It rained all night. In the dark, from her window,
she saw somebody fall, curse, mumble,
look for something, dig through the mud
and give up when he figured out he was holding
horse dung. He left.
She threw the curtain back and went to sleep.
In the morning when the light broke with the roosters,
she opened the gate softly and in the muck on the road
she saw something glitter.
She bent and picked it up: somebody’s
full set of teeth.
She washed them at the tap in the yard
and tied them in a handkerchief.
For a week, she made it a habit
to walk. She picked a distaff with wool
and started spinning down the road
stopping to listen at gates in the evening
when people gathered.
She didn’t ask anyone.
She started crossing out
the men she knew wouldn’t go to the pub
for fear somebody would laugh,
until she figured him out.
She didn’t talk to him.
In the morning, she put his teeth in a box
and left them at his door:
no crickets, no fireflies, no larks,
no dawn choirs yet.
Listen to the poem here:
Lucia Cherciu is a Professor of English at SUNY / Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, NY and her latest book of poetry is Edible Flowers (Main Street Rag, 2015). Her poetry has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and for Best of the Net.
Todd Outcalt is the author of thirty books in six languages, including his first poetry collection, Where in the World We Meet (Chatter House Press). His poetry has appeared in many publications including Rattle, The Oklahoma Review, and Poetry Quarterly. He lives in Brownsburg, Indiana.
He swaggers into the bar, sure of himself—an unapologetically American boy with his blonde hair slicked back like a rockabilly, and blue eyes that glow in the dim, golden light that reflects off the brass behind the tap handles. You sip at the beer you ordered, and you know you’re going home with him.
The wooden bar top is sticky with the residue of hundreds of drinks before, and the cardboard coaster beneath your beer is plastered in place. You don’t care though. You aren’t trying to sit there for long.
Placing his hands on the bar first, he sits down leaving one seat between you. You can feel him looking at you out of the corner of his eye, and you know he knows that you’re trying to read the words tattooed on his knuckles.
There is nothing about him that screams sailor to you, though you get the distinct impression that he has been drunk on a float trip down the Illinois River a time or two. You envy him immediately and his ability to be himself. Kids with western parents are “free to be you and me”—a luxury you cannot imagine.
Of course you don’t know if his tattoos are a result of permissive parenting, but you assume. And that is what this game is about. You don’t want to know him. You want to create a backstory for him.
See, in your mind, he is the chorus to a Bruce Springsteen B-side. Working class. Strong. Meat and potatoes. Stereotypically American. That’s what you want.
You won’t ask him where he grew up, what his parents do, or what he does for a living. He is a Pony Boy—a tough greaser—embodying that wrong-side-of-the-tracks Americana feeling. He is James Dean if you want him to be.
He sips his beer slowly, then turns to you.
“I’m sorry, but what are you?”
All the episodes of Sesame Street you grew up watching and every white Gen Y asshole always leads off with that. You can’t fault him for it though. Your skin is too dark. Your hair is black and curly. Even though you were born in a nowhere state in the middle of the U.S., you’ll never be American. The backstory he makes up for you doesn’t fit with that.
You tell him you’re Persian, and you try not to mind when he raises his eyebrows in a satisfied way.
“Damn, can I buy you a drink?”
And there it is. It is always that easy. Because as much as you want to create an untouchable fantasy of American stereotypes, he also wants a so-called exotic fantasy for himself.
He will assume that you know how to belly dance and cook, and that you want to be a good wife someday, and that the black eyeliner on your eyes is natural and not something haphazardly smudged on before making your way to find a boy to fuck.
You won’t tell him about the time your dad got in a fight with a redneck in a grocery store parking lot. Or about how you watched from the front seat of the car as those rednecks broke his nose with a crowbar and blamed the entire Gulf War on him. You definitely won’t tell him how you cried in the parking lot next to your dad until the cops came and mysteriously couldn’t find the rednecks who did it, even though there were so many witnesses.
That’s not the exotic fantasy he is looking for.
To him, you are an outsider. He doesn’t need to know that you slow danced to Mariah Carey songs while wearing JNCOs in the seventh grade the same way he did. He doesn’t need to know that you have never been to Iran.
But there are things you don’t need to know either. He isn’t a John Wayne or a James Dean or any symbol of American masculinity.
But that’s not important. It’s not what the game is about.
The bartender places another pint on the cardboard coaster, and you turn to bat your eyelashes.
We here at Two Cities Review couldn’t be more excited about our newest venture, the Two Cities Review Podcast.
From the beginning of our magazine’s inception, we always knew we wanted to create a magazine that captured the complexity of modern urban life. That meant seeking out stories about bridging the gaps between dreams and reality, between geography and localness, between technology and human connection. We always wanted our magazine to be a media-rich publication, a digital experience that actually took advantage of its digital format. So a podcast was pretty much inevitable. The podcast as a form is experiencing a golden age these days; we’re surrounded by a great richness of story, delivered in a way that lets you listen at all hours of the day. And Two Cities Review, we knew, should be participating in that great urban flow of anytime, anywhere story.
Our podcast will be a mixture of us and you. That is, you’ll hear from us each episode, talking about what it takes to create the issue; you’ll get insights from us into our editorial process, what makes us accept or reject a story, and why we do or don’t love a piece. We’ll answer your questions about being editors and writers and what we’re looking for. But the podcast will also be a dialogue with our magazine. We’ll share our authors, reading their poems and stories, and we’ll interview authors too, getting their special insight into the process of creating their wonderful work. We will be cheerleaders, enthusiasts, and discriminators. We will try to give you a little window into what it’s like to be a gatekeeper in the literary world, but we’ll also let your words sing.
We plan to have a new episode appear on the website and iTunes (coming soon) every two weeks. It will give you a whole new dimension of the current issue, and a whole new dimension of understanding into the editorial process.
My wife said, “I reached across the bed for you.
I reached farther, farther, across the wide bed.
I tried to reach all the way to Africa.”
“Be careful you don’t fall off.
The world is square, you know.”
Just then, a half-grown cat, an older kitten,
a black and white tiger, on the thin side,
hurried across the tile floor of my room.
Appearing from nowhere, like a loving wife,
he must have jumped in through the window.
I was twelve years old the summer my father helped our neighbor Victor Metzger tear down the old wood shed in his backyard. That was back when we lived in the Fairview section of Camden, New Jersey. The houses were row homes, and the yards quite small. Mr. Metzger’s shed took up half his yard before he and my father tore it down. After the junk man came by and took away the shed scraps, Mr. Metzger poured concrete over his entire backyard. When the concrete dried, our neighbor painted it kelly green. We lived in a house on the end facing Sumter Road. Mr. Metzger’s house was on Kansas Road which was perpendicular to our street. From the front of his house you could see the top of the water tower at the Camden Shipyard across Newton Creek.
In our neighborhood many of the men worked in the shipyard: welders, pipefitters, painters by trade. Most of them were Korean War vets. My father had been too young for that war, and too old for Vietnam by the time that conflicted started. He was not alone. Several fathers in our neighborhood back then fell into the category. Unlike other men in our neighborhood who worked at the shipyard, my father was employed at the post office in Camden. Before I was born he had been a letter carrier, and worked his way up to a supervisor position. Whenever the subject of war came up, my father remained silent. He had many misgivings about war, and none of his opinions were popular in our old neighborhood.
Mr. Metzger had been in the infantry in Korea, and he still had a cold-hearted stare even twenty years after the Korean conflict officially ended. He kept his salt and pepper hair cut short, military regulation style, and in the warmer months, after the set behind the houses along the common across the street from his house, he liked to sit outside drinking Rheingold Lager Beer and smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes one after the other. He was most peculiar; the kids in the neighborhood were afraid of him. It didn’t help that Mr. Metzger’s wife Gloria vanished before I was born. Later on, when people told the story, they acted as if she had been the victim of some magician’s trick: now you see her, now you don’t.
C.C. Russell lives in Wyoming with his wife and daughter. His writing has appeared here and there in print and online in such places as Rattle, Pearl, and kysoflash.com. This year he was nominated for Best of the Net and a Pushcart Prize. He can be found on Twitter @c_c_russell.
Yet another year is coming to a close. For many of us, the dark, cold days of winter are a time for reflection on the past year and setting new goals for the year ahead. Here at Two Cities Review, we are no exception. It is hard to believe that this issue is already our 8th and marks the last issue of our second year of publication! As we take stock of all that we have accomplished in the past two years, we feel great pride in the quality of the work we showcase, as exemplified by the pieces in this blustery, wintery issue. We’re also excited to be producing a new way to experience the magazine: as of this issue’s release, you’ll now be able to listen to the Two Cities Review podcast.
Our goal when we first started this magazine was to provide a home for writing that bridged boundaries, both in terms of style and genre, from both well-known and unpublished writers. We are excited that we have been able to produce such high-quality issues, but we felt something was missing. We feel that being an online magazine should include more than simply a PDF of the work. As our original mission pushed writers to imagine hybrid worlds and ways of writing, we are now pushing our own magazine to cross form and utilize the online environment to its full potential.
We have already begun asking our accepted writers to submit recordings of themselves reading their work, which are now published alongside the pieces on our website. We are reaching out to producers and directors to exhibit video works as well. And now, with the publication of this issue, we are unveiling our brand-new Two Cities Review podcast, a biweekly podcast on which we will discuss pieces we love in the current issue and books we are particularly loving or hating. We will also include readings and interviews with distinguished authors and poets, as well as answers to questions from our readers, submitters and listeners. We hope you will enjoy listening to it as much as we have enjoyed creating it. You will be able to find it on our website and on iTunes. Please let us know what you think!