• 2020 Volume 15
Samantha Lehman


    On top shelf of the dresser in my bedroom there’s a plant. To be honest, I’m not even sure what type of plant it is. It’s stems germinate directly from the soil, spill out over the brim of their pot, and cascade down over the sides of the dresser, not even close to touching the beige micro-sand soft carpet below. Yet the plant looks oddly large in comparison to the other things on the dresser. 
    There’s a glass mason jar to the left of my plant that’s half full with seashells I’ve collected off the beaches of Antigua and Barbuda. The other half of the mason jar is filled with glass, or “sea-glass,” that has been eroded by the long-lasting lap of the ocean, so that the edges are smooth and the surface of the glass is worn and no longer opaque. The mason jar itself reaches up to the waist of the pot, not even peeking over the rim of the white fettling knife-carved clay.
    There's a small cabinet directly below my plant and on the handle of the cabinet there’s some sort of attempt at wire-art. Originally, I had aimed to make a bracelet, but when the small piece of amethyst I had wanted to put in the bracelet kept falling out, I decided instead to twist the thin brass wire around my finger and then to hang it on the cabinet handle as a reminder that I’m not an artist.      
    On the shelf next to the cabinet and slightly to the left and below the plant, there is a line of three small glass objects. The first object is a seahorse stained with streaks of subalpine fir green down its back and deep grey-blue along its breast. The second object is a glass owl from the small island Murano off the coast of Venice. The owl fits in the palm of a small-child’s hand and its head is painted orange while the rest is left untouched. The third object is a house that’s built out of the most basic of geometric shapes. The house is not made up of the shiny, pretty looking class the objects beside it are made up of. Rather, it’s made up of the “mug-glass” and looks like it would be very satisfying to throw against a wall. On a flight from Utah to Amsterdam, the flight attendant came around and passed one out to each person. Apparently, there’s 160 of them that people collect. I think the collection of random ornaments I have scattered on my shelves adds a rather complete look to my dresser and make it look beautiful.  
    There’s some debate between the meaning of the word “sublime” versus the word “beautiful.” In his “On the Sublime and Beautiful,” Edmund Burke says that the sublime evokes a sense of astonishment while beauty is comparatively small and should be “smooth and polished.” I do not think that my plant and its surrounding are sublime, insofar as I am not awe-struck or dramatically moved when I see my plant. At first glance, I see more of a simple beauty that is light, delicate, and soft. However, I find it sublime that my plant can recover from the brink of death after I’ve starved it of water for over two weeks (I don’t exactly have a green thumb). 
One of Edmunde Burke’s most substantial arguments for what sublime is is that the sublime is “founded on pain.” While it may seem like a stretch to say that my plant was founded on pain, I am willing to make that leap. 
Dirt has been around since almost the beginning of time, meaning that it has seen and been the foundation of anything that anyone has ever built. It has been the host to the formation of empires, dictatorships, and republics - the groundwork for armies driven to war by imperialist regimes over the stretches Mongolian Plateau. Blood has spilled onto the soil of the New World by settler-colonialists, evicting those who are native to the land. Cancer, fear, sorrow; ravaging the land and the dirt, until death has been soaked into the veins of the minerals that course through the earth and all of nature is resting on the ruins of a broken world. 
    So my plant rests on dirt and soil which inherently means it rests on pain. It is sublime. 
    But everything in the world relies on dirt’s foundation, even those things we call “non-natural.” And if dirt is pain, that makes everything sublime. 
    And if everything is sublime, what becomes of beauty? 

Photo by Garrett Glasgow 


Pedal Gracefully


The petals will be sand in my rain jacket pocket.
They lick dryly against the polyester static
in the zipped cell set flat against my chest.
I was taught to leave them until they
shriveled by their own means, the only pressure
my movement, my legs gliding through circles
on the spokes of my droplet-dotted bicycle in evening’s rain,
the jerks and shifts to avoid senseless puddles threading waves,
energy, loops of ice pebbles
up through my muscles, startling my core
and promoting the slight saunter, delayed erosion
of the curled-up, cocoon shape of decay
beyond replenishment dangling
in my hidden pocket.

When I feel their knots and spikes
jutting slightly against the thin, glossy fabric of my coat
to skim my chest, I know that their abrasion
counts on more than the donut circulation
of pulses in my legs, the swaying of my torso
set on an evening of shades lighter than gray
but softer, less blinding than white:
an evening where my head moves from ground
to overhead, to every side as lustrous cars,
colors of maroon, navy, black,
ripe cherry
paint strokes of my reflection beating by.
The people on the sidewalk
glance down at their puddle-tinted soles
though inside their heads feel nothing close to dread.

When I halt by the sidewalk, slip off my bike,
tumble on sleekness,
When I rush through the black metal
gates, dripping and shedding minced tile slates,
trickling beetle skins of paint to the garden,
my hand hesitant as it hovers before my chest,
I think to
pinch the crinkling petals of the tulip
which once sat dry above dampened dirt
that had not yet turned to mud. I remember there was
a fresh series of days when stems cascaded white silk,
were ruffled against softly by brown rabbits,
so delicately skipping, wisping their rain-stained,
acute triangle noses
against flourishing roots and petal skins, glazed by a natural
film of strawberry milk, frosted white or evergreen-mist blue.

Never bring fingers
like pennies
of frozen plush
to a dry, wrinkled yellow stem:
a stem that may wiggle, hold on
but proceeds to crack.

Art: Flower Fossil by Grace Baranko



Born anew in elasticity, beige and borrowed,
I bathe in barrels of crimson wine
Until it stains in droplets of sacrament on my skin,
Unrelenting, like ashen sediment.

I bathe in barrels of crimson wine
In drunken baptisms veiled by vapor haze.
Unrelenting, like ashen sediment,
My morals bleed in the eggshell of stolen scriptures.

In drunken baptisms veiled by vapor haze,
Could I distill what drapes above in a sole stream?
My morals bleed in the eggshell of stolen scriptures,
Like ink tarnishing cobalt-stained glass.

Could I distill what drapes above in a sole stream?
Its contents coursing, intravenous and acute,
Like ink tarnishing cobalt-stained glass.
I exist outside of solemn syllables and damning.

Its contents coursing, intravenous and acute,
I’m ridden with rituals composed of moss and memory.
I exist outside of solemn syllables and damning,
Evergreen and unforgetting.

I’m ridden with rituals composed of moss and memory,
Curiosity like venom dispersed in opaque milk.
Evergreen and unforgetting,
Do I fear both the life I live and its residue?

Curiosity like venom dispersed in opaque milk,
I feel tangible when speaking in what is not said,
Do I fear both the life I live and its residue?
Sordid in silence, an apple in my teeth.

I feel tangible when speaking in what is not said,
Like how blind blends into midnight with ease.
Sordid in silence, an apple in my teeth,
The remnants of the Sistine chapel on my palm.
Like how blind blends into midnight with ease,
At the week’s closure, I lament and wash away
The remnants of the Sistine chapel on my palm,
Calloused from judgment’s embers.


Art: Angel by Anthony Sanchez

Ramesses II


I used to lounge on the Nile flood plain
to watch the river churn and cut the sands,
and to think how people cheered
for my glory long ago
and now there is only the same glory to cheer for.
Yes, I was great;
I saw it in the flames,
the cascades of shifting bodies in the streets,
proud of swordsmen, land-winners,
fledgeling charioteers.
For them I was enigma,
Ramesses, the Great Ancestor, the god
who tinkered in the life-forge.

But sulking at the Nile bank, I saw rocks
moved and smoothed and shattered, simple water
ravaging the earth, and my mind sprung
up and asked the gods to let me
become water, so Ra told me,
smirking, I was a man.

Yes, I was a man, but maybe
if I climbed high enough
I would be a man emancipated
from the anchors of the world.
Yes, I was a man, but I was a man
deserving, and for years
I climbed the climb to power.

In the seventh year I summited, stumbling
in the sky-wind as gods blew
out their lungs to sound
a warning over the winds, calling
you are no god, just
one speck
on Ta Dehent. Nothing around.
No yielding soldiers, complacent
prince, palace, throne,
glory. Sand. There was sand and I wilted
into it. I took to the tomb.

Now, at night the Nile is not mine;
the red sky sees an empire
and a man in the gloom stands
with a pensive lean.
I am granite; I cannot turn;
neither of us can see the other’s eyes.
In the prelude to boundlessness,
marble does not freeze him,
though his body
mocks me. He forgets
how it is to have everything
and still for the world to spin

Art: Destruction by Jade Wilson