Dog Ashes

Fall 2016, Uncategorized

Michael Colbert

Moeller, Otto Friedrich Theodor von (known as Fyodor Antonovich Moller in Russia); 1812-1874. “The Kiss”, 1840. Oil on canvas, 59 x 65cm.

We used to stay up late, sitting on the campus quad and talking about friendship, the direction of America, or film. We’d sit there for hours, talking and listening until her feet felt numb from the cold.

We first met at orchestra auditions. She wore glasses she didn’t need and her hair was long and curly, something she always complained about to curly-haired friends like my floormate Fanny. I sat on my saxophone case. She asked, “Why are you auditioning for orchestra on the saxophone?” She doesn’t remember that this was the first time we met.

We met again later freshman year, and she was Fanny’s cool friend. My only friends were my roommates and some people who lived on my floor like Fanny, so Fanny bringing a girl from the outside conferred some sort of status upon them both. Well, at least to me it did.

She and Fanny would come back from orchestra rehearsals together and talk on Fanny’s bed. I’d come by the room to say hi to Fanny and there she was. I recognized her by those cool, transparent, circular glasses.

And then she was part of our floormate group. She started as a novelty. Somebody that everybody tried to lay claim to so that they had friends from another dorm. She fueled it, organically, by always showing funny videos to different people or talking about that cover she’d heard. Then I’d hear my floormate, one of the random ones, blasting it in the shower after I’d just stopped listening to it.

Soon she wasn’t just a novelty but our friend. All of us knew her, and she made us all laugh. I started listening to her music and making her jokes.

“I just assumed that everyone’s high school English teachers were Canadian because mine was,” she said.

Nothing made sense except for that feeling that she made you feel. But that didn’t make sense either. She had us watch The Talented Mr. Ripley and I thought that movie nailed it until Matt Damon killed Jude Law and then I knew I still couldn’t explain it. Magnetism? Longing? Obsession? MPDG?

I decided to name the feeling a crush. She made out with other guys at parties and hid her hickies with turtlenecks.


We made out. We were drunk. I grabbed her ass on the dance floor. A redhead girl grumbled next to us. The night ended with everyone in the girls’ bathroom on my floor, holding back our Other Film Friend’s hair as Other Film Friend thought she might vomit. Her floormate Chuck–she was bringing her external friends into our insular, floormate group– was there too, texting.

“I had a lot of fun,” I said.

“Yeah,” she said.

“Do you want me to walk you home?”

“I’m okay.”

We said we’d go on a date but we didn’t. She disappeared for a bit and I made out with someone else, and I thought she got jealous and weird. Now I know when she said, “I’m happy for you,” she’d been looking for an undamaging way out. The other girl and I ended the next weekend. I realized I couldn’t be into another girl if I was still after her even though that door had been closed.


Summer came. The last night of the semester we all went to a concert. Iron & Wine. Burlington. We called for him to play “Upward Over the Mountain,” but he didn’t. When Other Film Friend and I were leaving to drive back to campus for the night and she was staying in the city, she chased after the car like in the movies. But it was a quiet neighborhood, so it was different. Other Film Friend and I laughed and she laughed and we didn’t see her until the fall.

That summer I told her how I’d gotten really into Iron & Wine.

“That’s a really intense thing to get really into.”

I started talking about film as art. Philly, where she was from, was suddenly a cool city I wanted to live in after graduating.

We saw her back at school. She lived with Fanny and Other Film Friend, and I lived with Chuck. Chuck and I would walk from campus through the cemetery to their apartment, drinking coffee brandy I’d gotten older friends to buy us.

She made out with my old roommate. Other Film Friend’s semi-boyfriend from the year before. We all stopped seeing her, and she felt alone. I forgave her quickly but decided to let my old roommate fall away. He’d been my best friend, and he knew how I felt. How I didn’t know how to feel about her.


She went abroad for a year alone in Copenhagen. We all met up. A weekend in Barcelona to do a college-friends-in-Europe weekend. She told stories about the summer program she did in Cape Town making movies and the Italian friend that she’d met there. She played with a bouncy ball and took pictures, asking Other Film Friend if she wanted to use her camera. Other Film Friend still felt weird about her since last fall’s makeout incident, but Other Film Friend also had the same kind of feelings about her as I did, so I watched as she explained all she learned in South Africa while Other Film Friend had been working at an ice cream shop in Burlington.

We meant to go out to a club our last night in Barcelona, but Chuck had to Skype his mom because his dog died, and she and Other Film Friend disappeared for an hour or two in the bedroom to talk. I talked to Fanny who was studying biology at the Budapest program. Fanny laughed and played bad music and told me stories about times she got drunk. I did the same. Other Film Friend came out of the room, eyebrows high and eyes big. Then she followed behind, one of her subdued moods, eyes looking kind of high and cheeks blotchy. “Hi,” she exhaled.

Our group tried to go to the club but we couldn’t get in because not everyone was twenty-one. Were those the rules? Wasn’t that why college juniors went abroad? We went back to our rented apartment but missed the first subway back because she got crepes from a drunk-food stand with a tall Spanish girl. We didn’t get back until five in the morning, and I told her to wake me before she left for her eight o’clock flight.


I was back at school in the spring. She wasn’t. I got over her. I got over the girl I was seeing while I was studying in Italy. When I got drunk, I’d say I missed either of them. The name I said depended on the night.


She came back. She came out. She’d been dating a Danish girl since September, since before I saw her in Barcelona. She talked about all her bad experiences with men. We talked about Hitchcock in our American Film class together.

American Film was good. It was just the two of us again for or the first time since it was just the two of us on the dance floor. But it was different. We were less distant, better, and older. And there was no grumbling redhead next to us.

I’d never been in love, but what did this feeling count for? Isn’t yearning a kind of love? Doesn’t longing count?

She got a new girlfriend after the Danish girl cheated on her. They were always together. I lost her again and watched through the library window as they studied. I shared the dinner table with her and her girlfriend, and I watched as they talked and said things without talking. She was in love. We didn’t see her, and she saw her girlfriend’s friends.

But one day the rest of us saw her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s friends. We were all in her apartment, all ready to go to a concert. We were on the couch as the girlfriend’s friends whirled through. They laughed at things, cards she had kept from her mom, found when a dark-haired friend looked for clothes to “style” her for the concert. She came out, sleek and cool and vintage and sad.

The dark-haired girl opened a jar next to a picture of her with her late dog. She was in high school then and looked like she did when I first met her, except without the glasses. She was an only child, and I understood dog mourning.

“What are these?” The dark-haired girl asked.

I’d never seen them, but I knew she shouldn’t have asked.

“Her dog’s ashes,” her girlfriend said. She took a shot of tequila and went into the bathroom to adjust her backwards hat.

“Oh my God.”

“Why do you have these?”

“That’s gross.”

“And we were going to play with that Ouija board here?”

“I feel so gross now.”

“Are you coming?”

“I’ll meet you outside.”

They were gone. They didn’t come looking for her. The five of us from the hotel in Barcelona, Other Film Friend, Fanny, Chuck, she, and I sat. We all felt the need to say something to her but didn’t. Her face was blotchy and her eyebrows high but eyes tired. We’d later fantasize confrontations with the Dog Ashes Asshole, but those never went through.

But we sat, we five and her dog’s ashes. She got up and left to find her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s friends at the concert.


In the last weeks of school, how much did she think about the dog ashes? Did her girlfriend’s friends make fun of her for them? Was she still thinking about them as much as I was? Were there even dog ashes in there? I sneaked into their apartment to see for myself. She surprised me there. I’d opened the jar when she came out of the bathroom.

“It’s not what it looks like. I just had to know.”

The lid was in my hand.

“You take them,” she said.

“But I never knew your dog.”

“You did in spirit.”

“Have I met his ghost?”

“Don’t be dumb.”

“But I couldn’t,” I said.

“Now they’re yours.”

I imagined the ashes in my house. I’d put the pieces of her I’d collected into the jar. The keychain she gave me for my birthday and the Iron and Wine CD I bought after freshman year would crumble into the jar. Dog soot would fill the crevices until they were unrecognizable, and they too became ashes.

Neither of us did anything. We just stood there, she and I and her dog’s ashes.

Born and raised in Westborough, Massachusetts, Michael is a recent graduate of Bowdoin College, where he studied Italian and Spanish. He’s written his own travel blog, Misadventures with Michael, for over three years. Currently, he is teaching English at a high school in Japan.



Photo credit: Otto F.T. von Moeller, This Kiss.. Photo. Britannica ImageQuest. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 May 2016. Accessed 11 Aug 2016.


Fall 2016, Uncategorized

Sarah Diamond Burroway

Picasso's Tea Time 2003 Patricia A. Schwimmer (b.1953/Canadian) Acrylic Painting Details: 2003 - acrylic Artist Details: Schwimmer, Patricia A., 1953, Canadian

Picasso’s Tea Time 2003 Patricia A. Schwimmer (b.1953/Canadian) Acrylic Painting Details: 2003 – acrylic Artist Details: Schwimmer, Patricia A., 1953, Canadian

Go for tea, hang (another) moment.
Throwback 1993:
Then, still so much love.

A bookstore, an art studio—
Spots fill up fast.
Inspired by traditiona
Japanese tea,


Sip, and totally Zen out.
It’s ridiculously adorable moments on
Facebook or

A photo of your friend.
2015, the first time…

          2015, The First Time.
On social media
Celebrating through the years.
Get in on the fun, honey.



 Sarah Diamond Burroway is a Kentucky writer. Her essays and poetry are included in the Women of Appalachia Project. Her plays and monologues have been produced in New York, California, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. She is pursuing her MFA in Writing at the Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University.


Photo credit: Picasso’s Tea Time. Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 May 2016. Accessed 11 Aug 2016.

The Politics of Beauty

Fall 2016, Uncategorized

Maroula Blades

ANGELA DAVIS (1944- ). - American political activist. Photographed c1971. The Granger Collection / Universal Images Group

ANGELA DAVIS (1944- ). – American political activist. Photographed c1971. The Granger Collection / Universal Images Group


In Western culture, Afro-textured hair is still stigmatized. Why? It is because those seen as “others” (blacks) have distinctive characteristics that are perceived by the white establishment as being undesirable? Once, this and other black attributes were either eradicated or dismissed as primitive and wild. Afro-hair in particular became a symbol for an inferior race.


Generally, I think Black self-esteem has steadily grown over the past decades. In the 1960s, the Afro was seen as a political statement of black consciousness. Angela Davis, who sported a famously large Afro, did much to change that negative perception of beauty, and she is still regarded as an icon of black empowerment. Today, multi-optional hairstyles (natural and processed) are gracing the streets, owing to the influence of the media, fashion and celebrities.

The influx of chemically based products on the cosmetics market has soared. So-called “beauty enhancers” straighten hair and bleach the skin, while some opt for  the most extreme procedure of surgery to alter black features. The late pop singer, Michael Jackson, was a prime example of someone that underwent surgery to acquire European features.

Living in Berlin as a woman of color, as I do, it’s difficult to find a makeup tint suitable for a darker complexion. Most department stores do not carry products specifically made for darker skins. True, some cosmetic firms have brought out a range of makeup tones, but these do not suffice, due to the numerous shades of black skin. For the entrepreneur, there is a potential market out there of women who are desperate to find the right colour.

There are Afro shops, selling hair and beauty products in Berlin, but the products are usually expensive as they are imported. Why aren’t our cosmetic needs being met? This is perhaps partly due to negligence and partly to the fact that manufacturing products for minority groups in Europe would not be profitable. It is therefore “our” (blacks) responsibility to highlight black skin and features in a beautiful way by using whatever means necessary.

In Berlin, many mothers of mixed-race children are white Germans who may not be able to give their daughters tips concerning beauty and hair management. Some support can be found in  black beauty magazines that aid and inform black women on cosmetic issues and give a positive all-round representation of black women.

Unfortunately, black women in Germany, as in many western countries, are confronted daily with marketing strategies which revolve around the western ideal of beauty–thin nose, slim hips, blonde hair, petite bone structure, etc. A number of black models have straightened their hair, and a few even resort to wearing blue or green contact lenses. These adopted characteristics may prove detrimental to a positive black identity.

However, all is not lost; it is wonderful to see the talented and beautiful black ballet dancer, Misty Danielle Copeland, gracing stages around the world. She was often told she had the wrong body type for ballet, but she persevered and proved the naysayers wrong with her grace and technique. Her determination to succeed in an art form traditionally reserved for white dancers makes her an influential role model for young peoples of color who wish to dance ballet, or, indeed, to achieve in any field.

I look forward to the day when black women living in predominantly white societies see advertisements depicting natural black women in a positive light, one that illuminates blackness as being wholesomely essential. Black is indeed beautiful.



Maroula Blades is an Afro-British poet/writer living in Berlin. She has published in various anthologies and magazines. Her poetry/music program has been presented on several stages in Germany. Her debut EP-album “Word Pulse” was released by Havavision Records (UK).


Photo credit: ANGELA DAVIS (1944- ). – American political activist. Photographed c1971.. Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 May 2016. Accessed 11 Aug 2016.




Fall 2016, Uncategorized

Kacper Niburski




Yellow banana on a grey background / Ingram Publishing

Yellow banana on a grey background / Ingram Publishing

“Knock, knock.”

“I’ve heard this one a million times, Bob.”

“No, not this one. It’s different. Come on.”

“Alright. Fine. Who’s there?”


“Why would a banana be at my door?”

“Because it’s part of the joke.”

“But how would a banana knock?”

“Well, I guess the same way we do, by bobbing back and forth.”

“Sure, but what would make the banana bob?”

“I don’t know.”

“This is important stuff to know. If there’s a banana at my door that somehow knocked, I’d be more interested in the banana itself. Like, for example, how big is it?”

“It’s a regular banana.”

“Yellow, green, black—is it rotten?”

“It’s just a simple, fresh banana. Imagine a banana and then that’s it.”

“I usually eat tiny bananas, so I’m imagining them.”

“That’s not the banana in the joke.”

“So there is a specific banana, then. How can I get the joke if we are imaging different things?”

“Come on, Frank, just go along with it.”

“Okay, sure, but again—how did the banana knock?”

“It just did.”

“What is the door made of?”

“I don’t know, man.”

“Well, how thick is it?”

“Why does this matter?”

“Because if you’re saying a banana—a regular, handheld yellow banana—produced enough of a force to be heard, then the least I should know is the type of door I have.”

“Fine. Hardwood. About the same thickness of a two-by-four.”

“And the banana made an audible knocking noise?”


“See, I don’t understand. Did someone throw the banana?”

“No. I’ve told you three times already—it just knocked.”

“But things don’t just happen. That doesn’t make any sense.”

“It doesn’t have to. It’s a joke.”

“No, no. It does or else I won’t get it and then it won’t be funny and isn’t that a joke’s point?”

“Fine. Sure. I guess.”

“So you’re going to tell me how a regular banana knock-knocked then?”

“Ya. Let’s just say it was standing up—”

“The banana?”

“Yes, the banana. It was standing up—”

“By itself?”

“Yes, by itself.”

“Who put it there?”

“No one.”

“So the banana got there by itself?”


“You’re telling me the banana made it to my door by its own means?”

“Why not?”

“So, Bob, this is a motile banana.”


“This is an evolutionary wunderkind. It’s a self-moving banana that can balance and stand erect.”

“Okay …”

“And with its mushy, moving interior, it somehow also evolved the ability to forcefully knock.”

“I guess.”

“This makes much more sense now.”

“Okay, sure, can I continue now?”

“Wait, Bob, wait. Didn’t it also answer ‘Banana’?”

“I guess …”

“Oh my god.”

“What is it, Frank?”

“This is a sentient banana.”

“Excuse me?”

“This inexplicably moving banana can also speak. That means it has some cognitive ability as it not only uses a door with all the common societal expectations of it—knocking politely, waiting until an answer is given—but it can mimic speech. It can form words, and more importantly, recognize what it is: a banana. No more. No less. A banana that walks, talks, and knocks.”


“Bob, I wouldn’t want a conversation. I would have the responsibility of calling NASA, universities, everyone and everything. Who knows? This banana may be the first alien.”

“Frank, it’s just a banana.”

“That does everything we do, if not better. A little thing can make such a loud noise. Imagine what else it could do. Do you think it can dance?”

“It’s a banana, Frank.”

“Can it dance, Bob?”


“Yet it has mastered our social constructions, hearing my answer and developing a response.”

“Okay …”

“So, maybe it can also hear rhythm in music. I wouldn’t put it past the banana.”

“A dancing banana?”

“Exactly. It would put a new meaning to the phrase banana split.”

“Isn’t that a dessert?”

“It is, but you bring up an important point, Bob.”

“I did?”

“The most important, I’d say. I can’t believe I’m so stupid.”

“What do you mean?”

“Here I am answering the door when it could …”

“It could what?”

“Want revenge.”

“What the hell do you mean?”

“I mean if it is really as smart as you seem to suggest …”

“I didn’t suggest anything, Frank. You have this whole time.”

“No, no, you told the joke. I’m just extrapolating.”

“Fine. Sure. Go ahead.”

“And if it is as smart as you say, with its penchant for abstract thoughts, social norms, and speaking patterns, it might realize what we have been doing to all the other bananas on Earth.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Bob, we eat them whole. We eat the banana’s people. We put them on our damn ice cream.”

“Ya, but—”

“But nothing. This banana might strike against us and I might be its first target.”

“No. It’s just knocking.”

“How do I know?”

“Because it’s knocking on your door.”

“But robbers can knock too before they plan to jump me in my own home.”

“It’s a banana. Not a robber.”

“And yet, it’s so much more than any banana before.”

“So what then?”

“Well, I’m at my door, right?”


“And the banana has already knocked, right?”


“And I’ve answered?”

“Get to the point already, Frank.”

“Well I’d be incredibly cautious. I’d look through the eyehole and seeing nothing—because it is a regular, small banana at the base of my door—I’d be immediately suspicious. Scared even.”

“So what would you do?”

“I’d have to play it smart. I’d cough and puff my chest and before I opened the door—who knows if I would anyways—I would say, ‘Banana who?’”

“And the banana?”

“I’m not sure. If it’s harmless, it may repeat its name because that answers the question.”

“I see. And if it’s not?”

“If redemption is in its blood, or glucose, or whatever, then it may employ the same tactic. ‘Banana,’ it’ll say in a cold, hard manner. The banana may be a master of subterfuge after all.”

“And if it said that then?”

“I’d keep sharp, keep the banana on edge. Show them the human spirit with a, ‘Banana who?’”

“Smart, Frank.”

“I think so too, Bob.”

“So, what then?”

“It’s the banana’s move. Either it can peel away, or keep going.”

“I see.”

“Exactly. Who knows—it could very well knock again and we’d be back at the beginning.”

“So, Frank, you’re saying it’s the banana’s show and we’re just monkeys in the middle.”

“Yeah, Bob.”


“Well is right. Good we got that out of the way.”


“So what was the joke anyway?”

“I don’t remember exactly.”


“That’s alright. It’s over now.”

“I’ll say.”

“Well after it all, I’m glad at least it wasn’t an orange. Imagine that.”


Kacper Niburski is a twenty something year old pretending he’s thirty who writes like he’s fifty about things that happened when he was ten. He’s been published in Stoneboat Poetry, Ars Medica, and others.


hoto credit: Banana. Clip Art. Britannica ImageQuest. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 May 2016. Accessed 17 Oct 2016.

High and Bright

Fall 2016, Uncategorized

James Prenatt


Photo by David Kinney

Photo by David Kinney

“Are you excited?” Mom asks.

Mandy won’t show it, but she is.

Her mom drops her off at Lee’s Airpark, just off Route 2, where she’d seen planes take off and land almost every day, but never dreamed of seeing up close. It was bigger and more intimidating than expected.

Her mom walks with her across the tarmact. It’s a sunny day, perfect and blue, like her eyes, He says. He’s leaning up against the white plane, almost as tall as it, that short dark hair blowing in the wind, aviators on, and no one could be as cool, as sexy. He waves to Mom and Mandy holds back her smile until it hurts. He hugs her, but does not kiss her.

The takeoff is the hardest to stand. She’d flown before, but you feel it more in light aircraft. She’s scared, almost pees herself, but once they’re in the air, He puts his hand on her knee and she calms down. He soars, swoops like she never knew a plane could move so quick. Beats model rockets in Dad’s backyard. Look at that sky. Look at this man next to me who loves Mom better than anything. Will he say he loves me too? It’s so bright. I’m so high.


Euphoric, after days of waiting for Him to come back from his most recent flight, she watches the kite glide through the humid August breeze and wants to go up in the air again. Only next time she wants to be in control.

He walks through the yard, finally back and she wishes she was wearing something sexier than too-big jeans and His worn out Katastrophe t-shirt she took from the laundry when Mom wasn’t watching. What if he gets upset she stole it? Oh, I hope he says I look good in it. He doesn’t say anything though.

Instead, without words, He reaches his arms around her from behind and puts His hands on hers in order to show her how to do it right. The kite twists involuntarily, free but controlled. She likes it this way, him holding her close and showing her the way through the wind.

In that calm time as the sun sets orange, almost vermillion over the River Lethe, Mandy, Mom and Him eat dinner on the back porch as he tells stories of his journeys. He once flew to Venezuela just for the hell of it and stayed there for some time, living out of a rental van and learning to cook Tequenos and serenading pretty girls (an eyebrow raise at Mom). Maybe he’ll fly me and Mom there sometime, or the Caribbean or Europe or why not Canada or California? She was told to help put away dishes and when Mom sees how entranced Mandy is, she lets it go. They get along and that’s a blessing. He has a politician’s way of looking at no one and everyone as he tells a story about almost crashing his first time in the air and having to do his first landing by himself because the man teaching him had a stroke.

He could teach me guitar, too, Mandy thinks. He and Me and Mom and can get out of this. She makes a request, Katastrophe, please and he chuckles a bit. He plays the opening riff of “Trazodone” and sings the chorus as Mandy tries hard not to smile. Once he gets to the end he doesn’t really sing it, but whispers in a way: I like it, I’m not gonna leave. I like it, I’m not gonna leave…


She’s adult and normal and bored now like everybody else, off duty and going back up in the air soon. She’s in the grocery store, trying to decide which bag of chips to buy, a thousand flavors and brands in front of her. What was once so simple an affair now seems an overwhelming duty.

Across from the snack aisle, she spots Him placing ground beef in his cart. His dark hair now a salt and pepper white, His high and taut face, now sagging a bit, the crows feet more noticeable from so much glinting in the sun, but still as handsome as the day He took her up in the plane. She positions herself next to him, too scared because what if it isn’t him?

He makes eye contact and smiles. She smiles back, a middle school girl again.

“They really charge you an arm and a leg nowadays, huh?”

As if it’s her first time being flirted with, she’s not sure what to say and instead shrugs.

“Quiet one.” He looks at her uniform. “Naval Academy?”

She nods.  

“I’m a pilot myself, actually,” he says, like it’s a question and even though she knows He’s still the cocky man He used to be, comfortable with His cool, but unimportant station in life. She still loves that sly humility. “Small cargo and personal passengers mostly. Amateur stuff, really. It’s not the same as The Blue Angels, but I have a good time. Hey, you look familiar.”

That’s when he’s greeted by a woman ten years younger than Him and prettier than Leah, now going by her middle name instead of that childish first name. With the woman is a child, a girl of maybe seven.

She does not remember her response, but she gets out of the conversation and leaves Him to hurt someone else. How dare you leave mom and me. How dare you not remember me. You flew away and never came back. It takes time to admit it, but more than anger, she’s flattered and glad He saw her make it in the air.

Up there it’s just blue. Up there, you’re a god. The takeoff used to be the hardest part, but now it’s just the landing she struggles with. A few more months and she’ll have it down perfect. If only they’d let her go where she wanted. If only they’d let her fly until she’s out of oxygen. She once thought I could die up here, His hands around hers, guiding the way. High. Bright. High.  

James Prenatt has published in Crab Fat Magazine, Cactus Heart Magazine, and 34th Parallel. He lives in  Baltimore with his dog, his thing, and a little human. He graduated from Towson University with a degree in English and an OK GPA.