Excerpt of Interview with Poet Dylan Krieger

from West Trade Review, Spring 2018, Vol. 9  ©2018

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Dylan Krieger is an automatic meaning generator in south Louisiana, where she earned her MFA in creative writing from LSU and now sunlights as a trade magazine editor. Her debut poetry collection, Giving Godhead (Delete Press, 2017), was dubbed “the best collection of poetry to appear in English in 2017” by the New York Times Book Review. She is also the author of dreamland trash (Saint Julian Press, 2018), no ledge left to love (Ping-Pong Free Press, forthcoming), and an autobiographical meditation on the Church of Euthanasia called The Mother Wart, as well as numerous other solo and collaborative projects. Find her at www.dylankrieger.com.

 

krieger

WTR:  A common theme we notice in your work is the idea of a fracture or break, whether that is   a physical or emotional one.  How has this idea influenced how you shape the structure of your poems? Was this something you considered when writing “Head in the Cloud?”

I have a rather strange relationship with form and structure on the page, primarily because I’m such an auditory rather than a visual thinker. There’s a very real sense in which visual form simply doesn’t matter to me, insofar as the most complete instantiation of the poem is heard, not seen. That being said, however, the interlocking short lines of “head in the cloud” have appeared in my work more than once, and for this particular poem the notion of disconnect you point out is important. The images of the fractured gravy boat and the liberty bell replica, among others, touch on an anxiety about symbolic and sentimental objects’ inevitable decay, posing a morbid curiosity about the extent to which ideas die with their symbols.

WTR:  There seems to be a tension in your work related to an individual’s understanding of their culture.  Why do you choose to address this idea?  Was there any particular event that prompted your exploration of this?

I think being homeschooled all my life until college led to a sense of cultural alienation for me, a feeling that I somehow stood outside of my local and even national communities, looking in. Even now, I often find myself referring to the “high school” era of my life to maintain an air of normalcy I had no hope of achieving then. But in contrast, there was also a reflection on cultural absorption that only took place after the homeschooling, when I realized I’d been totally indoctrinated in a Biblical understanding of the world that was/is by no means universal. In other words, although I’d always considered myself an outsider, I eventually came to understand that self-diagnosis as itself a distinctive mark of extreme-right polarized American thinking—I was both a social outcast and the epitome of a culture sponge.

WTR:  A recurring idea in your work appears to be an underlying frustration with relationships, both familial and romantic.  Is this your method of seeking emotional release or remedy?  If so, which of your poems best demonstrates this and in what way?

Writing qua communication is an inherently social act, so I think it’s useful and often cathartic to plug it into particular relationships and watch the lights flicker. At bottom, everything is therapy. But like in any doctor’s office, you sometimes discover there is no remedy. I think my poem “money / talk,” which depicts my finance-oriented relationship with my mother, best demonstrates this lack of clear remedy by admitting in its final lines I have “nothing left to say.” When it comes to family, some scars just sit there, and you have to love people around and through them rather than reopening the wound every time you interact.

WTR:  What do you see as the importance and power of nature imagery in your work in such poems as “sick of shelling?”

One strategy I’ve employed for several years now in my above mentioned enterprise to de-stigmatize the grotesque body involves drawing parallels between it and the grotesque transformations we see in nature that are (in contrast) usually considered quite beautiful. The prickly abrasions created by both beard and cactus in the last few couplets, for example, could be said to show the violence of nature, certainly, but they also illustrate penetrability as a basis of desire—the speaker wants to feel the cactus’ “golden arrows”—as well as vulnerability to aggression.

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“Small Pieces” by John Findura

from West Trade Review, Spring 2017, Vol. 8  ©2017

http://www.westtradereview.com/subscription.html

John Findura holds an MFA from The New School as well as a degree in psychotherapy. His poetry and criticism appear in numerous journals including Verse,Fourteen Hills, Copper Nickel, Pleiades, NGM_N,  Jacket, and Rain Taxi. A guest blogger for The Best American Poetry, he has won and been a finalist for various awards. He lives in Northern New Jersey with his wife and daughters.
SMALL PIECES
Last night I dreamt
of an old face
I thought I had
forgotten
she was wearing a new
dress
and her voice sounded
the same
It seems she has
fallen apart in
small pieces
a little at a time
no one defining
moment
just small shudders
water dripping
through the cracks
that had always
been there
the reservoir has
run dry
and the fish have
suffocated
no fire and brimstone
tidal waves
or comets
just loose rivets
and places I forgot
to glue

“Everything is Ours” by Jen Corrigan

 from West Trade Review, Spring 2018, Vol. 9  ©2018
A nominee for the 2017 Pushcart Prize, Jen Corrigan’s prose has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Pithead Chapel, Change Seven Magazine, Hypertext Magazine, and elsewhere. She is also a book reviewer for The Coil. Visit her at www.jen-corrigan.com.
“Everything is Ours”
by Jen Corrigan

          It was surprisingly cool in the bathroom at the back of the church. The two girls had tucked themselves into the stall on the far left, the one with an OUT OF ORDER sign taped to the door. The sign was Nicole’s idea, a precaution against the nosy camp chaperones who might notice they were gone and go looking for them.

The theme for the last day of Bible camp was deliverance, or obedience, or some other –ence word. Tina did her best to look attentive and innocuous during the opening scripture reading. Sitting in a pew as far back from Pastor Rick as possible, Tina used a hymnal balanced on her knees as a makeshift table. Without looking down, Tina scrawled OUT OF ORDER in big, authoritative letters. Instead of looking at the paper, she watched the sweat dotting Pastor Rick’s brow. In the light filtering through the stained-glass window, the beads looked golden, ringing his head in a luminescent halo.

When Tina lifted the paper up from the hymnal, Nicole elbowed her and pointed to the smears of permanent marker that had leaked through onto the cover, declaring the hymnal OUT OF ORDER.

“You’re going to Hell now,” she whispered in Tina’s ear, the vibration tickling her earlobe in an itch. Tina always seemed to grow hyper-sensitive to itches and skin sensations whenever the girls were together. She also laughed at the smallest things around Nicole. The girls tried to cover their giggles behind their palms, but Pastor Rick heard and shot them a stern look in between scripture.

Tina sat on the toilet seat, back pressed against the wall. She pulled her red, scabby knees up to her chin, arms wrapped tight around her shins to keep herself in place. Nicole sat above her, perched delicately on the tank with the precision of a small parrot. She tucked her long legs between Tina and the damp ceramic of the tank. When one of the girls shifted, the skin of their legs rubbed together, and Tina’s face would glow warm just under her eyes.

“How much longer until this stupid day is over?” Nicole asked, stifling a yawn with the back of her hand. Her charm bracelet jingled against her face.

Tina peered around her calves at the watch on her wrist. The green numbers glowed in the dimly lit bathroom.

“We’ve only been in here forty-five minutes.”

Nicole groaned dramatically, her voice bouncing off the walls and the ceiling in an echo. Tina shushed her.

“Don’t shush me,” Nicole huffed, reaching over and yanking Tina’s greasy red ponytail. “You are not my mother.”

Tina reached up to grab a chunk of Nicole’s hair in return, but Nicole smacked her hand out of the way.

“And you do not touch a black woman’s hair, either.”

Tina scoffed, and a sense of mischief squirmed through her body, up and down her sternum until it rested in the low part of her stomach. “You aren’t a woman.” With a finger, precisely poised, she flicked the flat front of Nicole’s butter-yellow tank top. “You’re what my mom calls a carpenter’s dream: flat as a board.”

Nicole grinned, her small white teeth glowing in the fluorescent dim of the bathroom. She ripped a long strip of toilet paper off the roll, tore it in half, and crumpled each half into a ball which she then put down her shirt and wedged into her training bra. Sticking out her chest and pulling her tank top tight across her body, Nicole wiggled her shoulders.

“How about now? Do I look womanly?”

“You look stupid.” Tina squashed one of Nicole’s paper breasts with her palm. “Nobody would believe those were real.”

Tina looked at Nicole puffing out her chest like a proud peacock about to strut past a group of hens. The clumps of toilet paper under Nicole’s shirt looked lumpy and hard in a way that was both funny and sad.

Sometimes, Tina wasn’t sure if she wanted Nicole or if she just wanted to be Nicole, with her long, lithe body, pretty features, and infectious, slightly crooked grin that made her look older than thirteen. Instead, Tina was chunky and freckled, her arms and legs covered with bright-red specks that only got bigger and redder in the summer sun. The only thing Tina had that Nicole didn’t was breasts, great soft lumps that hurt when she touched them. Nicole wanted breasts so badly, every night doing chest exercises in hopes of stimulating their growth. Tina didn’t think they were worth the trouble.

“I bet Pastor Rick would like them,” Nicole said of her newly constructed bust. She looked mischievously at Tina from the corner of her eye. “He seems like a man who would like a big rack. He probably likes your tits since they’re fucking huge.

Tina felt her face become suddenly hot, like she was leaning into a campfire. She looked at Nicole’s lumpy artificial breasts and imagined Pastor Rick cupping them gently with both hands. A pang went through Tina’s chest. “Yep,” she said, her mouth pulling up on one end into a bitter smirk. “Like a pirate’s dream: a sunken chest.”

Nicole pulled out both wads of toilet paper and tossed them at Tina’s face. Tina shrieked and Nicole laughed.

The door to the bathroom creaked open, and Nicole clamped a hand over her own mouth, choking her laughter quiet. In tense silence, the girls sat completely still and listened as the woman, wheezing slightly, plunked down on the toilet in the stall next to them. As her weight hit the seat, the lid on the tank rattled. Over the course of several minutes, Tina and Nicole refused to look at each other, afraid the look would trigger an outburst of nervous laughter. The woman grunted and sighed, finally completing her bathroom visit by flushing the toilet and leaving without washing her hands.

“That was disgusting,” Nicole said once the door banged shut. Her voice sounded squelched and nasally like she was talking without breathing through her nose.

“Yeah, it was,” Tina agreed, plugging her own nose between two fingers. “And just think she’ll be using those hands to do Jesus crafts with children.”

“The unwashed masses.” Nicole waved a hand in front of her own face as if trying to shoo away the smell. Her charm bracelet tinkled happily like tiny church bells.

Tina had given Nicole the charm bracelet for her ninth birthday, the one Nicole had at the ice skating rink, despite the fact that nobody except her could skate. While Nicole flitted across the ice, her skates making a chkk chkk rhythm across the smooth surface of the sink, Tina and the rest of the guests scooted behind her, wiggling their hips in a sad attempt to propel forward. Fast and almost erratic, Nicole jumped and spun, circling the rink again and again as if she was flying. The way she seemed to skip across the ice reminded Tina of the Jesus lizard on a Discovery channel nature special, running lightning quick over the top of the scummy jungle water.

Tina stayed close to the edge of the rink with her right hand touching the wall at all times as if the contact provided any protection from falling. She moved herself carefully, her skates slipping forward inch by inch. Tina watched the advertisements printed along the walls, visible during the local hockey games broadcasted on a local cable access channel: law firms, realtors, several restaurants in downtown Iowa City with reputations better than their actual food.

Although none of the party guests were as good at skating as Nicole, the second-best skater was Lydia, a girl from out of town whom Nicole met at summer art camp. Shifting her weight from leg to leg, Lydia propelled herself fairly quickly across the rink, keeping up just enough to talk at Nicole’s back. Nicole turned her head over her shoulder to respond, smiling and laughing. Tina hadn’t spoken one word to Lydia, but it was at that moment that Tina knew she hated the girl.

It was as if Tina’s body made the decision for her. The next time Nicole and Lydia swept past her, Tina’s left leg shot out in Lydia’s path. Their skates collided, and Tina and Lydia tumbled to the ground. Tina’s hands were already out to catch her fall.

As if in slow motion, Tina watched Lydia fall beside her. Her feet shooting out behind her, Lydia careened forward, her face falling toward the ice in a perfect arc. Tina gasped, her chest constricting like she had had the wind knocked out of her. She wasn’t sure if she was regretful or simply awed by the trajectory, by the crack as Lydia’s skull met the ice.

Nicole’s mother took that moment to usher everyone off the ice for cake and ice cream while she called Lydia’s parents to come take her to the hospital for stitches. Tina was unscathed. After Nicole opened her presents, she and the guests went back out on the rink. A long pink streak marked the place where Lydia’s head had broken open on the ice. Tina skated over the spot and felt a chill inside her body. The blades of her skates rubbed away Lydia’s blood with every lap around the rink. Her shame, however, rested warm in the pit of her chest.

“God, it reeks in here,” Nicole said, still fanning the air with one hand. With the other hand, Nicole absently traced a phrase of bathroom graffiti carved into the metal wall of the stall. Crissy sux weinerz. “Good for you, Crissy,” Nicole murmured.

“We could sneak back to the group,” Tina suggested. “At least we’d be outside.”

Nicole shook her head, her big loose hair bouncing slightly. “No way. I’d rather sit in a poo cloud for all eternity than go out there and participate.” She scowled at Tina. “I’ll never forgive your mom for convincing my mom to sign me up.”

It was true. Tina’s mother was the reason they were both there, crammed in a stall in a stinky church bathroom.

“It will be good for you,” Tina’s mother had said when she expressed outrage at the idea of going to Bible day camp.

“We’re not even religious! We only go to church on Christmas and Easter,” Tina protested. Nicole called their type the C & E crowd. To emphasize her point, Tina slammed a kitchen cabinet. The dishes inside rattled dangerously.

“Watch it,” her mother said in a low voice that vibrated like a cello being tuned. She slipped a cigarette from her pack and wedged it in between her lips. Her blood-orange lipstick left a thick, bright smear across the filter. “I’ll talk to Nicole’s mom. Nicole can go with you.”

“They’re not religious either!” Tina yelled, feeling the fury well up inside her. Since she was a child, she’d been angry. When the anger came, it felt like a visceral itch, a sensation in her body that demanded to be noticed and wouldn’t go away until something, anything, was destroyed. Her mother assumed it was because Tina’s father left, and took her daughter to therapy where she could talk out the resentment. Tina wasn’t sure what she was angry at, or if it was even really anger she was feeling. She didn’t think much about her dad, but for all she knew, her mother was right, that the absence of a father had fucked up her psyche in some way. The only thing Tina was sure of was that she felt calmer when Nicole was there to smile and laugh and dismiss all Tina’s rage with a joke. Tina’s sense of being different, and afraid of that difference, subsided when the girls were together.

“Tina Marie, don’t you dare raise your voice like that,” Tina’s mother said, raising her own to match her red-faced daughter.

As if a cord inside her snapped, everything came tumbling down. It was a blur. Tina running to the mantle in the living room, Tina clutching one of her mother’s Precious Moment’s statuettes in her hand, Tina hurling it down onto the hardwood floor where it shattered, but in a less satisfying way than she had imagined.

That outburst solidified her mother’s decision to send Tina to Bible camp that summer.

“Mom just wanted me out of the house,” Tina said, reaching out to rub her index finger across Crissy sux weinerz like Nicole had done. “I don’t know why your mom signed you up. She’s never home anyway. Not like you’d bother her.” Nicole’s mother worked long shifts at a hospital over in Cedar Rapids.

Nicole rolled her eyes. Even when she was being obnoxious, she still looked pretty. “She told me she didn’t want me sitting in front of the TV all summer, eating junk food and getting fat. Still, she could have picked something better for me to do than praise Jesus all damn day.” She uncrossed her long legs, recrossed them.

Tina felt desire swell in her chest. I’m going to tell her, Tina thought. The adrenaline ran hot like liquor through her veins.

Nicole sighed, peeled a piece of toilet paper from the roll, and began methodically shredding it with her fingernails. Her chipped glitter nail polish sparkled even in the harsh fluorescent light. “So, what do you want to do to kill time?”

Tina shrugged, feigning apathy. She willed herself to feel calm, but the idea for her reveal was percolating. The fantasy played inside her head, and she watched it like a movie in milliseconds.

“We could play Truth,” Tina suggested. It would be the perfect way of saying it, her revelation masked as just her being goaded into it by a game.

But Nicole shook her head. “Truth isn’t fun anymore. We already know everything about each other.”

Tina nodded, pretending she agreed. “Yeah, Truth is boring.” She paused, lifted her pinky finger to her mouth and gnawed delicately at the skin around her nail. The idea swam into her head and bumped up against the gray matter, like a horrid fish in an aquarium slamming against the glass.

Tina’s voice sounded tinny and far away as she blurted it out. “Maybe we can practice kissing,” she said, her gut deflating. “You know, so we’ll know what we’re doing when we start dating boys.” Her voice put the emphasis on boys. Even to Tina, it seemed like a creepy proposal, and with such a bizarre cover that entirely negated her revelation. The words hung in the air between them, hovering like a horsefly that wouldn’t leave. Tina looked down at her shoes, suddenly interested in the laces, wishing that the words would just drift away.

“Um, I don’t think I want to do that,” Nicole said carefully.

At a distance from herself, Tina tried a breezy giggle, as if none of it mattered, as if she really did just want to practice for boys. “It’s cool,” she said without looking at Nicole. “It was a dumb idea anyway.”

The awkward pressure dissipated as Nicole cleared her throat and recrossed her legs. Leaning over, she dug a fingernail into a scab on her knee. Delicately, almost clinically, Nicole peeled away the rust-red strip from her skin, exposing the oozing red world beneath it. Flicking it from her fingernails, Nicole dropped the scab on the floor where it landed perfectly centered in the middle of a small square of grungy turquoise tile.

“So,” Nicole said, her voice light once again, “what are we going to do about lunch? I’m starving.” Tina looked up at Nicole. While Tina’s cheeks were still glowing like leftover coals, Nicole had moved on, changed the subject entirely. It felt as if, for Nicole, nothing had happened. A surge of shame and disappointment and rage swirled in the pit of Tina’s stomach. She itched for acknowledgment, any notice that, yes, she was there, and that she was the way she was.

Without answering, Tina hopped up off the seat of the toilet and unlatched the stall.

“Where are you going?” Nicole asked.

“You said you were hungry,” Tina replied. “Let’s go.”

“What’s gotten into you?” Nicole asked. With deliberate motions, she unfolded herself and climbed down from her position on top of the toilet tank.

The flare of anger pulsed dangerously inside Tina, stopping her from answering. Instead, she threw open the stall door, banging it against the wall. The sound felt louder, sharper in the small space.

Without looking to see if Nicole was following, Tina threw open the door to the bathroom and marched down the hallway to the small kitchen where fellowship and senior dinners were held.

As she stomped across the church, Tina reveled in the action, the movement. She felt the air against her warm cheeks as she propelled her body in the space. Her arms, her legs, all moved freely in motion. She knew this beauty as change, and an intense joy curled itself around her heart.

Her feet felt light as she trounced into the kitchen. She threw open the door to the small, antiquated refrigerator and peered inside.

“What are you hungry for?” she asked Nicole. Tina pulled out a huge glass platter of turkey and cheese hors d’oeuvres wraps, each one a tight spiral. A sheet of plastic wrap covered the food, crinkling under Tina’s hands. “Want some of these?”

A tingly smile threatened to break Tina’s face. With pleasure, she realized that nothing would ever be the same, that nobody, not even Nicole, could ever quell the fury inside her.

Nicole gaped at her, her eyebrows knit in the kind of guarded look you’d give a crazy person. “We can’t eat those. They aren’t ours.”

Tina laughed. “Everything is ours.” Balancing the platter in one hand, Tina peeled back the plastic wrap, plucked a wrap from the bunch, and popped it in her mouth. The flavor, the texture, everything danced together in a synaptic explosion of taste. Tina chewed, rolling the food around on her tongue a bit before welcoming it down into her stomach. One after another, she shoved the wraps in her mouth, smearing mayonnaise across her lips.

“Tina,” Nicole said in a soft voice. “We can’t.”

The newfound freeness of Tina’s body took over and she watched her arms lower and wrench up, flinging the platter up into the air. The platter careened upward and then back down again before crashing to the floor and shattering. Shards of the glass platter and the wraps exploded across the floor in a loud, delicious sunburst.

Tina looked down at the kitchen floor, at the mess of glass and cheese and mayonnaise. She marveled at how it would never fit back together again, would never be as it was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Down at a Certain Season into the Pool” by John Stephens

John Stephens is a 29-year-old practicing attorney  that lives in New Orleans who attended Louisiana State University as undergraduate where he studied creative writing.  He later attended Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans.

 

This story originally appeared in West Trade Review, Spring 2017, Vol. 8 ©2017

 

Down at a Certain Season into the Pool

By John Stephens

 

The waterline on the walls came up to his neck.  Even after the two foot incline of the entryway wheelchair ramp.  He stood looking at the molded highline as particles floated in piercing sunlight, weightless and defiant.  His sister, Dana, yelled from the road outside.

“Bedan! Should I come in?”

The wall was bowed concavely and large patches of plaster had sloughed away.  Small rotted planks showed, some of them still moist.  How, he didn’t know.  The sun had been vicious since the storm, consuming, as though it meant to burn its ancient grudge with man to the root.

“Gotdamn,” he whispered.

Dana walked up the outside ramp and he looked at the tilted doorway then back at the wall, the floating particles now lost.  His sister stopped at the doorframe.

“You find it?” she asked.

“What?” he replied, his tongue dull, his eyes still at the wall.

“I said did you find it?” She crossed her arms.  Bedan turned his whole body to her.

“And I said find what?” He sharpened his eyes at her, the heat from this place seeming to leak into his forehead.

“You said you had to come inside to get somethin,” she said, and Bedan turned back to the wall.

“Don’t even remember what,” he admitted.  Dana looked at him a while.  Nearby a bulldozer cranked up, whining into gear.

“She was a baptized child of God,” Dana said eventually.  “This ain’t her home anymore.”

Bedan nodded slowly.  “This place,” he said.  “Just a house, then.  Didn’t have any choice but to sit here and go under.”  He turned to his sister.  “And it was the same for her, wasn’t it?  Her just layin here.  She couldn’t even try not to die.  Now you gonna try to talk to me bout the good that comes from splashin water on a gotdamn baby?”

“Bedan!” Dana snapped, and she took a swift step forward but suddenly stopped herself.  Her eyes sunk on him, sorrowfully, as though she could actually see the leak in his head.  “The hand of God could slap you better than I ever could,” she uttered.  “You just hurry up in here.  All’s left is trash.  And our people waitin up off the roadside.”

“I know they are,” he said.  “And let em wait, damnit.  After everything, this here’s the easy part for em.”

“Dont you keep talkin that way at me,” she said.  “You best be happy they called us at all.”

“You go on out,” he said.

She walked back down the ramp to the car and on her way past the old fence in the yard she tugged at the cast iron gate but it halted in a congestion of rust, like the jaw of some long-dead beast.

Bedan turned around, took in the old living room.  Some of his aunt Mamiere’s books were overturned on the floor, one of them opened upward with its pages mildewed and crippled.  He walked over to it and tapped it with his foot and some thin bits of gold gilt scattered from the pages.  Crippled, he thought.  Broken down.

Keeping on, the hallway dark and moist, smelling of all sorts of mishaps.  From shitmud to motor oil.  On the walls hung a dozen crooked pictures, those from his chest on down all dilapidated, smeared outlines of his people within the frames.  He stood before one of them.  He’d known the picture well and though it was washed out he remembered the image of himself as a baby being held in a rag by his Mamiere in an old wooden chair.  The frame lopsided, swollen.  Maybe the last thing in her head.

He stared and licked his thumb to wipe away mold from part of the glass.  Then he straightened the frame on the wall.

Beside him a bowl-shaped light fixture hung from wires where it had lost its holding in the ceiling.  A small remainder of leak-water sat stagnant in the bottom of the glass, delineated by old evaporation lines.  Above it, the hallway ceiling was cracked and sagged and Bedan worried that if he touched the dangling glass the whole of it would crumble down on him.

“I aint ready for that,” he said.  He walked past the hanging glass, a small staircase up on his left and a thick rank coating everything, as though the air itself was ill.

An old carpet running up the middle of the staircase was stained blackgreen, hairy pustules growing atop the matting.  A motorized wheelchair apparatus stuck out from the wall, the connecting platform for the chair near the very bottom.  Maybe she’d made it up to the fourth or fifth step.  Breathing, crawling a short length after falling out of the seat, before the water took her and she just floated off.

He bent over and pushed on the platform where the chair had been attached.  It creaked about an inch.  Bedan shook his head and sat down onto the mess of the rug and laid his elbows into his knees and his head into his palms, his throat feeling like it had begun to unskin itself.

As he sat there a heavy flush of wind rolled through the front threshold, moaning, banging the door against the wall.  Then the moan rushed up into his ears and everything outside his head went silent as noises scraped about in every direction inside of him.  He pressed his palms against his head and the noises turned to urges, each urge a different kind of snake but each with the same hiss.  Then a charge shot up his spine as he stood abruptly and raised the heel of his boot.

When he stomped the fourth or fifth time at the wheelchair platform it broke partly out of the tracks, taking with it a heap of plaster, roaches squirming out from behind it, this whole place stormed into some infested strangeness.  And how the sky gonna send away a lady, he demanded, still kicking at the rubble.  A whole damn old lady.

—-

 

There was work to ought been done in the front yard, overgrown grass drowned into parched yellow clumps and a cement bird feeder cracked down through the base and leaning with impossible luck, the stone curtsy of it drawn so tiredly.

Bedan walked through the fallen portion of the fence and up to the car where his sister sat in the passenger seat.  The engine had been running and when he opened the driver door he felt the gushing air from the vents. Dana sat looking through the window at the front of the house, her chin on her fingertips.  When Bedan sat he could hear barely over the air conditioner that she was humming.

He looked at her.  “Give it your peace, then,” he said.  “Mine too.”  She continued to hum and she nodded slowly as Bedan grabbed at the pouch on the backside of her seat and pulled out a half drunk pint of whiskey and uncapped it and turned it into his mouth.  Feeding the snakes, or tiring them out.  It didn’t matter.  He capped the bottle and drove.

As he neared the end of the block, Bedan slowed.  A street sign on the left corner lay covered with whatever blackened residue might tire itself in the coursing of a flood.  On the right corner two vehicles were parked, a glistening black sedan beside a tired old truck with wooden makeshift cargo railings implanted into the truckbed panels.  Two white men in ties and pleated slacks stood at the rear of the sedan and behind them a black man in torn overalls leaned with his elbows atop the tailgate, his face drooped there between his arms.

Bedan drove slowly, his eyes set like hounds upon each of the men yet with a greater draw upon the black man.  He stared at him, released the gas pedal and let the car coast.

“Mamiere told me one time,” said the sister, watching Bedan stare out the window.  “If you don’t ever get the urge to take off and run from your job then you ain’t likely doin your job right.  That or you just too tired to try runnin at all.”

“Every geezer gonna say that.”  Bedan pressed the brakes, rolled the window down.  The white men turned to look into the vehicle while the black one stayed with his head down between his elbows.

“Always got trouble with the water, don’t we,” said Bedan.  The whites turned to one another.  Bedan stared beyond them.  “Always gonna have trouble with the water, ain’t we!” he yelled.

The black man lugged his head up, his sagging eyes punctured with wide pupils, bearing already whatever shame might come his way.  He stood there quiet, tired, almost broken, like a man standing by to watch his own self drown.

 

—-

 

Down the road Bedan reached behind the seat again and put in a couple more swigs.  Licked his upper lip a while then accidentally jerked at the wheel as he went to put the bottle back.  The boxes of keepsakes clinked.  His sister grabbed at the dash.

“You gonna let a ditch kill us?” she snapped.  “God all good and mighty.”

Bedan said nothing, clenched the steering wheel.  They drove on out of the neighborhood, onto the freeway and west.  There was no more humming, no giving of peace.  Just red unease hanging above the airflow.

“Our people,” Bedan mumbled.  He shook his head.

“What did you say?”

“You called them sons a bitches our people.  Back there at the house.  They ain’t any more our people than the gotdamn chinese are our people.”

“Yeah okay,” she said.  “Get mad, go on and get it.”

“They ain’t got nothin to do with us ‘cept that business back there.  Our people, our people gettin lost, gettin put out.  And for the bottom fuckin dollar.”

“I didn’t say any of this was right.  You best get your mind away from that idea. And away from that tongue while you’re at it.  Yellin at that poor man back there.  Pride doesn’t put food on the table, Bedan.”  She reached at a box in the back seat and moved a lamp post to stop its rattling.

“Everybody a crook,” he said.  “God and everybody.”

“I know it ain’t any good,” she said.  “But you keep all this up you gonna make yourself whole in hate.  And that evil’s a disease.”

 

—-

 

They went only a few miles on the freeway before Bedan slowed the car onto an exit and headed towards the river, towards the smokestack plumes of the refineries off there in the distance.

“What now?” said the sister.

“Montichella,” he said.  “Want to check on that horse of hers.”

“That thing aint dead?”

He pulled through some of the city’s longstanding neighborhoods, grass all drowned, sediment set down like decayed fur covering most of everything on the ground and three feet up anything that stood.  Sinkholes in the roads, jagged and gaping.  He hand-cranked the window down and in came the rotten smell of mud, drying out there like grief, drying up but all it takes is another touch of water.

Eventually he made his way to where the flooding hadn’t stuck, near the section of the levee that didn’t had its back broke.  The section that hadn’t had the old ladies around it swallowed up, where the sons and nephews of them ladies didn’t have to come around and knock everything down, didn’t have to confuse their salt and pepper with their pride.

A few more turns before he passed through the rusted gate of the small barnyard, the peeled-paint sign above the driveway of gravel and small white seashells that led to the stables right there where the levee and the railroad tracks came to a corner in the northwest hitch of the city.  The tires clacked against the rocks and dust kicked up as he pulled to the stablehouse and set the car in park.

“How long you gonna be?” she asked.

“Can’t tell for sure.  You can take the car, just be back around dark.”

The stablehouse smelled the same as when he’d been a boy.  Hay, dung and sweat.  He’d swept and shoveled for this place for several of his younger summers, back when his uncle pulled his way into a handful and gone and got that American Quarter halfbreed.  Mamiere liken to make the whole neighborhood’s throat sore for screaming about it so much.

“Hello?” said Bedan.  A beautiful brown stood its head out from a stall and shook.  Tall and shiny, young, saddlebred.  He went down to the stall and held his palm out to the horse, let it sniff.  The brown licked at it a few times, then shook again.  Bedan rubbed its jaw and patted down onto its neck.

“Gotdamn lucky,” he told it.

“Can I help you?”

Bedan turned.  A man had come from the door down the way.

“Come to check on my auntie’s horse,” Bedan said.  “‘Unless I just aint heard bout it dyin yet.”

“The name?”

“Jubilee,” he said.

“I mean your aunt’s name,” said the stranger.  He’d walked up to Bedan and stood there in a worn-out pair of jeans and a denim shirt to match.  Whiskered, tired.  Bedan had never seen him before.

“Her name’s Fisk.  Horse is called Fisk’s Jubilee.”

“Alright,” the man said, nodding.  He looked behind his shoulder towards the end of the hall, looked back at Bedan.  “You got an i.d. or somethin?”

“Need a license to ride a horse?”

“Just askin what I’m told to ask.”

“She’s my mother’s sister, we don’t share the name.  But I’ve been up here the last fifteen years of my life.”  He looked past the man, around and up and down the stalls.  “Where’s mister Cassidy at?”

“I imagine you’re meanin my brother,” said the man.  “He’s out down the levee trottin.  What’s your name?”

“Bedan.”

“Well, that’s right,” said the man, easing up.  “My brother mentioned you might be comin by.  Your aunt the one who passed in the storm?”

Bedan nodded slowly.

“I’m sorry to hear that.  Fine old horse of hers,” said the man, motioning over his shoulder.  “I come in from Beaumont to help Doug with the mess he had dealt here.  Damn sloppy bunch of it.”  He looked down at his boots and swiped a heel against the dirt.

“The horse,” said Bedan.  “She alright?”

“She is,” said the man, looking back up.  “She’s in the back left down there, all fed and restless if you’re wantin to saddle her.”  He turned and walked down to the stall.  Bedan followed, passed some long snouts and longer eyes tucked back into the stall shadows, faces storm-struck and nagged weary by it, hay dust drifting about in the quiet air.

When they got to the far down stall the brother unclasped the latch and pulled open the swing gate and motioned Bedan into but Bedan stopped just before the opening and looked in at the horse.  Her eyes long like the others but holding captive a more fluid weariness, a black sadness in them moving slight against the bare light like marbles in a breeze.  And the hide, dark brown like a good roux, with a blackhair mane sliding down the neck.  Bedan felt a warmth in himself as he watched at her.

“I brushed her today already,” said the brother.  “I can get the pad and pull down a saddle if you want.”

Bedan walked into the stall and put his hand onto the girl’s snout, rubbed soft, felt the heat swell in his throat.  She gave a few thick breaths and rubbed back against his hand.

“How bout a walk,” he said to her.  The brother walked off behind him and Bedan put his sweaty face down onto the horse’s cheek and felt himself almost apologize to her.

After a few moments the brother came back with the pad and saddle slung over one arm and the bridle held in the other and together they tacked her up in silence as the horse stood there, still and graceful.

When they’d finished readying her the brother took a step back and looked at the horse, then at the man.

“Y’know,” he said.  “Doug and I, when we was younger, we had another brother.  He was the youngest, had some bad legs and fell out into a pond on our old farm one day and drowned.  Doctor told my mother there wasn’t any more hurt or sufferin to it than fillin a glass of water.  Or fallin asleep after a long day’s work.”  He shrugged and put his head down and let the words offer themselves up in the humidity.

Bedan nodded a short while.  Something like cool milk spread in his chest, calming, an understanding to be had here in an otherwise foreign sense of relief.  Silent thanks was given as he nodded once more and let the careful course of the calmness move him.

“I’ll take her on out,” he said.

 

—-

 

The leather reins felt like feathers in his sweaty hands as he rode the old girl, took her slow up the stretch onto the crest of the levee.  The breeze climbing along with him and the horse.  Down to his left the railroad tracks paralleled the road and to his right a crescent jut of the Mississippi jawed southward, all that wide brown water strewn about into wildness by the reflections of the sun.

“You,” he said to the water, and then he trotted on.

About a hundred yards down he spotted a manned horse clapping its way back towards the stables.  Watched the man handle the ride.  Cassidy, he thought.  He picked up the old girl’s pace and not long after he came abreast of the rider.

“Mister Cassidy,” said Bedan, nodding his head.

“Be damned,” said the man, tipping the brim of his hat.  “Been too long.”  They both pulled their horses to a quiet and Cassidy looked Bedan up and down.  “I see you got her goin alright,” he said.

“She still knows the way.”

Cassidy nodded and then leaned back and stretched his shoulders and chest out to the sun.  “Ain’t that fine,” he said, and he rubbed the neck of his own horse.  “You stayin around long?” he asked.

“No,” Bedan replied softly.  “I believe I had enough, probably since the minute we come into town.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Cassidy.  “But I admit, the storm has seemed to have a way with messin with the way time works in people’s minds.  Too much of it at once.”

Bedan turned his head, wiped a hand across his eyes and cleared his throat.

“I can keep her long as you need,” Cassidy continued, watching the man beside him.  Bedan nodded slowly.

“Mighty grateful,” he said, and the men looked out beyond the trees.

“People who say blood’s thicker than water,” said Cassidy.  “They never seen the Mississippi.  Not this leg of her anyway.”  He squinted against the down-plow of the setting sun.  “Down here folks abide to the water above all else.  It moves em, takes em.”  He turned to Bedan.  “You know it too true.”

“Your brother,” replied Bedan.  “Told me bout yall’s younger brother.  Bout him out on the farm.”

Cassidy cocked his head.

“Did he now?” he asked.

“Yessir,” Bedan replied softly.

Cassidy turned and eyed down the old stablehouse, then looked back out to the river.

“I dont know why,” he said.  “That man in there’s the only brother I’ve ever had.”  The words were spoken truly and he lifted the rein in his hand and the horse underneath answered with a turn and a slow push back towards the stables.  “You stayin out a while?” he asked.

“Nothin bout a pond on a farm?” Bedan asked, the heat of snakebite in his throat.  “Nothin bout fillin a glass of water?”

“I honestly don’t follow you,” said Cassidy.

Bedan closed his eyes, tightened his grip on the reins.  His horse’s ears laid flat.

“I’ll see you shortly,” Cassidy offered.  As he moved off Bedan said nothing.  Opened his eyes and stared out at the brown passing weight before him, the watery slug of this earthly world that must always move, must always go.  Must flow on out to the ocean, take whatever it has the strength to pull along with it, all the energy involved made into one drowned madness by the tug of this place.

Bedan turned onto the sun and held out his face.  Felt the stinging of his eyes and he thought about how the river would take him if he galloped in.  Just the curiosity of it, how long he could stay up, and how he would have to eventually sink.

He held his face out still, tried to keep his eyes open but the sharp sun pressed them down like hot thumbs against open wounds.  Forced to look away but ordered somehow to stay put, his vision upward refused, the true heart of that fiery thing impossible to know, to understand, but always there, to live with and without at once.

Eventually the white blur faded enough from Bedan’s eyes, his sockets sore and worn.  He turned to the stables, over there in the shade of the levee and standing upright despite all the push and pull.  The forces allowing, accepting of it.  Bedan whispered and nudged the horse, and with his hand on her neck and her tired heartbeat in his palm he led her back to the stables, to the quiet and dark and unforgotten.

 

 

 

“Be damned,” said the man, tipping the brim of his hat.  “Been too long.”  They both pulled their horses to a quiet and Cassidy looked Bedan up and down.  “I see you got her goin alright,” he said.

“She still knows the way.”

Cassidy nodded and then leaned back and stretched his shoulders and chest out to the sun.  “Ain’t that fine,” he said, and he rubbed the next of his own horse.  “You stayin around long?” he asked.

“No,” Bedan replied softly.  “I believe I had enough, probably since the minute we pulled into town.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Cassidy.  “But I admit, the storm has seemed to have a way with messin with the way time works in people’s minds.  Too much of it at once.”

Bedan lowered his head, wiped a hand across his eyes.

“I can keep her long as you need,” Cassidy continued, watching the man beside him.  Bedan nodded.

 

“Lillac” by Luz Aguirre

from West Trade Review, Spring 2018, Vol. 9

For full interview see West Trade Review, Spring 2018, Vol. 9

http://www.westtradereview.com/subscription.html

Luz Aguirre graduated with a B.A. in English and creative writing from the University of Southern California. Her short story, “Entropy: A Brief History of the Undoing of the Universe,” won the Virginia C. Middleton prize for best fiction in her graduating class. She is currently a lawyer and lives in Los Angeles with her wife (Susan), their daughter (Eva), and their dog (Pablo Pavlov).

Lilac

By Luz Aguirre

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

they asked so they could assign

the proper agent to frisk you.

A miniature metal detector  passed

over your miniature body, scanned

for tiny guns and tiny box cutters.

You were eight months old,

getting tested for explosives,

and swabs of your hands, diaper, and bottles

dropped into a machine that mulled over

an unthinkable possibility: what if

you are a baby terrorist? Or a baby mule,

smuggling, scheming, paid in black market

breastmilk. What’s the going rate?

What are you hiding? Funny story,

the world you were born into.

I am trying to adopt you. The clerk wants me to explain,

in some bullshit declaration, your paternity, why

your mothers didn’t use a clinic to have you.

What is there to explain? You were conceived in love,

the space between suffering and joy, the unthinkable

thing machines cannot calculate and no doctor gave us.

How can I explain father-shaped silhouettes,

how I am your mother, too?

My eyes witnessed my wife, your mother, shuddering,

with all the pain creation demands, my hands

distracted her, calmed her, danced her, drove

her, held her, every day for a decade through

every dream and dread and as they had never

held anyone else before, woman about to fall

out of the world, caught you, girl falling into it,

cut you loose, named and bathed and dressed you—

not his eyes, not his hands, not his wife.

Yet you have, perhaps, his eyes, kind and free,

perhaps his gentle hands, unfurled easily, hiding

nothing. Perhaps they are your mother’s,

or perhaps even mine, mystery of a nurtured

likeness. I can’t tell any more

than I can tell by looking at a cloud

which mountains gave it wisp.

My family used to say “Blood

is thicker than water.” I am afraid: am I water

to you? When the world sees you with me, does it see water?

Does it want blood? Most days I know: you are my daughter.

Most days are whole days we believe in things,

warm shocks and echoes, wedding days suddenly

ours, or your birthday—you, suddenly ours!—days

holding live wires in tangled bundles, as many

as our arms could carry, no place to put them,

their natural containers plastered over long ago .

This is the deepest secret: blood isn’t the measure.

When you are old enough to weather heartbreak,

I will tell you how it felt, at last, to tire of denying

the moon, which dares remain even when no one

looks at it, then, after all that, to be asked why

not? over and over, and still not know how

to answer. When you are old enough

to weather heartbreak, I will show you

a YouTube video, in a museum,

where our country gurgles:

“Fuck you, fag-gots!”

“Jews will not replace us!” and “White

lives matter!” As if they don’t already.

Smiling and chanting and burning. So funny.

Today the sun was completely eclipsed.

We gawked at something we see every day

hiding furiously behind the other thing we see every day.

It is enough to sear corneas, to drive a seeing person mad.

Now that you are here I’m better at applying sunblock.

I never really had to use it. I burned once,

when I was eight years old, and spent a whole day in water

and desert sun. Once, your mother and I went to Mexico

and she asked me to help her with her back. Broken

windshield wipers would have done better. She was seared,

badly, other than the outline of my lazy hand, in negative.

I didn’t know what it was like to have white skin. I still don’t.

With you I won’t take any chances.

When we leave the house you are smeared,

every square inch, in sunblock. I wait. Let it absorb.

Cover. It is the only invisible shield I can give you.

Let it be thick. Let it work. Skin is a sorry shield. Beyond

sunburns I wonder: will you know the world as a white person

or not? Either way I hope you know you’re always enough.

Nobody has to burn, nothing has to bleed, to make that true.

Months ago all of Los Angeles and New York

shouted into an open wound: “Love, not hate,

makes America great!!!” The wound is:

hate made America, which was conceived in a bucket

of sick and avarice, in the space between suffering

and worse suffering, dark unthinkable machinations,

pain no doctor takes away. The wound is a place

where pastors forget what they were about to say.

When I was a baby my parents made a bronze

cast of my foot: fat, severed, out of context,

like a ghastly enclosure to a ransom note,

except heavy, resistant to time, memento

of the least important part of me. It looks dirtier

every year. They keep it in a box next to a dry black stone

in a ziplock bag that was my cord, another strange fossil.

Perhaps I’m being unfair—this means something

to them, but I have always hated bronze statues,

especially that one. First I think they are real people

then I realize they are not people and non-people

are so terrifying. The day after Charlottesville

your mother and I watched a musical.

Each of us in the audience that day was trying

to relearn something honest and obscure,

that we used to know how to do, that our bodies

might still know in spite of us. Each of us

was fumbling in the dark for something

that fell somewhere, trying to imagine

what it looked like and what it was called,

privately thumbing along shallow grooves

of memories, like being called “improbable,”

a word I didn’t know I needed, like the hour

I first believed, when history seemed an unbroken

record—when all of time was fresh pressed vinyl, ours

to remix at leisure—when everything alive was a beating

expanse, a pastel horizon, ours to conquer at will.

Leaving I thought about the future

when this musical goes the way of all before it

performed in homogenous high schools, recast

awkwardly, back into alabaster, marble, plaster,

when whole belief systems break down

into insipid memes, and tweets shrink

to grunts and farts. Somebody sing

to us. Somebody sing Amazing Grace

or Get Ur Freak On to us. Oh my darling —

Can you blame us for that dark, bronze ache?

This is the real America, we sobbed and sighed,

remember, remember, the fourth of

November 2008.

November 2016

Was the cruellest month.

But you were born, a lilac.

I’ll put that in my declaration.

A prayer for the broken hearted:

Please—banish all the bronze

to museums! Take them all down

in the streets. Hide them!

Behind a wall that gets ten feet higher

every time we get mad, behind a moat

of molten glass, stew of detritus, stocked

chock full of crocodiles; lock them

up behind barbed wire and columns

of looming Klan robes nobody

dares touch; circle them with all

the semiautomatics we can afford;

give them hell and lash and threat

and death, and more blood, for good

measure; papier-mâché them with spit

and ticker tape, phony arrest warrants,

torn up holy books salted from neglect

and abuse; make them futile piñatas,

filled with bronze and more stupid

bronze, that we can hit forever and never beat;

bomb them til they glow; bomb them some more;

cover them with diseased blankets; make them listen

to talk radio while water drips on their heads;

dump them beneath dead barely-buzzing

neon, toxic trash bags of shorn hair,

and stacks of bodies we were so afraid of.

Next to a dumb blank bronze plaque to explain.

And extraordinary people like you

will say, after they have become ordinary

people like me (people with one gray hair

and too many emails): what happened?

The non-people smirk: nothing

Please lock our wild phobias in cases

in a place where children go on bleak

field trips and politicians can whisper solemnly

into microphones NEVER AGAIN.

May the world NEVER FORGET

how to forget. May President Barabbas

get his due. May the full moon never come

to bring out our beast selves against our will.

May our will triumph and triumph and triumph

and triumph until we are so fucking tired of triumph.

May the world know the old Roman peace

of shouting into open wounds. May the world

go back to where it came from!

May the world fuck all the way off.

As if it won’t already.

I have 1,778 photos and 134 videos on my phone,

from the last five months alone. Nearly all

are of you.  I took them so that I won’t forget

what happened — But I also took them to capture

all I see in you I’d already forgotten:

how to be shameless and unafraid,

how to find joy in water and mud,

how not to care whether people like you

or are like you, how to laugh

at mistakes, eat when you are hungry,

how to let yourself want, let

yourself everything, let time

fold into itself, and forgive

space for turning into ether

against your will. I want

to remember those things.

The other night I put you to bed,

and you held my fingers while you fell asleep.

When I started to pull away you held on tighter

so I stayed. Your mother also does this —

when we hold hands like no one is looking

and I start to pull away, because somebody

looks, or it is time to get up for the day,

or from fear, or shame, or for no reason,

she holds on tighter, even asleep, until I stay.

It is the most reassuring reflex.

We can’t always hold on, little cloud,

we can’t always be holdable. But to try

not to pull away or hide, not to live

dying, and do the hard

lonely work of holding —

I want to remember those things.

I have no videos or photos of when

you learned how to play peek-a-boo.

You watched me hide and disappear, reappear

just as suddenly, from behind lazy hands

that can’t shield you from a goddamn

thing, eclipsing, closeting, closing, opening.

Before you knew how to play, I think you used to forget

I was there. Now you remember. And once you learned

how doubt could recede and return

like a wave, pushed and pulled by a paper moon,

leaving behind fresh mud of hope,

which remains, improbably, after

centuries of constant lash

by an apathetic tide, anticipating

the next return of the sun, of God,

You laughed so hard.

It is a very funny story

one I want to remember.

 

Excerpt of Interview with Photographer Karina Juarez

from West Trade Review, Spring 2018, Vol. 9 © 2018 West Trade Review

For full interview see West Trade Review, Spring 2018, Vol. 9

http://www.westtradereview.com/subscription.html

Hormiguero (from the series “Acciones de Recordar) Oaxaca, Mexico 2012

Karina Juárez (b. 1987) is currently enrolled at the Universidad Autónoma de México (UNAM) as an art history major, and also leads Errante Laboratorio, a virtual space of investigation and diffusion of contemporary photographers. She has received training at the Manuel Álvarez Bravo Photographic center and the San Agustín Arts Center (CaSA), and was a fellow in the Young Creators of the National Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA) in photography in the 2011 and 2014 editions. She has received a number of honors and inclusions, including honorific mention in the Contest of Contemporary Photography of Mexico (2012) and the Eight Biennial Puebla de los Ángeles 2011. Her work has been featured in numerous collective and solo exhibitions in Mexico, Belgium, Brazil, Ecuador, Spain, Germany, Honduras, and France. 

 

 

WTR: Does your work relate to those previous life experiences in any way? What does it mean to be a photographer for you?
KJ:  My work all the time is in relation to my life, with the fears, the obsessions and with the memories of the past years and of what I am living.  For me to be a creator means that every day can be different, to be able to escape a bit from reality while I am building that other world that I want to be looked at. And also, it is a commitment.

WTR: Did you choose the photograph or does it chose you? When did you start calling yourself a photographer and visual artist and what motivated you to do it?
KJ:  I think I was looking for something, although I was not sure of what.   I had a kind of anguish to say things, so when I started taking pictures it was really wonderful because I could finally put the ideas I had into images.  Although all the time I’ve had a kind of love-hate with photography, I’ve also had long periods in which I have not been able to produce anything, but in the end the anguish comes again with everything that I cannot contain in life, and I start to take pictures again.

WTR: Is your work influenced by other visual artists? Which artists do you respect or admire the most? Do you feel that your work is similar to theirs in some way?
KJ:
 Yes, my work has been definitely influenced by many photographers in several periods, and some have been my teachers, not only of photography but of life. Mary Ellen Mark was one of them.  She is someone who helped me believe in the strength that my work could have and that I had to keep on producing, but above all, being honest with what I was doing.
Per Bak Jense is a Danish photographer who came to give a workshop in Oaxaca. I lived there in those years. My vision of photography changed completely after that encounter.  One of the exercises that he would assign to us was to make a self-portrait.  That was the first time that I did that. After looking at myself in
that self-portrait, where my head was placed inside a bubble, everything changed. He brought his books and when I saw them, I knew that I wanted to do that. They were images that seemed to contain nostalgia, but at the same time they were very powerful. From that moment I sought for my photos to contain that kind of strength, as if it were a pause, a kind of respite.  I hope one day my work will become similar, not in form but in what it contains and in what it provokes.
WTR: What motivates you to create? Do you ever have moments when you are not satisfied with your abilities or face creativity blocks? How do you deal with those moments?
KJ:
  I have blockages all the time, but, above all, my insecurities about my work do not allow me to move forward when I think too much about what follows or about the expectations of the  work. It is necessary to allow the work to take its own path.  I constantly go back to my first images. I think there I find answers to move forward although I also have a series of processes that allow me to move ahead and not paralyze myself. I always look for fears, untold stories, news, and dreams. Those allow me to have a subject with which to work.

 

Excerpt of Interview with Artist Carlos Estevez

from Spring 2017, Vol. 8 ©2017 West Trade Review

for full interview see Vol. 8, 2017 West Trade Review   http://www.westtradereview.com/subscription.html

Biography

Carlos Estévez’s work, which spans more than 30 years, explores the complex relationship between man and the universe, and reflects his lifelong passion for creating art with a philosophical profile. Estévez masterfully weaves themes of the human experience, history, culture and anatomy, resulting in work that is both mythical and surrealist in nature. His recent installation, Bottles to the Sea, is an intricate, complex project exploring communication in the form of a message from the artist to an unknown person in an unpredictable place and time.

Carlos Estévez (1969) was born in Havana, Cuba and currently lives and works in Miami. His education began at the Escuela Elemental de Artes Plásticas, continued at the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts, and was completed at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana in 1992, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts. His work in painting, drawing, sculpture and installations has received international praise, notably the Grand Prize in the First Salon of Contemporary Cuban Art in 1995. He has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions at prestigious institutions such as the Fine Art Museum in Havana, Cuba, The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University, and the Center of Contemporary Art in New Orleans, Louisiana. His works may also be found in public and private collections worldwide, including the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, The Ludwig Forum in Aachen, Germany, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Florida.

 

 

WTR: One noticeable feature of your work is what appears to be energy centers within human anatomy that resemble chakras.  Was that your intention or was there another motive for their use?

CE:  For me the human body is like a map. But a map is the representation of a place and also is a place itself. I think maps are a very accurate metaphor of the human soul. We have a body; but what we are as individuals is inside us: invisible, unreachable. The chakras are points of energy. I use them in my work as important points of the body in a symbolic way.

WTR:  There appears to be a tension in your work between the organic and the non-organic (i.e., the machine), what do you hope to accomplish through such tension?

CE: My intention is to create a metaphor between the relationship of nature with that of the machine. The universe has a structure as everything else has inside the universe. Humans make inventions based on the observation of nature. We reproduce the mechanisms and create planes, ships, cars, telephones, etc. From my point of view, there is not tension, it is an attempt of integration, to create harmony.

WTR: Each of your works is amazingly detailed, whether it is the geometric shapes within a work, the use of interconnecting lines, texture, and hue.  In general, could you describe your creative process and your intention behind it?

CE: My process is similar to the process of the alchemists. They were looking for the formula to make gold, and what they found instead was knowledge. My goal is to find the knowledge. I want to translate my experiences in life into images and share them with other people. The work I do reflexes my inner world, and it has to be done with all the complexity that this process requires. That is why it need to be very detailed. Everything single element is important: the background images, colors, textures, lines and the title.

WTR:  A critic once remarked that you have been influenced by Kant and Nietzsche.  Would you say their philosophical leanings have influenced your creativity in some way?  How do you take their concept of morality and transfer it into art?

CE:  Of course, my work is influenced by my readings, including philosophy. However, I don’t transfer any concept to my art intentionally. It doesn’t work that way. I read a book and I use it as fuel for my brain.  For instance, the philosophy of Kant is very complex. He creates his own concepts and his own system of ideas. What I got from reading his work could be far from his original intentions. I do my own interpretation and this becomes the inspiration for my work. I never know exactly what, how, and when it is going to happen, but one day an image appears that is connected with something I’ve read.

WTR:  You have noted before that your art explores man’s mission or purpose in the universe.  Are you suggesting that art is man’s best tool for understanding existential questions?

CE:  My obsession is to discover the meaning of life. Why are we here in this universe? This transcendental answer can perhaps never be answered, or perhaps it has so many different answers. One thing is for sure, neither science nor history can contain the human knowledge that art so deeply achieves.

“Sunlight Has Blistered the Clear-Coating on My Car’s Hood” by Jesse DeLong

from Spring 2017 Issue, Vol. 8
for other poems, see http://www.westtradereview.com/subscription.html
Jessed DeLong teaches composition and literature at Southern University. His work has appeared in Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, American Letters and Commentary, Indiana Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and Typo, as well as the anthologies Best New Poets 2011 and Feast: Poetry and Recipes for a Full Seating at Dinner. His chapbooks, Tearings, and Other Poems and Earthwards, were released by Curly Head Press.
Sunlight has Blistered the Clear-Coating on My Car’s Hood
Piloting the lawnmower,
the neighbor maws grass
clippings, which the
egrets, white as a snow rarely
to fall in Louisiana, buoy over, circling,
swelling downward, scouring
for feed: grasshoppers, lizards,
ripe insects,
a feast.
The heat holds it at a distance, this beauty.
The mind, too, holds it in—this thrashing
of the mower, this scattering of the terrified,
this hunger & preying
of the birds. No symbol, here, this is natural. The order
(The mind makes
a distinction—four rainbow-
flared, transparent wings, a straw-like
blue body, ah, a dragonfly—& moves on.)
of nature & human culture are zero sum. See,
(Civilization makes a distinction—if we let fall
these seeds in this dirt, here, ah, wheat—
& moves on.)
sugarcanes bristle the road. & so on
the sky, blue because its humanity’s
most bearable spectrum—
of what the light looks like,
a tower of smoke
turns,
unholy. Oh, no. Oh, yes, brown & grey
& alive.

“Condom” by Domenic Scopa

From Spring 2016, Vol. 7

For other poems, see http://www.westtradereview.com/subscription.html

 

Domenic Scopa is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit Scholarship. His poetry, translations, and fiction have been featured nationally and internationally in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Poetry Quarterly, Belleville Park Pages, Visions International, Cardinal Sins, Misfit Magazine, Poetry Pacific, and many others.

His poem, “Condom” appears in the Spring 2016 edition of West Trade Review.

 

 

Condom

            for my love

 

 

I couldn’t get the condom on tonight,

the latex-free type

lubed to numb,

all the masculinity

of lasting.

My naked frame

flushing redder

than a bit lip

reminded me of my own

vulnerability.

 

I couldn’t get the condom on—

its chokehold

handcuffs memories,

the obscene fingers

of a family friend

all over my body.

I couldn’t get the condom,

the kind you like,

marvelously ribbed

for pleasure, right?

I thought I finally could—

 

once again,

you let me force you

on your stomach

in front of the full-length mirror.

But

I couldn’t get it on tonight.

It reminded me

of everything

that hurts-

the dusty light bulb

in the walk-in closet

smoothly swinging back and forth

with the exhilaration of his labor

to restrain me,

to show

how he preferred me

powerless,

even though he knew

how small I was—

Those smug, smiling eyes.

 

 

I couldn’t tonight.

It reminded me

of his thumb and pointer

unraveling the foreskin—

ruined the seduction

of rolling up

your striped stockings.

 

I couldn’t get the condom on tonight,

because it reminded me

how tolerant you have to be,

a coyote

that will not leave

its car-struck mate

collapsed in the breakdown lane.

And my cruelty,

when you massage my back

to reassure me.

 

That goddamn condom

betrayed my strength,

the responsibility

I bear

to just forget him,

to just be mindful

of the moment taking its course:

            focus on the kisses,

            the sighs,

            your smell

But I left

thinking how much I love you,

how you must turn my pain

inward. Like me,

you have this sort of pain,

 

that unused condom

tossed on the carpet—

Excerpt of Interview with Artist Julie Heffernan

from Spring 2016 West Trade Review 

©2016 West Trade Review

For full interview, see Spring 2016, Vol. 7, West Trade Review

http://www.westtradereview.com/subscription.html

 

85733323834b7c8e-SelfPortraitasBoyinFlight_2010_52x68

Self Portrait as Boy in Flight by Julie Heffernan

 

 

Related image

 

 

WTR: Describe your process for painting; where do you get your ideas? How do you start? Do you complete several studies before actually putting paint on the final canvas? How long does a typical painting take you to finish? Do you paint with show themes in mind, or do you just paint and then assemble the work for shows?

JH: I start a painting with a faint image in mind and make a transparent wash. I don’t do preliminary drawings, but I do wait for an image to well up before I start working. I move

things around in the painting and make a thousand changes until patterns and shapes emerge that interest me and say something about the subject matter. It’s only then that I think about finish.

My work came into its own after I had been painting for a number of years –maybe I had had enough of those accidents that teach us so much. I was on a Fullbright in West Berlin and painting all day every day, working my way madly through a multitude of ideas and painting problems. I was working in a sardonic Neo-Expressionist mode, making paintings about the fecklessness of humankind, and doing a lot of them. For some reason, one night, after I’d painted all daylong and, exhausted, had gone to lie down for a bit I began to notice, suddenly, a stream of imagery welling up in my mind’s eye. These pictures appeared to me like film stills and each was fascinating, like somebody else’s movie in my mind; not daydreams or memories or anything familiar like that. I wanted to look more closely at those images and know them better: the best way to do that seemed to be by painting them. I taught myself a different way of painting in order to make these pictures as clear on the outside as they were to me on the inside. If there were such a thing as a core of creativity within me, this image-streaming seemed to point the way, so I threw out that entire sardonic body of work I’d been making, which now seemed superficial to me.

Over time I continue to use that method of conjuring to figure out problems in my work. The process functions in a way akin to what happens in an epiphany. You identify a problem and you seek an answer to it; you get frustrated and, with a sense of despair, give up and go take a bath, or a nap or a walk—something that relaxes you. Here’s where interesting things start to happen. In a theta wave state, the alert but relaxed brain tells the pre-frontal cortex to go into action and search the entire brain for a solution to the problem. When the answer is found gamma particles line up, as if incandescent, and we have an answer. I wake up with a newly configured image in mind that is some interesting combination of those half-formed ideas I’d been flirting with before, now reformed by the subconscious into something much more germane and complex in meaning.

Recently my concerns about the environment have become the subject of my work, imagining what a hotter world might look like, how we might adapt, where and how we might live. But the deeper content of the work is never clear to me until I’m inside the painting, where it will then show me what I really care about.

WTR: Can artists truly make anything original? How?

JH:  Is a dream original? Yes and no. There’s the ‘new’ to each individual, but that’s always relative. What’s original is the new combination of things aligned with a fresh perspective that allows me to see things I’ve known in a way I hadn’t before. Spilled paint wasn’t new to Pollock – he just noticed how beautiful the drips on his studio floor were (as most artists do) and took them seriously. I don’t worry about originality – I don’t think any serious artist does. It cannot be the first thing on your mind when you go into the studio, or you wouldn’t be able to work; and if it’s the last thing you think about when you leave the studio you

probably weren’t working hard enough. I think most of us just want to notice more, make things that surprise us, that we can get pulled into, like a gambit or a hike through unknown territory. It has to feel new and urgent, but original? – I don’t think it’s up to artists to worry about that.