New Ohio Review Issue 10 (Originally printed Fall 2011) 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.

The Last Speaker of the Language

by Carol Anshaw

Featured image: Fernand Lungren. In the Café c. 1882-1884. The Art Institute of Chicago.

All right. Here we go.

Darlyn teeters high on a swayback wooden ladder she has dragged in from her mother’s garage. From here she can reach around blindly on top of the kitchen cabinets. She has struck pay dirt—a tidy arrangement of small, flat bottles. She doesn’t have to look to know they will all be pints of 5 O’Clock vodka.

She backs down the ladder, finds a grocery bag, goes back up and tosses in every bottle she can reach. Then she moves the ladder further along the way and clears out the bottles above those cabinets. She pours the liquor down the drain in the sink. 5 O’Clock is not for the amateur drinker. When she has the presence of mind, Darlyn’s mother filters it through a Brita, then mixes it with lime juice and ice and ginger ale, her version of a Suffering Bastard. After a while, though, she drops the lime and the niceties and in the end skips even the glass.

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by Erica Dawson

Featured image: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The Englishman (William Tom Warrener, 1861–1934) at the Moulin Rouge, 1892. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I’ve half a mind to make a move.

I stayed in Archer City where
I made Larry McMurtry proud
by downing one too many shots
of ice-cold vodka, tumbler-sized,
then yelping all alone to “Sweet
Home, Alabama” while the band
reprised “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,”
packed up, and quit the Legion dance.

I thought I didn’t know that song.

I two-stepped with a cowboy, kissed
a Yankee (wrong), regretted it,
and found my cowboy once again:
the Yankee looking like a young
Paul Newman and the cowboy like
I’ll bed you, hard and hot in jeans.

What was it in the Texas air
that brought Delilah out of me?
Was it the quail and wild hogs?
The memorial on the Court House lawn?
The BBQ cooked from a cow
that tasted like a slaughtered cow?

What hiked my temperature? It climbed
the diving board and took its clothes
off, piece by piece, as if last May
were my last picture show, last chance
to sweat with strangers in a Spur
Hotel room, quaint with double beds
and Byron on the table, me
as Cybill Shepherd, starring in
her first movie as Jacy Farrow,
walking in beauty like a night
too much for such a little place
where the town Indian said she
was the town Indian; and, my
sweet cowboy said I gave him eyes,
said I was high-heeled trouble, said

I have the tendency to lead.

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by Tracey Knapp

Featured image: Félix Vallotton. Five O’Clock, Intimacies VII (Cinq Heures, Intimités VII), 1898. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

All those times I crossed the bridge to see you
and not one lap dance. We haven’t held hands
since that time in the rain forest, chanting Lord
knows what in Sanskrit. I saw my first wild boar there
but even he took off for the brush. Someone always ends
the moment. Another call dropped on your iPhone,
the cosmic forces at work. My dog sighs and stares
at my flip-flop from his pillow. At work, the office
is separated into orderly earth-toned cubes.
My friends, we gather here today
to sit exactly ten feet apart. I am exactly
one hour away from being drunk enough
to call my psychic in Tuscaloosa, two
commercials away from another headache
and Nova on TV. The universe expands, shifting
its contents accordingly. There was a time when
we were closer. Helen Keller learned to speak
by holding her teacher’s face, feeling the words form
and fall out of her mouth, the throat buzzing with thought.
I also like to touch people while they talk,
but not about professional sports. I love
and hate eye contact, don’t you? One glance
from the Girl Scout and I get the thin mints. I don’t get
all that crap about divine connection,
but there is something to be said about
a collective consciousness if you consider how
everyone likes vampires again. If I had a spirit
animal, I think it would be the wild boar.
We never talk about it anymore and I miss that
about us. The only thing that could prevent
a greater distance forming between two stars
hurtling though space would be some entropic net,
a giant wet towel. While you’re crossing
the state line on your last gallon of gas,
a streetlight deteriorates over the Safeway
parking lot. A shopping cart rolls
into my Dog Chow and the whole bag
splits open, the pellets skidding and colliding
across the pavement, two strangers scrambling
to gather them, to fill the bag together, to make it right.

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Women’s College

by Kenneth Hart

Feature image: Antoine Watteau. Head of a Man, ca. 1718. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I didn’t think of myself as a sex offender
or as someone whose sex was offensive
until I walked across the campus
of the women’s college. I tried to be
as inconspicuous as possible, looking away
when someone jogged past with a scrunchy holding back her hair
and breasts bouncing just a little beneath a sports bra,
making believe I had some business there
by putting a purposeful stride in my step.
I know I carry the chromosome of hatchet murderers and rapists,
it’s no wonder my hands felt like mallets
at the ends of my arms.
After awhile I sat on a bench
and tried to look at the oval pond,
the trees and manicured shrubbery in front of the study hall,
as passing girls gossiped in the late-January sunlight,
some of them tanned from winter break, or slightly heavier
after a month of their mother’s cooking.
So I got up to leave,
making sure my shoulders looked slumped and unathletic,
a little afraid of myself now,
and massively unaware
that one of them might consider my presence
a welcome relief.

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When It’s That Time for Piranhas

by Michael Derrick Hudson

Featured image: Utagawa Hiroshige. Swallow and Wisteria, mid-1840s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Everything has already blossomed: my neighbor’s wisteria
has gone hog-wild across the ragged frontier of
our mutual fence, the soft green tendrils
of it violating international borders

and breaking treaties. Achtung! So let me tell you about

my neighbor’s wife: she’s delicious! And every morning
I hear all the birds in Fort Wayne, Indiana, go

Yippee-yee! Yippee-yee! Which is how spring jibber-jabbers
while her husband blows the leafy detritus

off their depilated lawn. Something’s missing. I want to be
indigenous with her, something somehow prehistoric—

I want her in Brazil. I want a quiver full of spindly arrows
to fetch our breakfast’s blue-tailed skink or

supper’s three-toed sloth. I want ritual scarification, coherent
rites of passage. I want grandpa’s thighbone
whittled down to a splinter

and dangling around my neck.
I want to help her stitch banana leaves, scorch
grubs against a rock. I want her to smile at me like a jaguar,

each incisor filed to a point. I want poisonous frogs, seashell
currency, enemies who make sense, a copper
plug through my lip. I want

a shameless squat. I want mumbo-jumbo witches to shun and
screeching ghosts to appease. I want her to take me

down to the river where we’ll knot and
inch our way across. I want her to trust me to be the lookout

for piranhas. I want to know when it’s that time for piranhas.

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Sixteen in Vegas

by Anastasia Selby

Featured image: Edvard Munch. The Girl by the Window, 1893. The Art Institute of Chicago.

It’s Vegas and I’m sixteen years old. I’ve been playing in the arcade for hours; I’m leaning on the console of Mortal Combat, pushing the quarters my stepdad has given me into the slot one after another, wearing the tips of my thumbs down with their ridged edges. I’m bored as hell and my parents have abandoned me in this wasteland, I can practically see the tumbleweeds and hear western music as I walk across the patterned carpet. I pass all the men and women with their heads almost touching the bright lights of the slot machines, their hands like lobster claws around the levers, as if they’re waiting for the secrets of life to come pouring out when they hit the right combination. The secrets must be what they see on billboards, what they see in magazines. The arcade smells like the sweat of children and sounds like broken glass.

Starting at the Excalibur, a gaudy Disney imitation that should have been torn down years ago, I walk from casino to casino, reveling in the transition from air-conditioning to the surreal heat that cloaks everyone who ventures outside in a thin layer of plastic wrap. I stare back at the men who gawk at me on the sidewalk as I walk past them, men who are over twice my age and probably have daughters half my age. They must give their daughters baths and put them in their pajamas at night, patting their heads as they tuck them into bed. I can’t remember one time my father actually tucked me into bed. He left when I was two.

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After Rosenkavalier

by Natania Rosenfeld

Featured image: Goya (Francisco de Goya y Lucientes). Lovers Sitting on a Rock; folio 24 (verso) from the Madrid Album ‘B’, 1796–97. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We talked about her,
the Marschallin, only
thirty-two, and her lover,
seventeen, though the singers
were fiftyish, and we ourselves
are approaching there, though our
lives have not reached their
pinnacle. Will we ever
roar with our whole voice
and soul, cry out that way
with all life crying through us,
or will we walk on, obedient
and tired in our traces, as the round
orange sun goes down
across the long, white prairie?

In our little warm car, we drive
into the pale arms of the fields,
leave behind the mall and
the Marschallin, return to the small
town to lie under the glassy moon
and dream of a gold curtain,
of young limbs entangled,
and renunciation clad in violet.

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The Ante

by Rodney Jones

Featured image: Gustave Courbet. The Source of the Loue, 1864. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A few sonnets about nature and the Greek gods.
Many free-verse poems in all lowercase letters.
Huey wrote of madness, Maddox of possums.
John played the sadness of empty stadiums.
Two berets, one silver-tipped cane, tweedy blazers.
In most Natalie poems, she took off her clothes.
The year of the Tet offensive. Wallace in Montgomery.
We read James Wright, Richard Wilbur, Anne Sexton.
One Friday an ex-guidance counselor from Jasper
leapt through the window of the cafeteria, shouting
“I am the son of Jesus Christ! Behold the rapture!”
But nothing much happened in Poetry Writing 301
until Walter C. Avery wrote that a black swan,
born in the infralapsarian brain of a garbage dump,
would crack the codes of the Southern Baptists.
And for this jack-surreal, mildly apocalyptic truffle
was taken for near-genius material, practically
a second Edgar Allan Poe, until Sam Maisel
submitted his “Poem for The Worksheet Typist,”
which made everyone consider how scandalous
it must have seemed for her, a local woman,
a seamstress, and mother of Christian athletes,
to run across “I know you think you’ve seen it all before,
but this is duck rape, feathered love.” And some
in the critique afterward, praised the line-endings;
one person even mentioned “The Second Coming,”
which, admittedly, made me blanch with envy,
so I wanted to say something about how
sometimes the subject is not what you think
or the ones you imagine you are talking about
stand abruptly and begin to talk back to you,
but spring was bearing down on the workshop,
ripping out pages, grinding the opinions to nubs.
So much energy in the streets—demonstrations,
happenings, awakenings—so many instances
of sudden and involuntary enlightenment,
though mostly my friends and I spent our nights
on Sixth Street drinking beer at The Chukkar
or crouched in a huddle around a record player.
By the time I thought of Sam’s duck again,
May had slipped into June and June into July,
and what is poetry in a copper tubing factory?
A cloud would fan out around the tubes
as the crane lifted them from the soaping vats
after they had softened in the furnace.
My job was to crimp a point on each of them.
Then the next man would carefully run them
through a die. Down the line I could see
the process repeating: the furnace, the point,
the die—the tubes and men diminishing.
All night the saws screeched and whined.
The pointers clattered. The press roared.
That was the beauty of it. You could sing.
No one would hear. You could say anything.

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The Rush of Losing

by Daniel Larkins

Featured image: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. At the Moulin Rouge, 1892–1895. The Art Institute of Chicago.

10. The race is over before it ends.


7. Tim leans forward. His blue dress shirt is untucked, unbuttoned, and his stomach shoves the undershirt out of his pants. When he loses it’s like a win, because when he wins he doesn’t want to keep on betting. Losing answers the question, Why continue? When he loses, he likes to think he can parlay that into a victory, persevere to make up for the loss.

All the TVs are muted. In his shoes he can feel the rumble of Holland Tunnel traffic from a couple blocks away. His twin boys are twelve and his fingertips are black. His nails are short and dull. His wife Meg used to have monthly manicures and the designer kitchen she wanted, but no more would she get a stupid room for hanging pots and pans and whatever else she liked to hang from racks and nails.

Tim leans forward. He has a hangnail, and it bleeds and stings, and his left hand balls into a fist on his thigh and his other wraps around a rolled-up Racing Form. It’s a tool, a bat, a weapon.

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Times Pieces

by Susan Morehouse

Feature image: Jean Charles Cazin. October Day 1890-1891. The Art Institute of Chicago.

My husband is walking out the door with an expensive watch, carrying it in the box it came in. “Are you getting it fixed,” I ask.

“I’m going to see what it’s worth at the pawnshop on Main,” he says. “You could just get a Timex,” I say, “if you want to know what time it is.”

“Sure,” he says, “or I have that watch you gave me. It just needs—”

“Batteries,” I say.

“Yeah,” he agrees, “and a band.”

The expensive watch was a gift from a man whose biography he wrote on spec, a book no editor has taken yet, even though Henry, the man behind the success of a major tabloid, implied it was a done deal. That was before the financial collapse. Henry gives these watches to anyone he needs a gift for. He buys them in bulk. Need something for a sheik? Here’s a Millage.

We’re broke.

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On the Strand

by Dave Kim

Feature image: Edgar Degas. Beach at Low Tide (Mouth of the River), 1869. The Art Institute of Chicago.

My mother’s boyfriend was a man named Bang. I never learned his first name. He’d been an officer in the Korean army before coming to the States, and he would yank me out of bed at six-thirty every morning to do jumping jacks. I was a doughy nine-year-old and he was trying to make me leaner and tougher. If I got angry, he would dare me to hit him and stand up for myself, get it out of my system. On Sundays we’d go to his boxing gym to watch the men pound each other to pieces, which terrified me at first and then made me dream of days when I’d be big enough to put on gloves and whomp Bang in the gut. I needed a good ass-kicking, he would tease me in his throaty Korean. Anytime I wanted, I could challenge him. Mom didn’t get involved.

The three of us went to Santa Monica Beach one Saturday afternoon to ride our bikes on the Strand. Bang would take me fishing on the pier sometimes and when we rode past it that day, I thought about how much I would rather be out there with a basket of calamari and a cherry Icee, watching our poles nod on the railing. It was one of those perfect afternoons when the California coast looked way better in real life than on the glossy postcards they sold on the boardwalk. Couples were stretched out on the sand, half-hidden under candy-colored parasols. The sky was ablaze in orange light. But I didn’t care about the scenery. All I really saw was this endless bike path and its dashed yellow divider. The back wheel on my hand-me-down Schwinn was grazing the brake pad with every rotation and I lagged at least a hundred yards behind.

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Saying Goodbye to Dad

by Kate Fetherston

Feature image: Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Near the Lake, 1879-1880. The Art Institute of Chicago.

My dad died alone in a VA hospital
as July sun beat without mercy into the raw

seesaw of breath busting seams between
each cell. Third spacing doctors call it

when cell walls no longer sustain
boundaries with integrity, fluid

sluices into interstitial no-man’s
land and overpowers whatever little

plans were made for a garden and some
trees. When my brothers and I got

the news and flew in from the various
places to which we’d fled, I’d just split

on my first lover after years of her
threatened suicide, bouts of drunken

depression, and refusals to take
her medicine too numerous

to recount. Her view: I’d been trained
strictly for fixer-uppers, too stupid

or stubborn to leave, but, waxing
romantic, she’d croon, “You’ll do me

for a rough old mate.” The day she smashed
my stuff into the carpet and poured

ten pounds of flour over
everything, I might have stayed for

more of the same, but I threw
crumpled clothing into my pack,

startled when she whispered, “I’m
just like your crazy

old man, aren’t I?” I didn’t
answer because we both knew

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Home Movie

by Mark Kraushaar

Feature image: Berthe Morisot. Forêt de Compiègne, 1885. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Saxophone, and trombone, trumpet,
trumpet, trumpet. And there’s Roxanne
and Dick, and Betty Mayfield and the Laurie girls.
And there’s George Betts on clarinet.
Of course, it’s so jerky and grainy though,
which is just as it should be,
and here we suddenly actually
are, or, and isn’t that
Malcolm Sproul and Claudia French and isn’t that,
or wouldn’t that be Dick Benck, and there’s
Kit Powell, and Kathy Frey.
And now, somehow, look,
someone in somebody’s yard,
a boy in a foot-deep plastic pool,
skidding sideways and pitching forwards,
euphoric in jaunty fedora, a giddy private eye
in blue shirt and shorts,
waves once and as his mother laughs
she turns, and with her, wistful, and trying,
and troubled by longings, here’s
Jim Jahovic with my best
friend’s strange father Dr. Callahan, and quickly
someone else, and someone and someone and then,
no, yes, that’s, that’s What’s-Her-Name,
judicious and afflicted, nice enough,
yes, and yet, there’s a way she tips forward,
or inwardly anyway, as if picking up the faintest
oracular tappings.
There’s the Roundies and the Levi boy.
And there’s that flirty, sparking Mrs. Archer—
and I want to run it all again.
Oh friends, where were we going
in that shaky dawn?

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by Mark Kraushaar

Feature image: James McNeill Whistler. Nocturne: Blue and Gold—Southampton Water, 1872. The Art Institute of Chicago.

My wife was nodding, Yes, sure, and, Yes,
and I was thinking of my parents, their sadness
and silence, their every evening’s weeping,
whispery buzz beside the stove.
My wife was nodding, Yes,
and leaning forward when the pastor said, You’re
like two ships passing in the night, and he seemed so
pleased I thought, So one’s a brig-sloop the other a tug?
Or one’s a tanker the other a trawler?
Troop ship and submarine?
Grain barge and gunboat?
I was quiet though.
It was August,
and there were two fans working,
and I thought of those salt-washed gray gulls
with their weird pink feet, and I thought of moonlight
shooting down the starways and cooling the decks.
I thought of two cruise ships next,
couples waving by the railings,
the faintest, farthest sounds of bands and laughter.
But there was nothing funny here.
He was talking or maybe she was, but
here we were, the two of us, our long, horizontal
journey almost over, no frenzied waves,
no reckless wind.
We were quiet, and she was crying,
or we both were, but we were perfectly still.

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Hurricane Season

by Julia Jackson

Feature image: Winslow Homer. Breaking Storm, Coast of Maine, 1894. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Itchy in November, right before Thanksgiving. It was my first winter sober, when you were living on the top floor of that six-story apartment building overlooking the river, back before the neighborhood was converted into condos.

“Hurricane season,” you said when you saw me looking out your window in that blank way. “When the temperatures drop, us drunks get restless.”

Your hands got busy stacking up wood in the fireplace. I’d seen people who had come into the same meetings every week suddenly stop showing up, seen the way that the ones who did come back would raise their hands, announcing their day counts, differently this time. “I’ve got five days.” “Nineteen days.” “I’ve got forty-one days back,” they’d say, the “back” added to show that this wasn’t their first time at the rodeo. It didn’t look like it was any easier, though: their hands shook like any newcomer’s, their eyes wandered the rooms the same way, rabid.

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Downloading the Meltdown

by Elton Glaser

Feature image: Odilon Redon. And Man Appeared; Questioning the Earth From Which He Emerged and Which Attracted Him, He Made His Way Toward Somber Brightness, plate 8 of 8 from “Les Origines”, 1883. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Rumple of clouds at sunset, low and pink,
Underbelly of heaven in the summer slack, and me

Depressed as a backdoor detective on a case of slow clues.
I’m never lonely as long as I have my own body

To interrogate, my mind with its whips and pincers.
I buckle at the slightest threat; I confess

In the high pure pang of a choirboy singing
At some ceremonious occasion for the faint of heart.

And now the hot night, the moon cool as a bishop
In a boudoir. What you can’t get over,

You must get past. Through a haze of smoke and rum,
What’s left of me squints at the odds and ends.

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In the Season of Early Dark

by Elton Glaser

Feature image: Claude Monet. Rocks at Port-Goulphar, Belle-Île, 1886. The Art Institute of Chicago.

The wind sassy and half mad,
The clouds knocked up with rain—
Another feral afternoon in the Midwest,
Fall, and the trees like Salome, ready
To ask, when the last leaf drops,
For my unresisting head.

I’m going to spring all the little traps
Set by silence
And call it mercy. I’m going to let loose
Every thought caught by its hind legs
And screaming for release.
Out of the jaws and sharp teeth,
The tongue comes, loving
The taste of its own blood, gush of words
Hurt into eloquence.

Gray day. Raincoat weather.
Raw wound that would weep over me,
Nasty stuff from so deep inside
It could make the scarecrows gag
Among the stooks and stubble.
Whatever I did to deserve this,
I deserve it.

All the numbers add up—
Mortgages, body count, Lincoln pennies
In a plaster pig my grandfather gave me.
And the years, too, though no one
Knows how many, not the saints,
Not the drugged and corrupt. I have these
Fingers to figure with. They tell me
The end is always at hand.

Misbegotten month
Rushing from bluster to bare bark.
The geese get out of town.
Even the seedy weeds die back,
Brittle slippage of the unloved.
I stack firewood against the stone wall
And plant the last tulips, bonemeal
In their shallow holes. Lights rise
From the windows and fall
On the dark grass, so black
My footprints sink down to the roots.

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A Gift

by Patricia Ann Sanders

Feature image: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The Passenger in Cabin 54—The Cruise, 1896. The Art Institute of Chicago.

It’s called the “verbal tip.”

You’re the greatest waitress we’ve ever had. We’re going to ask for you every time we come here. We had such a good time because you were our waitress. Yada yada.

Then they leave, like, three dollars on a thirty-dollar ticket.

Like I was going to call up the electric company and tell them they were the greatest electric company I’d ever had.


When I got divorced, my ex-husband was supposed to give me the Jeep. That’s what we agreed. My plan was to sell it if I couldn’t find a job right away in Phoenix. Instead, he wanted me to have the Acura. He was being generous, because it was a better car, practically new. Except that he never signed the title over to me. So I couldn’t sell it, and I couldn’t drive it, because I couldn’t afford insurance or gas. I was living in a godforsaken studio and buying food for one day at a time, stealing toilet paper from the bathrooms at the mall, with a twenty-three-thousand-dollar car parked under my window.

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Solo in the Skeleton Key

by Elton Glaser

Feature image: After Gerard de Lairesse. Copies after Illustrations of Statues and Paintings (recto); Measurements for a Man’s Skeleton (verso). The Art Institute of Chicago.

Who would plant, in this stony ground, narcissus and love-lies-bleeding?
It’s too late to be young among the primitives. Winter withers the stalks.

The air reeks of it, decay and the odor of innocence gone to seed.
The time for riots and tattoos is over. Who dances the Dazzle now, or the Swerve?

Long before the armada and the asp, Antony must have tired of Cleopatra,
Those heavy breasts, that midnight skin, a name that thickened in his throat.

In the heat from eating an incandescent pepper, there’s neither passion
Nor apocalypse, just tongues in hell, just retching and the runs.

What honey comes from old drones? Forget the hoodoo and the holy water.
Pray only in Jerusalem, at the Church of Our Lady of the Spasm.

Love’s no trick of ecstasy, no lightning strike in the mind. Each new child
Struggles out, bloody and stunned, one more last chance to get it right.

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One Day Your Parents Confess You Have a Twin

by Todd Boss

Feature image: Ugo da Carpi. The Sibyl and a Child Bearing a Torch, 1510-1530. The Art Institute of Chicago.

who was given up for adoption early on, when it was
clear they couldn’t manage him. It was, says your father,
the worst decision they’d ever made. (It’s you and your
parents at the kitchen table. Between you, the steam
from the teapot uncurls in a kind of breathing statuary.)
He was your inverse, your yin: When you went to sleep,
that’s when his terrorizing of everyone would begin.
He went from home to home to group home, and then
to prison, half mad, a drug-addled teen, with your name
tattooed over the veins in both forearms. “That’s when
we moved to Minnesota,” says your mother, but of course
he found you here, at the end of an abbreviated sentence,
and slit your throat while you slept. This was last year.
You’ve been dead ever since. We know this must be hard
for you to hear: but you don’t exist. You’re your own twin
brother’s obsession with you. (Can it be? Instinctively,
you reach to touch yourself about the shoulders, the neck,
but everything’s . . . identical.) It’s like a mad dream—
yes, the recurring one you’ve had since you were a child,
in which you go from door to door, trying to trade
your life for another’s, but nobody will trade, and you go
on and on, pounding, until, impossibly, you finally find
someone willing, and you wake. Your mother reaches
through the figure of steam to lift the teapot and pour
from out its only portal a little stream into her cup, her
husband’s cup, the cup in front of you. She sets the teapot
down, and now there are four apparitions dwindling there,
silken, gesturing. One of them says, We love you the same.
But you can hardly hear them as you push up your sleeves
—one at a time—and read, and reread, your name.

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I Love Your Sunhat

by Patricia Foster

Feature image: Jules Pascin. Hermine David, 1907. The Art Institute of Chicago.

I didn’t know what to do with my breakfast tray. I’d gone through the line, had just spooned scrambled eggs onto my brisk white plate when I noticed two of the tables were already full and I’d have to sit alone. Alone. I’d only been at this artists’ colony for fourteen hours, but inevitably the old thought seeped in, “I’ll never be asked to sit with the popular group.” Now I stared not at the writers and artists dawdling over sectioned grapefruit and blueberry pancakes, but at the shiny surface of the coffee urn.

Nonsense! I nodded to my distorted reflection. What could really be wrong with eating your eggs alone at 7:30 in the morning at a table for eight? I’d eaten alone many times in the last ten years at my home in Iowa. And I was way too mature—too old, I didn’t dare say—for these sudden fits of inadequacy. I shifted my gaze to the window where light shimmered above the crepe myrtle, where, in the distance, horses grazed and cows lumbered across the driveway. As I turned to pick up a glass of orange juice, I heard a trill of laughter from one of the tables and all my newfound certainty slipped again: sitting alone was a curse.

Any normal person would have assumed that being “new” to the group, you should give yourself a few days to acclimate, to get to know people, to talk to the tall, gregarious composer dressed in plaid shirts and khaki shorts and the small, clever woman with red hair who spoke so softly. Any normal person would have plunged into small talk, would have laughed when others laughed. Instead, anxiety charged through my body, wreaking havoc with my girlish hopes for friendship while an abject loneliness loomed above the coffee cups. What would I do? How would I survive?

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by Fleda Brown

Feature image: After Luca Cambiaso. Sibyl in the Clouds, after 1570. The Art Institute of Chicago.

I thought I had hold of something elegant, a luminescent glow
on the lake, a flicker’s flash of headdress high on the tree.

I thought I heard a conversation from over water, someone saying
laissez faire, or Toulouse Lautrec, but it was only guys fishing,
a mishearing that came to me like a ray of light through stained glass,
a shimmer like a fine line of Milton’s, or a landscape by Monet,
applied in layers.

What I wanted was something privately
apprehended, something slowly and privately understood:
elite, yes, I admit it.

A pontoon boat came by and I remembered how old I am,
how I would rather be on one of those, studying the accommodating
landscape as if it were a museum, than on water skis, for example,
terrifyingly public and sudden, which is why I’m fond of

the Turneresque, or of an aspen leaf, half-unhinged over and over,
a sibilance of rhythm that works the atmosphere the way
Noah wavers the sailboat rudder back and forth to inch toward
the gust.

I don’t know the name for this maneuver.
And when the wind completely stops, there’s the small slurp
against the side of the boat that’s exactly what I mean,

the delicacy of the mundane, observed
and properly incorporated in service to the whole.

Another example at present: the gull has adroitly
caught in its beak the tiny bass Noah just tossed back,
and is carrying it flapping, sunward.

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Spring Cleaning

by Laura McCullough

Feature image: Vasily Kandinsky. Houses at Murnau, 1909. The Art Institute of Chicago.

When we moved the couch
        we found the pumpkin,
        the tiny one we’d picked that day in the run-up to Halloween
        with the kids at the apple-picking farm.
It was small to begin with, smaller than an apple,
        and now it is desiccated
        though not as much as you might imagine;
it’s top-sunken, and wrinkled, the bottom flatter
        but the whole of it soft
        as if it might be full of rot or even of crème,
        as if you might pry it open
        along one of the long wrinkles or fissures,
        that autumn orange color gone pale,
        and out might come some wonderful and unexpected thing.

I don’t pry it open, but can’t bear to throw it out.
Instead I place it by the little handle of its stem onto the mantel.
        It is happy there, and I too feel happy,
        a little survivor, not blazing,
        but brilliant in my still-here-ness,
        a bit proud of myself.
In spring I can never remember fall
        and I talk myself through the laughing-at-you days of spring
        that never deliver what they promise.
        Only July gives you everything.
        Then August begins to take it away.
        And there’s not enough to lose anymore.

Which is why we always pick so many more apples
        than we could ever eat, bags and bags full,
        and why so many will go bad,
        that sticky odor coming up from the produce drawer,
        the ooze that always gets on your hand
        when you reach in without looking.

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The Truest Thing

by Emily Nagin

Feature image: Martin Johnson Heade. York Harbor, Coast of Maine, 1877. The Art Institute of Chicago.

In January, Nancy burst out laughing during the Shapiro funeral. She started laughing during a eulogy, though the eulogy itself was not funny. It was about deer hunting. The man giving it was stocky, red-cheeked, and blond, his buzz cut so close that from a distance, he looked bald. He spoke directly into the lectern, as if it had asked him to recall his father’s life. From her spot at the back of the chapel, all Nancy could see was the top of his head.

Her coworker, Lenny Faberman, sat across the aisle from her. Out of the corner of her eye, Nancy could see him fidgeting with his cufflinks. Last week, Lenny had caught Nancy crying while she embalmed an old woman. He’d stood in the basement doorway for a full minute, then said, “Did you know her?”

Nancy sniffed and wiped her eyes on her upper arm. She shook her head.

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Traverse City

by George Bilgere

Feature image: Odilon Redon. Still Life with Flowers, 1905. The Art Institute of Chicago.

On my way to the conference in Traverse City
I drive by the toy lake where my family came
for summer getaways from steamy St. Louis.

The tiny cottages on the shore are still there.
There is the white sand where I played with my sisters
and learned how to swim from a teenaged lifeguard
whose beauty put my child’s mind in confusion.

My mother sat at a card table with her friends,
smoking and playing gin rummy. Weekends,
my father flew up from the mystery
of his job and his life without us.
My father dead now, my mother dead,
along with the friends she played cards with.

My sisters are middle-aged women,
children and divorces behind them.
I am older than my father ever was.

Yet there are the cottages and the beach
where we played with our buckets and shovels,
as the children on the sand are playing now.

No one can explain this.

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by George Bilgere

Feature image: Paul Sérusier. The Beach of Les Grands Sables at Le Pouldu, 1890. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Now we’re on this tourist island and I am going to rent a golf cart.

That would be a good way, a very good way, to start a novel.
But this is not a novel, it’s my life.
It must be written down so that later, when I’m old,
barely able to walk around whatever fearful place
I finally end up in, I’ll look in my journal

and there will be my writing,
my own hand, bolder and darker than the trembling scrawl
age has dealt me. I will stand at the window
looking at the new kinds of cars—mostly Chinese, I’m guessing—
zooming past in a world I no longer get on any level.

I will think about the 58-year-old self
who rented a golf cart that day,
his beautiful young wife beside him
as he talked to a nice Mexican guy named Ernesto
about insurance and late-return policies,

and not one of us—my wife, Ernesto, me—
recognizing the enormity of this, the sorrow,
the hugeness of the moment
in all its beautiful ordinariness
as it leaned so temporally,
so irrecoverably against the void.

And I will stand there weeping impotently.
I can see it coming. Already I’m prone
to saccharine effusions, and it’s only going to get worse with age.

I write this down in my journal: saccharine effusions—don’t worry about them.
Which will make my 88-year-old self smile,
then weep all the harder.

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by George Bilgere

Feature image: Odilon Redon. The Beacon, 1883, reworked c. 1893. The Art Institute of Chicago.

So this young couple, overweight
and seriously tattooed, comes into the café,
and each of them is actually wearing a baby
in one of those tummy-papoose things,
and they have two enormous dogs
designed to kill elk and wolves,
not sit under the table at a coffee shop,
and as I watch them smile at their babies
which are now screaming bloody murder
while the great slobbering mastiffs
begin earnestly licking their own privates,
something terrible happens to me:
it’s like The Manchurian Candidate,
when Lawrence Harvey suddenly realizes
the reason he’s been acting so strangely
is because he’s been brainwashed by Soviet agents:

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The Usual Way

by Sydney Lea

Feature image: Odilon Redon. Ophelia, 1906. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Our bus streaks bullet-fast by the soaring Crowne Plaza Hotel
and the sundry Hartford insurance companies’ towers
where millions of dollars are made and lost,
for all I know, in an hour.

I don’t care. I’m searching for something else as I cross
Connecticut for New York City to greet my daughter’s
newborn twins. We should think of a child

as constituting the highest form that spirit can know,
and I’m headed south to witness such spirit, twofold!
Still I’m petty, comparing myself to the mannerless
couple—young and loud—

who bellow laughter from a seat behind me, perhaps at the latest
YouTube clip. What can their futures hold?
But what, after all, of my own?

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by Rob McClure Smith

Featured image: Edouard Jean Vuillard. The Artist’s Mother Playing Checkers, c. 1890–91. The Art Institute of Chicago.

vulpes vult fraudem, foemina laudem—Publius Syrus, Fragments

It is claim’d that these little Pamphlettes which have passed from me formerly have got me some little Credit and Esteem amongst all of the Female Sex who delight in or be desirous of good Accomplishments. But there being so much time elaps’d since the last came forth methinks I hear some of you say “I wish dear Mr. Wooley would present some new Instruction.” To say the truth, I have been importun’d by divers of my Friends and Acquaintance to do so. To which end being very desirous still to serve you, I offer this Fuchsprellen, which I assure you worthy for the very precious things you will find there.

There are an hundred Divertissements harmless enough, which a young Lady may find suitable to her Inclination; but give me leave to find out one for her which hath the attendance of Profit as well as Pleasure that is a Toss. To speak the Truth, a Toss is a most excellent qualification for a Gentlewoman to exercise and please her Fancy therein and the best and readiest way to put the Body into a graceful Posture. The chiefest thing to consider is how to govern and behave your selves in this laudable and ingenious Art. For how will you blush when you come into a mixt Society, where each Person strives to shew her utmost Art and Skill, and you for the want thereof must stand still and appear as one whose Body wanted Motion, or a very Soul to actuate it. Yet the Mode and Humour of these times look upon it not only as a generous and becoming Property, but upon Gentility illbred if not thorowly acquainted therewith. Ladies, it is presumed you know the rudimentary grounds of Tossing, else your resort amongst wellaccomplisht gentlewomen would not only be improper but much hazard your Repute and good Esteem among them; and as you can toss, so I would have you learn other Formalities. By this Assistance, you will be enabled to give proper Directions for preparing every necessary Entertainment and be directed also how to act as Hostess in manner as befits your rank.

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by Jeffrey Harrison

Feature image: Charles Émile Jacque. Seated Boy, n.d. The Art Institute of Chicago.

If I call my son by my daughter’s name
or vice versa; or if I call one of them
by the dog’s name, or the other way around—
all of which I have been known to do—
it’s funny, and only means I’m spaced out.

But when, while talking on my cell phone,
I walked past my new African-American colleague
and distractedly said hi, using the name
of another black colleague, it was stupendously
unfunny. It felt like I’d been punched

in the stomach, which is probably what
I deserved, even if he shrugged it off,
as he seemed to do when I caught up with him
and apologized too fervently,
my assumption that I’d caused him pain

itself a kind of racism, no doubt. It’s so
complicated!—though it doesn’t seem to be
for my teenage son and daughter,
and I’m glad of that, and admire their ease.
As for me and my colleague that day,

he absolved me with offhand grace,
doing his best to nudge me away
from my floundering shame, then
gently steered the conversation elsewhere
the way one does to protect a child.

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Commuter Buddhist

by Jeffrey Harrison

Feature image: Alfred Stieglitz. Car 2F-77-77, 1935. The Art Institute of Chicago.

I’m learning to be a Buddhist in my car,
listening to a book on tape. One problem
is that, before I’ve gotten very far,

my mind gradually becomes aware
that it has stopped listening, straying from
the task of becoming a Buddhist in my car.

I’m also worried that listening will impair
my driving, as the package label cautions,
but I haven’t noticed that, at least so far.

In fact, I may be driving with more care.
There’s a sensation of attentive calm
that’s part of becoming a Buddhist in your car.

A soothing voice drones on until the car
is transformed into a capsule of wisdom
traveling at high speed, and you feel far

from anywhere but where you really are . . .
which is nowhere, really. The biggest problem
is getting the Buddhism out of your car
and into your life. I’ve failed at that so far.

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by Jeff W. Bens

Feature image: Johann Christian Reinhart. Lying Goat, from Die Zweite Thierfolge, 1800. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Dr. Frank Shire had never been down to Athlone before, hadn’t been back to Ireland to see the Kennelly brothers in the decade since he’d finished his fellowship at the University College of Animal Surgery, had seen them just the one time when they’d visited New York. The only American at the Fisherman’s Rest, the only American in all of Athlone for all he knew at that time of year, November, in the wet cold, driven straight to their father’s fisherman’s hotel by the Kennellys before he’d even had a chance to eat breakfast after the all-night flight to Shannon from JFK.

“She may be dying,” is all Robbie K said.

His brother Michael added, “She may be dead.”

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A Mile In

by Julie Hanson

Feature image: Claude Lorrain. View of Delphi with a Procession, 1673. The Art Institute of Chicago.

The snow had been with us for awhile
and was dingy and not well lit.
But the sun promised to come out.
The light fog lifting
against the skinny tree trunks
and the grounded limbs they’d lost
and the thick, half-detached vines
would lift off,
dissolved, by the end of our walk.
We’d taken the footbridge
across the creek and followed the bend
away from traffic and toward the west ridge.
We’d gone a mile in,
to where usually I begin to listen to
our progress in the twigs and gravel of the path,
and past this, and past my own
periodic reminders to the dog
to the short, uncomplicated songs
of winter birds. And there,
near the spill of rocks in the creek
where the fog was still passing through branches
and a little farther and to the right
where a stretch of tall grasses
received a wide gift
of sunlight and several cows,
the air that stood still
between the trees and shimmered
over the grasses filled with sound—
a big voice moving through
a hundred thousand habitats—
and it said, “Attention in this area.
The following is a regular monthly
test of the Outdoor Warning System . . .”
It spoke from the west first,
sounding closer than it could be.
And it spoke from the southeast next.
“This is a test,” it said, “only a . . .
“This is a test . . . ” it began again
from somewhere else.
The dog returned to me, cowering.
I’d wondered before
without much curiosity,
where were those speakers housed,
were they towered, did they revolve?
Ordinarily heard in the yard
while I stood pinning laundry to the line,
the broadcast soon plunged and sank
into the noise of passing cars
and blown and rolling garbage cans
and faded like the little ringing
that emanates from construction sites.
But here, it seemed full minutes long
before my breath was back again in my chest,
and my dog’s breath,
steady and rough, was back in hers,
when the voice had left the air
between the trees, as had the fog.
At last a bird sounded from a twig.
At last a squirrel came down
and sent the dog. And then,
made up of other sounds
I could not have singled out,
a normalcy rolled in.
Infinitesimal bits is all it was
—quick beaks breaking up the peat,
the slow collision of a leaf landing, scooting
half an inch along a big flat rock,
a splat of excrement in white,
a flinch, a flap, a flick. But as it came it felt
to be a counter-vigilance. Or like
the sound of consciousness. The is.

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Pretending to be Asleep

by Angie Mazakis

Feature image: Jean François Millet. Sleeping Peasant, c. 1865. The Art Institute of Chicago.

is like knowing exactly what you
are saying to me, but nodding,
yes, what else? anyway, as though,
I have never heard what you are saying before.

I have to purify from my appearance
appraisal and purpose,
my face distilled to stillness.
I have to guess when to genuinely tremble,
never having seen myself in sleep,
moving aimlessly beneath
awareness— I wager one
hand from the sheets,
toward nothing.
How does one believably breathe?

It’s like hearing words I was not
supposed to hear and just turning
in my chair as though I needed to reach
my arm this way, toward this phone,
toward anything, as if to say,
I am occupied; I was before.
It is all now exactly as I meant it.

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Owen and Paul

by Angie Mazakis

Feature image: Sir John Everett Millais. Study for the Head of the Rescuing Lover in Escape of the Heretic, 1857. The Art Institute of Chicago.

It’s any two strangers’ conversation.
The proportions of the tall one’s face
make him look like an Owen.
The other one, easily a Paul.
Owen makes a face, a gesture—
his forced half-smile squints one eye,
as he barely shrugs in a way that falsely
means tentative, in a way that pejoratively
leans and says, I’ll give you that much,
a gesture which says entirely,
You know, it’s like this. Maybe I’m wrong,
but it’s something to think about.
The maybe I’m wrong suggested by some
softening of his eyes that kept him from
a face that said, nice try or dubious—
something he had to lose.

I catch my eye just beginning to imitate
the gesture, try it out, here in this coffee shop.
Maybe I’ll start wearing this look after saying things like,
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s the city rock ‘n’ roll was built on.
Or after anything ending in most people don’t know that.

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Antonioni at Nineteen

by Jeffrey Harrison

Feature image: Adriaen van de Velde. Pastoral Landscape with Ruins, 1664. The Art Institute of Chicago.

I saw Antonioni’s The Passenger in September or October 1976, at the beginning of my freshman year at Columbia. It was the first “art house film” I ever saw, well before I’d heard that term. I was from Cincinnati, where apparently they didn’t have such things. I had just turned nineteen, or was about  to. I was taking a writing class with Kenneth Koch, discovering Frank O’Hara and Rimbaud, and doing everything I could to peel or dissolve the suburban Midwestern scales from my eyes. In that pursuit, this movie was as important as the LSD I would drop for the first time a few weeks later. Not that it was hallucinatory—just the opposite, in fact . . . though in both cases, perhaps, it was “the visuals” that I liked best.

The film was playing at an auditorium on the Barnard campus, and I remember walking over there alone, being completely amazed by what I saw, and hurrying back to my Spartan dorm room to write excitedly about it in a notebook that is now long gone. I don’t remember what I wrote, but I know it wasn’t focused on Jack Nicholson, who plays a television reporter disillusioned with his life and work. Nor did I write much about the plot involving switched identities, riveting though it was. If I wrote about these things at all, it would have had to do with the way Antonioni de-emphasized Nicholson’s movie-star status and took the weight off a plot that would have been handled ponderously in a Hollywood movie, accompanied by ridiculous, tension-building background music. (I’d seen Jaws just the year before, which suddenly felt like ages ago.)

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Death, Cashews, and “No Country for Old Men”

by George Bilgere

Feature image: John Clerk of Eldin. Sheriff Hall, n.d. The Art Institute of Chicago.

I saw No Country for Old Men (Academy Award winner,  2008) ten times  on the big screen at close to twenty bucks a pop (including popcorn by the bushel and cola by the quart). If that ain’t obsession, to paraphrase Tommy Lee Jones’s oracular Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, it’ll do till the obsession gits here.

When the movie left the theaters I bought the DVD and raised my madness to a new level by slipping the disk into my stereo and listening to it. Cormac McCarthy’s dialogue, as adapted to the screen by the Coen brothers, has an understated lyricism and humor, thrillingly true to the laconic rhythms of the southwest (I lived in Oklahoma for a few years and I know my laconic rhythms). In fact, the soundtrack is one of the film’s most striking features, which is odd, given that there is no music whatsoever. Just the pitch-perfect dialogue and the silence of the plains, where the smallest sounds—the squeaking of a hinge, the unscrewing of a light bulb—acquire an ominous eloquence.

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On Lubitsch’s “Angel”

By Lloyd Schwartz

Feature image: P. Roberts. Allum Bay, c. 1794. The Art Institute of Chicago.

It’s probably hard to remember, but there once was a time when Hollywood took for granted from its audience a certain level of cultural knowledge. I mean high culture. Art. Literature. Classical music. My favorite example of this assumption occurs in a 1937 romantic comedy-drama called Angel, a generally overlooked film by the great German-born director Ernst Lubitsch, still admired for his inimitable “touch” in such stylish masterpieces as The Merry Widow, Trouble in Paradise, Ninotchka (“Garbo laughs!”), and The Shop Around the Corner. His earlier Lady Windermere’s Fan, based on Oscar Wilde’s play but without any of Wilde’s dialogue (just as my nominee for the greatest Shakespeare movie, Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, hasn’t a line of Macbeth), might be the most sophisticated silent film ever made.

In Angel, the glamorous heroine, played by Marlene Dietrich, perfectly cast, is married to a British diplomat (the touchingly stolid Herbert Marshall) who devotes more time to the League of Nations than to his wife. She loves him, but is frustrated by how much his desire to save the world from war   has blinded him to his need to save their marriage. So she slips off to Paris to visit an old friend, a Grand Duchess (Laura Hope Crews—soon to be Gone with the Wind’s Aunt Pittypat) who runs a social (very social) club where people connect anonymously (there’s a delicate post-Production Code innuendo that Dietrich may have been an active member of this “private club” before her marriage). On this impulsive visit to Paris, she meets at the club Melvyn Douglas, who instantly falls for her. Hard. Since she refuses to give him her name, he calls her “Angel.” Their negotiation for their first rendezvous has some of the film’s most deliciously teasing double-entendres (screenplay by Samson Raphaelson). But Dietrich becomes frightened by the intensity of this fling and disappears, returning to London without even saying goodbye, leaving Douglas no way to reach her.

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Acting the Truth

by Linda Bamber

Feature image: Circle of Giuseppe Cesari, called Il Cavalier d’Arpino. Angel Playing a Flute, 1580. The Art Institute of Chicago.


Beautiful slim girls dressed in gauzy white, hands touching, dancing around an invisible Maypole. High voices singing. The girls themselves are not to blame for their performance of perfect white womanhood; but what a handy excuse for all kinds of racist bullshit.

Cut to a man in the audience, watching. He has been gifted with every gene there is for male beauty, but by this point in Long Night’s Journey Into Day (2001) his expressionless face looks nothing short of criminally stupid. He is one of the Boer policemen who murdered four anti-apartheid activists in the rural town of Cradock, South Africa. Then he poured gasoline on their bodies and burned them. We have come to know two of the dead men’s wives pretty well. They are thoughtful, intelligent, sober and articulate; their suffering is unmistakable and intense.

Long Night’s Journey Into Day is a documentary about the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa. As an early inter-title explains, those who committed crimes under apartheid (mostly white) wanted amnesty when it ended. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established  as a compromise, offering the perpetrators amnesty in exchange for the truth. Shockingly, eighty percent of those requesting amnesty were black. Where were the whites? Eric Taylor, the handsome Boer policeman, can at least be commended for cooperating with the process. But the wives of the “Cradock 4” opposed his request, and their lawyer caught him in a meaningful lie, so in his case amnesty was denied.

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