Online Issue 2018

Poetry | Prose | Art


Black Boy Blooming | Mason Pippenger


The Female Became Deceased in the Alley | Pesach Rotem

“After that, it is unknown to BCA agents what exactly happened, but the female became deceased in the alley.”

From a court document filed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) in connection with its investigation into the Minneapolis police shooting of Justine Damond.

Justine Damond was a yoga and meditation teacher.

She moved from Sydney, Australia, to Minneapolis, Minnesota,

To be with the man she loved.

Their wedding was scheduled for August.

The female became deceased.

 

There is no Kitty Genovese scenario in Minneapolis.

In Minneapolis, when we see (or hear) something we say something.

We fulfill our responsibilities as citizens and as

Human beings.

She became deceased in the alley.

 

It was late at night on July the 15th.

Justine heard screams from the alley behind her house.

She called 911.

When the police arrived, she went out to meet them.

The female became deceased.

 

Officer Noor, from the passenger’s seat of the squad car,

Shot through the open driver’s-side window.

Officer Harrity, in the driver’s seat, escaped unharmed.

Justine Damond did not.

She became deceased in the alley.

 

The state BCA is investigating.

The officers’ body cameras were off.

Officer Noor is exercising his constitutional right to remain silent.

We might never know why it happened.

But the female became deceased in the alley.

 


Twig and Dandelion | Susan Augenbraun

It was a small dinner, as wedding celebrations go, a dozen guests in my mother and new stepfather’s house to toast their union. But the kitchen was still chaos, and the cat slipped out the back door into the darkening suburban night.

I tried calling her name into the twilight. But the cat didn’t know me; why should she come to the sound of my voice? I hadn’t lived in this house in years, and she’d become a fixture only after my time. My new stepfather was the cat lover.

The yard was familiar, though: a small grassy square that had once been a kingdom. A crown of leaves, twig and dandelion for scepter and orb.

A pang shot through my chest. That time was only half-remembered, so shrouded in cobwebby memory that most of the time it wasn’t a part of me. But here, the fading light struck at a particular angle, illuminating the hole this place had left in me.

I closed the door behind me, gingerly, and stepped down into the dewy grass. I was still in my party dress, but had kicked my shoes off somewhere. As though I’d known I would come outside. I had never worn shoes then.

I made one more call to the cat, but she was gone. Perhaps captured. Cats were precious beasts of burden to them, I remembered, though they couldn’t tame them any more than we could. Cats were slippery, moving between the two worlds.

Or maybe she’d be eaten by a coyote. That was the simple explanation when cats disappeared.

I wondered what the simple explanation would have been if I’d disappeared any longer or more permanently than I had. If my mother hadn’t been too busy grieving for my father to notice that I’d stepped out the back door and into another world.

I was ten that summer, and still not quite given up on magic. Any older, I thought later, when I thought about it, and it wouldn’t have happened. But I was still young enough, still small-big enough, to fit through the keyhole.

I stayed for three weeks, though while I was there it might have been months. They put me to work in their kitchens—I’d stepped out of one kitchen door and into another—and so I ate the food. That’s a commonly told story, and it turned out to be true.

They were very much like people, actually, if a little strange about the eyes. There were cliques and rivalries, all of which were alternately stoked and extinguished by the leader. I don’t want to say queen, as that isn’t quite right, no Titania trailing courtiers. More like an executive, despite the imperial symbols, though their business was never quite clear. They made a bit of a pet of me, and laughed when I asked who we were cooking for.

Then one day, the call to arms came. A danger crashing toward their territory, uprooting homes and trampling buildings. It was my mother, looking for me after all.

They laughed aside my cries and arrayed themselves to do battle. I was given a spear and reminded that I’d signed a contract.

Had I? I’d eaten the food.

The weapon was a blade of grass, my helmet a cracked-open nutshell. The walnuts in a bowl on my mother’s kitchen table, looking to my child’s eyes like brains, had been so small.

They had a cat, an old orange tom, battle-scarred. He didn’t seem to mind loading up as transportation, but when he looked at me, I recognized him from our neighbors’ house up the street. I knew he knew me, too. He shook his head, dismayed.

I could hear my mother’s shouts. She was calling my name from a great height. The spears were at the ready.

I shouted and ran before the line, asked them to take me instead.

It was in violation of my contract, it turned out. A court-martial of sorts and back to the big-small world, where I would grow old.

I gripped my mother tighter that day than I had when she’d told me my father was dead. Afterward, she seemed able to begin again. Afterward, I more or less forgot the adventure, along with most of the rest of what I had known at the age of ten.

Except that now, on my mother’s second wedding day, I found myself on my knees in the grass, scrambling, the veil lifted. I wondered if they could recognize me, or if they’d take up arms against me. If they were even still there.

I called again, but this time for them instead of the cat. And I heard an answer, a whistling through the air that was unmistakably a voice. Speaking a language I was too old to understand.

The cat came bounding across the yard to me. Leaves and burrs clung to her back. I brushed them aside and found, spilling into my palm, a tiny half-nutshell and a single blade of grass.

 


Dot’s Good Deed | Kaye Sterling


Selling Candy in Heaven | Alex Hughes

Can the child selling candy on the subway

call it labor if she doesn’t know any better?

She asks if I “Wanna buy a chocolate?” and

proffers a box of Snickers—but all I think

is it’s after eight and school’s coming early

the next day; how many hours till she wanders

home to sleep in the hole she considers luxury?

Do you think she’ll dream of something

she’s never seen? I shake my head and

send her away, but can’t shake away the

echoing of her tired refrain—Wanna

take pity on a piece-of-shit upbringing?

but it’s a man’s voice using her skinny legs

and hand-me-downs as a mouthpiece—

no one else seems to notice anything

out of the ordinary; they just study the

flashing tunnel lights, heads bobbling—

are thoughts of injustice, gratitude, sadness

rattling around in there, or are they dreaming,

reaching for a world they know is possible?

Maybe they can’t fathom someone else’s reality,

though the Dickensian piece of evidence

waits by the door, holding candy she can’t eat.

At the next stop I watch as she steps onto

the platform, looks around, then approaches

a woman and baby that’s working hard to sleep

in what it thinks is a bedroom. Beside them

a man sticks his nose in his kid’s business,

acting the muscle and taking a cut,

then faces her with an odd combination

of love (because she gives him money) and

what looks like disgust. But the little girl looks

upon the mean face of her conductor with adoration—

for such is the power of youth, to believe

everything is sacred and nothing matters, to see

the game in what’s mundane—and a finger

that must be mine touches the thin pane of glass

separating us: let her believe, let her labor

under the assumption that work is play,

let her live a little longer in heaven, for it will all

come crashing down sooner or later.

 


11:01 p.m. | Taylor Ramseyer

Do you remember the stars from that night? They were glistening, winking down at the world, but looking down on me with pity. “That poor girl,” they said. “Why can’t she just say “stop”?”

 

Did you hear the way Benny and the Jets was sounding through your forty-year-old speakers that night? I used it to distract myself from my inability to unfreeze myself until I melt away from your touch, your kiss, melt within your interior where your hands can’t touch me. I use to love that song. Every time I hear Elton John through the radio now, I have to leave the room, or turn the radio station. It doesn’t sound the same anymore. It sounds more like I need it than want it.

 

Did you hear me saying,

 

“Hey, it’s getting late. You should drop me off now,” or

 

“Hey, we have to go,” or

 

“Hey, it’s almost my curfew,” or

 

“Hey, we have to go we have to go we have to go” but in my head, all I was screaming was,

 

“I want to go I want to go I want to go. Stop. Stop stop stop. Get off of me. Don’t touch me there, don’t dig your fingers there, don’t stick your tongue there. Stop. I want to go.”

 

Does it get me in trouble that I can never have the courage to say no?

Does it get me in trouble that I just always want to please everyone?

Does it get me in trouble that I don’t want to hurt people or their feelings, that I don’t want to disappoint people? Even when I end up hurting myself and hurting my feelings and disappointing myself in the process?

 

You weren’t looking at the stars. You were too busy pulling over on the side of the road while I was questioning why you were doing so. You were too busy knowing that I would be too shy and nervous and scared to tell you to stop. You were too busy using my niceness as the compass that pointed you South, a place that didn’t know what no meant but it knew what it felt like.

 

You weren’t listening to Benny and the Jets. You were too busy listening to my heart bang on my chest like it was trying to escape. It was screaming for help, banging and banging and no one answered. You just listened and laughed at the struggle. You heard the way my voice was shaking. You heard my rigid breathing, but you must’ve thought it was a better beat than Elton John.

 

I was scared. I tried to tell you to stop in so many ways.

I didn’t want to hurt or embarrass you, but I did that to myself because you didn’t stop until you got tired of listening to my urges, my pleads.

 

My curfew was 11:30 p.m.

 

You pulled the car over at 11:01 p.m. We were only a mile away from my house. You planned on having sex while I was planning on staring at the clock glow in the dark until you scared me more.

 

I’m uncomfortable.

I’m concerned.

I’m scared.

I’m angry.

 

I should have told you to stop, but you should’ve known that that was what I had meant.

 


Carbs! Carbs! | Madison Sherrick