River Teeth Journal Issue 20.2

August 9, 2019

River Teeth Journal Issue 20.2

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Table of Contents 

Editor's Notes Joe Mackall

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When my children turned twenty-one, I wrote each of them a letter. The content was meant for them only. All three shed tears, as did I. I knew that although my children, two daughters and a son, were still mine and, of course, always would be, they were entering the world as adults; and forevermore I would have to share them with the world in a way that left me excited and proud, but also anxious and wary. This moment in the life of River Teeth feels a bit like that. In the fall of this year, River Teeth will be twenty years old. We couldn’t wait until it turned twenty-one to write this letter.

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"Almost Thirty" Rachel Weaver


It was a fierceness and crystal-clear independence that brought me to Alaska in the first place. But all that chipped away under the intense desire to hold onto the life I wanted: the partner who also wanted to build an Alaskan life out of boats and fishing and rain, the cabin off the grid, the job I loved. To leave him was to leave all of it. 

"Wind Farm: Four Variations" Jeff Gundy



Why did they let us have a radio? “House of the Rising Sun” under my pillow, late at night, in the chaste upstairs bedroom with my little brother, before I discovered sex. What sort of glamorous ruin lay under those minor chords? I’ve still not been to such a house. I still know all the words. I still can’t quite hit the high note. I’d still rather sing those songs than all but six or seven hymns. I still want to hold your hand. 

"Bear Costume" EmmaJean Holley



Only if you’ve seen someone swallowed up by this kind of windowless addiction can you understand how it parallels being bear food. The biggest difference is that the bear, at least, has the decency to take its first swipe at your head. If you’ve known a junkie, known them enough to look them searchingly in their eyes, what scares most is the flatness of the irises. Like discs, giving back no light.

"Of Milk and Stars" Anne McGrath


Since bringing a baby into the world I had felt less separate from other people; I wept uncontrollably at the sight of the legless man who rolled on a dolly through the A train, bought more dinners for homeless people than I could afford, and over-tipped the pizza delivery guy who arrived by bike in the rain. It was like I now had more skin in the game. And by game I mean life. I walked around thinking, Everyone is someone’s child

"Four Memories: The South" J. David Stevens

Here is what my mother taught me. Any learning can be unlearned. Intelligence, for good or ill, is not a static condition but a process. To argue otherwise is fruitless. Some of the stranger proclamations about race in America suggest that bigotry has a clear border, that a finite demarcation separates one side from the other. Thus even George Zimmerman, after murdering Trayvon Martin, could claim to be untainted by racism—because of his black friends and coworkers, because of his previous service to their communities. But there is no finish line here. 

"Alone, Together" Jill Talbot


After my father died, I cut my hair short. Not out of grief—my hair had been in a platinum pixie for years—but a few days after his funeral, I asked my stylist to cut it even shorter. I look so much like my father—as people often comment on photographs of the two of us, and as so many pointed out at his funeral—that with my hair as short as his had been, I could look in the mirror to see the blue eyes we shared, our small features, and our wide grin, if only for a moment. 

"Terrible Sanity" Sam Pickering


Before irregardless entered radio speech and the possessive of I became I’s, before words galloped across punctuation into run-on thought, and before composition became a jargon-ridden aspic lumpy with theory, pre-writing, and portfolios, English teachers taught writing by teaching classes to diagram sentences. 

“His Name Was Sherwood Baker" Evan Reibsome



I felt trapped. I felt weak. I felt alone. All of this is common during war, yet I never realized it before Iraq. I feel foolish because, in my immaturity, I was unable to appreciate what is now obvious: in war, combatants often die unexpectedly, without glory or valor or agency, while the survivors are left sifting through the wreckage in search of meaning and an ever-elusive sense of closure. 

"The Whiteness of the Weasel" E. J. Myers



Not once during the summer months, however, do I catch sight of the ermine. I’m aware that she will have changed color by now, but I spot no creature of either cold- or warm-weather hue on our hillside. Still, I think about her constantly; and, like a lover pining for his beloved during a long separation, I imagine her not as she is now but as she was when I first cast eyes on her. I want to see her once again in her pure-white guise. 

"Without Being Taught" Elizabeth Miki Brina


I used to be angry at my father for marrying a woman who wasn’t good enough for him, for marrying a woman simply because he wanted to save her. I suppose the concept of “good enough” is entirely subjective, something inflicted on another person, as is the concept of “saving” or “being saved.” 

"Tick, Days Three Through Thirty" Rosanna N. Henderson 



I was sifting through my daughter’s tangled sweat-curls when I found a tiny brittle clump of black legs hanging out of her neck. The tick’s body was almost completely buried in her creamy nape fat. Dizzying, but not as horrifying as the ticks you don’t find, the ones that have time to swell up and fade to grey like polished pebbles. 

"Bitch" Chris Siteman



I was in my late teens when my mother told me about the murder: she took me aside after my father and I came to blows the year before I graduated high school, told me I couldn’t do things like that with him, that he’d killed people, that he might kill me. She told me he did his time, kept his mouth shut, that that was all that mattered.

"Grass-covered Chest" Fleda Brown


Somewhere in that house was this small grass-covered chest. I can put it anywhere I want. I can make it stand for a certain chosen beauty. She chose this. Or, she was given it. Or, she brought it with her from her family home. The more I consider the options, the more the chest itself seems like a figment of my imagination, a token of what home means, and beauty. 

Contributors' Notes


More about this issue's authors.



Photo Credits:

Maggie L. Walker Historic Site: Accessed via the site's Facebook page

Ermine photo: Rights purchased from Shutterstock.com

All other photos are public domain or are used by permission of the essay's author.

Keywords: 20-2
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