Interview with Ashley Inguanta

Asley Inguanta

Sheila Squillante: Tell me about a time you recovered your language.

Ashley Inguanta: I remember understanding that the sun was going to set, but I headed to Malibu anyway. I flew in from Florida, my home, that morning. In a few days, I would read from my first collection, The Way Home, at Book Soup. Until then, I had time to rest, to discover, to navigate, to learn. I wrote The Way Home at a time I felt extremely lonely, and I wanted to take time to understand what that meant to me now, in these present moments of healing.

The night before, I couldn’t sleep. I had a very severe panic attack, and my neighbor came over to sit with me. We spoke about loneliness, finding pieces of connection in the world. In the morning, I felt grounded enough to leave, but I still felt sore, almost paper thin.

So I went to one of my favorite places in America: That spot where road meets rock meets ocean, the place where Santa Monica becomes Malibu. I sat, smoked tobacco, and listened. I remember birds gliding, the rhythm of the Pacific’s waves swelling like one worn, strong heart.

And then Dylan appeared, like magic, out of nowhere. He asked for a cigarette; I gave him one and a light. He asked why I was here and I told him about the reading. He said, Can I read your book? I said, Yes. I gave him a copy and he started reading it right there, in that very specific place where road meets rock meets ocean. He marked his favorite pages with the cigarette. And when he got to the part about living on the outskirts of another woman’s life, he said he understood. He told me that he was an artist, too, but his job was to create everything “out there,” and pointed to the ocean.

I remember writing those words: “to live on the outskirts of another woman’s life” and all of the pain and beauty and growth that came along with them. Dylan didn’t have to say it–I could tell he understood. And as he sat on those big Malibu rocks and read words I wrote, I felt connected to something much, much larger. I could feel myself changing shape, recovering my language, a language I was beginning to lose trust in, lose connection with. I didn’t understand exactly what was happening, but I knew that my story connected with his story, and that bigness warmed my spirit.

 

SS: Tell me about a time you recovered from language.

AI: I often find myself recovering from the language of tradition and expectation. I consider Florida to be my long-term home, but I do not consider myself “from” Florida. I do not consider myself “from” anywhere, really, and I find that language to be very limiting. I feel extraordinarily connected to place, and because of that, I do not want my origin to be bound.  In each and every place I go to, my spirit changes–a birth. Even if the change is slight, it’s there. I experience these shifts through sea-level changes, temperature changes, the way soil and grass and concrete spread, generously provide ground for us.

I can get lost in “from/origin” if I am not careful. With these energies, staying true to myself and my experience is a practice.

Spread Your Wings

SS: Whose body do you remember in your skin?

AI: I remember the woman who helped me heal and nurture her heart, as well as my own heart. I remember her body in my skin with the precision that seed grows into flower.

 

SS: How does writing move us toward and away from embodiment?

AI: I believe that when we write, we hold space for our bodies and spirits to transform–to change shape (however minute) to express the discoveries we have made in our poems. I also believe that we are not the poem, and sometimes I catch myself feeling like the journey ends at the poem–but then I get thrown into the tangible world, off paper, and understand that I must affirm/question/navigate the energy the poem holds with my own body, in this world.

So, to answer the question simply: Poetry moves us toward embodiment by allowing change to take shape inside of us. Poetry moves us away from embodiment when our world becomes only the page.

 

SS: What are you actively trying to recover right now and how can poetry help you do that?

AI: I am trying to recover a part of myself that I lost when I moved to Brooklyn. I left so many people I loved behind. I experienced many powerful, moving, and healing moments in New York City, but I also understood that I was losing the part of myself that understood how to nurture, how to be brave, and how to care for another human during a big spurt of growth.

In Florida, I used to leap into oceans–no hesitation–no matter how big the wave. I used to find beauty in every single cloverflower–each one feeling like a miracle. The earth used to shake when I would make these discoveries: The tiniest flower there, the biggest wave I have ever moved through. I made the decision to return home when I traveled back for Easter and saw my beautiful friends; my flight was late, and when I arrived at our meeting place, they were all waiting for me. It felt like I had died and came back to life: I was finally, finally home again.

Here, in Florida, I have been able to slowly find that brave, strong, nurturing part of myself. Poetry has been my best friend for nearly my entire life, and poetry has been by my side for each and every moment of this journey (and still is). I write to navigate, to affirm, to question, to heal–and I read for the same reasons. Poetry helps me heal in this beautiful, colossal way. And for that, I am grateful.

Interview with Sylvia Foley

Sylvia Foley

Mary Akers: Thanks for letting us have Elemenopy, Sylvia. It’s such a strong, haunting story and it grabbed us all very quickly here. Speaking of “haunting” work, what makes a work haunting for you as a reader and/or as a writer?

Sylvia Foley: Thanks for the kind words! For me, work that haunts me is indelible, deeply evocative, often revelatory. It speaks with longing, and shivers with unexpected and profound truths. It might even deliver the impossible—a nanosecond of knowing what it’s like inside another skin. The language itself might come alive, a third entity flowing through the voices of writer and characters. The best work changes me, changes what I thought I knew.

 

MA: Yes. It changes us both as readers and as writers–a fact I think non-writers might find surprising. Are there writers whose work you find haunting? If so, could you name a few?

SF: Sure, though I’m a little loathe to answer because there are so many, and how to choose? That said—Anthony Doerr (his story collection Memory Wall is superb), Marilynne Robinson, Alice McDermott, Flannery O’Connor, Virginia Woolf. Melville and Dostoevsky have haunted me since middle childhood.

 

MA: You and I met at VCCA last year, where I first heard you read from your wonderful work. For our reader who may not know, VCCA is an artist’s community where one can be awarded “a gift of time and space” to work on various creative endeavors. I’ve been there with playwrights and composers, painters and poets, sculptors and directors, and just about every creative profession in between. Do you find that atmosphere to be nurturing for your creativity? What “gift” do you get most from an artist’s residency?

SF: A residency is both oasis and wanderground. For me, it provides two main gifts: the unprecedented freedom and time to make whatever I want; and the chance to be with “my” tribe. In my regular life I have to fight for every minute of writing time, and there is so much racket in the head. At VCCA I felt the noise fall away; in short order I was returned to myself as both human and writer, and the rivers of days and words flowed as they would. One can’t ask for anything better. And the sparking energy that comes from living and working in a community of artists, a place suffused with spirited curiosity and devotion to making, is something I’ve found nowhere else.

Elemenopy

MA: It was a transformative place for me, too. In a semi-related question–what do you think of pairing art forms as we do in r.kv.r.y.? I know we had to revisit several images to find one that worked for Elemenopy. Some people don’t care for the interplay of forms…or at least find the process of pairing work a difficult one. Do you feel that one genre of art informs the other?

SF: Sometimes I like pairings of different forms, sometimes I don’t. I’m the sort of person who quickly gets overloaded with too much sensory input or information. As a writer I generally prefer the spare to the ornate. And paired with text, a literal image can feel invasive or reductive; abstract images can feel remote. But I think with a good pairing, a cross-pollinated third “work” might emerge, and that can be wonderful. I love the image you found for Elemenopy—its saturated colors, that blood-red lit-up sky over a bruised road, the vantage point suggesting an unseen traveler heading toward god knows what. The story is about another dark something. I like how they talk to each other.

MA: Wow. Your description of the image is almost as beautiful as the image itself. What was your response to the cover art your publisher designed for your wonderful collection Life in the Air Ocean?

SF: It’s funny—at first I felt almost affronted. How could some designer (the deservedly renowned Carol Devine Carson) be allowed to choose the faces of my characters? But within seconds I decided I loved them; they were exactly right. Setting the photographs sideways was brilliant. I do think writers should have some say when it comes to their book jackets; but I got lucky.

 

MA: I’ve had similar delayed happy reactions to illustrative artwork. Isn’t it funny how possessive we can feel about our work…and then that wonderful letting go happens and we can see what we didn’t see before. Brilliant.

What creative project are you working on these days?

SF: I’m working on a novel about a disowning and a family that has torn itself apart irrevocably, generation after generation—in part this has happened as a response to the traumas of war and displacement, in part for more mysterious reasons. I’m also working on a series of “found” poems called “Available Testimonies”—little mutterings from the ether.

 

MA: Sounds like a fascinating story. I look forward to reading it. In Elemenopy, you deal with some serious and emotional issues. Many of your other stories also deal with emotional pain that ultimately gets expressed as physical pain. Would you consider that a theme that reoccurs in your work? Could you talk about that a bit?

SF: I’m kind of obsessed with emotional and psychological traumas and all the ways that we humans survive (or don’t), so it’s fair to say that’s a recurring theme in my work. I think there’s always a physical “tell.” The body might serve as the only available language a character has, or it might be the language of greatest fluency. I think the body gets overlooked in Western culture. We treat it as sideshow when it is integral to being. Now there is emerging evidence that trauma alters the body, literally alters the DNA. Indeed, the body knows things.

 

MA: Yes! That fascinating “physical tell.” I’m interested in that manifestation, too.

And finally, since we are a themed journal, what does “recovery” mean to you?

SF: That’s a question with many long answers; I’ll keep it short. I’ve been reading the journals of the artist Anne Truitt, and in Prospect—written as she turned 70—she says, “I feel no age whatsoever in my spirit, which my body bears intact.” I have a similar sense—despite periods of wretchedness and travails, there has always been a ground within me that endures. The work of recovery is to find that ground again and live from that place.

 

MA: I love that answer. It was such a pleasure talking art and writing with you today, Sylvia. Thank you.

Interview with Mike Quesinberry

Mike Q

 Mary Akers: Hey, Mike. Thanks for agreeing to talk with me today, I love your photographs, and we are honored to have them grace our Appalachia issue. I’m really struck by the strong color saturation of them and I notice you call them Photoshop Paintings. Could you tell us a little bit about what that means?

Mike Quesinberry: My works are from my own original photographs. I use several different Photoshop effects to enhance my pictures and any many cases turn them into something that more resembles a painting. Hence that’s why I call them Photoshop paintings. I always wanted to be a wildlife/nature artist but I have no talent at all with a paint brush or pencil in hand. So computer software has afforded me the opportunity to “paint” to some degree and I really enjoy it. I really love the art of folks like Terry Redlin and Thomas Kincade and how they use brilliant colors and lighting effects so I try to incorporate some of that into what I do.

The Beginnings of Sorrow

MA: I particularly love that you take the area of my heart (the Blue Ridge Mountains) as your inspiration. So many people try to find something big or important or “other” to make art about, when they may already have beauty and richness in their own backyards. Did you ever try to photograph other places?

MQ: So far my photography has been focused around “home” so to speak. But I look forward to photographing other locales in the future.

I Tried to Drag Back

MA: Have you always been interested in photography?

MQ: I really didn’t become interested in photography until about 15 years ago. I was out on a friend’s farm and decided on a whim to take an old camera that had belonged to my Dad with me. I took several pictures of some locust trees on top of a hill with towering thunderheads behind them that day. I was lucky enough for one of them to turn out good, and that’s where my interest in photography began. But it wasn’t until the age of digital cameras and learning how to use software in combination with my pics that I really got hooked for good.

Elemenopy

MA: Did anyone special in your life inspire you to take pictures?

MQ: There was no single person who inspired me to take pictures. It was more of having the opportunity to be an artist and convey my love of the outdoors to others and to hopefully give them a chance to see and feel what I do through my pics.

Spread Your Wings

MA: How old were you when you get your first camera?

MQ: I was probably around 30 years old when I got my first camera.

Pas de Deux

MA: And finally, because I ask everyone this and the answers are always illuminating, what does “recovery” mean to you?

MQ: Recovery for me means finding a way to get back to some form of inner peace after dealing with some form of adversity. My best personal example would be dealing with the sudden loss of my father when I was 24 years old. It is amazing how quickly one’s life can be turned upside down in a split second. Now, photography for sure is my therapy for dealing with stress. But back then, for several years, I was really having a hard time recovering from that loss and then one day, about 5 years after Dad passed, for some reason I decided to try writing poetry. I’m not sure why or how but doing that really helped me. One day I wrote a poem in honor of him which I’ll share and it really put me much more at peace. The poem, which I titled A Bridge, was read at my Grandmother’s funeral many years later which was very touching to me.

A Bridge

And then I came upon a bridge, and as I stepped across,
The waves of life’s stormy seas quickly ceased to toss.
On the other side I found a bright and happy place,
Where God’s own love filtered down and shone upon my face.

A place of rainbows and a cross,
A place where promise is not lost.
Yes in this place I’ll make my home,
Where Jesus reigns upon his throne.

I know everyone isn’t religious, and I certainly never have tried to shove my religious beliefs down anyone’s throat. But it’s important to me and in my case I really believe the Lord helped me write that poem and it made me feel much better and not feel so sorry for myself anymore.

MA: That’s lovely, Mike. Art (in all forms) is one of the most healing things in my life, too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us and your work with the world.

Introducing Randi Ward

I’m thrilled to announce that Randi Ward will be illustrating our January 2015 CAREGIVERS issue! We are delighted to have her fine photographic work to grace our virtual pages.

Randi Ward is a writer, translator, lyricist, and photographer from West Virginia. She earned her MA in Cultural Studies from the University of the Faroe Islands and is a recipient of The American-Scandinavian Foundation’s Nadia Christensen Prize. Ward is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee whose work has appeared in AsymptoteBeloit Poetry JournalCimarron Review, Thrush Poetry JournalWorld Literature TodayAnthology of Appalachian Writers, and other publications. For more information, visit: www.randiward.com/about

In the meantime, here are some images to whet your appetite for her work.

Sample1

Sample3

Sample

Sample2

Thank you, Randi, and welcome to the r.vr.r.y. family!

 

 

 

Interview with Karin C. Davidson

Karin Daidson

Mark Fabiano: Your short story Roadside Flowers plays with images, scenes, and details of beauty in common settings. You begin with this lovely image of Hoa holding flowers, and you weave her into the story in other scenes involving photography. What led you to this title and how does it aptly capture the pulse of your story?

Karin C. Davidson: Images sometimes begin my stories. In writing “Roadside Flowers,” a story that stands alone and is also a chapter in my novel-in-progress, I originally described this image in another chapter – in which a young soldier on a Greyhound bus holds a worn photograph of a little girl standing on a dirt road. I wanted to know more about these characters and this photograph, and so I followed their lead. The title came from the first image, Hoa waving wildflowers that she’d gathered from the roadside. Afterwards, I thought about how close the phrase was to roadside bombs; at least, my mind went there. It seemed an unconscious acknowledgment of the beauty and horror that are side by side in war. Perhaps that’s how it captures the story’s pulse, in that a soldier carries a camera and an M-16, then is ordered to shoot photos, rather than the enemy, and through his lens, war is bathed in bravery, fright, handfuls of flowers, generosity and innocence, duty, anger, artillery, mud, exhaustion, and death. Life, a little girl, a fistful of flowers seemed a good way to begin.

 

MF: Faulkner says, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”  Roadside Flowers, like many of your stories, takes this to heart, whether consciously or not, in that the story’s timeline is not a linear one. That is, time—past and present—fluctuates according to the needs of the story, which is told in a natural innate narrative impulse of the character James Williams. Talk about the decisions you CONSCIOUSLY made about representing time in this story.

KCD: TIME. Joan Silber’s books—The Size of the World, Ideas of Heaven, Fools, and of course, The Art of Time in Fiction—have taught me so much about time. I do struggle with time in fiction, but my CONSCIOUS decisions about time in this story—yes, I can tell you about those. The time frame is, of course, during the war in Vietnam—namely, the Year of the Water Rat. 1972. Already, in terms of the politics, the military operations, the ongoing destruction, and the reaction to this war, a lot had happened: escalation, the Tet Offensive, Nixon doctrine and Vietnamization, the ongoing U.S. anti-war and counterculture movements, the bombing of Cambodia and Laos months away, and the draft one year from ending. This is off the page, but in my mind, as I wrote the story. So there is historical time.

For James, there is personal time, in terms of how young he is, what he knows before his tour of duty and what he learns during his tour. He was raised in Florida in the 1950’s and 60’s, and he is really still a boy when he is drafted. So there’s the sequence of time of boyhood into manhood.

And in the writing, there is what Joan Silber—in The Art of Time in Fiction—calls Switchback Time, in which the story zigzags among time frames, from the time in which the story is told, the time in which the story takes place, and a time further back. All of these moments in time work together to “clarify and expand what a story is about,” somewhat like associative thought. And this is where James’ way of telling the story comes in, reflective, but not removed from everything that happens to him in Vietnam.

 

MF: On research. Not to demystify the artful treatment that this story accomplishes regarding the Vietnam war, nor your mastery and love of language, but could you speak about the kinds of research you needed to do in order to make this story true. Specifically, the dialogue between James, Shields, the CO and other soldiers.

KCD: Years of research. I’ve read actual military reports, books on the history of the Vietnam War, fiction, poetry, memoir, letters from soldiers. I’ve watched films—documentaries and feature films. I’ve spoken with Vietnam veterans, via email and in person, especially CAP Marines, who had worked in villages with the South Vietnamese Popular Forces toward pacification, rather than with companies whose orders were to search and destroy. I’ve studied photographs, from the archives of Life Magazine and Stars and Stripes, and from personal and museum and art gallery collections.

The war in Vietnam was the backdrop to my childhood, and by the time I was a teenager, I knew a lot of boys who had returned home, no longer boys. We didn’t talk about where they’d been and what they’d seen. Conversations never went there. Later, I had to wonder. But these friends weren’t around anymore to ask, and maybe they still wouldn’t have wanted to talk.

And so I turned to art, literature, archives, films, and Vietnam veterans—some of them accomplished writers—for answers. The visual of a photograph, a line of poetry, a passage in a work of fiction, a conversation with a veteran, or a letter from a soldier to his parents—these are the media and moments that inspired me to keep writing the novel. The dialogue of the soldiers came from these moments, trying to understand how orders deployed led to duty. Even in the midst of the confusion and devastation, one followed orders.

Roadside Flowers (Yellow Grass Field)

MF: Tim O’Brien’s narrator in “How To Tell A True War Story,” says, “A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe.”  What is it in this story that you want the reader’s stomach to believe? Or better yet, do you think you accomplished a “stomach-truth” for a reader to take away? If so, what might that be?

KCD: When I write a story, I let the viewpoint character take the lead. In this instance, to understand James, I had to go where he was at this point in his life, someplace completely new, a land exotic and beautiful and terrifying, the farthest from anywhere he’d ever been. In creating a sense of place, in creating the character as deeply as possible, I hope I’ve created this kind of truth for the reader.

 

MF: From the very start and continuing all the way through “Roadside Flowers,” you deftly layer in brushstroke upon brushstroke of details, confirming Tim O’Brien’s dictum that “True war stories do not generalize.” In a sense, this is true of all great stories, not just ones about war. How do you choose which details to use in your stories and where to embellish them, in general, and in “Roadside Flowers” in particular?

KCD: Details! Sometimes I get too caught up in the details and have to pull back. That said, I think that one must imagine the particulars of setting, scene, and characters in order to create the believability, complication, tone, and momentum that story requires. Without details, there is no story. Choosing details is never random, but purposeful, careful, sometimes tipping the story into unexpected places. As the story progresses, the details increase, revealing all of those images caught in James’ photographic lens, magnified, cropped, blown into and out of perspective.

Recently, I’ve taken a break from reading war literature. I’ve been reading Lee Martin’s novels, story collection, and memoirs, incredibly thankful for his portraits of farmland and family, seasons and time passing. Wheat kernels, killing frosts, marigolds and zinnias, the worn arms of a rocking chair, the trace of a smile. These details— perfectly placed, lingered over, returned to—ground us, allow us entry into and passage throughout the story. Exactly what I hope my stories accomplish.

 

MF: What are your thoughts about women writing on war? War veteran and novelist Cara Hoffman wrote in a MARCH 31, 2014 NYT Op-Ed that “stories about female veterans are nearly absent from our culture. It’s not that their stories are poorly told. It’s that their stories are simply not told in our literature, film and popular culture.” Do you think that “Roadside Flowers” contributes a female voice about war despite the use of a male character? How does it and or how doesn’t it contribute to war literature in general, and women’s war literature specifically?

KCD: A complicated question and a good one to end on, Mark.

Regarding Cara Hoffman’s article, “The Things She Carried,” I will have to disagree with her premise that women veterans’ stories are “not told in our literature, film and popular culture.” There are many women veterans writing fiction, poetry, essays, scripts, and screenplays. Perhaps what Ms. Hoffman means is that female veteran writers are not granted the same consideration as male veteran writers. Another gender imbalance in the world of literature worth questioning, another VIDA moment.

Among writers of war literature, specifically those who experienced war firsthand as soldiers, men have certainly had more attention than women. Of these men and women, the list is long. The women writers who are war veterans, approach memoir, poetry, and fiction with the honest emotion and wherewithal that comes from having been there, from the drills of training camp to the dust and adrenalin of war zones. They see the picture in ways very different from their male counterparts, in ways that search and pause and consider, turning a moment over and over and realizing it still cannot be completely understood.

That said, sometimes I feel like an imposter. I’ve never been to war. The war in Vietnam came to my generation on the nightly news, in the body counts, from the protests, and in the midst of those who returned but seemed elsewhere. There was a fellow I knew who’d flown Hueys (the UH1E helicopters used then mostly by the Marines). He came home to New Orleans and couldn’t find work that matched his training. So he worked odd jobs, just making it. He had a lot of time on his hands, and he’d come around, always ready for a beer, and sometimes in the middle of a conversation, he’d stop and stare off into space. He had a great sense of humor, kind of down-home and dirty, with a huge heart. He’d grin and carry on, always looking for trouble, but never finding it in the way he had in Vietnam.

In writing about war, as a woman who has never been to war, I have company. And here I will call out names: Bobbie Ann Mason, Toni Morrison, Jayne Ann Phillips, Siobhan Fallon, Roxana Robinson, Mary Akers, and so many more. Write what you know doesn’t live here; write what you want to know, what you need to know does. So yes, “Roadside Flowers” contributes a female voice to war literature, and I imagine how it contributes, whether in the context of war literature, or specifically as women’s war literature, would lie in the readers’ reactions. If James’ experience lingers in their minds, makes them consider the bright and dark design of war, then perhaps that’s how.

 

 

Mark Fabiano’s fiction has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Long Story, and elsewhere. He was awarded an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award in Fiction for 2008. His scholarly work has appeared in Muses India: Essays on English-Language Writers from Mahomet to Rushdie, International Journal of Communications, FORUM: The University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture and Arts, The Facts on File Companion to the American Novel, The Facts on File Companion to the American Short Story, and others.He has an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) from George Mason University, an MA in English from Wright State University, an MA in International Affairs, Communications and Development Studies from Ohio University, and a BA in English from Ohio State University. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sri Lanka., a setting for many of his stories and his novel, The Road to the Singing Lagoon. He has taught creative writing, literature, and more at various colleges for over 11 years.

Homepage Fall 2014

Cover3
All images appear in this issue courtesy of the artist, Mike Quesinberry.

Dear Readers,

Welcome to our Fall 2014 “APPALACHIA” issue. We’re incredibly proud to present to you the wonderful and diverse array of voices in this issue, all complimented by the beautiful photographic art of Mike Quesinberry which he has graciously donated for this issue.

We’re featuring work from some of my very favorite Appalachian writers as well as hearing from an array of new voices. For the first time ever, we even have an audio file of a short story: Ann Pancake’s terrific story “Mouseskull,” read by the talented voice actor Gina Detwiler. We’re exploring the oldest mountains in North America and having loads of fun in the process. You should find a lot to enjoy in this issue. I hope that you will take the time to explore it.

Our January 2015 issue will be themed CAREGIVERS and our April 2015 issue will have the theme of WOMEN. Thanks for reading.

Yours in Recovery,

Mary Akers
Editor-in-chief

Archive – summer 2014

Cover Image (Recent death)

summer 2014
vol. xi. no. 3

Endangered

Fiction


The Stars at Noon

By David Jauss

Squandering the Fellowship

By Jessie Hennen

Roadside Flowers

By Karin C. Davidson

Poetry


Recovery

By Jeanetta Calhoun Mish

Breathing Without Air

By Leslie Nielsen

Sleight of Hand

By Mickey J. Corrigan

To His Wife

By Mark McKain

Starry Night

By Jillian Ross

Age of Consent

By Bill Glose

Essay


I Am Always in Transition When Disaster Strikes

By Vyshali Manivannan

Tips for Writing About Loss

By Jessica Handler

Minnows

By Lauren Jo Sypniewski

Shorts on Survival


Spelunking

By Danielle Collins

Just Enough Hope

By Toby Van Bryce

Reassurance

By Evelyne Lampart

Mouseskull

Mouseskull1

Listen to Ann Pancake’s wonderful short story MOUSESKULL as performed by Gina Miani Detwiler.

 

Ann Pancake grew up in Romney and Summersville, WV. Her first novel, Strange As This Weather Has Been (Counterpoint 2007), features a southern West Virginia family devastated by mountaintop removal mining. The novel was one of Kirkus Review’s Top Ten Fiction Books of 2007, won the 2007 Weatherford Award, and was a finalist for the 2008 Orion Book Award. Her collection of short stories, Given Ground, won the 2000 Bakeless award, and she has also received a Whiting Award, an NEA Grant, a Pushcart Prize, and creative writing fellowships from the states of Washington, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The Georgia ReviewPoets and WritersNarrative, and New Stories from the South. She lives in Seattle and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University. “Mouseskull” first appeared in The Georgia Review.

Gina Miani Detwiler has a BA in English and Drama from Vassar College and studied Theatre Directing at Columbia University. She worked for several years as a theatre specialist and Entertainment Director for the US Army in Germany and has acted, written and directed for theatre companies in Colorado and New York.  She loves reading aloud to her kids and was thrilled to be asked to contribute to r.k.vr.y with an audio version of the amazing story Mouseskull. She’s written the novels Avalon, The Hammer of God, and the forthcoming Forlorn. www.ginamiani.com

 

Alternative Therapies: See “Juicing”

Alternative Therapies

You and I fight in the kitchen—juice splattering the walls,
kale flesh on the floor, ginger dripping down our vertebrae—

because I had taken too much Ritalin, but it’s fine;
the neurologist said it’s fine, it’s fine. And I am crying

over the dirty dishes in our old sink that doesn’t drain well.
Recycled saline, I say. But your fingers whisper small circles

behind my ears, singing bluegrass hymns over the train whistle
we hear every hour. It’s okay. It’s okay, you say, holding up

a straw to my deaf mouth. After, my teeth beet-tinted, I shiver,
so you run the shower hot because you know

how Solumedrol makes me cold and Interferon makes me cold
and IVs make me cold. You take off your clothes

and mine; the carrot juice washes off my hands like rot.
Then, you see the bruises— the space

between the skin and the veins pooling to shades of blackberry
and eggplant. You trace the holes.

I tell you how yesterday, I watched the blood spray out
at the sweaty nurse in the faded scrubs.

I keep seeing him jump back and goddamn,
forcing gauze so fast on the opening,

I thought I burned him. You’d never burn anyone,
you say, planting your feet to rinse the brine off us both.

 

 

 

Hannah Baggott, a Nashville native, is a poet of the body. She is pursuing an MFA in poetry at Oregon State University while teaching writing courses. She has received awards for flash fiction and critical writing in gender studies. Her work can be found in Tupelo Quarterly and other journals. Learn more at hannahbaggott.com.

The Survival of Uncle Peachy

The Survival of Uncle Peachy

For twenty-seven years my Uncle Peachy drove trailers of brand new automobiles from Detroit to everywhere else. He saw a thousand towns at twilight glimmering like stars dropped amid trees, but not a single person in a single house knew his name, nor he theirs. Wherever he stopped, a dog barked. The moon grew juicy, withered to a bow, rose over his shoulder, and kept her distance.

Peachy drove. His hands gnarled around the steering wheel. His bones rattled, resettled harder than before, and his eyes became flat as burnt coffee. He chewed over every joke, every good story, and tried to forget the voice of his first wife on the phone when suddenly his daughter was dying. “Shellie’s in the hospital. Where the hell are you?”

After his divorce he would fall asleep by remembering his mom’s hands putting pickled beets on his plate. He’d picture his dad planting corn after he went blind, knowing the field by feel, then mowing half of it down by accident. The old man cussed for an hour, then sat on the porch, his dog at his heel and his face turned toward the last splurge of July light.

During his second marriage, Peachy settled his wife Kendra and son Perry near where he grew up in West Virginia. He drove home on his way to Missouri just to hunt one morning with his son. Perry’s face seemed as guarded as a young man’s, but his piping voice told his correct age, six years. Peachy didn’t scold the boy when he cried because the pretty deer fell. He stopped himself from saying, “Eight point buck, kid.” Peachy held Perry and let him cry.

Later that year, near Hondo, Texas, Peachy was shooting pool and doing laundry at the Diesel Fried Chicken Truck Stop when he spotted a shriveled man sitting by the pay phone. Next to him the receiver dangled on its silver cord. The man stared through the green-tinged air at nothing. He’s smoke, Peachy thought when he touched the man’s hand, then called 911. I don’t want to turn into smoke.

“I’m staying,” he told his wife the next time he strode through the door.

“Good,” Kendra said, stirring spaghetti-os for Perry. “Now we can finish wallpapering the hallway.”

Peachy applied for janitor jobs at the grocery stores, Wal-Mart, Home Hardware, the paper factory, the lumber mill. He was 57, an Army veteran. Peachy gave every manager a handshake and a crooked grin, and said, “I want you to know, getting paid to push a broom will be easy street for me.”

Peachy got on the graveyard shift at the new Kroger’s. He claimed, “I wax them floors till they’re smoother than the highway to hell, or the driveway to the Governor’s mansion, same difference.” As late night Kroger shoppers rolled their carts down the aisles, Uncle Peachy maneuvered around them, hat over his eyes, chewing over an old joke or a new story he would tell someone tomorrow.

I was around my Uncle Peachy for a while when he first came back, the trucker settling down. He said, “I’m gonna feed my family. The world can go as crazy as it wants.” I thought his life wasn’t much to live for, compared to mine, because I was going to college soon. He’d been taught that as a man he fed his family, no whining. He’d decided that everything else was the craziness of the world.

Now, I’m decades past college, and it’s no small thing to get along day after day, year after year, and let the world be as crazy as it wants, with whatever miniscule difference I might make. Sometimes the craziness tears at me and reminds me of how a raccoon tore up my neighbor’s caged chicken, reaching its clawed hand in and pulling the chicken’s feathers and flesh through the wire little bit by bit. Sometimes late at night I think of Peachy driving the night roads, perched high up in the cab, the highway barreling through his heart, his heart a migratory bird, circling back toward home.

 

 

 

Laura Long’s first novel Out of Peel Tree is published by West Virginia University Press. She has published two poetry collections, The Eye of Caroline Herschel: A Life in Poems (2013) and Imagine a Door (2009). Her work appears in Shenandoah, Southern Review, and other magazines and she has received a James Michener Fellowship and other awards. She teaches at Lynchburg College in Virginia and in the Low-Residency MFA Program at West Virginia Wesleyan.