A collection of writing and photographs found in Iowa City, the UNESCO city of literature. Included are works from New Jersey and Nebraska in the USA, as well as from Oman, on the Arabian Peninsula, and Moscow, Russia. These writers met through an international program at the University of Iowa; these photographs were found in a local antique shop.
Look between the lines and ask
for whom is woman?
for whom is love?
Poetry by Deryn Mierlak
Montclair, New Jersey
LOVE IN THE TIME OF HEINEKEN
the dolls tell you first
you see their expressions
lost in the cold paper of porcelain
as he buoys his lips
green valleys of glass
in the spaces between
there is one little one, with golden
reams of wheat-beer curls who whispers
he’s at it again
and you laugh her off, but trapped
in the painted planetary pull
of those lifeless eyes you see him,
played back from twelve hours ago
set in the crystalline chrysalis world of
then there are the siamese twins with
horsehair pigtails, the brunette
in the palsied overalls who smells of hay and
the twisted neck of sworn-off
the dolls will tell you first
through the webbed cracks in their freckled chins
this world will
be for him.
TO THE VIRGIN MARY STATUE EN ROUTE TO MY ORTHODONTICS
TO MARY, LOVE BRACES
i am not your daughter.
we do not share the alabaster blood
that runs smoothly down the marbled legions
of your face, no
we are not the same.
but I see you, a beacon of
lost suburban goddesses that
adapt in this land of highwayed hell pockmarked with
today they will twine metal through my mouth and
crown my molars queens of obstinacy.
i will think of you above the tomb
and play along.
Flash Fiction by Hajir Al Zadjali
THE STORY OF US
I’ve always had this dream of holding my daughter’s soft, little hands in mine, whispering to her, her daddy’s story. I’d pull her into me, cradling her head into my chest, gently sweeping the hair out of her eyes, and she’d listen. All night long to our story. Yet something about that night made me spill it all out onto her ultramarine sheets. I told her about the first time I laid eyes on him, and when I thought to myself ‘God what a douchebag’ he was. About the time when his hand lightly brushed the back of mine, like an artist’s stroke on a canvas masterpiece. As much as I tried to PG appropriate the story for her, I realized that I wasn’t doing our story any justice that way. So 18+ restricted or not, I let her know, but without the unnecessary details of course.
But when she asked me to describe him for her, I found myself at loss with words; trying to reconcile an image of him, and render it deep inside my heart, so that I’ll never forget. Love isn’t always the clearest picture, you know. Sometimes you think you realize something conspicuous in the background, but the next time you look at the same picture again, it’s a completely different outcome. So, I told her that all my pictures were blurred, but she insisted. I tried to make it simple, so that someday she wouldn’t be able to recognize him from a crowd. His hair was jet black, the color of charcoal pens that smudged my hands when I drew him, with his smokey eyes looking straight at me. Sometimes I would get nervous and struggle to finish his portrait, when I knew that he was gazing intently at me out of the picture. They were the color of graphite, dark and mysterious yet shiny and bright, always squinting when he laughed, his deep voice booming, and echoing the walls of my heart.
He was mesmerizing just like the night sky, always wearing different colors on him. Albeit, I wasn’t a pink type of girl, I grew to love him when he wore his scarlet hue at dawn, and his majestic indigo at twilight. He was always there, just like how the sky is everywhere, watching me at all times, and I grew not to mind. Because the night had a thousand eyes, and they were all shiny, dark, and bright.
I told her how her daddy drank. A lot. She didn’t cry, she didn’t flinch, she didn’t say anything. That’s when I realized that she was strong, that she was her daddy’s girl. Daddy quit drinking when he messed up, and hit Mama by accident. After, his friends never forgave him for that, I don’t think he did either. The moment he sobered up, he was on his knees in front of your Mama’s big bump begging for her pardon.
Honey, your daddy made my heart feel like grandma’s sourdough. He rolled it in the flour, and kneaded it over and over again, molded it into what ever shape he liked, and left it to grow. Once it had gotten big enough to carry his pain, he punched through it again, and let it grow one more time. This time it became large enough to breathe and carry the pain of both of us. That’s when he shoved it into the oven to burn. Your daddy was a horrible cook, you should know that. But what he didn’t realize is that life likes its bread toasted not burnt. When it was rescued out of the oven, it remained burnt from the outside, and when you ran a knife through it, you’d taste the sourness it left behind in the inside. Yet if you dusted every slice of your daddy’s loaf, you’d find nothing but his fingertips all over my heart. Sweetie, I want you to know that you have the biggest slice of all, so hold on to it tightly. That’s all I’ve ever wanted your dad to do: cradle your little body to his broad chest, and envelope you with his big, warm, hands, like how I’ve enveloped the butterflies I got in my stomach, when he first smiled in my direction. I’m still nervous right now, because I have another pair of dark, bright eyes looking directly at me.
Poetry by Hanna Hall
Short Hills, New Jersey
summer rain, and we
sashay down the street,
swill our skirts past the bodega,
blind tango down mainstreet.
dresses drip down flat bellies
as we tip our smooth faces skyward,
water sliding off our lids.
we have many fears:
shawled women speaking
the language of laughter & laundry.
shawled women with hands
like mama’s, thick like morning dough,
hard as frying pan.
shawled women we do not
we have desires. we chase away
our time flitting
from streetlight to streetlight.
our backs embracing alley walls,
we practice kissing mangoes,
skin supple & too tough to be ours.
juice laughs down our unlined chins,
tastes of spanish sweet on our lips.
we dream of gentle boys with rough hands.
we dream of rough men with gentle, cupping hands.
we dream tequila dreams & soft white veiled dreams.
we dream with our long black hair snaked wet along our pillows,
we curl out of bed & sway our hips with naked dreaming eyes through the day.
the city hugs its wide hips around us
and tugs us away to hidden corners,
palms us, displays
Poetry by Daria Ivanova
HE WAS A MAN WHO LOVED TO DRINK ORANGE JUICE
He was a man who loved to drink orange juice
For breakfast, for lunch, for dinner and for his own funeral.
His notebook was full of nothing.
He was a man.
He was a man who loved to hug pines and oaks
Every time he felt scalding loneliness.
He was a man with 101 reasons to read
Albert Camus instead of writing a letter
For his old mother in the house for elderly people.
He was a man.
He was a man who loved curly hair,
But his own was straight as a shift of paper.
He was a man with collection of funny hats,
But he will never put them on his head.
He was a man.
He was a man who was keen on swimming
In deep purple sea – but it was one of those things, that he could do only in his boundless mind.
He was a man with dreams to see an alien in his garage.
He was a man who loved to grow sunflowers in his kitchen.
He was a man who opened the philosophy book when cold tears falling down to his nose.
He was a man.
He was a man who loved small brown beans of coffee,
And poetry, and colorful socks.
He was a man who loved to look at the sky in searching of God.
And he has found Him.
But this’s another story.
He was a man who loved his sister’s smile
And his brother’s laughter.
He was a man who loved every person in the world,
But he didn’t love when someone loved him too.
He was a man who loved.
He was a man who loved everybody.
He was a man who loved, but did not want to be loved.
Black swallow in white sky,
Grey swallow in white sky,
White swallow in white sky,
White swallow in grey sky,
Black swallow in grey sky,
Grey swallow in grey sky,
Grey swallow in black sky,
White swallow in black sky,
Black swallow in black sky,
Nobody will come back.
But everyone can fly.
Poetry by Margaret Davey
And that was the day she puckered her lips
And planted seeds in his mouth
And they waited together to see what would sprout
And the girl said a rosebush
And the boy said vines
And on his tongue, the seeds withered
And the girl turned to soil
And he swallowed.