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Selections from Reimagined: Bridging this World and Others
 
from the Editor’s Note
 
At heart, we are writers because stories have meant something to us. They have shaped the way that we view the world and ourselves. We return to our favorite stories over and over again, rereading and remembering them throughout many phases of our lives. As we remember them, we are already reimagining them—changing them, making them our own. And sometimes we go a step further by taking stories that we love and intentionally remaking them into something new.
 
Reimagined: Bridging this World and Others contains poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction that reimagines fairy tales, myths, historical events, and family legends, as well as work that reimagines voice, poetic form, art, and even language via translation. From Liz Kay, Michael Boccardo, and Tayler Klein come spooky and provocative retellings of Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Celisa Steele, Amy Vaniotis, and Nancy Takacs explore new sides of Eve, Penelope, and Echo, while Gail Peck, Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, and Scott Elder give us ekphrastic poems that make us think again about familiar paintings. Leo Haber and Myrna Stone take on the voices of J. Robert Oppenheimer and Martin Luther. Nadia Ibrashi twists the pantoum a little, and Denise Duhamel and Julie Marie Wade play with our expectations of a collaborative essay.
 
In short, this new issue of Nimrod lets us enjoy the stories that we love best in intriguing, fresh, thought-provoking, and sometimes disturbing reimaginings. It offers us a bridge from what we expect to what we have not yet imagined, from this world into myriad others.
 
 
 
Joan Roberta Ryan
 
Sequel
 
Dear Husband and King,
I’m writing to you because I’m afraid
someone is rewriting our story.
 
Lately, your mother has been
licking her lips and eyeing
the kids rather strangely,
and knowing her ogreish
lineage, I fear she admires
Daisy’s round arms and Dawn’s
dimpled knees with
other than grandmotherly affection.
 
I know how important your war must be,
but I’m worn out trying to make
my lamb printanier and blanquette de veau
tender enough to please her. Unless
you return to the castle with haste,
we’re in imminent danger of losing,
my dear, our happily ever after.
 
 
 
 
Kelly Terwilliger
 
Missing Head
 
In the most beautiful part of the story
she finally finds
her sister’s missing head.
 
It’s on the far wall.
She climbs in through the window
and crosses the sooty floor.
 
She reaches up
and takes that face in her hands
the way you might lift a full bowl
of flowers down from a shelf, the moon
down from the cold part of the sky—
 
she wraps it in her cloak
and hurries away.
 
When she swims back to the boat
in the cold sea-dark
she holds the head up
so it won’t get wet. She swims
 
side-stroke, what old folks swim
in dreamy laps in lakes in front of summer
cottages, another way to occupy
 
two worlds. I tested it once:
one arm raised all the way across the otherwise
deserted swimming pool
 
the imaginary head of my imaginary twin
held up, ready to be restored
when I got to the other side.
 
 
 
 
Doug Ramspeck
 
Crow Evening
 
Crow watches blue-colored ice,
 
watches the eyelids of clouds blinking
open then closed.
 
And if a hole opens in the shallows
of a distant pond, swallowing a young boy,
 
Crow has no opinion beyond the wind,
beyond breath that lifts
 
a chest then knocks it down.
And everywhere are the sounds of native
 
tongues, the mother calling
from the back porch, the emptiness
 
of syllables in air. Crow doesn’t
imagine that it matters. Crow has the memory
 
of the boy sinking out of sight, the pond
with its open black wound.
 
Crow has the gray sun behind the clouds,
the snow beginning to form and fall.
 
Crow dreams of the red sun of summer,
the rising moon with its blood-wet eye.
 
 
Paul Mihas
 
from Water for Thieves
 
When the door creaked open, Elsa dug her head deeper into the pillow. She listened as her husband undid the watch from his wrist, then, her head turned, saw him kicking off his shoes and socks, coins falling onto the rug. His body shadowed toward the bed and his hand disappeared inside his jacket. He pulled out something shaped like a book and fell onto the mattress.
 
Later, as morning light inched its way toward her, Elsa saw the icon of St. Christopher, wild-eyed and yellow-haloed, lying on the dresser.
 
 “You stole it?”
 
He sat up, nodded, then cracked his knuckles.
 
 “Take it back.” She got up to take a closer look. Saint Christopher, naked from above the waist, stood beside a river, his ribcage etched with dark lines, his sapphire eyes glinting. The saint carried Jesus, a man-child in red, on one shoulder.
 
Her husband laughed, raked his fingers through his hair. It was not the first thing he had stolen. He had grabbed tomatoes from neighbors’ gardens, lifted wine glasses left on balcony rails, secured bullets from the little museum in a neighboring town, relics from the war. Neighbors would check the bathroom after he visited for missing porcelain soap dishes. But he had never before stolen from a church.
 
The icon had a story. The Germans had marched through the Peloponnese over a quarter-century ago, setting fire to house after house, till, in the village, a bearded man had pleaded with the soldiers to stop. He had claimed there was no one left there but old women and goats, no reason to destroy abandoned houses. When the villagers returned, a girl asked a soldier why their houses had been spared. In muddled Greek, the soldier had answered, “We were told not to, by the man with a beard.” “What man?” the girl said. “The man in the picture,” he said, and pointed to an icon of St. Christopher on the front door of the church. Christopher took human form on that day, the villagers said, to dupe the Germans.
 
“It’s a goddamn fable.” Nico rubbed his bare chest. He got out of bed and smoothed out his wrinkled trousers.
 
“So what?” she said. The priest will be looking for you. Get rid of it.” She began to put on a sleeveless dress.
 
With his foot, he slid the icon under the bed. It knocked against the high heels Elsa wore now only in the city, where they lived from fall to spring, in the seasons when he drove a cab. They returned to the village in the summers to gain distance from tourists and city heat.
 
“I can’t take it back.”
 
 “You could have taken any of them,” she said. “Some have enormous halos—gold and silver frames. You had to take that one.”
 
“The church will buy another fucking icon. It’s good for the economy.”
 
“Did anyone see you? Altar boys?”
 
“Just the goats.”
 
“Your father would wring your neck,” she said. “If he knew.”
 
 
 
 
Cathryn Essinger
 
Deconstructing the Moon
 
She says “moon,” and the word forms like a bubble,
hovering close to her lips.  She thinks lunar,
luminous, and round, but those words do not appear. 
 
She says the word “light,” and the moon
moves across the patio, touches the table top,
smears the grass like a slow snail, before it silvers
 
the maple and climbs to the top of the pines,
where it breaks like an egg yolk, spilling color
down upon the tree, where it mixes with the odor
 
of the pines, and she thinks dampness and dew,
but she says nothing, and then the moon is gone.
She could have said, “cloud,” thought rain, haze,
 
cumulous, but she did not, and then it was lost
behind a bank of evening clouds, and she could
not turn away, or it would become something else.
 
 
 
 
Noel Sloboda
 
Miranda in Naples
 
 
It’s not the dresses
she hates most—
though after half
 
a lifetime of tropical sun
licking her back in afternoon
they fail to warm her
 
insides. It’s the layers
of smallclothes underneath—
bleached smocks and bodices,
 
laced partlets, corsets, and girdles—
that make her wonder why
she ever settled for Ferdinand
 
and civilization. She refuses
to accept how colorless
garments make her feel:
 
as if she should not love
the flesh alive, beneath.
She tries to imagine what
 
the monster who first desired her
might say about her swaddled form—
but then remembers he never
 
used language to shape lack,
until she filled the space
between their bodies
 
with words that now
unbidden come into her mouth,
making it hard to breathe.
 
 
 
 
Denise Duhamel and Julie Marie Wade
 
from The Unrhymables
 
Orange
 
“Oranges poranges—who said there ain’t no rhyme for oranges?”  My sister and I loved this song from H.R. Pufnstuf, a show about—well, who can say?  On Saturday mornings, we’d watch it with my father who sang the show’s theme song, “H.R. Pufnstuf, who’s your friend when things get rough?”  “Stuff” and “rough,” real words, rhymed perfectly.  Some critics now think that the friendly dragon Pufnstuf (along with Scooby-Doo’s Shaggy) was a stoner.  I have to admit he did say, “Whoa dude!” a lot.  Making up words to rhyme with oranges—ploranges, foranges, choranges—gave my sister and me hours of pleasure, and sometimes my dad would join in, asking, “What about broranges?” 
 
Oranges are the state fruit of Florida, the place I live now, though I seldom see them in supermarkets.  I read that most of the good oranges grown here are sent north. When I lived in New York, I’d buy oranges at the Korean grocer and then rub the pith onto my teeth to make them whiter, and it worked.  Though ghosts are usually depicted as white, Scooby-Doo’s 10,000 Volt Ghost was orange.  Shaggy and his friends figured out why.  The ghost wasn’t a former workman killed by a power surge but a live person in an orange rubber suit hired to scare away townspeople.  Casey Kasem, who was the voice of Shaggy, insists his character was a wholesome guy.  Sid and Marty Kroft, the creators of H.R. Pufnstuf, maintain they used no intentional drug references. 
 
Why do oranges seem less symbolically fraught then apples?  There are exceptions, of course. Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit aligns oranges with repression, heterosexuality, the status quo.  And some see the death of Jesus in blood oranges, popular in Sicily, which leads me to the movie The Godfather and all those oranges rolling across the street as Don Corleone gets shot.  The Godfather’s set designer Dean Tavoularis said that the oranges were used to contrast against the dark, somber sets.  Nothing about Jesus or sacrifice.  My father died right before Thanksgiving, and there aren’t any words that rhyme with Normand. “ Suze Orman?” I ventured a near rhyme, even though her surname has no “d.”  My sister and I tried to brighten up the gray Rhode Island skies above the cemetery with bouquets of orange zinnias and daylilies.
 
Angst
 
Let’s talk about angst.  Let’s talk about a word straining at its vest, too bulky to be the single syllable it is: a word in identity crisis.  Let’s talk about adjectives that cozy up to angst in the library, where understandably angst spends a lot of its time.  Mostly a loner, angst has been spotted with teen—a girl with gap teeth who takes long pauses in the middle of her sentences, pauses that seem in fact to accentuate those gaps she chose over braces—and existential—a bad-boy type who saves his cigarette butts to keep an accurate record of the number of minutes he is shaving off his life.  (Eight minutes per cigarette means 160 minutes per pack means 1600 minutes per carton…)  He is also ideologically committed to stunting his growth.
 
Let’s talk about angst—or ahhhhngst, as my German friend says.  In her version, I hear the sound I make when the doctor depresses my tongue.  Angsty people have been known to lose their appetites, as if the tongue were truly depressed and couldn’t muster the verve required for lifting or tasting food.  But to be in angst isn’t the same as being depressed.  It isn’t even exactly Kafkaesque, though I’d wager Gregor Samsa might claim them both—the angst at finding himself transformed giving way to the depression that drives him from home.  His problems are well beyond semantic by the end.
 
Let’s take it a shade lighter, if we can.  Let’s talk about the color of angst, which to my synesthetic mind is burnt-orange and smoldering like Velma’s turtleneck sweater.  Let’s talk about angst and Velma Dinkley from Scooby-Doo, who hid hers well behind a magnifying lens and a hokey catch phrase. (Jinkies!)  Let’s talk about angst and the problem of the wobbly third wheel.  Shaggy has Scooby.  Fred has Daphne.  When they split up, Velma is always somebody’s tag-along.
 
Did you know the name Velma derives from Wilhelmina?  Did you know it comes from the Greek for “strong-willed warrior”?  Most popular in the United States in 1950, the name is favored by those who also like Penelope and Ophelia—women who waited for men, raveling, and women who stopped waiting for men.
 
When I told my father I liked Velma best, he patted my head. “Well, she does solve the mysteries,” he said, “but don’t you see how Daphne is the happier girl?”  
 
 
 
Scott Elder
 
Portrait
 
Let’s run through it again.
Complexion—geisha white.
 
Cheeks—deep pink (too deep).
Hands—closed petals in her lap.
 
The young lady is sitting in
. . . call it an elm.
 
Two blood-red horses share her limb.
They're screamingly small and seem to be blind.
 
Nothing will come of this, she muttered in Finnish.
Don't worry, he whispered, apart from the pink
 
all is utterly perfect.  She looked aside.
The sky wilted for an instant.
 
Come, my dear, we're nearly there.
She lifted her eyes.  The look was ancient.
 
It pierced the canvas and went on forever.
 
 
 
 
John J. Ronan
 
Presents, Please
 
In 2944, my birthday falls
On a Thursday.  But that’s getting ahead.
June could be gone.  Thursdays.  Self
Of course wants context to continue:
Super Bowl into clumsy numerals,
One war nudging another,
Modern moving evenly up
In anni domini, the cloth of calendars.
 
The party starts officially at 4:00
With Black Forest and ice cream—
Assuming flour and cows, cream.
An early bird arrival’s fine.
We’ll prepare the favors and funny hats,
Icing, a thousand candles on the sheet
Cake—assuming laughter and wax,
Matches, light!  Imagine the light!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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