By Matthew VanWinkle

Featured Art: Flowery Meadow by William Henry Holmes

In a February 3, 1818 letter to his friend Reynolds, Keats rejects a reading experience that he associates primarily with Wordsworth: “We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us—and if we do not agree, seems to put its hand in its breeches pocket.” The reproach is so scathing because it acutely observes how rapidly the poetry’s interest in its audience cools, from the importunate heat of the design to the indifferent withdrawal to the pocket. Keats is fuming primarily at Wordsworth’s dogmatism and propensity for self-congratulation, as we hear earlier in the letter, where Keats complains of being “bullied into a certain Philosophy engendered in the whims of an Egotist.”

At first glance, this might seem like a rarefied chafing, a protest against an intellectual irritation or an effusion of rivalry peculiar to talented writers. Yet the kind of readerly hatred that Keats memorably articulates becomes more comprehensible when we think of art that has palpable designs not on our ideas but on our feelings: the swelling soundtrack that jerks at our tears, the so-cute cartoon kitty kitty that beguiles us into wuv. Every reader has caved in to this sort of appeal at one time or another, and many readers look back on such acquiescence abashedly, or worse. How to admit, even in hindsight, to having been manipulated, to having feelings that can be summoned and practiced upon with such infuriating confidence?

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