• 2020 Volume 15
Ten Pounds of Nope in a Five Pound Bag
Kit Stevens


    The first lie I ever told was in a church. It was the spring of second grade, and almost every student was fidgeting on the hardwood pews waiting to go outside, despite the fact that recess had just ended. My best friend Aimee and I sat in the back of the chapel, as usual, kicking our feet and giggling when the congregation sang Come Thou Fount. Whenever they got to the line “And now I raise my Ebenezer,” snickers would break out across the room. None of us knew what an Ebenezer was, but we thought we had a pretty good idea. 
    On this particular day, Aimee and I were entertaining ourselves by embarking on a scientific venture. Each day at recess, we would exit the stuffy classroom into the cool morning and flop down on the damp grass. Growing in the field were hundreds of white flowers that smelled far less beautiful than they looked. Small, fuzzy moths frequented these flowers, and we watched with interest, until one day Aimee stretched out her hand and snatched one out of the air. Not to be outdone, I followed, and when we ran out of hands we switched to plastic bags pilfered from Ms Fjelstead’s storage cabinet. Ms. Fjelstead straight-up sucked. Anyway, on this particular day, Aimee and I had filled our pockets with bagged moths and were carefully observing their movements when we realized that they actually were not moving at all due to their lack of air. That’s when Ms. Fjelstead walked over and asked us what we had there, and if we wanted to show it to the class. Not particularly wanting to display a ziplock full of dead ass moths in a church, I replied: “nothing.” I could tell she was angry because she crinkled up her face like a jock crushing a soda can and shook her bottle-blond bangs at me. She stared at me, then stared at Aimee, and we stared right back at her. After a moment, she turned and stormed away to confront Kaden who was hurling spitballs at the statue of Jesus on the cross. Kaden claimed his brother was one of the Denver Broncos. The pastor, oblivious, continued on. 
    Pastor Pete was an older portly man who had officially given up on life. Every day, he would get up on the stage and mutter at drug commercial listing side effects speeds about the glory of god with a little homophobia tossed in there just to spice things up. Whenever he got to the parts about the sinners he would slow down and stare at each of us in turn with eyes so glassy I thought God had possessed him. Ms. Fjelstead didn’t like that theory, because apparently only Satan possesses people. Fortunately for me, Pastor Pete couldn’t see me because I sat directly behind Amelia Deer who was at least 5’4 (in the second grade, mind you). Unfortunately for Amelia, that meant Pastor Pete stared at her the most. I was convinced that Amelia was a fairy because she told me she could fly, only she couldn’t then because the weather conditions weren’t right, which seemed to me like irrefutable evidence. Besdies, she had like really, really long hair. That morning she had a bandaid in the middle of her forehead where she claimed a surgeon drilled into her head to scramble her brains around. That I did not believe because as a doctor’s daughter, I was sure they would have at least put a bigger bandage on. Sometimes Amelia would join us in our moth collecting excursions, but most of the time she would spend her recesses scraping sap from the pine trees on the corner of the field and painting it onto her face like football stripes. 
    The rest of the kids played something called the puppy game. In essence, everyone in the class would pretend to be puppies and Bethany, the principal's daughter, would be their mother and order them around. She even got the boys to join in on this because every day she would pick one of them to be the father. I don’t know why, but they were all crazy for her glorified bowl cut and stupid little glasses with butterflies on the rims. She usually picked Aidan to be her husband, who I told I had a crush on him to his face in kindergarten and never lived it down. If you were like me and Bethany didn’t like you, she would make you go sit by the Not Born Yet Tree where you would just sit there and just not be born. After being relegated to the tree one too many times, I decided to leave and kill moths instead. The only popular kid who didn’t participate in the puppy game was McKenna. What a strawberry blonde bitch. McKenna and her sidekick/personal valet Courtney loved to take the mickey out of people, especially Ella. But Ella got the last laugh because she got in a car crash and you can’t bully someone with a concussion. The only reason I wasn’t a victim of her parental divorce-related malignance was because Aimee was kinda scary. She had bangs that covered eyes and a stare that made the pastor suspicious. Apart from that, she was also known for digging her fingernails into people’s arms so hard they wouldn’t have the courage to see the nurse. 
    The second lie I told, or rather crime I committed, took place at the Book Fair, when people from the city library would come in and cram our 10 by 20 ft library with illicit books. By illicit, I am of course referring to Goosebumps and Harry Potter, which were banned from the school’s library because they would turn us into devil worshippers who held clandestine chanting rituals in the woods. I always imagined the chanting to be like the ooga chacas at the beginning of Blue Swede’s hooked on a feeling, which made me wonder if the lead singer of Blue Swede, Björn Skifs, was actually the devil. However, the books were not my main interest. In a tall glass jar on the check-out lady’s desk sat long, rainbow-colored noodle-like erasers. For every day during the book fair I would enter the library and spend my fifteen minutes wiggling them around in the air. My mother gave me 10 dollars to spend, specifically on books. I knew she would figure it out if I bought an eraser because she just seemed to know ya know. I figured since I had already lied in the chapel, I was too far down the path of evil to turn back now, so when the librarian had her back turned, I slipped my hand into the jar and took a rainbow eraser. Man, it was so goddamn smooth. I shared my newfound revelation with Aimee: crime is fun. Together underneath the pine trees, we invented the con of the century. Aimee was not a particularly organized person. Her desk was less of a storage space and more of a lesson in entomology with approximately ten bags full of moths, a water bottle with a live praying mantis, and several dead worms crusted onto the metal cubby all covered with crumpled papers. Aimee was perpetually at odds with Ms. Fjelstead over this. That day, Aimee put on her innocent face, and asked Ms. Fjelstead to help her conquer this task. Ms. Fjelstead, being a stupid little shit, agreed. So Ms. Fjelstead, if you’re reading this, I want you to know that your screams still bring me joy to this day. 


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