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Patrick Kindig

April 11, 2016

Photo Essay

Kindig PhotoYou love your boyfriend.

There are days you want to do nothing but rub his belly as if he were a dog.

There are days you do this.

Others, he tells you about each boy he sees wearing gray sweatpants & talks about becoming a photographer.

These days, you count the birds perching on the telephone wire across the street.

Your boyfriend buys a camera & decides to begin a photo essay, plans to photograph naked men through his front window & call it The Men in My House.

Until now, you thought you were the only man in his house.

He reopens his Grindr account: ISO male models, nothing sexual.

Men respond.

He is happy.

The first man has hearts tattooed around his nipples.

He is undressed before the camera is ready & he has an erection the entire shoot.

You know this because your boyfriend shows you the photos afterward.

You know this because you know what Grindr is.

Every two weeks you climb into your boyfriend’s bed & he shows you a hundred photos of some new man, some new torso twisting toward the camera lens.

Photo: a man stands at the sink in his underwear, blowing bubbles.

Photo: a man presses his forearm against the window, muscles flexed, back arched.

Photo: a man spreads his legs & turns his face to the wall.

Photo: a man sits in a chair, thigh wet with precum.

Photo: a man stands naked in the backyard, a leaf covering his penis, then not.

The men have been naked everywhere in his house.

You think: this is the way one thing becomes another, the way a man is replaced by the idea of a man.

You cannot sit on the couch anymore.

You cannot sit at the kitchen table anymore.

You cannot look through the front window or in the bathroom mirror or at the throw rug in the living room anymore.

Photo: a man crosses his legs & raises his hands above his head.

Photo: a man’s pink lips, a nipple, the curve of hair beneath his arm.

Photo: a man from the waist down, your boyfriend’s face reflected in the glass.

There are no photos of how it ends.

When it is over, you cannot bring yourself to pass his house.

When it is over, you cannot go to the only gay bar in town without seeing one of his models.

“It,” of course, means many things.

It has always meant

so many things.

The internet tells you, weeks later, he has begun a new project.

The men are still naked, still in his house.

He uses a long exposure & has them move, traces the white blur of their limbs as they bend & stretch against the wall.

In the photos, you see only the gesture of an arm, the outline of a scrotum.

You see only the space where the men’s bodies have been, becoming before the camera ghosts of themselves.

Patrick Kindig is a dual MFA/PhD candidate at Indiana University, where he studies American literature and writes poems. His poetry micro-chapbook, Dry Spell, is forthcoming from Porkbelly Press this year, and his work has appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Willow Springs, Court Green, Fugue, and elsewhere.


Bret Lott

February 17, 2016

Bret Lott author photo by Luke Rutan

Broken for Art’s Sake: On Exploding the Linear Memoir

(Author’s note: As will become embarrassingly apparent, this is the text of a talk given at the 2012 NonfictionNow conference in Melbourne, Australia, in a session titled “Rethinking Memoir: Contemporary Approaches.”)

Three or four years ago, there slowly and suddenly percolated into my classrooms a phrase that struck me for its puzzlingly honest sound.

“I’m not gonna lie,” I started hearing from my students, and then, suddenly, everywhere, always followed by a bit of cheeky opinion by the speaker, or a confession regarding wrong impressions, or something just plain embarrassing to say. Of course it’s only the next generation’s turn on the old phrase, “To be perfectly honest,” or, “To tell you the truth,” a phrase that, every time I hear it, makes me want to ask the speaker, So you would have lied to me otherwise?

So, just to clear the air here at our gala congress to talk about telling the truth, let me say this: I’m not gonna lie. I’m here because I wanted to go to Australia.

Would you have had me lie to you otherwise?

But rest assured, the pretext for my speaking to you, this notion of the broken narrative, the nonlinear memoir, is very, very close to my heart, my use of it borne out of a sincere desire—a sincere desperation—just to find out what it is I mean when I write.

But here’s what I really want to say, what I’m really not gonna lie about: Despite the précis printed in the program describing me as an author who has “exploded the conventional narrative container of memoir,” I myself haven’t been party to any “exploding” beyond simply trying to find what the one true path toward what I am writing is and can only be displayed. This may mean that, by accident or folly or dint of inability otherwise, I have indeed exploded something, but only in the same way one “explodes” the gimmickry of metaphor by finding just the right one, or the way one “explodes” the myth of true love by falling smack into it.

Still, the breakdown of the narrative form in nonfiction is a very real phenomenon. But it has always been real for all of us. That is, there is no new thing under the sun.

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Robert Alexander

January 20, 2016


Clouds of Swallows

The swallows arrive sometime after mid-April and nest along the bluffs. They ignore me as I canoe past, twittering around my head as they leap and spin in search of breakfast, pausing singly or in pairs for a brief moment (resting on a ledge or on a branch) before rejoining the hunt. At times I see them sitting on their nests, small bowls of mud and grass stems held together, like papier mâché, with dried saliva, lined with downy breastfeathers. I wonder how many mouthfuls of mud it takes, and how many hours, for a swallow to build her nest. If I get too close they fly off, and I can just see, if I let my canoe touch the cliff and I sit up very straight, a small brown egg in its cradle of down.

Today there are swallows flying all around me. Something catches my eye. I see two swallows together fluttering downward through the air. There’s one atop the other, and I’m beginning to get the sense of it—one holding the other in his wings, a confused motion toward the water below. (I’ve never before seen swallows more than touch the surface in flight.) They settle to the water’s surface, and he’s still holding on, seeming to pull her up and down—and as I start to fear she’ll drown, he finishes and flies off. She is floating now on the water’s surface, resting, her wings spread out on either side; then suddenly she shakes her wings and seems to leap from the surface of the lake, flying off to rejoin the cloud of swallows crossing back and forth beneath the limestone bluffs.


Robert Alexander grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, and received a PhD in literature from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. From 1993-2001, he was a contributing editor at New Rivers Press, also serving from 1999-2001 as New Rivers’ creative director. He has published two books of prose shorts and a book of creative nonfiction about the Civil War, and he has edited or co-edited four anthologies of prose poems and flash fiction. He is the founding editor of the Marie Alexander Series at White Pine Press.


Nickole Brown

January 20, 2016

Brown_PDF_essay_imageThe Baby Possum

What bothers me is she was beautiful—the possum, that is, young enough to still barnacle to her mother’s back—a baby, really, even though the word seems ill-fit for a hissing thing designed to grow a bite of fifty teeth made to sink into slugs and frogs and field mice.

What bothers me is she was beautiful—shining, even. Yanked from under the porch by our dog with his curious snap and shake, she was slobber-matted as one of his flung toys, but she was a glistening thing for the sun. She was on her side, and the few breaths I saw her take were pillowed, all sweetly abdomen, not unlike a kitten dreaming a nest of unspooled yarn.

We hoped she was only playing—possum, that is—only waiting out a spell until our dumbly vicious dog forgot her and lazed in the heat. So we waited with her. One hour. Then two, then five. And by the time too much time had passed, we knew that if she was playing it was only that game we are all forced to one day play.

Her open mouth had become a room crowded with buzzing jewels, each common bottle fly an impossible emerald frantic with the search to be the first into the soft and liquid cathedral of her body. It bothered me, all that beauty, that iridescent song, and so I bagged her up and threw her away.

Nickole Brown’s books include the collection of poems Fanny Says (BOA Editions, 2015), Sister, a novel-in-poems (Red Hen Press, 2007), and the anthology Air Fare: Stories, Poems, and Essays on Flight (Sarabande, 2004), which she coedited with Judith Taylor.




Nicole McCarthy

January 20, 2016

Matrimony in Four Parts

1. Spectacle

Ceremony: A rite or observance usually regarded as formal or external; or is it an empty form? Often regarded (and articulated to us) as symbolic or traditional.

My Fair Wedding, a television show hosted by famed wedding planner David Tutera, asks women from across the states to put their wedding in the hands of an expert at absolutely no cost. The rousing reputation that follows Tutera is that he’s not known for planning a wedding under $100,000. He makes the venues more grandiose, the wedding dresses more extravagant, and incorporates intricate floral and décor designs that could rival Martha Stewart on her best days. Networks such as Women’s Entertainment loop shows like this one on continual reruns, as well as Say Yes to the Dress and Bridezillas, to teach us the twenty-first-century ideology behind the ceremony: the spectacle. Should we care about companionship or about the designer dress adorning our bodies? Should we put our faith in everlasting love or the eight sets of fine china listed on our registry?

Weddings in China seem to exist not only to bind two people together, but also to display the family’s impressive wealth. Ten course meals for guests are common, and the bride is on display in up to three different wedding dresses throughout the event to demonstrate the impressive opulence of their social status. In Italy, after guests have gorged themselves on a plethora of pastas, the bride dances around with a satin bag in her hand, the sole purpose being to collect funds to help pay for the ceremonious affair.

We’re told through the art of subtext that it is undesirable to be alone. Dating websites cater to us to help find a significant other, even doing all the grunt work to search for your soul mate, saving you the months (or years) of soul searching and isolated anguish that is associated with dating, all for a reasonable monthly fee. Some websites even simulate the existence of a significant other so your friends and family won’t conclude you are a lost cause. Imagine being out to dinner with a date and things seem to be going well, but slowly your date becomes taciturn and distracted. Do you have lettuce stuck in your teeth again? Should you not have mentioned still living with your parents? Your phone buzzes on the table next to you and as you preview the text message, your date, abruptly possessed with intrigue, asks who it is. You tell them (with a knowing smirk) it’s another potential date. For twenty-five dollars, that scenario could occur as an artificial Internet wizard behind the curtain will lovingly dote on you through text messages and emails to give the appearance that your life has meaning because you found a partner. What about the prospect of living an independent life? At what point did we decide that we absolutely had to be coupled? Is it happening for pleasure or profit?

The wedding industry has evolved into just that: an industry. Capitalism got its hungry hands on newly engaged couples and cashed in on their impulsive, lovesick minds, forcing them to reconsider their intimate church wedding of twenty for the razzle-dazzle destination wedding of two hundred. Weddings in America are competitions now; within each lavish ceremony are brides looking to one up each other to prove their lives, and love, are more powerful than others. You can see the subtle expressions of boastful egotism if you look hard: in the seven-tiered cake; in the twenty piece band; in the three-hundred-plus guest list. Marriage marks a certain level of success; a box checked off on a long list of to-dos. Our society has successfully sold a tradition as an exhibition.

Is it still about love? Are we now being conditioned into getting married?

Initially, I was dazzled by the rings I was given as a “token” of tradition: 1.5 carats, 34 diamonds, white gold bands. The intoxicating glimmer, however, is all part of the spectacle. I was, at one time, entirely swept up in it. Sometimes I look down at them and I just see something that I have to wear.

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Isabelle Davis

November 18, 2015



the most important moments have been the moments in which i had to be quiet. not because i was following rules, but because to make noise would be to ruin & i knew that intrinsically. silence gives the moment gravity. it pulls my tree heart up & up from the ground & attaches it to the experience like a nest.


the piece starts in the winter & it ends in the summer & it lasts for 700 hours of gallery time. she sat & she did not move & she said nothing & she let other people sit & say nothing. & she called this art. & everybody cried.

on the last day people lined up over 24 hours in advance to become the last of the half a million people who went to go see her. one woman waited like this & took off her dress while marinas eyes were still closed & security would not let her sit down. she had to leave the premises. the woman cried. she just wanted to get closer to what marina abramović radiates.

marina lets people call her the grandmother of performance art. it has no grandfather. it does not need one with marina around.

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Marcia Aldrich

November 18, 2015

aldrich_photo cropped

During The Reign of M

From the beginning, the letter M hung over and shaded my life as if I had been birthed from the mouth of death. Sometimes it would be pleasantly cool in the eddying places of the M—mossy and green and well, meandering. But mostly I would get caught in the crux of the M and try without success to reach up and pull myself into the sun. Being fastened to the M was like being born in a meadow in the Midwest that a small river cuts through: all misery and mushy melodrama, mushrooms and mold, milk toast and milkweed, and I absolutely hated milk. As a young girl, Mother served whole milk in tall glasses, thick and unmoving—that made me gag and I was forced to drink or else I’d never be excused from my mother’s table. Ever. Sitting at the highly polished oval table on the cold slate tiles, the windows dark, staring at my untouched glass of milk, I saw myself growing old and my even older mother checking in to see how much I had managed to drink without a modicum of pity towards me even though she was on her way to death. And I made my way down the glass like the good martyr I was until it was bedtime and I could retire to mull the next day’s survival. A life of Mondays; imagine. Money and melancholy, maniacal machinations, manipulation, monotony, monogamy, mystery, manners, magpies, mud, missing things like love, trust, and happiness, mortgages, miniatures, mustard, mums, manners adhered to like plaster, mummies and mummification, metronome, marriage, no miracles, maximum detention, Moravian Seminary for Girls, always Mother, Mother, Mad Mother writ large in my girl story, mothballs and meringues, meaningful silences and stares, being woken up at midnight but not for mischief but to see my mother in her musty mint-green robe hanging over my bed with a cigarette burning in her hand, the Lady Macbeth of Macungie where I lived. During the reign of M, I fantasized about escaping into the letter H, crawling up one of its sides and sitting on its spiky peak above the fray. M inched along like a caterpillar, lumpy, rounded, soil mounded into gravesites or breasts, which were about the same. H was all lines, two thrusting straight up and one vertical, a crossroad, a bridge connecting the other two. I could see H burned into the hide of a steer, the stamp of territory. H had force, was not a mute, mild-mannered muddle. H sat at the front of the class and shot her arm up like a flash in response to the teacher’s question. H did not mutter under her breath and make it impossible to be heard. Speak up was what teachers said to M and not in tones of concern but said as if they’d like to munch her moth-pink lips right off her miserable face. H was a topper, a straight arrow, shooting for the stars. I pictured H standing on a hilltop surveying the world that lay before her. She would be hell bent on hilarity, heroism, putting her two shoulders to herculean labors. She would be a hellion rather than a mole, a hiccup rather than a murmur, a heroine rather than a mourner. When H appeared, crowds would send up a hooray rather than sink their heads and moan. H passed me once on the street in the bright morning light. She wore a red jacket with shoulder pads and her hair was burnished blonde like a helmet.
“ H,” I said softly, afraid.
“ What do you want?” she said. “ I’m late for an important appointment.”
“ H,” I muttered again.
“ Speak up, I can’t hear you.”
And on H went, without stopping. Eventually I accepted that no H awaited me, that M was my birthright, what I was and what I did, a marriage of sorts, the minion majestically holding up the edge of the casket merrily mincing steps on my way to the masquerade, remembering that touch has a memory, and that what touched me was M.

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