Issue 9 Table of Contents

Antioch Writers’ Workshop Poetry Contest

Best in Show
First Trip to Cleveland, Anne Randolph

First Place, Adult Category
Mid-Life Chrysler, T.J. McGuire

First Place, Youth Category
Now, Mollie Greenberg

Second Place, Adult Category
Tenant, Kerry Trautman

Second Place, Youth Category
Blue Shivers, Shanna Harvey

Cover Art

Keep Watch, Kylie Fine

Poetry

Afilador, David Lee Garrison
After My Grandmother’s Funeral, Elizabeth Cantonwine Schmidt
My Mother Suzie, Rita Coleman
The Scarf, Lori Lopez
The Professor’s Cat Explains, Ron Rollins
Not Quite Emo, Eric Blanchard
This Is What Life Does, Anne Blanchard
Up and Down, David Lee Garrison
Cave Paintings, Deborah Rocheleau
Educational Services, East Campus, Room 6, Eric Blanchard
Meditation, Joy Schwab
Germantown, Melissa Rubins
I Once Was a White Woman: in My Wonder Woman Boots, Joy Quarmiley
Battlefield, Mollie Greenberg
We Had a Blast, T.J. McGuire

Prose

Against Grandiosity, TJ Pancake
Tornado Alley: McClean, West Texas, 2006, Meredith Doench
A Farewell to My Tabs, Carol Narigon

Photography

Secrets, Tiffany Shaw-Diaz
Untitled, Emma Sturm
War Fair, Lorelei Fink
Horizon Line, Gary Mitchell
Untitled, Roxana Olt

First Trip to Cleveland

We start out as if on a lark, a romantic getaway
north to lake country, whipping by Amish
fields of straw sheaves, lined up like skirted
scarecrows, then that city skyline,
so jagged and uneven, a mouth with
missing teeth. Our bed and breakfast,
a stone mansion from grander days,
rock ‘n roll guitar sculpture marking the entrance.

Hurrying, we walk to the museum before closing,
meet Bonnard’s wife Marthe, feel the dappling
sun of Renoir, and search in vain for prints,
watercolors, all stowed in dark archives,
available by appointment. At dinner
we share everything, conversation, laughter,
an artichoke trimmed and dressed
in lemon, chicken breasts creamed
with goat cheese. Back at the inn, you study
your books while the woman next door coughs
erratically. We move into a new room,
where we rest under a blinking
smoke alarm, awakened in the early
morning by the repeated clearing
of a throat.

At the clinic, you lug your heavy bag
of hope to all three doctors, search for
answers, as I record conversations, no cracks
in the door to alternative treatments, only
surgery or radiation, the implanting
of seeds on a seek and destroy mission,
titanium husks you would always
carry deep inside, like a portable
landfill in a scarred landscape. Afterwards,
I drive us south, now and then stroking
the softness of your grey corduroys, silence
our companion the whole way home.

Best in Show
Antioch Writers’ Workshop Poetry Contest

Anne Randolph’s poems have been published in the following journals: Plainsongs, The Storyteller, Mad Poet’s Review, The Chaffin Journal and Willow Review. She has studied poetry at Wittenberg University, and has participated in the Antioch Writer’s Workshop.

Mid-Life Chrysler

You had to baby it. It had been through a lot … many lots.
Yet when you stepped on the gas, it only lurched,
threatened to stall, you stepped harder, it lurched again,
until the heck with babying it, you’re stomping
on the pedal, cursing, the car jerking us down the street,
RPM needle bouncing wildly, while the slightest dips
in the road caused busted shocks to boing,
as if riding on industrial-size pogo-sticks.

Sporty wouldn’t have been the word to describe that car;
nor would dependable, fuel efficient, economic, or sleek.
It was certainly no engine-revving muscle machine;
unless you count having to rev the engine to keep it
from stalling-out at stoplights, or the muscle exerted
manhandling the no-power steering, which we are not counting.
And forget horsepower, the giddy-up was violent,
like being jerked around by a bevy of three-legged donkeys.

The Beach Boys would have never written a song
about your car, that much can be said.
A blasphemy to the history of motor vehicles
your car made Stephen King’s Christine seem as prissy
as a pink, Mary Kay caddy in a Barbie parade.
And when you first pulled up in that 1986 Chrysler 500
in the summer of ‘98, it was apparent that, back at the car lot,
you’d had a serious Griswold-moment.

It was an ugly, dark brown box of rust on white-walled tires;
sofa-seats bleeding orange foam through ripped upholstery;
with an extra long front, stubby rear, and four square head lamps
that resembled toy flashlights made by Fisher Price.
Beater would be the word; lemon; rattletrap.
It was the kind of car you pray gets stolen,
but never would; not even with the keys left in the ignition,
a full tank of gas, and a sign that said—TAKE ME.

So I was surprised at your reaction, when I had recently joked
about that car, and you failed to find the humor in it.
Fifteen years was no anesthetic for the pain my playful jest
had unintentionally renewed. But it wasn’t so much for the car
that hurt, as it was for the situation: you were thirty-eight, newly divorced
with three young mouths to feed on a cashier at Lowes income.
Carless for a spell, that bum-squabbled hunk of corroded steel

was your freedom, your escape-vehicle away from that monster
whom I unaffectedly refer to as “dad.” After being imprisoned
by that insidious control-freak who’d never let you live,
you’d stolen one last glance in the rearview, before eighteen hard years
of marital hell vanished to a dot on the point of a new perspective.
The car itself was an eyesore not the slickest of paint jobs
could’ve saved. So what? It was there for you; all you could afford.
In the end, it was dad who’d driven us all away.
But it was you, mom, who stayed strong, and that beat-down
Chrysler 500 that drove the rest of us together. 

First Place, Adult Category
Antioch Writers’ Workshop Poetry Contest

T.J. McGuire lives in Dayton, Ohio, with his wife and two daughters.

Now

Now is the time when the Earth splits open beneath you,
when the shining eyes bare the veins, break the skin,
video the secrets.
Your voice is loud against the night but the streetlamp’s scream
will always be louder than you.

Now is the time when golden silence will stretch itself
across the open roads, the cornfields whispering
of the days to come while you whizz by
with your carbonated drinks and sandwich bags,
the only company you’ve got.

And I’d like to tell you:
Do not become a lyric to those songs on the radio.
Do not live your life in the shadow of other people’s inspiration.
Become a melody.

Now is the time when mother, father become obsolete,
the clouds too big to fill an endless sky,
and you aren’t sure anymore the color of her eyes, the wave of her hair,
the way your ears begged to hear the ring of her voice, yes:
This is the way of remembering.

Now is the time when books will be burned,
the blasphemy and the beauty flying out into the night
against the flames in your eyes,
caught by the bats on their midnight rounds.

And I’d like to tell you:
Do not let the boys with their big hands squeeze you too small.
Do not let the boys who want to hold you, to protect you,
trap you.

Now is the time when you burn with questions.
They singe your fingertips,
but when you try to ask them, only the silence of the walls replies,
changing you to become less of story, more of stone
so that the next time she pushes you away, no tears escape.

Now is the time when nothing is hypothetical,
every bleak detail is literal, is reality, is death.
Your lipstick stain on the coffee mug, your razor worn and bloodied
to match the nick on your cheek, your leg, your wrist.

You are everyone,
all these stains are yours and permanent.

Do not pretend anymore. 

First Place, Youth Category
Antioch Writers’ Workshop Poetry Contest

Mollie Grace Greenberg is a junior at the Miami Valley School in Centerville, Ohio, where she participates in theater, the school literary magazine, and Model United Nations, and is the president of an environmental awareness club. She has received awards for her writing in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards competition. She lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio, with her parents, and she loves rainy days, tea, friends, chocolate, acting, and books. For Mollie, writing poetry is a form of breathing.

Tenant

The flaking farmhouse
crouches among cornstalks.

I imagine a small woman inside,
listening to September
insinuating itself through
brittle window frames,
as she punishes her guts
for some vague sin.

Vegetation and cloud cover
shadow her from
other wives—
ones with porch neighbors,
and gregarious, tongue-y dogs,
and toddlers in sherbet-colored socks.

Caterpillars hump their wools
across the puny highway
between soybean acres.

From her window
they are black blots
crushed on asphalt
like old chewing gum on parking lots,
like shadows of hailstones
careening,
light nothings headed nowhere.

Second Place, Adult Category
Antioch Writers’ Workshop Poetry Contest

Kerry Trautman’s poetry and short fiction have appeared in various print and online journals, including Mock Turtle Zine, Alimentum, The Coe Review, Third Wednesday, and Think Journal, as well as in the anthologies Mourning Sickness (Omniarts, 2008), Roll (Telling Our Stories Press, 2012), and Journey to Crone (Chuffed Buff Books, 2013).

Blue Shivers

Purple caffeine pumps through my engraved veins
A sweet relief to aching bones
It’s better to have shaky hands than shaky thoughts
Purple is my friend.

Yellow reality drops through the holes in my mind
A cold remedy for the pain
It’s a long way home but it’ll help on the journey back
Yellow is my friend.

Red lines shoot through my once innocent tired eyes
A sudden rush to clouded senses
But there are worse things hiding behind the curtains
Red is my friend.

Green epiphanies spread through my fingers and toes
A sharp sensation and it’s gone
Gone away with no trace, taking its baggage with it
Green is my friend.

Orange horizons set through my trains of thought
A burst of reality joins them
Contrasting night from day in a sad, sad way
Orange is my friend.

Blue shivers trickle through my worn ribcage
A large symphony of regrets
Blurring the lines between right and wrong
Blue is not my friend.

Second Place, Youth Category
Antioch Writers’ Workshop Poetry Contest

Shanna Harvey is a freshman in the creative writing magnet at Stivers School for the Arts. 

 

Against Grandiosity

They tell you to change the world. The kindergarten teachers and motivational speakers and missions agencies all shout with hands held high, telling you to be a world-changer. I wonder if, when these well-intentioned people say to change the world, they really mean that my calling in life is to be the one person in history who will alter the trajectory of every single one of the seven billion souls currently living and dying on this planet and everyone who will come after, born into a new world, a world with my name stamped upon it, bearing witness to my life. Because if that’s what they mean, I think that sounds really hard.

The World Changers is a group for students started by the North American Mission Board to—you guessed it—change the world. These “world changers” are attempting to complete their grand project by fixing windows and raking yards, redoing bathrooms and kitchens. They are changing the world, one loose screw at a time.

The World Changers are genuine, I’m sure, and they’re helping people, which is nice, but are they really—I mean really—changing the world? The issue, I guess, isn’t with the group; it’s with the name: World Changers. The whole thing just seems a little grandiose. It is massive and impressive and glorious and horribly, horribly impossible.

*****

I have two sets of neighbors.

The neighbors across the street are a family that just moved in a few weeks ago. They asked us to stop parking in the spot on our street so that the husband could park his blue truck that is so big it can only be overcompensation for insecurities about his manhood. I know they have a miniature Chihuahua that yaps and yaps every time I open the front door to our house and walk to my car.

The neighbors next door are an older couple. The husband sits in his electric wheelchair on the front porch, posted up watching the cars pass. The wife occasionally joins him and has even been known to strut onto the porch without a shirt, which I haven’t seen but only heard about, thankfully. Sometimes younger people, who might be their kids, come over and do work on the house.

And this is all I know about my neighbors.

What I’m driving at is this: How can I eternally affect all of humanity if I don’t even know my neighbors’ names? If the wheelchair guy died right now, I would still go to the Hive today and eat and laugh with my friends, completely unaware of the tragedy. I could go on, business as usual.

*****

I swear we were infinite.
—Charlie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

*****

Georg Cantor was a mathematician who did research on sets of numbers and came to the conclusion that there is “infinity of infinities.” Irrational numbers contain infinity numbers, and there are an infinite number of irrational numbers.

Think about this: you can never get to the end of numbers.

But I can get to the end of myself. I swear that I am not infinite, Charlie. No, I feel decidedly finite. There is infinite knowledge to be known, but humanity is falling grandly short of knowing it. What I mean is that even Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein are still infinity short of knowing everything. The Enlightenment was grasping at the hope of progressing toward completing humanity’s knowledge—that man, with his own prowess, could realize all of the knowledge. A very grandiose goal indeed. But I’m afraid that level of progression doesn’t even exist. It’s an impossible goal. It seems like every time we figure out something, we soon find out there’s something else we don’t know. There’s always another truth behind whatever at which we’re looking. Planets into galaxies into universes. Elements into atoms into protons. Recently, researchers looking into the size of protons came up with answers that don’t fit our current atomic schemes. “Maybe we don’t understand fully proton structure,” he admitted. Maybe we don’t understand fully anything.

To live a life of grandiose aspirations is to live a life chasing phantom deeds, to try and fail at things of which a mere human is incapable.

In high school, my mom used to tell me, “TJ, you’re going to grow up to cure cancer.” Now that I’ve decided to enter the ministry, she tells me, “Your generation is going to be the one that will revive Christianity in America.”

I don’t know, Mom.

But then, there are people who seem to have changed the world. Plato, Karl Marx, Mother Theresa. What about Adolf Hitler? He seems to have significantly altered humanity. But I don’t want to follow his footsteps. What about Jesus? Jesus came and tossed a grenade onto the social strata of the day, turned religion on its head and instituted the “kingdom of heaven.” If I’m supposed to be like Jesus, shouldn’t I be doing that?

If Jesus is the answer to all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that this world faces, the one who really changes the world, why do I have to try? I don’t want that responsibility; he can keep it. It’s too big for me. But, somehow, I still feel the weight of it on my shoulders, trying to hold everything up in some deluded Messiah complex.

I cannot save the world.

Let me off the hook, please.

Perhaps significance is cumulative. Maybe I can add up all the little deeds I do and they will expand into one grand deed. Maybe I can’t alter the existence of every person on Planet Earth, but I can give my extra game tokens to the little kid sitting on the race-car chair, pretending to play the game. I can buy Alex’s coffee when his card is declined. I can shake homeless Cool Mike’s dry hand and buy him lunch at Steak n’ Shake. I can put my arm on a friend’s shoulder, listening as he cries.

I am an insignificant guy in a world driven by significance and I want that to be okay. I need that to be okay.

I don’t know if I’ll stop daydreaming about preaching a sermon so compelling that it sparks a revival eclipsing the Great Awakening, or about writing a novel that fundamentally alters the way a generation thinks, or about quitting school and starting a non-profit organization that eradicates the AIDS epidemic, making it as obsolete as chicken pox or the flu. But there are two things I know: Decisions are right in front of me. What I do with what’s right in front of me matters a great deal.

In May, TJ Pancake graduates from Cedarville University. Afterwards, he plans to move to downtown Dayton to help plant a church and embed myself in the local writing scene, where he hopes to learn from others. He looks forward to publishing collections of creative nonfiction in the future. 

Afilador

Madrid

I

He sharpened metal with his bicycle,
pedaling to turn the whetstone
mounted on the crossbar.
Before I saw him, I would hear

that happy little dove song he played
on a whistle to advertise his arrival.
Women sent their children out
to the street with knives and scissors,

and they stood, transfixed, as sparks rolled off
his wheel. He’d hone the blades and test
them on his palm until the lightest
touch might break the skin, bring blood.

II

When I returned to Spain years later
I saw him again, working at the curb
in front of a café. By then he must
have been the last sharpener

in the city. He knew the ancient trades
were dying, and we talked about the days
when his craft had a brotherhood.
He refused to play his pito for me,

said it wasn’t worth a pito
anymore and neither was he,
said he was saving his pito in case
some tourist lady wanted to toot it.

The poetry of David Lee Garrison has appeared in many journals and anthologies. Two of his poems were read by Garrison Keillor on his radio show, The Writer’s Almanac, and Ted Kooser featured the title poem of David’s new book, Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro, on his website, American Life in Poetry.

After My Grandmother’s Funeral

We went back to the apartment crammed
with ninety five years of living to collect
some things to remember her by.
There were too many of us
twenty five
or so
Heaven for the children who opened
boxes, found old locks, pencil sharpeners,
magnifying glasses. The girls wore hats, necklaces,
carried purses, tried lipstick and perfume.
The boys unearthed a stamped leather notebook,
fifty year old pens, small tools, glasses.
We sorted through a lifetime of umbrellas,
thirty years of scarves, collected crystal
and dishes, garden chairs, furniture, paintings.
In the end, we took too much.
When we brought it home our house was a shrine
her table, her lamp, her clock. On the wall,
her portrait, her mirror. In the mirror, me
wearing her hat, my daughter sleeping in her bed. 

Elizabeth Cantonwine Schmidt is a librarian and mother of four from Kettering, Ohio. Her writing is inspired by turns of the mind, the color blue, history, relationships, and journey through the bloodstream. 

My Mother Suzie

Now I understand why my mother was like she was,
why our house was laundry piles in the kitchen,
dirty ashtrays and coffee cups lipsticked on the rims.

My mother ate life.
No knife and fork poised over an entree.
She gulped, ran a paper napkin over her mouth.

And talked! How she could go, a rhythm known only to her
and her girlfriends: her sister Mary, Ruby from Georgia,
and the Suzie wanna-be’s she moved into our house.

She was too busy to read and mangled words
like some mothers sewed:
Chrystianthums, polyurtheline, lopers (to trim branches).

My mother was loud. She was embarrassing—
discussing my first bra on the streets of downtown Dayton
where strangers were privy to the development of my breasts.

Yet when anyone needed a defender, she stepped forth
in her bold-tongued way, wearing costume jewelry that clinked
as she gestured with hands that dipped and arced like finches.

My mother ate life, spicy and grilled,
laughing to doubled-over,
that sideways look in her eyes.

Rita Coleman’s award-winning poems have appeared in numerous publications including her first collection, Mystic Connections. An alum of Wright State University, she has taught college-level writing and poetry, and she has taught children’s poetry workshops at schools and libraries. Rita’s photos have been exhibited at the Town and Country Fine Art Center, First Friday in Springfield, and local venues throughout the Miami Valley. Her notecards and calendars are sold through Griffin’s Gifts and Cards in Kettering.

The Scarf

The blue checks under shades of grey plaid lay soft against my skin. I longed to purchase the scarf and hold it forever. I wear blue a lot; I could work it into my ward- robe. Oh, but nothing dangling, draping, or hanging at work. At home? Still a pretty item. But I wear turtlenecks so often. It isn’t practical. Are Christmas presents sup- posed to be practical? Even if I buy it for myself? Dad sent me funds. No, he never picks out anything himself. Easier I guess just to send money. Not that expensive, and oh so soft.

I could pull it off, if I were thinner.

It’s a scarf. What does thin or weight or height or stature matter?

It’s so pretty.

I could look together wearing it.

If I weren’t so big, or if I were someone else.

Leaving the scarf on the shelf, I walk out into the brisk frigidity of winter shivering as the snow blows.

Lori Lopez. Reader, writer, wielder of wrenches. By day, a mild-mannered postal mechanic turning wrenches for the USPS, by night a purveyor of stories to tempt your imagination. 

Tornado Alley: McClean, West Texas, 2006

Mikayla blazes brighter than sun with eyes of stars and hair of burning comets. Her galaxy yawns a wide welcome inside this cyclone-howling F5-er. I reach for her. Boots stomp against truck-bed metal, and she just wants to fly fly fly. Balanced on knees, I wait for an answer, heart thumping hard hard hard. Mikayla’s supernova smile gives nothing away. She pulses with howling screams, and mouths: I know there is a better world. My scorched fingertips graze a fiery outline, whispering through her smoky cloud. These fierce McClean winds will blow apart our constellations, and she will leave for her better world. Holding Mikayla is like fisting moonbeams—brilliance runs like water between closed fingers. In its wake, only the lunar-dusted shine of Mikayla remains inside my empty wet palms.

Meredith Doench writes and teaches in Dayton, Ohio. She has published in literary journals such as Hayden’s Ferry ReviewWomen’s Studies Quarterly, and Gertrude, among others. She is also one of the fiction editors of the literary journal Camera Obscura: Journal of Literature and Photography.  

The Professor’s Cat Explains

Is it raining outside?
Sunny? I can’t see.

I hear scraping sounds out there,
somewhere.

But here I sit in this goddamn box:
smooth sides, cardboard stench,

Food dish in the corner, and
that weird water bottle—

I’m waiting for you, for somebody
to lift the lid

So that I, too, can find out
what happens.

Ron Rollins is a writer and an editor who lives in Kettering and loves it here.

Not Quite Emo

Death wears a camo jacket
and combat boots,
not much else. Her hair
is pitch over pale complexity—
eyes sharply lined and shining,
pout painted crimson.

She casts a grim gothic
shadow, reaping
prolonged glances,
double-takes.

And when
Death cuts,
it’s not herself
the scythe slashes.

Death does not bleed.

Eric Blanchard’s poetry has been published in numerous literary journals and reviews, both on-line and in print, including Autumn Sky PoetryRust and MothBorderlands: Texas Poetry ReviewPudding MagazineAmarillo BayTurbulenceLiterary Orphansand Poetry Quarterly. He currently lives and writes in Dayton, Ohio.

This Is What Life Does

This is what life does. It takes you
to a conference at an arboretum where
you sit in back so you can stare out
the window at trees and birds at their
feeders. When people start introducing
themselves, life lets you remember
the guy who stands up in front,
the one who last whispered
good night to you forty years
ago. Then it gives you courage
to seek him at the coffee break
so you can hear him say I’ve always
wondered what happened to you.
But it’s under trees over lunch
that life lets you pick up loose
threads, patch the gaps, and stitch
a fresh connection. And then,
life makes you wait some more.

Out of the blue, a phone call,
an invitation to spend a day at the family
cottage on a lake. There is no hesitation
in your answer. Armed with poems,
sandwiches and soup, you follow
the curving string of a country road
on a treasure hunt. Lakeside vacation
homes cram the lanes until you cross
a bridge to find a quaint cottage on
a point. There, life lets you breathe.

A day of canoeing, poetry, song and
conversation. You smile when he edges
closer to see photos on your camera. And when
you are ready to leave, you feel fire
burning in his sparkling eyes,
his body trembling to hold you.

Anne Randolph’s poems have been published in the following journals: Plainsongs, The Storyteller, Mad Poet’s Review, The Chaffin Journal and Willow Review. She has studied poetry at Wittenberg University, and has participated in the Antioch Writer’s Workshop.

Up and Down

“Zip me up,” she says.

Strange that a dress
requires help—
that vulnerability
is sewn into it.

The skin on her back
yields a tiny intimacy:
forbidden territory
he’s allowed to ride

for just a second.

She helps him
straighten his tie
or brushes off
the back of his coat,

and if, at the end
of the evening,
she helps him
with his zipper,

she slides it down, not up.

The poetry of David Lee Garrison has appeared in many journals and anthologies. Two of his poems were read by Garrison Keillor on his radio show, The Writer’s Almanac, and Ted Kooser featured the title poem of David’s new book, Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro, on his website, American Life in Poetry.

Cave Paintings

Art is deep in a cave
nobody bothered to explore.
Out hunting, maybe, you’ll find one
seeking someplace warm for a fire.
You’ll see the buffalo
stampede across the wall

and wonder.

“Must have been spiritual,”
you’ll growl between teeth full of lamb,
“trying to tip the hunting gods in their favor.”

Spiritual, yes. What else drives you
forward into darkness?
What else makes you think art
may be worth more than meat?

Deborah Rocheleau is an English major, Chinese minor, and all-around language fanatic. Her writing has appeared in the Tin House Open Bar, 100 Word Story, Nexus, decomP magazinE, Flights, Treehouse Magazine, and the Boston Literary Magazine. She is currently writing her second contemporary young adult novel. She blogs at deborahrocheleau.wordpress.com.

Educational Services, East Campus, Room 6

The shark with a broken tail
hangs from the ceiling
next to the crab with only one claw.

The students are also broken—
some have twisted bodies
and shuffle sideways

through the narrow hallways of life;
others are like the shark
that will bite but cannot swim.

The teachers are torn
like chum in the open sea,
so the children can feed.

Some will be food for others.
Few will survive unscarred.

Eric Blanchard’s poetry has been published in numerous literary journals and reviews, both on-line and in print, including Autumn Sky PoetryRust and MothBorderlands: Texas Poetry ReviewPudding MagazineAmarillo BayTurbulenceLiterary Orphans, and Poetry Quarterly. He currently lives and writes in Dayton, Ohio.