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Issue 1

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Image by Martha Rose

Table of Contents

Photography
Photography

Photos by Rebecca Moore

A Daisy
Sunrise
Branches
A Single Leaf
Portraits

Photos by Linda Osiecki

Seaside Dunes - Linda OsieckiDSCF0559
Williamsburg Treetop - Linda Osiecki DSCF0264
Frosted Glass - Linda Osiecki 100_3555
Portraits

Portraits by Martha Rose

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Essays
Essays

At This Moment/In Response to Our "Interesting" Times

By Cheryl Scheir & W.P. Eichler

I am writing this piece on the verge of launching the first edition of Next Page Ink, an online literary magazine that I have dreamed about, thought about, inner-dialogued about for years. In the past few months, perfectly timed for a “what else do we have to do” quarantine, I have collaborated with my co-editor, Will, who has crafted a website that brings my vision to life. Together, we identified contributors from within and beyond our personal circles and invited them to dare share a part of themselves—at once a thrilling and risky thing to do.

 

So, there we found ourselves, readying for the premier of our, in my words, “accessible, non-pompous, non-political” creative digest, and then…

 

George Floyd

 

We both felt it, and maybe you did too. The ground-splitting thunderclap of a man dying under the force of another man, and that man in civil authority. Then the rumbles of How did this happen? And more rumbles, How could this have happened again? Then in the aftermath of the storm, the thickening humidity, hovering with What do we do now?

 

Will and I agreed that we cannot proceed with our first edition without acknowledging this moment or this series of moments in our time. I speak for myself when I say that I am ready to do what I can, and what I can do is write.

 

But perhaps now is not the time for me to write. What I can also do, now that we have this platform, is to use it to elevate a diverse range of creative voices.

 

I invite any and all to come to the table of this writers’ room.

 

We want you to be heard.

 

I also invite our readers to interact thoughtfully with all of our pieces, here and in future issues, with hopes that you will be nudged, stretched, educated, informed, and challenged to understand more, grow toward the light, and change for the better.

~

*I was born in 1996, and I was four years, nine months, and 5 days old when the Twin Towers fell. I do not remember it. The United States’ invasion of Afghanistan began when I was four years, ten months, and one day old. It has continued until now; I am twenty-three years, six months, and 3 days old as of the time I am writing this. In my lifetime, there have been 171 mass shootings in the United States, an untold amount of people have been killed by the police, the US has seen two immense economic recessions, the first Black President was elected in the United States, and, now, I am witnessing another landmark moment in the history of this country. 

 

If I am not mistaken, I am a member of the Millennial Generation, or maybe Generation Z, it is honestly unclear, but regardless, I believe that whatever horrible person dreamed up the phrase “May you live in interesting times,” is cackling in their grave. I could just say that I’m tired and be done with it, but to do so would be a disservice to those who not only must experience these interesting times, but must also endure and struggle against the systemic oppression which has been in place in our nation since the first slave ships arrived on the shores of what would eventually become the United States of America. This system exists to hold back people of color and uphold white supremacy in our nation. To say otherwise is to have chosen the side of this racist system. 

 

For centuries, white people — cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, white men in particular — people who look like me — have been placed on a pedestal in our society and from their pedestals have taken conscious and unconscious steps aimed at ensuring that these pedestals are never destroyed. The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are just the most recent versions of such stories to appear in the public consciousness. The protests taking place in their names, protests carried out in order to ensure the basic human rights of people of color, are hopefully the final ones we will have to witness. However, that hope cannot allow those of us who have stood idly by while this system has harmed our peers to become complacent in our activism. 

 

We must stand side by side with our Black compatriots and assist them in their march towards justice and dignity. We must put to rest our ignorant cries for peace in times of injustice, for peace without justice is nothing more than silence, and in the words of Elie Wiesel, “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” We must tear down the pedestals our forebears have built, the pedestals from which those who carry power in our nation look down and ask why the world is on fire, when they themselves had been pouring the gasoline, insisting it was rain.

 

*The views expressed in this piece are the opinions of W.P. Eichler and are not meant to represent Next Page Ink as a whole.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping in a Movie Theater

By JB Hogan

Despite popular misconception, a Zen koan isn't a riddle. When you are asked to imagine “the sound of one hand clapping,” you're not trying to find a clever answer to solve the mystery, you're expected to meditate on a thought that can’t be had. The goal is abrogating all thought and ceasing contemplation. If you’ve ever stalled a manual transmission-- it’s like that, but for your mind.

 

Now that you understand what a koan is (but probably not how to pronounce it), you may be asking, “what do movies have to do with koans?” Hollywood pitches often combine two well known items to make a third new, but also familiar idea. This is how they get that elusive “fresh yet unoriginal” feeling that all great Hollywood movies have. If Armageddon is Apollo 13 meets Die Hard, then what do you get when you crash two wholly incompatible movies together? Well of course, you get movie koans! You can play at home or  challenge your friends to see who can come up with the greatest, most mind numbing movie koan! They will find the activity odd and pointless. (Your friends are a bit on the sitck-in-the-mud side, we’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.) Here are some samples to get you going, or rather, to destroy all capacity for thought as you contemplate an idea that cannot be formulated. Have fun!

 

American Beauty meets Battlefield Earth

 

Schindler's List meets Robocop

 

Juno meets Dune 

 

Cloud Atlas meets Legally Blonde

 

Citizen Kane meets Groundhog Day

 

Full Metal Jacket meets Waiting for Guffman

 

Alien meets Tommy Boy

 

Blade Runner  meets When Harry Met Sally.

 

Oh wait! I apologize for that last one. They actually made that movie, and it's called Her!

 

If you’re still intimidated because you tried to make a movie koan out of Rain Man meets Ocean’s Eleven but then you realized not only does that movie sound great, they already made it and it’s called The Score starring Edward Norton and Robert DeNiro, here is a fun match game to get you started. Answer key at the bottom!

 

  1. A Very Brady Movie 

  2. Top Gun 

  3. The Green Mile 

  4. True Grit (either version) 

  5. The Cat in the Hat 

 A) Saw

 B)  Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (either version)

 C) Who Framed Roger Rabbit

 D) What about Bob?

 E) Memento

 

Answers: 5A, 3B, 4C, 2D, 1E

 

Now you’ve got it! Feel free to practice movie koans whenever you might need to be unable to think for a few minutes. Perhaps while watching the latest Hollywood summer blockbuster.

Life in the Time of Coronavirus

By Cheryl Scheir

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” 

-Edmund Hilary, who, with Tenzig Norgay, became the first man to summit Mt. Everest

I will conquer this. 

 

That is what I told myself the first time, when the cashier barked at me to stay behind the blue line until the person in front of me was finished completely. That is what I told myself the second time, when the mask-less stocker with the half-aisle-blocking cart scolded me for entering on the “do not enter” side of the aisle. That is what I told myself the third time, when the man behind me blew his nose under his mask, then pushed my groceries down the conveyor, forcing me to return my Golden Oreos, then, once at home, liberally spray Lysol to decontaminate every item that went down the conveyor while my back was turned. 

 

Sir with the runny nose, please see sentence 1 of this paragraph. I was supposed to be conquering this. 

 

The truth is that much like high school—a grand exercise in self-consciousness, side-eye shaming, playing by rules that you struggle to understand or, if you understand them, adapt to them—life in the time of coronavirus cannot be conquered. How could it be? The virus is a potentially deadly, invisible force that is most likely impervious to the imperceptible decontamination forcefield that my imagination has erected over the threshold of my front door. It is not something that I, armed only with foaming antibacterial soap and my puny force of will, can conquer. 

 

Enter my new motto: everything is an experiment. 

Adopted from graphic designer Tibor Kalman, this magical phrase describes how I feel like every time I undertake an otherwise mundane task in our now transformed world. 

  • Reuniting two empty-nesters and their college students under one roof with only so much wi-fi capacity: an experiment in social contracting

  • Sunday afternoon ZOOM Family Feud: an experiment in techno-relational game theory

  • Attending a Facebook wedding, followed by a drive-by reception: an experiment in modern, contamination-free ritual, with a secondary endpoint of overall survival rate of guests who actually ingest the well meant but dangerously homemade wedding cupcakes 

 

If everything is an experiment, then I am both the observer of the experiment and its subject. I participate alongside all of the other stressed out people in my community (ie, everyone) who are currently pushing from day to day in our pandemic environment. 

My hypothesis: we will survive without driving each other to a graceless state of chaos. 

Study limitations: none of us knows what life on the other side of this should look like. 

My serendipitous discovery in the midst of this experiment in self-isolation, self-preservation, and self-reflection is that I am witnessing all around me a transfiguration of the commonplace, another magical phrase, which philosopher Arthur Danto uses as a working definition of art. 

  • If a basketball is a commonplace object for sport, I see it transfigured in the hands of my elementary age neighbor, for whom dribbling and shooting is a daily ritual that now gets him through endless hours of non-structured, school-less days 

  • If ZOOM is a commonplace tool for communication, I see it transfigured every Wednesday night when it supports a fifteen-minute stretch of silence that is my group spiritual direction meditation

  • If asking “how are you” is the classic banal greeting of polite society, I see it transfigured in check-in calls and texts to and from family, friends, and colleagues who have found the right time (a pandemic) and right place (home) to describe how they’re really doing because we’re all doing this together

 

Thinking of my day-to-day life as an experiment frees me to abandon perfection, expect curveballs, lie awake when I could be asleep, and lose it every so often without telling myself that this is anything but normal. Thinking of this day-to-day life as a studio for artful transfigurations of the commonplace makes me pay attention to the otherwise mundane goings on inside my home and outside my window, including the triumphant joys of having plenty of sweet and the “life goes on” reminders chirped by the birds in my backyard, with an eye to what they have become. 

 

Yes, I am sorrowful about the loss of life, the suffering, and the horrors of life in the time of coronavirus, so are we all. Period. 

At the same time, too, I am grateful—for the art this situation has wrought in me and around me. I look forward to this experiment ending and a new one, called “life after,” beginning; I hope that I will resist the pull of “before.” I think about how we have become better, together, and what that will mean for our future. 

 

And I wonder, with all of those insights, have I conquered this, after all?  

Poety
Poetry

A Different Kind of Heartbreak

By Alessandra DeAngelis

December in Texas Is sunny & open wide, 

Like a skylight. 

It's a smile that makes your cheeks hurt, 

An unmowed lawn, 

A mirror so clean, you think you can put your hand through it. 

 

December in Texas split my heart wide open. 

Not in a sad way, at least not yet, 

But in the way you rip open presents on Christmas morning: 

Quickly, 

Direct. 

It told me to hop in & I had to use both hands to climb up.

It strained my neck. 

 

I was caught off guard by December in Texas,

In the way that you finish your favorite book 

And get mad that you read it so fast. 

I was all toothy grins without a bookmark.

I tore muscles and ligaments trying to see it all, 

Trying to climb to the top of my own laughter and see what would be coming next.

 

December in Texas was an old Edison lightbulb,

Flickering endearingly, yellow, dusty.  

I didn't know it would go out so soon, and I would be left with  

Empty glass 

And the outline of an electric flame.

Disassociating in Central Park

By Alessandra DeAngelis

In terms of comfort, 

It was just shy of “brisk” spring, 

And I had goosebumps.

 

But it didn’t matter,

Not really, since the sun 

Was a cascade 

 

That trickled through tree 

Branches; soaking through clothes and 

Going up noses. 

 

I let it fill me, 

Clogging the back of my throat 

Like cotton, bad news. 

 

White light traveling,

Bursting my veins, splitting through 

Bone, sinew, and skin, 

 

Until there’s nothing.

No corpse, ash, or fine vapor,

Just absence of what was.

Summertime

By Alessandra DeAngelis

For years when I was younger

I spent two weeks a summer at a sleepover camp. 

At the end of each session,

there was this huge bonfire

where all the campers and counselors gathered

to share inside jokes and memories.

 

The camp director always ended it with a ghost story and

this song he played on his acoustic guitar.

He was a rough man, with dark grey hair and a belly. 

His voice sounded like stepping on a pebble beach. 

The ghost story was never too scary but 

the song always made me endlessly happy

and immeasurably sad.

 

“Where have all the flowers gone?

Long time passing.

Where have all the flowers gone?

Long time ago.”

 

I didn’t understand back when I was 12 

why that song made me cry.

After he stopped singing I always noticed

how loud the cicadas were.

A Diner with No Doors

By W.P. Eichler

The man sitting by himself was hired to follow the guy 

wearing a suit that was almost identical to his own. 

That guy, let’s call him Jim, had been staying late at work every night 

for three weeks and Jim’s wife had been getting suspicious.

The woman in the red dress, let’s call her Jenny,

met Jim at a bar down the street from this very diner,

and she thinks she’s in love. 

 

But if the man sitting by himself knows anything, and he knows a lot, 

Jim will run back to his wife within the month.

Jenny will be devastated, heartbroken, she’ll be

back at this diner every night for weeks. She’ll order the same thing 

she got when she was here with Jim, a cup of decaf and a turkey sandwich,

and sit in the same seat she always sat in when she was here with Jim,

because the hurt isn’t so bad when his feeling is still in the place he used to be.

 

The man sitting by himself will see her there most nights, 

because he just really likes this diner, they’ve got the best peach pie.

He knows Jenny pretty well at this point, because he talks

to her every night, even after he’s gotten paid and the case is solved,

because she’s a nice girl who deserves better than a man who’s alright 

with breaking two hearts just so he can fill up his own. 

He won’t leave anytime soon. He’s got nothing to do and 

the guy who works at the counter knows him by name. 

He’ll think about buying Jenny a drink. Or maybe 

they can share a slice of pie. 

Maybe if she’s here tomorrow night...

Hereoften

By W.P. Eichler

Just a few more. That should be fine, right?

Twilight’s coming on, but who cares?

I’ve still got a while before that sky 

begins to darken. 

Besides, they keep giving me drinks, 

so I might as well stay. 

If I keep going, 

I probably won’t get home until we,

no I,

can see the wood grains of the bar

through the bottom of my glass;

I’ve memorized each little scratch, 

and made a few more, 

because they deserve a chance 

to meet someone new, just like me.

That’s what I tell myself. 

A few more drinks means a few more friends.

 

Someone sits next to me, I buy them a drink. 

It’s a good system we’ve got going.

 

There’s something melodic about ice

hitting the bottom of a glass;

next drink I’ll listen to that song a little closer.

I can hear other songs in other people’s glasses – 

I don’t really know how they go,

but they sound like the ones people sing at wakes. 

For now we swallow the distortion 

between us and our songs

so we can’t hear them quite right,

and I fill my stomach with enough songs 

it could be a concert hall.

 

Someone sits next to me, I tell them a story. 

It’s a good system we’ve got going.


A drink in my hand, another in theirs. 

That means we’re friends,

at least for the moments between the clink, burn, and grin.

But I can see there’s an exit sign on their tongue,

so I ask the bartender for another song, 

and she’s got one waiting for me like always. 

There’s something snug 

about the way a glass fits in my hand. 

Her fingers just barely miss mine when I take it,

and I swear that means we’re friends

and I can keep asking her for the same song

that sounds like a hello, 

or a how are you, 

or something else sincere, 

so that maybe I can see an exit sign somewhere 

other than someone else’s tongue,

or in the words of a song I can’t hear 

because it’s getting late and 

I’m starting to carve a door into the bar

that might lead into a night with no songs.

 

Someone sits next to me, I move a seat down.

It’s a good system we’ve got going. 

Guzzler's Ghazal

By Alyssa Lane

Analog scales cannot be trusted. The red dial twitches, fickle shifts allowed,

dependent on carpet or uneven grout. I refuse to gain another pound.

 

Canvas shorts make mockeries of women with thick thighs. They used to not ride up 

so high when I would stroll  around. I refuse to gain another pound.

 

Veet is the depilatory cream I smear on my dilapidated legs because smoothness 

distracts from the size of my thighs, now cumulus clouds. I refuse to gain another pound.

 

Pools to fat girls are sets for a feature arcs in My 600 Pound Life, complete with crumbs 

stuck in your belly rolls and voyeurs gawking from the crowd. I refuse to gain another pound.

 

Dressing rooms are all-telling mirrors illuminated by fluorescent self-degradation. 

My nakedness, round, triggers the vicious thoughts to sprout. I refuse to gain another pound.

 

Mailbox full of British chocolate bars is my dad saying I miss you, love you as you are. 

Between crumpled wrappers and toffee teeth I shout, “I refuse to gain another pound!”

Joshie's Bass Solo 

By Ben Heath

Hi-hats hiss 

And swelling,

Anxious breath

Like semi-trucks approaching,

Shifting gears somewhere secret nearby—

Louder, louder, then

The engine cuts, noisy hissing

Evaporates into sweaty steam. Making 

Space for Joshie’s enormous upright bass.

 

His mother sighs. The new bass’s F-holes

Look more like dollar signs.

She used to like hearing him practice in the garage,

Scraping and plucking at old strings, sound partially muffled.

 

Then that day

she was late to work—

Rushing, brushing teeth, grabbing

Keys coat shoes purse—check check check

Check—kettles eardrums hi-hats hissing pounding,

Check ignition (on!) In reverse, looking back, slam the gas—

Bam. 

The van threw her head forward, whiplash,

And she heard a terrible sound like the earsplitting crack of a falling

Tree—She looked at the dashboard. The van was in drive, not reverse—

And she looked out the windshield to see Joshie’s bass,

Still in a black fabric case, smashed between dry wall and the front bumper.

The hood is lined with tiny creases like a balled-up letter

Someone tried to save.

In the half-empty café, Joshie’s fingers

Glide and settle down. He plucks the shiny

Coiled strings of a factory polished instrument.

His solo hums

To the clatter of coins in registers,

To the soft rustle of dollar bills.

 

His mother never

could help thinking how much

the bass sounds 

like a mosquito

buzzing the blues in her ear.

1996 Man of the Year

By Maria Masington

AIDS patients from rural Kenya
to San Francisco were
phoenixed from the plague by
Dr. Ho’s drug combination.
TIME magazine picked him,
champion of the near dead.


You were chosen to be in the trials,
the newest in a long line of meds,
but you could no longer eat
and the seizures had begun.


One Saturday you gathered us
and asked permission to stop fighting.
We shut off the oxygen, circled the bed,
and layered our voices one over the other,
“Go toward the light Jeffrey, go toward the light.”


I wish we’d been braver, more trusting,
but our backbones were crumbling as we watched
you stumble with your cross, again and again.
If only we had known this was not snake oil,
but the gift of ‘the Lazarus effect.’


Had we owned a crystal ball,
we’d have knelt by your bed and begged,
“Ignore the light Jeffrey, ignore the light!
You start the cocktail Monday.”

Closure

By Maria Masington

her daughter’s

funeral was today

 

no one

else attended

 

not one flower

or mass card

 

no eulogy,

urn or casket

 

no candles

or condolences

 

no covered dishes

or spoken memories

 

just her own grief 

and shattered heart

 

a prayer for courage

and a sliver of peace

 

her daughter’s

funeral was today

 

while the girl 

ran the streets

 

searching for a 

magic-filled needle

 

to hang out 

of her arm

Psyche of Stone Soup

By Maria Masington

Preschool tale of trickster or genius, 

depending how you look at it,

starts with a pot, water, rock.

Curious passersby contribute 

 

carrot, potato, chicken 

until swindler or genius,

depending how you look at it,

brews delicious stew.

 

You, narcissist or genius,

depending how you look at it,

pass by my pot, contribute

entitlement, sarcasm, conceit.

 

Simmering sweet and sour,

oblivious or not caring, 

that I, both trickster and fool,

no matter how you look at it, 

 

replaced the stone with my spirit

at the bottom of the vat.

Music
Medusa, for wind quintetDaniel Despins
00:00 / 06:07
Music
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