In our Apostrophes section, (614) Magazine attempts to highlight some of the incredible literary talent that lives, works, and writes in Columbus. If you are an interested writer, please direct your submissions (1,000 words max for prose, 300 words max for poetry,) along with a brief bio, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boulder by Joshua Gandee
Joshua Gandee is a bartender, writer, and comedian living in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to creating cocktails for Harvest Bar+Kitchen, he performs regularly with his sketch group Asbestos Crew as part of Monday Night Live, held the second Monday of the month at Wild Goose Creative.
I left it to the locals to make up their minds on whether or not any of us deserved to be there, surrounded by the tall pines and hilly roads that made up Boulder. Turns out they were the wrong ones given the privilege to look us over. It was the ones up high, the ones kissing the clouds, looking down on us the entire time, a god of sorts but they’ve been here longer.
Nick, Lynnie and I – three kids from Ohio…was this our first mountain? It was for some. I was surrounded by the mountains in Maine a year ago, when I got my feet stuck in the snow and the only one there to pull my leg out had no arms, only limbs. We were a gentle bunch, much more than the boot-wearing locals. That’s where we stood out, I thought – we had no boots. With two feet of snow, our simple tennis shoes could not cut it. We didn’t know the local fare, we didn’t know the food, and we didn’t know the mountain.
I think that’s why it got to us so bad up there, with our throats growing tight and every bone in our body aching to look over the edge, but we knew one thing and that was for certain – you don’t look down.
But we did. We gazed over the edge; we threw snow to the road. Oh, how cold our hands became. In Ohio, only a day away, the leaves were still hanging; in Boulder, they traded the rakes for shovels. There is a different life you take on when you are 8,000 feet up, when the lights and buildings of the town you came up from bleed into a map – a map that transcends paper. We pointed out over the smog and fog and clouds and laughed at what we didn’t and could not know. This was heaven I thought “it has to be.”
There are many sides to a mountain and if you’re lucky you will never know them all. We walked along atop the clouds and found our way through a trail. Careful steps are the kind you take as you descend small rocks and flooded cacti. Through the trees we could start to see it, the backside to the Rockies and what a fitting name: this mass of rocks, jagged and fitting into places you didn’t think boulders could go. They were squeezing on rivers and falling under trees, giving way to the sky – the one voice it listens to, for no matter the conditions, you see the clouds falling like wet blankets on top of the mountains. The protective mother of the sky; these warming hands that they lay so gentle atop these creeping, sleeping, dying giants.
This is the sky, and this is my hand; I can’t grab any of it. I cannot grasp or make a fist but I can point and that is exactly what I did. That is a peak, that looks like a city (but it was a water treatment plant) those are the clouds in their luminous grey; that is the valley with its trees like hair on the back of my dog who is back at home (Where is he sleeping? What has he seen today? Is he calm? Is he still? When will I see him again? I’m not sure but when I do he will wag his tail with a pillow in his mouth, he will jump onto my chest then as I sit—he will sit in front of me as if we are posing for a picture but there is no camera…there is never a camera.) and those are the mountains that we don’t have back home.
Back in the hotel, when we came down from heaven we are greeted by air easier to breathe. This is a beer and this is my hand. I sat alone in the room as the rest of the visitors sat in the hot tub, running back and forth from the freezing pool into the warm sauna room with dripping wet cold feet that burned as they stepped into the water. I in my flannel shirt because I didn’t pack a tee shirt and my long john pants that are older than me, the rest of them in bathing suits. In the bucket next to the television sat ice and pear cider.
We were all alone, no matter how you looked at it. The mountains knew it but they sure weren’t going to say anything. Strong silent types, who when they do want to talk they send passive aggressive comments in the form of a flood or wind. “Stop your staring, take a picture it will last longer.” But it won’t. The photographs will disappear; they all will, until they dwindle down to nothingness just as the mountain will. It will all be earth one day. I wish I could be there, the day the earth says nothing. I wish I could be the only one with a voice and a refusal to use it as the only sounds are those made by cackling streams and crackling branches and the howl at the moon and the falling of the stars when it all comes crashing down.
Smiles were to be had as the pear cider was cracked, the ice started to melt and people poured into our lonely, tiny room. Drinks were to be had, and we were having them. Life was to go on and we were going. The smiles, the mountains, the unstoppable map we looked on from the sky, the cougar that we swear we saw but was never there; they were all with us, the snowballs, the mountain walls, the emergency brake, the Coors Brewery…they were all there and they were laughing, but nothing was funny.
We were serious and we were free and Jen was engaged. Boulder is still and I am quiet. With my voice lost in a pillow I refuse to speak, I will hum until I fall asleep.
Broken Record by Anna O’Reilly
Anna O’Reilly is a senior religion major and creative writing minor at Capital University. She will soon be a poor starving artist hoping to attend graduate school on someone else’s dollar.
The voices in our heads seep
through our flesh as tattoos
scrawled like the purple ink
plastic surgeons scribble
for roadmaps. Cut here,
pinch there. Human chalkboards
repeating our offenses over
and over like school children’s
punishment. Not pretty, not good
enough, unwanted, undeserving,
undesirable, incapable of loving,
incapable of being
loved. Looking in the mirror
our bodies covered with phrases
bleeding together, the eyes
no longer distinguishable
on faces dark
with letters. God, we need rain
to blur and smudge
our ink stained skin. Drops
drowning the thundering sound
of our poisoned words
that will kill us if we let them.
World Peace by Julie Feltovich
Julie Feltovich is a recent implant to Columbus from Pittsburgh. She has a background in real estate, technology and marketing. Julie works in corporate relocation, moving people nationally and internationally, and she has now relocated herself to work onsite at a client location in Ohio. She’s been writing poetry and prose since high school and many of her works are based on stories from the real estate business or corporate world, thus the reason she often finds using the first person the most compelling way to share the drama of every day real life experiences.
“Where are your dancing shoes?” she said.
If only I could retrace the steps and return —
I wonder what places those sophisticated
Black wedge heel peep toe sling back
Shoes had touched that day —
Complex and complicated I might add.
I reassured her quickly that they had
Their own little home in my second home,
A wild and sometimes scary machine —
When you wander about without any
Money in your pocket
Or in the bank
Without a dime to your name —
With four wheels.
That’s life — I wonder where I was
It was irrelevant because I could not
Defy motion, rewind, and find myself
There again —
And there again, with less trouble.
Irrelevant was the word of the day anyway;
It was the most “relevant” word for the
Sarcasm and the cynical nature of
That I found myself suddenly
Overcome by…and somehow
Swept into the midst of the madness,
Running furiously — even against a
Brick wall — could never save me.
I typed “world peace” into the
Web search —
But after perusing the headings of the
Top five listings, I found myself
I mumbled in my head,
War because we disagree.”
Finally gathering enough
Composure to answer the
Or maybe, off the cell phone tower,
Or off the desk for that matter –
Phone, he said “We must go
To dinner to Celebrate.”
“Celebrate what?” was my rather
Hasty, irrational retort.
Someday twenty years from now
This will all be funny.
There’s more to life –
That’s just it:
There’s life itself…
And maybe tonight when
I close my eyes
The litigation, debates, and lies,
I’ll dream of peace.