A Sample of Emerge Literary Journal: Issue 10 (2015)
I’m always amazed at how quickly the time passes between issues. It’s a marvel to me that we are publishing yet another one, that I’ll have a new book to shamelessly fondle in just a couple weeks. Combining excellent new stories and poetry with an added themed section, we have endeavored to make our newest issue even better than the rest.
When I founded this journal, I did not have a Magic 8 Ball to ask whether or not this venture might be successful, how successful, or even whether it would still be here, five years down the road. I still don’t know. But what I do know is this: turns out running a small literary magazine is harder than it looks. Hundreds of submissions come in each window, submissions that need to be reviewed, responded to and agonized over. Yet we’ve managed to put out yet another issue, one we’re very proud of, and one we can’t take all the credit for.
Each of the pieces in this issue of Emerge Literary Journal was accepted on its merit. With the exception of our themed special section, Stitches, we were working toward no overriding themes, and yet, as the issue grew, it became clear that the pieces speak to one another through many underlying themes and overt connections, an ongoing dialogue, if you will, in which various forms of expression are reflecting and responding to one another throughout the individual pieces and the entire issue.
Although I am honored to have talented, established authors gracing our pages, I am always especially excited about our emerging writers. Writing is a lonely profession, especially in the beginning. Fueled by your own passion and determination, you navigate your craft in the dark, praying that the lights will someday turn on, that you’ll finally be seen. No matter how talented you are, how beautiful your poetry or prose, you can’t help but doubt yourself, doubt your skill, wonder if anyone will ever read your work, let alone love it. You wonder if you’ll be in the dark forever. That changes with publication. An author never forgets that first acceptance, that awe-inspiring moment of feeling valued and acknowledged, the sudden beacon of hope that recognition ensures. For me, that is the greatest pleasure of Emerge Literary Journal. I love writing those acceptance letters and printing a journal an author might keep with them forever.
Thank you for believing in our little journal, in our contributors, both established and emerging, and most of all, in the power of literature. You make this all possible. Each of you holding this book in your hands know your voices are important and your words have been heard. Thank you. And a special thanks goes, as always, to Janeen Rastall, Kami Westhoff, and Sarah Ghoshal, our Guest Editors. Without them there is no journal, and we are lucky to have them.
So read on, then. Without you, the contributor and the reader, this journal would have no reason to exist, and could not continue.
Ariana D. Den Bleyker, Editor-in-Chief
There are no bombs killing children. Not today or in
living memory. The only active volcano is across state
lines, and its threats are ash. The overdue earthquake
may obliterate the coast, but we’re far enough inland
to worry primarily about teacups. Or pictures hung on
nails. Beyond the lack of bombs, there are no eggshells
to walk on, no tenterhooks, no butterflies. Yet I fret,
wish for admiration, think heaven’s perfection will bore.
Across the dinner table, my daughter sings a song
she’s made up, one I misunderstood at first: It’s not the
termites that amaze me, but the home they’ve built.
Megan Denton Ray
He said he beats me when he feels ugly. He said
he’s the landlord, and he’s going to raise the rent.
He’s going to buy all the women who dream of cookbooks
and perfect ice cubes. He’s going to send me to fight
for my country with my womb as my weapon,
my bare legs as shotguns, or with dollars in my bra.
He is spinning in his chair after lunch and belches.
He’s not an eagle or a lion—he eats and eats and eats,
as the rat does. He sings and asks me to make pie,
for nothing, for living. He told me to talk quietly
to everyone I meet. He told me to turn off my sex,
until all my bones whistle, and my teeth are crumbled
and dry. Uncle Sam said my hands are too small.
When he killed me, he said lemon girl.
He said glittery and moonset and mother-wife.
He said yeah, but this is what we call our castle.
He won’t talk to me anymore.
Tara Channtelle Hill
I haven’t seen monarchs or the melanin in my skin
for a while, and I have a problem with that.
Summer is by invitation. Insects wear eyespots
and cryptic coloration. I read in Wikipedia;
A butterfly needs some time to fill its wings with blood,
then let them dry before it can fly, and it’s during that time
they’re extremely vulnerable to predators. It’s complex.
And it’s complex when my neighbor lets her cat out
since it is pregnant and she wants it to go,
but it always comes back.
It comes back because she doesn’t want it to.
I don’t know where butterflies go in the winter.
I know summer smells like Mexico, and it’s always nice
at the start of things isn’t it, before you have that feeling.
That feeling most things will leave you or die,
so you ruin it, or won’t say good-bye.
Then, butterflies use the sun to orient themselves,
and this is a warm fluid world.
Last week, my sister snuck a pair of kitchen scissors into the bathroom of her ex-boyfriend’s house and snipped at her wrists, easy as cutting the wrapper from a pound of ground beef. She said the skin broke easy, easier than expected. When the blood came, she cupped her hands over her own ears to better hear the sound of her heart pounding, the rhythm different from her ex-boyfriend’s fist against the door.
For days, I left everything whole. I stood in the kitchen of my apartment, holding an orange ripe with juice. I pressed my thumb to the rind, but couldn’t bring myself to pierce it. Everything could be effortlessly broken, the world filled with things ready to burst. I couldn’t open mail; the sharp edged flap suddenly terrifying. How easily skin breaks, easier than expected. I kept quiet, the windows latched, the doors shut and locked, but the phone continued to ring.
When I gave in and answered the phone, she told me they used actual glue to seal her skin. She laughed, like it had happened to someone else, like Isn’t that funny?
I laughed back like it was, desperate to open something, letting my mouth hang wide. I let loose a tender pink tongue, imagined what it must be to see all the way down the throat into the very core of someone, to the place where their soft heart beats steady as a fist against a door. But after I hung up the phone, I stopped shaving my legs and took to watching water run, my hands passing, seamless, through floods of it.
The Brass Tacks
Not from an angel, not from heaven above, but like it,
old friends and their babies, people who knew me when
and who didn’t, everyone so sorry for my loss.
The first boy I kissed, people from a former church,
high school buddies, college pen pals amassed
without swirling, glowing halos, but deserving them.
She looks beautiful, someone says. They did a great job.
No one knows it was my sister who had the balls
to do our dead mother’s hair yesterday: she used
a touch-up stick and a brush, the strands of mom’s
dignity like broken threads, just a spray-painted body
in a hospital gown in a silent, unforgiving room.
She looks dead, I answer.
The rope of recognition and remembrance,
of Oh yes, this is what you’re like pulls between us.
I do it again later, eulogizing mom, reminding everyone
out loud about her dad, her mental illness, her lungs.
Also saying I loved her and she loved us, slipping cash
in our pockets, giving us gorgeous weddings, making soup
and soda bread and long garlands of Christmas cards.
When I’ve kissed her cold, hard forehead, it’s over.
One childhood friend comes for the repast afterward.
She sits quietly on the stairs with me for an hour,
talking about what is and has been, tethering me to life.
II. Pottery Dream
In the morning, I remember your body flip flopping,
shuddering in your green sweatpants, the ones you wore to bed
the night before you died.
You were being cremated, rolled into a giant kiln in a box,
like a cake pan sliding into an oven.
Flat on your back, you raised an arm as if to say Wait!
As the furnace churned, there was a scream, your scream
—the sound of it so terrifying I listened.
Your body, contorted, jerky, then twisted and crumbled
into your remains. All the euphemisms fired.
How did Grandma fit inside that tiny pot? our kids wondered.
Bodies all decompose into crumbles, cremation just hurries it along.
They huh-ed, hmmm-ed, asked again, Is all of her in there?
Yes, yes. All of her. The unspoken heavy in my throat:
We burned her up. The vase is decoration.
I had to go back a week later.
Even if I couldn’t reach
your top corner spot,
couldn’t put a finger
to the raised letters
of your Irish name.
But mausoleums lock.
On Saturdays, they lock early.
There was no key tied to my wrist.
I stood flush against
the tinted windows,
my hands made into
visors around my eyes
to see the plaque, at least,
if only through a glass, darkly.
God of Dark Places
Light, shooting highbeams through my veins and dusting away the dark places in my too-slow brain. Weaving an icy path up one arm to my heart-place and out to each extremity thereafter. I become the light. I am the brightest spot in the universe: I cannot burn out.
Suddenly, I feel every crevice of the universe, breathing. The erraticism is in sync, by my power, by my blessing, and I can predict any movement in this galaxy. I know too well the path the bicycle outside my window will take, I know the slow tumble and stringing-up of the spider in its web across the room, I know the heartbeats of every neighboring soul’s neighboring soul’s neighboring soul. I am not god-like, I am god itself.
And this leads to the vial in my hand: god, god-like, gnash-toothed light, I am made unbearably powerful through the smallest puncture in my arm, a wound in the fabric of hierarchy the spheres smother us with. I have found it out: I have found all.
I must never let myself fall mortal again.
Wine: A Love Story
Julie Christine Johnson
Felluga Pinot Grigio
Your date, a philosophy graduate student, corrects your pronunciation. “It’s GREE joe,” he says “Not Gree ZHEE o.” You throw up on his shoes. I hold back your hair and fall in love.
Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru
We don’t know better. We think chardonnay that tastes like buttered popcorn and coconut is the ne plus ultra of sophistication. Later, when I drink my first Montrachet, its ripe pear and toasted almonds tastes like the hollow of your throat.
Masi, ‘Costasera’ Amarone
“The grapes are left all winter to dry into raisins,” you explain, your bare toes teasing up the cuff of my pants leg. Drunk on its blackberry and Samarkand spice, I know we’ll grow old together, shriveling into rich, brown raisins. We’ll return to Venice on our 50th anniversary to share a bottle of this honeymoon wine.
Vilmart & Cie Blanc de blancs
You allow yourself one glass. “It’s our best Grower Champagne,” says the waiter. We nod sagely, pretending to understand. You drive us home and I lie with my head against your belly, whispering, “Grow, little one, grow.”
Joh. Jos. Prum Trockenbeerenauslese
A wealthy uncle sends us a wine we can’t pronounce. Dried apricots and honey, like our baby’s hands. Her hair. We give her a sip and she smacks her lips, squeezing her starfish fingers for more. When I learn how much it costs, I wish your uncle had sent the money for college tuition, instead.
House Red, Courtyard Marriott Bar
The night is pointless and bitter as the wine. She means nothing. I’m sorry.
Martini, two parts Tanqueray, one part Noilly-Prat
I have two with dinner, a third for dessert, to numb the memory of the taste of you.