13 Jul

Fiction: Fireflies by Nicole Sharp

Fireflies
by Nicole Sharp

Fireflies blink on and off in the overgrown Spanish moss trees outside my bedroom window. My brother used to tell me that if I ever got lost, all I had to do was find the fireflies that winked and blinked in the long green hair of my trees. He told me that the fireflies would be my own personal beacons of home.

When I was younger. When I sat on the front porch with my grandmother who told stories of her childhood. When my skin stayed sticky in the height of the summer months. When I had faith in my widowed father who liked to bring his dates home. When life was a perfect blend of all these things, I had faith in my fireflies.

Daddy’s found a wife since then, since I was younger. Actually, he found himself three wives since then. They were all the same. They loved him at first, smiled at him in the mornings over the kitchen table. With grandma sitting next to me, her head bowed in prayer, I watched the looks between my daddy and his new wives. They loved him at first. They would smile, unashamed about the night noises that banged and screamed from daddy’s room. Daddy used to stare at the red lipstick painted on his new wife and lick his lips like he could taste it.

“Amen,” Grandma would say. We’d all eat biscuits and gravy and grits with a lake of melted butter in the middle.

When grandma died we’d eat Captain Crunch or peanut butter toast or leftovers for breakfast. Grandma never taught me how to cook. I go to the grocery store and don’t know what to buy. The shiny wrappers look more appealing than the stacks of earth tones in the produce section. I buy the shiny packages. No one complains. But most of the time I miss steamy grits with a lake of butter and heavenly biscuits.

Doreen, who laughed like a frightened bird, was daddy’s first wife. After mama, so I guess Doreen was really daddy’s second wife. Carla, who chain smoked cigarettes in her bathrobe while sitting in the kitchen, was his third wife. Tammi, with an ‘i’, who rearranged the living room furniture every afternoon, was his fourth wife. I didn’t like any of them. What they thought of me I didn’t much care. We passed each other like strangers on a street.

Daddy spends most of his nights back at the bars now, looking for a fifth wife. I sometimes wish he’d bring home one that could cook grits the right way.

Somewhere in between the second wife and the third wife, grandma died. We put her in the back yard in a pine box daddy and my brother built. We could have buried her in the cemetery, but that wasn’t how my people did things. That’s what daddy said at least. We buried her next to my favorite dog that was killed when my brother was learning to drive the pick-up and my mama who died bringing me into the world.

A preacher came out and said a few prayers over grandma’s box. He held out his hand to daddy, to console him, to shake like a man, but daddy just grunted and walked away. I took the big hand instead. The preacher gave me a sad smile and I regretted putting my hand in his. I pulled my hand away and he asked me if I’d be okay, nodding toward our house. Nodding toward the screen door that was slamming with daddy’s anger. I didn’t answer, just turned and walked away. I wanted him to hear me slam the screen door closed too.

Soon after grandma the muggy swampy heat of the summer brought Tammi who rearranged the furniture. It also pushed at my brother who announced one night that he found Jesus and was going to become a preacher man.

Daddy just stared at him, the night he made the announcement. Daddy shook his head. I looked between them and didn’t know what to do, so I bit my lip and looked out the window at my fireflies. We stood in our silent triangle for years, weeks, moments. I looked out at my fireflies winking at me in secret codes I didn’t understand. My brother moved to leave and our triangle shattered.

Three days later, wife number four stood at the front door and looked at the furniture that had been rearranged so much I no longer knew where it had started. She sighed and told my father she was leaving. He muted the TV from the chair she was sitting on and nodded his head. I thought maybe he’d say something, but he just turned the volume back up then. She looked at me then, into my eyes and smiled. Then she asked daddy why he always forgot he had a daughter.

I didn’t feel forgotten. I had the house with the graves of the people I loved, I had my own room. I had quiet nights when daddy left to look for a new wife. I had my fireflies. I didn’t mind being invisible to him. I knew it was better than being as visible as Sally. Her daddy saw her all the time and reminded her of her existence every chance he got. Sally always talked about leaving while she hid the newest bruises on her face with her hair.

I’ll leave one day too, I suppose.

That’s what daddy said one morning when I stared at the back of the glossy Fruit Loops box. You’ll leave and go away and marry a man or get a job and move to a bigger city.
I thought about that for a long time.

Does it bother you? I asked.

He shook his head.

I didn’t think so. He had more important things to worry about, he needed a woman with red lips to sit across from him in the mornings.

But you can always come back here, this is your home. Not much of one, but it’s yours. You’ll want to come back and visit one day, he announced.

I thought then, I might leave. And if I got lost I could always look for my twinkling fireflies.

I was gone the day daddy brought home his fifth wife. I never knew what she did.

 

____________
Nicole Sharp
is a fiction writer.
nicolesharpwrites.com
She swigs coffee the way a dehydrated sailor with scurvy would whiskey. The writing of Arrested Development gave her faith in humanity once again. She is a purveyor of the perfect Italian Cappuccino and world travel. And after all these years of writing, she’s pretty sure she’s just trying to write one good sentence.

22 Jun

From Our Archive – Fiction: “Coconut Oil” by Ayobami Abedayo

Coconut Oil
by Ayobami Abedayo
(as printed in Volume I: Issue I – May 2014)

When you first said you were in love with me, I thought it was one of your many jokes. I thought you were trying to help me forget the boyfriend who had just ditched me because my scores beat his in class. So I laughed and thought that you were such a wonderful friend. You laughed too but when I turned to look at you, your eyes couldn’t meet mine.

They are not meeting mine again now, those brown eyes that have made me forget to breathe so many times. You face the door, running your hands over the tips of your dreadlocks. This short version sticks up on your head like you’ve just had an electric shock and I resent it. You cut the dreads low just before the first time we broke up. And as I ran after you that day, I longed for the tresses so I could pull you back to me with them.

You take a step towards the door and I am afraid you will walk right through it, creating a replica of the you shaped vacuum that is already in my heart. Then your shoulders heave and I realise you must be shedding silent tears that mirror the ones cascading down my cheeks. It soothes me that you are finally falling apart after months of telling me to get myself together and move on. I step closer and hug you from behind. I link my hands across your navel, thrilled that leaving me devastates you too, even if just a little.

‘We must do this for the future.’ You say, placing your hands on mine.

‘And what happens to our own bloody future?’ I scream so loudly that my words hurt my ears.

‘You know better.’ You reply moving your palm over the back of my hands in a slow caress that I want to feel every day of my life, a caress that I don’t want any other woman to experience.

‘We don’t need to have children.’ I say this to startle you. Though I have agonised over the thought for months, it’s the first time I am suggesting it.

You turn to face me. Your eyes are dry, calm. You have not been crying after all. I loathe you for this. This calm you have displayed since we both learnt that we share the AS genotype just weeks after our traditional engagement. This calm that you have the audacity to maintain even today, the day we had planned to get married, the day I should have become Mrs You. But then, do you even remember? I loathe myself even more for the tears that are welling up again in my eyes.

You wrap your hands around my waist, lean close and whisper into my ears, ‘Tell me you really mean that and I swear I’ll stay.’ I should lie to you, make you stay, but your breath is tickling the nape of my neck and my mouth forgets to mould the lies. I say nothing and just listen to the glorious sound of your breathing.

Good bye.’ You say and pull away, breaking my bliss.

We have acted out this scene so many times that I’ve lost count. It has always ended with me running after you, blubbering that I couldn’t let you go. You always came back in, and for a few weeks we would be together. Until one day you would say we couldn’t keep deceiving ourselves or that it was over and the drama would begin again. But not today, your dry eyes have drained me of the strength to chase you.

I wipe my cheeks with the back of my hands as I watch the door slam behind you. Then I go to my room and pick up the framed picture on my bedside table. My head is bent over yours in the picture, my hands are in your hair, your face is slightly upturned and your dreadlocks are going in every direction. Your roommate took this picture when we were in the university. You were about to graduate and I still had two years to go in medical school. It was the day you wrote your final paper and I had come to your room to congratulate you, to ask what you wanted as a graduation gift. You reached into your cupboard and handed me a bottle of coconut oil. ‘Rub this in my hair,’ you said.

Time slowed to a crawl while you sat on the floor with your head between my thighs. I rubbed the oil into the kinky roots of your hair, wondering why you were so quiet, wondering why my legs were shaky. Your roommate came in the moment you said you had something to tell me. He captured that moment for us with the canon camera he always wore around his neck. Later that night, you told me you had been in love with me since we were in secondary school.

I dismantle the picture frame allowing the glass pane to clatter to the floor and shatter. I rip the glossy photograph into tiny shreds. You are standing by the bed when I turn to throw the picture’s pieces in the dustbin. We stare at each other for a while.

‘Did you forget something?’ I ask, startled that you came back, stifling the urge to run into your arms.

You walk to the door briskly as though my words are propelling you away from me. You stop when your hand touches the doorknob and start wailing. You wail and curse. You hit the door with your fist and feet. And then suddenly you fall silent and come back to me with halting steps. You stop at the foot of the bed.

“Come. Please.” You croak holding out your arms.

I walk into your arms, hold your face against mine and your tears fall on my cheeks. I close my eyes and inhale the scent of coconut oil in your hair. In this moment, there are no genes, there is no future, no past, there’s only you, your tears on my cheeks, the scent of your hair intoxicating me and your arms holding me as though you would die if you ever let go.

 

____________
Ayobami Abedayo
@ayobamiabedayo
www.ayobamiadebayo.com
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s stories have appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, and one was highly commended in the 2009 Commonwealth short story competition. She holds BA and MA degrees in Literature in English from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife and has worked as an editor for Saraba magazine since 2009. She also has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia where she was awarded an international bursary for creative writing. Ayobami has received fellowships and residencies from Ledig House, Sinthian Cultural Centre, Hedgebrook, Ox-bow School of Arts, Ebedi Hills and Siena Art Institute. She was born in Lagos, Nigeria.
____________
**Feature image used at the top of this story was sourced from this website.
15 Jun

Poetry: ‘If We Travel To A City’ & ‘The Thing About Snowflakes’ by Marc J. Cid

If We Travel to a City

If we travel to a city
I will not want to leave
until my bones ring
with the rhythm of its streets
the cadence of its concrete
the chatter of its cobblestones
Until four corner skylines tattoo
the inside of my eyelids
Until I’ve tasted a city’s morning breath
cold, coughing, the calligraphy
of its awakening
the lullaby litanies
of its sunset shuffle

If we travel to a city
I will want to stay until
my heart files its name
under “Home”

 

The Thing About Snowflakes

The thing about snowflakes
is that when we are stepped on
we get flatten-packed into solidarity,
become aerodynamic substance amassing inertia.

When they try to crush snowflakes, we gather
side by side and back to back and face to face,
merging into snowballs. And the thing about snowballs
is that we ferment momentum, generate acceleration, grow gargantuan.

When they stomp down on snowflakes
they call down the blizzard,
and soon they will reap the avalanche.

So let them clench their tiny hands around crybaby sized ski poles
and try to ride this storm out.

Maybe they’ll make it to the bottom of the mountain.
I doubt it, but even if they manage that much,
our white powder demolition stampede
will swallow the streets and drown the town.

And the thing about snow is that it’s H20
by a particular name and physical state,
and the thing about H20 is that whether
raindrop or ice crystal or snowflake,
H20 when flying free deconstructs light,
reveals white light is comprised of every color.

And the thing about people, is that we aren’t photons,
and when you combine us together we do not blend into white.
We are a hundred thousand shades of brown,
an earthen gradient, a topsoil mosaic, every stratum stacked
atop the previous ever more vibrant, ever more diverse, howling with the sound
of bitten back words finally freed, intergenerational grievances given voice spiraling skywards
where they have taken away so many stars from the night, but have you ever driven
out from under the excess umbrella of domesticated lightning, have you ever seen
the creamy glean of infinity in the Milky Way, will multitudes and myriads
and countless totalities of stars, of cultures clashing clinking combining frighten you like it does
these jackbooted snowflake stompers, unheeding, being swallowed
by the shadows of storm clouds they have summoned with their self-servicing, dead-end dance?
Or will you and I and all of us remember this time, when the thaw begins,
that none of our colors fade, all these colors of ours do not run.

Or will you and I and all of us remember this time, when the thaw begins,
that none of our colors fade, all these colors of ours do not run.

________________
Marc Cid
is a poet currently living in Downey, California. He tends to write and perform poetry that leaves his listeners split on if they’re supposed to laugh or not, and to feel kind of bad if they do laugh. This is intentional. The trick to doing this without being a stereotypical offensive comedian is in taking care to note who is placed at the end of the punchline.

09 Jun

Book Review: Clifton Snider’s “The Beatle Bump”

Book: The Beatle Bump by Clifton Snider
Genre: Poetry
Reviewer: K. Andrew Turner
The Beatle Bump, by Clifton Snider (Los Nietos Press), is a work of adoration, contemplation, and emulation. Written mostly after the murder of John Lennon, Snider explores the playful lyrical style of the Beatles in his own songs. He digs into the roots of the Beatles, how they started and who influenced them. But above all, this is an ode from a fan to the musicians themselves.

 

Through exploration, Snider brings up letters that would not be out of place in the here and now. Love letters to Ringo and George, by fans that want nothing more than recognition and that ardor returned. Perhaps looking into our pop culture boy bands of the last few years: One Direction, N’Sync, Backstreet Boys, Boyz II Men, etc will yield similar letters. All these bands have their loyal followers, their fans that scream and shout and oftentimes lay bare their feelings freely, and some say excessively. Perhaps the only thing that has changed is our attitude for those women (in particular) that simply throw themselves at these stars. Snider never judges these Beatlemaniacs, as his poetry feels right on the edge of the precipice. He understands why we fawn over such innocent-seeming men and why they pull us in with magnetism.

 

Each poem reflects hours of listening to music, absorbing, jamming along, and feeling in those deep moments spent late at night wondering just how someone so far away, so distant could “get” you. In some of the song forms, he playful enters the arena of lyrics riffing on some of the nonsense but provocative stylistic choices.

 

And Snider reflects on the darkness that follows each Beatle around, from drugs to loss, and death. He explores, throughout the book, how he was affected by each Beatle, by the band as a whole, and by the world-wide impact the band had. In the later poems, when he explores Liverpool, with each snap of the camera and each line of the poem, the reader comes to understand, full-circle, the brilliance and the nostalgic pangs of a young man desperate to connect to something that so powerfully impacted him.

 

This work is phenomenal in and of itself, and any fan of the Beatles, or music history in general, should pick up a copy. Those who have been transfixed by music or any fan of a band will understand the deeper meanings here as well.

 

____________
K. Andrew Turner
@KAndrewTurner
Publisher, East Jasmine Review
writes literary and speculative fiction, poetry, and dabbles in nonfiction as well. Growing up in the foothills of San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California has influenced his writing style and outlook on life. So far, his writing has appeared in Chiron Review, Carnival Magazine, Creepy Gnome, Lummox, A Few Lines Magazine, and publications by Bank-Heavy Press. K. Andrew Turner is a creative mentor and freelance editor, teaches creative writing, and is the publisher and founder of East Jasmine Review. www.kandrewturner.com
08 Jun

Nonfiction: Memory Loss by Sara Marchant

Memory Loss
by Sara Marchant

I am sitting on the bumper of my husband’s truck, waiting for him to finish his post-lunch cigarette and let me in the vehicle, when a luxury SUV stops next to me and an older Japanese lady puts her head out the open window and hails me. She hails me by name. It is summertime in Southern California and I am in an asphalt scented parking lot, choking on second hand smoke, overly full of turkey burger– surely I’m hallucinating this stranger calling my name.

“Sara!” She calls again, despite being two feet away from me. “Isn’t that you?”

“Yes,” I say, looking around. I am the only person, except for my husband who has retreated further under the shade of a straggly tree to avoid detection, who she could possibly be addressing.

“You are Sara, right?” She has noticed my confusion.

I admit that I am. My husband, using my distraction to take advantage, lights another cigarette. “Do I know you?” I finally ask.

It is entirely possible that I do know her. Or did know her prior to 2003 when I suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car crash. This has happened before. A woman came up to me in public and chatted, naming several friends we had in common. I played along, not wanting to let on that my faulty brain had erased her from my memory. A phone call later that day to one of the friends mentioned revealed that while not close, this erased woman had been a friend. We attended events together, went dancing. She had told me about her abortion, our mutual friend reminded me, and I cried with her. I cannot remember her at all.

“Yes! Sara!” This lady exclaims. “We used to be next door neighbors in Alameda. Alameda, California? You and your husband, Steven?”

I take a breath, relieved. I don’t even know where Alameda is, let alone recall having lived there. “Oh, sorry,” I say brightly. “My name is Sara, but that’s the only husband I’ve ever had.” I point and my husband (not named Steven) salutes her with a head nod and a wave from the hand holding his cigarette.

She does a double take and then looks extremely doubtful. “Oh,” she says as if that means something. “Oh, I am sorry.” She looks at my husband again, then back at me. She looks like she’s about to say more, but instead drives away.

“That was weird,” I say as my husband throws down his unfinished cigarette and finally lets me into his truck.

“She didn’t believe you,” he tells me. “She thinks you are the same Sara who lived next door to her and you’ve never told me about your other husband, Steven.” He is driving as he says this, calm, but still smiling. My shock pleases him.

“I have to call my mom,” I say, and do so.

“That’s ridiculous,” my mom replies when I ask her if I’ve forgotten another husband, another marriage, an entirely different life in an unknown town. “Of course you’ve never been married before, and where is Alameda, anyway?”

Her annoyance is so everyday normal I am relieved, and get off the phone. My husband doesn’t know how my stomach tightens each time a forgotten person re-enters my life, how my heart seems to gush with liquid for a shattering moment, and saliva fills my mouth in panic.

Have you ever lost your purse or misplaced your car keys in public? For a few heartbeats your world stops– and then starts again when you remember the purse is hooked on the back of the restaurant chair or your keys are in your other pocket. Imagine your purse is your brain, your car keys are chunks of your life. Pieces of me are gone and, as far as I know, they aren’t coming back.

It is a hot, sweaty day but I had goose bumps as I questioned whether there had been an entire life forgotten. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t the Sara who had been married to Steven and lived next door to that nice Japanese lady in Alameda, California. But it could have been.

I could have another life somewhere in Alameda with my husband Steven. Perhaps we have two and a half children and a lakeside cabin we visit on weekends and hobbies we enjoy together. Maybe Steven is a rich orphan and I am an only child and we take our beautiful, healthy children out on our speed boat every chance we get. But how could anyone forget a life like that?

In the years to come, Steven, my ‘other husband,’ will become a third presence in my marriage. My husband will use him as a scapegoat. Mud tracked into the clean house? That was Steven. Who ate an entire chicken meant to feed the guests at dinner? Obviously, Steven.

I use Steven, my imaginary husband, as a measure against my real husband. Steven always called when he was going to be late. I never had to ask Steven to take out the trash, he just did it. Steven’s parents were nicely dead. Steven didn’t have two ex-wives running around town. Steven didn’t have three grown children from a previous marriage. Steven had healthy sperm.

We are very careful to never mention Steven around my mother. She finds Steven creepy.

____________
Sara Marchant 
received her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts from The University of California, Riverside– Palm Desert. Her work has been published by The Manifest-Station, Every Writer’s Resource, Full Grown People, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and The Coachella Review. Her work is forthcoming in the anthology All the Women in my Family Sing. She is the prose editor for the literary magazine Writers Resist.

01 Jun

Fiction: Ida Untold by Trista Hurley-Waxali

Ida Untold
by Trista Hurley-Waxali

I stop before I reach our hotel to admire a window display. I remember running into this men’s boutique by my husband’s request, to find a tie for a new hire for a dinner meeting. I met them in the lobby with the dark brown silk tie and folded it for the new hire in front of a hallway mirror. My husband watched as I glowed with pride. The gesture was always something I envisioned doing with our son, if he never grew wings.

I blink away the memory and keep walking, here is not about the once past but rather the present meetings to future gains. That’s what we promised each other when we booked this trip. We made a promise to work on ways to communicate and to reconnect to what we had at one time. We want a new pair of us, a pair that we can both be proud of.

“Hey babe, I was just thinking of you.” I say into the phone as it vibrates in my jacket pocket, picking up on my headphones.

“Are you at the room?”

“No, just walking back now, have some goodies for tonight.”

“Yeah about tonight…”

“Are you going to be late? Because that’s fine, I really am behind.”

“No, I can’t make it for aperitifs, I have a call that I have to do with the guys here and then a dinner got scheduled.”

“Oh, of course a dinner.”

“Look, you know this was work for me.”

“I know. It’s fine.” As the words leave my mouth, I know it is, I really do think it’s okay, “I’ll just have the room service we ordered then.”

“Oh shit I completely forgot.” I listen to him put his face in his hands, pinching his forehead. He did forget, I know that sound.

“It’s fine, I’m probably going to send out a few emails and read the English-only paper I found at the newsstand. Not to mention finish the champagne for two.”

“Well, why don’t you save me a glass for when I get back? And maybe a couple strawberries too?”

“Sure, I can do that. I’m going up the elevator, so we’ll text soon?”

“Okay, love you.”

“I know, I love you too.” I hang up. I’m not at the hotel. I’m not at the boutique. I’m at the cemetery.

I walk past the marble monuments, lined so close that there remains no gaps for the cats to squeeze through. Some have candles that remain unlit and pooling dust after months. Some have dried flowers hanging from the locks and some appear freshly laid. The tombs with candles are designed with a sliver for people showing respect to stick a lit end to illuminate. It’s a bright afternoon where any candlelight gets dwarfed but the gesture speak volumes. Some family names repeat and others have lines of poetry. There is a strong sense of pride for family name, where these grandchildren children are either grown or have too past away. I look in my grocery bag and see the chocolate ice cream bars are starting to get squishy. At the exit I bow my head to show respect to all the souls, never the religious type but always respectful.

A few blocks away I am back in our penthouse suite. I have just enough time to put my items in the fridge before room service rings at our door. The waiter comes in and arranges the items we ordered on the table and leaves the bill next to the coffee maker to be signed. I walk upstairs to change out of my jeans and into a black maxi skirt. I drop my purse on the bed and take out my lipstick to apply another coat. I may have no one to wear it for but I feel more beautiful with the matte red hue.

“Can you open the champagne, I really don’t want to make a mess.” I ask as I’m walking down the stairs, he nods and takes the bottle from the chill bucket. We are both standing anticipating the pop. I smile, “thank you.” I over-tip for the service and he smiles back. The door shuts and I hear nothing for the next hour besides champagne filling up my flute.

After I pour my 3rd glass I open the fridge door to take out a box of rose petals I bought from the florist. A cheesy gesture I knew would get an easy laugh. I miss watching my husband’s mouth, opening and releasing the scent of sour breath from after too many flutes of champagne. I sigh and open the box. The petals smell of summer romance, wreaths high on the walls of new homes and like our wedding boquet.

The day of our wedding seemed to have snuck up on us, spending weeks in bed comparing, him about my hair and my hands and me about his chest and bony nose. He told me he’d spend his whole life spoiling me with love and tokens from new cities. We made promises to each other, knowing we’ll evolve with some promises kept and others went broken. I feel my phone vibrate in my cardigan pocket. An emoji of a sad cat followed with the line: stuck in this meeting, rather be with you. I drain the glass and look at the time. He’s not going to make it for the arrangement of sweets or the petals, he’s not going to be back here till late at night.

The 4th glass I pair with the pastry basket and fruit that was set to ruin dinner, the spread that now became my dinner. I specified for the yellow tart over the blueberries and flan, knowing he doesn’t like items too heavy. He never relished in the weight of a good pastry like how he never relished in my affection of longing. I sit on the couch to admire the bright autumn sun hovering over the cemetery. The rays of the sun look as if they are reaching down and touching the tops of the mausoleums. It looks so warm, so comforting, so welcoming for those lost and past souls. A clear and present path laid out, if only they were ready to look.

Now on the 5th glass with a steady buzz, I respond back to his text:

“Sad face, I’m going to have a hot shower.”
5:50 pm

But I’m not going to be the one who showers, no, these souls in the cemetery will be the ones who get showered. That’s what I should do, shower them with fresh rose petals. I will raise them from their sleepy states and feel their warmth go through my body. I open the balcony door and step out 12 floors up.

 

“I’m sorry, I want to make it up to you.”
6:00 pm
“Brunch tomorrow? Somewhere nice outside of the hotel.”
6:03 pm

 

“Sure.”
6: 05pm

“ok I’ll make reservations tonight.”
6:08pm

 

Translation: he’ll find a spot nearby that we can easily walk in. We always walk in and we always order a bottle of win. Those gestures I know will never change but those gestures are in place so we don’t have to talk about the elephant in the room. So we don’t have to talk about when I want another.
With an hour left till sunset, I lift the 6th flute to feel the bubbles on my nose, the smell of luxury. The balcony table is small but stable enough to not move in the breeze, not a harsh wind like you get from the tunnels between buildings on the street and nothing cold that forces me to run back inside. I have the box of rose petals in my hand and I open it up to take out petals between my fingers. Soft like youth and still damp from the fridge.

As I drop each petal-one at a time, I watch the red notes float down in different directions. Some towards the cemetery, some towards the building across the street and some just straight down. Each dependent on the moment the wind blows. When the wind doesn’t blow- there’s no direction, leaving the petal’s destiny to rest on the sidewalk for one of the many small dogs in this city center to poop on. He calls when I’m a third of the way through the box, the time I stop wanting to hear the excuses. The phone stops ringing, voicemail. Oh, looks like he no longer wants to leave a message, perfect. I step back inside our room and finish a raspberry tart and pour out the rest of the bottle. I come back out for the sunset with the lipstick stained flute, leaving behind my phone.

As I’m leaning on the frame of the balcony door, I look at my empty dark green bottle, my half eaten strawberries and my pastries. I see the plates on top of each other on the table and only my napkin sprinkled with pastry shell flakes. Where two napkins were ordered to be together but only one gets used. The 2nd third of the petals I drop from the railing and I each land on the ground. My chest gets smacked with the shock of the fall, the fall coursing up my spine and into my frontal lobe. Where all I see is the end, where all I can envision is the pavement. I look for some air and move towards the edge to hang over the balcony. Lying there between the floor and the bottom railing.

I’m holding the last third of the box taking deep breathes. For I’m going to try and maybe guide these petals. Maybe give some souls an alternate path. I drop each one when I feel the wind on my skirt, hoping some petals will fall on balconies like this one or in neighboring units. It’s late and I hear the street stir with couples heading out for dinner. I don’t get up or move away from the edge, away from wandering eyes but rather I extend my arm to dump out the rest of the petals. As each one glides with the wind, moving by found souls who can smell the bouquet. I lean over the edge to follow the red matte blanket and grow my wings with ease.

____________
Trista Hurley-Waxali
@tristaisshort
is an immigrant from Toronto, who finally listened to her parents advice and moved South. She has performed at Avenue 50, Stories Bookstore and internationally at O’bheal Poetry Series in Cork, Ireland and a TransLate Night show from Helsinki Poetry Connection. She writes weird short stories and is working on her novel, At This Juncture.

31 May

Critical Listing: Summer Reading 2017 Asian American Edition

Because it’s the last day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and because the last few days have been filled with lists of Asian Pacific American Writers that you should be reading, here is a list of what I thought were well-curated lists and author features on this topic. It also helps that friends of mine were featured on these lists, and some of these lists were written by friends. If you’re looking for things to add to your Summer Reading Lists, please consider picking books and authors recommended in the links below.

1) Beloved Asian American Literature You Have To Read — Curated by Karissa Chen (@karissachen)

In the end, I simply decided to highlight some of the contemporary literature that has meant the most to me personally, with a greater emphasis on books that have been published in the last few years. Of course, this means I’m leaving out a good number of books that I’m sure would belong on someone else’s list. This also means the list skews heavily towards literary fiction, which is what I tend to read the most. I hope that one day Asian American literature will be so commonplace and so widely read that to try to compile a list like this will seem silly. Until then, I humbly submit twenty of my favorites, and hope this acts as a jumping off point for those looking for great Asian American writers to read.”

2) Books Featuring Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders For Kids and Teens — Curated by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang (@fkwang)

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, NBC Asian America took a look at a few new books for children and young adults by Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) writers, finding a growing number of young adult novels, middle grade readers, picture books, fantasy, and graphic novels.”

3) ‘Groundbreaking’ Asian American Poets to Read with Immigrant and Refugee RootsCurated by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang (@fkwang) & Bryan That Worra

“2016 was a groundbreaking year for many of our members in the Southeast Asian-American poetry community,” Worra told NBC News. “We’re seeing a generation of poets from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and elsewhere fully coming into their voices, drawing on their experiences as refugees in a time when we need those voices most as we confront the current conflicts around us. I’m delighted to see so many not only using their voices to discuss the past, but how it weighs in on the present and the future we might all build together.”

4) The Subversive New Generation of Asian American Writers — Curated by Karan Mahajan (@kmahaj)

“In 2008, Wesley Yang published an essay in n+1 about the Virginia Tech mass shooter; fierce, analytical, and dangerously confessional, it had a testy Naipaulian energy. Other nonfiction writers have come up concurrently or followed suit: Jay Caspian Kang, Hua Hsu, even provocateurs like Eddie Huang and Amy Chua. In fiction, Hanya Yanagihara, Ed Park, Jenny Zhang, Tao Lin, Tanwi Nandini Islam, Alice Sola Kim, Alexander Chee, and Tony Tulathimutte are renovating an ossified genre with outrageous and sometimes hypersexual scenarios. (Kang is a correspondent for VICE on HBO; Huang is the host of the VICELAND show Huang’s World; Lin, Islam, Park, and Tulathimutte are all occasional contributors to this website.) Zhang and Islam also exemplify a style of online confessional essay-writing that draws blood—and thousands of politicized readers.”

Cherisse Yanit Nadal
Editor-in-Chief 
East Jasmine Review
@cherisseyanit || @EJReview

27 Apr

Letter From The Editor: Let Me Introduce Myself

Carlo Munoz ca 2002

In the early part of 2002, Carlo Munoz and I shared a very special relationship. Every weekday evening at 5 PM, we’d meet at a small bakeshop called Valerio’s on the corner of Azusa and Amar in the city of West Covina, California. You see, at 5 PM, the bakeshop took their final batch of pan de sal out of the ovens, so the bread rolls were still hot, fluffy, fresh, and aromatic whenever I stepped into the shop. In other words, it was the perfect time to purchase a bag of pan de sal. Carlo also arrived in the bakeshop at exactly 5 o’clock on the dot. I have to admit, he was as big a motivator as the bread in what brought me to the bakeshop most evenings of the week— maybe a bigger motivator, if I’m being honest. Clean cut, handsome, and with the perfect balance of office attire and wire-rimmed glasses to suggest an attractive amount of nerdiness, he was a joy to look at. I’d bat my lashes at him in expectation, and I think I half-expected him to reach out to me from the television set in the corner of the bakeshop. Because in the year that followed the 9-11 attacks in The United States amidst much of the largely unquestioned rhetoric of “necessary military response,” the comfort of a bread line and a standing appointment with an actor on a Filipino soap opera became my part of my coping strategy at the age of nineteen at a time of military nationalism and fever-pitch Islamophobia.

This anecdote may not be the self-introductory letter that the readership of The East Jasmine Review expects from the publication’s new Editor-in-Chief. What does the self-care pattern of a college student from fifteen years ago have to do with the transitional leadership of a literary journal today? For one, I think that the state of global politics in the current moment is a loud reverberation of the days following 9-11. So much so that the tears I shed on the night of The United States’ 2016 General Election had the same stinging pain to them as the tears I shed days after the twin towers fell in New York. It was a stinging pain wrapped up in the same questions I asked the universe across the fifteen-year chasm of time: What kind of racial violence will this precipitate, and what forms of violence will this new rise of American Nationalism allow people to get away with? (Note: Here I speak of America because by circumstance of birth, I am an American citizen.)

I have tried, in the 5 months since I’ve assumed the role of this publication’s Editor-in-Chief, to write a letter to the readership— to tell you who I am, to share with you how I plan to implement the magazine’s mission to uplift and center voices largely ignored or silenced by the wider publishing world. I was excited to announce that we— the new editors and I— were here to help center the voices of the marginalized. Women of Color. LGBT Writers. New voices. More voices. And then days after he assumed his new job, Donald Trump implemented a Muslim Ban. Showing up at airports in support of the people unlawfully detained and participating in direct action political organizing became the priority, because for all my talk about centering marginalized voices, how could I help center voices but stand to the side while those same voices are systematically smothered?

Photo Credit The Independent (UK).

Systematic racial violence is, of course, not new and certainly didn’t recently arrive in The United States or onto the global stage in 2016 or 2002. But this letter to you isn’t meant to be a history lesson. I mention the long history of global oppression, though, because I think it’s important that you, the readership know who I am and what concerns me as editor and curator of this magazine. While, thus far, I have indicated to you some the things that motivate and inspire my curatorial eye, perhaps it is time that I, in the grand literary tradition of declaring oneself, tell you who I am.

My name is Cherisse Yanit Nadal, and you can find my bona fides here. I am a writer, political organizer, musician, and sometimes-scholar. I am an anti-imperialist, transnational feminist. I am for ending the world-wide genocide and oppression against all women-identified persons. I am for ending the state-sanctioned violence and genocide against black bodies in The United States and the world. I am against gendered violence. I am against racism. I am against transphobia. I am against homophobia. I am against all forms of systemic, state-sanctioned oppression. I am against the rise of global fascism. And I write to you, readers and writers alike, with the hope that as we move forward as The East Jasmine Review community the writing that we feature here will include an intersectional, transnational, and progressive view of the world and literary landscape.

Also joining me as we move forward are our veteran editors, V.E. Duncan in Poetry, and Stephanie Barbé Hammer in Creative Nonfiction. We welcome new editors, Eric Nguyen and Julianne Carew in Fiction, as well as Rozlind Silva in Poetry. You can find out more about them by clicking on their names on the masthead here. We are also fortunate this year in that a Southern California literary non-profit organization has agreed to be our non-profit fiscal sponsor. Thanks to The San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival, we will now be able to accept donations. Check back with our website in the future for more details.

If you are a writer who is interested in writing for us, we are always accepting rolling submissions, but if you would like your work to be considered for our first issue of the year which will be published in late July 2017, please send in your submission no later than June 20, 2017.

Cherisse Yanit Nadal
Editor-in-Chief
East Jasmine Review

20 Nov

Nonfiction: Not Your Everyday Conversation by Erin Michaela Sweeney

Erin Michaela Sweeney

The text from my sister flashed on my phone: I need to talk to you. But I’m scared.

I texted back: Will call in 10 mins. It would have to wait until my husband and I put our two-year-old down for the night. Why would she be scared? Puzzled and concerned, I hurried through the rituals ending in hugs and kisses. Maybe Robin had broken up with her partner or regretted her new career track?

Three years before, our dad was diagnosed with cancer, and I’d gone through my leukemia ordeal just a year before. They say bad news comes in threes. Had Robin now received terrible medical news in 2012?

Once we wrapped up the bedtime goodnights, I rushed to the living room and anxiously called my only sibling. Robin picked up on the first ring.

I began with our familiar salutation: “Hello, my sister.” Silence greeted me on the other end. “So,” I eased out, “What’s up?”

The quiet lasted so long, I wondered if the line had gone dead. I glanced at the face of my cell to be sure we were still connected. At that moment, I heard my sister stutter-start. She cleared her throat and said softly but matter-of-factly in my ear: “I’m transgender. Do you know what that means?”

It was my turn to pause. I wanted to observe, feel, and process, as was my meditative nature. With a slow syllable, I answered yes. I knew transgender was the “T” at the end of the acronym LGBT. I sensed the need to focus on “transgender” with which I had no personal experience, especially because I’d lived and worked in southeast Virginia—a cloistered, rather homogenous region—the first ten years of this century. It was going to be a steep learning curve.

To ground myself, I pressed the four corners of my feet onto the laminate flooring beneath my chair. I waited for Robin to fill in the gaping holes of my knowledge. When a close friend came out to me as gay after college back in the 1990s, he said I’d come across as nonchalant, which damaged our relationship. I knew the way I reacted to my sister’s news could make or break our close bond. This was not your everyday conversation.

I had questions—some philosophical, others, practical. What did her partner, Lesley, think of this revelation? Was I the last to know, just like two decades before when she came out as a lesbian? Would the haters in the world try to hurt her because she identified as transgender? How did she define transgender for her own life? Most important, would she be happier as a he?

We talked, or, more precisely, Robin talked and I listened with occasional conversational noises to let her know I was still with her. At first, some of what she told me that cool winter evening seemed cheesy or superficial. “Chaz Bono is on this season’s Dancing with the Stars.” “I’m now buying ties.” Uneasiness swept over me—what did ties and Chaz Bono have to do with anything? But I continued to listen to that oh-so-familiar voice.

Robin explained the importance of these signifiers.

After living the wild ride as the child of celebrities, Chaz upended everyone’s expectations. Chaz was formerly known as Chastity, daughter of Sonny Bono and Cher, and more than a ballroom dance contestant. He broke out of the confines of the female box ticked on his birth certificate. The newsstand magazines covered it all. As the first openly transgender person scrutinized by the mainstream media, Chaz’s activism on behalf of the transgender community reached the entire nation. He symbolized what could be for Robin.

When she saw the documentary about Chaz’s transition—a story of a boy trapped in a girl’s body—she identified with Chaz’s years of longing to be known on the outside how he felt on the inside. “Watching the documentary was the final validation of what I always knew in my heart and struggled to reconcile throughout my adult life.”

This conversation happened about a year after my blood cancer diagnosis. The five rounds of chemotherapy to get me into remission and keep me there—each of which was administered in hospital 24/7 over eight to ten days—still greatly affected me. I had what people call chemo brain, where a patient’s cognitive abilities to focus and concentrate are diminished. At that point in my recovery, for instance, I couldn’t keep track of the plot of a short story. Even with my medical shortcomings, I listened as hard as I could to the words tumbling at me and absorbed the passion in Robin’s voice during our hour-long talk. The thought of losing me, something Robin had never contemplated, started her questioning everything about her own life. Such profound reflections, she told me, helped bring to the surface her deeply held belief she was a he. Change was coming. And I felt privileged to be one of the first people to whom Robin revealed her truth.

Back in early 2012, when we had that conversation, the nation’s attention was not yet focused on the transgender community as it is today. Orange Is the New Black, with trans actress Laverne Cox, wouldn’t premiere on Netflix for another eighteen months, about the same time Neil Patrick Harris performed as Hedwig at the Tony Awards. It wasn’t until June 2015 that a transitioned Bruce Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair with the headline “Call Me Caitlyn.” But there was a backlash. In March of this year, North Carolina passed controversial legislation requiring transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to the gender marked on their birth certificate.

During that pivotal conversation with Robin, my mind wandered back in time. My sister and I shared our childhood in a stable, two-parent home with an academic father and a stay-at-home mother. By the time my blurry toddler pictures appeared in our family’s photo albums, my older sister had her hair in an androgynous bowl cut and wore bell-bottoms. No frilly dresses for her.

Robin developed big breasts by the time she was ten, an awkward addition for any girl to cope with, more so for someone who felt always out of place in her body. I remember going to an amusement park with her, our dad, and a school friend to celebrate my seventh birthday. Robin was twelve years old. On one of the rides, the attendant mistook her for our dad’s wife rather than his daughter. We all laughed at the mistake, but the look of horror on my sister’s rose-tinged face made me worry that my chuckles had hurt her feelings.

In high school, Robin was the only girl to compete in the shot put, which took strength and mettle. She gained so much muscle in her arms and back she split the shoulder seams of her shirts. Though her enhanced physique impressed me, I remember wondering how her friends and others reacted. But what did I know? I was just a self-absorbed junior high school kid wanting to blend into the crowd.

Since her high school days, my sister wore a gender-neutral uniform of oxford-cloth, long-sleeve shirts tucked into khakis or button-fly jeans. By adding ties to the mix in her mid-forties, she was declaring to the world her intention to be viewed as male.

“How did Lesley react to the news?” I asked. The two met in graduate school classes for marriage and family therapy. An insightful woman who had previously been a social worker, Lesley was the best person my sister had ever known in her romantic life. Robin gleefully relayed her partner’s reaction: “Took you long enough to figure that one out.” Lesley recognized Robin’s path before my sister’s inner feelings had harmonized with her outward life.

Over the next weeks and months, I would hear from Robin and read about the transgender movement and community, the jargon used, and some of the medical lingo. Though I missed saying “Hello, my sister,” I continued to feel nervous excitement for what lay ahead.

That evening, after Robin filled my mind with definitions, explanations, and stories, we had come to the close of our conversation. In a teeny voice from far away, Robin asked, “Do you still love me?”

My heart leapt into my throat. I wished then that the conversation had been face-to-face and not on the phone. I needed Robin there to embody all those memories. “You are my one and only sibling, the first person I ever smiled at.” I struggled for the right words and finally found them: “I love you unconditionally.”

Time has passed since that conversation. I’ve celebrated five years cancer-free, Rob and Lesley are still going strong, and our sibling connection is as deeply felt as ever. Most important, Rob is a joyful living soul as a he.

author-photoErin Michaela Sweeney is a writer, mommy, yogini, daughter, editor, sister, and napper extraordinaire who lives in Claremont, California. She connects with readers via her newsletterTwitter, and Facebook.

12 Mar

Memory Beauteous-Audio

The following is an audio track for Memory Beauteous in Volume 3, Issue 3