The Underground – Fall 2010
|Anonymous (Front Cover Photograph) by Angela Gerona|
|Leaves on Maple (Photograph) by Sr. Margaret Egan||4|
|Fretted Followers (Poem) by Andy Compere||5|
|Those Silver Sinners (Poem) by Ariel Pimentel||6|
|Haven Ave. (Photograph) by Melanie Martinez||7|
|Poetic Madness (Poem) by Robert Downey||8|
|Untitled 5 (Poem) by Melissa Gonzalez||9|
|The Balcony (Poem) by Chavy Delgado||10|
|Untitled (Photograph) by Professor James Sparks||10|
|Going to the Party (Short Story) by Dr. Robert Meade||11|
|Vanity (Photograph) by Angela Gerona||12|
|On Why I Never Took Up Painting (Poem) by Raymond Batkay||13|
|Homebound (Photograph) by Lucille Marcelo||14|
|$alvage (Poem) by Rob Ortiz||15|
|Untitled (Short Story) by Jeanette Morracco||16|
|Alex and Jehona (Painting) by Charlotte Marriott||16|
|Confusion (Poem) by Dr. Angela Parrino||17|
|Shoot the Arrow (Short Story) by Veronica Matta||18|
|Body Hollow (Poem) by Christine Westphal||19|
|Vincent Covered in Snow (Photograph) by Sr. Margaret Egan||22|
|Untitled (Back Cover Photograph) by Jaime Soto||23|
Special thanks to Francis DiNoto of Organic Productions for the cover design.
Why is it
that circumstance separates us
Are we all not matter?
Hear me out
You silly supremacist
There must be a mistake
An atom, a proton, a speck has gone awry
Do we matter
to the great starry void
the diamond gasses
in the long run
Do we matter in the mean time?
We are ants
an army of brains
Whereas you just are
and we cannot hope to interfere with your mystery and foreverness
so how can I even plead with you?
There must be some fate
in the temporary
Emotion is of little consequence to you
Justice, destiny, sin, beauty, death
Could you not allow me some small control over time
just for a short while
so I could have what I never could
and collect the moments I deserve
the whispers I dream of
I vow my soul if it is of any use to you, universe
its weight in gold
just for a grain of sand in your hourglass of always
Time wastes life
Waste my time
I’ll live forever
The sun is setting,
The sun rises another day,
but today, right here, on this
grassy knoll, unknown to most
of the artisans of this forgotten borough,
in a black sundress and sensible shoes,
spinning while the acorns
fall and the black squirrels of the Bronx are
foraging behind your performance,
and the wind picks up a little bit,
picks up your hair, picks up your dress,
picks up your lips for a kiss,
like a kid on amusement ride in Coney Island… all I have to offer to you is a goofy look
and a crooked smile.
and the beginning of this summer stays forever, stuck in between
you and me,
and if I could take a picture,
not with my camera phone, or a pixel, or a paintbrush…
but with my diction…
I would take a picture of this moment
and frame it with every lovely word
in every ugly language knowing that no vowel
could capture the wind and the sun setting,
no letter, no scribble, no period, no asterisk, no hieroglyphic,
no caveman drawing could capture this…
this moment… and I could think to myself…
self, if I could frame a time that I realized I was going to fall in love,
it’d be now,
and I’d take that picture down
from the mantel of my memories
fold it a hundred times and paint myself a picture perfect moment
and store it in my mental rolodex to quote from.
and refer to
every time you nagged me,
every time you pushed me to be more,
complained that we don’t save enough money,
every three hour phone call that results in nothing but
me complaining and you listening and me feeling that I complain too much…
every time all we talked about was the “us,” why we’re special,
why it won’t happen to “us,”
Why we are different… why we’ve failed to be the same…
Wondering what kind of Queen
wants a whiny, messy, self indulged
man like me to be the Mister
to her Misses.
I’ve got the sunset in Pelham Bay Park with the wind
and nature singing in the foreground…
She… she’s got me farting,
complaining about the Yankees.
In front of the barn she stands and stares. It’s cold and wet out. The barn suddenly seems even more dark and lonely when it’s washed out by the rain. She remembers how it used to be filled with life. But the horses that used to reside there have long since passed. Then she suddenly feels closer to the barn. Is it possible to feel a bond with an inanimate object? she thinks.
Its blood red doors are slightly open and the bed of hay inside looks inviting. But she refrains. Instead she studies the cracks and tears in the structure. She notices the torn roof and shattered window from the many storms this barn has withstood. Yet it is still standing, and she is still standing. In front of the barn she stares.
“I really don’t know how I got here, Arrow,” Victoria said as she softly brushed the dark-brown mare’s coat, afraid she would hurt her. Brush harder, the instructor said. “Sorry,” she whispered, and brushed harder.
After the brushing was done, the instructor handed Victoria the reins. Victoria tentatively led the horse from the stall to the riding ring. She stopped once in front of the gate and waited for her instructor to open it. The instructor directed her towards the mounting block. She went up the short steps, trying to swing her leg over the horse, slip her heavy shoes into the seesawing stirrup, and keep her grip on the reins at the same time. Victoria groaned to herself, certain to avoid her parents’ eyes. Why can’t I get onto this darn horse? she thought. Finally, with a great heave of her leg, she mounted the horse, and let out a sigh of relief.
Once on the horse, Victoria rode around the ring. She repeated, “I really don’t know how I got here, Arrow. I wasn’t always like this. I used to be happy and carefree. I loved without fear. But I was a little girl then. I didn’t understand what life was about.
“But now I’m seventeen, almost a senior, and I can’t hold on to anything.”
As Victoria was wont to do, her mind wandered, separating her from the present moment by a veil of pain through which she would suddenly remember the horse’s warmth.
Victoria remembered kneeling in church, holding her head and crying, rigorously examining her conscience, trembling as she approached the altar for Communion…After all, it was sacrilege to receive the Eucharist if one had committed a mortal sin…Had she? She didn’t know. Her parents softly patting her back as she asked them if this thought, or that word, or that act, or that feeling she could not remember had been a sin, trying to keep her voice low lest anyone else hear her in the silence of the church. One more pat on the back as her father left his seat, cross around his neck, as he went up to take the cup with wine for Communion. He said, “The Blood of Christ.” Amen, and she drank, and returned to her seat, trembling, knowing her father and mother’s gaze were upon her, pitying and worried for their daughter. How could anyone know what dark words and thoughts lay in the soul? Could she ever be sure what she had thought or hadn’t thought? Could she ever be certain of the distance between memory and imagination, fear and truth?
She saw the nights she sat by the trash can, the papers in her hand, half-ripped and half-crossed out, wrinkled, passing back and forth between her hands and the trash can. She wondered if she had stolen, after all, those things she thought came from her heart: scribbles and blotches of ink. Stories, poems, which she compared to others and feared she saw similarities. Or else, blasphemy, thoughts that would lead her straight to hell, if she were to die that night…Kneeling on the ground at night by her bed, attempting to say her Rosary. Her parents coming in the room, noticing the light was still on, to see her kneeling by her bed, crying, as they tried to tell her the things she already knew somewhere in her heart: that she was being silly, that she was a good person, that God didn’t want her to do this to herself…
“I knew all that, Arrow. I knew it. I knew I shouldn’t be torturing myself,” Victoria broke into tears just thinking of those nights—even those Sunday mornings which had become nights. “And my parents, they love me, I know they love me. But they didn’t understand. They couldn’t possibly understand what I felt, why I felt. Because I still can’t understand myself. And here I am, trapped!”
She remembered that time, just a year before, when she had gotten sick and had to stay in the hospital. The pain and fear every time the doctors tried to take her blood—pop!—they would have to dig the needle out and find another vein. Waiting as the doctors kept delaying their promises about when she would leave: One night…No…One more day…a couple more days…a week…don’t know…The colors on the walls of the children’s ward could not detract from the fact that she was in a prison. Thoughts of Otto von Bismarck, the great conqueror of Germany, and A Separate Peace, where that prep- school boy had half-accidentally, half-not, caused the death of his friend, did not help to improve her feelings. This was the homework her friends had brought from her sophomore year honors classes. For once, homework had not distracted the straight-A student from her loneliness.
She laughed, wryly: “Ironic, isn’t it, what I felt then? Just look at me now!”
Her instructor interrupted her thoughts: Remember, back straight, shoulders forward. Victoria adjusted her posture, then went back to her thoughts and conversation, wondering what the instructor would say about her talking to the horse.
“Well, I’m tired of caring,” she huffed.
Victoria had cared, a lot, when she had spoken to the therapist for the first time. She had said everything she worried, feared, regretted, looking on the floor, crying. “All those stupid things I cared about. Every stray thought, or thought of a thought…If people knew, they would mock me. Or pity me. Or say that I was crazy. Well, I am crazy, but not the normal crazy. I was—still am—terrified. Of my self. Of my immortal soul. Of hurting someone unintentionally—or that, in my dark soul, I wanted to cause pain, and was only deluding myself with my ‘goodness.’” Her therapist had not seemed to judge her. Instead, her therapist had suggested that she try horseback riding, an activity which would distract her from thinking too much of herself but give her a concrete goal. Something she could touch. “No, she didn’t judge me. But she gave me a name. Three letters. A sentence,” she breathed into Arrow’s soft mane. “If I told you my name, would you look at me differently?” She tilted her head to look at the black eyes at the side of Arrow’s face. “No, you wouldn’t.”
Her questioning the horse stopped abruptly when Arrow broke into a trot. While talking to the horse, Victoria had not actually been paying attention to the horse. She jerked desperately on the reins, trying to get Arrow to stop. “You don’t need to jerk on the reins like that! Just pull gently and say ‘Whoa.’ Do you understand? Loosen your fingers. If you pull too hard, the bit might damage her mouth,” the instructor interjected.
She whispered, “Sorry, Arrow,” and then answered the instructor. “I understand.” And Victoria finally did understand.
The instructor smiled, “Come on, give me the reins. Let’s go on a trail ride.”
As she handed over the reins which she had grasped so tightly, Victoria exhaled like a balloon. “What’s wrong?” her instructor asked.
“Nothing,” she answered. She was finally learning to let go of the reins, finally realizing the cost of all her jerking. Victoria patted Arrow’s neck, a tear falling on her hand as she stroked the horse’s mane. “That’s what I’ve been doing to myself, isn’t it?”
Victoria tried to breathe, to think of nothing but the voice of a summer breeze on a beautiful Saturday morning, the warmth of the sun, the sound of Arrow’s hooves over fallen leaves through the forest, the soft feel of her mane, the blackness of eyes which held understanding and gentleness, but also a wildness that no one could tame. “The wildness I lost—No. That I never had.” She would not miss her days of childish innocence anymore, when she was ignorant of the depths of her soul. She looked above her, seeing the tops of the trees that lined the forest path, the blue sky, the one or two cottony clouds; she looked below her, the leaves, tree roots, little pebbles she rode over. She sat back, her arms spread out at her sides. She laughed. “If I could just run, not against the world, not against myself—just run—I could fly. But that’s what I’m doing now. And when I’m scared, or ashamed, or think I’m weak and a coward, I’ll remember this. I’ll remember you. I never thought I would ride a horse, but I’m doing it. No matter how fast or slow I go, no matter who sees or doesn’t see me, I’m here, now, and nobody can take that from me. No one can steal this light, this joy, from me. And God won’t steal it. This is God’s wildness too.” She stroked the horse again. As if Arrow had caught her joyful spirit, she broke into a trot once again and Victoria tried to practice her posting—moving her body up and down with the rhythm of the horse.
Unfortunately, her lesson was soon over. Victoria led Arrow back into the barn, took the tack off, and once again took up the comb and brushed the horse’s mane. She said, “I don’t know how I got here, Arrow. And I don’t know where I’m going from here. But I’m going to get there. And I’m going there with you.”