Harp & Altar

Shane Book is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. His awards include a New York Times Fellowship in Poetry, an Academy of American Poets Prize, and a National Magazine Award. He teaches at Stanford and is producing and directing the documentary film Laborland.


Adam Clay is the author of The Wash (Parlor Press, 2006). He lives in Michigan.


Josh Dorman’s work has been exhibited in solo shows at galleries including 55 Mercer, The CUE Foundation, and Pierogi in New York, George Billis in Los Angeles, and Hallwalls in Buffalo. His work has also been included in group shows at the Drawing Center, the National Academy Museum, the Islip Art Museum, and Hunter College, among others, and has been exhibited internationally, in Traun, Austria, and Leipzig, Germany. He received his MFA from Queens College in 1992 and has been granted residencies at Yaddo and the Millay Colony. Images of his work are available at www.joshdorman.net.

A Canadian currently living in Brooklyn, Corey Frost's stories have appeared in Matrix, Geist, The Walrus, and other magazines. He was named the Best Spoken Word Artist in 2001 by the Montreal Mirror. He is currently writing a book about spoken word scenes around the world as part of a doctoral dissertation. A CD of his performances, Bits World: Exciting Version, is forthcoming. His books include The Worthwhile Flux (2004) and My Own Devices: Airport Version (2006), both published by Conundrum Press.


Sarah Gridley received her MFA in poetry from the University of Montana. She is the author of Weather Eye Open (University of California Press/New California Poetry Series, 2005) and is currently a Visiting Lecturer in Poetry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.


Elise Harris is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. Her profile of the poet Noelle Kocot appeared in the first issue of Harp & Altar.


Joanna Howard's work has appeared in Conjunctions, Chicago Review, Quarterly West, Western Humanities Review, Fourteen Hills, and elsewhere. Her chapbook In the Colorless Round, illustrated by Rikki Ducornet, was published in 2006 by Noemi Press. She received her Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Denver in 2004 and currently lives in Providence, where she teaches at Brown University and is an editor for Encyclopedia Project.


Steve Katz was one of the founders of Fiction Collective (now FC2). He has taught creative writing at Cornell University, Brooklyn College, Queens College, the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Colorado at Boulder, from which he retired in 2003. He's also tended bar, worked construction, waited tables, and mined for mercury. His books include Creamy & Delicious, Wier & Pouce, Florry of Washington Heights, Swanny's Ways, Saw, Moving Parts, and Stolen Stories. His most recent books are the novel Antonello’s Lion (Green Integer, 2005) and the collection Kisssss?, which is forthcoming in 2007 from FC2. The stories in this issue are from an ongoing project of memoirs titled Memoirrhoids.


Joanna Klink's second book, Circadian, is forthcoming from Penguin in 2007. She teaches poetry at the University of Montana.


Michael Newton is a current MFA candidate at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, though his artwork is kind of hard to explain. His gallery reviews also appeared in the first issue of Harp & Altar.


Peter O'Leary's book of criticism, Gnostic Contagion: Robert Duncan & the Poetry of Illness, was published in 2002 by Wesleyan. A new book of poetry, Depth Theology, appeared last year from Georgia. He lives on the West Side of Chicago, in Berwyn.


Katie Peterson was born in California. She is the Robert Aird Professor of Humanities at Deep Springs College in Deep Springs, California. Her book of poems, This One Tree, won the New Issues Poetry Prize and was published in 2006 by New Issues/Western Michigan University Press.


Johannah Rodgers is a writer who lives in Brooklyn. Her chapbook Necessary Fictions was published by Sona Books in 2003, and her short stories and essays have appeared in Fiction, CHAIN Arts, The Brooklyn Rail, Pierogi Press, and Fence. Her book sentences, a collection of stories, essays, and artwork, was published this year by Red Dust Press.


Brandon Shimoda’s writings appear in recent or forthcoming editions of MiPOesias, Free Verse, Practice, Washington Square, Xantippe, the tiny, and elsewhere. He has projects forthcoming from both Corollary Press and Flim Forum Press. He currently teaches at the University of Montana in Missoula, where he also curates the New Lakes reading and performance series.


Kate Schreyer is currently studying fiction in the MFA program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


Michael Zeiss’s story “Notes Toward a Supreme Action Movie” appeared in the first issue of Harp & Altar.

My Bridge
Steve Katz

Embedded in my gallery of visual nostalgia, like an unforgettable dance movement, is the shallow arc of the span of the George Washington Bridge before the lower roadway was added. It was a mile-long elegant convex gesture of engineering, yoking New Jersey and New York City. My youth never kept me from sitting with the old folks on the terrace at the west end of Jayhood Wright Park to gaze on this phenomenon of grace. It made me sing. It made each day precious. Life turned gross and full of dreary practicality when they built the lower roadway. They also threw up a high-rise to obstruct the view from the terrace. At that time, though we lived far from the Lower East Side, I could lie in bed in the morning and listen to the cry of the ragman. “High cash clothes, high cash clothes,” he chanted as he plied the streets of Washington Heights as if it were way downtown. And there was a knife sharpener who came by less frequently, but sometimes added to the music of my mornings. He rode his bicycle, pulling the carborundum wheel and implements behind. “Scissors sharpened. Knives sharper. Sharp here. Sharp here.” Housewives rushed to meet him with their cutlery in canvas bags. His wheel screeched as sparks and water droplets flew. Then there was Manny who pulled his horse-drawn cart up to the corner of Ft. Washington Avenue and 173rd, and sold vegetables and fruit. Manny was good to the horse, that always had his muzzle in a leather oat bag hung over his ears. My mother wouldn’t go near the beast, and didn’t want me to either. A horse had bitten her when she was a kid, and she lived in fear of them. I worked for Mr. Manny occasionally. He’d give me a penny a delivery to carry bags of vegetables and fruit to the old ladies in apartments around the neighborhood. They fearfully cracked the door and sniffed me out before they opened. Some would tip me, maybe a nickel. We were poor. I was nine. Any money was a lot of money.

Once they hung the lower roadway my childhood slowly coarsened. No cause and effect, except in my private economy. I could hardly look at the bridge anymore. It was dull and clumsy. It was first proof for me that in America commerce trumps beauty.

One day, when I stepped out of my building, a teenager riding a delivery bike, one of those grocery bikes with a big box on two wheels in front, called out, “Hey kid.” He gestured for me to come over. “Want to make a quarter real easy?” A quarter to me was a fortune. “Yeah. What?” “Just come with me. I’ll give you a quarter.” That was six maybe seven egg creams at the Russian’s candy store on Broadway and 173rd. It was two fistfuls of Clark bars. For the quarter I let him lead me into a big building on 173rd and Haven Avenue. The interior was a labyrinth of corridors and turns. I followed him past apartment after apartment till he stopped near the back of the building. Everything around me was beige.

“Okay, kid.” He handed me the quarter. I felt it to be sure it was real, and put it in my pocket. “Close your eyes,” he said.


“All you got to do is hold onto my finger. Close your eyes.”

It seemed very strange. Hold a finger for a quarter? Close my eyes? I was an honest kid. I had his quarter. I held his finger.

“Now I’ll give you another quarter. Keep your eyes closed.”

Four bits? Who was this guy? I had struck it rich, but something was weird. “Now grab my finger again.”

He guided my hand and laid his finger in it, except I knew this wasn’t his finger. It was hot and snaky. I’d never held a snake, but I was sure it felt like this. He moaned a little. I let go when we heard some voices in the hallway. And he sprinted out of there, leaving me alone. He never gave me the second quarter. He was back on his bike when I left the building. He shouted to a friend of his walking up the street, “This kid jerked me off for half a buck.” I wanted to tell him he never gave me the second quarter, but I kept my mouth shut. I was disappointed, humiliated, and ready to go to Broadway for an egg cream at the Russian’s. The experience was traumatic. I’d been exploited, my innocence stolen. But what city kid wants to hold on to innocence? This was a real experience. I learned something. I’m straight as a road in Nevada. I learned that you’ve got to be alert. The delivery boy still owes me two bits, and I’ll never get it. The real trauma was the loss of the beauty of the single-span George Washington Bridge.