Harp & Altar

Donald Breckenridge is the fiction editor of The Brooklyn Rail and editor of The Brooklyn Rail Fiction Anthology (Hanging Loose Press, 2006). He is also the author of more than a dozen plays, as well as the novella Rockaway Wherein (Red Dust, 1998) and the novel 6/2/95 (Spuyten Duyvil, 2002). His second novel Arabesques for Sauquoit is forthcoming from Autonomedia and his third novel YOU ARE HERE is forthcoming from Starcherone.


Michael Carlson’s first book of poems, Cement Guitar, was awarded the Juniper Prize and published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2003. The manuscript he’s editing now is called Beware of Ideas. He teaches fifth grade in Brooklyn.


Oisín Curran’s Mopus was published in 2008 by Counterpath Press. He grew up in Maine and lives with his wife in Montreal.


Rising, Farrah Field’s first book of poems, won the 2007 Levis Prize and will be published in early 2009 by Four Way Books. Her poems have appeared in many publications and are forthcoming in Pebble Lake Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Fulcrum, and Typo. She is currently working on a novel and lives in Brooklyn.


Andrew Grace is a 2006-8 Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford. Sections of his manuscript Sancta are forthcoming in Washington Square, LIT, Gulf Stream, Mid-American Review, and H_NGM_N, among others. His second book, Shadeland, recently won the Ohio State University/The Journal prize for poetry.


Emily Gropp has received writing fellowships from the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets and the Syria-Lebanon Room at the University of Pittsburgh, where she recently completed an MFA in poetry. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Bloom, The Fourth River, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Whiskey & Fox, and others. She lives in Pittsburgh, city of bridges.


Heinrich Heine (1791–1856) was a journalist, an essayist, and one of the most significant German Romantic poets. As a young man Heine converted from Judaism to Protestantism. In 1831, he emigrated from Germany to France. Heine is remembered chiefly for selections of his lyric poetry, many of which were set to music in the form of Lieder by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and Strauss.


Stephen Hilger’s photographs from the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles appear in this issue of Harp & Altar. He lives in New York and New Orleans, where he is a visiting assistant professor of art at Tulane University. Additional work can be seen at www.stephenhilger.com.


Dan Hoy lives in Brooklyn and is co-editor of Soft Targets. His chapbook Outtakes was published in 2007 by Lame House Press.


Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey was the winner of the 2007 Starcherone Fiction Prize. His writings have appeared in Pleiades and The Journal of Literary Imagination. A computer scientist specializing in artificial intelligence, Mason is currently working on another novel about the mythology and culture of AIs.


Sara Michas-Martin is a former Stegner Fellow now Jones lecturer at Stanford. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in Court Green, DIAGRAM, Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, Pool, and elsewhere.


Michael Newton’s gallery reviews have appeared in previous issues of Harp & Altar.


Benjamin Paloff is a poetry editor at Boston Review. His poems have recently appeared in Gulf Coast, Jacket, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. He teaches Slavic and comparative literature at the University of Michigan.


Derek White runs Calamari Press, edits Sleepingfish, and blogs at 5cense.com.


Jared White was born in Boston and currently lives in Brooklyn. He attended Columbia University for an MFA, where he was awarded a prize from the Academy of American Poets. His poetry has appeared in many journals, including Harp & Altar, Cannibal, The Modern Review, Barrow Street, Sawbuck, and Word For/Word, and more work is forthcoming with Fulcrum and Horse Less Review. He maintains an occasional blog at jaredswhite.blogspot.com.


Joshua Marie Wilkinson was born and raised in Seattle. He is the author of three books. Next year will see the release of The Book of Whispering in the Projection Booth (Tupelo), 12x12: Conversations in Poetry & Poetics (Iowa), and Made a Machine by Describing the Landscape (a film about Califone on tour). He lives in Chicago.


Recipient of the Beard’s Fund Short Story Award, Peter Wortsman is the author of A Modern Way to Die: Small Stories and Microtales and the play The Tattooed Man Tells All. His translations from the German include Travel Pictures by Heinrich Heine (Archipelago), Posthumous Papers of a Living Author by Robert Musil (Archipelago), Telegrams of the Soul: Selected Prose by Peter Altenberg (Archipelago), and The Man Who Sold His Shadow by Adelbert von Chamisso (Fromm International).


Leni Zumas’s story collection Farewell Navigator is forthcoming from Open City Books in June. Her fiction appears in New York Tyrant, Quarterly West, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing at Hunter College and plays drums in the post-punk band S-S-S-Spectres. Her most pined-for travel destination is Iceland.


The Connection Between Mary X. Lake and the Containment Pond
Derek White

It was at this lake where we used to fish for catfish. It was a manmade lake our father had surveyed and named after our mother. Unlike most of the murky lakes in Georgia, this lake was clear as a chlorinated swimming pool. A sign identified it as Lake Germfree, though I knew the real name. As a kid, at this lake, I always wondered what bait looked like to fish when we were fishing for them and what the fish looked like as they contemplated the bait. I dove under to find out.

When I opened my eyes I could see perfectly, but saw no fish. There were hundreds of bare hooks hanging from the mirrored surface that I was careful not to get snagged on. I took off my shorts so they wouldn’t get hooked. This made sense at the time. I sensed the fish were there but could see better than me and were keeping their distance in the open water. The water was so clear it was black. As I remembered it, there was a shelf near the shore that John and I suspected was a favorite place for fish to hide. Taking a deep breath, I went down to look under the shelf. Something darted in the shadows. I went further under after it. I followed the darting shadow down a passage into complete darkness. Then it got light again and when I emerged I was in the containment pond at the Gaston sewage treatment center. It was night, but the scene was lit by powerful artificial lights. Taking another deep breath, I retreated back to the lake. When I got there, I was in a boat and the lake was now walled in with cliffs of meat (just like in the script from the movie we were engaged in). There was a staircase cut into the meat cliff but I was having a hard time paddling toward it as the waves were getting bigger. The meaty shores of the lake were receding. Water splashed on my face that tasted of salt. The salt triggered a premonition of a coming hurricane. I had to decide whether to:

a) go for the stairway cut into the meat cliff or

b) retreat back underwater to the containment pond.

I decided on (b) and hung out with some garbage men who were also there at the artificially lit containment pond waiting the storm out. Their role in this was to pick up garbage in boats to take out to a big barge in the ocean, or “wide moat” as they called it, but they were holding up at the pond because of the storm. At least that’s how things appeared on the surface. I found out later they all had law degrees and were moonlighting as garbage men to “delay execution.” When I asked, “execution of what?” they answered, “execution of god’s will.” Then one of them asked me, reading from a script, if I had called my mother.


Then he shouted, “line.”

Someone from off the set whispered, “shouldn’t you at least let her know where you’re at.”

The garbage man lawyer repeated this line with more conviction.

When I didn’t answer, another of the garbage men lawyers repeated the line again, “shouldn’t you at least let her know where you’re at?”

I kept brushing it off because I didn’t want to come off as a “mommy’s boy.” All the garbage men lawyers started pitching in, interrogating me like I was on trial, their voices in unison, sometimes overlapping, over and over, saying, “shouldn’t you at least let her know where you’re at?” I realized I was listening to an old soundtrack on vinyl. The needle wore so deep into the groove it hit a nerve, waking me up.