Tag Archives: SUNY Binghamton

Dante Di Stefano

American Pastoral with Warped Floorboards

after Frank O’Hara

I don’t want to be the bullshit midnight cricket, who clings to the screen and rebukes the door with his chirp. I want what I can’t keep: histories that oxidize, shot up with coal dust mainlined through the window of blue moss rotting the tree stump in my backyard. However, nature no longer provides a canvas upon which might be wrought a terrifying self-portrait. It’s no longer epidermis meets bark. Nevertheless, Japanese red ferns die here as Dollar Generals proliferate. Last evening as cerulean didn’t suffuse the western sky, I wanted to be at ease with the cobalt light of transcendent love, to drift with no weight inside me and be still, but Calliope doesn’t teach singing lessons here and the raccoons haven’t yet turned to stone. Instead, my amber waves of grain are yellow lines in the Walmart parking lot. I will drive there tonight and ponder asphalt as capital swallows twilight and I plead for the difficult bonds that sing us to distance.


Dante Di Stefano is a Ph.D. candidate at Binghamton University. His poetry and essays have appeared recently in The Writer’s Chronicle, Shenandoah, Brilliant Corners, and elsewhere. He was the winner of the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, The Ruth Stone Poetry Prize, The Phyllis Smart-Young Prize in Poetry, and an Academy of American Poets College Prize. He currently serves as a poetry editor for Harpur Palate. He’d love to be best friends with Colonel Sherburn from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

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James Fitz Gerald

A Bit about Nothing

I walk outside and light my cigarette. The air is warm and humid, and the sky is black. There are no stars, no moon. The weatherman said rain. He’s wrong again. We walk down the hill that descends towards the house. I’m drunk and stumble a bit. I give Theo a cigarette.

I’m a hundred yards away from the house but I can already hear the music. It’s the music nobody likes but everyone listens to. We approach the steps of the front porch. A guy in his mid-twenties who never graduated sits in a chair. He’s wearing a white polo shirt and khaki shorts. His hair is gelled and his eyes are glassy. He asks for five dollars from my friends and me.

We give him the cash, and he gives us each a red cup from the stack next to him. A couple of girls are smoking on the porch and one sits on the ledge. I flick my butt onto the front lawn and look at her as I walk into the house. She looks back and takes a drag.

The house is loud. I show up with four other guys but within moments they’re nowhere to be found. I see Theo nestled up with his girlfriend in the kitchen. The others must have made a dash towards the keg. The air is thick, and a layer of smoke sits below the ceiling.

The girl walks in through the front door. I look at her again. She’s not as pretty as she was outside. Her chest hangs out and her skirt is stretched high upon her thick thighs. A charm bracelet jingles from her wrist. There’s some fullness to her face, but she’s not chubby. Her hair is curly.

A guy bumps into me from behind. The brim of his hat is flat and I can’t see his eyes. I don’t take note of it. I see the girl again, walking with one of her friends towards the keg. I walk behind them. The line is long. While I wait behind the girl and her friend, Phil comes over and says hello. We talk a bit about nothing. The girl peeks towards me as Phil and I speak. I smile awkwardly as she bites her bottom lip.


Phil leaves and walks towards the kitchen. The girl and her friend take turns filling their cups. I’m not sure if I can take another beer. A bit of vomit sits at the bottom of my throat, and there I am again: it’s three years ago and I’m a freshman at my first party.


That night wasnt much different from this one. I had three beers and a shot and tripped coming out of the bathroom. My roommate left early and I was lost. A senior came towards me with a pint of gin and thrust it into my chest. I grabbed the bottle and polished off what was left. Some people cheered. I threw up on the bathroom wall. The senior made me clean it up.

I notice the girl holding her hand towards my cup. She asks if I want a fill. I say yes. I’m not a freshman anymore. I decide I’ll try to fuck her.


“Thanks,” I say.

She nods her head with a smile. I walk towards the room where Phil is. She stops me and asks if I want to have a cigarette. I don’t, but I say sure. We walk towards the back door through the kitchen. There’s nobody else on the porch. The music isn’t as loud.

“I think I remember you,” she says. “Yeah? Where from?”

“I think I saw you out.” “What year are you?” I ask. “I’m a freshman,” she replies.

She takes a sip from her cup. I look at her and take another pull. She looks prettier.

“You have a boyfriend?”

“I did, he’s an asshole. I…”

She goes on about how she had some guy through high school. They were going to get married. After graduation, he stayed home and went to community college. She came here. They were only two hours away, but soon he started getting jealous. He screamed at her whenever she went out. One day she looked at her phone and there was a voicemail from him. He accidentally called her while he was messing around with her friend, who was still in high school. At least, I think that’s what she is saying.

“You have anyone?” She asks harmlessly.

I don’t reply. Or do I? It makes no difference; you’re speaking to me now anyway.

It was summer when I met you. We were teenagers and awkward. There was a breeze that night, and you were wearing a sweatshirt. We were having a bonfire in a backyard, and you must have come with what’s-his-name. I went inside to take a piss. I came out of the bathroom door and you were there in the kitchen with a cup of water in your hands. You held it close to your chest. Your shorts were white. Your skin was fair and your hair was dark. You smiled, and that’s all it took. You didn’t know me yet, and you were too shy to make new friends. I approached, and you shook my hand gently. Hours went by, and we talked, delved, discovered. We got cut short by your friends coming inside. They said they were looking all over for you. You left with them. That year went fast. We tried it. It didn’t work. Who strayed first? I lost sleep, and you gained weight. I fucked up. I fucked up.

The girl finally takes a drag of her cigarette. I ask if she wants to find some place quiet. She throws her butt towards the grass and I do the same. I finish my beer and open the door for her. She walks through the kitchen and clutches my hand. We walk upstairs and people stare at us.


She opens the first door. Two frat guys are bumping off a mirror and tell her to leave. We walk across the hall and she opens a door. The lights are on. The room is empty and dirty. Wrinkled shirts and a pair of dirt-laden jeans are scattered throughout the floor. The sheets are falling off the bed. She tells me to lock the door and shut off the light.

I oblige. She turns on a desk lamp and starts taking off her top. She ghost dances to the music downstairs. She doesn’t dance like you.


I remember dancing some years back when we went to the firework show. There were so many people packed around a large makeshift dance floor on the beach. We had only seen each other a couple of times. I told you I didn’t dance. You loved dancing.


I told you I would only dance to a slow song. You danced for a while with your friends before going to the music booth. You whispered into the D.J.’s ear and he nodded in compliance. A slow, melancholic tune began echoing from the speakers. You looked at me and your brown eyes glowed dimly. You smirked humbly and your teeth were white. You put out your hand and waved me over. We danced and the old couples looked at us in reminiscence. I kissed you that night.


“You gonna take that shirt off?” the girl says to me. “Or am I gonna take it off for you?”

She’s only wearing a laced bottom. Her breasts are small. Her face is tanner than the rest of her body. She jumps on the bed and I relent. I thrust and wish I hadn’t drunk so much. She screams, and I close my eyes and hope it ends.

I wonder what you’re doing. You’re probably watching that show you always loved. We would watch that for hours. You would lay your head on my stomach while the low volume of the television broke the beautiful silence after sex.

She’s getting dressed and I reach into my pocket for a cigarette. She asks me for one. I tell her no. She straps her bra and reaches for her shirt. It’s under my waist. When she grabs it, her hand touches my bare stomach. The rain is coming down hard outside.

“Guess the weatherman was right about tonight,” she says, opening the blinds.

I take a drag and tap it lightly towards the side of the bed. She says she’ll see me around and walks out of the room. I put out the cigarette on the desk next to the bed and get dressed. I walk downstairs and she sees me, but she keeps talking to her friend. Theo is still in the kitchen. He asks me if I’m going to the keg. I walk with him and fill up my cup. I stare towards the window as the drops hitting the glass scatter like webs. They start at the top but never reach the bottom of the pane. I wonder if it’s raining by you, too.


James Fitz Gerald is a second year graduate student in the Binghamton University English Department. He is currently pursuing his MA and intends to pursue a PhD thereafter.


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Rose Fritzky-Randolph

I’ll Pray for Him

“Just a couple more. Take turns pretending to tell each other a secret,” Aunt Karen says with her face hidden behind her digital Nikon, her red hair falling over her shoulders. We hear the shutter sound a few more times before she lowers the camera and walks over to the table behind us. She repositions a few unclaimed wildflower seed packets that we’re using as seating cards and a canvas with a painted tree, its leaves stamped on by the thumbs of our guests.

We asked if she would take photos of the wedding instead of giving us a gift because she has a great eye, but also because she was invited to both parts of the wedding: the ceremony, held at an eco-friendly bed and breakfast in Ridgefield, Connecticut where same-sex marriage is legal, and the reception held the next day in the backyard of KiRa’s childhood home in rural New Jersey. Aunt Karen was a ninja at the ceremony yesterday, ducking down the rows of chairs, finding space between people’s heads and shoulders. KiRa and I told everyone we wanted a moment alone in our bridal suite before we walked down the aisle together, but Aunt Karen followed us into the room, clicking away. We had to ask her to leave.

Today, she catches us upstairs in KiRa’s childhood bedroom, our bridal suite for the reception.

“Don’t mind me,” she announces when she opens the door, smiling. She snaps shots of my sisters as they stick bobby pins in our hair and accentuate our eyes with shades of midnight and sapphire. We decided against having any kind of bridal party, but friends, parents, KiRa’s younger brother, and every one of my eleven siblings have all had specific assignments over the last few months. They’ve been there to cut burlap for the tablecloths, tie dried lavender into bunches, put candles in mason jars, repaint the entryway and kitchen, move furniture into the back room, set up the tables and chairs in the tent, and a myriad of other duties. Most of my family will be contributing to the mini-concert we’re having during the reception, complete with an eclectic band made up of a couple friends, a cousin, and a former coworker.

Aunt Karen stays in the room until they finish our hair and makeup, then snaps shots of my sisters handling the elaborate lacing on the back of my dress. KiRa and I are both excited to wear our dresses again, but we add cotton shrugs to cover our shoulders, in case it gets too chilly. The tent’s heated, but it’s still November. When they finish and we’re ready to make our way outside, Aunt Karen runs ahead so she can take shots of us coming down the stairs together. She pauses us at various steps, has us lean against the banister, look at each other, look in the same direction, put our foreheads together, close our eyes. We’ve been in the kitchen for ten minutes now. The room serves as the pathway to our reception and it’s filled with white lights, candles, and tree wall décor. We don’t have the heart to tell her to stop.

Within a minute, KiRa’s dad, Steve, opens the sliding glass door and comes into the kitchen from the back deck. Behind him, I can see our chiminea warming station, gift table, and makeshift bar with Bota Box wine and multiple kegs of craft beer. The fire in the chiminea is blazing. “Ladies… it’s time,” he says, closing the door behind him. “You’ve got a tent full of people out there who can’t wait to see you.”

We nod and take deep breaths. Aunt Karen looks at Steve and responds, “Okay, they’re coming. Last one.”

KiRa looks at me, eyes wide. “You ready?”

I smile, then place my palms on either side of KiRa’s face and kiss her. We’re already married, but this moment—the moment before we enter a tent filled with 150 people—feels larger than I expected.

We step outside and I don’t feel cold at all. The candlelight and warmth from the chiminea embraces me. I take a deep breath and give KiRa a three-pulse hand squeeze for “I love you.” She does the same back. I know we’re thinking the same thing. This is where it all started. Ten years ago, long before I would realize why my relationships with men always seemed one-sided, long before I would admit to myself that I was in love with her, long before our first kiss, this is where we spent our summer nights together. Every weekend, after the Friday night show at the Growing Stage, where KiRa and I met as camp counselors, a small group of us would gather here. We’d spend all night in the backyard, doing somersaults on a trampoline covered with balloons, eating skittles and zucchini bread, dying one another’s hair obnoxious shades of red, blue, and purple.

Aunt Karen and Steve run ahead and we step off the deck together. The entrance to the tent is open and I can already see faces. Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends from all walks of life, KiRa’s gammy, my great-aunt Dot. They’re all standing. Even my aunt Kathy, who said she couldn’t make it up from Florida, waves at us, smiling, from inside the tent. Later, she’ll apologize for crashing our wedding; she’ll tell us she “just couldn’t miss it” and ended up buying a last-minute ticket. We’ll tell her, “We wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Managing the guest list was my least favorite part of planning our wed- ding. By the time our “please respond by” date had passed, we were still waiting on at least thirty guests. A few people even messaged their replies on Facebook. A couple months ago, KiRa and I were going over our seating chart in the dining room of our Binghamton apartment.

“Only one today,” I told her as I made my way to the kitchen to retrieve my coffee. I’m always leaving it in the microwave. I tossed the mail on the edge of the dining room table, careful not to disturb the seating chart circles she had scattered across its yellow surface.

When I returned and sat down in the chair next to KiRa, she said, “I still don’t know if I should put my parents at separate tables.” The rays from the sun passed through the window, hitting my eyes, so I moved my chair a few inches closer to her. She leaned over and pulled my legs onto her lap.

KiRa’s parents’ divorce isn’t final yet, but their separation is. Her mother moved out of the house she had lived in for twenty years soon after KiRa and I began turning our ten-year friendship into something more. I exhaled and squeezed KiRa’s shoulder.

“Don’t even go there yet,” I said. “We’ll cross that one when we have to.” KiRa pushed a handful of white paper circles across the table and stretched her arms above her head. I was about to reach for the familiar brown envelope sticking out of the pile, but instead started sorting through the rest of the day’s batch. Our current NYSEG statement. The weekly Binghamton Price Chopper sales flyer. A couple credit card offers addressed to someone with a combination of our last names, Randolph R. Fritzky.

“More for Randy,” I said, smirking as I passed the envelopes to KiRa.

She laughed and tossed them to the side. “That guy gets more mail than we do.”

I glanced down at a combined David’s Bridal and Men’s Warehouse coupon offering 25% off bridesmaid dresses on one side and two-for-one tuxedos on the other. I held the men’s side up for KiRa to see, and raised my eyebrows. “You sure you don’t want to marry me in a suit?” I asked.

“Why do they keep sending us these things?” she said, shaking her head and snatching the flyer from my hands. She inspected it for a moment and then smiled at me, brushing a few strands of hair behind her ears. “You could totally pull off a tux, sweetie, but I think it’s a bit late to return our dresses.”

I took back the flyer, and then added it to Randy’s discarded mail. “Agreed,” I said. “No tuxes.”

We went shopping for our wedding dresses together; our moms, KiRa’s gammy, and a handful of my sisters tagged along. When we arrived at David’s Bridal for our appointment, a short girl with way too much sparkley blue eye makeup greeted us.

“Hi! I’m Courtney!” she said, standing so close to me that I could smell her vanilla-scented perfume. Her eyes darted around the room, never meeting mine. “Are you KiRa?”

“Nope,” I said with a higher voice than I intended to use. I turned and gestured toward KiRa, who had her arm around Gammy. “I’m Rosie,” I said to Courtney, placing my palm on my chest.

“Oh! I’m so sorry!” She looked at KiRa and then at me, shaking her head. “Janice told me you were the bride!” She smacked her right thigh and let out a short, awkward laugh. She took a couple steps toward KiRa and regrouped.

“Congratulations, Bride!” She gave her a quick hug. I couldn’t help but wonder how many strangers she was obligated to embrace in a single day.

“This is your welcome bag.” She handed KiRa a plastic bag, which held nothing but David’s Bridal catalogs and a complimentary pen as she took in the size of our group. “Who do we have with you today?”

KiRa gave me a look. It was time for clarification.
I saw her catch Courtney’s eyes. “We’re both brides, actually.”
Courtney looked like a robot running low on battery power. “Oh goodness. I’m sorry. This is a double appointment then? I didn’t realize. You’re both getting married?” She seemed to be short-circuiting.

“Yes,” I said. “To each other.”
Her eyes widened a bit before she caught herself. “Oh! Oh, wow!” Courtney gave me my hug and then nearly shouted, “This is gonna be so much fun!”
I wouldn’t say the experience was fun; Courtney seemed set on dressing KiRa like a mermaid, and me like I was about to receive my First Holy Communion. But we did end up leaving with two lovely, reasonably priced dresses that complimented each other: mine with capped sleeves, and KiRa’s strapless.

After that appointment we were constantly bombarded with wedding ads geared toward heterosexual couples. We were getting used to it. I took a sip of my coffee and then picked up the small brown envelope.

“Who’s that one from?” KiRa asked, lifting her chin and glancing toward my hands.

“Not sure,” I replied. “It just has a return address. I can’t remember who lives in New Milford.” I broke the seal of the envelope and pulled out the card.

Next to the printed words “Wish we could be there,” someone had written a checkmark. No sad face. No message for the brides at the bottom. Just a sloppy checkmark. I turned the card over to see if they chose a word for our “In one word, what do you wish for the brides” wordle. But there was just an empty space.

“Well, it’s definitely a no,” I said to KiRa, handing her the card. I slid my legs off her lap and pushed my chair away from the table. “Who does that?”

I got up to retrieve my laptop from the bedroom so I could look up the address. But, as I sat down on my bed and opened the computer, I realized who the RSVP was from.

“I think it’s Uncle Billy,” I called to KiRa. I opened the address book on my desktop, typed Bill in the search bar, clicked enter, and proved myself right. By the time I closed my computer, KiRa was sitting next to me.

Sitting there with his “No” in my hand, I felt numb. I felt isolated in a way I hadn’t before, not even when I first came out. I tossed it in the manila folder where we’d been keeping the rest, shrugged, and told KiRa I wasn’t surprised. She took my hand and kissed it in response.

I knew Uncle Billy wasn’t planning to come. My mom called me back when we sent out our save-the-dates, told me he’d driven the hour to my parents’ house to tell my father—his big brother—that he wouldn’t be attending my wedding. She said their conversation had been heated and that she’d stayed out of it because he was Dad’s brother and she didn’t want to say something she’d regret. It was the first time I fully grasped the difference between Uncle Billy’s Assembly of God ideology and the Catholic faith I’d grown up with in my own household. I had witnessed Uncle Billy’s unwavering belief system in the past, but this was the first time it really hit me. It was the first time I realized that for Uncle Billy, merely being Christian wasn’t good enough.

In the weeks that passed between the day we received his R.S.V.P. and our wedding, I thought a lot about Uncle Billy and what an impact he’d had on my childhood. I thought about how at family gatherings he used to pull me aside and teach me songs like “Skidamarink—I Love You” and “In Moments Like These” before the rest of the cousins, so that I could show all of them how to do their parts better. He seemed to always have a guitar around his neck. I thought about how when we all camped at Lake George, we could always hear music coming from his campsite. He used to curl his whole body into the inner part of a big tire and roll into the lake. He used to be the first one off the cliff jumps and rope swings. But, somehow, even with all of his energy, he was the one who made me feel safe. He was the one who showed me the power of prayer. Even if I didn’t believe deep down that it was going to work, it still felt nice to hope. I thought about the year I got terrible poison ivy while we were camping and he had everyone put their hands on the top of my head while he asked the Lord to “take away my discomfort.” He drove me home and stayed until I was comfortable in bed watching Anne of Green Gables. Uncle Billy was the one who taught me all about God’s lessons of love and forgiveness. Even the license plate on Uncle Billy’s van still reads, “FORGIVE.”

But, most of all, I thought about Creation, a four-day Christian festival that occurs once a year at the Agape Campground in Mount Union, Pennsylvania. On average, 80,000 people attend Creation each year. They go to hear sermons and see fireworks and performances by the rock stars of Christian music, to find purpose and camp together in one large open field. They go to be saved. For eight weekends of my life, from the age of eleven until the summer after I turned nineteen, I went to Creation with a handful of siblings and cousins and members of Uncle Billy’s ministry. I looked forward to it every year. My mind kept taking me to Creation, and I thought about one summer in particular. The summer Stephen, Uncle Billy’s oldest son, told me that my friend John Patrick was going to Hell.

It was so hot that year and I remember wanting to get through breakfast as fast as possible so I could run to the lemonade stand. The heat was unbearable. Sometimes we hiked to the lookout just for the shade, or walked the main road down to the river, but those excursions were often not worth the effort. The lookout only provided a view of the festival grounds and the river was so cloudy that nothing beneath the water’s surface was visible. I preferred the lemonade. Freshly squeezed with just the right amount of sugar and ice. We always drank it fast so the ice wouldn’t melt and then we walked the path around the main stage and field, holding the leftover cubes against the backs of our necks as we checked out the stands of Jesus-centric merchandise: WWJD bracelets, tie-dyed T-shirts with various Bible quotes, some with “Creation Festival” printed on the front and “A Tribute To Our Creator” on the back. One of my brothers bought a green one that said “Liars Go To Hell. Revelations 21:8.”

Breakfast was at 8:00 a.m. sharp so we would be on time for morning worship at the main stage. Uncle Billy was serious about the schedule. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the site were mandatory, as was morning worship and at least one sermon a day. Curfew was 10:00 p.m., unless the night’s concert or candlelight vigil went later than that.

That day, while everyone else was getting ready to head over to morning worship, I was scraping eggs off the bottom of the pan with a plastic knife. Stephen was sitting at the table drinking orange juice with his feet propped up on the bench.

“You know what’s too bad, Rosie?” he asked me.
“What?” I said.
“I think your friend John Patrick is such a great guy, so freakin’ funny.

But, I really hope he changes his ways in time.”
I stopped scraping and looked up at him. “In time for what?” I asked.

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