If you can’t pick up a print issue of Cellar Door— don’t fret. We will be scanning some of the spring selections to the tumblr for your reading/viewing pleasure.
1. “Intimacy” - Sarah Hey
2. “Our Grandfather” - Danielle Balderas
3. “Seascape With Figures” - Anne Symons
All of these prize-winning works will be int he print issue, so make sure you pick one up on campus!
1. The Summer of Love - Madison Bakalar
2. Scuppernong - AJ White
3. The Second Sinatra - Jared Shaffer
All of these prize-winning works will be in the print issue, so make sure you pick one up on campus!
1. Chandelier - Ben Miller
2. Light Pollution After Midnight - Ben Miller
3. Split Ends - Charlotte Fryar
All of these prize-winning works will be in the print issue, so make sure you pick one up on campus!
Join us Wednesday, April 24th at Bull’s Head Bookshop for the official release of the Spring 2013 issue of Cellar Door. We invite all print and online published writers and artists to come share their works. Come get your FREE copy!
The event runs from 6:30 to 8:30. We hope to see you all there!
By Angela Lin
Union soldiers joked
that weevil in flour
was the only fresh meat
they would ever see.
Instead of sugar, the men
crumbled and sprinkled
their rations of hardtack
into morning coffee:
the hot liquid soothed
the cracked biscuit skin,
made it limp and soft
enough to choke down.
Best of all, weevil larvae
would float to top of cups:
making it easy to skim them out
quick with tin spoons.
The soldiers preferred to eat
in the forgiving dark,
imagining the extra crunch
was just stale crumbs, praying:
Lord, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no weevil,
For Thou are with me.
By Josh King
Reference, at minimum,
two types of plants or grasses:
whorled milkweed, for example; an
alfalfa sprout or two—maybe even
a spiny-leaved sow thistle
if you’re looking to make
an impression. The more obscure,
In terms of content: aim for
settle for mere obfuscation.
(Remember, obfuscation leads to publication!)
If your poem has any narrative
thread or thematic coherence,
you’re doing it wrong.
Alter your name so it
reads more like a poet’s:
first and middle initials
followed by surname.
If that doesn’t work,
submit under a pseudonym:
‘Henri Cole’ and ‘Natasha
Trethewey’ are safe bets.
By Coco Wilder
A week after, someone stuck
a pink wrought-iron cross
into the strip of sod along Exit 103,
amidst grass that roams rampant
except during biannual maintenance
by the key club or penitentiary.
Grimy plastic stems twine around
its base, sputtering out frayed petals
at the arms. Blood’s stale, but the drivers
still rubberneck and almost forget to flick
the turn-signal to pass black Suburbans
with decals of praying hands: in loving memory.
These second graves indict the curve and testify:
check the blind spot, sharp turn ahead.
By Denise Dubick
It lost its form in the slush of blood
after they pulled the nail off,
the surprising peak of bone
and strange yellow gunge
too alien to believe my own.
Four bright blue stiches—
all it took to hold the skin together
from where they slit in and tried
to reassemble the crushed tip
of my digit, save its length.
Splint off, I could inspect new flesh
already puffing up from the bed.
Freed from its keratin shell,
it was foreign and exposed,
a snail who shed its home.
I prayed to the half-moon face
of my lunula still squinting up at me
from where the nail used to be:
Grant me your growth and strength,
a familiar touch of shelter.
By Jacquelynn Berton
They fly, two cranes unaware of each other,
she with arched back, legs evaporating
toward sun, her form holding a nameless pose:
wave-curl maybe, or sea-grass which rises
from him, now a boardwalk, body flat
to sloping sand below, now a leaning trunk,
hands the splayed leaves of a tree bowed
before a hurricane. He faces the sea as if
some adversary, draws with heaving chest
ocean’s exhale, and then becomes it, legs
the thin demand of a wave to wash sand,
his breath the half-silence between breakers,
salt beginning the long settle downward.
Just down the beach she alights, makes
of herself an arrow darting motionless
through air. He follows her without seeing,
gaze locked on the master before him.
By Charlotte Fryar
We’ve reached the point where it is acceptable to talk
of the future: the dog we’ll have, the home we’ll live in,
the places we’ll go together. Two years now
and I still don’t know you very well, I think you’ll like
Mt. Rainier rising above you and the mossy San Juan Islands.
You still don’t know me, you think I’ll like the green neon
of the Vegas strip, days of shopping in Berkeley.
But this weekend we settle for your parents’ beach house,
walking the low-tide morning shore, pocketing sand dollars
broken by the sea, molding back into our bed by early afternoon.
One Christmas, I dropped the star for the top of our tree.
Gold, glittered, and fine, it broke into seven pieces
across our wooden living room floor, and my mother
screamed. It belonged to my Grandmother!
My god, how could you have been so clumsy?
While she howled, I found superglue,
sealed each delicate piece to the next, until it was
perfect enough for Jesus and my great-grandmother.
I showed her and she sighed:
I have never been able to fix things, I never try.
You sure didn’t get that from me,
you can fix everything that is broken.
When I woke up today, there was no sun,
so I walked without you, my bare heels pressed
further into the sand stretching muscles
cracking bones, feeling the light’s first rays
warm my neck, stepping delicately
around shells, to not break anything that
wasn’t mine to break. Now with my salty legs
in our bed, I turn towards your rising back,
imagine it as mountains, breathing peaks.
Your right shoulder blade, the Appalachians,
your spine, the Rockies, your left blade the heights
of the Sierra Nevadas. And now
I want to smooth out your living ridges,
lay each range flat, level, like the Great Plains,
press gently with sweet contempt, bitter want.
Before I showed you old Highway 86, the roads
to the Virginia routes, I used to ride them alone
in the mornings, leave my bike behind a tree
to tramp across frosted fields, cut brambles
to draw across my chilled white thighs,
leaving thin red lines, intricate and gratifying.
I would find frozen puddles and break their ice,
stand cold and unfeeling, rejoice in the cracking,
my numb pleasure from their fracture
more satisfying than your touch would ever be.
The sky pulls the sun higher now as we walk the waterline,
holding hands. You make an effort to step on shells,
crush them into the wet sand. The tide gathers the pieces,
hauls them back out to the ocean.
Why do you do that? I ask. To make more sand you say.
Like the world needs more sand, more broken things.
But here we are, breakers, waves, everything breaking.
By Josh Hyzy
Each second the desk clock
flashes a low battery icon
even though it’s been plugged in
And it’s strange to pull an eyelash
out of the mouth –
stranger still for the cold
to pull secrets
out of the mouth
when nowhere near drunk –
no this slurred speech
comes from a frozen tongue
and a bottomless hesitation.
It is not necessary
to have used an iron
to know the fear
of having left one on
and in that hurry home
all those animal tracks of shoes
will show how others made their way.
That’s no example to follow.
Find a clear plot of snow
surprise it with a foot
declare this a mark upon the world.
Key the door open
and notice for the first time
that low-battery blinking
and while the iron isn’t
the desk clock is –
it doesn’t need to worry either.
By Michael Lawson
Odysseus died in my dream last week
in the ancestral orchard, next to the palace.
He held, for almost a second, the same pose
as a wave toppling onto the shore; then he toppled,
one hand clutched to the good earth he loved
so little, grasping at wind-thin grass shoots,
mingling with fallen olive pits, the other pressed
to his chest, tearing at deep-anchored hair
tipped white by age and Troy, his long years
of stringing the bow, squinting down its width—
a hero’s death, though not heroic, the only salutes
to his fall the trace of zephyr across oily leaves
and the murmur of the jays. He was the last
of his comrades, the one storm-blown
back to Ithaca, the weak-willed beach sand,
the shoreline where he lit a pyre that seethed
above the failing light of dusk. Perhaps
he saw them at the end—his men, beckoning
with their spears, eager to conquer the far,
dark reaches, wanting only a strong hand
at the prow; or was it Penelope, busy
with the loom, unweaving the shroud
for a death he never thought to have?
Grey-eyed Athena offered her shield hand
to raise him from the root-strewn ground,
show him to his next and final path.
Did you see it, too, Homer—the scene,
the end of your story and your fame? My dream
may be your dream, and I the borrower.
Or I may have it wrong: the figure yearning
skyward like a boat’s crushed hull may be you,
the clench of your ribs pulled down at last
by gravity. You knew you could not let him go.
And so you strained, clawed to the clouds,
bellowing to Zeus with your breath-dead lungs,
shattering his well-earned rest like a cowherd
who, discovering that the calf of the two
most prized of his flock is stranded on a ledge
above the gale-harsh sea, begins to climb
the jagged rocks, fallen bones of careless men
littered around him, terns screeching as he steps
with feet lodged between the slippery crags,
only to find, halfway, that he has lost his place
in the simile.
by Anne Symons
i trapped a stink bug under a teacup
she was crawling up the speaker of
my family’s desktop computer
and i was trying to listen to
i worry about her under there
under the opaque porcelain
painted with violets and gently etched leaves
and rimmed with a gold lip
as she sits
with not even a friend
or a sweetheart
to talk to
about the weather, or russian literature
whatever stinkbugs talk about
probably the ephemerality of
something only stinkbugs
i wonder if when i lift it
she will lay there, crispy and dead
her last sight on earth having been
darkness for a few hours
not even the night sky
or the deliberate swat of a
i wonder if when i lift it
the little world of space beneath the teacup’s dome
that has become the stinkbug’s universe
will reek of the pungent fumes
her only defense from predators
which i suppose is what i was
when i trapped a stink bug under a teacup
but there was nobody my own size
for me to pick on
and of course they would not fit
beneath a teacup
painted with violets and gently etched leaves
By Gayatri Surendranathan
At home we give food
first to God,
then to the crows,
then to me, to you —
I saw you do it every day,
I was three years old,
standing at the kitchen door,
talking to birds:
“did you like it? do you want some more?”
The day you taught me
to make dosas, your thin, crumpled hand
guiding mine over the black stone,
spreading batter round and round.
It blisters and I flip it,
perfect, I feel perfect,
you give some to God,
I give some to the crows.
Four years later I only see you in monsoon.
We’re in bed, a thin cotton sheet
spread over our bodies,
fan blades slicing through
still, muggy air, you smell like
Vicks and baby powder.
Rain drums on the burnt orange shingles,
I spy the outline of a lizard
wriggling up the wall and shudder.
I ask you for a story
and get the ones I know
so deep I can trace them
on the roof of my mouth,
the back of my teeth,
in that way I fall asleep.
It’s still dark when you wake me,
I slip on rubber sandals
and follow behind you,
watching the hem of your sari
float over dung and rotten bananas.
We shed our shoes
at the temple door, I clench
my toes on the oil-slick stone
floors, littered with petals.
I do everything you do but
two seconds late, and when
you fold your hands and mutter
prayers, I fold mine too and think
how I’m going back so soon.
We reach out to catch banana-leaf bundles
smeared inside with red powder
and turmeric paste, which you
dab on your finger
and smudge onto my forehead.
You catch holy water from the can
And smooth it over my hair.
By Anna Kelley
The edible gold bar
for the modern age,
the poorest mound
of porous paunch
to ever claim it was
a cake, truck driver’s
two a.m. consolation,
and packaged magic
in a kid’s lunchbox:
gone. Departed is
a scent too humble
to sincerely snub,
of humdrum crumbs
with every nibble,
and that sweet yield:
white waxy glops,
the lowliest cream
of the chemical crop.
Our most beloved
grub is dead, and
whether burnt black
by cruel hellfire or
swallowed in soft
clouds above us,
let us bow our heads
in remembrance for
this latest of life’s
by Zack Abrams
I could only gawk as my wife fell out of her third tier balcony seat. Her blonde hair splayed behind her, her arms flailed as if she was trying to fly. I knew she’d been drinking.
I remember when her drinking really started, after the good Dr. Gomez told her, “You’re more barren than the Mojave,”
It hit her like a wrecking ball. She started working on her wine palette pretty quickly. I warned her that she might be slipping into alcoholism. She told me, “I’m not slipping, baby. I’m falling.” Just like my ma. So, for the first time in my life, I recycled a joke.
“Darling, you’ve got a drinking problem. Wine is too cultured for us. Try something more Third World, like Pabst.”
It worked, sort of. She started drinking Burnett’s. Straight out of the plastic bottle. She said she was prescribed one a day. A few months later I was sitting with her in an old dilapidated church in the boonies. She squeezed the blood out of my hand as we listened as a male breast cancer survivor joked about survivor’s guilt, and an ex-abused wife explained that she only drank Jack Daniels because everything else reminded her of “him”.
Everyone there turned in unison to stare at my wife when her turn came along. She shrank under their judging stare. Her baby blue eyes begin to tear; her lips parted, sealed, and parted again.
“I’m barer than the Mojave,”
A few days later I found Percocet on the bathroom sink sitting next to an empty handle of Burnetts. And now there she was wearing her vibrant yellow dress in a nosedive headed straight for Aisle J. I noticed some of the more cowardly members of Aisle J were cowering under their seats. Taking cover from the incoming bombshell, I thought.
“I’ll only go if I can drink,” she said. I knew it was wrong, but I okayed it anyways. It was the first time I wasn’t going to be some low brow opening act at some seedy dive bar on the shittiest side of town. This gig was big. It was at this Victorian auditorium, with velveteen chairs and beautiful tapestries hanging from the walls. Where a few thousand goys watching me from their elevated seating; where ten thousand and one eyes watched my drunk, mostly numb wife pass the second tier balconies as she plummeted towards Aisle J.
She told me she was a falling woman, so I suggested a parachute.
It was an unwelcome guest breaking into my head. The joke seemed the spawn of another man’s mind. It intruded on the moment, like a wailing infant at a movie, or a shitty song stuck in my head during sex. It made me uncomfortable. Then again, I’d been uncomfortable ever since I stepped onto this auditorium’s polished hardwood stage. O’Malley’s was better.
O’Malley’s. I only got this gig because my last routine at O’Malley Cats went viral. I’d paced around the warped stage telling jokes about my drunk wife.
“You can always tell when she’s really drunk, ‘cuz she’ll daintily kick off her heels and start prancing around like Tigger from Winnie The Pooh. A couple of drinks past that, and she starts actually bouncing around on her “tail”. I’d show you how, but I recently had mine removed. I went in expecting a vasectomy, and left without my tail.”
I got enough laughs to land me a gig at this elegant theater, filled with fashionably dressed folks with deep pockets and opera glasses. It felt strange to share this experience with them. I guess horror transcends class differences.
Don’t worry, she won’t feel a thing.
I couldn’t stop the jokes. Like I couldn’t keep her from drinking. I signed us up for couple counseling after our little stint with AA didn’t work out. The doctor was real nice, knew her shit. My wife couldn’t take her seriously, though. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they have a fauxhawk pixie cut, and they’re telling you to invest in K-Y Intense.
That was the joke I’d been telling when I heard a lady scream. It wasn’t my wife, though. It was some random woman who probably made six figures every hour, pointing her finger up towards the majestic ceiling, still holding her opera glasses to her eyes. I followed her finger up and saw my wife drop her wine glass. That wouldn’t have been so out of place, but for the fact that she was plunging through the air.
“She’s not plunging, baby. She’s falling.”
I’m watching the love of my life cannonball towards Aisle J, and the best thing I cab do was try and stop these goddamn jokes. And then the siege starts.
“You know, she loves Blue Öyster Cult; she don’t fear the Reaper…How long until she turns into a fallen woman? ‘Cuz right now she’s just falling…My wife has a seeing problem; she tries to look at the world through the bottom of a beer can. Well, the can’s opaque, so she can’t see anything…”
The jokes were zombies; they hungered for my brain. I boarded up the cracks in the walls of my mind, but they slipped through anyway, accompanied by the even clank of Blue Öyster Cult’s cowbell.
Nine thousand ninety-nine eyes watched my wife fall in silence that oozed with trepidation and fear. I covered my eyes as the last of the barrage hit my brain.
“Cleanup in Aisle J.”