Man Putting on Boots

By Mattea Dean


Maybe if he slept for a day with me

and we could bear to be there forever

only loving, we might succeed, always

the words said perfectly: every I love you

etching into our brain stems, rhythm

of our pulses in tandem, the hot

and dense fog of our breaths

in the blanket cocoon, that comforting

soft shelter against the crumbling

plaster walls. Only yards away

 

his boots loom at us

threatening to overcome

our serenity

inside this private world

by forcing themselves onto his feet. But they just

sit there to wait or rot

in the corner, and I wish we could,

if we only lay still right here,

know each other better than the rest. But

then, so long as the boots plant themselves in the corner

we’ve got no time, our bodies cling

to one last sliver of heat

to rightly assure us, the dusty

leather skin of their bodies

slouched there. Old and worn, they whisper

their pleas in asthmatic voices

ingrained with accumulated wisdom

as he rises to put them

onto his cracked feet

like the rest of him, a mass of scars

in ropy skin and well-worn arms

flexing their lengths outward

with a ripple of light.

Poppyseed Muffin

” This story was relatively easy to write. It actually started coming to me on Tuesday when the Options for this assignment were being explained. It bothered me that I couldn’t write it down at the time, but I made sure to keep the idea in my mind until I could. The waiting room in the story is loosely based on one in Bozeman Deaconess, which I spent time in when I was younger when the artery in my dad’s leg collapsed and had to have a stint. He turned out fine, but I imagined what would happen if he hadn’t, and wrote this story. “

By Shiloh Miller


You sit quietly in the empty room, not really aware of your surroundings. You know you should be feeling something, pain maybe or grief, and that you should cry but you just can’t. The tears won’t come. You feel numb as you look up at the ceiling. There’s a T.V. mounted in the corner of the off white room, tuned to some midafternoon talk show. You turn your head to look at the clock on the left side of the room. It seems to tick slowly, each movement sounding so loud, almost booming as if it were giant and daunting in the quiet room.

You fidget a little in the chair, its wood frame creaking and the floral patterned cloth shifting uncomfortably under your weight. You get up and drag yourself to the elevator at the end of the room. Your body feels heavy like lead and just lifting your arm to push the button is a big effort. The bell dings as the door slides open, almost echoing through the room and you step inside. Soft music plays as you ride to the ground floor.

There is a small food cart set up near the entrance to the building, warm smells and steam drifting from it. You walk up to the cart and the guy behind it smiles at you as you pick up a poppyseed muffin. In the brief moment when your brain actually becomes conscious you consider buying coffee, but decide it would be a bad idea because it would give you jitters and just stick to the muffin. The guy behind the counter gives you your change and looks pointedly at a small plastic jar with a paper “Tips” sign taped to it. You shove all your change in it, not even caring that it was twenty bucks and a few quarters, and turn away as the guy stares at you in astonishment.

You get back in the elevator, sit back down in the empty room, in the uncomfortable chair, and unwrap your muffin. It’s golden brown with little black seeds and you stare at it intently. Your stomach growls, but you can’t really bring yourself to eat the muffin, so you pick at it instead, nibbling little pieces like a mouse. You try to pick each little seed out of the muffin, but it’s impossible and you put the muffin down and stare at the T.V. for a while. Your brain is so numb that you can’t really comprehend what’s happening on the screen so you just watch the shapes move on it like a handicapped chimp. A nurse walks by and you turn to look at her for a moment, only registering that she’s a nurse, not thinking about where she’s going or what she might be able to tell you.

After a while the nurse comes back, but she doesn’t stay and you don’t really care anyway. No one has told you anything since you arrived there a little after 3am. Your mind is reeling and memories flash in front of your eyes.

Dad is holding you, when you were about 5. He holds you tightly, but not too tight, as he swings you in circles while laughing and smiling. You’re riding on his shoulders so you can see above the crowd to watch the parade, the colorful floats and dancing horses filing past you. “Hey, buddy!” He calls, coming home from work. You smile and run to him, hugging him tightly. You’re 12 and the two of you are walking up on the hill you always hike on, looking for shed horns from deer. He’s delighted when you find one even though it’s just a little forked horn and there’s only one. You come home on your 14th birthday and he’s horrified to find that Mom has taken you to get your ears pierced. You punch him in the arm and tell him he’s being a baby. He curls back in mock pain and horror, never actually feeling your feeble punch. He’s too strong and tough for that. He sits in the 2nd row of the gym, watching as you receive your high school diploma. His face is beaming with pride. He visits your college dorm for the first time, cracking a corny joke about how messy it is.

You can’t imagine life without him. Your eyes begin to close and you fall asleep. When you wake up it’s a little after 2pm and the nurse is gently shaking your shoulder. When you turn to look at her she clasps her hands in front of her and looks down at you sadly. “I’m sorry,” she says. “He passed away just a few minutes ago. There was nothing the doctors could do.” You look down at the ugly carpeting and blink. Your brain is still numb and you haven’t really processed anything yet. The nurse sits down in the chair across from you with her hands in her lap. You sit there and blink for a few more seconds as your brain begins to click on and the words she’s just said make their way deeper into your mind.

Not just your mind, the words start to make their way deeper into your heart, your very soul, until they strike your center. With a wail like that of a wounded animal you fall from the chair onto your knees and tip over, curling into a ball. You clutch your chest and squeeze your eyes shut. It hurts; it hurts more than you’ve ever felt before. It’s like you’ve been impaled on a spear while at the same time a little black hole has opened in your heart and is slowly sucking up little bits of your soul. You roll with agony, wailing again as the nurse shifts her feet. You kick the table next to your chair and the muffin falls to the floor and bounces up to your face. You grab it, squeezing it tightly until crumbs fall from between your fingers. Mom comes rushing into the room, back from her phonecall and trip to the grocery store to get medication for her allegies. Despite being in a hospital, no one can give her anything to stop her nose running and her sneezing. She begins to weep and holds you tightly. A baby cries from one of the other waiting rooms. Finally…your tears come.

 

It’s been several weeks since your dad passed away. You see him in everything, every room of your house. The landlady has lowered your rent out of kindness, since you now have only one source of income in your house. You sigh and go about your way, scouring the Help Wanted ads for a job. Mom asks you to go get groceries. You get your keys and head out. You go through the list, putting only the necessary items in your cart. You stand at the checkout, staring out the big windows at the front of the store. A display nearby catches your eye. It’s a stand with a big sign that reads “Muffins.” You walk over to it as the cashier finishes scanning your items and pick up one of the prepackaged goodies, bringing it back over to the checkout line. As you place it on the conveyor belt, the cashier quickly picks it up and scans it. The monitor above her register reads “Poppyseed Muffin.”

 

 

Warrior Princess

” This is about my diva cat Mary. “

By Mattea Dean


Her round ochre eyes stare complacently

From under the blanket, scrutinizing her prey-

A fuzzy blue sock

 

Her ear twitches, sending her voice into a high-pitched battle cry

She rises, adjusts her stance-

Then pounces

 

A mass of sleek black fur,

A tumble of outstretched claws and hissing throat

Then just as quickly, she backs away

Innocent and demure

 

She prances nonchalantly back to her perch under the blanket

The picture of composure

An angel with a demon inside

 

She waves her limbs in the air, begging to be petted

Her belly is scratched

And she falls into the gentle rumble of repose.

Stones

By Nate Witham


We are standing stones

You and I

The river flows over us

The current shapes us

Uniquely

Every cascade is new

Yet similar

Every blow we take

Scars us

Cuts us

Shapes us anew

We are made to fit exactly where we need to

In every moment we are who we need to be

We may not fit just now

But we are all stones

And the river flows.

 

The Dental Hygienist

By Tala Fehsel


I once loved a dental hygienist. One of the ones who talk to you when your mouth is full of steel and blood and latex, talk about the weather as they drill your numb flesh to the bone. She didn’t make eye contact– she looked people in the lips, in the smile, in the mouth. She didn’t seem to need the second half of a conversation. I was happy. I’d never cared for talking, anyway.

We’d go out to dinner– what’s the forecast?– and she’d look me in the mouth like she always did and smile and laugh and my heart would ache to kiss her but she never touched my lips, not once.

She said she couldn’t, she said she spent all day at work staring at and picking through the wires, the weak spots, the histories and stains of meals and fights and coffee and alcohol. She said she couldn’t stand to see that with me.

Then don’t look, I begged her, close your eyes. That’s how most people kiss anyway.

She just laughed and smiled and shook her head and looked me in the mouth like she always did– there’s a storm coming in tomorrow, they’re saying– and let me wind my fingers in her hair.

One night, when we were laying side by side and she thought I was asleep, she kissed the tops of my eyelids. It was so gentle it might have been breath.

I wondered if my eyes were enough to see what she had seen.

Death and Dragons

” This is a nonfiction piece about making a connection between my grandmother’s death and the movie Dragonheart. “

By Amanda Spangle


Dragon.

It is a word that can evoke thoughts of fear, whimsy, religion, or wonder. Usually an image of a giant long-necked lizard with horns, bat-like wings, four legs, and a spiked tail come to mind. They have appeared in legends throughout human history, from South America to the frozen Arctic.

The dragon from the 1996 film Dragonheart was designed to have the classic look of European dragons. Scales, wings, talons, and the resonating voice of Sean Connery. The creators of Draco wanted to remind us of medieval tales of knights and magic. None of them could have imagined that their Academy-Award-nominated CGI masterpiece could have helped a little girl understand death, and thus change her life.

 

On August 23, 1953, Walt and Doris Spangle gave birth to Corine Rhey Spangle, affectionately known as Connie. She was the classic beautiful baby, with round cheeks, tufts of toe-head blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a red button mouth. In photos she is either grinning happily or gazing intently into the distance, as if trying to understand the meaning of the universe at three months old. Like most new mothers in the 1950s, Doris followed the doctor’s orders and put Connie into her crib on her belly.

In January 1954, Doris found her lifeless baby in her crib. A “crib death,” was the diagnosis then, now known as SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. According to Child Heath USA, 26 of every 1,000 infants died of unexplainable causes in 1955. By 1980, this statistic dropped to 12, likely due to the change in policy that infants should sleep on their backs. Though there has been extensive research, nobody is sure what causes SIDS.

Walt and Doris went on to have four more children, all boys. Their youngest, Walt, Jr. showed me where the Draco constellation was when I was three years old. I can still find it on clear nights, just off the Big Dipper. In Dragonheart, it is the dragon heaven.

 

In Dragonheart, the protagonist, Bowen, has to kill Draco in order to kill the evil King Einon. A piece of the dragon’s heart is inside the king, rendering him immortal. When Draco dies, he becomes a glowing ball of magic and beauty, presumably a star. He moves up through the night sky, completing the constellation and making the sky explode with stars.

I always cry when Bowen looks up at the star before it shoots away and asks, “And now, Draco, without you, what do we do? Where do we turn?” Draco’s voice replies, “To the stars, Bowen. To the stars.”

 

In 1990, Walt Jr. brought his new girlfriend home to meet his parents. Brandi was quickly a favorite, with her sharp humor and good nature. During their “getting-to-know-you” conversations, Brandi revealed her birthday as August 23rd. Doris became very quiet for the rest of the evening. The next day, photos of Connie were all over the house, photos Walt Jr. had never seen before in his life.

 

On August 4, 1993, Walt and Brandi Spangle gave birth to Amanda Corine Spangle. She was the classic beautiful baby, with round cheeks, no hair, big blue eyes, and a button mouth. In her first Christmas photo, she is grinning like she knows a secret. Like most new mothers in the 1990s, Brandi followed the doctor’s orders and put Amanda into her crib on her back.

By now, Walt and Brandi lived an hour and a half away, but they visited frequently. Doris loved Amanda, but Walt always had a feeling she was confused about whether the baby was theirs or hers. She looked too much like Connie, and Doris’s mind was fading. As Amanda grew, her parents were not allowed to punish her in front of Grandma. When she fell off the tire swing, Doris demanded it be taken down.

Photos of Connie were still up.

 

Dragonheart was debuted in theaters in May 1996, earning a little over $51 million dollars. This was just short of the $57 million dollar budget used to generate a detailed CGI dragon voiced by Sean Connery, and provide the salaries for big-name actors such as Dennis Quaid, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, and Jason Isaacs. In the New York Times’ review on May 31, 1996, Janet Maslin writes, “In “Dragonheart,” the story’s central fire-breathing creature is so well realized … that the human cast faces an uphill battle. In a film geared to extra-patient 8-year-old viewers, it’s hard to compete with a giant flying toy.”

I wasn’t an 8-year-old when Dragonheart was released on VHS, but my review of the movie was that it was spectacular. I was three, watching it for the hundredth time. The underlying themes of religion, extinction, and disillusionment were slightly above the comprehension of the three-year-old before the screen, but I understood that Bowen the knight was good, King Einon was bad, Brother Gilbert was hilarious, and (most importantly) Draco the dragon became the final star in the constellation from which his name was born.

My parents assumed I liked the movie because I had been obsessed with dinosaurs up to this point, and dragons were sort of like dinosaurs. It inspired my father’s decision to buy me my own TV and VCR, so I just watched that and Dragonheart back to back all day in my bedroom.

Thinking back to those movie binges, I can only recall Draco’s profound final words.

“To the stars.”

 

At 8 AM on April 13th , 1997 my mother got a phone call. My father was working night shifts at the power plant and was asleep.

My parents packed us up and drove the hour and a half to my grandparents’ house. I was very quiet, thinking about the news. When we got there, Stan and Glorianne Weigan, old family friends, had already arrived to comfort my grandfather. Before too long, Uncle Floyd and Uncle Don showed up with their families. Hank was living in Germany.

I followed my usual routine while we were there: I took the box of toys from the guest bedroom and began to play by myself. One toy in particular was my favorite, and I have watched my baby cousins play with it dozens of times: an old Fisher-Price phone on wheels with a bell that dings every once in a while and a red string in the front to pull it around. I would sometimes talk to people on the other end, as all children will, and so the adults ignored me.

This day, however, I hung up the red phone, walked into the living room still dragging it by the red string, and said, “Grandma said everything is okay and she’s with Draco now.”

My parents have talked about this instance often, about how strange it was. Their three-year-old daughter making a connection to death in such a clinical, profound way. About her having a conversation with her just-passed grandmother. I was very serious, and made sure to tell everyone I was not joking. I was serious for a long time afterward.

 

I have two tattoos: a dragon crawling up one shoulder, my father’s initials in the space beside its curved tail and a dragon shaped from the letters of mine and Belle’s initials. They were inspired by my love for my family and my long-lived obsession with mythological fire-breathing lizards. In boxes labelled “CAREFUL” back in my father’s house, wrapped carefully in newspaper, are dozens of dragon figurines. Sculpted glass Chinese dragons, plaster creatures from sketchy gift shops, and two soft plastic figurines of Draco the dragon from the Dragonheart themed birthday cake my mother ordered when I turned 4. All through school, I was the “dragon girl” who drew fire-breathing lizards on scratch paper and read the fantasy books, especially if they featured the D-word in the title.

I think after the events on that day, I was drawn to dragons through a desire to have my grandmother back. Through the years, things change, and I just evolved to keep my childhood love with me. When I try to remember Doris, I can only recall warmth and joy.

My next tattoo will be written in Celtic font, with a constellation behind the words:

“To the stars.”

She’s Alive

​” The late at night drunken rambles of a twenty-something going through a quarter life crisis. “

By Mikey Athearn


She disappears when she least expects it. In the calm, quiet moments of the morning she feels herself fade away. There is nothing to ground her. There is nothing to keep her in the moment. She is beyond herself in these moments. She is transcendent. She is nothing. In the pale light of almost day she breaks apart. There is no longer a burning in her flesh. There is only nothingness. In her deepest soul she craves those moments. She needs them to survive. “I am nothing.”

She stands in the middle of her empty apartment and laughs. She laughs for the lovers she left and the lovers she lost. She laughs for those who are dead and those who are soon to die. She is hysterical. Her laughter breaks through the still nights and wraps around her. The laughter is her only comfort. It caresses her skin and kisses her damp eyes. She laughs harder at the tender touches. Her sides ache and her breathing is haggard. Still she laughs. She laughs for her past and laughs at her future. She laughs for all of the times she cried and for all the times she felt helpless. The laughter hurts which makes her laugh more. She is only laughter. “Let me tell you a joke.”

She never gives her love out gently. It has to be torn from her like a piece of flesh. She fights it at every turn and grins when it is finally given. Her love is not a good thing. It is a promise of future pain. Her love is a disease that eats everything alive. It is chaos in an emotion. It is a quiet poison in the night. Her existence revolves around turning her love into an ugly beast. It is the reason for death and the reason for her life. Her love is not pretty. “I love you.”

She feels it burn inside of her like a disease. The pain is unbearable but it is the only thing keeping her alive. She hates herself. She hates everyone around her. The world is spinning so fast and she cannot stop it. She has lost control. Her feelings aren’t her own. Her thoughts aren’t her own. Her heart beats but she feels nothing at all. She cries out, hoping that someone will hear. There is nothing. There is only her hollow voice in an empty room. She prays for death but hopes for life. Her existence is at an impasse. “Sometimes I feel like letting it all go.”

It starts in her chest, like the prelude to a panic attack that will never come. It grips her heart and injects itself into her bloodstream. She feels it spread throughout her body, taking over everything that she is. The feeling is complete; the need to destroy something so utterly that it can never be loved again. She stares at her reflection in shattered glass and sees the breaks on her own face. It is ice through her veins and fire in her eyes; the bile on her throat and the venom on the tip of her tongue. The moment is pure, primal, serene, disgusting, terrifying, beautiful, and consuming. That is the moment when the mask is gone. Her essence is on the surface and it calls for blood. “I feel like doing something destructive.”

She wants to rip her heart out of her chest. She wants to hold herself out, bleeding and naked, for everyone to see. She wants to scream and force people to look at her. Her heart is not pretty. It is dark and small. It has many cracks and bleeds at the slightest touch. Her heart is who she is. She wants it gone. She wants someone to finally see that she is slowly dying inside. Her heart is shrinking. Her heart is breaking. Her heart is in her hand and she wants nothing more than to crush it in her grip. “It wasn’t that important in the first place.”

She cries late at night. In the calm moments when no one is awake she lets herself go. There is nothing holding her back. She has nothing to hold onto. She is hurt. She is pain. She has betrayed those she loves and has lived selfishly. She doesn’t regret it so she hates herself more. She cries until she laughs. She has turned her back on everything she loves. It feels like ripping out her soul. She would do it again for eternity. “I am the worst thing that could happen to you.”

It is finally the day. She cuts her hair and burns her bra. She stops shaving her legs and wears short skirts. She runs through fields naked and screams at the top of her lungs. She fucks who she wants and stands up for herself. It is the day where she no longer cares. It is the day she lets go. It is the day that she is whole. It is the day she tears her heart from her chest and throws it at everyone. She is finally free. “I can no longer be touched.”

She doesn’t want someone to die for her. Dying is final, complete, absolution, an escape. If you really love her, live for her. If someone holds a gun to your head and asks where she is, don’t refuse to tell them and die. She doesn’t want that. Smile at them, then kick them in the shin. Tell them the wrong address. Give her up. Just don’t die for her. She can never love someone who dies for her. There is no point in loving someone who is dead. “I want to be alive.”

Keep Portland Beered

By Alan Weltzien


So why not pedicabs for hire

east of the River, circuit of up to

nine stops in a town boasting

dozens of craft microbreweries?

 

Two cabs, two young beer experts

quick with local history and opinion

pedal five of us from one brew pub

to the next as my desire races ahead

 

of my belly. After our first table

I switch from halfs to flights

and I fly over ranks of brews,

my eyes glaze hundreds of bottles,

 

my tongue discovers farmhouse ales,

Belgian style, I sigh and smack lips

as I lose track of names, gradations of

hues and hops. My mouth clenches

 

against sour beers, too much for sour me

and I watch thin patrons, regulars

who, Melinda says, bike everywhere

rain or shine and whose waists,

 

therefore, don’t spread despite their loyalty.

By the fifth station I droop,

my palate dulled and body sodden

with suds. All those beers beyond reach,

 

those releases awaiting my mouth

and enthusiastic reviews. If there were

world enough and time. . .I swim out

of the ocean and we repair to an Ethiopian

 

restaurant to float food atop liquid middle earth.

Sylvia 103°

” This is about Sylvia Plath because I have this weird fascination with her. “

By Mattea Dean


Your name rolls off my tongue like bittersweet honey.

At age thirty, you abandoned this world

Your rage, your passion, your suffering-

 

Internal demons wrestle with mindless abandon, sense is overshadowed

by the dullness and fatness of Cerberus

 

Cerberus, a giant of your own dark psyche

Was your paradise a mortal realm, or was your paradise an ashy, otherworldly place,

Pure, no longer hurtful to you, our unstable acetylene virgin?

 

Your selves may dissolve, but the pieces scatter and settle in the corners

of my own shadowy awareness.

A Proposal

” Some rhyming thing I wrote for a Weltzien class and I thought it was cool. “

By Mattea Dean


I invited Death for a cup of tea,

He said he wanted to marry me.

I told him I wasn’t prepared to commit,

He said, “Well that’s a shame, isn’t it?”

Told me we could be best friends

Lovers and soul mates until the end.

I do believe he meant what he said,

And his words did not fill me with dread,

But Death is not the monogamous sort

Perhaps he used me as a last resort.