060.2: The Tuscaloosa Issue:: Martone & Kowalski & Martin & Reyes 060

The Tuscaloosa Issue:: Monday: We feature writing by Michael Martone, Steven Casimer Kowalski, Erin Lyndal Martin and Juan Reyes.

This week, The Offending Adam pauses our usual publication schedule for a specific and important purpose: focusing our attention on the tragedy that just befell the American South, and in particular the state of Alabama. Each day this week, we will present writers who have a connection with Alabama writing on Alabama. Those of us at TOA and the writers participating in this week's issue encourage you to help and support the victims of the tornado by donating to the American Red Cross and to other aid organizations. Tuscaloosa may be broken and Tuscaloosa may be bruised, but Tuscaloosa will recover. And it will recover with our help. The Offending Adam

Four Alabama Seasons

by Michael Martone


Even when the fans are not running under power, they feather in the breeze. Turning over, the blades mill wind. Flatbeds stacked with chicken cages piled two stories high pull in behind the wall of fans parked for a turn at the loading dock. White chickens stuff the black wire cages. The fans start up, turn, blur. The air pushes through the cages, and feathers spit out the other side. Everywhere on the ground are loose white feathers. The feathers blow across the street, cars stirring up the feathers, catch in the breeze that has not been manufactured. Breeze that is breeze. The feathers form a drift of down next to the red cedar slat fence of the city’s junkyard. Balls of feathers, hefty as chickens and as plump, tumble into the ditch. Up north, a fence like that would be strung along a highway to knock the snow out of a blizzard. Loose feathers swirl around wrecked police black and whites in the lot, begin to tar the car, coat the surface of muddy puddles left by the rain.


Spring and all is new green grass drowned by new white, white sand of the golf course groundskeeping. The rain puts a crust on the traps that must be raked until they shimmer, a sawing corduroy seen from a distance, a breeze chopping up the surface of a scummy pond. Pollen, the gist of the season, tarnishes every surface, takes away its shine, a mat of grainy finish. But today, see? Spilled sparkle of sand curved through the blacktopped intersection out front, traced a dump truck’s too-tight turn. Already, house sparrows bathe in the fresh dune, intermittent puffs of dust along the drift, a moon’s crescent in shadow. There, the white sand turns black. A mockingbird on the strung cable mimics the neighborhood’s air conditioners. All emit this compressed chatter as the sun clears the stand of oak soaked with wisteria. It will rain later and the sand will melt, forget itself. That dawn’s gesture’s just grist.


Sundays, a white city pickup truck steams slowly through the side street spraying for mosquitoes. The fog machine’s engine, an insect, drowns out the sound of the engine of the truck, a steady gearless whine. The fog itself leaps back from a funnel trailing off the bed, appears to propel the truck alone, a jet of clouds under pressure. The white spray dissipates, gets grayer as it spreads and, heavier than air, it trails the truck, a wake that spreads and skirts the curbs of the street. It spills down the hill, fills the hollow, evaporates like that afternoon’s rain turning the concrete to vapor. Later, the truck crisscrosses the grid in the neighborhood, the sound muted and amplified by the spaces between houses, the trees, the yards, and the residue settles into the bunkers of the golf course, a ground blizzard sweeping over the greens, a fluid tarp. Above, the moon breaks up, fogged in the fog as it sets through it. The summer air twice thickened.


White pine. The new needles replace needles that fall as straw, rake into springy piles in the gutter. The hardwoods stay bare-limbed, leaves exhausted. Clouds of mistletoe are caught in the branches, twig mist. The spindly azalea under-story. Too far north for Spanish moss, the trees trap trashed plastic bags, look like shit. But in the crevices and corners and on the stripped branches, lint from the cotton fields gathers. On the scored red brick and the dull mortar in between, woolly cotton patches of the stuff stuffs the joints, points the grout, a seeping spun sugar. The lint escapes the screened-in trailer trucks of the raw harvest or gets kicked up by the gleaning in the fields and threads itself into the wind, winds up coating anything with a burr enough to stick. It snows, little squalls of it accumulated in the niches, the pockets fall has turned out. It is snow that is not snow, a white reminder, until it dyes itself with all the other detritus, becomes the glue of bark and twigs and leaves, leaving nothing but filth, tilth, a kind of felt.

Tuscaloosa Lore and Legend: An Introduction

by Steven Casimer Kowalski

There is a Troll who lives beneath the Southbound Lurleen Wallace Bridge. He has a long tongue which he dangles down into the Black Warrior to lure fishes. When he catches one, his tongue rolls up like a yo-yo. It is rumored he went to Auburn.

A small but powerful band of Hobgoblins inhabit the lower stacks of the Gorgas Library. It is commonly assumed that they are responsible for the misplacing of books just before they are requested for scholarship. However, this assumption is false and book disappearances remain unexplained.

If you look at either side of the Bog Garden at the UA Arboretum at sunset, making sure to never look directly at the bog, you will see the reflection of a boy in the water. You can release him by saying his name three times. And once he is out he will grant you one wish. He then returns to the bog and, in his spare time, manages several rental properties in the city.

Beneath the Dreamland Barbeque are vast and complex sauce mines. They stretch deep into the Lithosphere and comprise the largest and most coveted natural sauce deposit in the world.

A flower grown in Tuscaloosa soil will generally bring good luck, two of them doubly so.

There is not a single haunted building in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The ghosts there prefer the outdoors and will often leave beer cans and tire-tread marks on the lawns of those who will one day join their ranks.

The A-7E Corsair on display at Veteran’s Memorial Park stands at a unique cross section of celestial magnetic fields. At this strange convergence, the normal laws of the physical world cease to exist. While a full study of this phenomenon has not been undertaken, it is agreed that one of its effects is a tendency to forget where one has parked one’s car.

Lake Tuscaloosa is home to a two headed sea creature named Eben-ezer. The creature was, for most of history, regarded as kind. Only recently has he been found out to be a gossip and a spreader of intrigue. To gain his favor, land a back flip on your wakeboard.

Three witches live in the belfry of Denny Chimes. Each year, after technicians precisely tune the chimes, the witches set to slowly detuning each note.

The Alabama Museum of Natural History has one of only five genuine unicorn horns known to exist. The horn was won in a poker game by then University of Alabama president Basil Manly. It was stored in secret until 1982 when a decision was made to hide the artifact in plain sight. The horn now poses as a bone in the skeleton of a Basilosaurus which hangs from the ceiling of the museum’s central hall.

The Alston Building in the city’s downtown area is a noted gathering spot for wizards. As a result, many of the downtown shops carry brightly colored capes and pointy hats.

The fountain at Shelby Park is actually the head of an ancient well-spring prized for years due to its curative properties. Headaches, stomach aches, nausea, dry mouth, fatigue, diarrhea, and dizziness are routinely abated by standing beneath a cascade of these waters for between five and fifteen minutes.

Beneath an unmarked grave at Evergreen Cemetery lies the body of Mary Hill, who died of an apparent poisoning in 1903 at the age of 17. Throughout the month of July, she rises from her grave and roams the southeast helping young men and women learn the art of fly fishing.

While once plentiful, the Leprechaun population of Tuscaloosa has fallen in recent years. Though city officials are dismayed, they frequently point out that the falling numbers coincide with national trends and are currently investing in several civic programs to provide incentives for the Leprechauns to stay.

The water of the Black Warrior River will render human inhibition and fear inert for 25 seconds. The individual must be completely submerged for the effect to take hold.

A curious phenomenon unique to Tuscaloosa is that it is very easy to dance there and look good while doing so. This causes frequent outbursts of dancing at nearly all hours. Doctors the world over recommend that people who cannot dance spend time in Tuscaloosa to improve their skills.

The last dragon to inhabit the greater Tuscaloosa region disappeared from record in the early 1700’s. The dragon was female and all known references use variants on the name “Woford.” It is rumored that Bryant-Denny Stadium is built directly above the large cavern which was once her home. To date, 114 brave men and woman have gone searching for her. All have returned safely and all have refused to share their story.


by Erin Lyndal Martin

Because darkness knew it would come to Tuscaloosa

and thread through the smoke of the paper mill,

embossing epitaphs, leaving the stench of the tire factory

uncloaked, it made an offering and set down train tracks

behind Ashley’s apartment. Therefore Natalie and I

accepted, offered back our selves and stride, bought cold beers

and kept them in our pockets, shaken after climbing

the magnolia tree. Our feet went down to the ground,

ditto the railroad’s scar which we walked past hackberry trees

and Natalie’s story about her lover who climbed the radio tower

to show her he would. Then our footpath shook, then the enormous

twin lights appeared. We hoped off the tracks into the darkness

that gave them to us, kissed each other’s cheeks, waited for the train to pass.

because there were pink petals on the first of may

by Erin Lyndal Martin

somewhere sometime I’ll say the last thing that I’ll ever say to you.

it makes me feel lonely now.    if I see your light on when I drive

home I’ll knock on your door with a box of pizza and a bottle of wine.

it’s the least I can do. that and staying silent during the game

shows, letting you whisper the answers to yourself like a liturgy. I

would like that. it would remind me why I love you.       and maybe I

would mention again how someone you didn’t know dreamed of you

dressing that way that you never dressed, not way back then, but how

you have stitched yourself to me now like pages in a book made from

yarn and cardboard where the letters are the height of knuckles

and I am reading this to you again over the din of classic rock and

law students comparing notes on esculpatory evidence and a little girl

in a striped shirt who is picking up littered cigarette boxes and I

think her father is going to tell her to stay away from them but

instead she rips off the proof of purchase so he can send it in to get

some reward or another, and then she is putting the box top under the

ashtray to keep the wind from blowing it away

and I am  thinking that someone somewhere would be sad to see the way

you talk to me, jealous even, and how this line crooks like an

interstate is wiggling through whatever strange messiness we’re bound

for, awkward and jagged, the way the roads look on that old trucker’s

atlas you have where we spread it out on the whole sofa and point at

places we used to live and places we’ll go once we leave alabama and

the hackberry trees and the exoskeletons of palmetto bugs that litter

our floors

and I think you’ll still say beautiful things about me

not because I was beautiful, not all the time at least

but because that’s in your nature
and I will love you for it

the past few days while you’ve been away, I’ve thought about watering

your plants.

when you are really gone, I will take advantage of vertical space and

stack things up high in my inevitably small apartments because of you

and I will know that you are getting drunk and napping in stairwells,

or you are writing painful stories about old men who make their own

artifacts and swim out beyond the shore to leave them in a lake.

at night the am radio will toss and turn between collegiate sports and

conspiracy theories and scraps of donna summer will rain in like

confetti.       I didn’t think I could miss you. I didn’t think I

could not.

the bama bolero

by Juan Reyes

idleness a function of power
time a sum of everywhere you can help
ours is the fourth rubble on the left
at the magnolia lying across the road

bring your gloves hedgerow cutters and
gas-drunk chainsaws and loose arms
we’ll wait, toppled roof broken tables
collapsed cupboards and tossed kitchen sink

if you’re hungry, we have cookies

we’re not the only dog and pony show, though
you’ll see, the new prairies beaming now
like an after hours prom, confetti everywhere
and who knew we’d have so many brooms

to sweep bodies trees and mud the evening
spinning dancing downstreet leaping wind left
its head cocked gasping searching, the right step
left step misstep, the dedicated pacing it takes

to choreograph the bama bolero

and it’s no one’s fault, really, even the clouds
run blind raging tearing crying with no regard
to the traffic and standing walls of people
lakes schools and malls, and so ours

is the fourth rubble on the left, past the blue
flatbed pickup and broken plywood, walking
on the shattered bathtub, pacing circles
around the overturned gutted sedan, see there

that’s me, i’m the one waving