Looked like paradise, then like nothing special at all
The Fossil by Natalie Viebrock Fluorescent animal tore into digital game The hole was growing It was spring The hole was huge Together we looked in Looked like paradise, then like nothing special at all Natalie Viebrock is a student from New Hampshire. @iamavictimofthisaccount (instagram)
Salt in the Hole by Daniel Matthew Hadassah’s skin is five inches away from mine and slicked with mud that I have been firmly instructed, by a TSA agent who I suspect was on testosterone replacement therapy, to not take home with me, under any circumstances. He explained to me, in an accent both Israeli and vaguely Slavic, that mud from the Dead Sea is technically Israeli soil. It would be considered a violation of international law to covertly put such soil in a pocket and sell it on the black market to make skincare products. “You can no say you don’t know, that you say oh I did not clean pants, I am dirty, you are clean person, this will not fool me.” His veins swelled and fluorescent light glinted off the golden Star of David insignia on his handgun holster. Hadassah spins away in a maneuver that flaunts her two years of mandatory military service. Since the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006, during which an Israeli offensive on Tyre beach proved to be a crucial turning point in the conflict, soldiers are required to be proficiently amphibious. But her 180-degree pivot into breaststroke seems clunky, encumbered by the salt of the dead sea, which makes you float when you really want to drown yourself. A sun oppressive to the non-brown, the Ashkenazi, the unwelcomed, glimmers off her ass which recedes closer to the horizon. Seeing her butt transform from supple cellulite on the downbeat of the stroke to sinewy muscle on the upbeat jumpstarts my heart, which has been stagnated by heat. My urethra opens to let a bead of precum seep out of my cock, and pain greets me instead of pleasure. Salt is rushing into my peehole and the sting radiates. In this melting pot of various shades of tan, I am being cooked alive by a God who isn’t even mine. He’s probably Armenian, he’s punishing the chosen people for cozying up to Turkey, for denying the Armenian genocide, an extermination that was the blueprint for ours, which gave us this beautiful garden of Eden. Israel: the land built on guilt. Hadassah settles into a placid bob, lying on her back, using a salt crystal as an exfoliant on her stomach. Jacob Mendelbaum gracelessly wades, approaching Hadassah. I want nothing more than the note I slipped into the Western Wall to come true, I want him to be reduced to 5’5. I want to tower over him so I can see his hair thinning from above. He explained to me, during last night’s tour of a Bedouin tent (a crafty PR move by Birthright, displaying how even in a Jewish state, indigenous Arabs are treated with dignity), that he’s a consultant, which means “therapy for companies.” But my eyes were on the Camel with the scar across his leg, which stared back at me with comforting neutrality, like a drawing a child would make—two blots of the marker for eyes and a horizontal line for a mouth—a blankness that mimicked my own apathy towards the “thing”. The conflict. Which side are you on, man? Are you a two-state solution sort of guy? Do you have nuanced opinions on Hamas? It’s all so tedious. Jacob Mendelbaum drips mud on Hadassah’s stomach and she giggles, which I can’t comprehend. It must be propaganda, she has to have a higher-up in her ear telling her to flirt, so that Jacob sees Israel as fertile, nubile, a land he can spread his seed into, along with his tax dollars from established American wealth. Disgusted, I turn to the sand, where Tara, only on Birthright to write a piece on indoctrination afterwards, is sunning herself, her breasts spilling out of a Los Angeles Apparel Bikini. My primate brain is reminded of Rachel Lieberman in 2010, pubic hair peeking out of an American Apparel two-piece, the hot tub jets stimulating me and in my peripherals is her flushed face, the world is open, and there is the word potential etched into every surface, and my father is gazing at my mother the same way he would up-and-down subordinates turned girlfriends a decade later. If the “Passion” setting on the jacuzzi was pressed, a dim light would emanate from the center of the whirlpool, and cedar branches from the darkness behind our Long Island estate would cast shadows of angular, elongated fingers on our faces, foreboding, hinting at the chaos and horror to come. “I fucking hate the summer. I’m like an ant under the magnifying glass of some autistic kid,” Tara says. “You’re burnt,” I say while following the slight breeze revealing the curves hidden beneath a burka on a woman embracing her child. Imagine the smell underneath—sweat, shame, a sense of depersonalization akin to the American man in the mascot suit. Tara instructs me to play charades with her sunburn. I will press my fingers against her red skin, and for a moment they will create a silhouette in white. I contort my fingers to form the ISIS flag, but she guesses two dogs embracing each other and I lie and say correct. There is a lull where there is nothing but the smell of brine between us. The sun is anti-cognitive. I am here. Hadassah inches closer to Jacob Mendelbaum and the sliver of sun between them disappears, their slick bodies are one. Inside me is a flame that will consume everything, that will turn every grain of sand to glass. “So, what was it like, being you, being one half of that man?” Tara asks. “What, being what?” I respond. “Your father, I’ve read the articles. He’s the reason our taxpayer money goes to drones that kill the children who throw stones at the walls of these resorts.” “Yeah, he sucks, I don’t really condone, I don’t really know too much about his whole… thing.” “He’s a lobbyist for Zionism, what about that don’t you-” I run towards the water which stings my eyes and turns my sight into a binary: the blue below and the blue above. I’m paddling furiously in the primordial soup, edging closer and closer to Nirvana, the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, where women in hijabs will welcome me for betraying the ethnostate. I turn around to do backstroke and see Hadassah chasing me. Her cuts into the water with her cupped hands are mechanical. It will be seconds before I resign myself to her capture. Her headlock does not abate, even as we are back on the Israeli side of shore, and I feel her veins bulge against my stubble. Her grip shorts my circulation and for a moment I am weightless, hovering over father at the country club, watching him tell the Central American caddy that the scar on his head was from removing a brain tumor. I know it’s the result of a hair transplant, but I grin and watch the automated sprinklers mist calves and ruin leather shoes, and male comradery is in the air, everything blooms here, and the bees do not sting you. You are in a purgatory better than heaven. “What are you thinking of doing?!” Hadassah says, her speech broken and her accent thick to the point of parody. “I wanted to see the other side,” I say. “This is thing can get me kicked away. Balagan. You know what this means? It means this is a mess. This is shit. Why do you want me to be in this big mess of shit?” “I don’t want any of that.” “You want something I just don’t know what it is.” Hadassah eases her grip. I feel my neck, where I was strangled moments before, and my skin is soft and tender. Dead Sea mud contains sodium, magnesium, calcium, bromine, iodine, zinc, bitumen, sulfur, and potassium. These minerals have scientifically studied therapeutic, detoxifying, relieving, and healing properties. The mud caked to the lining of my bathing suit could fetch me 150 dollars alone back in the States. Tara is laughing at me and the woman in the burka looks both ways before briefly lifting the top portion of her veil to reveal a face that is Levantine, not Arab. I am the only one who sees this act. Our eyes meet. She slips it back on before onlookers can notice. Her son spots something in the water and yells something in Arabic. “He is wrong. Ain Dagim,” says Hadassah. “What?” “There are no fish. No fish in the Dead Sea. Not even seaweed can survive.” In the boy’s hand is a writhing fish. The sun disappears as the animal gasps for air. Daniel Matthew lives in New Jersey. His first novel, Pervertathon, was released earlier this year.
I believe that the Eve of a new millennium abuses the history of silence
A found poem constructed from a speech given by Hillary Clinton for the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China on September 5, 1995.
by Sarah Chekfa
Distinguished delegates and guests,
I would like to be part of this World.
The home is a coming together
Much the way we come together, living
In the river, water
We come about our concerns
And time divides us.
We share a common future:
we find stability in focusing on
the lives of chance.
Question the reason for homes.
Wonder, look at the women who run.
Compel people to face:
Wasn’t the first time violence?
Lives, violence (chance as equal).
And women has a stake in place, the world.
I have to plan care.
I talk about knowing that children can be cared for, safe.
I have met women who helped lead the struggle to end
Care (The materials to create themselves).
Women notice care.
At the very moment, as we sit here
Giving birth, running, dying
Watching children, denied the right to their own fathers
Forced to be here, to speak,
Those who speak can’t afford to care (women whose lives are violence).
all night, during the day.
Speaking to you today, I speak for them.
each of us denied chance
to have a say about the direction of
because both inside and outside
we understand that there is no formula
each woman makes herself
the choice, the chance
to recognize that we will never
Destinies cannot be fully achieved
Accept to long.
men are protections,
freedoms from personal security
the right to remain silent
used as an instrument
Tragically, women make up the world
Excluded from, vulnerable to
I believe that the Eve of a new millennium
abuses the history of silence
The voices must be heard loud and clear:
When denied, drowned, suffocated, broken, born girls
Set fire to marriage
Deemed too small.
It is a violation when war is home.
Mutilation is women against will.
Echoes let us not forget that
to endure is indefensible
to attend, prohibit from fully taking part
clear away the peaceful
struggle bloodless, without a shot fired
we remind men to see war
we have to diminish everywhere
the act of care
to realize that we care for
Sarah Chekfa designs and writes in Manhattan, New York.
@girlboss__interrupted (instagram) / @sarahchekfa (twitter)
Dream Girl by Giovanna Zavala Georgia wants to be Cookie Mueller. John Waters has a blurb on the back of her newest book. He says, G-d, I miss that girl. Georgia can’t stop saying that: G-d, I miss that girl. “Wouldn’t you want to be a girl named Cookie? What on earth could you not do with a name like Cookie?” I have to close my mouth. I have to lick the corners of my lips to mop up toothpaste grout. This was all a while ago. I have been wandering around the city all day, most days, crying, and on one of them I run into Georgia. I am so overjoyed. Georgia doesn’t care about the cat hair all over. Georgia is “loving the hat.” Georgia wants to go to a park sometime. Georgia is sick of her long hair; she just found out about this really good sandwich place. Georgia is creative as well. Georgia gives me a big hug when she sees me and she doesn’t even ask what I’ve been crying about. Georgia competitively folds fitted sheets. Georgia loves my wrinkled turtle neck, Georgia loves dunes and waves in paper and fabric. Georgia wants to see me bent over. Georgia won’t stand for a straight line. She runs a wooden spoon down your spine; you’re like one of those teensy carved frogs. Georgia says, “You can be an artist without ruining your life.” Georgia hates Hopper because when he paints a theater, none of the seats are filled. “Now that’s just lazy,” she says. “And on top of that it’s sad.” She thinks the prints he did as anti-union campaigns at the beginning of his career are just gorgeous– “well, what can you do?” Georgia doesn’t like my jokes about jumping off bridges. Georgia loves my kitten. Georgia wakes up early. Georgia likes alone time. Georgia runs into me one afternoon after many afternoons without her, one among many that I am crying–she must know. She would never let on. I am overjoyed. I have nowhere to go but she says that’s where she’s going too. On the train she doesn’t comment on any of the corny advertisements because she knows that she’s not smarter than anyone, that everyone hates them just the same. But she is, you know, smarter than everyone. You love Georgia. It’s completely unbearable. Georgia says “you keep switching perspectives.” Georgia sees it every variable way. Georgia might love me but I couldn’t handle it. That’s why you sent her away, or else it was me that did that. On the train the conductor gets on the crinkled loudspeaker and rushes through a litany of upcoming repairs, unintelligibly. A few of us snicker. “What was that?” someone mutters. “That,” says Georgia, “was an accent.” We all feel terrible now. She’s got a great speaking voice. She should be in movies; she looks perfect with a cigarette, or chewing on a hankie. I am so overjoyed and then she is gone. G-d, I miss that girl. Giovanna Zavala is an artist and they live in New York City @lady.roku (instagram) / @GiovannaZavala (twitter)