The MFA in Creative Writing Program at Manhattanville College

April 15th, 2014

Jasmine

LisaWilde_Jasmine

LisaWilde_Jasmine

 

About the Work:

“I teach at a second-chance high school in New York City. ‘Jasmine’ is part of a series inspired—in the sense of breathing in—by aspects of my students’ lives, which are often too difficult and too complex for people who are so young.”

 

*

 

Lisa Wilde is an artist and teacher. Her graphic novel, Yo, Miss – A Graphic Look at High School is available from Microcosm Publishing as a series of five zines, and will be released as a book in January 2015. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family.
 

What motivates her to create:
“I create because I have to. It is tied to the core of who I am, and the act of creating makes me happy. It is a place that I find extremely interesting, even when things don’t go well. Creating involves trust, risk, and remaining open. This in turn can lead to profound breakthroughs, which is incredibly beautiful.”

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April 4th, 2014

Somber Fever

My plant is dying. There’s nothing I can do to change this fact. I’ve had her for three months. The first month her leaves were long and emerald, like painted fingernails. She shined with ebullience but mortality quickly seeped into her soil, turning her towards the rusty hue she has today. I’ve watered her. Trimmed and prayed. I’m not religious, but for her, I’ll fast until sunset. The praying hasn’t worked. Neither has the Miracle Grow. Soon, my plant will die, leaving me with an emptiness far too familiar.

1.

 
               My plant is dying. There’s nothing I can do to change this fact. I’ve had her for three months. The first month her leaves were long and emerald, like painted fingernails. She shined with ebullience but mortality quickly seeped into her soil, turning her towards the rusty hue she has today. I’ve watered her. Trimmed and prayed. I’m not religious, but for her, I’ll fast until sunset. The praying hasn’t worked. Neither has the Miracle Grow. Soon, my plant will die, leaving me with an emptiness far too familiar.

2.

 
Mom says, Talk to her, it helps to talk things out, not just with people but in life.
               So I tell my plant about my job as the receptionist at the insurance agency. I’ve memorized all the extensions in our mid-sized office and can dial them at a moment’s notice. Since I sit at the front desk, I welcome everyone who enters. The delivery boys drop off burgers and pizza for my coworkers. I smile at them. My coworkers scurry up to my desk to pick up the cheesesteaks they shouldn’t be eating. I smile at them too.
               I update her on the Middle East, so my plant can appreciate how easy her life is with me. We take walks around the apartment. This is the television—isn’t it big? That’s the bathtub where I take baths to relax. This is my bed where I sleep each night. Do you like the canopy? Isn’t the bedroom the most perfect fire orange? See how the couch is turquoise? Everything has color! Aren’t you glad you don’t live in Beirut or Tel Aviv?
               Don’t worry, I say to her, The Middle East is far away.
               She’s not worried. My plant never gets excited, weary, or cold. She just sits there, even when I mention the hang-ups at work, which I know are my ex, Johnny. He calls three times a day. Sometimes the calls occur in rapid succession, and the phone rings like thunder. Other times, he calls twice in the morning and I sit tense for the remainder of the day, because I know the third phone call’s coming, it just hasn’t happened yet. He never says anything when he calls but I can hear him breathing, steady and deep.
               Stop calling me! I sometimes scream. This is the reaction he desires, but I can’t help my hysterics. Johnny knows how to dig into me, down beneath the skin.
               I tell my plant all about Johnny and how at first he was scary in a way I liked, a way that excited me. I met him at the café where I worked. Writers and private tutors spent their days ordering coffee. Johnny walked in like a cowboy with a vendetta. His ink black hair, tan leather jacket, frayed jeans and fire orange boots rattled the café’s quiet, austere environment. He waltzed up to Sylvester, a tutor with a long frizzy ponytail, who was sitting at his regular table. The table had the best view of the park across the street.
               Are you almost done? Johnny asked.
               I’m waiting for my next student, Sylvester responded.
               Johnny pointed to Sylvester’s empty coffee cup, and said, It looks to me like you’re done. Johnny loomed over Sylvester, who sat too nervous to move. I was frozen myself—a coffee pot tilted in my hand, threatening to spill scalding Italian roast down my leg. If it had spilled, I wouldn’t have cared. The bubbling scar would have reminded me of that beautiful, angry man.
               When his student arrived, Sylvester escorted the boy to a table in the back. Johnny settled into his seat and snapped his fingers in my direction. I heard it like the crack of a whip and reflexively turned to look at Johnny. His eyes were tiny galaxies, resplendent and dying simultaneously. He pointed at an unused coffee mug, sitting on his table. I walked over and poured him some coffee.
               That wasn’t very nice, I said. My knees trembled. I feared he might take his hand and move it between my thighs. I hoped he would.
               I’m not always nice, he said and winked at me.
               The wink was affected. His smile was too. Everything about him—clothing, ragged fingernails, spiked hair, those boots—all affectations. The intensity of Johnny’s desire to appear damaged and destructive fascinated me. And for the next six months, I craved every part of him.
               I tell my plant how Johnny would lug home crates of records with melodies he thought I would like and would pore over thirty cookbooks to construct the perfect chicken Marsala recipe. Those were the moments when Johnny’s intensity endeared me. Other times, he checked the odometer in my car to see if the mileage was up more than the few miles it took to drive to my office or to my mother and Ronnie’s home. And if I threatened to break up with him, he’d graffiti his love for me across town so that I could see how destroyed he would be without me. Now that we don’t have to see Johnny anymore, I tell my plant how much better we are.
               After, I laugh into her leaves. I don’t want her to be sad and keep on dying, so I tell her jokes. The one about the peanut at the bar and the one with the elephant that had antlers. I flatter her; there are plants at work, even one that sits on my desk, but they aren’t nearly as pretty as she is. She sags her already drooping foliage, seemingly asking, Are you sure? You’re sure I look pretty?
               I say, You’re my plant and you’re gorgeous. My compliments don’t help. She keeps dying all the same.

3

 
My mom tells me to name her. She says, Give her individuality. Plants are like any life form; they require compassion.
               My mother has a vegetable garden that spawns produce every summer, so I trust her advice when it comes to plants.
               I decide to call my plant April. I got her in April. April is the month of my birthday, a month full of hope. But April is only a month long. So I name her Millennium instead. That way you’ll out live me, I explain. I call her Millie for short.

4

 
I don’t know how Johnny got the phone number at the insurance company where I work. The last time I saw him, I was still working at the plastic surgeon’s clinic. The week after I’d ended things with Johnny, a woman had checked in with a collapsed nose. She had asked the doctor if, when he reconstructed her nostrils, he could also remove the bump along the bridge. The surgery was successful. When she came to, the bump was gone. Her boyfriend and parents visited her in the recovery room, their smiles masking disappointment. She would forever look different from the woman they loved. I couldn’t imagine a sadder fate. After the patient was released, I put in my resignation.
               I remained unemployed for a month before I found the job at the insurance company. A week after I started, Johnny began calling the office. The first time he said, I miss you, then hung up. That was the only time he spoke. Now his deliberate breath fills the receiver. The sound is undeniably his.
               I’m not surprised that he found me. Johnny could find me if I was locked in the trunk of a car abandoned in the woods or if I was drowning at the bottom of the river. When I walk home alone, I pretend Johnny’s following me. That I have an infantry of one. But when he calls me at work, I remember that Johnny isn’t going to save me.

5

 
Mom tells me I need to relax. Plants come and go, she says. Maybe Millie can remind you how stable your life is.
               I work a job that bores me. I sit at a desk next to a plant that I hate, warding off an ex-boyfriend who won’t stop hanging up on me. If that’s what she means by stability, I want the rockiest life there is. Mom just shakes her head. That wasn’t what I meant, she says. She’s just a plant.
               No, she’s not. You should know that. You were the one who told me to name her. To feed her compassion! I can hear the desperation in my voice. I don’t care. Millie is dying; I am desperate. These are the stable elements of my life.
               Come on, mom says. If Millie dies we’ll buy you another plant. Don’t get exasperated over this. You’ve got a good job, a nice apartment. The rest comes with time.

6

 
Mom says, as a child, I took everything too seriously.
               It’s not good for a child to be so somber, she told me when I was seven. It sounded like a disease– somber fever– where your arms would fall off and your nose would turn blue. The thought terrified me; I pinched my nose all the time. Clamped my nostrils shut so my nose wouldn’t get too cold and turn blue. And I made a point of laughing often.
               What are you laughing at? My mom would ask.
               It’s none of your business, I’d say, then laugh harder. But my laugh lacked jolliness. The sort of hoho that one associates with politicians. I couldn’t laugh my way out of somber fever any more than I could skip my way free from chicken pox, something I had also attempted. Besides, forced laughter reminded me how far I was from being easygoing. So I stopped laughing and accepted my fate. Somber fever. I’d stand in front of the mirror and tuck my arms in my shirt, looking limbless.
               This is me when the fever sets in, I’d tell the girl in the mirror that I was destined to become.

7

 
I should have ended things with Johnny after he got me fired from the law firm. I was furious with him, but more so, relieved. I hated that job, and he knew it.
               The Sunday before I got fired, Johnny and I had a vicious fight. He’d torn one of the pillows on my couch. I showed up to work on Monday with puffy eyes and tattered hair. My boss muttered something about personal hygiene when she passed my desk.
               The first package arrived after lunch. Beneath layers of Styrofoam peanuts, it held a heart-shaped pillow, purple as an eggplant. I put the pillow next to my computer, knowing that, by day’s end, the sight would either infuriate or endear me. My boss glared at the pillow when she walked by. A few minutes later she called me into her office.
               If you can’t leave your personal life outside the office, she said, We are going to have serious problems. I nodded, telling her it wouldn’t happen again.
               An hour later I got a second delivery—stuffed crimson lips. Twenty minutes later another arrived. It continued all week. By Friday, hundreds pillows overtook the lobby. Each pillow apologized in its individual hue and shape. An aqua unicorn followed by a coral arrow. Johnny wouldn’t back down until I forgave him; I couldn’t help but be charmed by the force of his desire for my forgiveness.
               On Friday, my boss called me into her office again. This isn’t working, she said, pointing to the door. I grabbed as many pillows as I could carry and left to find Johnny.

8

 
I haven’t heard from Johnny in over two weeks. Did he forget about me? I ask Millie. Do you think, this time, he’s really disappeared?
               Millie’s leaves sag. She has no answer. But we’re better without Johnny. Without the phone calls. It’s just that he stopped calling so suddenly. Last Tuesday. When it was time to go home, I didn’t get up from my desk. I wasn’t sure what would happen if I walked outside without hearing from Johnny. Would the sidewalk collapse and trap me underground? Would I find Johnny standing outside my building with a can of canary yellow paint, ready to repaint my apartment and with it our relationship? Would there be a world outside my office walls if I left before hearing from Johnny?
               For three hours after the office closed, I sat, waiting for Johnny to call. The janitor vacuumed, dusted the lobby, and watered the plant on my desk. The night outside had fully darkened. I took the long way home, hoping a man might mug me and Johnny would busting out from behind a dumpster to give the guy a black eye.
               I arrived home unscathed. I had no messages. No flowers. No chocolates. No gallons of paint. Just my quiet apartment. And Mille. After watering Millie, we sat down on the couch. He’s gone, I said. He’s really gone. This should have made me happy.

9

 
The fact that Millie won’t stop dying makes me hopeless. How can I expect to control my life when I can’t even keep her alive?
               I don’t trim Millie too short or water her too much. These are common mistakes people make when they try to love their plants. I’ve joined chat rooms where Internet friends send me pictures of their plants. There’s Lila and her lily, Lily. I have a snapshot of Paul and his bonsai, Jean Claude Van Tree on my refrigerator. I send them pictures of me and Millie, snuggling on our couch and dining on our balcony.
               Lila says to hold the scissors at a forty-five degree angle when I cut Millie back. I send her a close-up of my scissors at forty-five degrees. Paul tells me to count to five as I water her, to ensure I’m giving her the same amount of water each time. I water her twice a week. I trim her once every ten days. They concur; I’m loving Millie just right.

10

 
My mom doesn’t understand why Mille is so important to me. I want to explain it to her, but she never liked Johnny and wouldn’t understand why I wanted to hold onto anything that connected me to him. But each day Millie continues to live is another declaration that I’m progressing to the next stage of my life. A stage without an explosive, irrational man. But I don’t tell my mom this. She’d comment on my somberness, the quality she locates as the root of all my problems.

11

 
Johnny bought Millie from a boy working at the county fair. The boy had the prettiest blond hair; I wanted to wrap a strand around my index finger and suck on it, tasting its golden perfection. Johnny watched me in the bumper car rink when I drove into the wall because I couldn’t stop looking at the boy’s luxurious locks. He noticed me stare at the boy while he had his fingers inside me on the Ferris wheel. I should have stopped looking, but I couldn’t. We exited the Ferris wheel, and I tried to hold Johnny’s hand. He pushed me away. Johnny’s face grew angular in the way that made him look like a tiger.
               What’s wrong? I asked.
               Nothing, he said, frowning. He brooded until his entire body fell stiff with rage. This wasn’t the mulling anger that made me want to pounce on him, but a jealousy deeper than any Johnny had previously displayed. Johnny circled the blond boy the way a cat encloses his prey. Don’t, I whispered. Don’t, I said loudly. Johnny didn’t flinch at the sound of my voice. He was so focused on the boy that I didn’t exist.
               Step right up, the boy shouted, oblivious to Johnny. Hit the bull’s-eye and win a prize. Hit it twice and win an even bigger prize.
               The prizes ranged from plants to stuffed animals to coupons for a free cotton candy at the stand next door.
               He repeated these sentences until someone came up, attempted to hit the bull’s-eye and failed. It looked easy, but it was a very small bull’s-eye.
               How about you? He called to Johnny. Want to try your hand at ar-till-er-y? He said artillery like he was a machine and I hoped that he was, that way he wouldn’t feel the pain Johnny was about to inflict upon him. Perhaps I should have gone over and dragged Johnny back to the car where I could kiss him until his anger subsided. But I didn’t. Although I didn’t realize it until later, I wanted to watch Johnny torture that beautiful blond creature; I needed to witness the entirety of his brutality.
               The boy held the rifle out, but Johnny reached out instead to take hold of his golden hair.
               How much for the plant? Johnny shouted, tugging at a fistful of the boy’s hair.
               It’s not for sale, the boy said, You have to win it.
               Johnny yanked harder. The boy screamed a high-pitched yelp like he might faint.
               Am I winning? Johnny asked.
               After a few tugs from Johnny’s strong mitt, he gave Johnny the plant for the price of two games. As Johnny walked towards me, looking like he’d just won a home-run derby, the boy collapsed to the ground, hyperventilating. His feeble expression made him even more beautiful. I wanted to spit on Johnny’s stupid orange boots for what he’d done.
               Johnny handed me the plant but I wouldn’t take it. That wasn’t nice, I said. Johnny forced the plant into my hand.
               I’m not always nice, he said and kissed me with his wide-open mouth.

12

 
Maybe I’m killing Millie not because of how I water or trim her but on account of my demeanor. I try to laugh into her. I do. But I’m either dragging my feet around our apartment; rushing to work in dress clothes that don’t fit me; or returning home too tired to do anything but watch television. On the weekends, I try to do fun things with Millie. We brunch on my balcony and read stories about countries we will never travel to.
               Millie enjoys the stories from abroad but pales when I show her pictures of the Eifle Tower or the Taj Mahal. Images of Stonehenge remind her that she’s never even seen the sidewalk beneath our apartment building, let alone the English countryside. So I walk her to the front of our building and point to a window on the second floor. That’s us, I tell Millie. Our building is no Versaille even though it’s called Le Chateau. The paint is chipped around the windows, and the front door creaks when opened.
               Don’t worry, Millie. We’ll move up and out of this.
               We walk towards downtown, and I show her the apartment building we’ll move into once I get a raise and the three-bedroom Victorian house we will buy when I’ve decided on a career that supports down-payments. When we reach the park, we sit on the bench that faces the coffee shop where I used to work. It’s bustling. Sylvester sits at his regular table, his ponytail flapping against his back as he nods at a student.
               See, I say to Millie. We’re already on our way.
               We sit in the park until the sun sets. Millie grows nervous on the walk back and, instead of telling her that Johnny will come to our rescue, I say, I’ll protect you Millie.
 
Millie’s leaves are cold by the time we get home. I breathe my hot breath over her until she’s warm. We settle on the couch to watch the evening news. Millie’s leaves look greener than I’ve seen them in months. They are no longer brown, but yellow. Images of Iraq fill the screen. The Middle East, I say. Millie’s leaves grow lime. She appreciates her life with me.

13

 
When we got back to my apartment after the fair, I told Johnny we didn’t fit.
               He held me tight against his chest. You seem to fit right here, he said.
               And I guess that was the problem; I did. My head fell snug into the hollow of his clavicle. I pushed him away from me. From a few feet, I had to strain my neck to look into his eyes. At that distance, we didn’t fit at all. No, I said. We don’t.
               I made him leave but he stayed outside my door the entire night, muttering to himself. A week earlier I would have opened the door, and we would have spent the night on the couch, holding each other like we never wanted to part. A week ago, that would have made me feel safe. But watching him bully the blond boy didn’t attract me; it didn’t make me feel safe. And it wasn’t because the incident was out of character for Johnny. It was just that, we all have our limits, and I realized that this was mine.
               In the morning before he left, Johnny kicked my door. The mark of his shoe is still etched into the paint. I tried to wash it away, but the imprint proves too deep. After that he was gone. I didn’t hear from him for a month. I quit my job at the cosmetic surgery firm and began anew. Until the phone calls at the insurance agency started, I couldn’t believe how fully he had disappeared.
               Millie, though that wasn’t her name yet, was sitting on my coffee table. There was a dark ring around the bottom of her pot. Her leaves sagged, and she needed water. She looked in worse shape than I did. I thought, I should throw you away. I didn’t want any connection to Johnny. But reminders of him were everywhere in my apartment. He had convinced me to paint my bedroom the same shade of orange as his boots and had given me a teapot with Love, Johnny stenciled on the handle. I wasn’t going to repaint my apartment—I liked the orange too much. And even if I did throw the teapot away, my new, unmarked teapot would be the one that replaced the pot Johnny had bought me. If I got rid of everything in my apartment, the vacant space would prove an even stronger reminder of him. I wouldn’t forget Johnny just by throwing Millie away.

14

 
When the first frost hits I tell Millie that we’re ready for a change. Johnny hasn’t called us in over two months. I carry her to the thrift shop and we buy a 1960’s wool pea coat with rabbit trim along the cuffs. The fur is white and soft. All afternoon, I wear the coat, rubbing the fur against Millie’s leaves until we realize that we’re comforting ourselves with the softness of an animal that was killed fifty years ago. We throw the coat in the trash. Instead, we go to the department store where there are racks of coats. They come short and long. Down, wool, and fur. Millie likes the camel wool pea coat but it’s too similar to the one we’ve just thrown away. I insist on down. It’s the warmest, other than fur, but Millie and I do not like fur. We agree. Millie steers me away from black.
               No more black, her greening leaves warn me.
               On the far rack, against the wall there is a coat so royal blue it makes me choke. Millie’s leaves perk as we approach. This is our coat.
               On the walk home, we pass a paint store and turn around to go inside. We choose two gallons of mint eggshell. Mint is more calming than orange. Our new down coat is ideal for winter. These are sensible choices. We’re working on being sensible.
 

*

 
Amy Meyerson is a writer living in Los Angeles. She teaches writing at the University of Southern California and is currently at work on her first novel.

What motivates her to create:
“As I get older, most of my motivation to create comes from those rare moments of complete connection with those around me. A great conversation inspires like nothing else.” 

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March 26th, 2014

It Is Madness

Crazed! All daft loons!
Rotting, reeking in vases
Crying pink and white on
Counter tops, slipping down
Drains in sinks, in bathtubs,
Filled with Voltaire, Nietzsche,
Miller, salt-coated and shaking
In bathrobes, roasting by
Fireplaces, running down
Staircases shrieking,

Crazed! All daft loons!
Rotting, reeking in vases
Crying pink and white on
Counter tops, slipping down
Drains in sinks, in bathtubs,
Filled with Voltaire, Nietzsche,
Miller, salt-coated and shaking
In bathrobes, roasting by
Fireplaces, running down
Staircases shrieking,

It’s optimism! It’s a tonic! It is
Moonlight! It’s protection! It’s
In all of the cities! It is youth!
It is freedom! It destroyed a
Generation, we must leave the
Door to it ajar!
Demented kooks,

Ripped open, leaking onto tables,
Fingers plunging in to tear it out,
Plug it up, put it back in, the
Nobility of souls! It is love!
Smoldering in doorways, stretched
Out on carpets, on floors, singing
Along, stepping on cracks, falling
Out of clothes, clutching at sheets,
Biting into shoulders, wailing
Against the ache of atrophy, against
A corrosive emptiness, bellowing,

It is vitality! It’s invigorating!
It’s every great genius! It’s sold
By the bottle! It is break-through
And enslavement! It is the mother!
It’s today! It is the rule of nations!
We’re given only just
A little spark of it!

 

*

 

Shannon Kelly is a graduate of Manhattanville College, having earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Dance and Theater as well as a B.A. in Linguistic Expression (self-designed). She is a working actor and model in NY, a prolific writer, and enjoys a strong cup of tea.

Follow Shannon’s work in writing, modeling, and performance at
www.Shannon-Kelly.net
Facebook.com/ShannonKellyArts
@SKellyArts

 
What motivates her to create:
“Art offers freedom: of expression, of existence, of experience. Art encourages ownership of the self by the self. It provides an environment in which we can explore material that is explosive, volatile, and unacceptable. It is the beating heart of our society, connecting us to ourselves and to one another in a way that is necessary and essential.

This is what has attracted me to its study and practice from the beginning. My ability to articulate my reasons for it are still a work in progress. I only know I have to keep making art. It has given me a space to meditate on my experiences and create new ones. It has challenged me and terrified me. It is some of the most difficult work I’ve had to do and by far the most satisfying. It forces me to explore, to learn, and to evolve so that my work makes me a better human being through its pursuit.

This is why I am an artist. It’s what I have to do, it’s how I communicate, it is where I feel some of most rich and intense emotions that I can, and chief among them is love.”

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March 18th, 2014

First Light

I know this sound, first birds of morning.
As a child, I waited hours for the drape
of night to roll up again. Leaning into the first
hint of the fresh day, the fragile lace of hesitant
light, the receding darkness dappled with bird song,
able at last to close my eyes.

I know this sound, first birds of morning.
As a child, I waited hours for the drape
of night to roll up again. Leaning into the first
hint of the fresh day, the fragile lace of hesitant
light, the receding darkness dappled with bird song,
able at last to close my eyes.

I know this sound, some kind of redemption,
waking me from scattered sleep, a healing fragment
even as the work of the previous day marks my bones
in notches. Night leaves its small fur as the dawn
pushes, as the birds persist, and morning unfurls
like a promise you hoped someone would keep.

 
*
 

Susan Moorhead’s business cards read “Writer, Librarian, Insomniac.” A graduate of Manhattanville’s MFA program, her work has been published in a variety of print and online journals and the collections Dogs Singing, and Intimate Landscapes. Nominated twice for a Pushcart prize—previously for nonfiction, and this year a short story in Lowestoft Chronicle—her recent work is a first place poem in Let the Poets Speak, along with poetry in the Connecticut River Review and Danse Macabre, and nonfiction in JMWW.

What motivates her to create:
“Art, whether it is mine or others, has always been how I navigate the world. The words and images in my own writing, art, and photographs are my response to the glorious awfulness and wonder of it all. I am grateful.”

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March 11th, 2014

Bitches Love Men

There are men who truly want to find a woman
they can spend time with.
Think about what things men collect
or the things that fascinate them.

Guns, ammunition,
sports cards, sci-fi magazines,
pocket knives, little metal cars,
power tools, and a “rechargeable” flashlight.

He is only human and has his own problems.

*

1.
                                                       There are men who truly want to find a woman
they can spend time with.
                                                                                     Think about what things men collect
               or the things that fascinate them.

                                             Guns, ammunition,
                                             sports cards, sci-fi magazines,
                                             pocket knives, little metal cars,
                                             power tools, and a “rechargeable” flashlight.

                               He is only human and has his own problems.

                                                       It’s all about his ego,

which has no direction and no line of rotation.

                                        A couple of times a week when he’s kind or generous,
                    let him know he’s top dog. Make him feel as though
                                        he’s the alpha-dog and the Grand Poo-Bah.

                                                  He wears the pants, and is the man.

 
2.

Most men
are used
to women
wanting to be
around them
all the time.

The bitch
remains the
person she is
throughout
her relationship
with a man.

She doesn’t
grab his ankles
and beg
for mercy.
She keeps
that edge.

And, in
doing so,
she prevents
him from
wanting
to go.

 

ATTRACTION PRINCIPLE #16: A BITCH GIVES A MAN PLENTY
OF SPACE SO HE DOESN’T FEAR BEING TRAPPED IN A CAGE.
THEN . . . HE SETS OUT TO TRAP HER IN HIS.

 
3.
                                                                                The tension
                                  that arises
                                                                                with a slightly
                                  bitchy woman
                                                                                gives a subtle
                                  feeling of danger
                                                                                to a man.
                                  He doesn’t feel
                                                                                this pressure
                                  from a bitchier
                                                                                woman,
                                  so he wants
                                                                                to be around her
                                  more, not less,
                                                                                and he respects her
                                  because
                                                                                she appears
                                  to have “a life.”

 
4.

The “Worthwhile” woman
flirts more subtly and uses body
language to convey her sensuality.

The “Good Time Only Woman”
wears an outfit that is very short,
showing leg, cleavage, and back.
Her sexuality is overstated.

A “Worthwhile” woman
keeps him interested
by giving him compliments
when he’s hoping to have sex,
so he feels he’s “in the game.”

This woman will start out with a whine
and then will slowly pick up momentum,
building up to a nag.

This woman will nag for a shorter period
of time. It’s a more intense burst,
so she’ll get tired much more quickly.

It starts as soon as the sun comes up
over the horizon. His eyes begin to open
and he hears his first morning whine.
Or, he’s still asleep, and it wakes him like a rooster.

This is the premeditated nagger
who will make one cutting remark.
It’s usually a well-placed shot
that delivers a devastating blow.

One minute everything is going along fine
and then, without any warning,
she jumps out of the bushes and whacks him.

 

ATTRACTION PRINCIPLE #32: LET HIM THINK HE’S IN CONTROL.

 
5.

The dumb fox knows that the less she criticizes,
                                                                      the better, which is why she doesn’t nag.
                                                                                                                               Instead, she maneuvers.

When you appeal to his feeling of power,
                                                            you “charge up the batteries.”
                                                                                                Meanwhile, guess who is getting her way?

Make friends with his ego. Pay a little “homage” to that ego.
                                                                                He should feel like Conan the Barbarian
                                                                                                                               a couple of times a week.

Ask him to open a jar that you can’t open
                                                                   (even if you can)
                                                                                            or unzip your dress (even if you can reach it.)

OR, you can ask him to lift
                                            a small box for you.
                                                                           Just make him feel needed (i.e. powerful).

Give him little assignments.
                                             Let him parallel park your car
                                                                                               or back it out of a tight spot.

If there’s violence,
                         cover your eyes and let him tell you
                                                                                  when it’s over.

If it’s cold outside,
                         crawl under his coat
                                                       and hang on to him for warmth.

 
6.

Don’t buy the one about him wanting a “damsel in distress,”
either. As one man said, “When you rescue a damsel in distress,
all you get stuck with is a distressed damsel.”
Am I going to have to carry around this bag of Jell-O forever?

Again, a man wants a strong woman, not a helpless little kid.
Sexually, this will impact the float in his boat.
You shouldn’t show that you “need” him to help you with:

Common sense
Coping with every day life
Emotional stability
Reassurance of your self-worth
Self-esteem
Feeling complete as a person

You don’t have to always agree with everything he believes.
A man falls in love with a woman when he feels he has “met his match.”
Agree with everything. Explain nothing. Then do what is best for you.
It will make life a whole lot easier.

 
7.

A woman shouldn’t let a guy know
she is centering her world around him.
The second he doesn’t know where his woman is
he’ll come looking for you.
He’s a hunter.
He’ll pursue you.
He has an inborn drive that’s very territorial.
But if you try too hard,
you won’t tap that hunger.
He’ll be satiated,
and that means
you won’t leave him wanting more.
As a person you feel you are complete
with him or without him.
This is the most important thing you can convey:
independence rather than dependence.
This is what gives him the perception
you can hold your own.
A man rarely realizes just how much the nice girl gives up.
Have an appetite for enjoying life.
Don’t stop eating, sleeping, or exercising.
 

 
8.

The nice girl is more likely to feel
obligated, pressured, or manipulated

to sleep with a man early on.
She sleeps with him and then believes

she’ll hook him with great sex,
as though what she has to offer sexually

is “golden.” The bitch understands
that the sex only becomes “golden”

when he doesn’t get it right away.
The nice girl fails to take a “breather”

because of her fantasy that he is
“the one” or her “soul mate.”

But this fantasy is a liability
because it feeds a myopic view

that he is the center of her life.
The nice girl wears her heart

on her sleeve and pours out her guts.
And what does he hear?

Nothing at all. However, he does
see her neediness, which eventually

turns him off. She has to remember
that if something happens

that she doesn’t like,
he may not know any better.

 
9.

If given the option, most men would love to know how much it would take—

                                              the bottom-line dollar figure—

                                                                                                         to get a woman into bed.

                                        Granted, there are the men who don’t want to invest
any effort.

                                                                        To him, a towel is a towel.

Flirt in moderation.
                                                       Be careful of sexual joking

because it’s never really a joke.

                                                                                               Don’t be a prude—
you can laugh at the jokes and be playful.

                                               But don’t stay on the subject of sex for a long time,

               or he’ll view it as a green light.

                                   Give kisses that are sexy and sensual.

                                                                                                         But do it while you’re out,
where it is unlikely to last too long.

                                               Don’t get him worked up
                                                       when you’re alone together,
                                        while rolling around on the floor,
                                                       a bed, or the couch.

                                                                           If you pull the sexual plug
                                                                           the last minute,
                            he’ll label you a tease.

                            He no longer thinks you are playing fair,
                                   and his feelings will change
                                        from lust to resentment.

                            Think about it. You can’t show a dog

a T-bone steak for an hour
                                                       and then throw him a celery stick.

                                                                    For example, perhaps your top comes off,
                                                                           or there’s a little bit of grinding action
                                                                    while you’re kissing on the couch.

                                                       A few minutes later, he’ll think you’re ready to roll.

This is not the time to say, “No I’m just not ready.”

                                   Telling him this is like taking candy away from a child

                                                after you’ve already let him taste it.

 
10.

It feels warm and fuzzy just thinking about “expressing those feelings.” Whenever a woman is too emotional or sappy, it can be too much for a man. Men don’t respond to words. What they respond to is no contact. Don’t discuss deep issues in the beginning. Don’t use catch phrases from therapy like cathartic, processing, triggered, owning it, or inner child. Don’t make chicken soup and tell him you “wanna midwife each other’s soul.” Don’t email more than once in a row or send long e-mails about “feelings,” “issues” and what you “need” that you aren’t getting. The way to quell his fears is to say you aren’t interested in anything “too serious.” By not appearing to want commitment, you throw a monkey wrench in the lockdown program.

 

ATTRACTION PRINCIPLE #98: BE AN INDEPENDENT
THINKER AT ALL TIMES, AND IGNORE ANYONE
WHO ATTEMPTS TO DEFINE YOU IN A LIMITING WAY.

 
11.

The bitch never
tries that hard

to make
an impression

Whether it’s your
taste in clothing,

or what you do
for a living—

don’t let anyone else
be at the controls.

Define yourself.
The longer you

practice being
an independent

thinker, the more
attractive you’ll be.

You’ll put
a “magic spell”

on a man.
A deadly “mojo.”

 
12.

The “new and improved bitch”
is truly strong, because she is nice.

She won’t be afraid to turn
thirty or forty years old.

At any age, this woman will feel like
a “prize.” She won’t be defined

by the media’s perception of aging;
she won’t be made to feel like

defective livestock
because she is no longer a teenager.

 

ATTRACTION PRINCIPLE #28: IF HE MAKES YOU FEEL INSECURE,
LET YOUR INSECURITY BE YOUR GUIDE.

 
13.

A lot of women feel pressured to live up to an ideal.

It is your attitude about yourself that a man will adopt.

It’s all about how you hold yourself.

Many women talk a lot out of nervousness—

which is something that men will often perceive as insecurity.

Talking about feelings to a man will feel like work.

When he’s with a woman, he wants it to feel like fun.

His terms will most likely continue to drive a wedge between you—

and that’s not the outcome you want.

Whenever a woman requires too many things from a man, he’ll resent it.

Remember, inside the bedroom as well as outside the bedroom,

men are used to women who are insecure, which is all the more reason

to be different. You need to exude the attitude that you are confident

and that you aren’t concerned with whether you measure up.

 
*This poem is composed entirely of verbatim sentences taken
from
Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov. [back to top]

 
*

 
Elizabeth Whittlesey’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Boston Review, Gulf Coast, jubilat, Two Serious Ladies, Western Humanities Review, POOL: A Journal of Poetry, JERRY, Explosion Proof, Phantom Limb, and Noncanon Press. Elizabeth grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah and lives in Manhattan.

What motivates her to create:
"My own ambition and interrogations of ambition. Sound, rhythm and wordplay. Love. Grief. Honesty. To make sense of. To be incensed (rare). The reportage instinct. Human ridiculousness (my own foremost). Inquiry into the cosmos and The Cosmic Joke."

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March 10th, 2014

Submit

Writers, Artists, Creative Minds!

We invite you to submit your work for our consideration. We’ll be accepting submissions through March 31st. As the journal rings in its one year anniversary, we continue to build an online home for literature, art, and ideas. It’s ever expanding and we want you to be a part of it. We can’t wait to see what you’ve been working on.

Writers, Artists, Creative Minds!

We invite you to submit your work for our consideration. We’ll be accepting submissions through March 31st. As the journal rings in its one year anniversary, we continue to build an online home for literature, art, and ideas. It’s ever expanding and we want you to be a part of it. We can’t wait to see what you’ve been working on.

For more details and submission guidelines, please check out our page on submittable.

Are you an alum of the Manhattanville writing program?
We have a special opportunity for you. Get in touch to learn more!

Yours,
The Editors

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March 6th, 2014

Nutmeg

A story is story only when facts mean more than mere facts, when they’re seen in relation. So put your wading boots on. You want to avoid this epiphany just below your perception. You read that Wilde said the artistic life is a long and lovely suicide. He was wrong, you say out loud. Art is a fountain from Elsewhere that feeds and supports life.

              A story is story only when facts mean more than mere facts, when they’re seen in relation. So put your wading boots on. You want to avoid this epiphany just below your perception. You read that Wilde said the artistic life is a long and lovely suicide. He was wrong, you say out loud. Art is a fountain from Elsewhere that feeds and supports life.
              These are not your words. You ponder these words that someone else said long ago. They locked in, became part of your world view. You suddenly don’t want to remember.
              You go to a morning funeral. You hear the woman comment how unfortunate the choice of dress is for the deceased. The comment kicks your gut. You feel a hopeless jumble of juvenile humor. Mawkish sentiment roils in the belly. You monitor a friend’s movements via the internet. What a miserable excuse for a brute you are.
              You find the flowers pressed in your ancestor’s Bible. You hear your mother say she’d divorce your father, except she’d regret making him happy. You remember starving, and finding a vat of chili. You’re mad at your parents for not forcing you to do lessons on a musical instrument in your developmental years.
              You had a dream you could fly. You remember the dream on your knees, weeding that garden, and glance at the sky. Your neighbor is killed when the homemade spaceship explodes in the back yard. An atheist rings the doorbell, hands you a pamphlet. He talks to you on the concrete porch about his lack of faith.
              You fish at a stock tank for catfish. You eat from a basket of cherries. You fish nude, and pretend it’s your own nude beach. You have to be careful about the hook, and you sit only on the stone. You look at the wildflowers and fall asleep until the fish strikes.
              You realize you’re sunburned. You can’t sleep that night. You pick up War And Peace and read. You fall asleep, wake from the pain, and read more. You say my name suddenly. You sob. You know I am the only one who knows you. That I accepted you despite your betrayal with no reservation.
              You rise, dropping the massive book on the floor. The lamplight shines bleakly. I’ve been gone for years.
              You sing “If I Only Had A Brain,” and dance that scarecrow dance.

 
*
 

J. Alan Nelson is a writer and a lawyer and a recluse who has been forced by circumstance to be social.

What motivates him to create:
“I have been motivated to create since childhood by an interest in the shapes of reality and how those shapes twist and change with words and symbols.”

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February 25th, 2014

3 poems

erasure of the snow lamb

“no shepherd, no pastoral”
–leo marx

how unexpected snowflakes falling as letters
banal blizzard of nonsense
incessant iterations of no snowflake looks the same
what’s so special about random combinations
dr seussian w. stevensian baloney babble
littering forgotten sidewalks of oil stricken streets

erasure of the snow lamb
                                          “no shepherd, no pastoral”
                                          –leo marx

how unexpected snowflakes falling as letters
banal blizzard of nonsense
incessant iterations of no snowflake looks the same
what’s so special about random combinations
dr seussian w. stevensian baloney babble
littering forgotten sidewalks of oil stricken streets
wasteland without children scooping
meaningful elements of blank with mittens
into figurative fathers corpse cold sepulchers
patriarchal empty minds of old man winter
my kingdom for a belligerent adolescent
emerging out of suburbia like christ from bethlehem
who will erect a series of snow lambs
on x-mas eve

 
 
 

financials
 
word lamb knows enough greek
to play the derivatives game
so a la mode among hedge fund gurus

figuring false gods before him
following his blind objective
to make an infinite amount of green

 
 
 

möbius strip of the word lamb

melioeus you walk your sheep along
a möbius strip talking tityrus in circles
or is it vice versa
truth be told insofar as e. pound
says all lit is contemporaneous
we don’t really care
until eclogue 4’s anxiety of influence
taking on octavian as heir to j. caesar
age old oedipal struggle made new
call it the great increase of jove
take off your clothes and cry out
hear the voice of the bard [!]
a revolution of one still sounds the same
nostalgia for the idea of arcadia
[objet petit a alphabet as first priority etc.]

the grim eyed lioness pursues the wolf
the wolf the she-goat the she-goat herself
who can limit love who owns the flock

so a line drawn from start to finish
doubles back to the pursuit of origins
your sheep moving along a conveyor belt

 
 
*
 
 

Roger Sedarat is the author of two poetry collections: Dear Regime: Letters to the Islamic Republic, which won Ohio University Press’s 2007 Hollis Summers’ Prize, and Ghazal Games (Ohio University Press, 2011). He teaches poetry and literary translation in the MFA program at Queens College, City University of New York.

What Motivates him to create:
“Sufi mysticism, all kinds of great music, and painful desire.”

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February 19th, 2014

Games

We count.
Two teams, one ball, one bat, four bases, as many innings we can fit before dark.
One ball, one basket, halfcourt blacktop in front of the garage. Eight balls, two colors,
one white target, tossed on grass with no borders. Eighteen holes, nine irons, one putter,
optional scorecard.

We count.
Two teams, one ball, one bat, four bases, as many innings we can fit before dark.
One ball, one basket,  halfcourt blacktop in front of the garage. Eight balls, two colors,
one white target, tossed on grass with no borders.  Eighteen holes, nine irons, one putter,
                                                                                                                            optional scorecard.

We measure and count.
Sixty paces to the plate, ninety between bases, just enough time to throw
from third to first.  Ten steps to the foul line, edge of the driveway is out of bounds.
If you hop wrong on the one, three, five, seven or nine box, you’re out.  We contest
distance between a red or green ball and the white target by measuring
                                                                                                                            with a sneaker.

We count and play.
Fifty-two cards, four shapes, twelve royal faces, it might matter that they wear suits.
Four sets of four marbles complete a circle home without retreat, sorry.  Children climb
ladders or slip down slides to the back of the line. A box of ivory with dots
                                                                                                                            ready to build a train.

We score points, we win, we lose, we laugh, we take our turn,
we watch and wait, swear and share.  We count to each other.

 

*

 

David Walsh is a resident of upstate New York, and prefers the rolling hills as part of his environment. He has spent his career in government in some form of information management—a research analyst for the legislature, CIO for the State Education Department, and in management for the State’s information technology department. He lives with his wife near the Mohawk River, outside of Schenectady.

What motivates him to create:
“My poetry often derives from images, whether visual or emotional. My problem comes from lack of discipline, so on a recent vacation, I asked friends to come up with one word each day that I had to use as the core for a poem. “Games” was one of the themes. I enjoy turning words over in different ways to recreate the images for others to imagine. Sometimes it works. Other times, it is just an enjoyable process to satisfy my own creative juices.”

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February 13th, 2014

The List

Winter nights in New York harbor the kind of cold that skips your skin and goes straight to your bones, as if its eternal purpose is to numb your soul. Standing by the darkened road retrieving the mail conveniently forgotten about for three days, it’s unusually quiet. There is nothing and yet… something Always something.

                   Winter nights in New York harbor the kind of cold that skips your skin and goes straight to your bones, as if its eternal purpose is to numb your soul. Standing by the darkened road retrieving the mail conveniently forgotten about for three days, it’s unusually quiet. There is nothing and yet… something. Always something.

                   The hinges of the mailbox squeak as I close it. Holding the envelopes in my hand, I think about my “to do” list and its length. It’s strange how things can seem exceedingly overwhelming until you’ve written them down in a list. “Check Mail.” After crossing something off the list, sometimes I feel stupid for even writing it down in the first place… “Assemble Desk.” As if it were an easy task to forget that I’m typing on the floor. Another day… another list, I’ll assemble the desk tomorrow.

                  I sit on the porch. The cold doesn’t bother me. A man walks by alone. I notice he’s wearing army fatigues and carrying a tattered backpack. Home for the holidays? Maybe. When he sees me, he slows his pace and takes a moment to smile. We make eye contact for a moment and I return his smile. I say, “How are you.” He says what he’s supposed to, “Good, and you?” I wonder if he’s really good. I respond the way I’m supposed to, “Good, thanks.” No one wants to hear the real answers to those types of questions. They don’t want to hear about your torn cartilage, or how you watched the nurse call the police on a suicidal client. Politeness is an acceptable form of hypocrisy. I’m a hypocrite. So is he.
 

***

 
                  Later, I’m sitting on the floor because my desk is still in a box, and I remember the man I saw earlier. I remember first his clothes. I wonder why they’re called fatigues. I think they’re named appropriately. Fatigue. Weary. Exhausted. I can’t envision fighting a war that I’m supposed to win, when my clothes are already telling me how tired I am. I remember his eyes. They were brown. Our gazes locked only for a moment, but it was enough. In his eyes, I saw his clothes.

                  My desk is still in the box. I get dressed for work. My clothes are supposed to say stable, or functioning, something like that. I still think of the soldier. I remember his tattered backpack. I wonder what was in his backpack as I grab mine. Maybe we have something similar in them. My bag isn’t tattered. His bag says the same thing as his clothes. Worn out.
 

***

 
                  “I take the desk parts out of the box. All twenty-five pieces are lying on the floor. I’ll do the rest later. Back on the list… “Assemble Desk.

                  “How’s the desk coming?” Stephanie asks me.

                  “In pieces. How’s your cold?” I ask.

                  “A little better.” She says.

                  “That’s good.” I respond.

                  She doesn’t really care about my desk. She’ll get over her cold. These are the things people say when they want to reassure the other person that they’re paying attention to their lives. It’s polite. Stephanie is a hypocrite. So am I.
 

***

 
                  Thanksgiving was yesterday. My Mom is outside stringing up Christmas decorations. The desk is still on the floor.

                  “Why aren’t you helping me?” She asks.

                  “You didn’t ask me to.” I say.

                  “Why is your desk still on the floor?” Why does everyone keep asking me that?

                  “Why rush? I don’t have anything to put on it anyway,” I tell her.

                  “You’re computer is on the floor.” She reminds me.

                  “I know. It doesn’t mind.” I say.

                  “Jackass,” My Mom says with a smile. I like her sense of humor.

                  “Joey is coming over later. He’ll want to see your room.” She tells me.
 

***

 
                  I go upstairs and stare at the pieces of desk on my floor. The box tells me it weighs two-hundred and nineteen pounds. This is going to be a blast.
 

***

 
                  “Sissa, book? Pen?” Joey asks me. I smile. The smartest two-year old I’ve ever met. I notice his pants. Army fatigues. I remember the soldier’s brown eyes. Joey looks up at me. His eyes are brown, too. They’re different. I don’t see his clothes in his eyes. Joey is never tired.
 

***

 
                  We sit at the new desk, Joey’s warm little body perched on my knee, and we draw together.

                  “Sissa, Daddy!” He exclaims proudly as he points at a big circle he just made on the paper.

                  “Great job, buddy! How about we draw Mommy?” I grin at him. Joey continues to draw circles, and small shapes. He’s focused. His pen slips off the paper and makes a mark on my new desk. I smile. I reach over to the list lying on the shelf and cross off, “Assemble Desk.

 

*

 

Melissa Marino grew up just outside of New York City, spending most of her formative years outdoors creating wild ghost hunts with neighborhood kids, setting booby-traps to capture unwitting family members, and building clubhouses on top of ten-foot walls. Melissa wrote her first story at the age of twelve and titled it “Circles of Friendship.” Through the years, Melissa has written several short stories and poems, all of which met the wrath of the “Not Good Enough” monster and ended in fiery demise.
 
Melissa regained her confidence when she began writing scholarly articles and research theses on her first trip through graduate school. It took several years for her to break the habit of the formal writing that marred her creativity. An additional Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing was Melissa’s biggest support in this. Melissa writes primarily sci-fi/fantasy, paranormal romance, and young adult stories.

What motivates her to create:
“My dreams. I’ve had vivid dreams since I was a kid. Of characters, adventures, and wild scenarios that, when I wake up in the morning I say, ‘Someone might find entertainment in this!’ Or ‘wouldn’t that be nice to share?’ Once I start a project though, the motivation falls in its completion, especially with writing. It’s haunting. I bleed when I write, I bleed when I don’t write. I’m in a constant state of hemorrhage until a project is complete. There’s nothing more fulfilling than writing, ‘the end.’”

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