Hellscape Issue 1
The Templeton Report
Justin Rule is a BFA student at George Mason University. He would like to thank Fizza Fatima for creating the girl's handwriting in this project. He has this to say on "The Templeton Report":
I have always had a fantasy about holding a conversation wrote in small graffiti, the kind you find on desks in a library, or in used textbooks. Ever since I got the internet in the mid 90’s I have been a frequenter of chat-rooms. There is something about both the anonymity of them and the openness that the anonymity provides that leads you to telling strangers things you wouldn’t tell anyone. I wanted to get at vulnerability in a way that merged my fantasy and my hobby. I also am interested in exploring “story as artifact”, as I enjoy alternate reality narratives. This is a way for me to merge all those interests in a way that helped me explore all three things. In its first presentation I put The Templeton Report in a manila file, and distributed it to my creative writing class, and ideally, that is how I would present it to the world. I would want it to be a file left on a bus stop bench for someone to find. But beyond that I wanted it to be believable, and look believable, but at the same time be wholly fiction.
In another life, I die tonight.
Fire floods my eyes.
In a third, I stay and marry you.
You name both sons Allister.
Both my girls are Sophie.
In tonight’s world, parked
outside Dick’s Liquor,
I am unarmed and disenchanted,
lucky and empty.
I have to pee.
I think about your bathroom,
white wall and ceramic
of the sink. The metal rod
matches the deep
silver sink in the kitchen. Signs
for a real estate agent with your surname
mock me up and down Pearl Street tonight.
Kayla Krut is from San Diego, California. She earned her MFA at the University of Michigan and has poems in recent issues of a perimeter and the Brooklyn Review, and on Tin House's Open Bar. She lives in Vienna, Austria, where she tries to translate poems into and out of English and German, respectively. Read more at kaylakrut.wordpress.com.
Medusa scrubs at freckles of mold in her basement apartment. Stains surround her—as ghosts. But besides too-much moisture and too-little closet space, Medusa is happy with her shitty, tucked-away apartment.
The men don’t come around so much.
Sometimes teenage boys get word of her new address. They press their greasy foreheads against her windows, throw eggs at her already-scabbing front door. And once or twice a month a man comes knocking-- usually, disguised as salesmen or deliverymen, or a missionary.
There is a man knocking at Medusa’s door right now.
Medusa sets down her bucket of bleach-water, and peers through her peephole, watches the man pat down his hair, smooth out the wrinkles in his industrial-colored rented uniform, check his breath in his palm.
As she looks out at him through the disfigured lens, she wonders what it would be like to feel so unwatched.
“Go away,” she yells through the door, “I don’t want whatever you have.”
“Please,” he says, “just hear me out!”
He bargains, then begs (they always do), and when Medusa still does not answer, his voice thrashes like a gravel road with too-many potholes.
“You don’t have to be a bitch about it,” the man yells as Medusa turns up her music so loud that her speakers crackle and the notes vibrate in her ribs, and she goes back to cleaning.
The music is all Medusa can hear or feel or exist within. In fact, she is the music—she thinks this to herself as she rubs a sponge against a spot of mold in the corner of her living room.
The man leaves eventually, and takes with him whatever he wanted to sell or deliver—they always want to sell or deliver something, even if they thought that was guise.
Later that evening, Medusa hosts a “Girl’s Night” at her apartment. “Girls Night” is a term she uses for its tawdry temptation, for when her friends, The Snakes, come over.
She calls them The Snakes because they are dancers and they jut through the world like branchless tree trunks—bare and unapologetic for where they rise. Perhaps, Medusa thinks, she should call them The Trees instead, but she decides against this.
Medusa has made sangria, pinched orange slices into the narrow mouth of a jug of red wine. After a few glasses, Medusa and The Snakes feel shrill and boundless. The already-small apartment is smaller with wine slithering through their limbs. And the specks of mold stained on the ceiling are looking down at them.
One of The Snakes announces, “We should go out!”
“Yes! Yes!” the other Snakes chime in.
The Snakes know a good bar called Athena’s Shield, or Perseus’s Sword, or something else equally as self-aware.
Medusa sighs. She knows how many blinking eyes are out there, feeling vested and hungry. But a happier part of her—a sticky intrusive part—wants desperately to say yes, yes, let’s go where it is wide!
So Medusa and The Snakes ready themselves for the blue-black of out. One of The Snakes pulls a ruby-studded choker off her own neck and asks Medusa if she’d like to wear it.
“It will look perfect on you,” The Snake insists. She clasps it around Medusa’s neck. The beads hug her swallow, but Medusa doesn’t mind. She feels lucky or armored or all her own, or all of the above.
“Wait,” Medusa says, before she and The Snakes trail out of her apartment. Before they leave, Medusa goes to the bathroom mirror to look back at her herself and the red streak that neatly surrounds her neck.
She smiles, feeling glittery and seen.
Elspeth Jensen earned her BA in Creative Writing from Western Washington University, and is currently pursuing her MFA from George Mason University. Her writing can be found or is forthcoming in journals such as the Bellevue Literary Review, Rust + Moth, Gone Lawn, The Midway Review, The Penn Review, and elsewhere. She is the Assistant Poetry Editor for So to Speak and the Poetry Editor for Sweet Tree Review.
Two Pieces by Kerfe Roig
A resident of New York City, Kerfe Roig enjoys transforming words and images into something new. She likes to recycle materials, but she does not limit herself to any particular media. Her poetry and art have been featured online by Right Hand Pointing, Silver Birch Press, Yellow Chair Review, The song is..., The Light Ekphrastic, and Visual Verse, and published in Ella@100, Incandescent Mind, Pea River Journal, Fiction International, and several Nature Inspired anthologies. You can follow her explorations on the blog she does with her friend Nina, https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/.
Three Things I Hate
There are three things that I hate, but only three things:
1. Arrogant People.
There are three reasons I hate arrogant people:
A. Arrogant people make snide comments like:
1.) “I am better than you, you bad apple,” or
2.) “You are far beneath me, you worm,” or
3.) “My pet snake is cuter than your kid.”
(This last, a sentiment I prefer not to bumper-sticker- read while driving my Saab, which often breaks down.)
B. Arrogant people look at you through their bifocals—which were designed
for reading while also enabling focus on the leaves of distant trees—as if:
1.) you are a worm writhing in a sidewalk puddle,
2.) your wormlike state is one they pity and despise,
3.) they are determining whether or not to step upon you, the wriggling, pitiable, drowning annelid that you are.
(These three, all parts of an analogical annelidization.)
C. I myself have a propensity for arrogance.
1.) I look down upon worms.
2.) I look down upon snakes.
3.) I look down upon most humans.
(I am 6’4; my stature only abets my arrogance.)
There are three reasons I hate snakes:
A. Snakes are undeniably creepy; their creepiness stems from the fact that
1.) are obese worms,
2.) curl up in trees or on rocks or in boots, and squirm upon the ground,
3.) look moist, yet are not.
(This third, the most unsettling.)
B. As a species, snakes are unequivocally arrogant; this, due in part to the fact
that they look down upon humans because:
1.) we only look moist in certain situations,
2.) we shoe-crush worms without consideration of their feelings,
3.) snakes have wormlike stature; for this, they hate us.
(Being 6’4, statistically speaking, I likely face more snake-hatred than you; for snakes dole out their hatred proportionally based on the distance from your brain to theirs.)
C. Snakes are largely to blame for the moral degradation of humankind:
1.) think: Adam and Eve, an apple, a snake (see Genesis chapter 3),
2.) think: the originators of arrogance (see Genesis chapter 3),
3.) think: all evil actions actually originate as a perverse reaction to
human attempts/inability to comprehend how snakes appear moist, but
are, in actuality, dry.
(For this last, do not see Genesis chapter 3.)
There are three reasons I hate Satan:
A. Satan was a snake. Or at least this is:
1.) a theological tenet handed down to us via Judeo-Christian scholarship of Genesis chapter 3 in concert with Revelation chapter 12, verse 9—“that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan—,”
2.) painted, wrapped around a tree branch, in Rubens and Brueghel’s The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man,
3.) depicted in John Milton’s longwinded, iambic-pentameter- talking
serpent in Paradise Lost.
(Of these three, I most trust Milton’s account, for his Satan is the most arrogant, and thus, I have to imagine, the most accurate.)
B. In Genesis chapter 3, Satan, in his faux-moist snake form, looked at non-moist Adam and Eve and convinced them to eat an apple, thus introducing arrogance into the world, which has been passed down throughout the generations; this is difficult to comprehend because:
1.) snakes cannot speak, though their arrogance is still palpable,
2.) if they could speak, snakes would arrogantly tell us how much they look down upon us (metaphorically), and little else,
3.) a snake would not want a human to eat an apple, for worms often abide in non-pesticided apples and snakes know this and are rather protective of their creepy-crawly brethren.
(In part, snakes hate humans because we eat apples, which are worm abodes, which forces homeless worms to aimlessly burrow throughout the soil, which necessitates their emergence with the rain to avoid drowning, for which we cement-stomp them; snakes know this and look down upon us humans, and we reciprocate.)
C. Little kids dress up as Satan for Halloween; this is awful because:
1.) our toddlers adorn themselves as cute-devil- Satan, which is not snake- Satan, mythic originator of evil, ur-arrogance itself, worm of the underworld, overlord of hell; Satan’s snake-self is his most terrifying form; Halloween is for scares, so dress those toddlers as snakes,
2.) if a kid wants to costummemorate the downfall of humankind, they should dress up as snake-Satan, who looks damp, but is not—the true locus of evil as we know it,
3.) little kids are too self-absorbed to realize their costume mistake, yet we indulge, dish our hard earned dollars for cartoon horns and forked staff, take a photo, send to grandma; when they come to our door, in our arrogance—for we recognize we are smarter than they—we bend our 6’4 frame to their worm-level and gush,
(How cute! Take an extra mini-Twix!)
Robbie Maakestad is an Assistant Features Editor for The Rumpus, received his MFA in Creative Nonfiction at George Mason University, and is writing a biography of place about Jerusalem’s City of David Archaeological Park. He has been published or has forthcoming work in Essay Daily, Wigleaf, Bad Pony, The MacGuffin, Free State Review, and Bethesda Magazine, among others. In 2017, Robbie was shortlisted for the Penguin/Travelex Next Great Travel Writer Award. Follow him @RobbieMaakestad.
I had a worm’s eye view of what I’d be asking for
by opening that can, but it wasn’t enough to keep me
from taking it in the grip of my one hand, & sinking
the opener’s tiny, circular saw into the tin-lined-steel lid
with the stubborn squeeze of my other, nor from promptly
releasing the drawn-out hiss of irreversible fortune.
Because some assiduous early bird inveigled them to the moist
soil’s surface by the surefire incantation of an iron bar rubbed
for hours against a wooden stake—that enterprise of a rarefied
brand of zealots known as grunters—gathered them by the bucketful,
& vacuum-sealed them with their natural juices, I now find myself
ignobly tasked with their consumption. What do I even know
of nutrition, or of divining ways of meeting its requirements?
What sources replete with protein, calcium, copper, phosphorous,
potassium, & magnesium, have ever been fed to the likes of me?
What words, for that matter, have assumed the form of any viable
answer to my question of hunger? I’d have better been born deep
in the Venezuelan Amazon, & inherited my people’s recipes,
that my cells had been infused with sustenance sufficient to pass on
to my children, & nutrients enough to fortify my blood against malarial
convulsions. I’d have done well to eat that fat fauna my parents had
unearthed, smoked, & served up with those cassava roots they’d purified
of cyanide. I’d have eagerly borne any inundation just for the chance
to turn in the brimming earth, wind up my fertile channels, & face the sun.
Stephanie L. Harper lives with her husband and children in Hillsboro, Oregon, where she performs the beatified deeds of a home schooling parent and writes poetry, sometimes simultaneously. She is the author of the chapbook, This Being Done (Finishing Line Press, June 2018), and her poems appear or are forthcoming inSlippery Elm, Rattle, Figroot, Califragile, Harbinger Asylum, Panoply, and elsewhere.
A Photo by Jim Zola
Jim Zola is a poet and photographer living in North Carolina.
4 Poems by Tina Parker
Last night she yanked us from our slots
And stuffed us into a paper sack again
We don’t know what she wants
To keep us from.
The Incident: Noon
(The report said) I struggled
And ran my stomach
(The report said) I screamed
I’d kill the baby
Or make myself go
The report said
Children, this is what we say to make Bloody Mary go away
Our Father which art in heaven
Oh shush, don’t
Hallowed be thy name
You don’t need to teach them that
If you’re really a witch
You can’t tolerate the Lord’s name
That’s not true
Thy Kingdom come
I will come through this mirror
And scratch your eyes out
Thy will be done
The Incident: Morning
I found the stockings you gave her
And that dress so frilly
Did you tell her to keep them
Nice and pressed
Did you tell her to keep them
For her burial
Tina Parker is the author of the full-length poetry collection Mother May I and the poetry chapbook Another Offering. Her work has received support from the Kentucky Foundation for Women; individual poems have appeared in such journals as Rattle, PMS: poemmemoirstory, and Still: The Journal. For more about her work, visit www.tina-parker.org.
The chef makes deliveries
He carves moon-shaped marks her apartment building’s entryway—waning crescent, waxing gibbous, last quarter. When she sleeps, he slips into her room to cross her pink forehead with ash. He loses time. Her glossy calendar page—white block stars against her bedroom wall—a witness to his nighttime visits. With a black marker, he draws X’s on each day of the month. When she awakes, she finds matzo balls floating in her kitchen sink and cloth napkins in her doorjamb.
Cat Dixon is the author of Eva and Too Heavy to Carry (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2016, 2014) and The Book of Levinson and Our End Has Brought the Spring(Finishing Line Press, 2017, 2015). She is the managing editor of The Backwaters Press, a nonprofit press in Omaha. She teaches creative writing at the University of Nebraska. Her poetry and reviews have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Sugar House Review, Midwest Quarterly Review, Coe Review, Lime Hawk, Eclectica, andMid-American Review