New Ohio Review Issue 8 (Originally printed fall 2010)

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 8 compiled by Ellery Pollard, Julia Smarelli, Benjamin Bird, Callie Martindale, Sarah Hecker, and Brady Barnhill.

Minding Rites

By David Yezzi

This guy I know, a rabbi, Friday nights,
on his way home against the sun in winter,
always stops at a florist or bodega
to buy a bunch of flowers for his wife.

Every week the same, a ritual,
regardless of her mood that morning, fresh
upsets at work, or snarling on the bridge;
he brings her roses wrapped in cellophane.

But isn’t there a ring of hokiness
in that? Why should a good man make a show
of his devotion? Some things go unspoken;
some things get tested on the real world,

and isn’t that the place that matters most?
So when you told me I should bring you flowers,
I laughed, “But don’t I show my feelings more
in dog-walks, diapers, and rewiring lamps?”

The flowers, I learned later, weren’t for wooing,
not for affection in long marriage, but
for something seeded even deeper down,
through frost heaves, and which might be, roughly, peace.

(It’s funny that I just assumed romance.)
Now there’s no peace with us, I wonder what
they might have meant for you, those simple tokens,
holding in sight what no rite can grow back.


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A Giant Bird

By Kevin Prufer

Its great heart pounded like the distant sea
wounding itself against the cliffs.

+

We lived in its shade.

Sometimes, my daughter ran her fingers along that part of the breast
that swagged low over our camp.

It’s beautiful, she said, smoothing a feather’s twig-like barbs,
gazing past our mountain toward the burning cities.

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Ocean State Job Lot

By Stephanie Burt

No one is going to make
much more of this stuff now, or ever again.

Graceless in defeat
but beautiful, harmless and sad
on shelves that overlap like continents,

these Cookie Monster magnets, miniature
monster trucks, scuffed multiple Elmos, banners

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The Fake I.D.

By Scott Garson

She didn’t believe that anyone could believe that she was this person. This person had a weighty face. It looked weighty. Full of bone. The name was “Danna”—Danna Hollenfar.

Danna was, by printed date, twenty-two years old. In the photo her mouth and nose were pulled to the left, as if she was resisting a joke. But her eyes looked frank and hard.

“Danna Hollenfar,” she said out loud. She was doing her eyes in the mirror. “1311 Rand Boulevard.”

The boy at the door of the club, however, was too coked up to ask questions

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Is That You, John Wayne?

By Scott Garson

The day kept changing. The sky would close in virtual dusk and thunder from the other side of the river would rumble the sodden hill. Then something would open. For a while the birds would sing their song to the shining grasses.

“Who are you going to believe?” she said. “Me or your own eyes?”

He turned from the window. He said, “Duck Soup?

“Only bad witches are ugly.”

“Too easy,” he said to her. “Wizard of Oz.”

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All About Skin

By Leslie Adrienne Miller

On a reasonably sized female adult,
two square yards of the stuff,
all etched with nerves of wild
to be roused, altogether the largest
organ in the body. Unless you count
the considerable accumulation
of disappointment that sprouts
as fast as creeper in a chemical-free
yard. Or all those useless tears,
salt and mucus and plain old water
manufactured by the ducts every time
hurt shows up for dinner, rather more
often too, as the years advance,
putting his feet on the sofa,
leaving dishes in the sink. Perpetually
twenty with his tight ass and gorgeous
hands, he invents longing like a tall tale
and gets us to drink one more glass
of merlot than we’d meant to tonight.
If only we had more feathers and horn,
that sweet jacket of woolly lanugo we wore
in the womb and swallowed like a marvelous secret
just days before the world turned on the lights
and pronounced us girls.


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Carnival Nocturne

By Mark Wagenaar

Peanut shells crackle beneath your pink slippers
as you pace. The players behind routines of a different sort
long after the show is over, long after the spectators
return home, their caricatures slipping from their grasp
as they unlock the front door. Teeny the strongman
is calling the torn names in the phone book
he ripped in half, as Vasserot listens outside, smoking
a cigarette with his left foot, his arms a phantom
presence he feels each time he reaches for another can
of peaches. Karlov the Great has gone to bed

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Always a Little Something Somewhere in the Purse

By Julie Hanson

I couldn’t determine her age. She was trying not to look me in the face.
I was approaching a bank of blue seating at Gate B-8,
her bank of seating, and I sat next to her.
I got out my glasses and reading.
I put them back in my bag.
How could I read when the woman seated next to me and trying not to cry
was only mostly succeeding?
I rustled through the inner pockets of my purse
until I found the travel pack of tissue, crumpled from the years,
flecked with leather dust. But as I offered it up, I saw that she, Thanks, anyway,
had already produced her own.
Isn’t that just like us?-always a little something somewhere in the purse
which can’t alter reality in the large sense
but might help us along in the small.

Her phone rang.

She wiped her nose and answered with her name.
No, she couldn’t show the split foyer this afternoon,
but Cindy in the office could.
Some kind of confidence had happened in her shoulders. And her voice:
genuine, helpful. She specified the freeways to avoid and better ways to take.
It sounded like L.A.
Her voice played the notes of continual possibility.
There was one more door at the end of disappointment,
and this might be it, it just might. Hearing her speak,
there isn’t a client who wouldn’t have straightened a bit,
curiosity increased.

She slipped her phone into her bag and rearranged her legs.
I glanced obliquely to our right and said,
“You handled that awfully well, Karen, under the circumstances.”
Then she told me everything.

O’Hare International Airport


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Qu’est-ce qu’il y a?

By Julie Hanson

Each morning my eye goes straight to the high bare branches of the ash
where a plastic HyVee bag tugs and puffs
but has no choice.

Well I won’t see that in France,
I say to myself, but the consolation is as temporary
as the trip will have been

once I’m standing here again,
staring at that bag
and thinking, Now that’s the kind of thing I never saw in France.

It looks so orphaned and waif-like
against the shiny gray bark of the ash and the muted gray of the sky,
so white, so insubstantial, so wanting,

and, even with its one red word,
so caught there in the tree.
I’m certain it can hang on to the branch that has pierced it

for another six weeks.
There may be another bag in the maple by then,
recently freed from a thatch of wet leaves

or come tumbling
lightly from the garbage truck
that will have taken on that day no offering from us.

On the day we come back, it will still be
bare as scattered bones out there,
not yet the middle of March.

The ground will be hard. The grass will be tan.
This is so like me,
imagining,

not the cottage roofs of flat stones
pictured in the Green Guide to the Dordogne,
the massive ramparts for the great gone door of Domme,

but the day after-these littered horizons, and winter
still trying to get out of the yard.
On the day we come back

the ground will be hard. The grass will be tan.
But there will come a day much deeper into spring,
a day shady and humid

in the unfurled foliage of June,
when I realize I haven’t thought about that bag in weeks
because I can’t see it at all,

I can’t see its branch.
The massive ramparts for the great gone door of Domme
will have lost a lot of bulk by then,

resembling more and more the sketch
on page twenty-one
in the Green Guide to the Dordogne.

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On a Thursday Afternoon of His Life

By Michael Chitwood

my brother-in-law wrote a letter he never mailed.
In it he explained what a dog smells when it smells fear.
He described what he saw when he saw blue.
He mentioned a moment that afternoon:
he was alone in the house,
somewhere not too far off was the rumble of heavy equipment,
then he heard his name pronounced by a familiar voice he’d never heard before.
He gave two options for how things would turn out
and wrote “one or the other.”

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The Elements Will Have Their Way

By Michael Chitwood

1

It seemed that water did not want to be in the bucket.
Where was I going, so long ago?
The water leapt, it dove over the side of the bucket.
Why did the water not want to be carried?
Where did it want to go that it was not going?
The bucket’s thin handle cut into my hand.
My hand wanted to refuse the handle.
The water bucked. It made the bucket bang my knee.
The water jumped to me, darkened my clothes.

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Introduction to my Latest Effort

By Robin Hemley

I wrote the next poem I’m going to read this
morning on the plane
I’m not sure it’s very good
but I kind of like it and I thought I’d share
my latest effort with you.
Would you like to hear it?
I think it’s going to be the first in a series
of poems about emergency exits
because I was sitting in the emergency exit row
and the flight attendant came around and asked me
if I was willing to assist in the event of an emergency.

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Feeling Sorry for Myself While Standing Before the Stegosaurus at the Natural History Museum in London

By Michael Derrick Hudson

Oh yes my friend, I’ve been there; the insects battering at
the armored lids of your yellowish eyes

the moment you pecked your way out of that rotten shell
and dug out from your sandpit nets . . .

And I’ve experienced the thud thud thud of your days,
the indigestible monotony

of everything’s spiny orangy-green husk. How the sun
gets daily whiter and hotter and just

a little bit closer. The week spent gobbling down your

own weight’s worth of whatever. One stumpy
footprint after another, tracking the trackless, squelching

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Disintegration of Purpose at Cocoa Beach, Florida (Part 1)

By Michael Derrick Hudson

A pelican divebombs the same shimmery-shammery silver stripe
of the horizon. The pale yellow and presumably

bloodless crabs scuttle to their holes, terrified by my shadow

all over again. Again! They’ll never figure it out,
but of course every moment for them is nothing but the fretful

expectation of imminent death. They’re expendable. Fecund.

Edible. Fuck ’em. So where’s my hero? My old conquistador
my Castilian grandee terrible with purpose . . .

Señor! Over here, por favor! But what if he did come, feverish

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The Businessman Cleans a Mermaid for His Supper

By Michael Derrick Hudson

Yeah I snagged her, I snagged her good and then I shucked her
out of her shimmy, killed off that last twitch

of hers in the sink. And those labials, all of her wet slobbery

labials I reduced to a dried-out oxygen-starved O. I flensed
her down to the bone and chopped

away her emerald green flukes. I got wet to the elbows in her
and scraped at her dime-sized translucent scales

until they spangled the tops of my greasy boots
and clogged the drains. But her filets were worth it, redolent

of ambergris with a tincture of seaweed. In her eyes I found

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Valuable Lessons Learned on Delaware Bay After the Horseshoe Crabs Came Ashore to Spawn

By Michael Derrick Hudson

They look like the Devil’s codpiece.
They look like the Shield of Achilles.
They look like George Washington’s last boot heel.

Oh sure, noggins get cracked, the meat tweezed out

in a glut of shrieking seagulls. Always sun-vexed
throughout their frantic scrabblings

they suffer the dried-out gill, the blotted eye,
the heartbreakingly feeble clench

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Love

By Stephen Dunn

Featured art: Self-Agency by Bailey Wiseman

Found dead in an alley
of words: awesome,
no hope for it, and share,
which must have fallen
trying to get by on its own,
and near trash cans,
almost totally exhausted,
the barely breathing cool.

But there’s love
among the disposables,
waiting, as ever,
to be lifted
into consequence.

And here comes a forager
looking for anything
that might get him
through another night.
Love’s right in front
of him, is if he wants it.

In the air
the ashy smell of clichés,
the stink of obsolescence.
He’s leaning love’s way.

All the words are watching,
even the dead ones. It’s as if
What he does next
could be the equivalent
of restoring awe to awesome—

that love if chosen
might be given back to love,
made new again.

But the man is just a man
out for easy pickings.
Or has he remembered
how, at first, love
always feels original?

Let us forgive him
if he keeps on foraging.


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The Crypt on the Rock

By James Davis May

You swore never to be

a ritual mourner.

Czeslaw Milosz

My language and friends are behind me now.
A mile down Grodzka, I bought water and cheap bread,
then on my way to your church’s baroque spires
I passed the historical marker next to the bakery.
And here, in front of you, these red candles
have melted to rings, a day’s worth of flowers
pile up on your granite with five unread notes.
The odd, underwhelming feeling of tombs.
Is it from the disappointment of not knowing
what to do? I wait and leave,
head back what feels like too soon
into the painful sun where three teenagers
smoke at the ankles of some patinated saint
and a jackhammer pummels the sidewalk
into the wrong scene. The want for something
more than this common ugliness. So I look back,
but feel instead my palms, blasted by the pain
of what almost happened, go flat on the car’s hood.
I don’t know to watch where I’m going.


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One Pearl

By James Davis May

John Weir! Remember when you used to call yourself
the sodomite at my window? Houston
was so odd. Every mile the same pattern.
A strip mall with a strip club, a school,
then a mansion next to a tire factory—
all repeating themselves like the background
of some Saturday morning cartoon chase.
Before I left, it seemed I was always searching
for someone else’s lost dog, nearly falling
on the sidewalk’s confusion of acorns.
And Atlanta? No sodomites like you here.
Today the azaleas’ birthday-cake pink
materialized suddenly as cards
shooting out from a magician’s palm. Wait.
Is that clear? Just understand they’re beautiful,
that I’m tired of clarity, of condescending
marble statues, of being tired of being tired.
Tonight’s guest speaker quoted a mime
who reportedly said, “One pearl is better
than a whole necklace of potatoes.”
A woman nodded, a man made a sound
that sounded like polite pleasure.
And in the cocktail party that follows
all those pretty words, here I am
on the porch, my left ear faintly lit
and half in New York. Because I dept dropping
cracker crumbs into my wine. Because
someone else asked me if I was Fiction
or Poetry. I’d ask how you are, but I know
you hate yourself and want to die.
I too have stolen much, and in the great circle
of folding chairs crushing the oriental rug,
I’ve retold the stories and jokes of others,
as if my own, usurping the obligatory laughter.
I don’t know how one gets away with beauty
or grace or, I worry, how to admire art
without wanting to have made it myself.

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On “In Time Which Made a Monkey of Us All” by Grace Paley

By Michael Griffith

Given the ever-shrinking gap between today and the grave and the ever-growing library of Books I Might Love (Should I Ever Get to Them), I’ve come to see the utility, even necessity, of making bold snap judgements and sticking to them. But over decades of reading one is forced now and again to reassess, and sometimes to repent a rashness.

About most changes of mind it’s mind it’s possible to flatter oneself. One’s unexpected passion for Middlemarch years later needn’t be a goad to recall how stupid or loony one was in school; no, no, here is a newfound maturity of which to be proud. One’s crabby willingness to like a few of Raymond Carver’s canonical stories isn’t a fig leaf for small-mindedness doggedly clung to even after you realized you were wrong; instead it’s proof that you are beyond the hotheaded dissings and envies of youth, and are now willing to grant old Ray, safely dead, a junior membership in the Pantheon, where he can at least be counted on to put Henry Jame’s knickers in a twist.

Yes, most softenings or hardenings of judgement can be managed in ways that keep self-loathing at by. But then there’s my failure to recognize the greatness of Grace Praley, a lapse for which I can find neither excuse nor explanation. For twenty years, I just plain BLEW it.

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On “I Used to Live Here Once” by Jean Rhys

By Sylvia Watanabe

This brief narrative, perhaps no more than four hundred words in length, is
most often read as a ghost story. In it we follow the unnamed protagonist on
a journey of return to what may or may not have been her former home. With
her crossing of the river (a traditional symbol of transition) in the opening
scene, we enter a mirror world in which familiar places and things have been
made strange: the road widened but oddly unkempt trees and shelters van-
ished, the old house “added to and painted white.” The sky itself is described
as mirror-like, with a “glassy look that she didn’t remember.”

From the story’s onset, we see the dissociation in the central character,
which is a hallmark of every good ghost story, established through the un-
grounding of a memory and of what can be reliably known. Through the au-
thor’s strategic choice of the past progressive, the protagonist appears in the me-
dias res, as if out of nowhere, “standing by the river looking at the stepping
stones and remembering each one.” She is simply there; we do not know where
she has come from or how long she has been traveling. Here, and throughout
the following narrative, the specificity of detail, “the round unsteady stone,
the pointed one . . .” is deceptive. Rhys leads us to believe that the vivid detail
of memory is somehow telling us about this world, when in fact, it is telling
us more—through implication—about absences, about what the world is not.
Though “She” (the central character) is “remembering,” she has no history, no
place of origin, no name, no age. When she finally arrives at what we might
carelessly assume to be her former home, Rhys does not say that she ever lived
inside that house. Other clues are provided that she may have lived in the
ajoupa—a kind of rough wooden shelter about among the trees.

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On Rereading Donald Barthelme

By Peter Ho Davies

Worse even than the books and writers we should have read but haven’t, are the ones we have read, but haven’t got.

Take Lydia Davis.

Admired by friends, colleagues, students and critics that I admire, I reread her periodically with a feeling of amusement and befuddlement. (The Emperor has no clothes! Or – wait – is it my eyes, the light? My hang-ups?) And yet reread her I do, partly because of the high opinion of those others, partly because of my anxieties about my own judgement, and partly because every so often some writer I didn’t get before will suddenly speak to me with visionary freshness.

Take Donald Barthelme.

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On Orlando by Virginia Woolf

By Karen Brennan

When I first read Virginia Woolf’s Orlando – about thirty-five years ago – I did not like it at all. In those days, I had been reading Woolf passionately. Like most Woolf devotees, I loved the idiosyncrasies of her voice, the brave way she took on the modernism du jour – her thinking, her sensibility, her scenes, her sentences. I’d become smitten with To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway and my all-time favorite (still!), Between the Acts; I’d read and reread A Room of One’s Own, and a chunk of her nonfiction (notably, her memoir Moments of Being and parts of A Writer’s Diary).

What entranced me about Woolf was her ability, even in nonfiction to create scenes as sensual containers for emotion – a kind of alchemical magic, as I saw it – scenes which, moreover, approximated real life much more wittingly than the usual fare of literary realism. I loved the feeling of inhabiting her characters/narrators, which was always complicated by Woolf’s own understanding of isolation and her yearning for connection.

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On “The Widow’s Children” by Paula Fox

By Charles Baxter

This needling and unpleasant little book can easily upset readers who are expecting to find nice characters and inspiring behavior. The novel’s settings—a hotel room, a restaurant, a back office—are claustrophobic, and its dramatis personae show themselves to be weak or contemptible when they are not being viperish. Indeed, The Widow’s Children fits snugly in the tradition of the Viper Novel, with a centrally placed witty monster who makes mincemeat of everyone around her. In this respect, it resembles Jarrell’s Pictures from an Institution, a book that is much more fun to read. In short, there’d be no particular reason for reading The Widow’s Children if it weren’t a masterpiece of psychology. It is a great short novel, under-appreciated in the way that books about cruelty tend to be. The first time I read it, I couldn’t stand it—or, rather, I couldn’t bear it, which is not quite the same thing. Now I can.

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