Volume 3, Issue iii
Wild Greens 3, no. 03 (January 2023)
Welcome to the January 2023 issue of Wild Greens
A new year, a fresh page. Dig up the old you, or bury it and awaken the new. This month at Wild Greens we are exploring devastation, disaster, calamity, and turmoil: the shifting ground beneath your feet, the fault line cracks, the upheavals and new beginnings.
Don Palmer’s poem “Mourning My Father” opens the issue, grieving, and wondering how to grieve. “Battleground” by Myra Chappius renders the immediacy of personal turmoil.
In the newest Turtle and Hare, Hare explores interiors.
Erin Dawkins’s short story “Stay Boy. Stay.” delves into the turmoil within a marriage and the lengths someone will go to “preserve” what they have. Lack of preservation is the theme of Sam Ken’s oil on canvas “Calamity.” Robin Brownfield’s mosaic “This Landscape is Garbage” uses a play on words to show a landscape literally made out of discarded bottle caps, found objects, porcelain tiles, and beads to protest the destruction of our earth.
In the fifth and penultimate installment of “Lost and Found” by Myra Chappius, Ethan tells his story.
The ink and gel “Dreams” by Irina Tall (Novikova) blends human and bird to give a face to creative anxiety. “Oh No, That Won’t Do” by Jordan Coen details a mental health crisis. Melissa Lomax’s mixed media illustration “Strange Journey” explores the artist’s legacy of inspiration.
We look inward. We look outward. It’s turmoil as far as the eye can see.
Mourning My FatherI came to see you one last time, to perform one last ritual.I came armoured as a childin my hair shirt and go-to-church jacket and pants; not as a caution against childish giggling, or nose picking during the Lord ’s Prayer,but in parade to sacred things;as if that mattered to either of us anymore.
“You can commune with your loved one”;the funeral director ushered me in.Like a Russian nesting doll, I stood in a viewing room, a wooden son, in a wooden coffin, staring at a wooden coffin. To commune with what? With dark mahogany walls? With a single chair that sat before the open coffin that held a pale and blotchy thing I did not know?
I stood. I walked. I sat on the chair. I fixed my eyes out the window. I scanned the walls. If communing takes time,how much time?I looked at my watch. I communed with the floor.Thirty minutes had lapsed. Enough.
The next day I returnedto receive a shoebox of you, or a hatbox; I can’t remember anymore.I took you to the Pacific,because you loved the ocean.Scattered, you arched gracefully, a swan in ashes.
I sat on a rock, my bare feet slapped by the waves. I watched you gather, a small grey blanket on the water.You kissed the top of my feet mixing with the sand, the pebbles as if to wash away my sin. I wept more than thirty minutes.
BattlegroundI am wrackedEmotional meter at levels never before seen
I feel the burden of responsibilityin my bonesin the scattered presentation of my mindin the long-held gaze to the other side of a bedroom window, eyes roaming the landscape in search of some kinship of feeling from nature
My back aches with exhaustionConnected—by an invisible thread—to my spirit, stiff with suffering
My essence feels under attack battered distressed run ragged by an inner circle defined penchant towards strengthfurther hampered by self-imposed guilt
In this moment, I detest strengthI loathe the implication and all that comes with itI despise the escape route it creates for others — a road taken liberally that leaves behind only faux sympathy and empty sentiments
It is only with hindsight that the struggle seems lighterTime has a way of turning old burdens into triumphsmaking them cloud over with compassionsoftening the edges draining the poison
There is nothing poetic about my painIt lives with me right now face-to-face
And only one of us is winning.
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Stay, Boy. Stay.
The lights inside the house glow brightly, once warm and welcoming. Now, it takes everything to bring myself to go inside. It’s quiet. The front windows, normally covered with nose prints and drool smears, are pristine. The carpet runner near the door, once peppered with little specks of urine, was removed, leaving behind only the discolored floor from countless hours spent under the beating sun.
The evening sky is a winter painting — creamy oranges and pinks. After a few minutes, the colors settle past the horizon, and everything darkens. My hands rest flat on the steering wheel. The dry and pink skin around my nails pulses from where I have gnawed at it. She was inside, waiting. Or maybe not waiting. Truthfully, I never really know what to expect from Tilda.
Bruce was our dog, an eighteen-pound border terrier. He was our happiness. He was the glue that held our life together, a welcomed distraction from all the other things that were taking place. Now he was gone, and I no longer wanted to go inside.
But it was time to head in. The cold around me has settled, and it is so quiet my ears are ringing. Once inside, I place my briefcase and lunch bag down, and hear the gentle patter of bare feet walking toward me. Tilda wears an oversized teal shirt, leaving her thick-freckled shoulder exposed. Her long, dark hair tangles in beaded strands of costume pendant necklaces that decorate her front, extending down near her chest.
“Hi,” she says as she motions for me to step further into our home. “How was your day?”
“Good, it was good. Actually, it wasn’t,” she waves off her thoughts. “Never mind about me.” While I settle in, she inhales deeply and stands with her hands on her waist. “Well, I got you something,” she says, “But you need to close your eyes.”
“What?” I straighten up because, admittedly, I’m intrigued.
“C’mon, close them.”
I do as she says, closing my eyes tight. She approaches me with uncertainty, and after a millisecond of hesitation, she wraps her hand around my forearm and leads me into the dining room.
The room is blurry as if I woke up from a midday nap. I blink quickly, wishing I hadn’t opened my eyes at all. Tilda stands next to the table, trembling with excitement. She’s like a greeter at the circus, welcoming guests and using her arms to elevate the excitement for what’s inside.
“What do you think?” she asks.
It’s Bruce. All eighteen pounds of him, intact. I move in to examine him closer. I lean in to look into his eyes, reflective and glassy. He’s positioned on his side, paws facing forward. His tail is perfectly poised on his side. His pocket-sized brown ears, one straight open and the other slightly folded, are perfectly positioned on top of his head. His underbite reveals itself about an inch above his lower lip.
“He’s stuffed?” I move my slightly trembling hand close enough to touch but retreat.
“But, but… why? And, when?”
“But why?” I ask again. I reach out to hold the back of a nearby chair for support.
“I thought this would help. Help you. Help us.”
“But we buried him! In the ground…together!” I say as I point to the doors that lead to the backyard.
I raise my hands, unsure whether to cover my ears or my eyes. They gravitate toward my ears as I circle frantically in the dining room.
“Who digs up a dog and has it stuffed?”
“What?” I turn to her, lowering my hands.
“Preserved! Bruce is preserved,” she says despairingly. She lifts her finger to push right between my eyes.
“I thought this would make you happy! You’ve been missing him so much. I thought this was what you wanted!”
“I don’t want a dead dog; I want my dog!”
“This is your dog. I’m your wife. We’re both right here.”
I sit with Bruce in the dark dining room. Tilda retreated upstairs hours ago, bare feet purposefully pounding each stair on her way up. The moonlight from outside shines through the window, casting a perfect square with four equal parts on the ivory table cover. I trace it lightly with my forefinger and then give the table one final, decisive tap.
I pick Bruce up off the table. As I carry a lighter version of my dog outside, I run my palm along his fur. It feels stiff and ungiving. I sit him down on the ground and begin to dig the same hole where we buried him months earlier. Open blisters form in the crook of my left thumb, and the raw skin is traced dark with dirt.
The moonlight creates a small spark of light in Bruce’s right eye, but he remains lifeless. I kneel down and carefully place him in his grave. Then, using both of my arms, I sweep the excess dirt around the grave over him. Once filled, I pat down the dirt to secure the burial site.
I look up at our bedroom window from the backyard. The lights that once glowed brightly switch off.
I say my final goodbyes.
This Landscape Is Garbage
glass and porcelain tiles, beads, bottle caps, found objects on wood
Inspiration: Environmental pollution, over-consumption of junk, corporate irresponsibility, and climate change are all sources of turmoil for our planet. We are past the tipping point for averting environmental disaster. With rampant wildfires, flooding, toxic water, and rising global temperatures, we're in a lot of trouble!
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Lost and Found (part 5)
He spoke for hours, through their breakfast, through the switch from regular to decaf to water, through a second round of toast for him and heavily recommended slice of rhubarb pie for her. He told her everything, or at least what seemed like it. He revealed the reason for his absence, but also much more. How he’d had to write her phone number down on a small scrap of paper that he kept in his sock, so that when he had nothing else the scratch would remind him that she was still there. How he owed thanks to that little piece of paper for being able to find her again.
Drugs. It was drugs. Jo actually shook her head in disbelief — that this could happen to someone she loved, that she had never known. Ethan was as stable a person as there was. He was a great father, a good husband, he’d been at the same job for decades. But he had suffered in silence for years — depression, several suicide attempts. In the beginning, he had been too embarrassed to tell her, to tell anyone. His ex-wife tried to be understanding about his missed days of work, the skipping of family functions, the forgotten responsibilities. But she had never been the most forgiving of women and learning of his addiction to painkillers had pushed her over the edge. She and his daughter, Emily, stayed in the house and Ethan got a one-bedroom apartment on the opposite of town.
The dissolution of the marriage only served to worsen Ethan’s condition and he couldn’t cope. Painkillers turned to cocaine and then to meth and heroin. It wasn’t six months before he lost everything. And if he had been embarrassed before he was fully ashamed now. Emily would barely speak to him. He had shown up high to her high school graduation, and she’d left in tears vowing never to see him again. That had, in fact, been the last time he’d spoken to her.
Once he had lost his job and his apartment he was on the streets, doing whatever he could do to get his next fix. Jo cried fresh tears as he described some of the situations he had found himself in. She cried for his pain, for his loss, for the very notion that he ever felt he couldn’t call her. She cried knowing how alone he must’ve felt.
It had taken nearly four years for Ethan to get things back on track. He had gone to rehab (more than once), the only silver lining of the period he could find was that he had managed to stay out of jail. He had spent some time at a halfway house and, with the help of his sponsor, found a small efficiency to call his own. He’d been there for a month before he unfolded the dingy piece of paper containing her number and texted her. He’d wanted to call, knew that was probably what he should’ve done. But no matter how much he thought about it nothing quite seemed right to say, not in that way. He needed to be there in front of her, face-to-face, for it all to come together.
Ethan didn’t cry, not once, throughout the few hours they sat there talking. He didn’t appear unfeeling – on the contrary, Jo wasn’t sure she’d ever seen him so affected. The thinness of his face had made it more expressive than usual. But it was clear he was keeping his emotions harnessed, as if the idea of them overflowing was something he could not handle at this moment. Jo could understand that. She couldn’t imagine what he must’ve been feeling while recounting all those truly hard times. Everything that had kept him from coming to her in the past hadn’t vanished, he had simply chosen to accept it and push it aside. That took something more than Jo could ever comprehend.
“I know all this doesn’t excuse me,” he said. “I know it’s my fault and that I should’ve known all along that you would be there. I didn’t respect our friendship, Jo. I can’t ever make up for that…” She silenced him by putting her hand on top of his in the middle of the table, the remnants of their meal on either side, her fingers slick with her own tears.
“You don’t need to. I missed you, of course. We missed you. I was angry. But I was also worried. I didn’t know. I’m sorry, that I didn’t know.”
They held hands and looked at each other, plenty more being said without words. The sun was rising high in the sky, warming them through the window.
“Come and see my place,” Ethan requested. “It’s not much at all, but I’ve had next to nothing for quite some time.”
They slid slowly from their seats; the hours spent sitting as well as the weight of emotions having settled in their bones. Ethan had paid for their meal, despite Jo’s protestations, and the waitress called to him with a warm smile as they exited. “See you later, Ethan.”
The midday heat clung to Jo’s skin in a way that made her feel slightly damp. She squinted against the light as she fumbled in her purse for sunglasses.
“Do you come here a lot?” she asked.
He pulled a hat she hadn’t noticed before on to his head to shield his eyes and replied, “I work here.”
That plain statement made the whole thing seem real to Jo in a way that hadn’t yet sunk in. Ethan was working in a diner. Her college-educated, white collar best friend was working in a roadside establishment that kept squeeze bottle ketchup on the table and had a revolving case of desserts next to the front door. Jo wasn’t judging – it was damn good pie - but Ethan could’ve held his own in a Michelin-starred kitchen, and instead he was flipping pancakes and washing dishes 6 days a week. He felt no indignity. He was grateful.
There were a few more cars in the parking lot now than when she’d first arrived, and Jo turned to Ethan once more. “Which one’s yours?”
He smirked, an expression with which she was becoming more and more familiar, and pointed up the road. About a quarter mile in the distance, she saw the small bench of the bus stop she’d rode by on the way in. Ethan shrugged and started walking.
Editor's note: Lost and Found will be serialized across six issues. Tune in next month for the sixth and final installment, and catch up on the first installments if you haven't read them yet.
ink, gel pen, paper
Oh No, That Won't DoIn came the teal-colored pillThe one you dread takingBut you aren’t done with itNot yetOh no, that won’t do In came the teal-colored pilland down your throat it goes
Thud! Thud! Thud! you lay your tired, tired head downyou’re ready for sleepbut your body won’t let you Oh no, that won’t doThud! Thud! Thu-and then your eyes drift shutAnd you think ‘My body is shutting down,’But you don’t fight itOh no, that won’t doThud! Thud! Thud!You wonder whyWhy your body is shutting downWhat these teal-colored pills are doingWhy you can’t just stopBut you know whyWhy you can’t stopBecause if you do you’ll be
CrazyCrazy Crazy CrazyCrazy Crazy
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Artists and Contributors
Don Palmer (he/him) graduated from Dawson College and Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec with a B.A in English literature and in the 1980s had numerous poems appear in publications in Canada and the U.S. His career in mental health took him away from his writing and down a different, yet very rewarding path until his recent retirement. It is now time to rekindle his first love, that of poetry and to rejoin the road he has travelled less frequently over the past three decades.
Writer, Poet, and Copyeditor
Myra Chappius (she/her) is the author of six works of fiction and poetry. While her passion lies with shorter creations, it is her aspiration to complete a full-length novel and screenplay someday. She enjoys reading, music, travel, and learning. When not doing mom things, she is working full-time, seeing the latest movie, or waiting an acceptable length of time before returning to Universal Orlando to satiate her Harry Potter obsession.
Artist and Writer
Lauren Kimball (she/her) lives in Philadelphia. She teaches literature and composition at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. In her spare time, she plays with paint, digital pens, words, and home improvement tools.
You can find her comics on Instagram @turtle_n_hare_comic.
Erin Dawkins (she/her) received her MA in English with a specialization in creative writing from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. As a long distance runner, many of her story ideas come to her when she’s balancing that fine line between a runner’s high and certain death. Her stories have been published by Gwynned Mercy Press, Wayne State University, and Red Tricycle (now Tinybeans). Her microfiction, fiction, and reflections while running can be found at runsthroughlife.com.
Sam Ken (he/him) is an oil painter and sketch artist that currently resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He specializes in portraits and figurative paintings, but is always in search of ways to challenge and express himself. He is currently a board member on the Pikes Peak Arts Council whose mission is to honor, connect, and enrich local artists. His inspirations include, but are not limited to, John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, Karl Kopinski, and Jane French.
Robin Brownfield (she/her) is a former sociology professor in Collingswood, New Jersey who turned to mosaic art after becoming disabled. She was featured in a FOX-29 (Philadelphia) News report, because after sharing a series of award-winning “Black Lives Matter” mosaic portraits online, she was commissioned by Tamika Palmer to do a mosaic portrait of her daughter, Breonna Taylor, whose death, in part, launched a rebirth of the Black Lives Matter movement. That portrait can be seen in the documentary “Bree Way: Promise Witness Remembrance.” Her award-winning artwork has been in galleries in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York City, Las Vegas, Norfolk, Virginia, Texas, Illinois, and San Francisco. She recently finished supervising a community mosaic mural project entitled “Childhood Memories,” which she designed at Thomas Sharp Elementary School in Collingswood, NJ. Above the mural honoring her is a plaque making her one of those old dead people (in the future) who nobody ever heard of, but whose name is on a plaque. Visit her website, www.robinbrownfieldmosaics.com, to see more of her work.
Irina Novikova (Tall)
Irina Novikova (Tall) (she/her) is an artist, graphic artist, and illustrator. She graduated from the State Academy of Slavic Cultures with a degree in art, and also has a bachelor's degree in design.
Her first personal exhibition "My soul is like a wild hawk" (2002) was held in the museum of Maxim Bagdanovich. In her work, she raises themes of ecology and draws on anti-war topics. In 2005 she devoted a series of works to the Chernobyl disaster. The first big series she drew was "The Red Book," dedicated to rare and endangered species of animals and birds.
She writes fairy tales and poems, and illustrates short stories. She draws various fantastic creatures: unicorns, animals with human faces, and she especially likes the image of a woman — a bird — Siren. In 2020, she took part in Poznań Art Week.
Her work has been published in magazines: Gypsophila, Harpy Hybrid Review, Little Literary Living Room, and others. In 2022, her short story was included in the collection The 50 Best Short Stories, and her poem was published in the collection of poetry The wonders of winter.
Jordan Coen (she/her/they/them) is a student at Southern Oregon University (SOU) where she's majoring in educational studies with a double-minor in creative writing and gender, sexuality, and women's studies. When they're not studying or working, you can usually find them writing; reading; watching their favorite shows; or hanging out with their family, friends, or pets. Her favorite genres to write are horror and magical realism, but she will try writing any genre. If you would like to see updates on their writing, you can follow them on Instagram at @Lunacoen2.
Melissa Lomax (she/her) is a freelance illustrator, art teacher, and cartoonist, with 20 years of experience in the creative industry. Some of her clients include American Greetings, Barnes & Noble, Sellers Publishing and Highlights for Children. Her comic 'Doodle Town' posts on GoComics.com, the largest catalog of syndicated cartoons and comics. When she is not in the art studio, she enjoys spending time in nature, drinking really good coffee, and 'everyday adventures' with her husband. Pop by her Instagram @melissalomaxart for weekly inspiration!
Jessica Doble (she/her) holds a PhD in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She's published two critical works: “Hope in the Apocalypse: Narrative Perspective as Negotiation of Structural Crises in Salvage the Bones” in Xavier Review, and “Two-Sides of the Same Witchy Coin: Re-examining Belief in Witches through Jeannette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate” in All about Monsters. Her poetry has appeared in PubLab and Wild Greens magazine.
Jacqueline (she/her) is a writer, editor, and copyeditor living in California. She earned her BA in English and creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. She was a 2021 publishing fellow with the Los Angeles Review of Books and an editor and co-editor for PubLab and Mosaic Art and Literary Journal. She serves as the fiction editor for Wild Greens magazine and a copyeditor for the Los Angeles Review of Books and The Arrow Journal.
Maggie Topel (she/her) is an artist and writer living in Philadelphia. She designs our seasonal Wild Greens logo and social media avatar.
Hayley (she/her) creates the cover image for each issue of Wild Greens magazine and serves as the Arts Editor. Hayley is a social justice seeker, world traveler, rock climber, dog snuggler, frisbee player, event planner, and storyteller. She loves to paint with watercolors, embroider, and write. She grew up reading sci-fi and fantasy, and to this day she still turns to those genres to help her make sense of the world. She calls Philadelphia home and wouldn't have it any other way. You can find Hayley on Instagram @hayley3390 or @haypaints. She accepts commissions, and you can find examples of her work on her website.
Rebecca Lipperini (she/her) is a writer, teacher, and academic living in Philadelphia, and the founding editor of Wild Greens magazine (hi!). She holds a PhD in English from Rutgers University, where she taught all kinds of classes on literature and poetry and writing, and wrote all kinds of papers on the same. Her essay on the soothing aesthetics of the supermarket was recently published in PubLab. She teaches in the Critical Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania.