Volume VIII

Volume VIII

Feeling Slightly Unyoung at 28

David Wanczyk

I’m older than Keats was when he died, of course, whatever;
I’ll never play tennis for real either, though I was something
of a phenom.  A young Ivan Lendl maybe or some great
definer of Autumn, its ripenesses.

Figure skaters skate!

But I’m too old for that, too, the piano, and fluency in languages,
fun adolescent phases like an interest in being mod, or sex
during my absolute prime.

These are some things I’m thinking.  Just some things.
Tossed out there like a tissue.

Today my wrist felt fine jacking up the can opener—
I had tuna on a bagel with a sprig, just a sprig, of dillweed.
I know it will all hurt soon, the twisting.
And then I’ll declare that I didn’t take it for granted, the unswollenness.

That will be nice for me.

And so will it be, for instance, when I get to an age
at which I can definitively say that I did not
push my son—soft and sensitive,
with an earring and a crush on that theater tech, Mandy—
into a position on the offensive line
to satisfy some vicarious urge to block
and be blocked.

And so will it be when he won’t have to confide
to Mandy that he’s doing it for me
and my hunched-shoulder, watered-down ketchup
on the microwave meatloaf,
wrist-ache of a life.

Or maybe he should get to do those things:
play football, be an astronaut, kiss a girl named Allison,
write good poems (about it).
I don’t know.  I’m really not old enough to know.
But it might be nice to see him grow into something
more than I was.  That’s what every parent wants, right?

I’m older than Keats was when he died, of course, whatever.
But maybe my son can have freaky, mod, ice-rink sex
while speaking French.

Beauty is truth and such.
Triple-toe loop, double sallow,
backhand slice down the line,
change the key of “Heart and Soul,”
Je t’aime quand tu portes du noir,
tight red suits with wide ties loosened,
oh baby, baby, you’re right,
we’re only young once.

And then we’ll stick the landing.
Yeah, that sounds alright.

The Places We Ran To

Peter Kispert

SANDBAR
The minnows disagreed, wrought with an indecisive frequency. Their tails spun sour. Our ankles could live without questions. Our hearts could not. The surf sang with cadence not unlike that of breaking bones. Several bottles snapped for her lonesome severity. Our wishes even seemed to bake the mermaids. His tick-tick smiles crowned the jetty. Strangers in goggles leaving behind creaseless paper boats, song lyrics. Strangers loving each other with bad sandwich smiles. The volume had our lashes spinning rope to silver music.

SNAKE PIT
He lit up like sundown. All of us wishing to be equidistant and elsewhere, the charmers we weren’t. The leaves bit at our hair. Thinking maybe the air was trying to choke something down. Slick gullet, a marble O arching, pitted in one of the slithers. A mouse, maybe, or a cat. Her bones were no mystery then. Sheer in the flowers blooming with power only engines could know. Understanding unfamiliar. Backs of knees tired with exhaust. The mother vein in our serpent necks gone out completely.

SPLIT-TONGUE GORGE
Stunned between the two running a river of corrosive mist. Its arms martyr rock as coexisting lives elsewhere. His turning was a graceful absence. A bridge was a line will fall down sometime. Charred pepper in our ears from the fire three days over. Looking down and carpet sighing. Looking down and iris lost. Stubborn pixel mist swallows water, a dream reserved for the unborn eyeless.
SWAMP
Here we feel like shade. Here the cattails grow as pencils for our hands and nobody wishes past the border of no-name creek. He asked and I licked back. Her. Together drawing a face in the bog bile, searing her eyebrows til they melted back into place. He said soft. The rights in our paths seemed to splinter, then sever. He swam for the bridge, I looked to the ocean. The last times stung bright and potent as jellyfish venom. The three of us a logarithm. Half a star of David if we made the roads just right.

Nick and the Candystore

Kennedy Nadler

I am a minibus. The lighthouse burns blues.
Wayward stallions
Drive-by and thieve, tear gas

The earthen wood
Exudes from its deadly boroughs.
Black hole bath-tub airs

Wrap me, railway car sheddings,
Cold homeopathic remedies.
They weld to me like plumbing.

Old cavity of recalcitrant
idealists, old economists.
Even their next-of-kin are white lies,

Those holy jokes.
And the fists, the fists –
Christ! they are panics of icicles,

A vice squad of knowledge,
A pistol
Reloading, drinking

Its first companionship out of my livid toenails.
The candystore
Gulps and recovers its small alternates,

Its yelps hearten.
O lollipop, how did you get here?
O M&Ms

Recovering, even in sleepy-sand,
Your crumpled pop-tarts.
The blood blooms clean

In your ruby glasses.
The pataphysics
You wake to is not yours.

Love, love,
I have hung our cave art with rope,
Wet soft rugelach –

The last of victory day.
Let the stark
Plumpen to their daedal addition,

Let the mercy-kill
Atom bombs that cripple drip
Into the terrible welkin,

You are the one
Solid the spaces lean on, envious.
You are the baby broccoli in the chocolate bark.

 

Advertisements
Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Volume VII

Volume VII

Kevin Heaton

Body Snatched

Infuriated nor’easter sylphs, clatter
slap sleet castanets against the upstairs
dormer; hijacking my ear from insulated
silence. Frostbitten tree fingers petition
the hearth, (glowing just beyond reach,
on the bright side of transparency)
tapping out ‘help’ in dots and dashes.
Timber wolf banshee screams cuff
the wind, castigating ornery gods
for cruel, and unusual punishment.

Like John Malkovich seeking Possum
in: “Places in the Heart,” I stupor
stumble through darkness, and three
foot snow drifts, toward stir-crazy
livestock I cannot see, eye-spliced
to a hemp rope guideline tied
to an unlatched barn door; flapping
like mother plover feigning a wound.

Arctic gusts body-snatch me, levitating
and flag-waving my limbs, shredding
denim into strip bandages. In one
climactic, turbulent squall convulsion;
spectral forces assert their fury:
wrenching my fingers from a lifeline
death grip, hurling me like an empty
feed sack into javelina tusked, barbed
wire holding pens, slicing through
frozen, anesthetized flesh, and impaling
my carcass like a pork belly hung
from a butcher’s meat hook.

Michael Frissore

On Seeing a Particularly Wacky Bumper Sticker
Driving home on La Canada Drive
I saw a bumper sticker that said
“Just Say No to Barry O,”
and I thought, well, that’s mean.

Barry O was the stage name of
pro wrestler Barry Orton, brother
of “Cowboy” Bob Orton, and
uncle of Randy Orton.

Barry was a preliminary wrestler,
what my father used to call “dog meat,”
unlike his brother, perhaps because
he refused to perform sexual favors
on World Wrestling Federation
higher-ups, ergo the wrestling
sex scandals of the early 90s.

Then I thought, well, Bob Orton
wasn’t a prelim guy, he had
success in the WWF, did he
play ball with these guys?

Then I thought, hey, you wanna
get yourself sued? But how can
I be sued for my thoughts?

So this sticker was pretty mean
because “no” was what the higher-ups
said to Barry O when he wouldn’t
do nasty things for them.

The next morning I Googled
“Just Say No to Barry O”
and found that Barry O is actually
Barack Obama.

So, of course this was a
conservative bumper sticker.
They love rhymes, those conservatives.
If Bush had been a Democrat,
I could have seen
“Say ‘Kiss My Tush’ to GW Bush”
stickers and T-shirts everywhere.

Then, I thought, well,
I did kind of say no to Barry O
because I didn’t vote for him,
which doesn’t make me a racist,
does it? You’ll say it makes me
a racist if you’re a liberal because
liberals love calling people racist
even more than conservatives
love political rhymes and more
than Barry O probably hates WWE
even though his nephew has been
one of their top stars for years.

Ryan Millbern

Three Kisses

I.
On the night of the Gardner Middle School Christmas dance, Jack slow dances naked by himself in front of a full-length mirror in his bedroom, his eyes closed, his hands steadied on the invisible waist of Catherine Morris. “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men blasts from a black and gold Magnavox boom-box on the waterbed. Next to the boom-box he’s laid out his clothes: maroon sweater, white turtleneck, pleated khakis, brown braided belt and his dead father’s gold necklace. He slow dances from the mirror to the bed, dressing one item of clothing at a time. His movements are not graceful; he is still getting his bearings in his own body.

Once dressed, he applies Brut aftershave to his neck in two hasty splashes. In the weeks following his father’s death, Jack had slept in the bed in his father’s office, his face buried in the pillow. The scent of his aftershave still lived in the pillowcase. Jack had breathed in that scent, inhaling what was left of his father into his lungs.

He studies himself in the full-length mirror. He has a moon face, a soft belly, a penis like a cashew, hairless legs. He leans in close to the mirror until his nose and his lips are pressed up against the cool glass and he breathes and watches his breath spread out and then disappear. He rolls his tongue against Catherine’s tongue but it is not her tongue; it is just the glass, and the glass is cold and smooth.

II.
Jack walks by himself to the dance, and once he is there, doesn’t dance. He stands on one side of the gym, Catherine Morris on the other. His sweater is too hot, his turtleneck too tight. His heart jumps when the slow songs start and he walks over to her in sweaty socks and they dance.

The eighth graders dance closer; some of them press their crotches together. He does not try this. He can feel Catherine’s slender waist beneath her green dress. He can smell her cotton-candy lip-gloss, her hair spray. He can smell the perfume on her wrists. Her cheeks are radiant with blush and glitter. He pulls her closer and listens to her breathe over the bassy gymnasium P.A. Every time she breathes his spine tingles. He is living in her breath. His world is a mouth, the intake of breath, the lips that bring the air in, the lungs where the breath lives. Sensing the end of the song, he lowers his head and leans in. She parts her lips—an invitation—and he kisses her bottom lip. It is slick with lip-gloss. It is sweet and warm.

III.
When Jack returns home from the dance, the living room is dark, illuminated only by the blue and green light from the television. There is no sound, only the movement of the images and the shifting light. His mother is slumped in the recliner, facing the television, her back to him. She does not move when he walks toward her. She is so still.

“Mom?” he says.

Her blue robe is open, exposing her breast. He stares at it, tries to see her heart beating in it. He is convinced that she is dead. He will be alone in the house with his parents’ ghosts. He decides he will marry Catherine Morris and they will live here with their ghosts.

He leans over his mother, his ear to her open mouth. Her breath is there, but it is labored and sour with alcohol. He kisses her lips and they are dry and cracked from breathing in the air of this house, from the act of breathing itself: the reeling in of microscopic particles, the drawing of tiny universes into her.

Salvatore Pane

How He Once Moved Them

We are on Mars.
We have colonized miles of red desert. And on certain days we can see that blinking blue twilight that signals Earth in the dead sky.
We are no longer young. Mars is not the place for youth. It is where the elderly are shuttled off to, the assisted living ranches of outer space. We sit on Mars under big glass domes and tilt our wrinkly heads toward the sky. They have us lined up on an infinitely long porch, our bodies connected to hundreds of computers, impossible machines that shout “Beep!” and “Yip!” complete with nugget dials and sensors with too many numbers that make us nervous. We cannot move. The machines are too big, unruly, all hooked in intravenously through our mouths, noses, ears, belly buttons, anuses, genitals.
We sway back and forth on the rocking chairs of our destruction.
Some of us listen to music. We avoid the old crooners, the Frank Sinatras and Dean Martins and Sammy Davis Juniors and Peter Lawfords and Joey Bishops or anyone else connected to the Rat Pack. We prefer gangster rap. We sit on our death rockers and tentatively nod to “Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G. and “California Love” by Tupac Shakur. We have forgotten which one of these urban youths died first, but either way it’s a tragic shame perfectly suited for a group of people whose hormones first went ape shit during the 9/11 attacks.
We are shocked at how old we have become. Liver spots! When we saw our grandparents’ hands as children it seemed like a sick joke, not something waiting for us in the future like a ticking nuclear bomb. Saggy skin. Pale complexions. Baldness. We look like babies! And maybe that’s all aging is. The universe was born and then it expanded. After a period of time it began to rapidly compress. Maybe the aging process is the contracting of the human spirit.
We are so very old.
No one talks much anymore. But we have Facebook on our machines. So we can make wall posts from time to time. We rarely do however. What is there to say really? Hi. I’m still on that porch on Mars. What up, playa? 8008Z. The people on Earth no longer use Facebook and it’s become a relic of the elderly, the antique victrola for the post-MTV crowd. So we sit and watch the dead sky and wait to die. Sometimes we play Nintendo games. Very few of us can even make it past 4-1 on Super Mario Brothers these days. The digital apparitions of our youth torment us so.
There are rumblings in the Mars dome that someone is coming to end our lives. Some think this is nonsense, while others believe with a level of devotion they never mustered for anachronistic Jesus Christ. There are reasons to believe. We were exiled to Mars because Earth’s young found us too embarrassing, too problematic, an ungainly reminder of what awaited us all at the twilight of life. So wouldn’t it make sense that the New Youth wouldn’t stop at hermetically sealing us on Mars? Shouldn’t it have been obvious that this was just phase one?
Because the sky burned out so long ago, we no longer have Earthian conceptions of time. But He comes at what was once referred to as midnight. It begins as a speck in the distance, a reminder of our former planet. But the speck grows larger. Fast. Fast. Fast. Within seconds He is above the dome with His arms extended. He sits in a diamond encrusted chariot pulled by six stainless steel horses. They breathe fire.
It is Kanye.
He beams down Star Trek-style and folds his arms over his muscular chest. His glasses reflect the black hole sun. He inspects us and we do the same. He has not aged a day. He is the same old Kanye we remember from our youth, hands outstretched to the heavens in a diamond shape. There are women—and even some men—who remember how He once moved them. These people want to shout and scream. They want to bask in the glory of this miracle, that Kanye West has returned from His adventure across the cosmos to learn how to cheat death, to end and potentially reverse the natural flow of time.
Kanye West has come to save us from ourselves.
Yet we are troubled. Why hasn’t He spoken? Why won’t He speak? We remember how He disappeared in the early twenty-first century, how He left in an Escalade rocket claiming He would only return when He’d discovered the meaning of life. Why are His hands above his head? Why won’t He speak?
We lean forward in our rocking chairs. Our machines gasp in agony. Our bodies have not experienced this much stress in centuries.
Kanye opens His mouth. He booms.
“The Kanye cometh! Thou have bequeathed your spiritual birthrights. I have naught come hither to save thee. I have travelled the stars and have returned to tell thee this: Thee have failed. The dearth of your anonymity astonishes. No one knows you. The world is not aware of your names. You are one of a crowd of billions. Because of that, you do not matter, you do not exist.”
Electricity cackles between His open hands. Then a solid yellow light. An explosion that blows everything back for miles, the endless porch decimated, the machines caved in, the rocking chairs shattered. Bodies everywhere. The dome explodes. We are blown into the emptiness of Martian space. Kanye returns to His chariot and rides toward the burning black tentacles of the zombie sun.

Nina Bahadur

Spin

The sun slides down your spine and sticks at your heels.
I wake up to find you placing pearly gates on a high shelf before
smashing down every bulwark I’ve built, serpent in hand.
Christ. You ask me what this is, and I spin, and I say:
it’s a gold rush a protest march a marathon a fire alarm
a falling city a meteorite a trip to the god damn moon.
I’m sick of your dogma – piousness – gospel –
you put me up too high; I’m carping from my citadel.
Just your voice (alluding to the Bible)-
my skin is flushed your ring is cold my heart accelerates
and what are you looking at anyway? Beyond caution,
you try to drain me down the sink, keep me in a drawer,
kiss me on her roof, and God that charlatan’s grin,
those puppeteer’s hands. Those nights when the numbers
blur on your neon clock I say We are done.
And you sit up with some esoteric outpour and that
all-enticing wrong and you name all my bones and Lord
only knows how.

Suzanne R. White

Baudelaire

O poor Baudelaire!
Well, I want to be a woman,
to be that animal,
satanic, always willing

to take phallus,
receive semen.
Your skin on mine
does some kind of
weird osmosis to my soul;
it’s given to you,
and I make a new one
in less than 24 hours,
or in an instant.

Baudelaire,
maybe you know now,
in your house beyond,
or wherever you are,
that all of your worries
were useless.

Maybe you instigate orgies
in the halls of glory,
worshipping form,
and art as pleasure.

Your mother’s furniture
has all been taken from your attic
and burned in the backyard.
Now runs a river,
cool and diamond.

James Valvis

2 Poems

Poem Composed Entirely with Last Lines in William Carlos Williams Poems
A woman in front of a bank,
like a winter wind,
flung outward and up—disappearing suddenly.

I think you are ready:
in the same way,
astonish me beyond words.
Poem Composed Entirely with Last Lines in Ron Koertge Poems
standing here tonight
yesterday too

still human

its breath sweeter than I thought it would be

what a fucking guy

yellow, affectionate teeth
lit with human love

lips
I thought would last forever

and kiss me harder than they meant to

and I loved him, the way the Bible told me to

George Moore

In the Mountains

there you feel free
Eliot said.  So did
the Partisans in Yugoslavia.

Who was being ironic?
Who reads late at night
without some doubts?

We wander the deserts
of language today with words
like M16 and IED,

words any child can pronounce,
words like the loss of love
which they cannot.

And we finally know what wracked
the 20th century
was a game.

Men involved with the
immaculate conception.
A prelude to the storms.

The houses are being bulldozed
across an imaginary line.
Guerrillas in the army of neglect.

Your heart is a new landing strip
from which real operations can commence.
Love is not a bayonet.

Brandon Copeland

Inward invitation

Thankfully, we turn in
to think, of the love
between our ape souls.
An M-brane universe
on universe, cataclysms
of oneness.
After the climaxes, you reminisce
of days, human-sized collections of moments.
And I whisper, hauntingly:
Sweetie, think of me
when our days have passed.
Because.
Each time you come,
it’s the calling:
Come with me to Philadelphia.
And I respond with,
every possible second:
“Don’t mind if I do.”

Robert Cory

Chemistry of Rain (MWF seeks another)

Her fingers were like the first ten drops
of a monsoon squall, tacitly alive. Or, were they

tears unsaid? Memory chronicled the anthem-like coos
resounding about this stadium. Capacity: two.

Could this…would it whipsaw beyond the trawl?
Diary: I queried. (The foregoing notwithstanding,

Norman Rockwell’s dead…) Outside our arena
it’s 2 a.m. Descry if you wish the high, cold

quarter moon embedded in a frozen mix of countless,
random stars sparkling, as they should.

Another solipsistic conundrum. Another pass
of the hat to sanctify. Would her seemliness

have been footnoted by Sybarian scribes?
(…as is James Montgomery Flagg.) No such thing

as vulgar, darling, or a nimbus brighter
than silo light. Oh, but Diary, how I long to run

just one finger the length of her equatorial cleft.
A litmus test of sorts until abandon

hangs by its head. (Think Norm or Jim would’ve
illustrated a Henry Miller work in their prime?

Or’ve pled, in lieu of, to be steeped in formaldehyde?)
Heed if we must the ‘WET PAINT’ signs. No.

We’re not the bouillon we’d like to be. Did we
meet at a past-life tea? “Dumbwaiter, make mine a

Molotov.” My God! Is that her lipstick on my fuse?
All bets are down for another spin. Who recalls

if gravity always was when one’s resolve is petrified?
(Kilroy’s been there, too.) So,

here’s to the thickness of lightning,
equipoise, and Byzantine morning-afters. Upheaval

an existential palliative, welcome as the toll of thunder
to an arable watershed. And to the flows of circumstance

history may neither recant nor recall: the fool’s errand
replicates. (Until we’re granite letterhead.)

Unremembering the Tragedy of an Indoor Succulent

by Kevin Tadge

My girlfriend collects cactuses or something.  They’re all over the apartment.  I work at night and in the morning I feel like I find a couple that I’ve never seen before.  Every morning.  I wonder if she even knows how many she has.  I decide to get rid of a few and see if she notices.
Every day I take one or two out.  I hide them in my backpack or if they’re small enough, in the pocket of my winter jacket.  Some are so tiny that I slip them into my shoes or hold them in my palm on the inside of a glove.  I grow my hair out long and tuck them under the eaves.  If I forget about them, I find them on the floor of the tub after I shower.  She never notices but the cacti still keep multiplying.  A week or two later I break up with her.
I’m on the street and I see a man selling a cactus.  He keeps them inside of his cart.  They’re planted on the inside in a foot of sand.  The lid of his cart has a sunlamp shining on them.  He tells me the cacti think they’re in the Gobi, but I don’t realize what he says until later since he whispers in a forgotten language.
I describe my girlfriend to the man.  He knows her.  I start to cry.  I cry uncontrollably.  I sob into his shoulder.  He smells like an oasis.  He pushes me away.  He tells me I’m trying to kill his plants.  He yells at me for wanting to over-water them.  I buy a little one from him anyway.  I point at a greenish blur through my tears.
I buy five bags of sand on the way home.  I fill the floor of my bedroom and bury my new friend’s roots there.  I call him Wan and learn Mandarin online.
Years later, I meet my former girlfriend on the streets of Urumqi.  I’m wanted by the local government for stirring up some rebels.  She has a doctorate in Asian literature.  We speak in hushed Chinese through the night in the back room of a teahouse. She flies back to Kunming in the morning.  At precisely noon, I ride into the desert and vanish in a storm.

Ian Sanquist

2 Poems

Molasses

Werewolf howling at the sanguine moon.
Jack Nicholson reprising his role from
The Shining, the renaissance that never ended.
He’ll tell you all about his medical history if you’ll
just follow him into the padded room: padlocked
in the barn with the real animals, spooked horses,
good luck charm around his neck. Molasses and blue
food coloring on the television. Water in the
basement of a borrowed house.

Wish Fulfillment

Take all your illusions about love,
string them together with three or

four basic chords, sell it to a record producer.
I wanted a lover so I could walk through
that door one day. I wanted a lover so I
could make someone cry. I wanted a
lover so I could talk like a predator. I
wanted a lover so I could make someone
cry. They’re turning my soul into a ghetto.
Can you gentrify this place, you who wish
to know me well? Can you scrawl
your mark across the wall of that old
establishment on Fiftieth and Roosevelt?
Remember when the bathhouse had
a neon sign? We should be home by now,
we should be asleep and dreaming.
It’s like living in a ghetto, where the drivers
are all stuck in reverse, where the artists all
fear for their lives. When they’re pressing you
for a name, then you’ve got to play it dull,
home alone agoraphobic with your soul
in a jar awaiting repossession. What do
you do all day when you’re so afraid? Do you
take the animal noises out with the garbage,
the flying saucer noises with a cup of tea,
do you take the horror movie soundtrack
and turn it into a song about true romance?
They’re striking the clock tower, twelve times.
I wanted a lover so I could make someone cry.
I wanted a lover so I could be cruel and unusual.
I wanted a lover so I could walk miles through
the darkening city with her hand in mine.

I wanted a lover so I wouldn’t be afraid.

 

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Volume VI

Volume VI

Catherine Zickgraf

Ornithopteresque

My images are
not tied down heavily enough, an anchor needed, like breeze
through cinder block eye sockets, like wind pressed through
your clothes-pinned socks or threaded through the flag on
your brick façade. And maybe they’re mechanical at best,
ornithopteresque: like faux avian forelimbs—when my images
should spread genuine feathers to lift the skeletal idea.
But may they be useful:
Grandmom is allergic to flora and fauna, so I describe daffodils
from sheets of sunshine. Thus she avoids the grasping phalanges
of bulb roots sucking minerals through dirt-rust and lime streaks—
caterpillar pipe-cleaner for a stem. I describe for her a puff of
seeds swirling up, sticking to my idea with the transverse moths
and desiccate, cocooned flies.

Jon Harahan

No Complaints
Listening to the radio is the only time of the day I can really enjoy myself. I sit in my car and listen. I am listening to a movie review about a movie I have no interest in seeing.
My peace is interrupted by a taping on my passenger window. At first I see a stranger, but as my mind wakes up and my eyes adjust, an old friend is staring back at me.
We are both parked in this parking lot, in our home town, but for two different reasons.
It is cold out, and windy. I don’t want to talk long, but I get out of my car and we do anyway. My jacket is too thin. What do my friend and I talk about? Mainly he wants to know how my brother is holding up after witnessing a murder: My brother saw his own best friend killed.
“As good as can be expected, I guess.”
I am picking up food at my favorite pizza place. My friend can’t find a job after graduating with a degree in History. So he is in that parking lot to head inside the Marine Recruiting Center and sign up. Then he asks me how I am holding up. I had been standing on a bridge made of toothpicks and spit. My little bridge wasn’t holding up well, and his question was unexpected.
“Me? I’m great.”
My brother should be dead, too.
I try to talk to my brother about what happened, but I keep fucking it up. My brother is a junior in college. He was robbed of a cell phone, and his friend was robbed of $4.00, not including his life. My brother was pistol-whipped and ran. His friend ran, too. They were both track stars. They could each run a quarter mile in under sixty seconds. His friend only made it a few feet until he hit the pavement. My brother hit the pavement, too. But it was because he tripped. As he got up to continue, he left the skin of his hands and knees behind. His body replaced the skin with scars.
I am about to eat my favorite meal, and my friend is about to join the military out of necessity. I hadn’t been killed, nor had my friend. In fact, when my friend goes to open the door of the recruiting center, it is locked. They are closed.  Considering all of this, I am fine.

Christopher Khadem
2 Poems

Two Soonnetts

I
Looking in to the back of a spoon (as Parmigianino did it)
Trying to pronounce elliptical French at four in the morning
(Or was it German? Or Italian
It was one of the Modernists’ stolen tongues, anyway,
And I think that might have been the point
Probably                   French)
As the sun rose like the moon, or

Like a yawning man’s bald head hugged by
The parentheses of the clouds
A boules lawn was being planted, seed by seed
By tortoise men and turtle women, who
– in some months –
Will be closer to the dirt than the tips of the blades ever were.

II
But if the Earth is spinning and flying through the universe
Like a helicopter, then
What is gravity?
I don’t know
Who it was who said
“Parenthesis and ellipsis are whole repetitions,
Full of themselves. Full of them, selves”
But they were right
(presumably, hence the marks).

Time blinks
Flinches             uncomfortably
Infinity has changed from
A frustrating mathematical impossibility to
A figure-eight on its side.

Leaving the National Gallery, London

When walking from the great facade
Through the columns, the stilletos
upholding culture,
All conspires to seem composed.
Denim and nylon lying
by the fountains
Are blended to form an unnatural sky-blue.
A Norse god skating across the watertop.
The hundred conversations blur into one
Unarmingly ethereal chord.
All conspires to seem poetically obscure.
A quatrain at the foot of Nelson’s Column:
Vous etês priés de ne pas nourir les oiseaux.
No dar de comer a las palomas.
Bitte die Tauben nicht füttern.
A drop from The Waste Land
or on it.
This feeling will repeat,
Every ‘now’ and every ‘then’,
Every ‘here’ and every ‘there’.
But it soon fades
when passing McDonalds.
The voices are distilled:
In the womb the women come and go
Talking of Michael Jackson’s nose.
Please.
Do not feed the pigeons.

Robert K. Omura

A Letter from Guernica

Guernica Herman writes a letter from an open-air café in the Basque town that bears her name. Her parents, Jim and Carol, were both art students when they bumped into each other, quite by chance, at a Picasso exhibition in New York City in 1981. Two years later, they christened baby Gee in a small Lutheran chapel down on Dundas Street; witnessed by a small crowd of friends and family, and the usual assortment of well-wishers willing to suffer a cold, wet Lake Ontario squall in November. There, under the yellow banner of God and the red sausage fingers of Pastor Proust, Gee received the Holy Sacrament, and in so receiving, became immersed in the rituals of the Church. During the service, baby Gee wailed out her staccato protests, and managed to hit every high note of “Oh Holy Spirit, enter in.” Even then, Gee had struggled with the burden of her name. Since childhood, or more properly the awkward bloom of puberty, Gee had distanced herself even further, refusing to respond to her name when called out in sixth grade homeroom, instead insisting, like an adolescent Aurore Dupin, that she be known simply as “Gee,” full stop. This is how it all started; the convoluted road of self-denial that led Gee to this tiny café in the Plaza de los Fueros at the heart of Basque country.
From the café, smoke from Gee’s cigarette rises up in twisting columns, dissipating over the red clay rooftops. The sun bleaches the cobblestones white beneath her chair, where she slips one foot in and out of a sandal. She brushes aside strands of her brown hair and sucks on the end of a pen, searching for the right words to explain her actions to her fiancé, David – why she left suddenly, without a word, to fly off to Spain. Instead, she describes the farms and meadows of the Urdaibai estuary, how they become high cliff and salt marsh before vanishing into the deep blue of the Bay of Biscay.
The smell of fresh cinnamon pastries hangs delicately in the air, drifting across the courtyard like a dream. A short, stout woman, with round glasses and a white apron ballooned over her breasts, stands in the open bakery doorway, shooing away pigeons like misbehaved children with the end of a broom. An old man, with grey tufts of hair skirting the rim of his brown cap, rides a bicycle up to the woman. He exchanges brief pleasantries with her, and the woman laughs like a schoolgirl, as if perhaps they were lovers once. The well-maintained buildings reveal none of the scars of the Civil War; even the memorials are sanitized and the lawns green and mowed. It all seems so surreal to Gee. Her blue eyes scan the sunny plaza that once witnessed the first mass bombing of civilians in human history. She looks for some sign of the scars, of the landmarks of suffering. Perhaps the delicate bloom of the paper-thin rose petals in square garden boxes and the long rows of oak trees were a mere facade, deceptively placed to sweep away the rubbish of an uncomfortable past. Perhaps, behind the freshly painted shops of the barrio and the bluish tint of fluorescent shop lighting, hid an invisible truth – as mysterious as the Virgin Mother; one where hushed Spanish voices whispered secrets from behind the heavy doors of the Iglesia de Santa Maria. She and David often talked about coming one day, after they finished college, but jobs and life got in the way, preventing anything more than vague promises.
She wishes she could share this experience with David – the fragrance of fresh lavender crumbled between thumb and forefinger or the way amber cava tickles the back of the tongue – but he is half a world away, back in Toronto. He is probably sitting alone at the kitchen table, she thinks, forking at starchy pasta from a microwaveable box while watching the last inning of a Blue Jays game on the flat screen. On the beer stained table, he will have poured out half the contents of his briefcase, yet still be unable to find the work he had brought home. If she had still been there, she would have wiped up the beer stains and found his work lying under his briefcase.
Life with David was pleasant enough. They had their comfortable routines, a sort of pantomime that resembled a life. In the morning, they had breakfast and went to work and in the evening, they came home, had dinner and watched TV until ten. On weekends, they went to the flea market, where they scoured vendor stalls for bargains and ate fast food lunches with gourmet coffee, before invariably returning home to store-bought roast chicken and a late night movie. David was caring and sweet, as reliable as the steady wind that nudged at the leaves outside their window; but the sex, well, that had expired in fits and starts over the previous year. She expected love’s wane, even accepted it. However, the emotional vacuum that followed unsettled her, edging her toward indifference. They had become roommates. It was not David’s fault. He loved her. She could tell it by the way he wrapped her in his heavy arms at night and wept. It was her indifference, her blankness.
Early that morning, while strolling along the narrow avenues of the Basque town, she came, quite by chance, upon a tiled wall filled up by Picasso’s famous painting – the one that had inspired her parents to conceive her. The painting was all grey tones, devoid of colour. In the middle, a terrified horse – run through by a spear and a charging bull – horrified her. She cupped her hands around her mouth to stifle a gasp. Below, a flower sprouted from the broken sword of a dead soldier, his arm hacked in two, and above, a floating woman held out a lamp. On her left, a bereft mother held her dead baby and wailed at an unkind sky. Gee contorted her neck back and clutched her handbag, parroting the scene, to feel the distortions ripple through her body. Just as her neck reached its maximum upward extension and the muscles under her jaw strained for release – when all she could see was the blue washed sky – the telltale tremble of grief forced her dry lips apart, and a spasm cut her down at the knees. As her eyes clouded over with tears, Gee collapsed to the sidewalk, where she sobbed uncontrollably for half an hour. Eventually, she pushed back the tears from her eyes with the flat of her palms, until the heat of the day had dried them away, but for a salt crust that flaked away under her fingers.
She could not explain the sudden rush of sorrow. Perhaps something built up in her on the long flight from Canada, and the warm breeze and the freedom had unwound the tension, finally releasing her sadness over the end of her relationship. Perhaps something deeper, something trapped inside her since childhood had finally slipped like a sliver from her red finger, or perhaps it was merely the salty anchovies on her morning omelette. She had wanted to tell David about that, too.
Now, she sits in the café alone, surrounded by an army of balled up letters. A row of paper soldiers aligned before her. She crumples up the half-written letter and tosses it next to the others. In the courtyard, an old man feeds pigeons, spreading handfuls of breadcrumbs over the cobblestones. High above, where green hills meet open sky, a jet contrail forms a cloud. One day, all of this would be gone – this café, that old man – even her own presence would vanish; memory and meaning fade. Permanence is an illusion.
The waiter brings her steaming coffee in a small porcelain cup, a café con leche, setting it down lightly next to her arm. When he tries to gather up her papers, she stops him, saying, she wants to remember what it is like to rebuild from the rubble. He nods and smiles, and then leaves her to her writing.
Finally, she writes a simple note that explains nothing. Love and war are the same. With God’s grace, sometimes love’s wane is inexplicable.
Goodbye, David. Guernica.

I. Fontana

Bronze Age Tools

At first, we ate mostly yams. No one knew what to do about this. Some changes were made, not without resistance, and we learned to eat many different things. While others still wore the same old masks, we wore new ones, and drew magic symbols of power on ourselves. We spent a lot of time worrying about luck. Even the rocks and trees had propensities, for evil or for good, and we tried to guess which was to be which. Things happened on their own, and we did what we could not to be left behind. Not everything could be explained.
Hey, we can’t lose, some guy said, and we started overrunning whatever populations could be reached. We demanded great sacrifices, took captives as slaves, and built or ordered the building of huge monuments of stone to overlook the irrigated fields. We needed numbers, and we found them.
Sometimes we went up to the top of the ziggurat, and used astronomy, watching the moon move from full to crescent, to nothing, and cried out, in voices like newborn babes.
We became Assyrians. As Assyrians, we did what we were known for, and I grew old, with seven daughters, as a merchant of bangles in Ib.

Maeve Bennington

Stalemate

I mean obviously that is the case—what else did you expect?
It’s dripping. Darling, can’t you see that it’s dripping? Look! I told you!
It leaks all the time and now it is dripping… No?
Alright, go flash the mailman then.
This marriage was a terrible idea.
I should have known the day I proposed and the Canadian
walked through the intersection and strangled his mother,
but no, no, now it’s gone too far.
I’m going to have to ask you to turn your phone off.
You will be escorted from the building.
Everyone has—even me.
The man was run down by a carriage in the street.
You saw it but you did nothing except lick that
ice cream cone over and over and now he is run down in the street
by a carriage and while you have the ice cream cone
in your hand you should really be thinking about
the fact that he was a father and now he is dead.
I knew a poet once, but now he’s dead too.
I’m often forced to refer to the quotations of a famous author
when addressing my father. He doesn’t care for anything I have to say.
He wants to hear it from Sartre. Always Sartre.
Where was Martin Heidegger when the Germans invented misery?
Someone call four or five times and, eventually, we will respond in kind.
This is not a symbol but an eclogue, so you know.

Francis Raven

2 Poems

Terra Cotta Bureaucrats

The afterlife is much like the imagination:
boundless save for the corners
you remain hung up on, edges snagging your sleep.
Pure possibility is pure hope or, as is so often the case, despair.
What is there that might repair such anxiety?

The Emperor, the first, if you have been counting,
sits at a lacquered desk, not smiling, but consolidating.
His early plans scattered.  He can’t find one thing
under any other thing and yet he does not appear to have lost anything:
great power admits no weakness; it simply delegates
weakness away.  Said in other, more frequent, terms
the emperor’s impressions existed merely to impress.

Everyone has such flamboyant faculties (drawing humanity together +
separating us from mere animals): the mind’s reproduction, pure whim;
nevertheless, pure possibility is as cancerous
as the absolute empire:
the sublime disgust in large numbers:
that we are small, that reason rounds us for shipping + handling.
That is, cells must be categorized, organized, managed.

Qin Shi Huang poses at a bureau imagining the afterlife (baked earth, to ask,
to crack): the vast retinue of swans, acrobats, musicians, and soldiers expands
until he realizes he needs some minor bureaucrats
to reign in these disparate, and relatively autonomous, spheres of life:
the means of administration caught taut in his dictatorial hands.

That is, from the vantage of a desk
a desk is necessary.

Art Matters

I guess it’s always surprising
How little what we have matters.
More is taken from more.
Rhythm is a rug
We try to live upon:
It gets old, shook out
Still
The pattern reveals
Itself to
The simple canvas.
The simple sun is still;
But a rooftop
Can still see a simple:
A simple sun
And still
A simple fee
And still
It’s so interesting how little matters
When we’re counting
And yet
We’re always counting
Each window, bedroom, fixture
Appears to matter
When we’re counting
The drawings through broader definition:
Traditions of musical instruments
And strumming the rain from a window
That still needs to be cleaned.
Yes, every window still needs to be cleaned.
It’s so interesting how little matters
When we’re counting the dots between
Results compounded
Unto the scroll of
You have to cut that somewhere.
You have to cut it
Where one thing seems to matter
And the next thing doesn’t
And then you have to cut it again
Where the next thing matters
And the next thing after that just isn’t the same
Thing that matters; it just doesn’t matter the same:
It can’t.  To understand what matters is to divide:
To frame.  You can always tell an expensive neighborhood
By the doors.
Robert Cory

So grand, a new spring flower

So grand,
A new spring flower
Aside the walk,
So bully blue-ribbon-red.

Good day!
How are you called?
Am I your Columbus?

My second thought: (Pluck
And display.)

Your mantra:
A pontification.
A trumpet:
A town’s crier.

Tempted, I stoop
And cloud you with shadow.

But look! Your majesty!
Afire. Damn!

The devil’s efflux.
Even in shade.
A seminal burst.

A newborn at its mother’s breast,
Alive.

I sense
I have caused you disquiet.
I rise. Yes.

I see your progeny. Untapped.

Tomorrow
Or the day after:
An august gathering

Of great proportion.
Perhaps I shall return.

Ave atque vale.

Peycho Kanev

in spite of everyone

the humanity destroys
humanity

as I lean toward the wooden bar
and the old bartender
gives me another refill
and keep calling me Boy
I look at the faces around me
beautiful and gentle
as summer leaves

we know that all the sadness
of the world is for everybody
else

outside the night
nod at us
with smile.

Dennis Mahagin

The Affirmations of Marsellus Wallace
Chin up.
You were born
under the Sign
of the Stevedore …

Okay, so maybe I made
that up. Well, you’re hardly
young, with scarred lungs
that whistle
like a rusty teapot
having sex.

Wait;
that didn’t come
out quite right,
either … more like
a maimed loon, longing for
Lake? Yes, and yet trapped
instead in some
fetid slough.

Is that what sucks, Bucky?

Still and all, those sirens
are not for you, who knows
the difference between pain
and injury by now and about
time, too.

Abide, Turk.

Or let it slide.

If you were born
to suicide, would have happened
by now. No mistake. First it eases
up, then you get to ache
some more.

Jesus man, you don’t even know what a
Stevedore does do ya? Why not look it up
on Wikipedia?

What else you got going on, anyway?

Knowledge is hardly power, yet chances
are you ain’t going to
die today.

John Greiner

Little Match Girl

Revolt America against the Little Match Girl!  She’s a Dane, anyhow.  She’s not one for the indomitable spirit of the New World.  You big time rollers of the west, little blondes only look good when they’re well fed.
I’ll give her gum rappers and nothing more.
I’ll live with her in an attic on Hudson Street.
I’ll set sail across the East River with her and find solace in the Seamen’s Church.  We’ll wash ashore in the storm and walk to Willow Street.
I will not suffer beneath her sorrow, however.
Ring my buzzer.  Smash my kaleidoscope.  Cut down to the ground all the clowns and neophytes.  Listen to me Izzy!  I’ve had more to say than the whole of your Harvard class.
Akron is unacceptable to the likes of me, but I’ll always hold a place in my heart for Canton.  Jim Thorpe is a memory I’ll not soon forget.  I never knew him and now he is no longer known, but that poor persecuted half Injun means something to me. He’s the body and the life and the sole hostage of the big bewilderment.  The suffering red man who you’d think was Russian, he being one so misunderstood.
All those backdoors that we can’t open.  All the volcanic gods drinking Gatorade to cool their cruel thirsts.  All the trance dancing ditzes not Danes who sway and go away never knowing it was the swish that captured the mind more than any of their Sufi mysticism ever could.  When we end up it the vegetable garden it’s all good.

Rich Ives

Cruel Story from the North Country

1.
A fork probes for answers to the three endless questions between its tines: What has come between us?
Why do we kill?
Who is holding the spear?

Inside the fork, light with meat between its teeth is falling.

2.
Ptarmigan for dinner in the Lapp village, the mail-boat slipping out of a fog bank.

The blue dogs are German. (I am still learning to mate.)

Hans had fallen into the unframed photograph of Esther Williams.

3.
Thundering trousers and the moon rising from the glass of milk. (First we feed the young.)

Then I discovered the night I was walking in was already mine. I discovered my anxious feet.

4.
A slow insistent army marched up my legs, demanding a ration of the stars I had been harboring.

5.
I fed it berries. I fed it pine needles and snow.
The returning nighthawks have been growing fur.

6.
An old man with a wooden leg riding his donkey to the graveyard, smoking his pipe in the rain.

7.
One of these is yours: an offering of a handful of wet cheese, a phantom river wallowing into the dark green sleep, a life grown theoretical with promise never tested.

Far below, fog thick as grayed milk, cod boats moving slowly to deeper water.  My homeland clasped with the icy grasp of the North Sea. A gradual loss of its weathered skin to the cold bright fingers of water.

8.
I had been knocking on a rock for years. It was only by accident that I discovered it opens from the outside. (You can only leave once, but you can be forgotten constantly.)
9.
Breakfast and your legs hurting again. His stained white bathrobe sagged open at his sagging belly.

Endure till it pleases. (Hurrying to help frightens the latent.)
10.

A herd of words milling about in their mangy pelts before speech thaws and they begin to breed. They’re wiser now, they agree with us, waking into their ancient families.

Colton Huelle

My Friend, the Prophet

I don’t mind if you shoot me, just don’t tell me about it
~Bob Dylan

1.
I have a friend who passes time playing
prophet & convincing me
that my eyes are changing, learning

to see past the end of the calendar,

to outlive extinction.  He calls it evolution
& assures me that I should be fine,
that we were born to adapt to dust.

2.
A woman pushing a newborn
in a stroller——a tour
of the world
that my friend tells me

I should be distancing myself from
like a lover you plan on
leaving.

3.
A cardboard warning across the sreet:
FIND GOD BEFORE GOD FINDS YOU.

I never liked playing
hide & seek, but the prophet says
we won’t need God once the calendar ends

& we know how to build new worlds
ourselves; creationism will be
the most popular preschool activity, like
spelling words in shaving cream on a desk.

4.
Look, I tell him, I don’t mind
if Atlas plans on going bowling,
just don’t tell me about it

Good Riddance, I’ll Miss You

Say it quickly,
you might regret it
if you don’t, but I promise
that it won’t feel right as it leaves
your tongue.  The worst

is knowing that at
any given moment, you are losing
a part of yourself (leaving it behind

like all the people
who forgot your name so long
ago).  Everywhere you look,
they are moving on
without you——leaving you

a dream catcher
hanging between adiós,
auf Wiedersehen, ciao, goodbye,
good riddance, I doubt

I’ll ever see you again and that
doesn’t really bother either of us, but
better to pretend that it does, better
to act like

pearless oysters.

Auf Wiedersehen.  Good riddance.  I hope
I’ll never see you again, but I’ll
miss you——

this much.

Rachel Custer

2 Poems

Testimonial

This, the day after

tornadoes dreaming the land into new instincts

you saw that buzzard pick gristle from its hair

tidbits of empire

make of this Chevy an altar

little plasticated
miracles we quicken for

the trouble is, it’s unproved rock
your mother says

why don’t you stop while you’re ahead

as if anybody plays the vertebrae
anymore

Softly Spoken

saw a little girl lying in sunlight

saw good farmland
yawning before you like a parable

This is how I knew he was lying

compare a dumpster
filled with sewer grease

a billboard on a dead end street

the indignity!

I keep trying to bury melodrama
in your chest

saw a cornfield

saw water disappearing

saw a girl curl herself into a dust mote

dinner will require
a good deal more killing

David W. Pritchard

Of Violence

She has your brain? Have her now!
Walls are made of cinnamon and children
scoff at the thought, a tempest in a can
of soda, how ludicrous! and yet there is something,
danger, about the creek, the cups of coffee are bad
for your teeth as it starts to rain. Explosions,
definitive and putative as failure, roll across the
map as instructed by the rake. Let this
expiate! No! the dramatic veil is too far gone
I am tired of strolling, let the violins out of the taverns.

Jessica L. Walsh

The Old Story

It was, as they say, fleeting.
He knew little of the science of
it, was unable to explain how suspicion
had placed him under guard over
night, how the motors of his fear
could drown the sounds of daylight,
louder than the galaxy’s rim jostling
the spheres with reckless ambivalence.
He knew only not
to travel to you.  You

say he is the animal in the corner
of the shed, musky, protective
of that patch of earth and the right
to die alone.  He pieces
together your numbers and writes
your story from a safe
distance.  Another day, you’ll be left.

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Volume V

Volume V

Casey Wiley

American Food #1 Texas

One can’t paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt.
—Georgia O’Keefe

It was all slow, then very fast.
“Sidi!” my sister called from the steps of our hotel in Noukachott.  She pointed to a dark man sucking on a tube that ran from the bed of a rusted Toyota.  He wore a sky-blue tunic and head wrap and his skin was the color of coconuts.  Just beyond the truck, hundreds of rusted cars—rebuilt Mercedes—and vans crammed with Mauritanians drove slowly around a wide traffic circle.  The vehicles honked in bursts and bounced up and down slowly on old shocks and spun fine dirt into the air.  Men hung off of the back of vans and waved and got off and got back on.
“Sidi,” Katherine called again.
Sidi spun around, spitting out a mouthful of liquid.  He grinned widely and wiped his mouth on his sleeve.  “Sidi’s the best driver in Noukachott,” Katherine said smiling.  “He’ll take us to my host village.”
“Welcome!” Sidi boomed.  He stuck the free end of the tube in the truck’s gas tank.  I leaned against the truck’s bed.  The tube ran from a rusted gas can.  Sidi spit out more gas and turned to me.  “Hu-Yah!” he said, holding out his rough, dark hand.
“Sorry?” I said.  I was imagining a mouthful of gasoline.  He pumped my hand.
“Brother,” Katherine said, translating.  “Hu-Yah,” she said looking from Sidi to me.
“Hu-Yah!” he said again.  He did an impromptu jig in the gas-specked dirt.  As he twisted and slapped his sandaled feet on the ground, his tunic rose and fell delicately.
“Hu-Yah?” I said, probably like a child would.
“Hu. Yah,” Sidi said, elongating the word.  He dropped his arm over my shoulder.  “Huuu-Yaaah.”  He turned to my sister and said something in Hassaniyan.
Katherine laughed loudly and shook her head.  I looked at my parents who I imagined were contemplating heading right back into the hotel.  They stood close together like shaky animals.
“Let’s go,” Katherine said.  She gave Sidi a thumbs up.  Sidi grinned and patted the Toyota like one would a horse’s flank.  My parents looked at each other, shook their heads, and folded themselves into the truck’s tiny back seat.
“Case, you’re up front,” Katherine said, holding the door open.  She then squeezed over my mother’s lap and settled in between our parents.  “Ready for a little ride?” she said laughing.
“What are the options?” my father grumbled, trying to adjust his legs.

The scene rushed through me, whipped by.  It was in my head and in front of me.  From the busy circle, Sidi exited to a road out of the desert city—the rows of huts and crumbling buildings the color of sand and clay, a cart with “American Food #1 Texas” painted in big letters, herds of skinny goats crossing the road, stopping, continuing—and then suddenly a sharp turn and we were fast on a wide road, wait no, an airport runway, slick racers, not as fast as a plane would have been, bumping along, but in a truck, this red Toyota, its edges crumbling.
No one said a word.  Runways do not continue forever, usually ending abruptly at intersecting highways or power lines.  This runway’s end dissolved at the Sahara, fast approaching.  Sidi accelerated the truck, grinned and yelled “Hu-Yah!” again—one of the cluster of words he would teach me along the way: “goat,” “shoe,” “pretty woman.”  He opened his mouth wide as if to swallow the words in the dry, rushing air, beaming and yelling, whooping.  He slapped the dashboard to the sounds of an African man wailing high-pitched over a faint beat scratching from the truck’s tape deck, and then pointed a finger that looked like an old cigar at my cheek. “Hu-Ya!”
So this is Mauritania.  Visit me for Christmas, my sister had implored, and yes, my parents agreed: we’ll then understand your sandy letters kissed with candle wax, colors of the country, to know your school teaching, the markets, cuscus, your host family, to know your world!  My parents were stark white, gripping the Oh Shit! handles above the window, jostling about as if on the American Disney World roller coaster.
From the backseat, at first indistinguishable, then, “I never said it wouldn’t be off-road!” Katherine wailed, bouncing and smiling at this word twist, twisting my head around, parents ashen, trying to laugh.  Scenery flashed by: two or twelve metal huts, a cluster of goats, white and sand-colored, all ribs, chewing at skinny trees.  We were brief in their picture, and then flash, we were through their picture.
Ten hours, my sister had told me, to get to Kankossa, her remote village, the drive mostly off-road, mostly through desert.  But Sidi’s the best driver in Mauritania, maybe even West Africa!  There’d be no running water in the village, no electricity.  The children would follow us in droves.  We would poop in holes.  Every rush and acceleration of the truck seemed to bring us back in time.
“hu-ya?” I squeaked, arms straight out, hands planted against the sticky-warm dashboard.  I had already forgotten.
This is the land closer to the frankincense and myrrh land—yes!  It must have looked like this.  It must have felt like this!  Sand packed into dry clothing, hair askew, wiped down with a wet-nap this morning, ohmygod, what will the photos look like?  So this is the guidebook, glossy, but the picture comes fast, like a missile or a thousand of them.
We gained speed on the runway.  The desert loomed.  Sidi howled.
“Best driver?” my father yelled.
All of us, in and out of organized and individual religions, I think, prayed.  Jostled words: “my Hu-Yah, the saints, lead us now, Hu-Yah, parting of the water, part this sand, Hu-Yah, what happens when nothing more happens, Hu-Yah above?  Unblinking.  Do-goats-remember-even-me, Hu-Yah?”
Slide. Slide. Skid, teenage burnouts.  “When was the last time this had working shocks?” I screamed at the windshield.  Then, vhoom.  Sidi’s mouth stretched wide, teeth exposed as if awaiting a wine-shower, dry-yelling phrases at the roof, the sky, his words mixing with the churning air from his open window.  He held the wheel firmly with his left hand and punched his gnarled dark fist forward like a boxer, repeatedly punching an opponent to the beat of the music crick-crackling on the tape deck.  He’s cliff-jumping or rock-skiing, and I thought: rush.  How is that translated?  But.  Tense limbs, clamped teeth, who’s pulling on my face, hard, hard, stop it!  And then, the desert.
The wind, I was told, whistled.

Josh Siegel

Thirsty Horses

Elation, when there is no phase for it
or when something else is there. The things that mark out for other places
are assuredly here. On the cushions of a lamb’s hands, hallways are shelter.

Sanctify and sanction your fervor. The only reason for withering.
There’s too much there and too much sugar to shovel and too much gravy
and too much land. And what wasn’t ours weren’t yours. Thirsty horses.

If wirey hair is a fledgling shoot then nothing fast is something
political and everything is something essential.
When pasta with salmon is a park with a swing.

Sprinkle seeds on a lawn to grow over the moles’ holes, like hair loss
in reverse. Because it isn’t tedious or— when god has eyes.
And it isn’t such trouble to trip or such farce to philander.

And the seaweeds of your omissions are forgotten machines.
Lead the sleigh and don’t take directions or lunch
on maps that don’t want to be read.

Jake Donkin

Haiku from Awestricken Sluts

Vision

Very blonde hair’s dark
When it gets wet from a bath.
My child was Aryan.

David W. Pritchard

4 Poems

Inner Resources

“Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.” – John Berryman

And if we do say so, though it would disappoint
Henry, we must speak it softly, intimate
as landfills. The closeness
of the fog to the clock makes the air taste
dangerous, fruitful, almost
sweet. The ripples of waves that may exist

–I don’t know!
–are enough for a smug affair between
two trees who, having rooted through the clouds,
consort without regard for the parallel lines
that murmur blushingly their discontent and
prayers for dead friends.

All their friends died, so they talk to me
between bars, when I am
radioactive and open to suggestions,
we share wine. I find I’m further
from the door than a man in love might like
but the windows shower us with compliments.

Jackson
Overcoming great shyness kills
but the lavender mist of imprecision
winks from across the street
where a candelabra promises to write
before shipping out and failing to return
in time to christen the leaves. The twilight
surge breaks the blankets of
clarity and whispers in the fields
“don’t tell anybody anything”
but it’s too late for that, and now
death brings with it a sense of
entitlement caught in the teeth of evening.

A Reverberation

The pen designs marble eyes that
break when you spit on them or
cough too loud. Trees melt in the
background. Children are scrambling
eggs, or playing with coloring books. They
do not know where the word dinosaur
even comes from (Texas). Three blondes
write letters. The snails are coming in droves.

The Terror of Modernity

Numinous women and start at the end, or
we are all of us left handed.
Carousing leads to
a premise that sounds like a collage: Kafka Tolstoy Crane.
Orphans dance under the stars like a
librettist mopping the hospital floor.
Transformation should be in there somewhere
at the level of a Pulitzer or a loaf of bread
all in a tone poem! For Arshile Gorky is
going for a jog at the top of his kidney.
I can’t figure out how to not get hit by a bus
that’s a soliloquy, we don’t want those and
we never hear the other patient
relationship or friendship is very like sacrifice,
secondary to the piano in the corner.
That’s a good place to work from. It can be proven to be true
under the auspices of an elevator:
People don’t cause enough love.

Robert Laughlin
When It’s ARS GRATIA ARTIS, a Paw Means Nothing

A week before I turned twenty-two, I lost my left arm in a mountaineering accident, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I wouldn’t have said so at the time. A falling rock had crushed my elbow and everything on out. Of course I didn’t lose Janet, too much in love to desert me. I didn’t lose my promised accounting job, because it takes only one hand to ply a decimal keyboard. I lost the dream that possessed me all through college, of acting in the movies. I was the only member of my class with a double major in accounting and drama, and it appeared that the dull, safe half of that major would see me through life.

Fresh from the hospital, I kept an appointment for a casting call; I wanted to say I’d set foot on a studio lot at least once. The director was a young fire-eater named Stanley Kubrick, filling in for someone who had dropped dead on the job. Kubrick was determined to make the movie his own way, and when he saw me, his eyes lit up. Alright, you’ve guessed—-the movie was Spartacus and I was the fellow whose arm got chopped off with a gladius.

It was my big break, though it took time to pay off. They dressed me in Roman Republican period, with a convincing fake arm, and I put in my one day’s work. Then I took up my other life as Tom Kettle, junior associate in a megalithic LA accounting firm. Studios were skittish about graphic violence in those days, and audiences didn’t see my footage until Spartacus was finally restored. But the word still got out, from Kubrick or the people who worked for him: I had something unique to offer Hollywood. I started getting job offers a couple of years later, slowly at first, then in bunches after the Hays Code was lifted.

If you were making a horror movie or a war movie or a disaster movie or an action movie with lots of bystanders hurt, I was your man. I never got a credit, any more than the cartoon voice actors who came before Mel Blanc, but I was in demand. I even picked up a nickname sometime during the seventies: Pawless Kettle.

Here’s a breakdown of the fates suffered by the various fake arms I donned over the years.

Burned off                          34
Blown off                            29
Cut off                                 27
Torn off                              41
Crushed by falling/flying objects   18 (a statistic I’ll never forget)
Dissolved in acid               6
Eaten                                  14
Pinched off                         2 by giant crayfish
1 by giant crab, organic
2 by giant crab, robotic

I made surprisingly good money for these brief, gory performances. A union with eighty-five percent unemployment imposes a high daily wage. I earned as much acting in one day as I did balancing books in a whole week, more if I had a speaking part—-and screams counted as speech, by SAG rules. The seasonal lull in acting work happily coincided with the tax rush, and preparing 1040s busied me until good shooting weather returned. More than once, directors paid me the compliment of jiggering their shooting schedules to extend past April 15th; the film simply wasn’t in the can unless Pawless Kettle did his bit. Believe me, there’s no flattery like knowing an industry revolves around your availability.

Even in a town where everyone knows people in the movies, it’s considered a privilege to hear insider talk. My neighbors and coworkers knew about my acting, and sharp-eyed clients recognized me from this or that movie; I was happy to share the latest with all of them. Son Broderick asked me to Show and Tell, so I brought along a few fake arms left over from previous films (our storage shed is full of souvenir arms, hanging from ceiling hooks like so many Smithfield hams). I gave a little talk on stunt pyrotechnics, holding up a realistically blackened arm for illustration, and one kid asked:

“Mr. Kettle, what if the fire got out of control?”

“I’d be grateful they weren’t burning up a prosthetic leg.”

The boys in the class were old enough to get the joke and everyone laughed, but that was a foreshadowing of my professional end.

My career has had the usual ups and downs. I was heartbroken when Dustin Hoffman got picked for the live-action remake of Peter Pan; I thought that might be the role to lift me out of the ranks of the bit players. The very next day, my agent signed me for a TV commercial and the client was Prudential. You know which commercial I’m talking about. They did a series of personal injury commercials in a deadpan-slapstick mode, and I was the man on the bus whose arm was ripped off by a sudden stop. The hand kept holding the strap, the elbow stayed crooked, I fell back with no change of expression on my face. The whole series increased Prudential policy sales by a third, but that particular commercial was the standout. It won the Clio—-I thought I looked very dapper at the ceremony, in my specially tailored tuxedo jacket—-and by now it’s had half a million hits on You Tube. I may be prouder of it than of anything else I ever did; every tragedian really wants to do comedy, whether or not he’ll admit it.

That was then. I turned in my SAG card last year, and the jobs stopped coming three years before that. It’s more than a matter of audiences getting more pathos than they asked for when an old man loses his arm. Computer generated effects can do the same thing now for less money, much less when you figure the cost of insurance. I was heavily insured at every shoot, and for good reason. Once an actor repeated the Spartacus stunt and his sword went on through the fake arm to inflict sixty sutures worth of hurt. Another time an explosive in the fake arm drove an unexpectedly jagged plastic shard into my left thigh. The wound felt more serious than it actually was, and for a few seconds I thought I might become the only bit player with one arm and one leg.

Janet and I happened to be on the Walk of Fame last night while going to a new restaurant that offered a seniors’ discount. I got to thinking when I saw the star for John Gilbert, matinee idol with a choirboy’s voice, who was doomed by the coming of the talkies. How many of us are there, John, the ones who know that technology progresses but art never does?

Kevin Grijalva

2 Poems

For All The Points

I sat on the couch
listening to you growl
thunder while appreciating
my perfectly buttered toast.

I am half crazy and untie
my shoes, open them up
so I can settle the indictment.
I can’t talk with swords.

For all the points on the compass
the essential thing resists us,
with time the only direction.
I’m still trying to be the cowboy

in those seven-day-a-week fights.
I promise you this:
quite an interesting and heartless
life at one and the same time,

for I can’t give you love
and rhetorical questions
without the blood.
We’re both blood, you see, oozing

and compulsory. It’s got to be
a matter-of-fact life we live
and talk here for the first time,
so no one has the jitters.

After the violent relaxation,
with a sun now louder than the sun,
I notice how nice the weather is,
all the ice dismantled with my pick axe.

A Sluggish Bird (a cento, from Ozick’s “The Shawl”)

What a curiosity it was to hold a pen – oozing its hieroglyphic puddles… A lock removed from the tongue… all at once this cleanliness, this capacity, this power to make a history, to tell, to explain. – Cynthia Ozick

A sluggish bird on ragged toes
teeters on meager bags of garbage,
laced with other people’s history.
She’s making holes in them with kisses,
whispering in short lines like heated
telegrams, a voice strummed so convincingly,
it’s impossible to suspect
it of being a phantom’s.
The streets were a furnace,
the sun an executioner,
and the other birds stood
like scarecrows, blown about
with empty rib cages.
But she contained not a grain of rot,
stood with immortal pillar legs
like the white marble of strong goddesses.
She’s not a survivor,
she has the legacy of choice.
This little grimy silent goddess,
not forgetting about impermanence,
chose to retrieve while the other
birds laughed and wept in their reprieve.
More and more they were growing
significant to themselves, thinking
they were the ones strong and marble white.
To those who don’t deserve the truth,
don’t give it.

***

The sun fell beneath neon-radiant
low horizons. Narrow wires suspended
as shadows on the wall stirred
as the other birds,
ventured into the
night city. They, glutted with
fake fire, swooped upon her meager bags,
making in them a hundred burrowings,
Whatever was dangerous or repugnant
they made prevalent, frivolous.
Theirs was an empty search.
“How simple the night sea,
only the sand is unpredictable.
Here is lost. Lost.
Nowhere… empty,” she thought
in the inferno of burning false feathers.
She flew off to the night sea
like an unlit shard of star.

Richard Prins

All Hallowed Out

A carbonation gnawed through my calvary last night
for I had been an inadequate mummer.
Whoever questioned my costume
got a different answer. I was Susan Sontag, Amadou Diallo
and finally Tom Waits,
who sang me squirm
on a downtown train.

Home was plundered of company. So I bought a gas station
beer and read scripture with x-ray vision,
peering through words and deeds
until I saw the bones of God and touched
myself to sleep. The ravers came crashing
under sunrise; their revelry
tasted bitterly of hops. I returned to the Hess station,
recalling trucks for Christmas.

They couldn’t sell me another.
Meanwhile my palaverous ex-partner
boasted to her cabal
of pickpocketing a helpless hip-boy.

I saw my own mind starving
and lay naked on the vine-eaten hammock
to weep and shiver for God:
be my tour guide into wilderness?

He dispatched me to a tongue-tied church
after refusing me sleep like a cocktease.
It wasn’t the first time He made me
cry for strangers.

R. Matthew Burke

Metropolitan Transit of the Psyche

Suppose I am selfish. Suppose that
my self-conception is as a grayscale photograph
of that girl in a maple stand, where
the contrast between shadows and
breaks in foliage – full of sun – makes her
glow. Recall that my remark dismissed
another subject as sub-sapiens, sub-hominoid.
About these things: Remorse.
As seen by an aperture behind a convex lens:
A 13-year-old post suicidal
girl, who wore a white robe just for the occasion,
is washed, and the washing televised. Dirt
under my nails is dirt under my nails,
near where I cannot reach. Reach out, touch
a shoulder in secret. If detected, divert your eyes,
feign accidence … feign ignorance.
Ian Gammie

The Toaster Complex
A man had a face and opposable thumbs and ears and everything you could ever want and cigarettes and sunglasses and thrice distilled whiskey. He had a gag reflex and a bus pass and a garbage disposal and he could play the guitar, but he couldn’t play it well. And he had a windbreaker and a cell phone and a chin. He met a woman, she had a toaster and breasts and teeth, but she didn’t get them in that order. And she had feet and a laptop and a wristwatch and a good idea of where magnetic north was most of the time and green eyes. She had a beaded necklace and ovaries and a jean jacket and a parking ticket on her record.
He said I do and she said I do and they did. And the priest thought it was dandy and told them to kiss. They didn’t use tongue because their god was a vengeful god. A limousine took them away and they got a clock-radio and a candle and a few crushed leaves in a jar.
The man with the face and the woman with the feet had a baby with a pink blanket. She had his chin and her green eyes and a gag reflex and a beaded necklace. And she had tear ducts like the man with the opposable thumbs who smoked the cigarettes and who couldn’t play the guitar well and neither of them knew who to call when the woman dropped the toaster in the tub and she didn’t pay her parking ticket. And the man had thrice distilled whiskey and a bus pass and everything you could ever want, but he didn’t get them in that order.
The situation was complicated. That was the first problem, because the situation would have been simpler had it been less complicated. The man with the garbage disposal decided on a name, so everyone called the baby Gen and if everyone calls you Gen, then you’re destined to be a Gen. And the man with the sunglasses always said things about destiny, funny things like ‘it exists’ and he wouldn’t eat toast.
The baby grew and the man shrunk because that’s what babies do and that’s what men do and it was simple, which was fine because most things aren’t as complicated as toasters. The baby got shoes and dresses and an education and began to look like the woman with the breasts and the teeth. And she got laid on a mountaintop, which wasn’t fate and it wasn’t complicated because the boy had a ceiling fan and a bathrobe and everything you could ever want and he had his own apartment complete with unopened boxes and mounds of dirty clothes. And the man thought it was wrong because he believed in fate and his god was a vengeful god, but Gen said that it was alright and that complicated things. And she had green eyes and a beaded necklace and it was a simple procedure and the man had thrice distilled whiskey.

Kristina Darling

Musicology: Collages & Found Texts

I.
—A bird contents itself
with a certain series of notes
& such is called
a song brought out on parade.
It is found as an acoustic fact
that the whole of notes is divided
into a number of short flights
& these become
the music—
V.
—In music,
the definite order
in which ideas are presented
appears

poetic,                                        & this variety of light and shade
is most germane

to that later school of music, which
through the medium of voices & instruments,
gives a clear & useful idea of                                              .
singing, its innermost      framework &
structure—

VI.
—Think of the piano
& then he may
come into the world in this way,
or cathedrals.
Inspiration there must be, but design also.

Here we learn something from the methods of
the poet:
that one must have the habit of reflection,
& a readiness to—
Colleen O’Brien

Artiste

I was six drinks into a very good night, and the next morning would wake up pretty sure and mortally afraid that in the cab with Michael I’d suggested going to a motel—he was married, I was married—and I’d sit on the floor of my kitchen, between the cupboards and the table legs and weigh my suicide options. But none of this mattered yet. I said yes to a seventh Hammerhead (I’d given up hard liquor) and gave the waitress my credit card with strict instructions not to open a tab because that one was almost maxed. We had a moment, the waitress and I. She looked like an artist too and like she understood about unruly finances. She brought the little yellow-and-white receipt for $4.95 and I added a five dollar tip. We had another moment after I signed, she winked at me, but then on my way to the bathroom I wished I hadn’t tipped with such an eager face. What kind of a supercilious asshole was I to think my five dollars was making or breaking anyone, and I had already knocked the ashtray not just off the table but clear across the room.
She probably wasn’t an artist, I thought as I peed. She was just a cool person, someone who didn’t need an excuse to take herself out of the mainstream. Probably—I traced my fingers along a graffito carved in the stall wall, spiky letters of the name “Curt”—probably the waitress didn’t have to think about some paper tiger of a mainstream, have to set herself in opposition to some dreamed up caste system Gestapo or the evility of the banal. Those letters said “cunt,” not “Curt,” I realized as I traced the t, and laughed and thought that might be the symbol around which the night, the year, my life up to now, clumped like iron shavings to a magnet pen, or better, fanned when you used the south end of the magnet, or wait, were they magnet shavings and an iron pen? Did magnets work on iron? I was grinning at “cunt” and then thought I better get off this toilet before syphilis started crawling up mine.
I made a deal with myself that I would not look in the mirror when I washed my hands, but if I caught a faint glimpse in the natural course of washing—looking for the soap dispenser, the towel dispenser, moving in a way the mirror would have to catch and my peripheral vision would have to register—that didn’t count. For Pieta’s sake you needed sharp senses, no need to Catholic guilt yourself out of the faculties God bestowed to help you not get eaten by lions and shit. Lions’n’shit. But no staring at my own face. Not even to think of its strangeness, or the mirror’s strangeness, the way the mouth in the mirror could open and close just like the mouth on the head and the eyes in the mirror pop and the forehead corrugate at my command. I had an unhealthy relationship with mirrors. Vanity was inherited, on top of being learned. When it oozed from both primary caregivers, the mother and the television, when twenty-eight years were spent with external reality predicated on one’s pretty face being one’s pretty fortune, in the cookie sense and the pirate-treasure sense, when more than one childhood memory was of wishing to become a department-store mannequin, then: one resorted to Stalinist reprogramming tactics. Black out the mirrors, obliterate the body. But one can’t fault oneself for knowing what exists beyond the borders of the form one imposes for the sake of—ha! For the sake of! The best of all incomplete sentences! One will always catch glimpses. Meta, meta, meta.
“You know Magnadoodle?” I said when I got back to the table.
“No,” Michael said. “We are not talking about childhood toys tonight. I refuse.”
“Whoa,” I said. “Pricktastic.”
Nora and Damien looked up from their conversation.
“What’d you do to Angela, Pricktastic?” Damien asked. “It looks like someone unplugged her face.”
“Please, Angela, I’m begging you,” Michael said. He pushed back his chair and got on his knees on the floor. The din of the bar didn’t change but the people at the next table quit talking and looked, except the guy with his back to us whom I heard say, “immunizations in Africa.” Michael clasped his hands like a charismatic Christian and pressed them to his forehead. He didn’t wear a wedding ring anymore but had a white line where it used to be. “Please can we not talk about childhood toys?”
The waitress was back with beers for Nora and Damien. She made a face at Michael.
“If you buy me a beer,” I said.
“Done!” Michael pounded the seat of his chair with his clasped hands. Then he followed my eyes up to the waitress’s face and for a frightened moment I thought he was going to embrace her legs. He ogled her knees but then scrambled back into his seat. We’d been kicked out of this bar before. Not by her, but still. “Two more Hammerheads,” he said, “on my tab please.”
She winked at me again. I loved her more than I had loved my second-grade teacher, Miss McGinn, with the big brown eyes and big boobs. If I went back to the waitress’s apartment tonight, all my favorite things would be there, stained glass and a stereo receiver from the seventies, wheat bread, butter, and honey, ingredients for toddies, white flannel pajamas I could borrow, Madeleine L’Engle books I could borrow. We could braid each other’s hair. I gulped my beer so it wouldn’t still be full when she came back with the new one.
“You know Magnadoodle?” I asked.
Michael’s mouth fell open. He looked at me like he wanted to fuck me.
“Just kidding,” I said.
Michael did want to fuck me. He had an unstable ego and it came with urges, same as the ones that were now causing him to melt the cellophane off his cigarette pack with the flame from his lighter, over the ashtray. Damien grabbed the lighter, using some jujitsu move that left Michael blinking at his hands.
“What are you, twelve?” Damien asked.
“Nora, do you like me?” Michael asked. “Somebody at this table has to like me.”
“I love you, baby,” Nora said. She had this Southern thing she did. This year she’d gotten a really good residency and it had rounded off some of the strung-out skinniness in her face and neck and even her chest looked fuller, her shoulders soft and freckled, like somebody who could nurse a baby if it really came down to it. She had a dimple, mother of heaven. Nora was so talented nobody cared what she looked like.
“Where are you going now?” Michael grabbed my hand when I stood up and my nerves went—zing!—up my arm to my brain and—zong!—down my spine to my crotch. I giggled and Michael hammed and crunched my fingers in his fist and whined, “No, no, no, you just left. Stay here.”
“I have to call my husband, ” I said, but lingered there with Michael holding my hand. A little sex fix was the cherry on top of everything. “Je suis . . .” I said. “Hey, Dame, is it je suis artiste, or je suis une artiste?
“Either,” Damien said. “Except one makes you sound like an idiot.”
“Maybe both,” I said. “I have to call my husband.”
I got in the phone booth. Rickety vintage thing and a hassle to fold the doors closed behind me. Through the greasy glass I could see into the bar, Nora’s white face glowing under the hanging lamp, back of Michael’s head. There was a condom stretched over the phone’s mouthpiece. “That’s good,” I said. “At least you’re safe.” I held it away from my face and put my quarters in and dialed Paul at home.
“Hey,” I said, and smiled to get my voice sexy-smiley like a good wife.
“Ange?”
“Whatcha doin’?”
“Ange?”
“Yeah, it’s me.”
“Babe, I can hardly hear you.”
“Oh. There’s a condom on the phone.”
“What?”
“Wait.” And I laughed so Paul could hear me and picked the condom off the phone. It turned from tight white drum to sad dead yellow bag. I held it above the box part of the phone and lowered it slowly. Neat little pile. My fingers were oily now and the phone smelled.
“There was condom on the phone,” I said. “Like literally on the phone.”
“You’re at the Six Arms?”
“How’d you guess?”
“Caller ID.”
“Oh, the payphone’s connected to the bar? It says Six Arms when I call?”
“Did you eat dinner?”
I thought about it. How there was this Edward Hopper thing happening with the shimmering metal on the front of the phone. Colors and melted pictures and light reflecting brighter than you’d think in real life. If you unscrewed that plate, that little piece of armor, you’d have a twelve-grid of square holes and could press it on something soft and firm that would give but not ooze like a balloon or thigh and instead of phone buttons you’d have rubber bubble buttons or flesh buttons and that could be your title. Flesh buttons. By Angela. Except that would suck.
“I do not think I ate dinner,” I said.
“It’s only nine,” Paul said. “Why don’t you come home and I’ll heat up some pasta?”
“That sounds good,” I said. All of a sudden I was almost crying.
“Jump in a cab,” he said. “Just tell them our address. I have cash.”
“You are so nice to me.”
“I love you, Ange. You’re beautiful.”
“You’re just saying that.”
“I’m not. It’s true.”
“You just know that’s my big gaping hole problem so you say things like that.”
“Come home.”
I straightened my back and stood perfectly straight in the phone booth like there were rusty nails poking through the walls. Under me my feet were fine. My knees were fine. All of me could stand up just fine.
“I need to eat something.”
“Jump in a cab. I’ll pay for it when you get here.”
“OK,” I said. “See you soon.”
Nora came and got me out of the phone booth.
“Pumpkin,” she said. “It is nasty down there.”
I was sitting on the floor of the booth, on some damp scattered pages of the Stranger. I held out my hands to Nora and she grabbed them and pulled.
“No, you come down,” I said. “It’s nice down here.”
“I ordered you a Reuben sandwich,” she said. “It’s waiting for you on the table.”
“Which card did you use?” I asked.
“My card. My treat.”
Nora was still holding my hands loosely, and I was still down, and I put my forehead on my knees for a second, and thought of making a joke about just going to sleep right there, but Nora didn’t get jokes always. I lifted my head and smiled at her. She got this terrible worried look.
“I’m just faking,” I said. I gripped her hands and pulled myself up.
The Reuben sandwich was on the table like she said. It glowed under the hanging lamp, little shimmers of oil in the fibers of the rye bread, black swirls in the white like a birthday cake, and the pile of fries all woven like a stick heap for starting a fire. Even the little metal cup of Thousand Island looked food-styled, peaked and plumped like an icing rose.
“This is the best day of my life,” I said.
“Happy birthday,” Michael said.
“Nora said I was going to,” I said. I ate a fry.
“Going to what?” Damien said after a second.
“Hold on,” I said. “I want to eat my fries.”
Then the rule was I had to shut up and eat every single fry before I said anything else. Nora wanted me to eat and so did Damien and so did Paul, and Michael didn’t care if I ate or died because he was basically a lion as far as evolution was concerned. You don’t listen to the lions, they shut up. You might be an abused child but isn’t everyone when you get down to it an abused child, in terms of the structure of the psyche? The superego locks the child-self in the bathroom till the tub overflows and soaks the floorboards and rots them and the child has to wait to grow up to have a credit card with which to pay for new boards. Nora, Damien, and Michael were talking again and having a good time and me being quiet eating the fries seemed to be doing the trick. I interrupted Nora at an appropriate moment and very quietly asked if she would get me some water, and she hopped right up and got it from the bar.
“Thank you, mon amie,” I said. “Without you, I would be dead in a dumpster.”
“Don’t say that, Ange,” Michael said. “It makes you less attractive.”
I dipped a fry in Thousand Island and threw it at him.
“No, no, no,” Damien said. “Food fight is not an option.”
“You’re an asshole, Michael,” Nora said.
“What?” Michael said. “She said ‘dead in a dumpster.’ That’s fucked up. Am I the only one who thinks so? Then I apologize.” He picked the fry off his shirt and put it on the table. The smear of Thousand Island started to slide into his breast pocket. “Angela, please continue saying horrible things about yourself.”
“Folks, we’ve officially crossed over,” Damien said. “I’m going to head out.”
“Can I go with you?” I asked.
Damien looked at me. For a second his face was a shook-up magic eight ball and then out of the silt came, faintly but legibly, the word no.
“Of course you can,” he said. “We’ll get a cab.”
“Never mind,” I said.
“Go with Damien,” Nora said.
“Why? So you can be alone with Michael?” I peeled the top bread off my sandwich, plucked out a thick piece of corned beef, and lowered it into my mouth.
“No, baby,” she said. “I like girls.”
“Okay, kids,” Damien said. He was standing and he had his hat on. “Anyone coming?”
“What time is it?” Michael asked.
Then they were gone. I was alone at the table watching lamplight play on the scales of the corned beef. The waitress squatted down to my level and asked if I was okay, and I said yes, this was the best day of my life. She said let her know if I needed anything, a taxi or anything, and I said I would kiss her but my face was all greasy. She laughed. I said my husband would be here soon, and he didn’t like me kissing other people. Then I was alone again.
Then Michael was standing over me.
“Come on,” he said.
I held out my arms. He grabbed me under the armpits and lifted me. For a second, he had me, one hand under my butt. My legs were clasped around his hips but I was too tall and right away I started to slip and we were laughing and still holding on, sort of slow dancing and staggering away from the table. Tears were pouring out of my eyes and the buttons of his coat were hard on my face. He smelled like a terrible smoker. He put his hands on my waist and moved me back a foot so he could look at me.
“Can you walk?” he asked.
His hands on my waist felt like everything. I couldn’t remember if I was naked or not. Then he let me go and I stood there, balanced on my feet, while he dug under the table for my coat and purse.
Then I was alone on the low concrete stoop of my home, trying to figure out which key.
“Je suis,” I sang softly, “Je suis, je suis, je suis.”

Michael G. Donkin

12 Poems

For Kenneth Koch
1

Threatening Poem

I will put fire
On your eyes.

2

Looking for You

Not sleeping at 5 a.m.
Is a pleasure.
Not sleeping
At 6 a.m. is no
Different.
I rode into town
Wearing a golden fleece
And could not find you there
You were not in the ocean
Not in the garden
Not in an echo
Not in the Chadwicks’
Not in a fable
Not at the bar
So where were you then! You of all people!
Why was I looking for you
And so expressly you!
You were
Not in the arcade
Not on the veranda
Not in Zen Buddhism
And I was not on my horse
You were on the bus
I felt as though
I was your
Guardian
Did you know
That Cervantes had coursing hounds?
He had a whole stable
And one of them was called
String Theory
A terrific name!

3

You Stupid Florida

A city slicker walked
Into a bar looking
For an accordion.
Is that a marathon?
You know it is, you kindred lug.

But come on in for a drink, then
The drill’s about railing.
So along came a spider
For whatever it’s worth.

4

Thinking of New York

You are a blushing beauty
How fair, and Honey
O I love dazzling poodles
And miscarriage!

5

One Act Play

I kind of like devouring
Children. Do you find
That earthworms are viable?
Some found it in earnest,
Others, beyond reproach.

6

The Exciting Host

I ate from an invisible bowl
Of cereal and worked at Taco Bell
At the same time.
Those were the days, when our chests caved in
And we sang together like Spanish Stars.

7

How to Live Properly

Read wantonly of O’Hara
Dilute your priceless ruby
Engage in subtle discourse
Expound upon a marble
Violate the nature of pride
And find yourself with me
In a maze of newfangled Wind
Engage in endless singing
Then create.

8

The Review

The poison was wrong
The dallies were wrong
The gimlet was taciturn

The perfect specimen was an ant
A gopher fanged its whelp
The charge card got rampaged
A nun expired; the meal was manageable

9

“The Mystery of Consciousness”

Seeing your own eye
Without the use of Mirrors.

10

Bisected Poem (Right Half)

And if I did not speak as I do now
in my next work
will I cease to exist?
asked Othello. As for the snows of the moon
in the backyard
“Just, if you will, imagine,” you
suggested “if this were all powdered sugar…
Wait, that was stupid,”
you smirked, and I,
no response. “And what if there
had been voyeurs about, and your silence?”

11

Confessional Poem

I’m not jumping high
As I can. I feel stuck
In the loam. When I get
Drunk but too tired
I might say Hey! here
I am, a strange man
Look! an unfamiliar dance.

12

My Name is Tchaikovsky

I ripped apart those two
Japanese beetles

O beetles, you crossed lovers
My name is Tchaikovsky!

 

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Volume IV

Volume IV

Alec Niedenthal
Moon

My second wife in five years brought her hand to my hair.

She intended to point my head at the moon. I pressed her arm with my hand as if to consent, or in minor mourning. Or to press it. I bit that arm a little.

This was in a major city, cars and grey gouts of smoke going by, over a short bench without much to surround it. All of this activity blew her hand away from my hair. Or else she found no use for her hand there.

“Like this,” she said.

“This moon out here,” she said.

“I’m not sure what to say to you,” she said.

Eventually she knew to locate the moon with her index finger. It looked bright, solid, and still the same as ever. A cannonball in ice.

“Yes,” I said.

“This is what you remind me of,” she said.

At once I thought of my father, who I thought was not appropriate to think of when such a thing is said.

I clutched tightly an empty paper bag from probably McDonald’s. It wasn’t mine. I had found it in the park and I kept holding it and occasionally I breathed into it for air.

I thought of him anyway.

Last spring I was hospitalized for a very long time.

That same night, we took the subway back to her low-rise apartment. Her roommate interrogated us. It was hard for him to believe we were married. I tapped on the parquetry with my shoes and I tapped on tables with my fingertips. She looked at him, in this interrogation, like he knew what went where.

“I don’t believe in things like this ending,” I said. I didn’t. I was not sure of anything.

I know for a fact she slept with this roommate while we were together, or at least talked to him about it for an extremely long time. She was just trying to relax, she said.

We went to the roof and sat on the concrete, looked at the moon and they described it in certain terms.

“It’s so big,” they would say, “and so bright.”

You always have to climb a long, long ladder to get to this roof, and it frightened me. A lot of the time I couldn’t do it.

I thought I might send my wife and roommate to the moon. They would be happy there, I thought. I stood up. When I lifted my palms they were black. There is altogether no reason to be on the roof.

“My father used to take me out to see the moon,” I said.

“Like on dates?” my wife’s roommate said.

“No, you fucker,” I said.

The roommate and my wife went back inside. I could hear them tinkling down the ladder.

“Goodbye, Jerry,” my wife said.

I began to dread eventually climbing down that ladder alone.

The moon got covered in black rain clouds. I wiped my hands with my shorts, sighed in agitation. I missed everybody so slightly.

I fell off the roof, then. It wasn’t a long fall.

That it’s so high is one of the main disadvantages of being on a roof.

I thought I was going to freeze where I was. Even though it wasn’t so cold. Now it’s different. Now I’m drowning.

My wife visited me in the hospital. The roommate did, too. They visited together, always right after some phlegmy meal.

“We’re sorry,” they said.

“What for?” I said.

I won’t lie. They had a lot to be sorry for. They’d brought me up so high in the first place.

This was shortly before I fell out of the third story window of the hospital. Not long, I suppose, before I stopped talking.

David W. Pritchard

Personal Poem
for Christina and Michael
It is 1:30 and I am on my way to a show
Yes! my head is didactic it says
PAY ATTENTION TO ME
only not quite so simply as that

it is more like Ezra Pound

with a reference to the Greeks
or some book I never read             that doesn’t exist
buried beneath the hammering

but what of that?

I remember everything I said
and I wish you hadn’t asked me why don’t you like my poems

it isn’t personal and some of what you write is very good

you’ve got heart and talent

will I ever stop quoting Ludlam?

but those first two were as uncompromising

as my hangover and

I thought I was smart and all alone
with no comrade in arms
or in verse in that little basement

Why are we in a basement and not on the street
where we could all play

like Frank

comparing our headaches (I think I’d win

today) and writing about the cars and

college students who I would never sleep with

despite my growing frustration

as long as I beat Tom I’m OK

                                                I’ve got 5 years I should be OK

But we should play, not pander or politick

or stick our revolutionary flags in the air like noses to defend

our bad poetry

                     oh! There I go in the wrong tense again
I try to keep politics and poems separate
who cares about my socialism?
Maybe Nick but he’s a bit ridiculous himself
anarchy is so childish
there! now I’ve made myself into a quaint little hypocrite

Instead of living as angrily as possible
why not live as variously as possible?

I could be obsessed with Frank and I am
I could be wrong I could be a liar I could be silly I could be

a terrible poet

I could end up exactly like Ezra
all brains and no beauty
except for those two really nice lines
teaching me how to sing

but I think for now I will keep pretending that I know what I am doing
so that I can do what I am doing and feel fulfilled
every time I write a new poem                     which isn’t as often as it should be
but I’m busy
who cares! Oh look now I’m being self-conscious and

discursive and this was supposed to be a gift
more of a nightmarish farce
what a joke get to the point

I am trying to thank you for everything but I don’t know how to do it
not even in a poem so this is a mess

an analog for my ability to walk
which is why I am thanking you
you are wonderful and never stop caring about poetry
don’t let him either
or I will drive into myself

a dune buggy to be like Frank and Vlad at the same time
the poet not the dictator
but anyways my fantastical and somewhat alarming fatalism aside
I had a wonderful time that I don’t want to waste but I’m always so ungrateful
so I am writing about it instead

Michael G. Donkin

Composition with Drawings and Mackerel

The snow was falling.

He was in need of a sprinkle of scented water.
A waiter now, please, we cried.
He did a card trick for our benefit.

The snow was atop a pile of synagogues.

Suddenly, a velvet nickel. Then a fire drill.

You should not be so languid, he warned, gently.
With a golden tincture, he began:

The loaves are forging idols. He will be a good soldier, I know it.

I will need a better drill bit for that purpose. The purpose of consternation.
And what for that patch of green.
It hums with a sinister aspect. It threatens to mourn us.
Unless there are veined knives in that drawer.

Of green. Oh, how fond I was, back then, of the color green.
But mostly I became concerned about the war, in Moreau.
And whatever happened to my mother still eludes me.

That very Belgium. Dear Genevieve.

In that year of plenty I was born thus. A neighboring town, called Sand Dollar.
One of those deaf children who can read the news, they said. I quickly ascended in rank.
The Celtic major about that time was arbitrarily sent to his death.

I can still recall it. The rule of law being atrophy. In the red month of September.

He ate mackerel, his favorite fish.
He was once a sort of canyon.

Just before he destroyed my drawings he told us about his life.
He had repetitious tics, I remember them.
He also hated women. He was a pugilist.

A larger than life character, sightings are still reported. Psychotic ideation.

Goes without saying.
Ari Feld

3 Works

Invitation to a room
In the day of my father, men
and women married whatever they wanted.
You could want a yacht freighted with reindeer
and not have it,
and still marry it.

I still haven’t made it to the post office and sometimes I slur my words.

These boots make good friends,
like a broken box fan
and August in the room with you.
That, friends, is remembering.
It doesn’t matter where you are.

You can get anywhere from there,
even to events that never happened.

My father could approach wounded bison
and marry them.
Something about being downwind.
When the wind moves into the room,
the fan blades court each other.

I cannot remember whose boots these are.

I invited you here tonight
because you are kind and discerning
and you will tell me
what I resemble.

Your real name is Donny.
Donny, it’s time to go home now.
The day got away from me &
I took the opportunity to stock up
on night crawlers & hoolapoppers.
A magistrate in full wig & robe
ran into me, saying, “Squire,
have you a few ducats from this
realm?”  I handed him my MN
game fish collector coin—Musky.
Truly the lunker of the bunch.
Then, the magistrate deeded me
an Earlship & a modest estate
outside Derby.  I’ve been pipe-
puffing in the clubhouse & learning
how to row the violin, or leching about
on the continent for the last ten years.
These are my memoirs.  It turns out
that during this time I was part of a
long term anthropological study
on fondling techniques.  Now I’m back
in Duluth & pretty much everybody
from high school is at the bar.

Index of first lines
I was sopping and wind raw by the time we got there.
A moaning barge woke me.
There was a bucket of drowned mice where she left the rain barrel.
The floorboards in the kitchen sounded like crying children.
One of the tubs was reserved for snapping turtles.
She and her brother built a houseboat each spring and floated to Oklahoma.
There was no radio and we only spoke aloud out of doors.
Kids coming off the freight knew to head for her house.
We ate like bullheads in a river of drowned cows.
No locals asked what went on in that house.
Sundays we shucked cards until one of us owned the others to their toes.
The couch was reserved for the wounded.
I thought we were a cult, but The Priestess was her given name.
Her houseplants almost survived.
She invented a new art form every week.
She filled the other tub with a Delaware remedy.
She could read backwards and cook anything from cabbage.
She fitted the chimney with a mast and asked which watch I wanted.
Once I woke up underwater.
I never saw her hands.
I cut the nests of enormous animals from our gutters.
The basswood in the back lot never bloomed or rotted.
Her brother didn’t know how to ride a bus or speak with anyone he didn’t know.
I think people left potatoes at our door, not the gods, as he contended.
He carried a cinderblock, he said, in case he wanted to sit down.
He barbequed refuse to confuse the neighbors.
He said he had seen her birth a live fawn.
He bolted a telephone to his door, he said, to know which numbers come next.
Somehow you could see Cincinnati from the roof, some said Chicago.
You had to swim to the basement.
She refused to nurse pigs or lizards.
I realized one night that it was just the three of us.
Now it’s your turn, she said, and walked off.
That’s the way, her brother said, that she arrived.

Eric Beeny

Aquariums

It logically seemed more logical to pick up a magazine and just read it.
Better than staring at the receptionist’s window, with its frosted glass but, more ominously, slid shut.
The chairs were no help, sitting there not doing anything but holding other people who had [n]othing to do with Seth’s condition.
Seth’s condition could’ve sat right in one of those chairs, they were so close.
Seth’s condition could’ve been one of those people waiting to get up.
But his condition decided it was just safer to float there, and wait.
Waiting was always the best part about floating.
Conditions didn’t have to do anything, really.
Conditions could just look like they were levitating, or something.
People would just stare at someone’s condition and wonder what the hell it was it was waiting for.
Conditions could contemplate the bigger things in life, like, “What am I waiting for?”
Seth’s condition sometimes found it might look silly to someone who didn’t confuse not having something to live for with not having anything to read.
The people waiting in the waiting room, hiding their faces behind magazines, they were wondering what Seth’s condition was waiting for.
They wondered about themselves, too.
Seth’s condition couldn’t’ve been the only condition there, could it’ve?
It was almost like everyone there, their conditions were imaginary, made of ice, and someone kept them in a glass box on a shelf above a radiator.
One day, when they were children, they saw their imaginary conditions melt into a clear liquid, the kind used in aquariums.
But Nothing floated in theirs.
Then Seth’s condition came along and floated into the waiting room at Dr. Coffin’s office.
And these people, they weren’t sure how they felt about it, hadn’t yet gotten used to adjusting.
They knew Seth’s condition was there, but where were their conditions?
The receptionist’s ominously frosted glass window slid open.
“Seth’s condition?” the receptionist said.
Seth and Seth’s condition both looked up at the same time, and in stereo said:
“Yes?”
“The doctor’ll see you now.”
“Here goes,” Seth’s condition said.
Seth took Seth’s condition’s hand.
“Don’t be nervous,” he said. “You’ll do just fine.”
“Thanks,” Seth’s condition said.
Seth’s condition floated through the waiting room and over to a nurse who waited for Seth’s condition at the doorway to the examination rooms.
Everyone else almost forgot where they were, why they were there.
Seth picked up a magazine, flipped through it, wondered that, too.

Howie Good

Notes of a Doctor of Moral Diseases

1
A recommendation form arrives in the mail, like a severed ear from kidnappers, with a note saying would I please. . . . Her problems with boyfriends, roommates, bills, a dying grandfather were my problems, too, through midterms and padded term papers, and then spring opened its arms, and what I had taught her was all I would ever teach her, the involved chemistry of bodies dissolving in lime pits and incinerated in ovens. I glance over the form and try to summon her face from the rows of half-remembered faces flickering yellowly like prayer candles. How long have you known the applicant, in what capacity, your candid opinion, and at the bottom space for additional comments that might but won’t save us.

2
The god of my fathers should have been here long ago. I start to imagine the worst – horse thieves, daughters named for characters in soap operas, leaves that whisper to each other, spreading insidious rumors of disloyalty and upheaval – but stop, like a man whose wife ridicules last night’s dream when he attempts to describe it. I can feel the machine lurking in the corner. It stands on two legs, one a bit shorter than the other, and its blades are encrusted with spots, like small, dull eyes. Just then someone bangs on the door. I jump up to open it. He wears a false beard to hide his grin.

3
The TV was broken, but my father kept turning the dial. There was something he wanted to watch that night. At the kitchen table my mother was drawing in her eyebrows. Children I knew from school lurched down the road in the front of our house with suitcases held together by rope. It wasn’t dark, and then it was, and the flames swayed despite the lack of wind. The poet gestured to me to follow him over the high railing of the bridge. I looked around for help. A woman stood on the corner with her hip thrust out. Six years passed in a minute. Such things are true if you believe them.
Fortunato Salazar

LOST CATS THAT SHOULD STAY LOST

Dry mouth

Until Banjo vanished, I never saw Zdzislawa as someone I could get serious about. I console her by whispering that at 108 years old, her little miracle mouser just went off to find somewhere to cross the rainbow bridge in privacy, peace and dignity. I’m downing my 18th glass of water in the last 90 minutes. Admittedly, next to something like “an erection that lasts for 4 or more hours,” dry mouth may not impress as a side effect, but try living with dry mouth around the clock. Other than the dry mouth, Zyrtec and I were happy together.

**

My boyfriend eats his cereal staring into space while the Times is sitting right there in front of him still in its blue wrapper

from Craigslist turns out to work in the same department as Zdzislawa. Are you awake or is this a nightmare? Who could possibly see that coming?

**

Roland Barthes

I never saw Zdzislawa as the type of person you could have a few drinks with and then spend three hours discussing the role of the pure and the defiled in the work of Roland Barthes. Then again, R.B. never saw the laundry van coming.

**

Banjo

Who would have thought that such a dirty girl would have such a clean cat? Remember walking behind the guy whining into his cellphone that “Everything was fine until the OCD kicked in”? If Banjo had his little Gouda meatball in the morning, it didn’t kick in! He would curl up and doze, his dreams as pure as the stained-glass windows of the cathedral of Notre Dame.

**

Banjo

Who would have thought that such a gentle girl would have such a vicious cat? Remember walking behind the guy who was using a crutch and arguing into his cellphone and all of a sudden he went ballistic and starting smashing windshields with the crutch? That was Banjo, if he didn’t have his little Gruyère meatball in the morning. If he didn’t get the meatball he brought evil and disobedience into the world.

**

Fluoxetine withdrawal

“Animals don’t experience withdrawal the way people do.” I remember the outrage I felt when I first read that sentence in a novel. What hubris! Nothing is more offensively anthropocentric than the kind of holier-than-thou I’m-not-anthropomorphic sentiment that the sentence’s unfounded claim exemplifies. Please forgive me, when I feel crappy I get all cranky and verbose.

**

Fluoxetine opining

I used to be a big believer in loss. In the happy past, I subscribed to the philosophy that it’s human to lose, and human to feel loss. It’s inhuman to numb loss. Numbing loss is for…losers. No way I would have gone anywhere near Banjo’s Prozac. I would have endured the human ordeal of loss.

**

On morbid obesity in pharmacists

In the happy past Zdzislawa liked nothing more than to pose hypothetical dilemmas. “Which is more offensive to the senses, a decomposing opossum or a rancid nosegay?” (Zdzislawa had a weakness for this kind of Nabokovian style of English.) “Which is more incongruous, to purchase a bialy from a shiksa named Kirsten, or to have your hypertension prescription filled by a pharmacist who resembles Jabba the Hutt?” Now my sadness is compounded by discovering that it wasn’t all hypothetical. The pharmacist does indeed resemble Jabba the Hutt. Poor Banjo. If I were to find you alive and well and living in some shed on my way back from the CVS, I would bring you home with me and split your refill with you. We would both be happy and healthy for exactly half as long as if you stayed lost.

Matt Galletta

A Metaphor

When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.
— Raymond Chandler

A man comes through a door with a gun in his hand.

A second man comes through the door with a gun in his hand.

“What are you doing here?” the first man asks.

A third man comes through the door with a gun in his hand. He’s followed by a fourth man. The fourth man has a gun in his hand.

“What’s the big idea?” the third man asks.

Two more men come through the door, each with a gun in his hand.

“What are you all doing here?” someone asks.

Another man comes through the door with a gun in his hand.

Their palms are becoming wet against the steel of their pistols.

Now three more men come through the door, each with a gun in his hand.

The men are packed tightly into the room. It’s unbearably hot. Someone knocks over a lamp. The lights go out.

The door opens.

Luke Tennis

The Waiter

I worked as a waiter in a restaurant called the Gallery, but I kept screwing up the checks, under-charging, over-charging. Sometimes I brought out the wrong orders, and once I tried to convince a guy that what I’d brought him, pasta, was better for him than the veal he’d ordered. I told him quit being so rigid, open up to the pasta, but that didn’t go over.
The owner, Mr. Katz, was nice about firing me. He said I should think about completing my education or maybe work in an office somewhere. He shook my hand and said I had a bright future. I went out and got another restaurant job, except my new manager wasn’t as nice. He told me I moved too slow, like I was thinking about something else. He began calling me Dreamy Boy. I’d be standing in the kitchen waiting to pick up an order, and he’d say, “Let’s get a move on, Dreamy Boy.” After about two weeks, he told me, “I’m gettin’ rid of you.” That’s how he fired me. I walked home angry, wanting to throw a rock through the front window of the restaurant.  But it was enough to think about throwing the rock. I lay in bed at night toying with the idea, imagining the crash, the sound of the glass breaking, and it made me tense. I wanted that crash, that breakage, was hungry for it, aching almost. I wanted something, but I didn’t know where to start. So I went and worked in another restaurant, a place just opening called Dmitri’s. I lasted a whole year, was too scared not to do a good job.
Then one night I had this couple at my table, and the man had bushy sideburns all the way down to his chin.  I didn’t like him right off, couldn’t take those sideburns. Who would wear such sideburns? He started ordering me around, telling me to keep the water glasses full, stuff like that.  I’d had about enough of him, and I walked by his table and flicked Russian dressing at him. I’d used Russian dressing–scooped some into the palm of my hand–because it was the house dressing, thick and creamy, and I figured it would dangle nicely in those sideburns. I missed–I think I hit the back of somebody’s chair–but the manager saw the flick, and so I had to say goodbye to Dmitri’s.
It was time to move on anyway, but it was too bad, because I liked the people there. I remember one of the waitresses, Stacy, a pudgy, sexy girl. We’d smoke pot together in the back alley and talk about how the rats were taking over the city, and one time she confessed to me that she liked to pee in the shower. About a year after flicking the Russian dressing, I ran into her in a Radio Shack, but she hardly recognized me. I had to remind her about Dmitri’s, and she still didn’t seem sure. She said, “See you,” and was out the door. Later that evening I found myself marching along a busy block carrying a scuffed up baseball I’d found beneath a parked car. I didn’t know what to do.

Gideon Xenos

2 Poems

A Brand of Closing

The illusion of gray, the flying owl’s apparition
Echoes graying fortune of its levitating
Shadow.  Angles equate, algebraic
Certainty, replacing body with body,
Name for the self-name switch
Eyes find most delicate inside
Sporadic wander.  As with a hand’s
Momentary meander
Connecting contours
Man defines as self, illusion is
The defining body
Constant in the change
Devotion will chase until
Death is the responsible reality
Of metaphoric closing.

Parallel act of Disparate Leaving

Death alive in
Morning’s many brands of rushing:

Hackneyed garden of reinterpretation.

On the gnarled dimension of antiquated sidewalk
Scented memories of vertical tones,
The swaying tones softly pushed within
Wind’s playful whimsy.

A passerby arrived:
He, devotional to resuscitation,
Once failed to reenact reviving
The wife of his youthful years,
He brought a pin, hers of
A red rose now veneered with
Old-fashioned patina:
Put the symbolizing pin
Near foot of the brightest flower,
Imitating the alive mother
Crying toward the silence of
Her child’s dissipating reveal.

Salvatore Zoida

EXPERIMENTS IN PRAYER

Douglas Prufrock Sycamore, age 26, was driving
southbound on the I-5 through the unincorporated
community of Gorman, population 1,224,
following an unexpectedly lengthy client
meeting that had concluded with a signed statement of work
on wildly favorable terms to Douglas’s employer
and a pump-action-style handshake whose aggressiveness
and duration Douglas regarded as indulgent,
but who had found himself, a green-behind-the-ears
(though wholly capable)
junior sales associate on his first-ever unaccompanied client visit,
reciprocating with a commensurate degree of physicality
which the client—
who had walked Douglas to his car and placed a hand on his shoulder
as Douglas smiled and said something inconsequential
about the just-signed statement of work—
had appeared to misconstrue,
when Douglas noticed in the golden hills,
alongside of which ran the southbound I-5,
a single, vertical crease, or rut,
whose topmost point ended
at the inverted apex of a large,
triangular patch of dense shrubbery,
and found himself reflexively putting his turn signal on
and angling across the highway and pulling into the emergency lane
and stopping,
his gaze fixed on the triangular patch of dense shrubbery
the whole while,
and he slid his seat back,
tilting it at a more accommodating angle,
and with one hand gripping the steering wheel
and the other clenched over his lap, he prayed to the Lord Jesus
in a voice that made his request sound more like a demand.

N. God Savage

The Ponendo Machine

The Ponendo Machine is not a machine but a person. It has female genitals, but is cognitively male. The Machine lives by a set of simple rules, and the rules have hard edges – each rule is separate from the others.

I visit the Ponendo Machine every Tuesday, and I am a collection of vague aches which the Machine cannot understand. I have taken the Machine’s hands – I call them hands, but they are more like cold paddles – and placed them against my lower abdomen so that the Machine might come to feel my aches, but never with any success.

Whoever constructed the Ponendo Machine tried to make it look like a person. This is evident from the extraneous limbs that protrude from the metal torso. I could remove these limbs, so that the Machine was a mere box of rules – crudely bolted along its left side – and this would not compromise the function of the Machine.

The Ponendo Machine occupies the very centre of the room in which it is housed. The base is bolted to the floor – the arms and legs jut out awkwardly, so that the Machine resembles a mechanical baby reaching out for affection. Sometimes the Machine is agitated, and its limbs jerk about robotically. If the Machine was not mute it would no doubt cry out as it struggled. I look away when the Machine is agitated, because I cannot bear to see its helpless shuffling.

The Ponendo Machine is connected wirelessly to its subjects. The results of the Machine’s calculations come to fruition as the thoughts of these subjects. Thus the Machine can act by proxy – it manifests itself as the rationality of its subjects. A person must have a dangerously low IQ to qualify as a subject of the Ponendo Machine.

I took the woman I loved to see the Machine. She was gracious and kind, and only wanted to make the Machine feel loved. She smiled at it, touched it affectionately with her warm palms, laughed exuberantly – her mouth wide open, eyes sparkling, head whipped back, abandoned as she cackled. If I had known every one of the Ponendo Machine’s rules then I would never have taken her to see it.

Among the rules of the Ponendo Machine were the following:
#13. If a women laughs loudly in public, then she is a witch.
#47. Witches must be burned.

When we emerged from the room they were waiting. They were like zombies, thin stretches of drool caressing their denim shirts and yellow work boots. I couldn’t stop them – no words or actions can override the conclusions of the Ponendo Machine. They took her and they burned her, and I could not bear the fact that they did not know any better.

I dismantled the Ponendo Machine piece by piece – took apart and abandoned the logic that had failed me. I cried as I dismantled her – my aches overflowed their boundaries and became one ache, centered on my stomach. The final piece of the Machine was its spine – a thin rod of gleaming copper. I held it above my head as if it were a rope that I was hanging from, then brought it down, hard and fast, deeply jabbing the centre of the one ache.

And I extinguished the ache. But the ache had become the whole of me, and so I extinguished myself by the same stroke.

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Volume III

Volume III

Kyle Hemmings

The Enigma Machine

In front of the committee of indentured men, he took apart the Enigma machine, key by key, without regard for backward sequencing or scrambled encapsulations. One by one, each committee member rose to tell the most terrifying secret that haunted his life. Then, each one left. When finished, he lost the use of his lips, heard the muffled laughter of a woman at the end of a tunnel, his wife back home sitting in front of a cold dinner.
Past Tense Future

She was giving up bits of her life, cut into ribbons and twists he could easily digest, at times, tasting like black licorice. How she once lived at the fringe, the karma of bad lives, the sailor she accidentally suffocated in her grandmother‘s room, the anxious body squirming beneath her. He now imagined himself growing small, a child tossed into the ocean, his neglected cries, the last drops at the bottom of his shot glass.

Tom Swift

He was considering what words could break the sound barrier between them, how to use wave propulsion as an aerial warship, cannon, tank, or scout. But her mind, she said, was focused on the bottom line. Love for her was a diversion, but the invention of The Swift Pigeon Good Bye was advanced technology, worth more than a thousand private planes, the parts that no one could order through postal.
Aristotle Sinclair

“Temporary Vision, Permanent Alteration”; “While Wondering, Occurrences Translate to Answers”

Ray Succre

Over Green Light

Green light is fishing this gutty beldam alive,
little power from the seat of my gerontoxicosis—
I can’t, however, see my way to Dixieland,
fairy tale, or quilting.  Aghast—  green light!
Jitters are half my day, not rustiness,
and I want it hot in a cup.

How frank are my legs and steps,
hingey, fraught as ballast bags dripping sand,
while the balloon takes its lady to the blazes,
upward, yes me, and not you;
my balloon gasconades, big.
And baby?  Sweetie?  You should know
that pirates felt me up crusades ago,
and there is no supple smasher here, sewing
over green tea and tunafish, my green light,
and a reheated tagliatelle salad plate.

Listen, you’re still in venter, and crushing
is for kids.  I like the green light, the little
plates, Presley, and yes, all the sugar-talk,
kind and still fooling as a vapor,
but you’re a green I don’t use much,
and you should know to go back
into the lips of girlfriends and girls.

Caleb Puckett

3 Fictions
A State of Exile

My loyalties were always divided, but I finally left the service of the sultanate once I discovered that the merest drop of water bent my bronze sword. Soon thereafter I became a fisherman and singer. My songs captured the attention of villagers, but the priesthood violently disputed my insistence that the river was a burning mirror hovering above a fragile mosaic of wasps, cicadas and birds. Man mistook most objects. Man mistook objects for his dominion. Perhaps it was a matter of political retaliation—grasping hatred—that drove them to finally condemn me. An old rival of mine quickly secured a decree that sought to deprive me of my dignity, but I found wings and a new territory among the dancing branches and rocks of the jungle. The skin will obey the calling of a new occupation if want becomes a necessity and a necessity becomes a natural law. Nature by its very name is law. Over time, my whereabouts dissolved entirely into the congregation of a secret society where the promotion of vices and schisms are viewed as necessary incursions. After seven years of desert sojourns and hard learning, I left them in the guise of a blind scholar to pursue the universe anew. Now I lie atop the observatory I built and study the lunar machinery with opium, cinnamon and clove blazing next to the golden breviary I use as a cushion. I am disassembled here on this summit—almost incorporeal. My bronze sword, which I have kept with me for all of these years, has become a strip of green surrounded by fields of blue on the orb that floats below me. An interminable black band encases even the largest of kingdoms from this view. No one can be excluded. Nobody, I mean.

A Seasoned Leader

Main Street roils with humidity as the hayseed potentate leans against the crepe papered podium on the makeshift stage. She swipes away a salty strand of hair. She tugs at the floral dress plastered to her back. She props up the thick spectacles sliding down her nostrils. She irons the shallow furrows out of her speech with wet palms. She surveys the townsfolk who, in the blurring heat, become a giant disc blade ready to run under the hazy length of the horizon. Yes, their heads are circular bits of notched steel, sharp complaints against the moist surface which must yield miracles. Miracles are her specialty. Fecundity is her message. She knows they need her leadership. She knows they need her. She knows they need. She knows. She. Main Street roils with humidity as the hayseed potentate grips the sweating edges of the vibrant podium. It is the planting season and every drop will be diverted into the fields that enclose the town. She will ripen the crops nicely. She will feed them well into next winter. Yes, she will do very well.

The Tragic Reader

This is the usual story about unrequited love, which means that it was the usual story about a once great hope. Thus, it must become the usual story that most readers can believe and feel and subsequently recommend to their families and friends with enthusiastic analyses and appeals. Consequently, it must be the usual story worthy of an award or at least an honorable mention at the end of the year. It should, in short, become a winner because of its pervasive familiarity and apparent accuracy. It should be positively ceremonial. However, it could be a story about something else. It could be a story that forces you to imagine life outside of yourself. It could be a story that even forces you beyond the obscurest regions of your neatly constructed universe. In fact, it should be a story so strange as to incite bewilderment and fear. It should be so bewildering and fearful that you are forced to amend a sense of love you thought you knew so well. But, tragic reader, it cannot be written as long as you expect it here. Your laws are clear.
Joseph Goosey

NEW YORK AT NIGHT WITH ALL THIS CLUTTER AND PAPER, I WISH I WAS

Looking out my window and
all I can see
was the hypothetical view
of another
window.

We’re all caught inside of those to which we are attracted.

Beards and tight fitting denim shorts, cutoffs, actually
to signify
an ironic and contemporary reference
to 1993.

I’d like to exercise my right to walk out

into the blood-violet ocean
and just keep going
until everything went under.

Of course, the right to breathe exists independently
of thriving or pandas. And it’s sad when you get a haircut.
Everyone you know or don’t know saying did you get a haircut?
When, obviously, you’ve gotten a haircut.
All you can say is yes I got a haircut.

Then you stand there thinking about something sharp.

Either that or you cry a magnificent blathering corpse
from your nose and begin mumbling
about the cats who troll the bookstore looking for raw meats
and rice.

No more haircuts. I’ll shave it off and scream
in the middle of the restaurant at the bottom of the water
fall below the street among clouds, pavement
and angels who throw down cash
for bong rips and cupcakes.

This is ninety degrees and does not qualify
for anything
gorgeous.

Dave Erlewine
Garibaldi

My friend Carl is about to attest that I’m not crazy.  He’s hunched over the pool table, reading my affidavit.

Carl and my brother were great friends and after my brother’s funeral last month we sort of started hanging out.  I don’t think he’d challenge my characterization.

The thing he’s about to sign takes seven pages of legalese (diarrhea of the mouth, the lawyer called it, after I paid) to say I have pinpointed the nodule in my brain responsible for my stutter.  It further makes clear that since no one else is brave enough, I am going to get rid of it.

For 37 years the nodule I’ve taken to calling Garibaldi has rendered me a near mute, someone unable to just yesterday ask a pimply, nametagged kid the whereabouts of the Worcestershire sauce.

Once Carl signs the affidavit, he will hold my head still while I inject a high-powered needle at very rapid speed through my skull, decimating Garibaldi.

Then I will call my wife and tell her I won’t need any more pep talks and she can come back to live with me.

END

Adam Moorad

Coin #10

It is not yet time.  Sam stares himself down in the dead reflection of the television, waiting to disappear. He is meeting his brother, Michael, for dinner.  He wants to leave immediately, but thinks, It is not yet time.  Sam looks at his feet, his face in the blank screen, sees himself staring at himself, and wonders what he’s thinking.  When he makes eye contact with himself, it feels like an enormous suction cup has been placed over his face, gently tugging his eyeballs from his sockets as he breathes. Sam looks at his legs; his ankles and skins.  He thinks they appear abnormally large and – instantly – he thinks they feel that way.

Sam watches the clock.  It will not move.  He makes the conscientious decision to leave earlier than necessary to meet Michael for dinner.  He thinks, Making conscientious decisions is a character attribute of an industrious person.  He feels encouraged by this observation and becomes temporarily confident in his ability to function in society.  He leaves a note on the kitchen table for Laura, telling her she can eat dinner without him. He thinks, She will be angry if I don’t leave a note. He wonders if she will be angry if he does not end with, “Love, Sam.”  He considers the weight of the word love.  He senses a poundage amassing across his shoulders.  He feels his vertebra compress and becomes momentarily disoriented.  Sam writes, “L-u-v,” before quickly scrawling his name, then moves the note from the kitchen table to the counter beside the sink.  He tries to picture Laura.  He can’t.  Instantly, he has the mental image of an exotic woman smoking a cigarette, living a progressive lifestyle in an artistic community.  He fantasizes for several minutes about this woman, picturing what life would be like if he were in a relationship with her.  He finds an empty cup in the sink and sets it on top of the note.  He stares at the cup.  It is empty.  For a moment, Sam feels a natural kinship with this empty thing; the dry hollowness of it.  He thinks he does not like the look of the note on the counter and puts it back on the kitchen table.  He closes his eyes as he does this.

Sam’s stomach cramps as he drives.  He thinks it was foolish to leave so early and wonders why he does the things he does.  He pictures himself at a table in a restaurant chewing ices cubes alone, feeling embarrassed.  He decides to go to a coffee shop instead.  He thinks, To kill some time, then thinks, Killing time is gratifying.  He parks his car and walks inside.  When he enters through the front door, he stops, and wonders why he is where he is.  He cannot remember.  There are people sitting quietly at tables with laptop computers and textbooks.  Coffee people.  Sam is under the impression that these people are concentrating intensely on things that will bring great dimension to their lives.  Sam stands motionless in the entrance.  He feels one-dimensional and wonders what to do.  For a second, he thinks he might pass out, then wraps his arms around himself and shivers while trying to avoid eye contact with the coffee people.  Sam thinks their faces are grave with self-stimulant.  He thinks the problem with coffee people is that they’re idiots; that they’re all recovering alcoholics still in need of a place to be at night with other people, drinking something. Sam leaves and walks out to his car, feeling momentarily lost.  He looks at the sky.  The sun is still out.  Sam thinks it is abnormally light outside.  The days are getting longer.  Time itself is elongating.  He rubs his eyes into focus.  There are clouds.  The ambient hue of an impending dusk. Sam closes his eyes and sees a yellow moon.  He wonders what the planet looks like from outerspace.  He pictures himself alone on the surface of the moon.  No one is around for a hundred-thousand miles.  His breath condenses and hangs in the lunar air before drifting away.  He looks at his feet.  His ankles and shins feel weightless.  When he opens his eyes, he feels okay.

The car starts perfectly.  He exhales deeply as he listens to the ignition.  Sam is happy that something in his life works the way he wants.  He rests his fingers on the steering wheel.  The pistons vibrate below the hood.  He can feel the mechanical rhythm in his fingertips and feels strong.  He pictures the motor’s entrails combusting with perfunctory precision.  He thinks, I could drive across the entire continent of North America right now, if I wanted.

Sam is the only person in the parking lot.  His sits behind the wheel, holding his stomach with both hands.  A white pigeon sits atop of a fence surrounding the parking lot.  A black pigeon walks up to the white pigeon.  The white pigeon rises and walks away hurriedly down the fence.  The black pigeon follows – chases – in a sort of avian-sexual advance.  The white pigeon looks alarmed.  Sam feels alarmed.  He wonders why the white pigeon won’t just fly away.  Sam wishes he could fly.  He would spread his wings and fly.  He thinks, Across North America.  The pigeons stop then turn around and walk back in the direction they originally came from.  Sam imagines the white pigeon is a female pigeon.  He pictures her pregnant with a belly of eggs, laying each carefully in a nest on a fencepost.  Sam honks his horn, trying to make the pigeons fly away.  They do not move.  They stare at Sam’s car, looking confused. The white pigeon tilts her head and stares at Sam.  Blinks.  Sam thinks the pigeon is about to say its name.  He feels paranoid and looks away.  A minute passes.  Sam reverses his car, then realizes his door is ajar.  He stops the car in the middle of the parking lot.  He opens then closes his door three times, slamming it each time.  It won’t shut.  Sam looks around for someone to complain to.  He wishes Laura was with him right now so he could complain to her. Blame her.  He thinks, Maybe I blame her too much for things she has no power over.  Sam slams his door again.  He is gradually becoming more and more agitated.  The door closes.   Sam pulls away.

At the restaurant, Sam feels stupid when he asks to be seated.  The hostess looks at Sam and smiles.  She tells him there is a thirty-minute wait.  Sam gets mad then disoriented.  He smells perfumes and fish.  He is beginning to starve to death.  His musculature is dissolving and his pulse has begun to wane.  He considers going into the restaurant bar area.  He will sit there all night, drinking.  He will not eat anything.  He will forget about meeting Michael.  Michael will come to the restaurant and will not be able to find him.  He will call Sam’s cell phone ten times before leaving the restaurant.  Sam will not answer one call.  Michael will leave three messages, each one gaining in anger and volume.  Sam will listen to the messages in the bar and order another drink.  He will drink his drink and order another drink.  He will sit in the bar all night, alone, watching white-tuxedoed strangers dine, leisurely sipping Bollinger RD between mouthfuls of Atlantic salmon.  Sam will look around the restaurant with a neutral facial expression.  Families.  Friends.  People on first dates.  Married people.  Happy people.  Sad people.  A golf highlight show will play on the television above the bar.  Someone will place a ball on a tee.  Someone will lose their ball in the ocean.  Someone will smoke a cigarette beside Sam and Sam will fantasize about exotic women smoking cigarettes and living progressive lifestyles. Phil Collins will sing a song.  Bruce Springsteen will sing a song.  Happy people will listen and feel happier.  Sad people will listen and feel sadder.  Someone will hit a hole in one. No one else will.

Sam realizes he is still standing at the hostess’ stand and feels awkward.  He thinks he has the opportunity to say something normal if he reacts quickly but he is unable to speak.  Slowly, he turns and leaves the restaurant, then sits down on a bench outside, feeling empty in the stomach.  He wishes he had a cigarette.  He closes his eyes.  He remembers how he and Laura used to smoke all of the time.  She would buy packs of cigarettes and share them.

Sam checks his watch.  It’s an old watch that his father gave him the Christmas Eve Cynthia drank too much eggnog and fell out of her chair.  It has a bible verse engraved on the underside.  Sam didn’t know the verse or what it meant.  He remembers not wanting to know.  His father told him anyways.  Something about a coin an old woman had lost.  The woman had ten coins and was happy. Then she only has nine coins and could not remember how she ended up with nine coins when she thought she had ten.  She became sad.  She turned her house upside-down, looking for this one coin until she found it.  When she found it she was happy.  Sam studies the face of the watch.  The second hand clicks with a robotic measure.  He counts the seconds, then loses count. He wonders if his mother ever turned the house upside down looking for something she lost. He imagines what she looked like digging her hand beneath the sofa cushions looking for her car keys or the television remote.  He wonders if she was good at finding things when she was alive.

Sam walks to his car and sits in the passenger seat, waiting for Michael.  Michael will be here in sixty seconds, he says out loud.  A minute goes by and Sam looks around then back at his watch.  He doesn’t see Michael’s car anywhere.  He opens his glove compartment.  Sam pictures his mother.  She kept things in her glove compartment.  She always knew where everything was.  She did not lose things.  She did not drink too much eggnog or fall out of her chair.  Sam rubs his hands together, then looks at his hands, thinking nothing.  He did not grow up in a house in which his mother had ever lived.  When she died, his father sold the house and bought a newer one.  His father thought it was a good financial investment and a fresh start.  In elementary school, Sam and Michael went to a birthday party in their family’s old neighborhood.  Their father drove them.  Sam looked out the window.  He remembers having his mother riding beside him in the backseat, loving the neighborhood around her.  Sam’s father drives past their old house.  Michael says something to their father.  Their father says something to Michael that Sam cannot understand.  They stop for thirty seconds in the middle of the road, then drive away.

Sam is angry at Michael.  He thinks Michael should already be here, then feels the need to prepare himself for his brother’s arrival.  He thinks this is a conscientious decision.  What will he want to talk about when he gets here?  Sam wants to convince Michael to drive across North America with him.  He wants to point out to Michael that it is very important.  They’re lives will change in a dramatic way.  They will become different individuals.

Michael doesn’t come.  He is fifteen minutes late.  Sam thinks about going home to spite his brother.  He wonders if the watch his father gave him is inaccurate; if – literally – the time handed down to him was flawed from the outset.  He reads the engraving again and wants to laugh.  He laughs.  He cannot stop laughing.  He stops and touches his stomach, feeling hungry, wondering if the woman who had found her lost coin had really found a different coin, not one of the original ten.  Sam smiles, convinced there is a drawer somewhere in the bible woman’s home holding the real lost coin.

When Sam turns around Michael’s car pulls into the parking lot.  He watches Michael park and debark, not bothering to lock his car.  Sam thinks, It’s a piece of junk and doesn’t deserve to be locked.

How long have you been here? Michael says. What’s so funny?

Nothing, Sam says. I wanted to get here early.

Michael looks around.  Sam holds up his watch and says, There’s a thirty minute wait.

Michael rolls his eyes then looks at the ground.

We can wait at the bar? Sam says.  Michael nods.  They walk inside.

What have you been doing? Michael says. You look lousy.

I don’t know, Sam says. I’m starving.

At the bar, Michael shakes his head.  He orders two beers and hands one to Sam.  It comes in a mug and the handle drips on the counter.

We shouldn’t drink too much if we haven’t eaten, Sam says.

I’m not really hungry, Michael says, guzzling.  I’ll drink yours if I have to.

I don’t want to get hungover, Sam says. Don’t you have to work tomorrow?

Michael shrugs. I don’t care, he says, glancing at the television above the bar.  His beer is already gone.  Phil Collins sings a song.  Golfers are waving clubs on a putting green.  Sam looks at his beer, wondering what to do.  He wonders what life would feel like if he never had to do anything.  He picture his mother preoccupying herself in her spare time, power-walking up and down the sidewalk in the old neighborhood, vacuuming the living room carpet, rearranging the cushions on the sofa.  Sam looks at Michael, then down at his beer.  Michael looks at Sam cradling his mug.

What? Michael says.

What? Sam says.

You looked like you were about to say something, Michael says.

Sam shakes his head.  When he does this he has trouble breathing.  He closes his eyes and concentrates deeply on pulling oxygen in and out of his lungs.  He feels his vertebrae compress and becomes momentarily disoriented, again.  When he opens his eyes, nothing has changed.

Matthew Falk

The Lariat Poet

Oona, our postal carrier, is out of uniform tonight. I open the door to find her shivering on the porch, wearing an orange sundress embroidered with black dragonflies and plastic orange flip-flops. Her toes, their nails painted the same orange as the rest of the ensemble, are graying with frostbite. Her extremely long neck is encircled by nine rings of bronze and polished bone that clatter as she shivers.

With her slender gray fingers she hands me a package cocooned in “FRAGILE” tape and covered with customs stamp from countries I’ve never heard of: Moldova, Brobdingnag, Upper Volta. I check the return label: “Wow, it’s from Rory Lumpwell,” I say.

“You mean the wh-whatchacallit,” she says, hugging herself for warmth, “the lariat poet?”

“Laureate. Is there some reason why you’re not wearing a coat, Oona?”

“Zen ritual. Reversed s-seasons.”

“Ah, of course,” I say, closing the door on her.

In the kitchen I find my husband, Percy, sitting at the table, wearing a tattered burgundy velvet cape, drinking a White Russian from a squat tumbler, and reading The Best of the Journal of Tension Reduction. The room smells like earthworms, moss, and ripe melon.

“Who the hell’s here this time a night?” he growls.

I place the package on the table. Percy gets up, walks over to the knife drawer, and selects a long boning knife. Poised with the blade raised, he is like a
priest before a sacrament. His cape is open, revealing his muscular, masculine nakedness.

Tenderly he pierces the tape. Box flaps part like lips; foam peanuts erupt. The package contains an old-fashioned glass bottle full of milk and a rusty pistol.

“Seen one a them on th’ Antiques Roadshow,” he says, referring to the pistol. “Old West era.”

“You don’t say.”

The bottle has a label on which is written in a fastidious script, “Mother, mother! Always by the banister my milk-tooth mug of milk was waiting for me.” I read it aloud.
“Now what the hell you s’pose that’s about?” my husband says.

“I think I’m pregnant,” I say.

“Hot damn! Always wanted a son.”

“Well, but I don’t know yet if it’s a boy or a girl. And another thing is it’s prob’ly not yours. I had an affair with an entomologist.”

Percy takes the gun out of the box and points it at me, but when he pulls the trigger, a little flag pops out that says, “Thank you for playing!”

Throwing the pistol to the floor and picking up the boning knife instead, he lunges over the table. Leaping aside, I bash him on the head with the milk bottle.
I sit at the table and drink the rest of his White Russian, watching milk and blood drip from his hair onto the checkered linoleum floor.

I decide to go for a walk. As I’m putting on my boots in the hallway, Percy begins to moan.

Outside everything is an indistinct swirl of snow. Within minutes I can’t see my house, and my footprints have already been erased. I cry out, but the wind steals the sound from my mouth, adding it to its own inarticulate keening.

I have to keep moving. Soon enough I find myself at the foot of a small hill. At the top is parked a decrepit, brightly lit Bookmobile, the word “Bibliobus”
decaled in peeling gunmetal gray across its side.

As I approach, a long-haired child of indeterminate gender, whom I judge to be about seven, wearing a shapeless brown tunic and torn jeans, calls out,

“Took you long enough. Get in.”

Inside the cab of the Bookmobile, it is warm and dry. The child hands me a cup of hot cider and says, “Why is there something instead of nothing?”

I toss the steaming cider in the child’s face. Covering its round red face with its little pink hands, the child cries like a child.

“Shut up,” I say.

Obediently, the child lowers its hands and looks at me through puffy dark eyes. Blisters are blooming already on its left cheek and upper lip.

“What’s your name?” I say.

The child mumbles something.

“What?”

“Who wants to know?” it says, rather sullenly.

Changing the subject, I say, “Do you have any books by Rory Lumpwell?”

“I dunno.”

“You are a very irritating child, you know that?”

“You’re a mean old lady. I hate you. Why did you come here? You prob’ly can’t even read.”

“Of course I can.”

“Prove it.” The child ducks out through a door at the back of the cab, reappearing a minute later with a thin book, which it thrusts into my hands. “Read this to me.”

It’s a musical score, the theremin part to the great Russian ballet Rapspierre. “Not fair,” I say. “Bring me something in English.”

“No can do,” the child says, pulling an iPod from the pocket of its jeans and inserting earbuds into its ears. Faint buzz of guitars as the child curls up on the seat and closes its eyes.

I climb from the cab through the back door into a large, bright room filled with a riot of books of many colors and sizes stacked floor to ceiling row upon row, books on all subjects haphazardly piled: Summa Theologica, Selected Verse of Henry Kissinger, How to Quit Smoking and Get Rich, The Mabinogion, and so on.

Although I look around for quite a while, I can’t find anything by Rory Lumpwell. While I’m looking, the snow keeps piling up around the Bookmobile. Now we’re trapped in here, and it’s still coming down.
Howie Good

TOO LATE THE SUN

1
All night the queen of maladies hung out in my kitchen, lighting cigarettes and wanting to discuss the futility of previous solutions, while the red cooler she had brought all the way on the subway remained unopened on the table as if nothing within was of interest – recyclable cans and bottles or a dog’s chew toy, and not an emergency heart packed in melting ice.

2
Who knows when she went down to the evening dimness of the stacks, but now she stands with her flabby back to us, slowly turning the pages of a long treatise on melancholy and quietly weeping. Anyone would think it was she herself who misshelved the books we needed. What about the burning curtains? I want to ask her. And what about the parking lot filled with abandoned babies? But she doesn’t look up, and if she did, she would see planes like silver crucifixes and a few tiny gray clouds scattered like the debris of some distant confusion.

3
As mourners do, I’ll cover the mirrors before I go out and still arrive in time for the last showing. The seats around me will all be empty, but toward the end, when even the music stops caring what happens next, the heavy-set usherette will prowl the aisles of another gloomy day. She’ll be there and then she won’t, and she’ll shine her stinging light in my face.

Felino Soriano

Painter’s Exhalations 326, 327, 328

Painters’ Exhalations 326
—after Clive Barker’s The Tree

The tree sits, many varieties
roots’ relaxation:
storytelling-stance, secretive
rhythmic segregation.  Body
large-symmetry  body’s
symbolic shade
declares role of caregiver personality
mending heat-saturation among noon’s
cycled argument.  Cliff’s edge
picture frame corner cut angled
mimic sun-palms’ throwing glare,

—divided arms articulate splay-time
oscillation
—interrelated dictionary rewrite of
definitional aloneness,
equating halved lives of sprout
-from-seed
ending
inspired language of the philosopher’s
regulatory reification.

Painters’ Exhalations 327
—after Van Nelson’s Theatre of the Mind

Images,
handpasted diligence: wings
woven
focus on sanity’s elongated palms
curling into puppeteers’
naturalized state of ersatz
control.
Performance swirls, a
smudged abstract
fingerthumb     print actuality
harvests itself proclamation
marquee
accomplishment among
fabricated
nuances.
Watchers, solo.  Watcher.
Mind engulfed architecture studies
adds
miracle presentation to the subjective,
joy
because of the mind’s many
architectural acts.

Painters’ Exhalations 328
—after Sylvia Tait’s Running Time

Man-formulation
extreme
lateness,
punishable
expropriate the body’s will
hide into the vanish-language of missing,
existential happiness.
Away, the decapitated
independence of likeable routine.  Mental
gruel, fight self fight
attempt,
constant contact between irritated wrist
and garbing, bracelet-style watch.  Time
the constant circle
of breakable contours:
batteryless, forgetfulness, isometric
push
against need to form solace
outside of need of guilty
reciprocating heaviness.

Danny P. Barbare

Chores

Watering the flowers, the petunias,
after
the
water
becomes
cold

from
a
hose
that
is
green

Josh Orkin

without pause or remark

snow   falls     steadily   on
the cars  that have  been     here
for quite some time   in a ditch
no sound  or    movement
nor any  notice  and it falls
steadily on the skid-
marks and     the  blood of the  little one
who was
thrown long and clear and  his body broken
and then  falls
heavily onto   this place  which  will soon be
as two  mountains     sitting   sagely
beside  the road   and the  snow does not
care for  its  appearance   nor
its  work            and the snow only falls
steadily  and  then  it stops

Peycho Kanev

Writing poems

the juices are ready
the fruits are ripe
the silence is here
and…

I am hammering this rusty nail
to the shaking tool-shed

I am hoping to make it
stronger

and I thought I was a fool
for doing that

but I kept on with the hammer
anyway.

Jesse Shipway

Prelude: Magic Hands

1
The problem with the rain
and the wind
and the knotting of energy
in the wood in the trunks
of the trees
is the problem
of the rain
and the wind

and the carbon
in the stems of the trees

the circles of memory kept
in the stony depths
of the rings of the trees
the petrified bark of the trees

stoned and stained by time

The bark and the leaves and the digestive tracts
of the wallabies
are separated by the function
of organs

and by the laws of syntax
that command the going of this
after the going of that

and after the laws of syntax were rooted
in the stems of the brains of the animal-men

2
Now the trees go after the ground and their roots lie
and burrow and lie in the ground
and then when they get old
they fall back on to the ground like falling leaves

So the ground is separated by a preposition
from the tree
or by the law of gravity
and the magnetism of the sun
that pulls the tree toward it like a marionette is pulled
toward the hand of the puppeteer
and dances like the sun-dappled dance
on the leaves of the tree
that are pulled away
from the ground like a mast is suspended
above the white horses
that gallop across the top of the water

Mimi Vaquer

a minor excavation, or a compendium on purging the mind

pull the dopamine and the light switch ever so conveniently to the left

there is only one way it seems one way
“in the back” she said
“in the back with the rest of the tools you’ve been hiding”

in the dark in a blindness I found the thoughts in the hole
through a recess in the hypothalamus that had seemed closed
a fountain a fontanel a forgotten finite yet alive

“this path will do” spoke the girl in the corner hiding in the happenstance this will do
hard
to see in these crags of fragmented time stuffed away in cellular annals
hard to see in the back of your eyes your fingers

so on the table this same table
it sits to be thrown out with the rest of the trash

tomorrow I will buy the sheets
and wrap the wounds in a fresh shroud
with a fresh song and no minor keys
Roxane Gay

Procedural

We like to have sex to the cadence of Law & Order or rather he likes to have sex to the cadence of Law & Order and I’m dating him so I’ve adapted. If it’s another crime procedural drama on TV, he’s just not into it. He doesn’t care that CSI is the hotter show.

It’s the familiar sound effect that gets him going. “It’s like porn,” he told me after our third date when we were embarrassing ourselves in the back seat of his car like we were sweaty teenagers working fast food jobs and licking the scent of salt and grease off each other’s bodies.

“I have cable,” I whispered, half joking, and he came right there, in the back seat of his car, in the palm of my hand. I wiped him on his jeans and then made a hasty exit. I forgot my phone in his car, accidentally on purpose.

We’re all tongue kisses and groping upon the reveal of the victim, the horrified reaction of the unwitting passerby, the inspection of the crime scene, the witty quip by the hardened, cynical New York detective wearing his cheap suit, flashing his badge. As the opening credits roll, he’s hard and I’m wet and I’m willing to forgive his popular culture proclivities.

By the time the coroner or emergency room physician or psychiatrist gives the detectives a rundown of all the things that went wrong in the victim’s life, by the time the captain has delivered her marching orders, we’re naked and he’s breathing heavy and trembling and I’m putting a hand on his chest and saying, “Baby, calm down.”

Thing is, he never knows how it all ends. He doesn’t see the trial and the bargaining and the defendant demanding to take the stand. He misses the twist and the verdict and the final prosecutorial quip. He’s asleep by then.

Miriam Kramer

Monologue

Y’know doc, sometimes
I close my eyes on the highway.
Up to nine seconds once.
Always at least 80 miles per hour,
when my mom’s old toyota corolla starts shaking.
I wonder if it’s simply because
I’m still driving my mom’s car.

Well doc, it’s hard to say
what motivates me these days.
Mom says I need a reason to get out of bed.
Yes doc, other than to drive her car.
Is it that farfetched to just wanna
Bum around in bed
now that I’m a graduate?

I remember when you told me
about your colleague
who retreated to his car trunk
junked out for days.
Is it wrong to envy that dichotomy?
No doc, when I grow up I don’t wanna be a junkie,
that’s so 90s.
Oh, my torn jeans?
They’re authentically worn out.
Wait, you aren’t supposed to be
judging me.

When are we gonna chat
About my childhood?
Yea, I guess that’s your line,
not mine,
but I’m getting kind of nervous
thinking about the future.
Enough to be willing
to pull up the past.

Look doc, I’ve been seeing you
for eight years.
Am I ever going to be normal?
Yea, you’re right, sorry to use
such a normative word,
I’m just curious.

The truth is doc,
I’ve been on these meds for twelve years –
that’s half my life now,
and I ain’t been angry since I was eighteen,
and thought I was transcendent,
beyond it,
but now it’s all I got.

Oh, time’s up?
That’s usually my line…
Well, look, I need some new scripts.
Yea, I take more of those now.
Thanks doc.
Aristotle Sinclair

Temporary Vision, Permanent Alteration

A certain revelation-twirl occurred near the outer portion
of my weakening vision.  This twirl, two-fold,
automatic blur but clear enough to alter
stillness of night’s monotone gray.  Alone,
I needed physical holding of actual emotion.
This twirl was a gorgeous glow, golden,
galvanized noise.  As I became entranced and
eerily similar to obsessive behavior, I noticed
a pathway of plunging leaves.  Approaching,
a language of buzz.  Movement transformations,
praise, synonyms for what lives unseen and
therefore untainted by dangerous definitions, stigmas.
The twirl put on its wings, absconded.  I longed
and became the brand of depressed unwilling
to walk towards what’s conventionally intact.
While Wondering, Occurrences Translate to Answers

Morning’s crown of emeralds was left
hanging on horizon’s left-handed doorknob.
Its door of unobstructed visitors
remained unfastened.  Her crown often
as ornate, became renamed
hidden behind opaque cloth of fog’s
routine attire.  Bouquet of brittle music,
toothpick thick slants of rain meeting
concrete.  Those, the comfortable with
splashes of blue and wet fondling fingers,
danced.  Others, the routine-based
conspirators of boredom
watched through the ennui of a bedroom’s window,
and imagined when again the crown would
shine amid the broken glass mosaic of
day’s burnished angles.

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Volume II

Volume II

Felino Soriano

Poems: Painters’ Exhalations 72, 73, and 74

Painters’ Exhalations 72
—after Mitchell Johnson’s Poppies

Misconception, red.  A child’s naïve
hand
across stove’s unchanging, fiery temper, yes.
Giant
body, disallowing cars’ miniscule
motion, halting, the corner
light, yes.
Too, the eyes hankering sleep,
or
the body ingesting poisonous degrees of
libation, the cursed sign protruding
eyes’ dampened orifices, yes.

Lava
pool, the unaware dive brain first
in lieu of using foot’s adrenaline
fuel machine.

Blood, painting a bull’s fur the saddened tribute
to unaware amusement, yes.

Soil, sad to excuse from its nurtured hold,
poppies ignite more sporadic containment
found alerting eyes
conflagration
can take shape of a beautiful
blossom bloomed to forgive
the fallacy red has been spilled
from tongues of devoted
ignorance.

Painters’ Exhalations 73
—after Alfons Karpinski’s Garden at Dark

Cemetery pleasantry, asymmetrical,
the speaker cascades a langue blue departure
meeting first
air’s crepuscular covering,
climbing down rungs until
earth resembles the awakened,
the walking receptive.

Dissimilar to the dead

(whose lives resemble a photogenic
conversation, animated motions
sadly solely now seated on dusty shelves
of sometimes acrobatic memories)

the garden exiled into planters’ innate
concepts, armed with growth proclaiming
answers to the query of what shall
become here.  Not
bone dry, an arid voice
cracking leaves and accompanying
mother-branches, the humid
survives quite well
insolated where night shields from a sun-
gone-mad, attempting perjury of light,
echoing what occurred prior
to the dying, the burgeoning tones.

Painters’ Exhalations 74
—after William Orpen’s Zonnebeke

Reciprocation

dead.

Why the horizontal positional

attire aligned with callused intentions

your sleeping warmth slowly

parting?

Imitating death

can panic a child

if

they overlook safety

arriving to behold

with innocuous eyes

the smile you’ve lashed into leaving.

So much death walks this ornamental maze.

Tattered fence

that of deceitful exhibitions

to the building

dissipated

hands.

Soon

Morning.

Perhaps arise

onto the back of gilded conscience

spelling future using hands

designated as noble tools

postulating rejuvenated meaning.

Don Pesavento

Georgette Magritte Dreams Hubby Rene’s Golconde,
The Listening Room, and Tomb of the Wrestlers

How sour tasting, her green-apple name,
floating nimbus in a gray Golconde sky,
and all the twin t’s, raining down
like Italian daggers;

funeral umbrella-handle t’s, gripped by her
white-gloved hands, claustrophobic outside
the gargantuan wrestler’s tiny tomb;

tt stiletto silhouettes, minnow darting shadows
across the bedroom window pane, shadow-netted
by seine-patterned wallpaper fleur de lis and

umbral L’s overlapping V’s, black-onyx mirrored
from her nightstand’s patent leather Vuitton purse,
raven-perched next to the solitary
sentient Rose immensely listening to the storm.

Linda Ann Strang

Maria Nova: Hymn for the 20th Century

Cubist, cross leg puzzle, Catholic radio –
when Maria started receiving raunchy country
love songs in the Dragon Café

she twisted her legs into a plait,
even so she managed to fawn multi-planar
hips from fresh air – Picasso’s dove,

Braque’s mandolin. She knew she had big
trouble when Confucius leapt forth from her fortune
cookie to sing, “One

singular sensation,” on the table top,
shocking the restaurant with his red bowler hat,
and high-kicking ketchup all over the show.

Gabriel must have ruptured a paper lantern.
To say nothing of Raphael.

Later, those Demoiselles of Avignon, bless ’em,
rowed home on her broken waters – Chairman Mao’s
eyes peeping from their Guernica slit and cultured wrists.

A Tourist in Poetry City
My roses were on heat,
they left smudges down the street,

so I tried to leave the Eliot Quarter
with my basket full of co co rico

and my bargain maculate pashmina.
But some lollipop man

named Sweeney
started waving his big erotic semiotic,

threatening to sweeten me
among the nightingales

Terrified, I had to duck into Auden lane
with my bill and my platypus flying.

Here two cups of coffee tried to mug me

with a sawn off geranium,

an ocarina dove and fife caliber pigeon

in their C flat funeral best.

I hadn’t even asked for coffee,

I’d wanted a Shakespearian.

You know, small beer.

Luckily, a police car with screeching

line brakes pulled

up beside me. My God,

I said, Up, what you doing down here?

Me! cracked Up,

I’m here for anapest and dactyl detox.

Plus you get a Yeats rebate

this time of year –

Spanish capes inclusive.

Was that a rev?

Jalina Mhyana

  Spiral Forest Swoon

The

Spiral Forest

swirls skyward nautilusing;

layers of sedimental rock found

underneath the site are reflected on the

façade in bands of tiles and stucco. The building

is a spiral-shaped bit of earth pushed upward as if by

earthquake; mosaic walls and walkways; no two windows alike,

they dance out of line, off-balance, the walls swooning…

I’m forming this poem organically, pouring concrete,

mimicking the forest, mimicking Dickey, who

wrote a diamond-shaped poem

of beginning a life

the spiral,

the dna,

people

live inside of

it, this recipe for life.

The stairs reach forever toward

grass roofs and a café’s stairs spiral ever

higher now in the yogic kundalini twist, each floor

an energy center. Pressed against the window I see the

crown chakra, a gleaming gold onion dome inside my poem of

diamonds. I crown you prince of the forest, prince of my

body, my Russian lover and guide, your hands lie

on fluid lines of hips and thighs, feeling

the building’s uneven walkways,

mossy roofs, sight can

be misleading.

Better

to explore by

hand, a tactile tour,

ceramic tile walls worn by the

body’s warmth and oils, hidden stairwells

and terraces, we’re both a part of this architecture.

Just look at my body, no straight lines—Hundertwasser

despised straight lines, said that anyone with a ruler in his pocket

should be arrested; of course facetious, but even the facets

of these diamonds are linear, each sentence stacked.

He said buildings should never be complete

always a work or play in progress;

Earth’s manic seasons

swoon and

cycle;

giddy

revolutions

of life. Living quarters

should be altered by all tenants:

age, mold, animals—if the walls crumble,

so what? They were modeled after the chaos of

earth’s quaking rumble— they could tumble any moment.

Fingerwhorled windows identify us both as individuals, self-ish,

dancing out of line as footsteps scuff below, people ascending

toward our coiled embrace, untangling now, panicked:

but he said that walls should be made of glass

surely then all sex would be public? We

wonder what is the punishment

for public sex above

Darm-

stadt.

Are we two

subject to reprimand

in the architect’s grand plan,

my prince? If these tilting walls and floors

disappeared we would just be bodies floating freely,

lovers in a Chagall painting…a Russian painter, like you,

and I’m your beloved Bella, not of this earth, boneless body swirling.

Hundertwasser drafted this day already, drafted us, his lawless

sighing lovers in his rising spiraling forest. Already these

windows, kisses, and breasts were sketched

in his mind as he sat naked and drew

us together, pressed against

the windows nude

as curtains.

People

have five skins,

Hundertwasser believed;

so naked is not really naked; there are

levels of undress: self, clothing, family, house,

community; all skins we wear, identities. I’m far from

home, far from my family—nearly naked just by being here.

Your arms are a better garment: I hide my face in the warm squeeze,

in your voice and smell. If I can’t see anything, then I am

invisible, small. No one will ever find me; so

naked, I don’t have a name or a face

I’m just a doll in your pocket

a lover in a painting

ecstatically

self-less.

Erin McKnight
Seaweed

Forcing the dough into his mouth, he almost swallows his fingers. But it’s when he withdraws his hand that cheesy tendrils slip down his throat and resist his gags.
He shouldn’t have gulped, but the hotel room door is bolted and he’s alone with the pizza. Draining soda into a plastic cup, he watches it swirl like a flushing toilet, feels it moisten his nose as it surges between his salty lips.
The ocean’s binge had ceased earlier in the morning, seaweed strewn along its porcelain shore. By late afternoon, seagulls shrieked the withered mounds’ desperate cries for a high tide. Further along the beach a restaurant was perched. Like a fat bird on skinny legs, his mother said.
As the air cools his slick knuckles he thinks about the restaurant, his parents inside. He imagines churning waves heaving seaweed against the stilts, wonders whether they’ll buckle when his mother leaves the table.
Once it’s over, the purged heap clings to the transparent cup’s rim. He can’t help but smell his fingers; they were inside him.
Because the glob will harden into a waxy tangle, he props the door open. Rushing the hallway, he drops the cup at the vending machine and kicks it beneath. Only when he’s back inside the room–his blood pounding and his breath hot with relief–does the invigorated tide retreat from his wounded throat.

Corey Mesler
Fruit

It’s usually ok
to abandon
a poem
after a dozen
or so
poor lines,
words that hang
like wet
paper from the
branches
of one’s dendroid
nervosity. It’s usually
ok, except today
when I need
to finish
something, even
if stodgy,
even if tomorrow
I will delete it
without conscience,
like uprooting
a burgeoning tree.

After Howl

After Allen Ginsberg
wrote Howl
he went outside and stood
in the sunshine
saying, God, touch my body
with your pincers;
I’ll wait here for you and for
Kerouac, who promised
to come by later with some wine.

Four Poems

for Ray Succre

1
Four knights on zebras come
charging over the amethystine hill brandishing
signs advertising four separate whiskeys.

2
Outside of the caretaker’s window four children
are throwing apetalous plants onto the derbies
of these gentlemen in the mackintoshes.

3
At noon on the shopping plaza parking
lot a grocery cart collides with a tan wagon.
In the wagon are four polaroids of newborn babies.

4
Outside every house in this neighborhood a
man stands poised to knock. He will wait till
four o’clock. He has four new death certificates.

Duane Locke
The Fantasy Called “Life” Left a Mauve Quiver

I was not afraid
Of being an outcast from
Orisons and opinions, I prefer
The reddish f-
ur of orangutans to
White
Gl-
Ow
Of pearl, oyster concealed.
The lascivious touch
Of scorpion does not string scorpion.
I regret you have faith in the elixir
Of the morning microwave browned biscuit
Severed in a new modeled, blessed kitchenette.
The last time I saw an orangutan was in a
Tampa zoo,
The orangutan threw at me
A piece of simulated rock broken off
From his zoo home, a simulated cliff.
I understood his interrupted solitude
And the gesture upon
His glimpse of his reality.
The last time I saw a scorpion
Was in South Texas,
And the scorpion was in a jar.
I saw you as I saw you the last time,
Standing in the atmosphere of an eclipse,
I recall the mystic aureole of  your dim-lit
White gold long hair.
Geese with outstretched curved necks
Flew in front of what was left of the moon,
Your eyes became spirals,
Spun like slot machines,
And then shut down as if  the spinning
Had never begun.  It was as if
A wound
Had bled all the emotions from
The divine corporeal.
I glimpsed the light the moon has lost,
It became a curious splendor
Like a not-understood curio.
I heard from a skeptic, who
Spoke with sneers,
Disdainfully that you now have
Virgin visions, hold
A hand with a scar
Of an eternal, external not-here,
As you and the touched,
But unseen otherness
Speak of your love
For each other
In an extinct language
Called “Aramaic.”

The Unknown Already Known Lives and Resurrects The Corpse of Language into Life

As we
s-
Ee-
K
The question, not the answer
The rivet becomes a wing, the
Moon refuses the light of the sun,
Luminous ants
Emerge from moon sand,
And each pineapple has three shadows
To quiver on the quacking moon ground,
And we illuminated by the moon’s darkness,
See the sounds
Sung by the cinnamon-colored, cerise-combed
Midnight rooster.
The sounds become our hands, and we hear
The new sounds
Coming from the fusion of our joined hands,
And the sounds
Have gold knuckles.
We listen to the sounds from joined hands,
We know
That tomorrow
The ashes of the burning sun
Will fall
And cover our eyes, our ears.
Only Those Who Stay Home Travel

On my pale beige, rough surfaced, wall
Hangs a long, pale beige Sino Zen scroll,
A shaky bush
Has inked on
This pale beige scroll
A sketch
Of an ax,
A homemade ax.
The line representing
The left side
Of the handle
Is thicker than
The line representing
The right side.
The different in the thickness
Is mystic,
Speaks in silence
A thought that has never
Been
Spoken before
The thought through brush strokes
Was spoken here.
I know Sino believes we are all born
With “completeness,” and have “completeness,”
But everyone lives as if incomplete.
Everyone is so wrapped up in the illusions
Of his or her inauthentic self
That he or she cannot unwrap
And find his or her authentic self.
Sino says, “This ‘ax’ does away
With people’s incompleteness.”
I understand what Sino means,
If the ax sits in the corner and is never used
It gives completeness,
But if the ax is used
It creates the user an incomplete person
And creates an incomplete society.

Joseph Goosey

Samsun and Izmir

There’s bone in the stew, a green sign
informs that May
is Lyme disease awareness month.

Am I aware?

I can’t answer the sign and downtown
a bearded man
donning Russell Athletic’s sweatpants
with eyes denser
than the Kodiak’s maw
is given forty bucks a week
simply to quit bothering the owner
of a used bookstore.

Someday I will own something
and do the same,
not now. Now I sit on marble toilets
and read my cigarette carton;

The finest Samsun and Izmir
handpicked product.

Well, for $4.68, my knees will bleed
on a rug facing East.

I get up, the toilet flushes
automatically.
Everything
should be as simple.

S.P. Flannery

Husk
Genes self-arrange
to express a different
phenotype, displeased
with the current facade
these amino acids act
selfishly to obtain
the desired look,
appearance to attract
other like-genes
worthy of integration,
replication to attain
supreme fitness in
subsequent generations
who disperse to inspire
other populations
to transcribe their model,
program once individuals
into homogenous translations.

Sculptured Destruction

Lightning works in the white noise of darkness.
Wood seemingly chiseled haphazardly
evolves into a phallic statue.
Encompassed by derelict houses,
this mass of oak stands in radiance.
Daylight reveals an unapologetic slaughter.
Limbs crash when chainsaws release
the tension against the made.
Through the bus window is viewed
the resultant electric carving.
Reverent promises are proclaimed.
Metallic claws finally dismember
ligneous refuse into thin mulch.

David Kowalczyk
Mountebank

This word smells
like a tongue depressor.
It offers its bowels to strangers.

Its brain is made
of macaroni and cheese.
It has the shrill, petulant
voice of a bitter parrot.

Its eyes are two magpies
staring into Hades.
It is the marriage of
genius and the mundane.

Kristina Darling

The Theory Wars

The baroque violinist stared at the ardently neoclassical violist. More and more, carnivorous glances were exchanged between players as the velvet curtains rose.  Perhaps another of the theory wars is on hand, the conductor mused, tapping his black baton. Only the audience would know for certain. As the concerto began, musicians grew fewer, and their sound greater, and the dim stage collapsed in a heap of shattered harpsichords.

Robert S. King

Why Graveyards Are Full of Bright Birds

At dusk I lock the gate
to keep the living out.
I am told the wind comes here to die.
It falls and a thousand wings
darken down,
nothing to hold them to the sky.

Howie Good

Heart Sounds

1
My heart has a hole in it. Sometimes I wad up paper towels
and stuff them in the hole. My heart leaks regardless. I
visit the doctor. The examining room smells peculiarly of
mint. “Hmm,” the doctor says as he peers into the hole. He
decides to give me a shot. He says it’s to numb me. It
doesn’t.

2
“Tickets!” the conductor shouts. My heart is riding the
train into the city. It glances out the window at the
river that knuckles alongside the tracks. The river was
once a great commercial highway. Today it’s only scenery.
At least the seats on the train face forward. Traveling
backwards always makes my heart feel sick.

3
It’s perfect bombing weather. Angels are continually
taking off and landing in the big, empty field next door.
“Love is the world’s greatest democracy,” my heart
declaims above the rumble of air traffic. Later, when I
repeat it to her in bed, she doesn’t argue or object. My
heart shakes hands with her heart.

4
“Next, please,” the barber says. My heart trots in from
the outfield, chewing a handful of sunflower seeds. The
barber is holding what looks like a letter, but if it’s a
letter, it’s not the letter on blue paper the government
says I need. I fight down the confusing feeling of
drowning and then talk about last night’s dream. Women
with half-smiles finger the fabric noncommittally.

5
My heart climbs onto the roof. From up there, it can see
the system of roads built to carry away the dead. I beg my
heart to come down. “You’re going to get hurt,” I warn. My
heart doesn’t answer. It’s thinking of its obligation to
beat. It’s thinking of the dead on their backs in boxes.
It’s thinking of my mother, the unrequited bones of her
face.

6
I hear crying. The crying goes on all night. If I didn’t
know better, I’d think it was a baby crying, it sounds so
human in the dark. My heart tries to sleep, but can’t. I
watch it walk away. I watch for a long time. I watch my
heart until it’s out of sight. It never looks back. It
doesn’t wave. And then the street fills with bruised shoes
and the invention of gunpowder.

7
My heart returns in a dark overcoat, the brim of its hat
pulled low. It talks rapidly, but also with a stutter,
like a tommy gun. The couples at the other tables look
away. There are various theories as to why. My heart draws
a rough map on the back of an envelope. In the piney woods
a fat and bleeding sheriff is tied to a tree and crying
for mercy.

8
I huddle around the trash barrel with a jury of my peers.
Although spring, the days are gray and shabby, and the
police overtly suspicious. My heart holds its hands out
toward the fire. There’s much to say, but no one speaks,
afraid to upset the silence following upon the collapse of
the great newspapers.

9
My heart knows what’s right. It doesn’t know how it knows,
but it knows and opens like a red-tinged blossom under the
weight of its knowledge. The ropes and pulleys stop; the
Napoleonic soldiers stop dragging the peasant girl off
into the woods; the clouds stop drifting. I wait for
further explanation. None comes. In the gray grainy light
from the window, the blossom is a dark inadvertent blue.

10
Friends forget to call. Forget they’re friends. Mail
contracts without signing their names. Change their names
without telling me. Snap the heads off birds. Leave
headless birds on the doorstep. And when I’m near, drop
their voices and whisper into the phone. My heart
remembers now how it got its hole, which was once round
and clean and just big enough for hope to escape through.

11
An engine coughs to life. Startled, I look up. Defendants
and their lawyers are dancing around the cannon on the
little square of lawn outside the courthouse. They must
believe the rain has erased any fingerprints. “But that’s
stupid,” my heart murmurs, even if something like it
happens nearly every afternoon.

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment