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.
Feature image: The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun, c. 1805by William Blake
My daughter’s in the kitchen, working out death. She wants to get it. How it tastes and feels. Her teacher talks like it’s some great, golden sticker. Her classmates hear rumors, launch it as a curse when toys aren’t shared. Between bites of cantaloupe, she considers what she knows: her friend’s grandpa lives only in her iPad. Dr. Seuss passed, but keeps speaking in rhyme. We go to the Queens Zoo and spot the beakish skull of a white-tailed deer tucked between rocks in the puma’s enclosure. It’s just for show, I explain, explaining nothing. That night, and the one after, my daughter dreams of bones, how they lift out of her skin and try on her dresses. So silly! she laughs, when I ask if she’s okay. Then later, toward the back-end of summer, we head to Coney Island to catch a Cyclones game. We buy hot dogs and fries. A pop fly arcs over checkerboard grass, when flush against the horizon she sees a giant wooden spine, a dark blossom, this brownish-red maze all traced in decay. She calls it Sad Rollercoaster, then begs to be taken home.
By Henrietta Goodman Feature image: Mount Monadnock, probably 1911/1914 by Abbott Handerson Thayer
The first one is half a couple, young, their daughter four or five in pink snow pants and a pink flowered coat. They’re stopped at the top of the last long run, skis wedged sideways. She’s made it this far, and now she’s wailing I can’t do it I can’t do it I don’t want to— Almost everyone pauses before this sheer slope gleaming in late-afternoon sun, this almost-vertical descent that someone named Paradise. She’s sobbing I can’t do it and her father says What do you need? Do you need some fish? Do you need some T. Swift?
Fall in the Alfama district, and all the bright skirts float down the city’s aston- ishment of hills. The surprise of verticality, the step-polished marble underfoot, the sun reflecting up, and I am always already sliding, or else just about to slide. I claw at the shopkeeper’s rack of postcards, pause to watch the lipsticked London women in the glissade of new wedges with untried soles, to read the graffitied stucco wall: pura poeta. Not all of us who fall seem to mind; only yesterday, in a splintered tram, I stood behind a stern German who lost her grip around a turn. When she caught herself, the stoic control of her face opened into joy, her blue eyes dancing as she swung herself on the metal rail. When I tried to meet her smile with my own, hers vanished. I moved to the rear to dis- embark, the sudden brake shoving me into a sturdy old man who laughed and asked me something in a tongue I do not speak, though the message was clear. Listen, maybe falling is why we come here at all. Only the dark-eyed man in his fine suit—he wore your face, uncle, looked the age you were when you died— knew how to control the fall: loosen the knees, shift the body’s gravity forward, and never trust the temptation to lean back. Remember: only the dead are so surefooted they will never fall again. On the stucco wall, someone changed the words overnight to puta poeta; as I notice it, I feel again the shift of my sole, the tightening of muscles and think, for a flash, of the sacred duty of those still in warm and breathing flesh: to always be falling, and willing to fall for the world. My bag’s contents all around, the act of picking stones from the palm’s soft flesh—this, too, is holy. And with my knees on the cobbles, I look up
An ancient woman clips the wash to the clothesline. Crimson lace, floating.
By Christine Fraser Feature image: The Yellow Curtain, c. 1893 byEdouard Vuillard
–after Sharon Olds
our girl we’ll tell you how it was then how the lake spread out to the east of us how we sailed out on it tacking and jibing learning to round the marks how we walked miles under skyscrapers we could see no end we could have gone anywhere a year later the city collapsed down to our three rooms all was the rocking and the crying a bowl of black cherries water in the tub billowing yellow curtains how quickly the city spun down to you between us in our bed
By Joyce Schmid Feature image: Rain Clouds Approaching over a Landscape, 1822-40 by Joseph Mallord William Turner
Driving to the baseball game on Highway 101, we looked at cloudbanks, stacked in bands from west to east, and in between were cloud-threads dangling down as if the layers had been torn apart— and this was virga— rain that formed but couldn’t reach the earth, like words that evaporate as they come to mind.
By Terri Leker Feature image: Forest in the Morning Light, c. 1855 by Asher Brown Durand
The coyotes moved into the woods behind my house just after I learned I was pregnant. On a quiet June morning, while my husband slept, I pulled on my running shoes and grabbed a leash from a hook at the back door. Jute danced around my feet on her pipe-cleaner legs, whining with impatience. It would have taken more than this to wake Matt, but I hushed her complaints with a raised finger and we slipped outside. A light breeze blew the native grasses into brown and golden waves as we wandered, camouflaging Jute’s compact frame. She sniffed the dirt, ears telescoping as though she were asking a question. When we reached a shady thicket of red madrones and live oaks, I unclipped the leash and wound it around my wrist.
what if we plant roses beside the shed what if we paint the living room a muddy incarnadine what if you go on a diet what if we go to Paris what if the dog’s ghost follows us when the house is sold where will we go when the house is sold what if we try talking what if I could be nice what if we have to move in with your mother what if we could be honest about the weather what if like a father you get up only to leave the room what if like a mother I speak only in other rooms what if we redo the kitchen and you become a pastry chef what if we move to Phoenix what if I smash the Lennox what if I drive away what is good what if I drive away into a tree what if we cross our hearts what if we make applesauce what if you become what killed your father what if I can’t forgive what killed your father what if the kids could see us what if the kids become us what if the kids inherit everything
Dionysus! What is on your record player tonight? Turn up ABBA’s greatest hits and call me Chiquitita one more time. The night is young and we are ancient history, but dammit if you don’t throw the wildest parties.
All the columns choking on vines. Wisteria fronding from the lamp lights. And I, wishing I’d worn the dress you gave me at the beginning when the sex was still effeminate. The dress with the cape made of migrating starlings.
By Susan Browne Featured image: Couple on a Cot, c. 1874-1877 by John Singer Sargent
I once walked past a man on February 14th who was peeing on a window display, teetering on his tiptoes & bent backward aiming at the word love written in red curlicues. Robins fat as cupids watched from the hedges. At the end of the block I had to look again, too. He was still going at it like an acrobat or a camel.
—after “Ghetto Boy, Chicago, Illinois,” by Gordon Parks, 1953
Play house. Climb on a chair of shit-stained paisley in an alley, avoid the broken bottles. Cut your momma’s housedress, make a cape that’s maybe a size too big. Pose for this camera, strut
like the pimps that limp these streets in zoot suits, caned and gold-toothed. Know the power of a stuck-out hip, its demand for respect. Practice your slang, and call the women shorties until you luck out,
get slapped upside the head. Don’t turn around. Don’t look behind and see the world’s kept going, that Eldorado dropping down to the ground, its rims still spinning, pool-hall lights still glowing—
boy look into this lens, let me remember you like this, carefree, acting a fool like you always do.
By Christie Tate Feature image: Sunset over a Pond, c. 1880 by François-Auguste Ravier
The first time I walked into Grandma’s church, I was a little girl in white Stride Rite leather sandals and a pale yellow dress with a sash. The First Baptist Church of Forreston, Texas. There was no parking lot, so Grandma, like a dozen others, steered her big blue Chevy off the road into the grass in front of the sign welcoming all worshippers.
The white clapboard building looked like the school-church from Little House on the Prairie. Simple wooden porch with four steps. Plain white steeple. Two long skinny windows. Our regular church in Dallas was three times larger, had bells that chimed every hour, and its thick walls held colorful stained glass depicting Jesus carrying the cross, falling, dying.
By Wendy Taylor Feature image: Blue Horse I, 1911 by Franz Marc
I’m at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, drawn to Degas’ Racehorses at Longchamp. I remember the first time you left a message on my answering machine, mumbled your soft voice, said, I’m in the mood to go to the horse races tonight. A thing I knew only from the Pomona County Fair as a child where Grandpa lost our dinner money and Grandma fell down. On our date, we arrive before the 9th race, empty lot, attendants gone, the turnstile jammed, you jump over, I duck under. You dig a Daily Racing Form from a Coke–spilled trash bin, scrape up losing tickets off the cement. We sit at a table with TV monitors, gloomy lights, no view, no stands, no night air or dusty moon, no romance, just stray cats licking nacho cheese off chips, old men in torn fedoras with dead faces and nicotine-washed fingers. Today, I think of how your friends and I meant to secretly scatter your ashes over the turf after your memorial service, to let you rest while the ponies and the trotters kept pace. But I couldn’t give you up to the earth or take you out of the race yet, and even now through this oil on canvas, I can hear you say, Put me on the favorite, baby. You can’t win it, if you aren’t in it.
After my husband died, my dad drove my 2 1⁄2-year-old son to the lake at Tri-City Park to feed the ducks and throw rocks. Voices of carefree children on swings and slides nearby didn’t interest my pensive boy. And though he feared the wild geese at the lake’s edge, my dad said, He just needs something to throw across the dark waters. So, my dad bought big buckets of rocks from Home Depot, sat patient for hours while my son reached into the orange container, indiscriminate about which rocks would take the journey across the surface of the black rippled liquid. They each had their lonely airborne moment, as he frowned, flung his arm back and released, and released, and released.
By Dion O’Reilly Feature image:Mahna no Varua Ino (The Devil Speaks), 1894/1895, Paul Gauguin
He sits in thinned Hanes, reading The New Republic, one leg crossed over the other— picking at a flaked green toenail, some rot caught in the steaming air during amphibious assault on Guadalcanal.
And on weekends under wraiths of blue smoke, he visits with his buddies— men in striped bell-bottoms and afros, women with long noses and gypsy earrings, French professors from the university— organizing for the first farmworker for Congress, the first black man for president, the next Kennedy.
By Dion O’Reilly Feature image: Hope, 1886 by George Frederic Watts and assistants
means whistle. A Spanish word that sounds like silver in the air, a little bird’s song Oh My Dear. Oh My Dear. Every year, the first time I hear that smooth silbato, it’s the first day of fall, a sparrow with a small stripe lining its eye, passing through with the dying days when the golden apple’s skin feels softer than in summer, a little more honey. Oh My Dear. Little girl, this is how it begins— school, getting up early, not knowing what you’re in for, what your friends will do to you, what you’ll do to them, what being one year older will mean in the world of a girl. What to fear and what to hope for.
After our parents left for Vermont, Ruby and I spent most of our time waiting for the Olympics. The world is coming to Los Angeles! the commercials told us, and the announcer’s tone was so excited and serious it seemed to imply that every American should prepare.
That summer was going to be a turning point for our family. We were in the final stages of a move to rural Vermont, where my parents were rebuilding a house they planned to have ready by the start of the school year. Once the house was inhabitable, even barely so, we’d all move in and complete the finishing touches as a family. We’d already chosen the stencils we’d use on the walls in each of our bedrooms. Mine was going to be silver, turquoise, and black.
By Amelie Meltzer Feature image: Landscape, Sunset, 1886/1887 byGeorge Inness
The sun sets red through clouds of ash made of normal stuff, like trees and brush, but also bedroom walls, Persian rugs, winter clothes, LEGOs, maybe the family dog.
At a safe distance from the actual disaster, we cough and small-talk about wind patterns, particulate counts. It’s everyone’s opening line on Tinder, something like, “I’ve got an extra N95 mask waiting for that special someone ;-)”
“And beyond the empty cage, a bedroom; and beyond a bedroom, the wood boards, beams, and floors holding the shape of the house; and beyond the house, a yard.” —from Jorge Luis Borges’ mislaid manuscript, Labyrinthian Architectures, a book that has been wished into existence
The day the tarantula escaped, my uncle joked, “The cage is empty.” He said it over cornflakes— the rock fallen off, the mesh lid mysteriously askew.
By Mark Kraushaar Feature image: Still Live with Bottles, 1892 by Roderic O’Conor
Donny Banya does the room repairs or when he isn’t buzzed he does. I’m the night clerk. Alma runs the bar—plus she’s an artist. Big John, the owner, does the books and walks around and plans big changes to the parking lot and ground-floor Men’s. There’s other staff but tonight it’s just the three of us, or four including John who is dozing on the sofa by the magazines,
By Nancy Miller Gomez Feature image: I Am the Abyss and I Am Light, 1928 by Charles Sims
My house cleaner passed away last week . . . need to find someone new . . . Prefer someone who charges by the hour . . . Bob 831-435-648 —posted on social networking site Nextdoor
Dear Bob, Perhaps you’ve noticed the smell of cinnamon and sweet rice drifting through your kitchen at night. So when the ice melting in your second glass of gin begins to sound like a woman singing “El Cantante,” you’ll know. It’s me.
By Emily Johns-O’Leary Feature image: Little Walter’s Toys, 1912 by August Macke
Edison was allowed to spend one-third of his monthly spending money on manatee merchandise, but it usually came to about half. His mother was a marine biologist, and Edison had seen a photograph in one of her magazines when he was six and couldn’t stop looking at the manatee’s bloated snout and flippers like gray oven mitts pinned to the balloon of its body. He was thirty- one now and bought his own nature magazines to look for more pictures, more patient expressions on the floating creatures. Their eyes seemed to want to listen only to him.
After the handmaidens, blindfolded and proceeding by touch alone, have twined the masses of string across its enormous silvered surface, then the mirror-keeper, also blindfolded, sets a lit match to the central knot.
When they sense that the whole skein is ablaze, they bear the burning glass to the lake’s edge, and lower it into the icy shallows where the mirror-keeper strikes a single blow, shattering it along every line at once.
Then they lift it in its frame from the water to tap and test its face with their tongs, plucking out the fragments, swaddling them individually in silk to be dispersed throughout the land.
Now instead of making pilgrimage in order to not look into the virgin mirror, each family can cherish a shard to not look into without leaving home.
By Claire Bateman Feature image: The Breeze at Morn, 1930 by Thomas Lowinsky
And here we see where the pages of the ocean were torn from their logbook as if in meticulous rage, though there’s no debris adhering to the binding, as might so easily have been the case. What to do with this stiff and empty cover? Pack it with snow and staple it all around, so it can retain its shape until the committee rends it open and shakes it out face-down, inviting the ragged pages to return in just the right sequence from every place they’ve flown.
By Bo Lewis Feature image: Second Beach, Newport, c. 1878-80 by Worthington Whittredge
Coach West had just finished grilling the dogs and we were all standing in line, going crazy with hunger. We’d had nothing but concession stand sno-cones after the doubleheader, and we were ready to eat our weight in barbecue. Rudy and I were going to do an experiment to see which tasted better on dogs—onions or relish. I was going to blindfold myself with my ballcap and Rudy was going to feed me one bite of each until I discovered the answer.
But Dad’s hatchback came skidding across the gravel toward the pavilion, a long dust cloud rising up behind it like the tail of a dragon, and I knew something was about to happen. The door popped open and his hand shot down to the gravel like a kickstand as he got out of the car. He left it running and didn’t shut the door behind him.
By Michael Pontacoloni Feature image: Fire at Full Moon by Paul Klee
Dad has three different chainsaws and Kevlar shin pads, the same glossy material protecting a spacecraft as it drifts into the Kuiper Belt where little flecks of undead planet fling around like buckshot and light from the sun takes a while to arrive.