Monthly Archives: December 2016

Issue 14 Table of Contents

Cover Art
Collages from The Home Project

Special Feature Section
Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley Valley (CSSMV) Refugee Resettlement Program
The Home Project: Collages and Statements

Poetry
Spring Fever
the Master of Manhattan
Truck Stop Morning
Biscuits and Gravy
Fossils of Ohio
Sorcery
Prism
Hibernation
Riding to the County Line After Work

Nonfiction
Angled View, Black and White

Fiction
Pruning

SPRING FEVER

FRED KIRCHNER

—Saturday, February 27th, 36 degrees

The four-item dryer load spins through
a few quarters in Waynesville’s
only laundromat. Wool socks and
shoe inserts stick to the hot metal drum,
centrifugal force and cold Little Miami
River water holding them in place.

A barefoot man, alone, sits on a stool,
unwrapping his Subway, the bicycle parked
against the counter.

After ignoring pylons and the high
water sign, he ducked under the hilltop
backhoe blocking the road and pedaled
through swollen river overflow. Six inches
of current, wide as a valley,
flooded the low fields.

To thaw his stiffened knuckles
he puts down his lunch, walks to the dryer
on the cool cement floor, puts hands
on the warm glass circle and stares
into the dark, whirling vortex.

He loses a minute—or maybe a year—there
looking through its depths. There was a world
at the other end of the appliance portal
in which he almost believed.

During the 25 mile ride home
he will pass more farm fields—dirt-brown,
ready-to-turn—flecked with grey
remains of the harvest’s corn stalks,
edged by barren trees. For months,
winter’s sky has fit Ohio like an overcast
skullcap, stretched too thin
to keep out the icy wind.

about the author
Fred Kirchner has published a chapbook, Platform of an Unacknowledged World Legislator (Main Street Rag), and his poetry has also appeared in several anthologies—most notably, The Art of Bicycling: A Treasury of Poems (Breakaway Books). He is overjoyed that his cycling poetry’s in the same book as a poem by Marco Pantani, the last man to win the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same year. Marco “Il Pirata” Pantani was one of the greatest climbers in cycling history—racing up the steepest alpine roads in Europe. Fred can make it to the top of Thruston Rd. hill in Oakwood.

THE MASTER OF MANHATTAN

EDWARD BOGGS

Michelangelo lived down the alley
where he tagged by night
and sipped cheap Merlot in the day
by the city where the lady stood tall
while striking a pose
and waiting for her ship to come in.

With no more than a sigh and a glance
he mocks her while his friend Julius
persuades him to pursue a greater calling.

Now he sells tie-dye T-shirts on the boardwalk
that some swear even the angels dare covet.

about the author
Edward G. Boggs has loved language and reading since a young age, and has carried that love into his adult years as a theater major. He has found writing to be his greatest expression and fulfillment of that purpose.

ANGLED VIEW, BLACK AND WHITE

GWEN E. OWEN

He would have passed the home goods—bright dish towels, candy-colored nesting bowls, end tables and lamps. He may have seen rows of small electronics encased in plastic. There would have been clothes on hangers, lines of shoes, tools and toys. Everything would have had the slightly surreal effect of fluorescent lighting, and the oppressively hollow feeling you get in a cavern.

At least that’s what I see in this Walmart, where I’m waiting for an unfriendly man in a blue vest to retrieve the bathroom scale I had ordered. While he’s gone, I wait and look around. It isn’t the same Walmart, but they are all the same.

It’s jarringly colorful now, but it was black and white when I watched John Crawford die. I wasn’t there, but security cameras were, and they watched and recorded, watched and recorded, so that all of us could be witnesses if we chose to be.

So, from an elevated angle and with grainy grey vision, I watched John Crawford roam the store, a cell phone to his ear, lost in conversation while his friend shopped for marshmallows and graham crackers. It was like watching a hamster rolling in a clear plastic ball: he was mobile, but not really engaged in the space he inhabited.

I watched a woman push a grocery cart nearby, two children orbiting. Was she in a cheerful mood? Was she annoyed? Or was she living one of the million moments we live that don’t really register at all? What words was she giving to her children?

I watched as John Crawford wandered through Sporting Goods and picked up an air rifle as he passed. Such an absent-minded act, as if his hand reached out of its own accord. I’m sure he had no idea of the significance.

If he had picked up a box of lightbulbs, a mop, or virtually anything else for sale in the store, his day probably would have continued exactly as he had expected it to. He would have left the Walmart with his friend, carrying marshmallows and graham crackers, and someone would have eaten s’mores that night.

Angela Williams, the shopper, would have continued with her day as well. She would have left the store with her children, and a couple of weeks later she would have gotten married, just as she’d been planning. If John Crawford had idly walked around the store, chatting on his phone and carrying a mop, I would not know his name, or hers. I wouldn’t know anything at all.

But he wasn’t carrying a mop, and someone called 911 to report a black man carrying a gun in the store. They said he was waving it around, pointing it at children, even loading it, but I watched him do none of those things. From a distance of time and miles, I wanted to shout that lies were being told. I wanted to warn him that he was in danger. But I only peered through the window of my computer screen, powerless as a gargoyle crouched above the scene.

I watched police arrive at the store that must have seemed oddly quiet and mundane, considering an armed man was reportedly threatening children there. I watched as they found John Crawford in the pet food aisle, and shot him almost instantly. He would have had no idea anything was wrong until his protective bubble exploded under the fluorescent lights. I imagine his mind filled with question marks and exclamation points as he fell to the floor.

I saw the shopper Angela Williams react to the sound of shots. She abandoned her grocery cart, reached for her kids and ran toward the exit. They almost made it, but she collapsed behind a digitally pixilated circle so I could not see her lying on the floor. I saw her kids though, held by employees in Walmart vests, and I saw paramedics kneel around the blurry circle.

Later, in a small police interrogation room, John Crawford’s friend Tasha was questioned for hours by police before she was told that he had died.

I was there too, a ghostly presence in the room.

I heard the shouting, the questions and the accusations, and I watched her cry. She died a few months later in a car accident. More recently, Angela Williams’ teenage son died in a drowning accident. He was 15.

Now I imagine a sort of cartoon afterlife in which John Crawford, his friend Tasha, Angela Williams and her teenage son all find themselves pulling up chairs at a table. I don’t know if they would have liked or hated one another in life. I don’t know if they would have found things in common, or if they’d be too disparate to connect at all. But in this afterlife, they sit down together awkwardly, expressions of surprise on their faces.

“Well, look at this,” one of them says. “Things sure do go sideways, don’t they?”

The unfriendly man in the Walmart blue vest brings me the digital scale I ordered. I pay for it and turn to leave as quickly as I can. I don’t want to be there. The lights are too bright, the space is too vast, and there are too many overwhelming, insignificant, extraordinary stories in every aisle. Too many plans, big and small. Too many expectations and assumptions. Everyone wants to make their selections and then make more. Everyone expects to finish their conversations and then start new ones. Everyone wants to go home.

I want to go home.

I maneuver through aisles of merchandise, all of it wanting to be picked up. I pass other shoppers and the bits and pieces of their lives. And, from an elevated angle, I watch myself heading toward the exit, my purchase in hand, and my vision in black and white.

about the author
Gwen E. Owen is the Content Writer for the Dayton Metro Library, which means she writes content, and she’s quite content doing so. She lives in Kettering.

TRUCK STOP MORNING

BRENNAN BURKS

Grizzled men swollen
in scratched-leather
Carhartt jackets
standing in front
of giant engines
     idle
     rumbling

Huddled,
side-by-side
staring into Styrofoam
cups steaming

     the grit of road
     of factories
     of bodies
          churning

     on stiff and stained
     oiled hands
     smeared with shadows
     of a hard-earned past

Cracked faces
in the morning
light
Pockmarked
like abandoned
stone quarries

ground down
to a tired

          I do not understand

about the author
Brennan Burks writes poetry and fiction, and writes for the Dayton City Paper.

BISCUITS AND GRAVY

DAVID LEE GARRISON

Her side of the family had old fashioned names—
Caddus, Philander, Latitia, Ruby June—and hers

was one my great grandmother dreamed up.
Maizelle owned and ran The Q-Spot,

a greasy spoon with pool and foosball tables,
and people loved the place so much

she had to get a liquor license to keep parents
from sending kids there after school.

A hundred kinfolk came to the reunion
she hosted every August, when she deep fried

catfish her children caught in a nearby lake.
She and her eight siblings would stay up

most of the night singing and telling stories
and playing card games like “Spite and Malice,”

then get up and make biscuits and gravy.
Maizelle lost her first husband to cancer

and her first granddaughter to a gun,
so grief slowed her down, but nothing

stopped her. Her second husband, Stretch,
had been a relief pitcher for the White Sox,

and they went to ballgames all over the country.
A few months before she died, at ninety-eight,

Maizelle told me, “Something of the best that life
has to offer is in each day. Our job is to savor it.”

about the author
The poetry of David Lee Garrison has appeared nationwide in journals and anthologies, and two poems from his book Sweeping the Cemetery were read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. The title poem from his Playing Bach in the DC Metro was featured by Ted Kooser on his website, American Life in Poetry, and read on the BBC radio program, “Words and Music.”