January Web Feature
Your Pet Turtle
We agree that nothing is absolute, not the dark of closets, not clock-faces, not the stink of cooking fat. But we disagree on the exceptions. You place your plastic crucifix on the wall and claim that it represents the ultimate. I prop Wallace Stevens’ Collected Poems against the bassinette to make the baby cry. You prod my undercarriage with the skewer you used for lamb until I objected to cooking the young of innocent animals. I scratch you very slightly with a genuine Thoreau pencil I bought in a rare book shop forty years ago. You respond with the word “Animula.” I reply with “Condensed.” We agree that if we laugh it has to be aloud.
The room sweetens with the breath of your tiny pet turtle. It walked all the way from the Caribbean to live in your terrarium. Soon the immigration police will arrive to arrest us for importing disease from the furthest reach of the galaxy. We will explain that nothing is absolute, not even the furthest reach of the galaxy, and that law enforce peters out beyond the limits of the atmosphere. They will arrest your plastic crucifix for violating the religious clause of the Bill of Rights but allow your turtle to remain with you until a judge hears its case.
William Doreski recently retired after years of teaching at Keene State College in New Hampshire (USA). His most recent book of poetry is The Suburbs of Atlantis (2013). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently A Black River, A Dark Fall (2018)
Congratulations to our
ENMU Student Prize Winners
for Fall 2019
1st place: Natalie Franco Torres for “A Second Chance”
2nd place: Timothy Gettle for “The Light of a Lavender Sky”
1st place: “Bicycle” by Cody Wilhelm
2nd place: “Another Myth” by Bridget Richardson
3rd place: “Laid to Rest” by Falyn Benavidez
1st place: Michael Gardner‘s “Enchanting”
2nd place: Katherine Perelas‘s “Serene and Quiet”
December Web Feature
by Simon Perchik
You feed these birds at night
the way every feather they use
comes from a quarry where the air
darkens with each landing –it’s Tuesday
and you still have not forgotten
their return for seeds, endlessly
weeping for a missing child
a brother, mother though their eyes
are unsure how to close
when listening for a name, a flower
a river –you fill your hand from a bag
as if at the bottom they could hear
an emptiness that is not a night
falling behind step by step on the ground
–how open it was, already grass.
And stubborn yet these wicks
warm the light they need
to blossom as stone
then cling, smell from hair
burning inside, clawing for roots
heated by butterflies
and the afternoons coming together
to the light the fire, be a noon
where there was none before.
Simon Perchik is an attorney, born in 1923, whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Poetry, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Gibson Poems published in 2019. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.
El Portal and the ENMU Department of Languages and Literature
are delighted to announce our Fall 2019 visiting writer: Thaddeus Rutkowski.
Join us for a personal reading by Thaddeus Rutkowski
on Tuesday, October 8th at 3:30 pm in ENMU’s Little Theater.
Rutkowski’s novel, Haywire, was a fiction finalist for the Asian American Literary Award, and won the Member’s Choice Award of the Asian American Writers Workshop in New York.
A former guest poet/mentor turned Artist-in-Residence, Steve Bellin-Oka, shared the following piece with El Portal on November 11, 2016. We always knew he was bound for great things and are deeply honored to say, with a full heart, “we knew him when.”
Still Life with the Plague of Darkness
— for my daughter
I woke this morning before dawn
to find the nation’s hearts had hardened.
Something stretched out its hand—a darkness
so thick it felt like gauze.
It seemed it would last for days.
Even the pavement cracks were wider:
more thick weeds forcing up
through the ridged concrete.
Overnight, someone stepped on them
and now we think our backs are broken.
But they’re not—I think of you
in another time zone, just turned thirteen,
the same sun rising from the far end
of the city. We’d wanted a land
less dangerous for you. To find
our questions answered. To wipe layers
away from the cocoon you struggle
to break free of. Forgive us.
But the November branches define
themselves against the slow sunrise.
Brown and red leaves still cling to them.
Inside the house now, I’ve pulled
the curtains back. Already so much
light pours in—nothing can keep it out.
A previous assistant professor at ENMU, Steve Bellin-Oka is the 2019 Poets in Parks artist-in-residence for The National Parks Arts Foundation (NPAF), the Poetry Foundation, the National Parks Service, and the Gettysburg Foundation. He is the author of two chapbooks, The Frankenstein Poems (2014) and Dead Letter Office at North Atlantic Station (forthcoming in 2017). His work has appeared in Cream City Review, Mississippi Review, William and Mary Review and Yalobusha Review, among other journals, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets prize and fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Hambidge Center for the Arts, and was shortlisted for the Key West Literary Seminar’s Scotti Merrill Memorial Award.
Read our Spring 2019 Edition by clinking here: El-Portal-Spring 2019 Online
Read our Fall 2018 Issue by clinking here: El Portal Fall 2018
Tyne Sansom, former editor of El Portal will be reading his work on Monday, October 29th at 2:30p.m. in ENMU’s Art & Anthropology Building room 110.
Tyne Sansom is a graduate student in English creative writing at ENMU. He lives with his family in Portales, NM. He enjoys road cycling on the high plains and is an aspiring cigar aficionado.
Stefan Kiesbye, former creative writing professor at Eastern New Mexico University, and close friend of El Portal, will be reading excerpts of his work on Monday, October 29th at 2:30p.m. in ENMU’s Art & Anthropology Building room 110.
Stefan Kiesbye stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. His first book, Next Door Lived a Girl, won the Low Fidelity Press Novella Award, and has been translated into German, Dutch, and Spanish.
Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone made EW’s Must List and was named one of the best books of 2012 by Slate editor Dan Kois.
The LA Noir Fluchtpunkt Los Angeles was published in February 2015, and The Staked Plains, a novella, was released that same year. The Gothic novel Knives, Forks, Scissors, Flames came out in October 2016, and German newspaper Die Welt commented that, “Kiesbye is the inventor of the modern German Gothic novel.”
His new novel Berlingeles is available from Revelore Press. Kiesbye teaches creative writing at Sonoma State University.
Join us on Monday, October 29th at 2:30p.m. in Eastern New Mexico University’s Art & Anthropology building, room 110, for readings by 6-time novelist Stefan Kiesbye and ENMU student Tyne Sansom.
We want your best work! El Portal is seeking submissions for our Spring 2019 issue. If you have a piece you’d like to share, our editors are always reading.
ENMU students are eligible for cash prizes and an extended deadline. ENMU student deadline is: December 15th.
Join El Portal staff & the ENMU Languages and Literature Deptartment in welcoming former faculty Stefan Kiesbye, now assistant professor of Creative Writing at Sonoma State University, back to the staked plains for a reading of his work on Monday, October 29th at 2:30 p.m. in the Art and Anthropology building, room 110. Graduate student, Tyne Sansom, will provide a reading of his work as well.
Read our Spring 2018 Edition by clinking here: El Portal Spring 2018 Online
Don’t miss our print submission deadline for Fall 2018 – May 11, 2018.
Submissions for digital content are always welcome.
Send your best work our way: EL.PORTAL@ENMU.EDU
Join our staff, contributors, and fans to celebrate the launch of our Spring 2018 issue on Monday, April 30th at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
by : Wesley Martin
Jeffrey and Tammy poured out of the minivan, jumping and hollering across the parking lot, before Lillian had even unbuckled her seat-belt.
“Hey! How many times have I told you two not to run off!” Their mom yelled at the kids as she shouldered her purse. “Lillian, get off your phone.”
Lillian groaned and twerped something about how family outings are the worst. She followed her parents to the building, passing under the shadow of the gigantic redwhiteandblue A sign towering over the restaurant. Again, she checked how many dotes her twerps had gotten recently. Still mostly just James, who wanted to ask her out but was too shy and probably knew she’d say no. None of her friends were paying attention to her boring normal summer.
Tammy and Jeffrey waited impatiently by the door. A poster for the food chain’s latest monstrosity, the Cheesy Shake, #truthordairy, covered the entrance.
“Oh, maybe I’ll try the gouda,” her mom said.
Lillian audibly gagged.
“You know, you used to love this place,” her dad said.
“Yeah, before I learned what real food was.”
“Come on now,” her dad replied. “I read an article that said their food was almost eighty percent real.”
Her mom held the door open for them all. Lillian entered twerping about never getting to go anywhere nice.
Inside was overly air conditioned and twangy country music piped through the speakers. “Welcome to America Trough, the non-stop trough spot!” the collage-age dork behind the counter greeted.
“Hello,” her mom said cheerfully, then snapped at the kids who were about to bolt to the wallow pit. “Jeffrey, Tammy, wait till after we order.”
The family stared at the menu while an obese couple ahead of them paid the cashier. Lillian wondered if they ever stared at the menu or if they had it memorized by now.
“Do we want to share a family trough, or does everybody want their own thing?” her dad asked.
“I want a toy!” Jeffrey said. “They’ve got Patriasoars,” referring to the plastic figures from the cartoon perpetually haunting their living room TV.
“Me too!” Tammy said. “I want a Tripartisiantops.”
“Fine. We’ll get you both kiddie chutes,” her dad said. “Lillian, what about you?”
“Just a veggie bucket.”
“That’s all?” her mom asked. “You gotta have some protein in your diet.”
“You know how they treat their animals, right?” Lillian scoffed. “They immobilize them and keep them in tiny boxes for most of their lives, intravenously pumping in nutrients and steroids, all while talk radio is blared through their prisons.”
“Talk radio? Please?” her mom said. “They couldn’t be so delicious if that were true.”
“I only want a veggie bucket, OK?” Lillian said, then sent a twerp about the ignorance of older generations.
“Alright. What do you want to drink?”
“Diet Syrup,” Lillian said.
“Can we go play now?” Tammy asked.
“Yes, fine. Lillian, watch your siblings,” her mom said.
Lillian found a pen where she could watch the wallow pit. She scrolled through her friends trenches. Sandy was still raving about the DJ Platitude concert she went to last week. Pamela had posted another photo dump from her trip to Merch Fest. They’d been getting lots of dotes. It seemed like Lillian was the only one who didn’t get to do something fun this summer.
The obese couple, seated across the aisle, gossiped over the one of the woman’s coworker’s sad attempt at pulling off skinny jeans. The man’s monotone chuckle punctuated the woman’s sentences as she berated her coworker. An employee, wearing a rubber apron, hauled over two large pails to the couple and dumped them into their trough. The squishy sloppy sound of the food piling out made Lillian ill.
“Could we get some extra napkins, please?” The obese man asked, and then the couple scrarfed and snorted the contents of their trough.
Lillian stuffed her headphones in and played some technogrundgepop to drown out the obscenity across the aisle. She looked to the wallow pit, Tammy and Jeffrey were already covered head-to-toe in mud. Thankfully, they had remembered to take off their sneakers and store them in the plastic cubby.
A few moments later Lillian’s parents joined her in the pen and passed her drink. Both her parents sucked on their Cheesy Shakes while her mom searched the new releases on Drooloo for something to watch tonight. Her dad shook his head at every suggestion. She couldn’t hear the conversation but Lillian knew her dad was pointing out something wrong with all the actors from the titles her mom was interested in. After four or five discarded movie suggestions the employee in the apron brought their food pails over. He sloshed the family order into their trough and tiny flecks of meat splattered in all directions. He handed her mom the Patriasoar toys and placed the veggie bucket in front of Lillian.
Bits of lettuce and carrot shavings floated on the surface of the thick milky dressing. Lillian picked up a lettuce leaf and watched the dressing drizzle back down into the bucket.
Her dad nudged her and gestured to remove the headphones. She rolled her eyes as she did so.
“Hey, glad you’re going to be a part of the family while we eat,” he told her.
“Yeah, how could I resist that?” Lillian said and dropped the lettuce leaf back into the bucket.
Her parents got on the knees and bent over the trough. They happily munched away, and Lillian only swirled the veggies around in the bucket. She checked her trench again. James doted her last two twerps.
“You know, honey, you’re more than welcome to our trough if you want to save your salad,” her mom said with food smothered across her lips and chin.
Lillian hated herself for admitting it, but the cheesysaltymeaty aroma arising from the trough was appealing. She double checked the restaurant to make sure no one from school was around. Just strangers who couldn’t care less how they looked publicly gorging themselves. All clear. With partial relief and partial abhorrence she bent down next to her parents and dug into the American Trough.