Kate Lebo

The Loudproof Room

Nonfiction from NER 35.2.

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An Earmoir

I was born with a strawberry hemangioma splashed over the bottom half of my right ear and two inches down my neck. The sort of red that has purple trapped inside it. A swollen, shocking hue. For the first year, I had no hair to disguise it. The sight of me made strangers uncomfortable.

My birthmark was so red and angry and I cried so murderously when my parents bathed it that it became, as I grew, the explanation for a lot of things. Why I was teased in school, why I cried easily. Why I couldn’t hear conversational tones out of my right ear.

By the time I was ten the skin faded to a mottle of mostly normal looking tissue. It looks enough like a burn scar that no one asks what happened. Mostly I forget it’s there. When a new friend asks me “what’s up with your ear?” I need a second to remember what she’s talking about. My father and I were in a motorcycle accident when I was five, I say. It tore my ear half off. When she looks sorry for asking, I tell her I was born this way. Which isn’t exactly the truth. If it was, I’d still have a stoplight for an ear.

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Kate Lebo’s poems and prose have appeared in Best New Poets, the Rumpus, Gastronomica, Willow Springs, and Poetry Northwest. She is also the author of two books about the folk art of pie-making, A Commonplace Book of Pie (Chin Music Press, 2013) and Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter (Sasquatch Books, 2014). She teaches writing workshops nationally. For more, visit katelebo.com.

Lou Mathews

Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

Fiction from NER 35.2

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1280px-Path_between_sugar_canes_(5216462193)No man knows his apotheosis. Carl Jung said that. No man knows his apotheosis, but I know mine. That particular deal went down in the scrubby jungle outside of Rivas. This was in Nicaragua, in 1987. I can tell you the day and even the hour. April 22, 1:00 p.m., the high point of my life. At noon that day, the producers fired Alec Litwer-Bowen as director. Alec had recommended a two-million-dollar line of credit, to be spent in-country, which made sense. The US Embargo made the usual studio transactions impossible. When Alec arrived in Nicaragua, he handed a million dollars over to the Sandinista government. It would have been a bargain; government support in the form of reliable cars, trucks, gasoline, construction equipment, soldiers, helicopters, boats, soldiers, extras, and rare goods like plywood and other necessities for sets would be worth well beyond that sum. The bonding company, which should never have known about this transaction, got squeezed by the Reagan administration and demanded that the producers shut the movie or fire Alec. They fired Alec, at least that is what we assumed. Alec had disappeared and the studio publicists began cranking up the creative-differences-agree-to-disagree machine. It was quite a concert back in LA; the rumor machine began a bass murmur of overdoses and breakdowns while contracts and legal whistled moral turpitude. Meantime, the studio tried to recruit an A, B, or even C-list director. No one would touch it; the bad juju taint was out on this one. I was right place, right time. I was the writer, I was second-unit assistant director, I’d made a short, I spoke Spanish. Mostly, I was there. They handed me the swagger stick, the metaphorical pith helmet and megaphone. Traditionally, a transition like this would be noted by a newly stenciled parking space and a folding chair with my name on the back: Dale Davis, Director.

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Lou Mathews’s story “Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others” is from a shiny new manuscript, Hollywoodski, stories by and about Dale Davis, a self-described “faded screenwriter.” Another story from Hollywoodski,“Not Oliver Stone,” will be published in Black Clock #19 this November. Mathews’s work has also appeared in Tin House, Failbetter, Mother Jones, Short Story, and The Pushcart Prize. His first novel, L.A. Breakdown (Malvern, 1999), was a Los Angeles Times Best Book. 

John R. Nelson

Mr. Forbush and Mr. White

Nonfiction from NER 35.2

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800px-289_Solitary_SandpiperFor a bird-fancier, I was late in getting to Edward Howe Forbush’s three-volume Birds of Massachusetts and Other New England States, published in the 1920s. I assumed that much of Forbush’s work would now be dated, supplanted by fresh scientific knowledge and more scrupulously kept records of the distribution and habits of birds. And the weight of it, fourteen hundred pages in all—that’s a lot of damn bird-lore to lift. But in 2012, when I took on the task of writing a hundredth anniversary history of the Brookline Bird Club (BBC), I knew I could put the man off no longer. The preeminent New England ornithologist of the early twentieth century, he’d been the first speaker at the annual BBC meeting (his stereopticon malfunctioned), and the club had lobbied the Massachusetts legislature to fund publication of his three volumes. In my research his name kept springing up everywhere. One could not write any history of New England birds without looking into Forbush.

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John R. Nelson has contributed to Gettysburg Review, Massachusetts Review, Harvard Review, Harvard Magazine, and various birding magazines in the US and England. His essay “Brolga the Dancing Crane Girl,” on birds and dance, was awarded the Carter Prize for the best nonfiction work published in Shenandoah during the 2011–12 season.

Sands Hall

Theim’s Wingéd Chariot

Fiction from NER 35.2

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Just as Dafne finished her rousing—if she said so herself—lecture about the limited choices for women in nineteenth-century America, much less Britain, and had called on the dependable Serena for a response, the door to her classroom nudged open. And there, peering around the doorjamb, was Edward! Dafne’s heart lurched like an old car. The whole of Friday night tumbled at her, an Atlantic wave full of force and silt guaranteed to knock her over the fence and into the moon. “Professor Hartman!” she said. That horrid betraying flush was, she knew, making her face look as if she’d been in a boiler room shoveling coal. Edward nodded, pushed open the door the rest of the way, and tiptoed, elaborately, to the nearest available chair.

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Sands Hall is the author of the novel Catching Heaven (Ballantine, 2000) and a book of essays and exercises, Tools of the Writer’s Craft (Moving Finger Press, 2005). Her essays and stories have appeared in 2paragraphs.com, Green Mountains Review, and the Iowa Review; the latter, “Hide and Go Seek,” was listed among 100 Other Notable Stories in Best American Short Stories, 2009. She is also a singer/songwriter and playwright; her produced plays include an adaptation of Alcott’s Little Women and the comic drama Fair Use.

New from April Ossmann in NER 35.2

When Your People Call My People to Arrange a Meeting | April Ossmann


Know that lately,
I am giving myself
to sleep as I once
gave myself in love,
my body flung eagerly
into bed; limbs limp and heavy
with pleasure; the bedclothes
on waking arranged exactly
as I entered them.
I am in love now
with rest, with release
from the tireless ego—

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NER Vermont / BigTown Gallery Reading: Sunday, July 6

Terri Ford-use this one
Terri Ford

The NER Vermont Reading Series and BigTown Gallery are pleased to present Terri Ford and Jamaal May, who will read selections from their poetry on Sunday, July 6, at 5:30 PM at BigTown Gallery, 99 North Main Street, in Rochester. This summer gathering at the gallery will celebrate live readings and the people who value them most, creating a link between two of Vermont’s most lively reading series and from one side of the Green Mountains to the other.

This reading is followed by a special catered reception in the garden. Please RSVP to the BigTown Gallery at info@bigtowngallery.com. NER is arranging for transportation from Middlebury over the mountain to Rochester — if you’d like a ride, please email nereview@middlebury.edu. Seating is limited!

Jamaal May

Terri Ford is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. She’s been a fellow at Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, a summer resident of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown through the Ohio Arts Council, and the recipient of several grants. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Conduit, Forklift Ohio, and many other journals. She is the author of Why the Ships Are She and Hams Beneath the Firmament.

Jamaal May was born in Detroit, Michigan. His first book, Hum, received the Beatrice Hawley Award, the American Library Association’s Notable Book Award, and an NAACP Image Award nomination. He has been awarded a Rose O’Neill Literary House Cave Canem Residency, the Kenyon Review Fellowship, and a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship in Italy, among other awards and fellowships. His poems appear in such periodicals as New England Review, NYTimes.com, New Republic, Believer, Poetry, Ploughshares, and Best American Poetry 2014. He co-edits the poetry section of Solstice, teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program, and co-directs the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook and Video Series with Tarfia Faizullah.