Dirt

By Abigail M Donoghue

Crying is a privilege

You are a soft animal

Sound erupts from

A place we have never been

Unfamiliar rhythm

of hurt

I can’t keep hold of the beat

 

Language is a gift

How to move

verbs and

We held tight to them but

They don’t serve you

 

Every inch of you is covered

By hands and heat

Patting the pain away

No room for me

Covered in dirt

I cover myself

Indian style hunched

I hunch

But the hurt is not a shape

And this is not good enough

So we just sit in the dirt

 

Waiting for it to be

Enough

Waiting to know what is

Enough

 

 

 

Masha Said

By Joshua Aaron Siegel

I remember the birch trees. Their slender white limbs outstretched across the wide dirt path, casting shadows between our steady steps. A pale green leaf fluttered past me as we approached the entrance to our family plot. I squeezed the small wooden broom in my hand and began to sweep the rotten foliage away.

It was me and Baba then– walking step by step in the cemetery at the edge of the city. We met on the platform of Yugo-Zapadnaya. Baba always prided herself in taking the metro in her old age. In youth she ran grocery store. During the siege of ’43 despite there not being any supplies to pack the shelves, she refused to close. Yet, on those bitter December nights when the shelves were bare and the city was coming apart at the seams, the shop was never empty. Men of all sorts would visit and offer anything they had: broken candles, the bottoms of shoes, and even once a bent silver spoon all in the hopes of speaking to the woman for just a moment. She was considered by many to be the most beautiful woman in the Arabat. But she never bothered their gaze– there was always too much work to do: bushels of dill to restock; containers of almonds, lavash from the baker across the way. She had no time for silly trinkets or false professions of love. That is until she heard a certain tune.

My Baba– not the one of family stories but the Baba I remember– waved me down to her height so that she could brush away my hair and lay a kiss on my forehead. We made our way past the flower venders who sold their brightly colored wares in the underpass on the way to the cemetery. I helped her up the cool cement stairs and through the iron gates.

Baba knew the way by heart. She made the trip like a devoted pilgrim three times a year: once in snow, once in rain, once in sunny skies. It was summer then with the sparrows calling and the tall trees creating a roof with their leaves. Baba squeezed my hand tight– stopping us in front of an immaculate marble grave. The effigy of a slender woman was carved into the white rock tightly clutching a wad of sheet music. I asked Baba who she was. Baba said the woman was once a radio singer known by everyone from the Baltic to the Black Sea. She told me that after all the years she could still hear those tunes. Papa would often rest his head in her lap and hum those simple melodies as they watched the streetcars roll by. She tried to sing a bit for me but gave up after the first few notes. Never had a voice as good as his.

The golden stars encasing the scripture of an ancient language glittered brightly in our eyes. They were labeled to every stone this side of the cemetery right next to an image of the deceased. As we made our way past the tattered plots the eyes of the dead flashed for moments before hiding behind the fluttering leaves.

Papa was printed into the black stone. His eyes beaming forward staring straight at us– Baba and Masha: one his love, the other he never got to meet. Baba lowered her eyes, said some silent words, and rubbed her wrinkled finger against the rusted gate. We stood there in pause waiting for the memories to quit. Waiting for the birches to bloom.

Baba never told me the story of how she met Papa. But if I had to make a family story of my own I would say that they met on a cool October night in the village. Both no older than 15– Baba with her long black hair and light brown freckles, Papa with his olive skin and ever-present smirk. I would say that they passed each other on a dirt road, Papa humming the soft notes of the radio singer to himself– just loud enough for the girl with the cream-colored frock to hear. As they passed she turned back her head and said softly: Now that’s a voice.

 

Leaves of Winter

By Jonah Rosario Inserra

Up and down Stuyvesant Avenue the leaves of winter are in full bloom.

Scattered about boughs of municipal parentage, out front of the Roosevelt Houses and Jesse Owens Park, they hiss in the February wind. Jeering at yuppies and hoodrats, doughboys and plainclothes cops alike, catcalling the seasonal life-cycle. In the greywashed days of warm-winter-not-quite-spring, while trains scream across the borough and slagheap snowdrifts melt, the leaves of winter hold court. Ugly and arrogant in defiant animation.

Ashy knuckles and salt-stained blue suede Pumas too hot to save for April are the lot of the urban peasantry. With profane suggestions (“Have a Great Day!”) the petrolskinned imposters of urban fecundity revel in their thousand year lifespans. Because though we know with Gregorian certainty that the kids’ll be out soon to crack open hydrants like miniature mountain springs, the reign of the “leaves” is secure; Mother Earth has long since left tihs place to the purview of a few, pitiful left-behinds . But when the barefoot urchins of the oneonetwotwo-one come out with ratchets clutched in creased, coconut-greased palms (cause they always do, goddamn ‘em) and the water hand-fluoridated by Uncle Samson himself starts to spatter the lowslung boughs of bagland, the false foliage will take the slight in stride, knowing that they will reign a hundred winters more. After red rust of the last oil-drum smoker has cooled in the late-August night. And well after the last barefoot neighborhood scamp has thrown his last water balloon across summer’s scalding pavement (a miss, as it often is for the denizens of towers whose names belonged to great men.)

But now, in the shadow of the elevated platform and the stoic tic-tac-toe tower compounds, the chlorophyll kings have yet to chase out the plasticine pretenders like money-lenders from the Temple. So they dance, arhythmically in the orange glow of not-night, painting vulgar shadows on the sidewalk. But look now–  a gust, and a hopeful frees itself from the crush– the indignity– of the garbage pile, lurching drunkenly, longingly upward. In full view of the world, this is how it happens. A naked conspiracy. Abetted by the very air that washes carbon over bark, the pretenders swell their ranks. The cellophane squatters who pour into the world on the backs of commuter convenience realize their putsch upon the very same breath-of-the-world that lifts gulls above the red shores of Gambia and cormorants ‘cross the cliffs of Cardiff. No wonder they snicker, those damn leaves of winter, salacious skins shed of consumer culture and salsalito sandwiches had without a thought.

 

 

The Sounds of the City

By Viral Shanker

The sounds of the City surrounded me as I ran.

Distant sirens, a cacophony of horns, cursing, and barking, the City’s soundtrack. But I paid it no mind. I had seven blocks to cross in about five minutes if I wanted to make it for the exam on time. I was already doing bad enough in the class, and now if I arrived late at the-

A squealing of tires.

A blaring horn.

A single scream.

I stopped to look, the people around me stopped to look, for a moment the entire City stopped, held its breath. I had just been about to cross the road, so I was looking right at it when it happened. A cab driver had tried to run a red light, and a couple had been crossing the street. They had both been pretty young, I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised to find they went to college. They had been laughing when it happened, no idea what was about to happen.

It was the girl who had screamed. She just stood there for a moment, not moving an inch. Her white jacket and jeans were stained red, her face…her face cannot be put into words.

And suddenly that endless moment, the moment even the City had held its breath ended in an explosive exhalation. People started screaming. Yelling. Crying.

The girl moved to the where the guy lay. She held his limp hand in her hands. He did not move. The taxi driver got out of his and held his hands on the back of his head.

And I just stood there, transfixed by the scene. It just seemed unreal, the blood, the hysteria, the loss of a life in such a meaningless way.

I blinked several times and shook my head. I looked at my phone. The exam had started a minute ago.

I walked as the City resumed its song.

A Perspective On Reality

By Karen Magu

“At least it hides the face partly well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.”- Magritte

All reality is in the mind, delivered to you by nervous impulses;

those electric signals served by a constant feed from all your senses.

Neuron by neuron your mind becomes,

and at some unknown point of neurons adding up with each other,

your brain is formed.

But no one knows at what point the consciousness emerges.
That is the mystique, the miracle of minds,

the last question to be answered,
but perhaps the only that really matters.
The mind is complex,

it works in mysterious ways.

It gives us a false sense of control, of free will.

The free will to craft our own reality.

And suddenly,

The doors of perception are rent apart, and in a flash and a gunshot it all unwinds. The illusion breaks.

That moment, in stead of setting in, Reality sets out, and its combative children

Life and Death, both enter a flux.
And that is the divine comedy of Nature’s grand design; because nothing makes sense anymore

and you realize that for all the randomness and chaos in this universe

that is beyond your control,

and for all the other illusions your illusion intertwines with,

the best way to live may simply have been to participate in the illusion,

to play along,

to exercise the only measure of control you have been awarded

by whatever incomprehensible forces put this cycle of reality in motion

and even though your sense of free will,

your experience of a distinct I,

a unified self through time and space,

this fragment of mind that you appear to possess,

even though these things may all be illusory,

they were perceived as real nonetheless, and to you those perceptions were as real as they can be.

At least your own senses had told you so;
the fact
that you
are anchored to this unified space, time, self and reality is all that really matters; because if these elements of the mind (as it is tied to you)

get unhinged and untied,
your mind is not your own anymore,
your sanity is not anchored anymore.

They were illusions, but at least they kept you together,

having them meant having life.

And now your body is far and away and you seem to be floating in a different space.

You have broken free from the first level of reality.

You now realize that reality is present in fragments,

A patchwork of instances, interwoven and embroidered on a single fabric of space-time
But you, your fragment is not anchored anymore, and
You are unhinged from
that reality which was your own

just some time ago.

Yet finally, you emerge into another being; you are beyond it. You see it for what it is. You see it from afar, see the inside-out from the outside-in,
in ways you have never seen before.
Epiphany: Nothing is mystical at all, mysterious never again; it just is.

Dissociation. You’re above it all, free to roam the universe and to let your Spirit lead you. Free to roam the universe and enter different bodies,
going backward and forward and sideways and up and down
in Space and in Time.
Entering and exiting the various world-stages in different avatars, waltzing every now and then to a new symphony of senses and nerves, as you desire.

Confident, you are all powerful.
You are free at last! You are the Mind and the Mind is You!
You have escaped from that matrix, that illusion which lays below.
That grid of lives and all their living, you are above it all,
yet one and the same with it, part and whole, if you wish to find.
And suddenly,
A void opens up, a black hole,
and consumes you,
launching you into nothingess once again.
the “not-is”,
that which is not.
Reality operates at many different levels. Levels beyond Life. Levels beyond Death. Levels beyond the visible and the hidden.
Levels beyond those a single Mind can comprehend.

The end.