Sugared Water issue no. 003
56 pages, handbound, limited edition of 195 with hand-pulled covers.
Contents include poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction.
SW003 was released in 2015.
Valentina Cano, Sara Biggs Chaney, Yuan Changming, Tessa Cheek, Audrey Childress, Dana Clark, Liz Dolan, Katherine Frain, Jennifer Gravley, J. Todd Hawkins, Russel Hehn, Ann Hudson, Mark Jackley, Anna Leahy, Rachel Mangini, Sarah Nix, Molly Prosser, Jim Redmond, JoAnna Scandiffio, Caitlin Scarano, Marvin Shackelford, Rhiannon Thorne, Maggie Woodward, Alicia Wright, & Emily Yoon.
MOONLIGHTING AT THE POST OFFICE
keeper’s sister had a drag leg
but that didn’t stop us from
running our hands
she was asymmetrical hightailing her way
out of here
but people who talk their dreams don’t
walk them they swallow them like flies
one by one
so she stayed tethered to stray dogs coming and going
going and coming
as she sat at her postmaster’s desk
on east side of Firth’s place filing
do not forward letters
that she read on the sly as if she could
catch a whiff of love-on-the-run
JoAnna Scandiffio is scavenger poet who rummages through old love letters, rusty pots and pans and leftover dreams to make poems with missing parts. Her poems are night passengers, zookeepers, bullets. Give her a wishbone and she will set the barn on fire.
FIELD GUIDE TO FARMING IN WINTER
Can we play the game where we pretend that everything we have is something we once wanted? Yesterday my calendar ended and I bought one marked January January January—I’m thinking: our words spelled ache do not total to the same sum. I’m thinking: the ground guards our dead even with the weight of so many feet pressed to it at once—I’m thinking: every second billons are standing, running, dancing, but the earth does not crumble or collapse to its center
like I did
when he said he didn’t want me like he once wanted me, which I’m thinking was never with the ache of the river, the kind of ache that bears weight, the kind of ache that means I will carry every drop of you to sea. I need January to say it—say he will grasp me like fever under almighty needles of evergreen, say he will color my cheeks with a paintbrush dipped in ice and snow, say soon the world will turn blank white again and melt my equation back to zero—
once more that every sunrise is my smudged eraser from second grade, wiping away to begin again, that every midnight is a kind handshake from the new moon, a thank-you for my glance upward, that every frozen blade of grass is a silent lover who might miss the warmth of my body in winter, when mornings are too cold to leave without shoes and I ache to walk barefoot through earth’s piecemeal fields, spinning forward in the milky daybreak toward tomorrow.
Maggie Woodward is an mfa candidate in poetry at the university of mississippi, where she is senior editor of the yalobusha review & curates the trobar ric reading series. she is also a programmer for the oxford film festival. her work has appeared or is forthcoming from The Atlas Review, Devil’s Lake, Witch Craft Magazine, Cloud Rodeo, & New South Journal, among others. Her chapbook is FOUND FOOTAGE (Porkbelly Press, 2018).
IT'S DARK IN HERE
It does not matter. All body parts are music
in my throat. At fourteen I thought about sex
and men telling my body I love you.
Would you be disgusted to know? I had concocted
faceless men to lick my breasts and kissed
goodbye to childhood. Wrap me around him,
says my dari, wrap him around me, harmonizes heori,
tensing and waning as meori lowers. How strange is it
karak can mean tune, and attached to meori becomes hair--
let’s dance a spectacular dance tonight.
I’ll traverse the creases of your skin, down the life line
that cleaves the thumb from other fingers
with an arc of a comet. Purl through
the lilts of heart and destiny. I waited years
to put your face to my dreams.
Everything you are seems to be of the sky.
I’ll press your planetary weight. Hold you
to my terrain. Hum the names
of heavenly bodies that bore you here,
oceaned the swells and folds of the hand
that bursts me like a plethora of stars.
IT'S DARK IN HERE
Sweetest thing I held in my mouth,
sweeter than any fruit any summer. One pomegranate day
my aunt spooned its insides and said,
good for women… with a smile of a girl
slier than me.
But I’m not in your poem
fitted to the invisible cup of your palm, I’m not the nectar
spilling viscous over you.
I want your poem for me
between my teeth, lacquer my palate
with its seeds. I would place it
beneath my breasts,
no one would see the sweetest secret
I kept, like the pomegranate I ate
ladle after ladle, wanting to know the good
for my woman inside.
I feasted on your poem
but I wasn’t in it.
MY GRANDMOTHER REMINISCES WITH PEACHES
Peaches you eat at night. In the dark
you can’t see the insect bites. At her house,
breakfast of clean peaches. Reminisce
about the time my grandfather wrote a letter saying,
I will love you like I live. He did not think
or care about endings. He sustained like a rock,
unmoving, unmoved, unprecious and gray.
In truth, he never wrote that letter. He never said love
to anyone. Instead, he proposed to my grandmother
with the one unblemished peach from an orchard
and cooled it in the stream for her.
He wasn’t a romantic, you know,
she tells me. But he always left a basket of peaches
at her feet in the summer. He carried and she carved
that viscous fruit, pieces
to place on the parted lips
of their sleeping children.
It is a sweet morning
like those days. My grandmother dyes my nails
with garden balsam. See if it lasts till first snow, she says.
With my ear on his chest, I could imagine snow
blossoming among stars.
My cheek dreamt well
on his heart.
Emily Yoon is Korean-Canadian. She is currently most interested in reading modern/contemporary Korean poetry and its translations. Her poems appear in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, APIARY, and elsewhere. Emily received her BA at the University of Pennsylvania and is pursuing her MFA at New York University.
the coyote made legion by the hills left behind
when the river in a slow meander
carved its way through years and mud
is quiet now and the neighbors –
and the neighbors’ dogs –
at the first peal of thunder, remember:
trees reaching not over the highway
for each other,
but breaking themselves forward
for their own roots.
the mutter of a tire
spinning wild on its bent rim
is not so foreign here; neither are
your knees, hung in the rain like
a hinge through the open window.
fields assimilate barbed wire
but no matter: cattle nudge wide
strands, chew grasses from both sides,
ignorant of fences.
the church where we’d sat small
and quiet, ankles crossed, eyes wandering,
lost somewhere between the crucifix
and the cemetery beyond the stained glass,
where in the dark we’d play, ducking behind headstones,
hands clamped over mouths to keep from waking the dead
is gone now.
the cemetery remains, undisturbed for years.
grass has grown over our footsteps, floods
have canted headstones, have caked inscriptions
with mud. we could wake nothing now, should we loose
Alicia Wright was raised in West Virginia. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bitterzoet, Kenning, Rufous City Review, and Kestrel. She is an assistant editor of Mid-American Review.
VITAL MECHANISMS OF THE COLD WAR, ENDED
My father drives his steam engine
through the ear of the sky, aims to speak
with tiny mechanical angels.
There has been a mistake.
In his fist he grips a rotary telephone.
Already he’s spoken to Russian
infiltrators making clandestine love
deep in the bluegrass fields,
friends conceived in tubes and bathed
hopelessly in holy water.
At the clouds’ spearhead a surgeon
white and endless directs him
onto the bed of scales, weighs his life.
Exhale, he’s instructed. Exhale
light from your eyes, fluid from your lips.
When your fingers slip the controls
the dials drop the value of your pulse.
He’s uncomfortable but opens
his throat for the necessary wires,
miscellaneous dead men’s vertebrae,
foreign maps implanted as answers.
He awaits the last, immediate loss.
Marvin Shackelford lives in the Texas Panhandle with his wife, Shea, and earns a living in agriculture. His works appears in other such journals as Confrontation, burntdistrict, Quarterly West, San Pedro River Review, and Armchair/Shotgun. Aimless tweets @WorderFarmer.
And she told two people and
Stray neutrons uttered—
Anna Leahy’s book Constituents of Matter won the Wick Poetry Prize, and her poems and essays appear widely. She teaches in the MFA and BFA programs at Chapman University, where she curates the Tabula Poetica Reading Series and edits the international journal TAB. She also co-writes Lofty Ambitions blog at http://loftyambitions.wordpress.com.
for Kate Hammerich
We weren't sure if we should laugh or be appalled
when people thought your poem about the police
pulling a gun on you
was poetic license.
But how could they know the truth?
That you were there
and you weren't there
a frightened voice
on the other end of the phone,
knife-in-hand and lost
in a cornfield,
a woman yelling at you
to put it down, put it down
(A man's voice
the woman yelling again
and you telling me,
I love you DON'T MAKE ME SHOOT
a long, hard silence
the line goes dead.)
Rhiannon Thorne lives in Phoenix, AZ. Her work has appeared in Grasslimb, Midwest Quarterly, The Sierra Nevada Review, and Existere. She is the managing editor of cahoodaloodaling and a book reviewer at Up the Staircase Quarterly. She may be reached at rhiannonthorne.com.
The light in the room keeps changing. My neighbor
mows his lawn. I listen to the hum. Bells.
Stop, I want to yell, it’s hot, it’s Sunday—he’s trying to beat the
but even in the cloister Therese of Lisieux attended to essentials:
singing, baking, stitching the ripped sleeve of her muslin gown.
My sister Tess has missed 500 Sundays. I miss her
knife clicking on the board
chopping the carrots and onions, the lentils roiling, a cantata.
I long for beef stew. Without my mother’s cast iron pot
I never get the blackened bits to scrape into a gravy
so thick you could stand a prayer in it. Yesterday
from a reading I brought home two cupcakes,
one lemon, one mocha cream. I froze them for you. Outside
a humming bird quivers above the fig tree
as if its tiny heart is about to burst.
IF THE BUS IS LATE I WILL WAIT IN THE RAIN
Come back. I will listen.
so we can begin again. We will
bleach the mildew off the shady side of the barn
wear white gloves
plant lobelia and creamy calla lilies
sweet corn, egg plant, winter squash.
Next to the plot of cornflowers
where a bee colony buzzes about its enclave,
we will sing the old songs
around a brilliant fire. So distracted am I
by your absence, I have scorched
the roof of my mouth.
Send a letter written in blue-black ink on linen sheets.
Wherever you are I need to know
you are faring well, you are whole.
I need to see your sweeping C’s and unclosed o’s.
I need to press the oil of your skin.
Liz Dolan’s poetry manuscript, A Secret of Long Life, nominated for the Robert McGovern Prize, is forthcoming (Cave Moon Press, 2014). Her first poetry collection, They Abide, was published by March Street. Liz serves on the poetry board of Philadelphia Stories. She is most grateful for her ten grandchildren who pepper her life.
ON THE GLORIES OF GRAFFITI
J. Todd Hawkins
On the long weathered fence near the work-route stoplight above a circumscribed, inverted, five-pointed star, thick black paint with pitchforking drips reads SATIN RULES. Perhaps the Devil is not picky about disciples' spelling, but I like to picture some child, having crept from bedroom window, hunkered near a buttress of newly dead leaves laughing crazy-eyed while ducking headlights, risking grounding and years of impossible curfews to bring smirks to bleary-eyed commuters and extol the virtues of soft bedsheets: some imp conscripted in the service of angels sacrificing the plain wooden regularity to fashion a billboard that makes men clutching crumpled pinkslips feel smarter than someone. Bless the clever scribe who risked so much to make this dawn's coffee less bitter. Were that everyone set out at night armed with rattling cans pilfered from neighbors' garages to scrawl bad puns on the fences of this town—imagine the private pleasures we all would chew before the daily heaviness begins. Here's to canonization for the Dark Lord's semiliterate servants! Ah, that they may inherit the Earth.
J. Todd Hawkins
Early that morning I went out with the misted shotgun
into the tall alleys of Grandaddy's sorghum,
stamping flat the scabbard yuccas
to which the frost stuck like stars
fallen from the leonids.
The dove flushed from the mesquite in a delicate frenzy
of panicked twigs, thorns, like a gray torch.
I shouldered the gun, fired,
Beating the scrub, I looked for the wounded bird,
cutting and digging and ripping hands raw,
hoping to reach it before the fire ants did.
While deep inside the clutching thicket,
its death danced on papery wings,
and its hairlike bloodstrings
streaked bright the pale oak leaves
even in the beginning of rain.
Professional editor J. Todd Hawkins holds a master’s degree in technical communication. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, Chiron Review, American Literary Review, and elsewhere. His haiku and haiga appeared in the anthology Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku and Haiga (Dos Gatos Press, 2013). He is currently working on a collection of blues-inspired haibun.
E MOTHERFUCKING T
ET keeps phoning home, but nobody answers.
At first you’re happy to let him stay,
but then he just doesn’t leave.
He picks up the FM on his fat pointer.
He watches the same John Wayne movie
72 hours straight without blinking,
recites entire excerpts from Baywatch
and the Reagan inaugural address in his sleep.
He regularly checks in about fluoride levels.
He starts saying things like my bad,
Charlie don’t surf, where’s the beef,
like do you know who I am, I’m E fucking T,
and we’re out of Sunny D again.
Even the guys in the hazmat suits
seem to grow bored with him.
They say he’s ruined the alien for everyone.
He gets a gold tooth. He delicately taps
the tip of it with his grouper’s tongue
whenever you suggest he maybe look for a job,
consider counseling, even a night class;
it’s the only thing left of him with any shine in it.
He says his real work is just starting.
He says he’s never felt so human.
Jim Redmond currently lives in Austin, TX. Some of his work has been published or is forthcoming in Blackbird, PANK, Redivider, and Word Riot among others. He currrently blogs for Drunken Boat, where he runs a monthly series on literary community. His chapbook, Shirts or Skins, won a Heavy Feather Review chapbook prize.
and I believed
it must mean everything
to sing out
Rusty axles breaking
and a hard grin.
HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY
You killed the wine and trashed the house.
We soften into silt.
The little river beds
carved into our faces,
even without lapping
tongues have the last
word. Cold as stone,
just the facts:
Mark Jackley's new book of poems is Appalachian Night, available free from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Natural Bridge, Fifth Wednesday, Sugar House Review, Talking River, and other journals.
A TEST OF ART AND SCIENCE
They had taken on water quickly and had only their four hands to bail. Pam, on her knees in the bottom of the boat, her pants wet nearly to her crotch, couldn’t help but notice her cousin was shit at bailing. Palms pressed close, Pam’s hands made an effective scoop that dipped out ounces and heaved them over the side. Her cousin splashed wildly at the puddle that threatened to sink them. His fingers were splayed, his palms barely cupped. His effort amounted to more of a splashing-about then a bailing-out and Pam was about to tell him.
Pam was a year younger than Jed, but was, it seemed to her, a person who understood more about how to do things, even things she had never done before, like bailing a sinking boat. It came to Pam naturally, this bodily knowledge. Cup your hands just so, scoop, toss, rescue. That morning Pam had to show Jed how to lift the grate inside the woodstove and brush the ash from the firebox down into the ash pan. When it was full, she would probably have to show Jed how to remove the ash pan and empty it.
Creative people, Pam understood, like savants, sometimes lacked practical skills. Jed’s lack was a chasm of unknowing. Instead of inhabiting his flesh, Jed floated above it. He was the most intelligent person Pam knew. That was why they were out here together on a month-long retreat, a sort of artist’s residency meant to spark their creativity, train their focus, and renew their devotion to their crafts: painting and sculpture for Pam, sound editing and writing critical essays about sound editing for Jed. The only two creatives in a family of business-minded folks, Pam and Jed had gravitated toward each other since childhood, but the older they got, the less, in Pam’s estimation, they were alike.
Pam once considered, after several glasses of wine, what it might be like to have sex with Jed. She decided it would be unimaginable. Jed wouldn’t know where to put anything, how to hold himself, when to reach out, when to hold back. Their teeth would clash. He would press too hard. Instead of losing himself, as one should, Jed would be so fully present in his mind he would spoil the fun.
Was that why, Pam wondered, Jed focused on sound? But no, that made no sense, sound invaded the body as much as any of the other senses piqued by art. Perhaps more so than visual art, aural art got inside you and made you feel things. Sound was as sensual as sight, though perhaps less so than touch, taste, and smell, but those had little to do with what Pam formally considered to be art. Though, she thought, wasn’t cooking an art? And, there was the art of seduction. Wasn’t bailing water from their apparently poorly-constructed wooden boat an art?
Pam slowed in her task, felt her fingers plunge into the water, felt it fill her palms, heard it splash into the lake. She felt the remainder of what was to be bailed lap against her. Yes! This very experience was art. Watching Jed flutter about, his long dark hair wet against his cheek, his pudgy fingers pruning, the grayish tinge in his complexion giving way, under duress, to a pinkish undertone, movement, change, wasn’t that art too?
Pam peered over the side of the boat and saw a fish swim by. If they were able to catch that fish and cook it, the smell—of lake, of the hawkweed that grew alongside the lake, that briny smell the cooking fish would give off—and the feel of it flaking away on her tongue as she ate it, wasn’t that art? The fish hovered for a moment near the smooth round rocks at the bottom of the lake then darted off. Weren’t those rocks, though they were plain and had been described by so many writers as simply what they were—smooth, round—weren’t they art too? From the boat, they were a still life. A mise en scène. And if she could, could she pluck one up from the lakebed? What then?
Pam stopped shoveling water, scuttled forward toward the bow, and heaved herself over the edge. The water was only waist deep. She plunged her hand to the bottom of the lake and plucked up a stone. It stimulated the touch sensors in her fingertips. It felt as it looked, smooth and round. It was cold. It had a certain weight to it, the weight of a stone. Was that art? The simple fact of something being what it was? Holding a stone in your hand.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Jed was hollering over the noise of his continued frantic splashing.
Pam shushed him. She reached her empty hand into the boat and used it to physically restrain Jed’s arms. When the water in the boat settled, they could see that there wasn’t much left. Sloshing around it had seemed like more. Jed’s panic made Pam forget that in spots the lake was shallow enough, and anyways she could swim just fine. Both of these facts turned the disaster into something manageable. Also, it now donned on Pam, and she said to Jed:
“It is a wooden boat. It leaks until the wood swells.”
Jed assessed the boat, bobbing happily atop the lake, swollen and watertight, a barrier between he and the abyss.
Pam still held the stone in her upturned hand. She waited while Jed calmed. She waited for quiet and when she thought she heard it, she closed her fist and pulled her arm back. Pam chucked the stone clear across the lake. It traveled with considerable velocity until the force of gravity pulled it from the air toward the water. Science. Pam wondered if Jed would hear it: in breaking the surface tension of the lake, the stone made a solid and satisfying sound.
Rachel Mangini’s fiction has been published in Smokelong Quarterly and The Fourth River, amongst other places. She recently finished a screenplay based on this story and is currently working on a novel. everyonesanocean.wordpress.com
WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN FOUR
It’s the swelling summer before
my senior year of high school.
My closest friend drives us with black
and white movie precision
to the Crewe Cemetery.
She shows me her older sister’s
headstone: Melissa. Born
the same month and year as me,
October, 1987. Her father
killed her by Christmas.
I too am a daughter, one of three.
What should have been four.
My friend’s voice peeled & contused
as fruit. Her gaze a tire iron.
We stand in the stunted summer
cemetery. She is sixteen.
I am seventeen. Her mother
was younger than us when
this happened. The plots throttled
with crabgrass. Both our bodies
heady, redolent of incest. Both of us
trying to cut from a past heavy
and elaborate as a body. I thanked her
for sharing, as if she’d lent me
an umbrella. Heat lightning
in the closing prayer
of that August afternoon. But no
rain, nothing to speak of.
THE ANIMAL FOR THE YEAR IN WHICH YOU LEFT
The blue horse that usually stands outside the door
of my dreaming isn’t there tonight. Instead,
I am lost in a building of hallways filled
with plantain lilies. Snow has just begun to fall
from the ceiling when I round a corner
and there you are. The same flannel shirt,
the same confused expression caught in the net
of your boyish face. Look at the black magic
I still yield – I remembered you and it made you
appear. Why did you come? To my cathedral
of winter, my labyrinth of night, the only place
I can keep secret from enemies and lovers
(though you always refused to be either), the blades
between their teeth. I’m here for a funeral
or a wedding. I can only stay one night.
So we create a strand of flesh, thin
and glistening as spider thread, between
us – my rib finally attached to your wrist.
Whole seasons and sorrows have limbed
across this stage since you left. The snake year
is still trying to devour the horse year.
My mouth broken as landscape, my kneecaps
creaking like glass. Remember the parked car,
how the blue snow swallowed the November
night outside of us and you said, I could
fall in love with you so easily. Already aroused
by the countries you would soon put between us.
Caitlin Scarano is a poet in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee PhD creative writing program. Her recent work can be found in Crazyhorse, Colorado Review, and Chattahoochee Review. Her first chapbook, The Salt and Shadow Coiled, was just released by Zoo Cake Press.
my heels sinking,
fluttering against your sleeve,
our shadows flung across the grass
under the cerulean
This moment’s architect
directs us with his hands: Wait.
Turn this way. Hold me
pillars of trees.
Move closer. That’s it.
He frames the window.
Sarah Nix received a BFA in 2006 from Herron School of Art and Design, Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis. Her poetry is forthcoming in CALYX Journal. Her blog is sarahonpaper.blogspot.com.
Valentina Cano, Sara Biggs Chaney, Yuan Changming, Tessa Cheek, Audrey Childress, Dana Clark, Liz Dolan, Katherine Frain, Jennifer Gravley, J. Todd Hawkins, Russel Hehn, Ann Hudson, Mark Jackley, Anna Leahy, Rachel Mangini, Sarah Nix, Molly Prosser, Jim Redmond, JoAnna Scandiffio, Caitlin Scarano, Marvin Shackelford, Rhiannon Thorne, Maggie Woodward, Alicia Wright, & Emily Yoon
edition of 100