Sculptural and Spatial Practices

Screenshot 2017-11-18 12.53.24BY AMELIA HAWKINS

I come from flyover country. That’s what people here call it. My grandparents slaughtered pigs. Strung porkers and sucklings up by the feet to bleed out, collected the blood in mason jars that I carried from slaughter shed to my grandmother’s kitchen for Sunday blood sausage. Mitch likes this part of me best—little girl holding jars of black blood, warm in her hands. My gritty farm girl, he murmurs. With hair the color of straw. I like when he calls me his.

I don’t tell Mitch that my dad is a dentist. That my mom drove me forty-five minutes into Omaha to go to a private girls’ school on partial scholarship. Checkered pinafores and white bobby socks. Parties at friends’ parents’ lake houses and bumps of cocaine on granite countertop. That, in biology class, I liked slicing through cat belly, pulling out uterus and pink clump of intestines, inhaling formaldehyde. That my family took vacations to Branson every year, and that, for fun, I stole refrigerator magnets and shot glasses from the hotel gift shop. That I am so terribly unremarkable.

I want Mitch to think I’m special. Any version of me. Milk and corn fed farm girl. Good girl. Middle American beauty.

Mitch has a condo in Park Slope that I’ve never seen. He lives there Thursday through Sunday with his wife, a visual artist, whom he doesn’t talk about, at least not with me. I Googled her, and found out she’s known for a critically acclaimed series of videos she took of herself visiting the homes of old men, stripping down to her underwear, then watching them do the same. Belts unbuckled and pleated pants pulled down to reveal sagging folds of pale skin, faded boxers with tears in the waistband. You think they’re about to have sex, but they don’t. She just stands there, staring at them, like she’s fascinated by how ordinary they are. She has the kind of body people like to call unrealistic to feel better about themselves—curving hips and full breasts, but petite, tight, contained. Almost like a teenager. There are pictures of them on the internet—Mitch and The Wife. At her art shows, at her gallery talks, at her book party. Mitch looks old standing next to her.

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Life is Unbearably Vivid: An Essay on Sundog by Jim Harrison and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

sundogBY PAUL DOTY

In a 2016 New York Times Book Review interview Jim Harrison responded to a question about his favorite fictional heroes and villains with, “My original favorite fictional hero was Heathcliff in Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights.’”[1] In Heathcliff Bronte creates one of literature’s quintessential Byronic heroes, unique among Byronic heroes in that his mystery derives from his locale: he embodies the tumultuous remoteness of Wuthering Heights.  Thinking over the corpus of Jim Harrison stories, especially those stories set in wintery brooding Northern Michigan, place becomes persona in characters actively trying to lose themselves in their surroundings pursuing what Anthony Doerr characterized as “unencumbered-ness.”[2]  This unencumbered-ness invokes an aura of Heathcliff.  This essay will argue that Jim Harrison’s Sundog clearly has a relationship to Wuthering Heights, and while it is by no means a retelling of that story, a reading of Sundog through Wuthering Heights enables an exploration of locale and the charismatic hero.

Jumping out from the two books is the parallel in the narrative scaffolding.  In Wuthering Heights Mr. Lockwood is a first person narrator, who retells Nelly Dean’s account of Wuthering Heights, that itself relays accounts of events told in detail by the story’s characters.  In Sundog Jim Harrison is a first person narrator, there are interviews with Robert Corvus Strang, and the “verbatim” transcriptions of tapes the Narrator makes as he comes to grips with how Strang’s story intersects with the transition he needs to make to keep his life from coming unglued.  The different narrative modes and moods create a push and pull tension within both novels–moods that for Harrison create a structure for the Narrator to internalize Strang’s story, to let the story under his skin, and for Bronte a space for the competing scenes of passion and/or ferocity.

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Michigan over Matter

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BY BETH PETERSON

Three months in Michigan and suddenly
I’m writing knock-off poems in my head
I turn off lights that were never on
I prepare for a time change five weeks in advance
I watch a long line of men, shovels in hand,
pitching it into the night and I think
maybe
one day
I’ll be like them,
smooth, easy, rhythmic,
seeing it all like paper on grass, seafoam on cars
over-exposed photographs
or something less crushing
Me, I’m always throwing it all into trees
and wondering what will come down

A wilderness guide before she began writing, Beth Peterson has an MFA from the University of Wyoming and a PhD in creative writing and literature from the University of Missouri. Her writing has appeared in Fourth Genre, River Teeth, Passages North, Post Road, The Pinch and other publications. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where she’s an assistant professor in Grand Valley State University’s writing program. 

Fall football in the leaves

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BY BETH PETERSON

 

It’s a sweatpants day
Phil launches the football
            into my memory
the slant of the light there
is red, not the red of a match-just-struck
but something cleaner
where runs always crunch into quarter
sand what we forgive is the cool air
with hot cocoa in tall metal thermoses
that somebody’s mom sent along
and sweatshirts collide
with the weekend dusk
while we run touchdowns
over the leaf covered line
the last football days
fall in our lives together

 

A wilderness guide before she began writing, Beth Peterson has an MFA from the University of Wyoming and a PhD in creative writing and literature from the University of Missouri. Her writing has appeared in Fourth Genre, River Teeth, Passages North, Post Road, The Pinch and other publications. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where she’s an assistant professor in Grand Valley State University’s writing program. 

Sitting Guard

Screenshot 2017-11-01 07.15.47BY VICTOR WALKER

Some days are better than others,

some days are worse than others,

some days just are.

 

This was going to be one of those better days, I hoped.

Did I resent my mother’s remarrying?

It was Dr. Runner who suggested that I write down my feelings between sessions.  So that’s what I’ve done:

I was happy for her.  I even gave her away at the wedding.  She made a beautiful bride.

I showed Dr. Runner the pictures I had taken on my cellphone.

He’s a year younger than she is, I told him.

Does that bother me?  Not really.

My dad had been almost ten years older, however.  That can be quite a lot when a couple gets up in age.  Personally, I don’t think most people can stay married for more than seven years before serious problems begin to appear.  It’s like owning a car.  After seven years you get another one.

Your first car is just about speed and fun and driving with the top down.  You’re not thinking about the long haul—the countless errands, the endless lines of traffic, the forty dollar fill-ups at the gas pump.

Where the highway was once a chance to air her out, that open road is now just a place to close the windows, turn on the air, and hit the cruise control.  Seven years is all any car really has in her.  And maybe only two really good ones at that.  The way I look at it, my mom and dad were way ahead of the game.

Next week would have been their ruby anniversary.  I looked it up.  That’s almost six new car lives.  Ruby is also my birthstone.  I’ll be forty this July.

Does that bother me?  Not really.

Anyway, I’m very happy for her.  For both of them.  It’s no good getting old by yourself.

They’re going to Costa Rica for their honeymoon.  You know, my mom’s sixty-one—no, sixty-two—and this’ll be the first time she’s ever really been anywhere outside of the country.  I had to drive her down to our post office to help her apply for a passport.  She refused to wear her glasses.  She wouldn’t wear them to the wedding either.  To tell the truth, I was a little afraid that she might trip when I walked her down the aisle, but she didn’t.

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A Coven in a Small Town

wiccan shop
BY CAREY MILLSAP-SPEARS

meets every Thursday night
across from the pizza joint
and the all-night gas station.

One-by-one, they enter
a run-down strip mall space
and suck in the flavored-smoke
slinking off the incense stick.

Behind the industrial-glass door,
the coven gathers in secret
to learn the old arts
and to buy new, mass-produced and

overpriced supplies.
Everything here seems desirable,
where twinkle lights temper
the glowing overhead fluorescents.

One-day-a-week, they practice
divination, recite incantations,
and trade home-brew recipes
before putting children to bed and watching a little TV.

Leaving together, thirteen
weekday witches living nowhere special
wave at the local folks filling up
while cackling off into the night.

Carey Millsap-Spears is a writer and teacher living in Hobart, Indiana. She’s lived most of her life in Northwest Indiana—also known as the Region. Her academic work has been published in Studies in Popular Culture and The Dark Arts Journal.Carey’s poetry has appeared in the GNU journal. She holds a MFA in creative writing, poetry and a Master of Arts in English and is Professor of Communications/Literature at Moraine Valley Community College.

Ashtabula, Ohio: The Biker

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BY ELIZABETH DEVORE

This poem is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project.

The bike wobbles as he turns his head
to say hello to the girl and her dog
and the handlebars swerve the way they do
the first time the training wheels come off, but
he’s been riding for seventy years now.

Once, he could throw a paper and hit
the front door of every customer on his route,
one hand on the bars, the other swinging up
over his head, fingers following the paper
towards the stoop, but now
he must keep both hands gripped firm
just to stay upright.

Once, he could ride to the lake with a pretty girl
perched on the front, her auburn hair blowing
into his eyes, her giggles filling the air
as they coasted down the hill, but now
he has to concentrate on lifting his own heavy knees
with each rotation of the pedals.

Once, he could ride on the road with cars whizzing
while his children weaved down the walk beside him
on their way to the Squire Shoppe Bakery
for donuts each Saturday, but now
the cars threaten his stability and he must shift
back to the spot his children vacated years ago.

Elizabeth Devore teaches English at Kent State University at Ashtabula. She loves exploring her harbor neighborhood with her dog and meeting the retirees who have spent their lives making this city a place she has come to love.

Marquette, Michigan: Pristine Inland Sea

Courtesy of author

Courtesy of author

BY JENNIFER STANLEY

This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project. 

As a lifelong resident of Marquette, Michigan, located on the south shore of Lake Superior, I consider myself fortunate. Wherever I have lived in the city, I have been only moments from the lake, able to see it from outside my front door

Throughout my life, the lake and I have harmonized. As a child, I mimicked its spontaneity, dove in to dodge waves, oblivious to its cold temps. As a teen, I became intimate with its passionate pulse, perfect background for young romance. As an adult, I relived the intoxication of its danger, its wonder, watching over my own child’s fear and wild delight at the force of its storms. As I grow older, I find reliable companionship, the comfort of lifelong friendship in its rhythmic accompaniment during contemplative walks.

Recently, I realized how I have taken this relationship for granted as the result of a trip to the Atlantic coast.

When I first viewed the Atlantic Ocean from a New Jersey boardwalk, I said “It looks like Lake Superior.” This seemed to disappoint my host who knew I’d never seen the ocean, and I think felt deprived of the vicarious experience of my amazement. I explained that it appeared to be not so different from something I see nearly every day. However, as I spent more time getting to know the ocean, I realized the difference.

True, there are obvious similarities between the two bodies, which share vast breadth, unending horizons, but each has unique aspects, better appreciated after experience of the other. The fact that the sea is salt water, the lake fresh, is a difference which is a source of many others, for example, scent. Superior, though it has its own fishy ambience, does not overpower with pungent brine. To the panoramic view, colors differ, the sea being more aqua green than Superior’s robin egg or cobalt blue.

The large turbulent waves of the Atlantic make Superior’s seem clear and hard by contrast.  Under similar weather conditions, breaking waves of the ocean are foamier, spread and hiss a greater distance up the sand, while the sharper-edged waves of Superior seem to shatter and scatter. Because the lake is a smaller body of water, it feels more dense, compact. Ocean water has more space to stretch out, travels a greater distance, seems more diffuse. I hear this in the sounds of surf. While the ocean roars and pounds, the lake glugs, dunks, and gulps. Superior has less predictable shifts in water level, and where the regular tides of the sea litter the beach with shellfish, shells, and sharp mosaic fragments of shells, Lake Superior beaches are awash with pebbles, and agates, and driftwood.

Risks to the swimmer also differ.  There is no danger of jellyfish or shark attacks in fresh water, the most threatening creature likely to be found in the lake a transplant lamprey eel.  More remarkable is the difference in shoreline water temperature. Compared to the oceans moderate temps, Superior’s unmatched frigid bite is a nerve-numbing awakening not for the timid heart. This ultimately protects Superior’s purity, and primarily, it is this characteristic I have most taken for granted.

Marquette may be the most populated area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but even so, its beaches, for the most part, in contrast to those I visited on the Atlantic, are generally open to the public at no cost. No purchased pass is required to spend a day or season of days on Superior’s convenient sands.  Yet, on most of those days, one will not find huge concentrated crowds taking advantage of that. In contrast to the popular East Coast beaches I visited on the Atlantic, the public beaches around Marquette are not massed with people, packed like cliché sardines under miles of striped umbrellas.  There are no troupes of solicitous hot-dog vendors, armed patrol guards, enormous bulldozers at daybreak, turning over yesterday’s garbage strewn surface, no airplanes with flying billboards urging the purchase of dinner reservations, no blocks upon blocks of full parking lots, no rows of expensive clubs playing conflicting raucous music.

On the shores of Lake Superior, one is more likely to find a bike path winding through stretches of sparsely populated beachfront pine forest than commercialized entertainment. Even on the most popular Superior beaches, one can easily wander only a short distance to find solitude, privacy, peace.

Certainly, both the northern “Inland Sea” and the Atlantic Ocean are lovely at sunrise, or under the full moon of a July night. Still I have to admit, my visit to the East Coast of the great Atlantic only deepened my preference for the Great Lake above the Mackinac Bridge. I now more fully understand its unique beauty, and more greatly appreciate the privilege of living with it daily.

Jennifer Stanley is a native of upper Michigan, and has an MA in writing from Northern Michigan University. She has contributed to a variety of publications, including The Marquette Monthly, The Great Lakes Poetry Project Anthology, Above the Bridge Magazine, Country Woman, and The American Poetry Review.

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Carp at the Gates

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BY RENNY GOLDEN
 
They have been swimming for years
silver and fat, gulping everything
until they can leap beyond themselves,
beyond breath, into a brightness
that pierces them as if for moments
they meet God who kisses them,
but if they linger
in their spinning jump they will
die of God, of blue dangerous air.

If startled, they fly from the river
eight feet into sky. Is it a defiance
or a demonstration of their fate,
these bully swimmers who devour
plankton, eat their way to eminence
—yet destined for pain when they hit
the electric fences that punish them
away from the great lakes.

Thirty-seven miles from Chicago’s watershed,
they are coming, a team of acrobats
with pink mouths as big as fists.

They come from Mississippi, through the Illinois
by way of Chinese rice paddies. One thousand years
and they are still coming wild, fierce
as a locust plague, drunk with their collective swarm.
 

(Corinne) Renny Golden was a Pushcart nominee in 2016. Her book, Blood Desert: Witnesses 1820-1880, won the WILLA Literary Award for poetry 2011, was named a Southwest Notable Book of the Year 2012, and a Finalist for the New Mexico Book Award. The Old Woman and the River is coming in 2019 from University of New Mexico Press. She’s been published and anthologized widely including in the following journals: Water~Stone; International Quarterly; Literary Review; Dogwood; Main Street Rag; Windhover; Able Muse; Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review; Split This Rock; Nagatuck River Review; Crosswinds.  

In Spite of Debris, Offal, Trash, Detritus

Goldfish Freshwater Fish Scale Fish Scales 

BY RENNY GOLDEN
 
A miracle of goldfish still flicker like
sunlit coins through dark matter.

This river asks for so little,
sings beneath Bascom bridges.

It’s Prairie Wolf Slough’s Gloria
of marsh marigold, pale geranium,
trout lily, swamp buttercup.

Clothed in its liquid vestment,
raiment where deer and fox
drink and mark the hours.

     A river that remembers
     vast woodlands, meadows
     flaming in the silence marking time.

     This is the otter’s prayer
     a ballet of plunges and dives.
     The mallard’s dark procession

on silk waters, then sudden flight
across dawn’s flare where sky holds
them to perfect blue roads.

     They do not see the presence that enfolds them,
     so intimate their animal trust.

 

(Corinne) Renny Golden was a Pushcart nominee in 2016. Her book, Blood Desert: Witnesses 1820-1880, won the WILLA Literary Award for poetry 2011, was named a Southwest Notable Book of the Year 2012, and a Finalist for the New Mexico Book Award. The Old Woman and the River is coming in 2019 from University of New Mexico Press. She’s been published and anthologized widely including in the following journals: Water~Stone; International Quarterly; Literary Review; Dogwood; Main Street Rag; Windhover; Able Muse; Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review; Split This Rock; Nagatuck River Review; Crosswinds.