by Joshua Greschner
As I waited for my interview with my cousin Carmen in front of the paleontology museum in the basement of the Earth Sciences Building, I ruminated on the large, lurid crystalline formations in glass displays, baked for millions of years within the ovens of the Earth and excavated by geologists, smiling widely in photographs beside them.
“Those rocks are pretty cool,” I say to Carmen before we settle in for the interview. She arrives with a bulging green backpack, exhausted from hiking from her petrochemicals lab on the Engineering side of campus.
“Those? Yeah, no, those are minerals,” she says.
My cousin Carmen is a second year geology student. Along with half of the students in her program, she plans to work in the oil industry.
“What exactly do geologists do?” I ask.
“We’re basically Earth’s historians. We’re reading the Earth’s story book… which are rocks.”
“Is that what your prof told you the first day of class?”
“No, that’s my philosophy. I thought it up myself.”
“Then what exactly do you have to do with oil?”
“Have you ever heard of the term rockhound or rocksniffer?”
“No. What is it?”
“So you know what hound dogs do? They sniff around on the ground and say ‘wooooo’, I found this. That’s what I do but not so… not in a literal sense. And if I find oil, they pay me. And if I don’t, they pay me anyway.”
by Desmond Fuller
The light was almost used up. What remained fell in pale stripes over the basketball courts like a ghost tiger biting the chainlink that bled shadows into the pooling dark.
Bryce spun the basketball, the taut rubber rolling under his fingers as he took a shot; the gasp of the net as it spit the ball back to him. He put new fractures in the quiet with each percussive dribble. He liked when the courts were empty. The passed day lingered in the stillness, recorded in spilled soda, cigarette butts in the fallen elm leaves and lazy hornets circling a discarded Happy-Meal bag.
When the courts were too crowded, he sometimes met up with Pete at the bridge. They would jump the guardrail and skid their way down the incline, grasping at protruding roots and rocks, their shoes pushing up dust. Sometimes they grasped at the loose dirt crumbling between their fingers. They walked the floor of the shady gorge along the train tracks to the school and then home, making dirty jokes and trying to forecast which of them would get laid first. As it was, that was no longer up for debate, and Bryce wasn’t up for fielding Pete’s questions about Michelle.
Blood was hot in his palms. The ball bounced off the backboard and stuttered to a halt near where his jacket lay by the gate. As he stooped to recover the ball, he heard his phone beep in the jacket pocket. He didn’t need to check to know that it was Michelle. They hadn't spoken since she told him about New York.
He took a shot. The ball bounced.
The evening felt indefinite. One could stay out till dawn moving in that darkness. It was hard to convey its impermanence to the blood in his chest and the sweat in his hair as he ran the ball again and again. Tomorrow was vague, out of mind, or maybe was too easily ignored.
He would graduate soon. But it felt abstract, like the paintings they had seen in art class the other day, with the giant animal skulls that loomed over tiny deserts and mountain peaks. Mrs. Sphensen had said the paintings were supposed to convey a sense wonder. Also, that the lady who painted them had suffered a nervous breakdown.
His brother Kris had left for college two years ago and received a three year prison term instead of a diploma. Somewhere in those tiny desert mountains Kris borrowed a stranger’s car and drove it over a fire hydrant. In his letters to Bryce he sometimes worried about getting beat on, but mostly worried that he wouldn’t have a chance against Bryce at one-on-one when he got out. He hoped Bryce was excited about being done with high school.
Bryce hadn't written back.
by Josh Greschner
Technicolor snapshots of heaven most high,
The marquee singed the dilettante’s eyes,
Smoke rose from Mae West’s breasts
On an effigy burnt at the South Central riots.
A d m i r e t h e d a y t h r o u g h 7 0 - m i l le n s e s:
Billboards, dreamcoats, refugees, celebrities
In lurid kaleidoscopic colours almighty,
Acid blotter stamped with the face of Aphrodite.
Hard-light burns from the ball in the sky,
Technicolor snapshots of heaven most high.
One’s life work
Is the curved iron of a minaret,
Others, a blood splatter resisting departure on an immigrant ship
From the setter’s smooth concrete.
But he forgets all sets in stone
Plundered from the Islands,
W o m b s o f n a t a l b o n e .
The setter spins the tongue in ovals
When slides are suffice
And the crew knows he hides
His chagrin with gin and ice,
B e h i n d c l o s e d b l i n d s l e a k i n g l i g h t.
The chiseler, the witness, the mythmaker
Of the inscription defying expected passé,
Shall win back elusive day.
When righteous man sees the conquered plane
When righteous man sees the conquered plane
Hooked on transmigration,
I’m not surprised
I believed everything I told myself.
Be it minstrel congregation
Within village oblast,
Within amorphous mass,
Backlight exposes transgressions
Anchored in the unperceived.
Deepen cause to disengage,
Negative space between borders scythed
With dull blade,
Along lands the northern prism bleached
Like movie theatre screens,
Like noseringed cattle, careened by machine.
by Joseph Musters
The small group of Earthling tourists followed their Toomsian
tour guideon a wide, enclosed catwalk several dozen boolts (close enough to metres) above the Toomsicle factory floor. They were the kind of tourists that just want to have an easy, moderately good time, facilitated by the tried and tested routine that isa guided tour. Only a small perimeter of sunlight seeped in from the top of the circular room the group filed into. Down below, a spectacular mess of gadgets and
machinery assembled what vaguely appeared to be a series of varying styles of mobile toilets. A frail, ancient-looking human father and his short but stout little monster of a boy were front and center. The Toomsian Toomsicle factory tour guide, sitting in his mobile Toomsicle, began:
“Life on planet Tooms is just about perfect this afternoon. Aside from world peace, everlasting clean energy and enough farmland to perpetuate the Toomsian species, we have perfected the art of convenience. It is the reason nobody ever wants to leave the planet; an addiction to luxury. Instead of enduring bad weather, we constructed a series of domes over their major population centres. To dispensewith the need to do laundry, nobody wears clothing anymore; this made possible in part due to the domes. Need to do the shopping? No you don’t! Just order whatever you need from your armrest interface at any time, and it’ll arrive the next quarter cycle at your door (about 3-5 Earth business days). Perhaps the Toomsians’ greatest achievement is the invention of the Toomsicle.”
At that point, the fat little human boy took his fist out of his mouth long enough to pull on his father’s pant leg and whine.
“This is stupid. I wanna go to Disneyland!”
His father, a meek, elderly man with an aluminum hip replacement and thick bifocals (who was just then silently berating all those who opposed the metric system) responded, “Oh, well you know we don’t have the money for that, Tim. Space flights all the way to here from Earth are cheaper, plus the tours are free. Let’s just enjoy the tour, shall we?” Fat Tim’s mother thought of him as a “happy” little accident, but even she wouldn’t take this kind of guff from her son. Too bad hers was an even sadder misfortune, leaving him alone. Well, NEARLY alone. When she was alive, all the best of Old Tim’s pleading amounted to nothing – rather, he WISHED it had. Instead, it had amounted to this insatiable troglodyte he now had in tow.
by Colin James
We went for a walk to the quarry
and saw a man killing a dog.
He was wearing denim jeans
and a long blue coat.
A truck parked nearby idling.
The air was dense and uncooperative.
One lone steel cable sagged overhead.
In the summer swimmers risk everything.
by Michael Prihoda
I hear Marilynne Robinson
give a reading
in a distressingly empty theater,
half-stricken with the set
of next month’s performance,
her grandmother voice
wilting between her and the
twelve rows to me,
her words vessels for
the pain I still kept in little jars
from my grandmother’s death.
the softest shattering played
cello to accompany
like an oil spill
life couldn’t quite absorb,
the lines of Marilynne’s face
like the borders I never
crossed, wanting a fictitious
passport, no fuel for a
and she began answering
questions in the quiet,
my timidity chaining my tongue
from asking “are you proud of me?”
suddenly I knew why
people entered defeatist affairs
with untenable, unattainable
ideals at stake and I waited
until questions ceased
with the sputter
of a dying rhinoceros
(almost embarrassed by
his final moments as if
he distracted by living)
before leaving with
the faint subpoena
feel of having
By Charles Pinch
You are troubled. I see it in your face. Do not despair. Perhaps the laws as we understand them are not straight lines but spinning circles. Perhaps a law is a whirling dervish. In time, when our certainties have pulled back when our profundities have backed down and cease to prove, the watercolor you admire above the mantelpiece is not what you covet after all and the candlesticks are objects of great mystery because we do not know what purpose for which they were intended. Brownie appeared on the rag rug with her fat tummy at nine seventeen this morning just as I was about to take the first sip of my second cup of coffee. Oh, she makes me laugh. Look at her roll about. Isn’t she a funny old girl? Now you just loosen up and laugh. The heavens are lightweight. Even if they fall on us we won’t feel it.
You ask me why I am sitting here. Well, it is a place that is a good place to sit and wait. There are things in this room that might interest you, a person like you. Take that English watercolor over the mantelpiece. It was painted likely near two hundred years ago. Do you like it? Thought so. And those brass candlesticks? All the way from India. Yes, I thought you’d like them. And that cat with its fat belly on the rag rug. She looks to be five, six years old, doesn’t she? She died when she was fourteen. Oh, I’m puzzled too. Why did she choose to return at five or six? Perhaps that is the prime of life for a cat and therefore the best age as she sees it. No, I’m not drunk. Never touch the stuff. No, I haven’t double dosed on my prescriptive sedative. Look, it stares you right in the face. All you have to do is accept it. All you have to do is look the fragmentation of Salinger’s ‘intact f-a-c-u-l-t-i-e-s’ and the dissolution of Planck’s ‘organised chaos’ in the face and say ‘I do’. I said it as soon as I saw Brownie again. What does it all mean, you ask? How can it be real? How can a cat have nine lives and all we see is one? A seed isn’t a flower but without the seed there is no flower and without the flower there is no tautology. Oh, my. Please forgive me. I shouldn’t laugh. I laugh. I do laugh. I am pleased Brownie has returned from the dead because it means Time is pulling back on itself. Like pulling down a sheet on the bed before you climb in for the night. We live by laws but laws change. And it isn’t a great thing? I know Brownie is seven some years younger as you see her there on the rag rug than the Brownie who died last spring. Why do I know this? She has not lost the patch of fur near her tail that will happen when she is eight.
Before I lost my cat I lost my husband. I say husband but he was not just my legal spouse. The man I was married to. He was so much more. Yes, my eyes are misting now, I am aware. Do not be embarrassed. Love, dear, is a wet emotion. Well, he was my heartthrob, you could say. Heartthrob, heartbeat. He was the blood that sang in my veins. But he died. Then my cat died. Now she has returned. You see her there, plainly do you see. How’s that? No mistake. No. No mistake. Because she has come back and I know now he is set to come back but I don’t know when. I guess with all the laws we so trusted to mind collapsing in on us and Time pulling back on itself his time has not come round yet.
You ask me why I sit here? Well, I am waiting. My cat came back and my husband will come back. All I have to do is wait.
Oh, I know.
Light. Light is such glory, such glory.
My eyes dazzle.
by Colin Honnor
Sparrowhawk hovering bow
fly mica hovers amber bead
waterboatman cruise serendipitously
on his blowsy meniscus
stone drops to ripple, its wrinkled
ammonite back is a flanged
frog nubbed for adaptation
as we observe the blind wingedbolt
fly dazzled into doubleplated glass
Guides that falcon, instinct, to flight
an egret summer in so vivid blue
sings of its fruiting, hawk above thorn tree
like a flaw in lapis lazuli
so that we thought there could never be
a sky to over blue in Mary’s colour
the hawk unbridled veers, vectors down
towards that rustle in stubble
above the stooked field
plucks the white heart from the blue heart.
The water child laughs an amphora
struck voice from flute curves hour
laughter is a rock out of the water
wet to dry dust red and broach your terror
the red water fills with rocks stones and boulders
she spills from water broken to heal in water
spills over rocks, where red voices meet voices
in this water running a child of water
see her running over the rocks
laughter chuckles out of water
at the water child, child of echoed laughter.
The heavy swells shrugged dolphins off
spume scattering to resolve again
as the caiques vanished in storm squall
steamers with carved waves coiling
in the almost frozen arcs of eels
where dark comes swiftly to the Aegean
and you are on a crimson tide, blue pool
where the full moon is broken to scythes,
sickles itself until tide withdraws, rock
pools showing its calm, blanched white face
more ancient than the skull of Aeschylus
where the white bird flies into sepia
that no rumour of oracles can disturb
as thyme blows down to the beach from hills.
Allotropes of a war 1914-19
The shell consumed him; was its own deafening musician
awakes sleep in its own consummation to drown the sense with fragments
in its howling aerial music
has exchanged places with him to burst life with its hot viscera:
a worlds breaks from where it hides
in its forgotten foetus in the naked womb
revisits its rusts in fields and ditches battlefields of memory digested in forgotten
evacuates ossuary whose simple white smiles
are all thymus, molar, jaw who have forgotten their words
of the burnt chalk, sandbags, echoes of gas alarms
that flower into roses and poppies of rusted wire.
Their fragile wiresongs hymn the far horizon
the black bark of sunrise splits from dawn's
thickened trunk, insecure as history;
are broken, lie scattered into the red steeping of now
in the no man's land of the undisclosed
between the lead wasp's sting, the high wire.
by Laura Eppinger
Francisco Hernandez, seven
years old and a saint, I pray
he never changes.
One child has a tantrum
over snack choices, Cisco
administers a plush sea turtle. The storm
passes quickly. His stuffed squids
passed around the room, running
tentacles over train tracks, peeking dark
eyes out of Lego towers. I’d offer
up anything to know that Cisco will
have a life so full of adventure.
No one soothes like Cisco, the
outcast kids, the biters, the criers,
the ignored. A bright figurine moves
from one set of brown
hands to another—an iguana, a macaw,
a marmoset, a tree frog—miracles,
all. Before you can say abracadabra,
the tears melt away, as if unwept
and the kids who just can’t focus, play.
I want to tell him, Thank You,
for being so just, but
Cisco is busy beneath
the sea (underneath a table) and
I won’t pull him back to the classroom,
no, not yet.
by Robert Leeming
I was on one of those sightseeing trips out to the caves in Arizona with the Native American paintings on the walls, with Alison Gordon, a friend from LA. Well, I think we got on the wrong bus, because it was full of Second World War veterans each offering hurried salutes, as they filed past us in their garish yellow zoot suits.
We could have made it right there and then, in the semi-darkness of the cave, but I found myself pulling away and making my excuses.
"Something about this cave seems to creep me out," I said, gazing around open mouthed and I held out my bare arm so she could feel my goose pimples.
Of course we missed the bus back, the veterans waving their sarcastic goodbyes, rubbing mock tears out of their eyes and wah-wah-ing through the open windows as the bus disappeared into a cloud of dust.
I flagged down a fleet side half ton 1973 Chevrolet pick-up truck and asked the driver, Chardeene, a long haired fellow wearing a West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band t-shirt, if he'd be able to take us back to Phoenix. He accepted and told us, as we clambered in, to mind the electric jug that
was deposited in the passenger side footwell.
by Zamira Rahim