Descant 140: Improvisations

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Karen Mulhallen 



R. Samuel Bongard - The Eye of the Beholder

Jorge Martínez García - Interpreting Lowry (Portfolio)

P.K. Page - Coal and Roses — A Triple Glosa

Elisabeth de Mariaffi - Requirements for Flight

Adrienne Gruber - Why I Can’t Let Anything Go; Visiting Hours; Cherubism

James Iredell - Hunger



Jennifer Campbell - It’s Never Too Early For Revenge; Amulets

Anthony De Sa - Shoeshine Boy

Sandra Meigs - Paintings from the series Bump, Ride and Its (Portfolio)

Andrée Christensen - Annunciation

Tim Lehnert - The Story

Christine Fischer Guy - How My Mother Looked



Tom Abray - Night Harvest

Jan Pendleton - Orientation

Alex Nassar - In the Kitchen Past Midnight

Ron Charach - They Run the Night Show



Emilia Nielsen - Payday

David Balzer - The Abortion

Aaron Giovannone - Feast Day; Nonna Lidia

Rich Kenefic - EPR; Three Girls, Two Dogs, One Banjo Man; Walking the Rail

Halina Duraj - American Cousin

Beverly Akerman - Paternity



Contributing Editor’s Column Alberto Manguel

Contributors’ Notes

Co-Editor’s Diary Kerry Clare 

Production Editor’s Diary Eleni Deacon

News and Notes



D)) Excerpt:

R. Samuel Bongard /

The Eye of the Beholder

(NOTE: excerpt of full text)

For a short time after arriving in Paris, Viktor was able to secure a part-time job tutoring mathematics. When that ended he became a photographer’s assistant. An opportunity presented itself when the photographer received an assignment to go to Morocco, to the medina in Fez. Two days prior to his departure, the photographer was crippled with torn ligaments, and Viktor was hastily summoned to the office of the notorious Alexey Brodovitch at Harper’s Bazaar. The Russian, wearing a loosely knotted papillon, marched about in wide suspenders like an agitated impresario, tapping out a tempo with his pencil on desk, lampshade, and the metal mullions of the windows, querying Viktor. And what did he think of his Hungarian countrymen, Kertész, Capa? Viktor offered: Kertész was a poet … Capa a lion. Brodovitch dropped a small leather case onto Viktor’s lap. It contained a 35-millimetre Voigtländer, a set of orange and red filters and a roll of bills. The Russian instructed him: “Use the 35, I want grain for a full page … when you shoot into the sun throw a shadow over the lens surface, the blacks will be blacker … be a lion and maybe the poet will come.”


D)) Excerpt:

Adrienne Gruber/

Visiting Hours

I have a picture in my mind

of twenty years later, your beard sparse

and dry, skin that doesn’t quite fit.

You’ve become thin, your eyes strain

to smile. My children are appendages,

arms bandaged around my legs.

Breaths lodge in your throat like stones

silent as the room itself.

I cannot define myself in this picture.

Your bone structure, the strength of frame,

gone. Body, a moving image.

You stay above water as long as you can.


D)) Excerpt: 

Beverly Akerman / 


(NOTE: excerpt of full text)

Next morning, while Daisy banged a wooden spoon on the floor, Jed sat fingering his Blackberry. He recalled a number from its silicon bowels, cursing himself silently. It rang several times; before he could say anything, he was on hold, enduring something by The Tragically Hip. He sighed then and hung up. A flash of anger moved through him, there and gone, like heat lightening. What was this adolescent shit? He tried again and was connected directly to his contact at the company. “I want to know,” Jed said, head bowed, thumb and forefinger pinching the bridge of his nose, “how a paternity test is performed.”

The other man sounded surprised, then determined not to be. “Well, we draw some blood from the child and the parents, or one parent, anyway. We only need a little, five mils or so. The DNA is amplified directly from that and then sequenced. After that we compare the patterns. The whole thing takes twenty-four, maybe thirty-six hours.”

“Couldn’t you use a cheek swab or some hair or something?” 

“Not really. Most people think so, but they’ve been watching too many crime shows. If you want to be really certain — and let me assure you, our clients do — you need more material than that.” 

Jed rang off woodenly, the word “blood” ringing in his ears.


D)) Excerpt: 

Rich Kenefic / 

Walking the Rail

The white light lies there, steady, in the distance

where the rails converge. Do you still believe

you stand here accidentally? You strain to hear

while you balance on one rail. The smell of oil

rises from the ties where a faint mist floats above

the flattened remains of a copper coin. Feel

the rumble under your feet and the breeze

in your face. That light, grown larger, is all

that stands between this place and the vanishing point.