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Emma Nichols Editor-in-Chief Pete Viola Sean Case Executor Editor Jenny Curits Resident Artist
A Note from the Executor
It may go without being said, but publishing a literary journal is no small task, no simple charge: no venture to undertake lightly with some fuck-all attitude, brimming and burning with idealism. It requires poise and measured action, great patience and a grounded, steady approach. So it won’t surprise you to hear that we went with the former. Last spring when Emma proposed starting our own journal, I was quickly as high as she on grand ideas and schemes. We not only could do this, but we would. It’d be different, too. Our journal would be a unique sort of publication: eccentric, but professional; off-beat, but masterly. We would draw none but the finest submissions from none but the finest writers and artists, established and fledgling alike––with no preference for either. Judiciously, we would pick through them, selecting the choicest cuts from a tidal surge of artistic offerings. And then we could get to work. Lining up accepted works thematically, ever-mindful of segue and tempo and making them a cohesive, powerful and unified body. Arrangement as our medium, we would condense a diverse and scattered collage into something beautiful. We could start accepting awards by Halloween. Then came reality. And it wasn’t all that different from our fantasy, either. We were fortunate enough to receive high quality submissions in every field (baffled at the faith which complete strangers seemed to have in our abilities as editors and publishers). There were also far more quality pieces to review than any of us expected––more than we could reasonably accept. Furthermore, the bounty of accepted literature and art somehow...just...fit. Still, the production process was arduous, with countless hours in restless nights given to the creation of Issue 1. Hours I would never consider giving back. Without further ado, on behalf of my fellow editors and with earnest thanks to all contributors, I humbly and graciously give you the Inaugural Issue of Petrichor Review. –Pete
Dusty Rain Smell by Jenny “The Blood Machine” Curtis....................................Cover Rolling Tempest by Doris Case........................................................1 For Rain by G.A. Saindon................................................................2 The Sun Looking Down on Icarus by James Valvis.........................3 Chemtrails by Vinny Carnevale.......................................................4 Note to My Roommate by Howie Good..........................................4 Toilet at Sunset by Kim Marra..........................................................5 Moonlight Dance by Jason Kalmanowitz........................................5 Magma by Thomas Zimmerman......................................................9 The Lives of Rock Stars by Kyle Hemmings...................................9 All You Need is a Drop of Rain...................................................9 Soul Singer..................................................................................12 Shadow of a Voice......................................................................13 Itinerary.......................................................................................14 Tour in the Middle C of America...............................................15 Spitting Stem Like Sugar Mountains by Lindsey Buckley.............11 Oven by Kim Marra........................................................................15 The Water Towers of Watertown, New York by Paul David Adkins.....................................................................17 The American Dream by Charlotte McKnight...............................18 Though He Had No Fever by Matthew Dexter..............................19 Abstract Painting, Look by Jim Fuess............................................23 Hiccups by Len Kuntz....................................................................24 La Porta by Doris Case..................................................................26 Temporary Crown by Thomas Zimmerman...................................27 Louisa’s Last Walk in the Park by John Grey................................28 I Am a Fountain of Soft Products by Lindsey Buckley..................29 Scraw by Les Wicks........................................................................30 Run Baby Run by Peter Marra.......................................................31 Abstract Painting, Joy by Jim Fuess..............................................32 This Space Between Us by Charlotte McKnight............................33 What I Wish for You by Valentina Cano........................................33 iii
Table of Contents
Grandmother, Sylvia Plath and the 1909 Detroit Tigers by Paul David Adkins.....................................................................34 The Sin Jar by Len Kuntz.............................................................35 Clean Up Your Clothes by Kim Marra...........................................37 Wet by M. Chandler Rodbro...........................................................37 The Ants of Destiny by Larry Gaffney...........................................38 Darwin Journeys to The West by Joseph Farley.............................44 Lips by Corey Mesler.....................................................................45 Beautifully Flawed by Charlotte McKnight...................................46 You Bleed and Breathe the Air by Charlotte McKnight.................46 Evaporate by Lindsey Buckley.......................................................47 Obsessive Personality by Valentina Cano......................................48 The Book on the Right by Walter Campbell..................................49 The Pages of My Mind are Forever Turning by Charlotte McKnight...................................................................51 Lusting for Books by Joseph Farley...............................................51 Venus of the Corn Stubble by G.A. Saindon..................................52 Demeter’s Nests by Thomas Zimmerman......................................53 Alcatraz Dormer by Thomas Zimmerman.....................................53 Carl by John Grey..........................................................................54 Well After Sundown by G.A. Saindon...........................................55 Deep Sadness and Its Fluttering Friend Joy by Lindsey Buckley........................................................................56 War Story #136: Flying Over Baghdad with Rachel Contreni Flynn’s Poetry by Paul David Adkins.................57 Stranded by Howie Good...............................................................58 The Red Beach by Thomas Zimmerman........................................59 Bouffants and Razors by Peter Marra............................................59 Brother Knows Best, So Carve Some Hearts and Unicorns by Matthew Dexter.........................................................................61 Toilet Close-Up by Kim Marra.......................................................64 Ratty by John Grey.........................................................................65 Less Beautiful by James Valvis......................................................66 Feel the Sun Spill Over Your Bones iv
by Charlotte McKnight...................................................................67 “What Will You Do to End Women’s Suffrage?” by Paul David Adkins.....................................................................67 Stars by Vinny Carnevale...............................................................68 Open My Death by Lindsey Buckley..............................................69 The Veracity of Certain Demons by Len Kuntz.............................70 Walking New Snow with My Grandson by G.A. Saindon.............................................................................72 Reverse Macro Snow by Vinny Carnevale.....................................73 The Shadow by Thomas Zimmerman............................................74 Over Bodies, Eternal Drip by Lindsey Buckley............................75 Vocabulary by Valentina Cano.......................................................76 “Pistol Pete” Maravich Died Doing What He Loved by Paul David Adkins.....................................................................77 All of Us Await a New Season by G.A. Saindon...........................78 Roll Call by Doris Case.................................................................78 Stylus by Joseph Farley..................................................................79 Jenny & Ethan by Vinny Carnevale...............................................80
G.A Saindon Nothing shows above beyond a rude blue, an old sun and cottonwoods fluttering, hurling the shower of down, seed-bearing pale parachutes assaulting everything. Wherever they light is sere, luckless brown. Here my tongue and reddened eyes alone aware, moist, alive. But down to the bone this land sobs for water. I hear it groan: We need floods of deep, bright rain, a deluge for Noah and his great boat shivering with livestock... just enough to sail the Ark or wash us all to sea atop our useful cars: wet weather, amphibian’s delight, stars snuffed out in soggy mist, trees as ships’ spars asail in liquid air, birds breast-stroking, warped timbers, dogs as sleek as seals, barking, fish wriggling on patios, buoys marking crosswalks, and on the ramps some whales parking. For this and that and rain I pine, again watching clouds scurry along the ledges of a dropless sky as memory dredges up dry scenes, and dreams approach the edges where this wicked reality pushes back hard and hot. Yet, I must tilt my head up with eyes the only pools, edged in red to scan for nascent rain, and smile instead.
The Sun Looking Down on Icarus
James Valvis What kind of nonsense is this? I’ve spent an eternity up here, boiling red, never a flicker nor a moment of insincerity. I give my heat, my light, willingly and ask nothing in return— and today I look down to see this boy, his arms fluttering, his jaw set and determined, his eyes shut tight against my glare. What prompted this imbecile to desire me? What fool gave him flight? What makes this monkey soar? Wings of wax the eons spit upon! Why? Have I not done my duty? Have I let a day pass not saying hello, not greeting him each morning with a warm kiss? Hasn’t our marriage been polite? Look how his legs kick the wind, how his face turns from cheek to cheek, ascending. Does he think, after all this time, he alone will cool my body? Tell me, what creature is this who chooses to fall miles to climb mere inches higher?
Note to My Roommate
Howie Good I found the spoon you took from the college cafeteria. The handle had been bent, the bottom scorched. I was seventeen, and there were only ever short pauses in the incoherent rage of the night surf at Thieves Bay.
Toilet At Sunset
Jason Kalmanowitz Have you ever felt as if your senses have faded? Your body limp and useless, like a used condom cast down the urban sewer? Floating aimlessly down the recesses of Bowery and brothel, free-falling past decades and decades of decay. Glories and tribulations of times past bid you to remember their place, but memory eludes the free-falling rubber. By this inception something exceptional is born from the creatures of the underground. A mutation birthed from the reptilian mothers who drift and dwell among the waste. 5
A body that is not quite crocodilian, not quite Homosapien. As these creatures crawl through the festering pipelines and subways, feeding of the remains of the twentieth century, the current dwellers of the great city dance with joy amidst the blinding light and disorientating sounds of their heroes, and their gods, life-givers who clicked and manipulated the frequencies of consciousness. The room shakes and sways with the sweaty intoxication of late night epiphanies until the mutant monsters take in the scent and burst through the doors of ecstasy uninvited. They are not greeted with the expected response of repulsed horror, but instead are welcomed with drunken glee and a surprise display of clever costume design; gazed at with thick-rimmed wonderment before the tearing of flesh and organ commences and sends the mass in one swift movement up the stairs to the salvation of cigarette musings and discretionary excretion. How could such creatures of comic book fantasy actually exist? Little circles gathered around importantly as they pondered endlessly the obscured images and cartoon cults in the glow of metropolis, where shrieks of terror danced along the moonlight. They stand on the warehouse roof, not knowing why these creatures just kill and kill. With night skirts and leather jackets adorned, they decide to embark on perhaps the noblest of all deeds: preservation of the species! While their crocodilian cousins roam the streets below, buttocks and extraneous limbs glisten atop the warehouse roof until the structure collapses under the tremendous 6
power of collective passion. Floating downward in naked wonder, like Eve as she stood before the tree, they descend past hundreds of empty windows and cigarette drainpipes where there were skate parks, kitchen sink concerts, and parties that continue despite the destruction. Just at the peak of this great plummet a miracle occurs! Instead of concrete the falling bodies hit the surface of a great trampoline conveniently located next to the building, part of an exhibit exploring the “History of trampolines and their Significance to the Urban Consciousness.” As they hit the soft black surface (this particular one was used by clowns during the first Ringling Brothers circus), the mass of naked bodies transforms into a human yo-yo, bouncing up and down to the amusement of the crowd. They cheer enthusiastically, one small victory for humankind! A new beginning, they had all thought, but new beginnings are elusive, like the will of a toddler who drools and babbles incoherent thoughts. The streets are now empty and quiet at dawn, not a single sound or utterance to signify the presence of living beings. Only the hum of machines can be heard softly in these waning minutes as the sun illuminates the dark corners and hollow streets. The neighborhoods that had been shouting and crying songs and laments of its inhabitants are now exposed for what they really are — a collection of mausoleums that have been unexpectedly vacated. Great steam pipes run through the industrial organism like small intestines. Plumes of smoke and smog fill the air, the holy incense that our business-suit predecessors bestowed upon the backs of new 7
arrivals, bound for this great land that once crawled on the spider legs of industry and promise for a tomorrow that never came. There were no whips and chains for these poor souls led into servitude, just bread crusts and blank checks that were never written. All through the night tanks and ammunition blunder about the streets trying to extinguish the bloodthirsty hoards of evil crocodilians. But alas, the willingness to disrupt the sanctity of the city only leads to destruction of both the life that made it breathe on the surface and the creatures that swam stealthy and unknown underground. There is nothing to be learned of this great tragedy, only the loss of one our most precious cities of the East. Someday a new race of land-dwellers will uncover the remnants of trampolines, skate ramps, and unappreciated art and know that there were once prophecies made on the bubblegum cement of our collected knowledge. And they will wonder what it all meant.
The Lives of Rock Stars
All You Need is a Drop of Rain
Benny Alonzo Cates, guitarist and singer of Quack Nation. Started as an underground FM group that eventually went mainstream. Biggest hit single, “Sabotaged Love.” (b. 1956--1998). So my agent is sitting behind this big-assed desk like you think it belongs to some Pentagon official and he’s smoking a cigar, cheap like his fake alligator shoes, and he says, Benjamin, close the door and sit down. So I says, I don’t need to sit down, man, just deliver what you got to deliver straight and fast. Okay, he says, and takes another puff like he’s enjoying the suspense and this crack down on my spirit. The truth is, 9
Benjamin, nobody cares that you’re gay or that you dress like a rainbow, in fact, in this business, being different is what it’s all about. So, like I’m waitin’ for this big fat punch line, like maybe the girlies don’t find you cute or maybe they’re too young to remember Sal Mineo, or maybe your tight red pants is getting them too hot and their mamas have to slap them when they get home. It’s like this, Benjamin. Bill doesn’t want you playing at the Fillmore. He says It’s nothing personal, NOTHING PERSONAL, but he doesn’t think the music you play is music. Call it metal-against-metal, call it angry robot chicken fallout, call it gonzo post punk trash, call it Oliver Twist on Dexedrine, call it retro-beta-wave-neo-post-modern slice of life in E Flat with some angry theatrics thrown in, call it whatever you want. But he doesn’t want you playing The Fillmore. So I’m thinking hard about this. Who the fuck is Bill, anyway? In ten years, he’ll be nursing warm milk with a straw; he’ll be so demented he’ll keep calling my name at night and scream what a mistake he made. So I says to myself, Benny, you gotta start over, man. And when you start over, you must start at the bottom. So I go out, full blaze of summer day, bodies, nobodies, somebodies, drifting nowhere, anywhere, uptown, lowdown, East of Columbus. So I’m bopping along the sidewalk with my seersucker threads and I station myself, MYSELF, in front of these three black gents, all sitting against the wall of a bank, not doing much of anything. So I start tap dancing for them. A one and a two and a buckle my shoe. And so one takes out a harmonica and he starts playing. And another starts marking time, fingers tapping a garbage can lid. And the other starts singing Eartha Kitt’s “Mink, Schmink,” and a crowd begins to gather, little kids trying to copy my moves, leather soles flapping, and the mothers are tossing coins into the hat belonging to harmonica man. And I’m thinking, Fuck Bill. I don’t need him. I’m starting from the bottom. Gonna tap my way to heaven. Jeesus, Sugah! I never heard of Bill! 10
Spitting Stem Like Sugar Mountains
Jesse Ingrim Smith, pop songwriter and ex-guitarist of the post-punk band, June Cleaver’s Mistake. (b. Toledo, Ohio, 1968--) Three women almost gave me a voice. One thumb picked me on cherry summer days, but being so much younger I was out of reach; never recovered from a single wound. The second was all fluttered notes and glissando dives while the boys from Ann Arbor Bay floated straight up. Their hammer-on lives could not stay nailed to the bone. By the time I met the third one, a girl who could see that I was nothing but a switch, a tremolo, and an empty cigar box left around my parents’ home, I became the virtuoso of silence.
Shadow of a Voice
Dr. Kalamity of Venus Shudders. The aftermath of a party to celebrate the kickoff night of The Babes in Whiskey Tour. (b. Detroit, Michigan, 1958--). Come back, little Serena, and rest your lazy-love lips on my rock-hard silence. Don’t let the dyed-blue hair, the wrinkles from smiling at too many happy vaginas, the too-tight spandex and roly-poly bulge, don’t let any of it throw you out the suite. You are sweet. Just give me another wine to forget the other wine, and help me off the shag of floor. I’ll grab the hollow-bodied acoustic and sing you a song about a girl who was as pitch-perfect as my mother’s plastic wind-up doll, named Rosa. When she sang, nothing moved. Nobody talked. My mother, you see, was brain-damaged after the accident. But she loved that doll and she loved a voice that could sing.
Les Richter Jr. Former front man for the Death Metal Band, Lizard-Us-Foreplay. Found dead in his apartment at the age of 56. Cause: Heart Attack. Besides music, he left several slim volumes of underground verse. Girls from a Payless shoe source hanging from spice racks or death by oversexed mechanical poets. Whip my arctic monkeys into shape, they are dying from Vesperian despair, Krypterian tongue-lash, the Lux Occulta thing. You know. You know. My Mayan contacts are predicting an apocalypta, but not before my placebo girlfriend on wax and Rimbaud’s Zombies, who cheats on her taxes, gets in from robbing Wendy’s. Oh, onion ring goddess of charcoal grilled despair, penumbra of slip-shod desire. She’s under suspicion, usually ends her affairs with a blow torch. As for me, Moi dix mois in the desert to dry out. I thank my Saxon witch for not smoking.
Tour in the Middle C of America
Mickey “Jazzy” Carter of The Ambivalent Exhibitionists. Thoughts along the Midwest bus tour to promote the new live album, My Daddy Can Still Rock His Ass Off! (b. Toronto, Canada, 1972--) We’re stopped at a McDonald’s in Indiana or what could be Indiana if this means everyone wears white sox and speaks in low keys. I’m in a back booth frenching and submarine diving with a Korean girl who can’t name a single mountain in California. I ask her to try Indiana. She places a dab of ketchup on my lower lip and laughs like a pulp fiction girl-assassin. Forced and loud. A roadie in the side booth turns and gives me a dirty look. 15
I say good-bye to Pulp Assassin and scribble an autograph on a napkin. I promise to perform at her university, where she is studying Anthropology, and if time warped, she will perhaps dig up my bones, pieces of bus wreckage, and some broken strings from my Stratocaster. She’ll make up some story like, I once loved a singing dinosaur but the time bubble proved fatal. On the bus, body graffiti by Giorgio Hun, who did some walls along East Houston, N.Y. we sleep like bats, but it’s only our heads that hang upside down. In a dream, we’re terrorized by White Aryans with bull necks and bullet-shaped skulls. We’re stuck in some mud and they keep rocking the bus, making monster faces at us, noses flushed against glass. An explosion. A white cloud of smoke. Ten Pulp Fiction Girls looking identical to the one I made out with at McDonald’s have kicked some brutal ass and pushed our bus out of the mud. I jump out, looking for the girl who has my autograph. A bump on the road jolts me back into real time mode. The equipment manager sitting in front of me, who happens to be a vegetarian, turns and says, You got some ketchup on your lip. I don’t know. You kids from Jersey.
The Water Towers of Watertown, New York
Paul David Adkins When she crested a hill and spied the town, its mass of low-slung churches, jumbled brownstone valleys, water towers rising like seven flags planted on the moon, she got the idea of making love beside each base, one per night all week. Monday night she drove him to the tower by the school – Watertown Pride – Home of the Cyclones! His Why are we here? crushed by a kiss. Tuesday by the lumberyard, the dews of heaven dripped inside their windshield. Wednesday. Thursday within sight of the Jefferson County School Bus depot. Friday afternoon, before they parked by the red and white beside the airport, they rented a convertible.
Saturday. Sunday by the spire declaring the city a Tax Free Enterprise Zone. So that Monday, cresting the hill, she likened the water towers to monuments dominating the town, their thick shafts shooting to bell heads pulsing red all night.
The American Dream
Though He Had No Fever
e began masturbating after the baby was born, like clockwork, every morning at 4:26. He tries to be silent, but bubbles rising from the bathtub can never be contained by the parameters of his wife’s auditory threshold. It is during one of these trances of euphoric derangement that he realizes his son is sick. At first the boy didn’t finish his birthday cake, claiming his stomach ached, but when he wouldn’t touch his scrambled eggs or bacon the next morning his mother knew something was out of the ordinary; so the boy said he was sick, though he had no fever. When he refused soup, nachos, and didn’t touch any solid foods for four days, she knew it was time to take him to the doctor. She doesn’t need to drag him out of the race car bed either, because he is strong from the two cartons of Tropicana orange juice he swallows each day. The dried-up pulp sticks to his chin, the corners of his lips. The boy inches through the narrow opening between the rusty chicken fence and the shed where his father sits in his underpants. Testes itching, he rubs himself with a shriveled feather that landed on his head the day before the boy was born. “It’s a robin’s feather,” the man says. He’s told the boy this a thousand times and the boy’s first word was “feda” but the man wants the boy to hear it again. The kid is wearing clean underpants, his favorite pair: with the rocket ship and the pirate flag. The father wears Hanes with a huge hole in the middle which grows larger and more frayed every illness. The man never soils himself, but they have turned an awkward shade of yellow, and he refuses to wear any other pair or wash them, strangely becoming part
of the cold cement which he sits upon sixteen hours a day. The boy’s fingers are imprinted in the concrete and he places them over the memory now as he’s done a hundred times, but he’s always amazed at how small the engraving is, his hands getting wider, his fingers taller, the etchings disappear within him but he can feel the dent, knows it will be there long after the doctor has died and his bones swallow the fibers of undergarments Michael Jordan made famous with his trademark smile. The man looks more like Michael Jordan’s father. ¨I played golf with the greatest athletes ever, ¨ the doctor says. He brags about it all the time. The signed scorecard is thumb-tacked in the corners, Michael Jordan’s signature centered perfectly as if by the electromagnetic gravity of the sun on a bulletin board beside a colored map of the world. The doctor always addresses the boy with this knowledge of his idol from Chicago glory days in the early nineties. The doctor even lived on 23 Toros Avenue, in an affluent suburban house with red shutters before the psychosis began to feed off the wisdom of hairy earlobes. The man starts shaving his entire body while lying in the shadows late at night, talking to the demons in the porcelain streaks that the naked eye can never see, taunting his five o’clock shadow in the foggy mirror. The ghosts battle until the mumbles become loud enough for the woman to wake. Again, he began masturbating after the baby was born, like clockwork, every morning at 4:26. He tries to be silent, but the bubbles rising from the orifices of all corners of his personality can’t be contained by the parameters of consciousness. The acoustics in that bathroom are fabulous, the echoes from the empty crevasses bounce off the vanity mirror and 20
immaculate toilet like magic, a studio 54 secret room similar to the one where the man met his maker. “Can we begin our session?” The old man looks at his wrist where the watch used to be, struggling into a praying mantis yoga pose. The boy gets closer so he can rub the fresh scabs on his father’s legs where the man has cut himself with the rusty razor. “Criss-cross applesauce,” the boy says. It’s the first word the woman has heard about food from her son for days; she looks up as the room darkens and drizzle begins to pelt the tin roof, filling the interior of the doctor’s office with a fresh scent that reminds the woman of California summers. ¨Why aren’t you eating?¨ The boy has lost weight, the woman understands that if he does this for another couple weeks he could trigger irreversible organ damage. His heart needs the nutrients; the boy is still growing and sudden cardiac arrest is always a possibility in this family. The man scratches his ear, looks at his finger, licks it, thinking about the hole in the ceiling that he never fixed; as always it begins leaking. The boy watches as the cardboard in wornout spots begins to darken and bubbles form like greedy vultures. Duct tape icicles protrude, dripping cold water from their tips, growing larger by the minute. The boy was born poor, but he notices the family photos of the early days, in the perfect gold frames with the inscriptions about love and hunger for eternity together. The woman always talks about the revolutions sweeping the Middle 21
East, the need for change. Her Obama “Yes We Can” t-shirt has too many holes to count, so she only wears it on election nights in foreign countries. The photographs of Morocco, France, the Caribbean: she tells the boy all about those places, the strange fading photos of dark women with bananas on their heads, the man with the machete and the donkey that took the woman an hour or more to focus; but the boy only knows the 7.2 megapixel digital camera the man gave him for Christmas. “Take the world with you always,” the man had said. The boy gets a kick from the woman and then opens up to the doctor. He places his lips inside the secret compartment where he goes for confession, freshly showered arms and legs sucking up dust and grime on the floor. The old man moans and offers the boy the sacrament, the same knowledge flows through him every session. “How much are you drinking?” The woman explains the massive juice binge and the diarrhea, but the boy shakes back and forth, unsure of which personality to turn toward, which vortex to enter inside the doctor’s skull. He doesn’t want his parents to know the extent of his disease. The voices inside his mind console with those voices coming from his father’s mouth: the doctor and patient, the Hippocratic Oath enforced by a sling on the ground and a drop of blood on a feather. The water begins to cover the floor and the boy’s mother gets down on her knees, cups her hands, and scoops it up. She begs her son to drink, does the math in her head and counts the broken eggshells on the hotplate in the corner where they tie the voices down on a soiled mattress and listen to the wind as the boy thrashes and the needle feeds him spoonfuls of eggs and baking soda beneath a fluorescent lighter. 22
“It hurts bad.” “Bacon and pancreas and dirty Hanes and an old Dr. J basketball hoop in the corner.” Michael Jordan makes his first appearance as the doctor is placing his hand against the boy’s face to wipe away the tears with the feather. Charles Barkley speaks in the background as a sun shower devours the backyard and the boy jumps for the hoop. The moon rises higher as the kittens gather at the door and stick their tails beneath the weeping wood. The doctor writes another prescription and sends the boy home.
Abstract Painting, Look
y daughter starts hiccuping two days before her twelfth birthday. At first they are barely audible, coming every few minutes, but then their pace quickens, the jolts of choked air getting more expressive, turning into brassy gasps, as if she’s just come up from a long span of being underwater. I ask my wife what we should do. Terri’s prepping for a deposition she will give tomorrow. She flicks her eyes over the edge of a page and says it’s a phase. “Kids have them, all kinds.” Terri is used to being direct, as well as correct. That night I have the dream where I dive off a cliff into the ocean and I’m beneath the surface for hours and hours and even the fish are jealous of my lung capacity. When I wake up, the bed is sweat-soaked, smelling briny. Terri’s already gone because she has drop-off duty and I’m a stay-at-home painter. The phone rings right after I’ve started mixing a new red hue to use as blood where I’ve painted a woman’s slashed neck. I know before I answer my cell what it’s about. Later, at Natty’s school, I know the principal is going to meet me outside his office, just as I know the words he’ll use: “Everything okay at home?” His stare is steel-strong. He thinks I’m hiding something. I feel like punching him. I’ve got paint on my hands and he sees it, noting the resemblance to dried blood. On the drive home I turn up the radio to camouflage Natty’s hiccups. Her eyes go wide and her nostrils flare just before each burst, as if she’s going to explode. When she starts to cry, I flick off the sound and tell her a story the way I did when she was a little girl.
In-between the hiccups, Natty says, “tell me about you and Mom.” I know what she means, but instead I tell her how I was working in a bookstore when I met her mother, how Terri filched a copy of “Infinite Jest” and, instead of turning her over to the cops, I made Terri go out to lunch with me. Natty actually grins. “Nuh uh! Shut up.” “True story.” “But Mom’s a” yick-up! “lawyer.” “She wasn’t then. She was just your run-of-the-mill petty crook.” Natty laughs. I tell her more stories about her parent’s courtship and the hiccups fade as I knew they would. There’s so much I know. When we pull up to the garage, Natty hugs me hard and whispers in my ear, “I saw something.” “I know.” The hiccups return.
Thomas Zimmerman Union Square Marriott San Francisco Slight toothache from this temporary crown can’t stop my worried peanut-munching ways and makes elixir of this wine I down, the heel of last night’s drunken screw-top haze. Tonight, my wife is in the other bed— the two in here are neither king nor queen— so I, this chain-hotel’s Macbeth, my head a-swim with symphony we’ve heard and seen, will be denied the chance to murder sleep with any hapless sex advance. Perhaps the ferry-ride to Alcatraz, the steep Nob Hill ascent to Chinatown, our map’s equivocation took their toll. A pawn in marriage, I will dream as king till dawn.
Louisa’s Last Walk in the Park
She saw a man high up on a ladder and thought how dangerous that looked and followed the journey of a bird and understood how easy it was for flying things to soar over mazes and solve them. A warm, almost hot April and she remarked to a stone wall wrapped in thick thorny vines that the seasons were losing their mind and she watched red winged beetles descend on a patch of new river bank, green like a plague, and there were horses on trails where she had never before seen horses. Was the world coming to an end or was it merely clearing out one way of doing things as she had done in the old house with the gabled roof and the broad high windows that almost seemed to sit atop the twilight and drink from it like an antelope at a water hole. She had never been content then, moving furniture, wondering if that dress was too sexy for her log jam of a body, or if the ones she should be wearing smelt too much of the dead. And there were so many men, hardly a woman at all in the park, not walking straight and steady but spilled like beer cans, some lolling on the grass, one lifting a child high above his head as an offering to the circling hawks. Someone read a book, tearing each completed page from its binding, squeezing it in his hand. Another tossed a colored ball toward the distant skyscrapers, surrendered it to a buffet of floating things, of spinning airborne flirtations. It began to rain and she hid her head but strangers danced in it as if it didn’t matter that their flesh would rot,
as if some prison door beyond the row of oaks had been flung open and they gloried in this desolate freedom. Something rattled in her stomach, a hidden hand clutched a mound of inner flesh, whispered it’s time to go in now. She turned towards the bandstand where a musician picked up his drenched sheet music, slowly slipped his violin into its case.
I Am a Fountain of Soft Products
Les Wicks Why do parrots get the good lines? It’s like their call is frozen in pollen, a stamp, or signet ring pressed onto the board wax of each undecided clay. Taught the bird to say Shut up stupid & with a millet stick she conducts the afternoon. Orderly regress to a new woman’s denim; tiny parade with feelings peeling from the wood frame. Jazz polyester. We promenade beneath nurses, slapstick lords of prayer, howl & swashbuckle. I can explain the secrets of plastic sheets. Fresh Weeks. The crash of our appetites, search for a key with our tight apertures. The regular crew’s on shore leave selling their dignity while the Bee Gees mutter from the flat below. They have defeated the lawn so we set sail from Port Plenty to the Bay of Dust, our small integrities for a bucket.
Run Baby Run
Peter Marra The clothesline hisses in the sunlight. The creatures are hiding in the long grass. Behind the trees a silhouette is laying down to rest; Wet dirt against naked skin – they saw her. Dresses blow in a scalding wind arriving from further on down the dusty road, where the farmhouses wait to be torn down. They wove plastic sin and the webs shook a soothing resonance – vibrations from the core to gently rub her skin, taking her away forever. She doesn’t want to return. She nailed the cell phone to the trunk, laughed as the electric fluids spurt a stimulus, the damages made real for a second. Her turbulent vaginal dances gave direction while the earth wove the sensations.
Abstract Painting, Joy
This Space Between Us
What I Wish for You
Valentina Cano for Odin I hope the air is clear where you are. I dream of it, its sky like windowpanes, crystal and cool, the sun a fluorescent bulb that never burns. The air should smell of cinnamon, its musky scent rubbing against tree bark, the sweetness holding hands with the bitter sap. 33
I imagine you dancing in a twirl of coppers, golds glittering like eyes off your back. I laugh at your face open like a gate, as you see me peek in, a head poking up from under an attic door.
Grandmother, Sylvia Plath and the 1909 Detroit Tigers
Paul David Adkins Since she was born that year, it made sense for me at six to ask if Grandmother recalled the 1909 Detroit Tigers, how Ty Cobb slugged his way to the pennant. I was born in ‘62. For one month Plath and I shared this world of cries and hunger, weather and life. Will a grandson ask if I met her, touched her, saw her read before she snapped in the wind of a British winter? I wanted to know. Will we remember what our children care about–– smell of grass or crack of the bat, a woman three rows down distracted, yawning, asleep. 34
The Sin Jar
he keeps her sins in a jar that sits on a shelf in her closet. To reach the jar, she has to use a step ladder. This adds a tragic pageantry to the task and sometimes her heart will thunder so hard as she climbs up each squeaking step that urine dribbles down her thighs and her knees literally knock and her breath comes out stuttered and sour. She writes every sin down on paper. Some are just strips, no different than a fortune cookie message. Others take up an entire page. She kisses the ink and places the offense in the jar and says aloud, “I am so sorry. I’ll try not to let that happen again.” The jar belonged to her Grandmother Esther. Gran always carried a wooden spatula with her, even when she wasn’t in the kitchen. It was a weapon she liked to beat the girl with when the girl did incorrect or displeasing things. After Grandma Esther died, the girl went through the old woman’s house, looking through every drawer and nook, searching for the origin of the woman’s evil deportment. She found the jar on a shelf, hidden beneath worn boots and shawl-type garments. Inside it were antique, card-sized photographs of ancient people doing sex things to each other. The images did not shock the girl; she became fascinated with the contortion of the participants’ bodies. She wondered over the photographer, what he had intended, what he looked like, if he was someone the girl might know, a relative perhaps. After she’d memorized every lurid image, she burned the pictures in her bathtub, then ran water over the ashes, watching the charcoal chunks being swept down the drain, some
stubborn pieces collecting like gray unforgivingness around the rim. Then she claimed the jar as her own. It smelled of decadence and dust, of dead things that did not choose to die. It gleamed a dull green-taupe sheen. Raised glass spelled out a name and a date. It was the perfect canister to store her misdeeds, her immorality and iniquities, and she had so many to record. Some were her own fault, others had been thrust upon her as she’d reacted in selfish self-defense. She’d started sinning young. Grandma Esther knew that. The old woman was so good at pointing out the girl’s flawed character. The first word the girl had ever learned was Please. The next: Stop. Then: Stop that. Then: Stop that, please! Stop that!! She must not have been very convincing. Her articulation must have been weak-lilted, her words too crumbly, like blue cheese clods. Now she’s given up using words with the bad boyfriends she can’t seem to shake. They see the darkness in her and it’s the very thing that attracts them, sharks sucking down bloody water. Tonight she places another sin inside the jar. She kisses the message with her swollen lips, smearing the ink over new bruises. She says, “I’m sorry for being bad again.”
Clean Up Your Clothes
M. Chandler Rodbro I started in the basement because it was easy. You told me, clean it up and it will be fine. And it was, until you asked me to move upstairs to rearrange the furniture, and to stop dreaming, but that didn’t take. So I am resigned to the sleeping porch, staring out the leaded glass, trying to sort out rooms.
The Ants of Destiny
he was tall, but so what? Tall girls, short girls, skinny girls, any girl would do if she had a certain quality. He would speak to her, then. “Have you been to the exhibition?” “The what?” “I like those shoes,” he countered. “Now you’re talking!” she said. § She worked at the library, and was tall. The latter has been noted, but is worth mentioning again. It is also worth mentioning that the previous brief exchange never actually occurred. But Charles (for that is his name) imagined it might involve blather about shoes and an exhibition of something or other, for he was neither charming nor skilled in the ways of chit-chat. Outside the library it was not winter anymore, and gigantic trees pulsed with the life of many small creatures. Charles sat with his back against one of the trees and hoped the tall girl would walk toward him. Then he might stand and talk to her. He stared at the library entrance. As he stared, large black ants left the tree to crawl upon his shoulders. Since he was wearing a shirt, he didn’t notice the ants until one of them found its way to his neck. At the precise moment that he felt a tickling sensation, just as he was moving his hand to his neck, a colleague walked by and said “Hullo, Charles. Be careful that the ants don’t get you.” §
Charles had a secret longing for cosmic revelation. He kept it secret because otherwise his colleagues would smile at him. They were intellectuals, all of them, hardened by discourse in the classroom and by the rigors required for the assemblage of papers, to be presented at conferences in places like Houston and Orono. Charles had never attended one of these conferences, but on a few occasions had announced lines of poetry—his own poetry—at readings where he was not the primary poet. The bookshelf in his office held the works of deconstructionists and other frauds, but also of Madame Blavatsky and Rudolf Steiner. He hoped they, and not the deconstructionists, were right. He knew of a colleague who literally licked his chops before tucking into a discussion of Lacan or intertextuality. Charles had more delicate responses to things that pleased him, but would certainly feel a flutter in his giblets when paging through The Holographic Universe or some such exploration of the world beyond. Some four hours previous to the crawling of the ants upon his shoulders and neck, and the concurrent jocularity—about ants—tossed at him from the passing colleague, Charles had recounted, to his Dimensions of Literature class, an anecdote concerning Edwin Arlington Robinson. At the MacDowell Colony, Robinson had stood watching one day as a ridiculous young poet threw himself to the ground in a fit of melancholia. While languishing thus, the poet was encircled by his fellow writers, solicitous of his condition. All except Robinson, that is, who said, Don’t worry, the ants will get him. § We may assume, then, that Charles is a professor of English? –Yes. But a poor fish flopping about in the shallows of the tenure stream. Meaning what? His colleagues don’t like him? His work 39
has been substandard? –Not quite. He is thought of as okay. Nothing more than that. Not special. He has no wife to bring to social functions. He is not overly friendly. His student evaluations are so-so. Fresh out of graduate school he published a chapbook, and it was properly blurbalized by half-a-dozen working poets. But it didn’t matter because everyone in the poetry business knows that blurbs attach themselves to chapbooks like blowflies to a dead possum. The chapbook was all he had in him, it seems, because in the last fifteen years Charles has published a grand total of nine poems in three obscure magazines: Floating Spider Review, Dark Hamburger, and Cthonic Boom. Will the girl be impressed that Charles is a poet? And why mention that she’s tall? –Probably not. The girl, Susanna, is a senior and knows the ropes. She has met other poets, has been to a couple of readings and was not impressed. Her height—five-foot-ten—is significant because Charles is only five-foot-seven. He is intimidated by, but also very attracted to tall girls. Speaking of which, why doesn’t he already have a girlfriend? –In addition to being short, Charles is pudgy and baldish, with a splayfooted, ignoble style of perambulation. He lacks confidence. He’s forty-five and starting to decay. Susanna, by the way, is twenty-one, much too young for him. So what happens now? –He is about to write her a letter. §
Dear Susanna, Sometimes you are at the circulation desk, and with gentle hands you process my books for me. Sometimes I see you in the stacks, and we exchange the briefest of smiles. I thought of you today while an ant crawled upon my neck. No, I’m not losing my mind. There is meaning in this. Let me explain. One day the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung was in session with a patient who told him of her dream in which there had appeared a sacred scarab beetle. Presently Jung heard a knocking at the window. A large beetle was attempting to fly into the room. Jung suffered the arthropod to enter. Catching it in his hand, he noted that it was of a species similar to the Egyptian scarab beetle mentioned in the girl’s dream. He also noted that the creature was not usually found at the high altitude of his Alpine retreat. At that moment, so the story goes, Jung formulated the theory of synchronicity, which may be defined as a coincidence so steeped in cosmic import that it cannot be attributed to mere chance. Today I experienced such a moment. I was sitting under a tree watching the library steps, hoping you would appear. I figured it was time for us to have a conversation, and not at the circulation desk with your Argus-eyed coworkers in attendance. While you were in my thoughts, and at the exact moment when the aforementioned ant walked boldly across my neck, a fellow-professor called out to me something about ants. Now—and here is where it gets trippy—earlier in the day I had been speaking about ants in my lit class. Not only that, but I had used the same phrasing that this professor used. Is it possible that he had walked past the room during my disquisition about the ants? No—I checked his schedule; he was himself in class, on the other side of campus. Your part in this mystery is quite clear: had I not been thinking of 41
you, been waiting under that tree for you to emerge from the library, the ants of destiny would not have marched into my life. I am convinced that the Universe is trying to tell me something. I think it is telling me that I should give tongue to the feelings I have for you. This I would prefer to do in person, perhaps in a booth at Finster’s over a pleasant meal of beef tenderloin with anchovy butter, a house specialty I have sampled with pleasure on many an occasion. Yes, this is a rather old-fashioned way to court a lady, but as it happens I am rather an old-fashioned sort of man. Which is not to say that I am not “up” on the latest trends in music, art, and literature. In fact, as I write this letter the sweet strains of Belle & Sebastian fill the air. But I am going on more than I intended. I hope, Susanna, that you will favor me with a reply. I will include my phone number beneath my signature. And of course you can always write to me here on campus. I have never done anything like this before. It feels strange. But it also feels right. Cosmically correct, let us say. Yours faithfully, Charles _____________. § Susannabanana: hey girlfriend Punkerslut: whutup bitch? Susannabanana: omg you wont believe it Punkerslut: tell me! Susannabanana: i got hit on by a prof Punkerslut: finally! you go girl! Susannabanana: no its a real drag Punkerslut: izy cute at least? Susannabanana: ugh no way total dorkhood Punkertslut: sorry to hear whud he do, try to snag you after 42
class? Susannabanana: im not even in his class he sees me at work so he writes me this letter, asks me out for a steak dinner! Punkertslut: holy fuck! dja tell him ur a vegan? Susannabanana: yeah i wrote him back already tried to keep it nice told him i don’t eat meat & i have a boyfriend who plays rugby havent heard anything since Punkerslut: thats gotta be uncomfortable when he comes into the liberry Susannabanana: well, I’ve seen him a coupla times, but he ducks behind the stacks i don’t think he’ll be checking out books while im at my perch hey i made copies of his letter I’ll send you one Punkerslut: do it! § “About Charles ______,” said the Dean, “I feel it would be in the best interest of the university not to offer him a contract.” “I tend to agree with you,” said the Chair, tamping a plug of Red Stag deep into his pipe. “His publications are nil, after all,” said the Dean. “And if he fights us we can bring up that other matter.” “Yes,” said the Chair, trying not to grin. “What a silly business. Definitely unprofessional.” “Definitely,” said the Dean. “We can’t keep a professor around who’s become a figure of fun. What’s the name of that site again?” “Clowns of Academe,” said the Chair, no longer bothering to suppress a grin. “Yes. Well,” said the Dean. “Frankly I think he should sue 43
them. It can’t be legal to publish someone’s letter like that without permission, can it?” “I shouldn’t think so,” said the Chair. “He should sue their asses,” said the Dean. “Not ours, though. We are perfectly within our rights.” “No, not ours,” said the Chair. “You’ll write him an excellent letter of recommendation, of course,” said the Dean. “Of course. An excellent letter,” said the Chair.
Darwin Journeys to The West
Joseph Farley Existence is a random act, the action of wind and waves on infant rocks in ancient seas from which explodes the monkey king. _______________________
The Monkey King is a famous figure in Chinese folklore. The Monkey King is born from a rock shaped like a monkey after centuries of exposure to wind and waves. Wind and water are source and/or carriers of qi, the life force or energy of the universe.
Corey Mesler I found a pair of lips half-buried in the loam of my garden-space. I took them inside. They were so tender, tiny creature with soft wings. I made a pleasance for the lips and placed it near my bed. The first night, as soon as the light was out, they spoke to me. They said, You are godlike. I love you as fiercely as the encircling room round a forge. The next day I returned the lips to the garden and went for a walk. I was hoping to run into Sandra again. I had already broken her sweet heart once.
You Bleed and Breathe the Air
Valentina Cano Morning is not the best time to learn to juggle. The pins, solid enough at first, begin to trail pieces, wood shavings. What trickles out coats your hands in a sticky resin, making you stumble. Making you crack the wood against the floor like readjusting knuckles. Morning asks to be covered up in a shroud while the pieces are gathered, while the juggler paints landscapes of pain. Of all the moments dressed in hot courage, the morning is the only one with teeth. My eyes are lowered like parachutes. The moment sees me. The moment ignores me.
The Book on the Right
should move the book back. The book on the right end of the coffee table. It’s sitting next to a laptop, which is next to an empty cup that once contained lime-flavored seltzer, which is next to a magazine detailing how to stay cool during summer runs, which is next to two remote controls (one black, one gray) which are on top of a blank piece of printer paper that was going to be used for directions to RadioShack. That book. Someone moved it. And I should move it back. It was probably just an accident. Someone set something down, or picked something up, or bumped it while walking by, and it shifted. But I don’t care why it moved; I care that it moved. It was perfectly aligned with the top corner and far right edge of the table. It fit smoothly, outlining exactly the shape of that end of the coffee table, showing all the contours, in case anyone was interested. Now, it outlines nothing and shows no contours. I won’t move it back, though. I promised I’d ignore these sorts of things, so I won’t move it back. It means nothing. It’s just a book. I don’t even know what book. Cookbook, sci-fi, classic: who knows? Could be any book. Really it’s just the book that outlines the far right and top edge of the coffee table. That is, until someone bumped into it, sliding it a few inches to the right. Inches! Not millimeters, but full inches! They might as well have chucked it across the damn room. But it’s not their fault. I promised I’d remember that it’s not their fault. They don’t care about this as much as I do, and that’s normal.
I won’t move it. But they shouldn’t have moved it either. Bumped a book and didn’t fix it? What’s wrong with them? I won’t, though. It’s fine right there. That’s a great place for a book. I’ll leave it there, and that’ll be its new perfect spot. But what if someone moves it from there? Maybe I should just move it back. But I said that I wouldn’t. I promised. And it’s not like my balls are going to fall off if I don’t. But what if they did? Then I’d know I could have stopped it just by moving this one book. Now I’m just making a mockery of myself. That’s ludicrous. My balls aren’t going to fall off because of a book. This book isn’t a machete, or a samurai sword, or a butcher’s knife, or a veterinarian’s scalpel. Nothing this book does can affect my balls. But still, I could just move it. I won’t. I won’t move it. It was so perfect, though. The absolute pinnacle of books on coffee tables; a piece of modern art sculpted solely from household objects. I won’t move it, I think, but my hand’s already reaching.
The Pages of My Mind are Forever Turning
Lusting For Books
Joseph Farley In the hour before training at the union hall begins I wander into Borders and slather over books. My psychologist has told me to curb my appetite lest I ruin my mind, but the desire is still there. I take books one by one from the shelves, fondle them, smell the fresh scent of new pages, clean and crisp as a woman’s perfumed hair, run my fingers over the words like the skin of a paramour, trace the spine of each novel, with tongue search out the sounds of poems. Pent up emotions can find no release. There is no time, no money in my pocket, and no room in my house for more jealous lovers.
Venus of the Corn Stubble
G.A. Saindon December morning stars, Hidden by a sun unseen But heaving his shoulders. Frozen birds, frozen tracks greet The farmer, his tractor and the great Weight of wet, warm manure Steaming and twirling through the frozen air, Blessing the soil, dressing the field. A thick, sultry plume from the wagon Rises voluptuous and tall toward a planet Single in the East, dawn’s beauty mark. She can only turn her head So far before she’ll lose her balance And her constellation, So Venus grits her teeth, grimaces – The swollen, tart mist reaches her Not to be ignored – “How do you like my moves, sister?”
Tonight the basement-window lights across the street have made the neighbors’ house a head that’s buried up to its eyes. A god’s incisors shine through yews that beard the house next door. The apple tree’s the mummy of a Titan that escaped castration. Look: that sparrow dead upon the curb’s a womb of festering life. Inside, the heat has piqued a rhododendron’s long stray ray atop my mother’s hope chest. While you comb your hair, I see your breasts through rustling silks. In the mirror’s eye, you’re cowled in brown-gold bees. My prone torso’s a stubble-field: at your touch, something wild and shiny-crested shudders into flight.
John Grey It’s an old run-down hotel in the Mission district. You’ve been here a year, mostly sitting in your room, sometimes down at the desk signing over checks. It’s strictly flophouse accommodation, with a bed and a rusty basin and a bathroom down the hall. The window is a bitch to open and the view’s a warehouse, empty but for the second floor clinic where first year doctors volunteer. The bulb above you doesn’t work but the lamp on the bedside table does. The main attraction is lying atop the sheet and watching flakes of paint slowly uncoil from the ceiling, work their way to the floor. You’re going on fifty, a mere child in this hotel’s years. It’s seen at least two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, and every desert skirmish since. You even served in one of those though, for the life of you, you can’t remember which one. Nothing of that time remains, not a medal, not a bullet casing, not a letter from an old comrade who marched into hell beside you. All you know is you survived to live another day. Just not this one. 54
Well After Sundown
G.A. Saindon I deeply wish it were otherwise… active under the late October skies are my lilacs and willows: in this darkness one follows the tree line athwart a sky pitch and solid where the forest, which primps close by, presents a veil parting upon my willows bending, starting to move, to uproot and wander the lawn, meeting the lilacs under October’s cooling stars, for what, I don’t know. Let’s just say that I’ve unsettled myself, and as well would see a ghost, a stuttering skull, as find the lilacs sprightly tiptoeing to meet a pair of willows going God knows where. How lilacs talk to willows – I shudder and balk at pondering such improbable scenes: the willows’ voice like echoes in a dream; the lilacs’ like a spring snowfall coolly whispering, I suppose; though I fully expect that this episode will be unremembered when my wits revisit me.
Deep Sadness and Its Fluttering Friend Joy
War Story #136: Flying Over Baghdad with Rachel Contreni Flynn’s Poetry
Paul David Adkins Did she sense her work would fly inside a screaming bird above a broken city? I spotted stacks of bricks below. She feared bodies lay heaped on brick piles dusted with Chicago snow. The piles contain no dead. Here it never snows. I will not be sad – though birds still scream and fevered rotors drum like kettles sealed with taut and beaten hide.
Howie Good I study my reflection in the window of the butcher. The trains that leave the city empty return empty as well. Does the sound of sobbing mean what I think it does? People who were born here exchange knowing glances. Tomorrow’s paper may carry news of a terrible accident. For now, it’s night and raining, and somewhere lovers are blowing smoke rings into the dark.
The Red Beach
Bouffants and Razors
Peter Marra While the desert bleeds she takes a walk and hides her tracks. Like the werewolf in her throat (with a sigh in her eyes) she has time to lick the sky and walk slowly home where it’s waiting: shallow graves, a time to dance. The comfort of bars, smoke womb sleaze, bouffant beauties 59
a beat dance beat beat Sitting on her favorite stool, longing for the long steel crash, she spits sharp knives at the mirror messiah. Taste the broken glass, straddle the shadow miles. She lies down and feels the sun’s rays on her legs. She cradled me, a radioactive pietà. It stayed warm just for us and then it was gone.
Brother Knows Best, So Carve Some Hearts and Unicorns
ist full of cancer pills, Vicodin, aspirin; two empty Merlot bottles on the bathroom counter. Smash them against the bathtub, bleed out, pick up that glass of scotch and chase them down the gutter. The goddamn cell keeps ringing as if the disease is celebrating its final metathesis. Lift it up, hoping it’s the ex-wife offering confessions and condolences. Everybody else has. Doctor said it wouldn’t be necessary to make any more appointments. “Just take it easy, brother, enjoy every moment and relax,” he said. How the hell can a man unwind when he’s out of time? Made love to the emerald irises of the secretary hoping she would pick up the pencil out of pity and schedule something in. She just kept filing her nails, checking out photos of half-naked teenagers on Facebook. “It’s a matter of weeks now, at best,” said your brother, the fancy doctor. Breaking the bottle against the side of the sink, carving a shallow heart in forearm, blood soaking the hairs, answer the cell. “Hello?” “Is this Mr. Warrenger?” “Speaking.” Lifting underpants, sculpting a unicorn in thigh, screwing up the horn after the lady on the other end explains about the accident, the nature of her urgency. What kind of man falls on
his head in the bathroom? No time to figure it out now. Grab a towel; wipe away the blood, meticulous like changing a dirty diaper, slipping into a fresh pair of Hanes. Emergency room swallowing veins like a fancy vagina––frantic nurses, doctors, gurneys with plastic clipboards, starving homeless panhandle outside; the socialists among them sit in the emergency room reading crumpled celebrity magazines stained with coffee. “May I help you?” “Here to see Dr. James Warrenger.” She clicks her mouse, smells of strawberry, polished fingers glitter, typing her symphony, berries linger in bushy nostrils as the hospital makes love to an ambulance. “Room 428.” The elevator is being loaded with equipment. The air smells like hope, heartbreak, everything all mixed into one. A bald girl is playing cards with an elderly nurse. The pulse of the hospital holds the door. Shuffling inside, pushing past pokerfaced X-ray technician with the mustard stain on scrubs, his breath reeking of hot dogs and marijuana, or maybe that’s someone else, that reflection against the door, those wrinkles so clear they swallow opaque like a rock climber in a rising crevasse. Brother’s words echo in idle mind: “You will die, but you fought it longer and braver than any patient in the forty years I’ve been doing this.” The degenerate carnival aroma of Grateful Dead and Nathan’s lodges in hairy nostrils, two nurses squeeze inside, one of them voluptuous; her breasts brush against terminal flesh for the final time, that last encounter with the majesty of a fine-tit woman.
“Isn’t this your floor?” Technician catches the door with his foot, shadows in the hallway become faces of ghosts, of sailors long dead. Brother alive, clipping toenails. Atavistic bastard: bandaged head, amnesia, as the woman said on the phone he has no place to go; the nail from his big toe flicks on top of the machine next to the bed. “You were a brave patient, but, brother, your diagnosis was wrong.” Pick up the pillow and smother him, just do it, nobody will notice. Better to shut the door, unplug his arm from the needle, suck the blood, use your army knife to carve a heart into his ass, watch the puddle grow as he chews into the cotton, and then it’s done. “Lord forgives me.” Walk down that hall and take the stairs. Cancer has its sweaty old man balls in someone’s mouth, just keep shaking them, shoving past that clown with the balloons, nothing more than helium and metallic for babies and birds to choke to death in neighboring counties. Brush past the punk in the Iron Maiden t-shirt with the bloody dishtowel wrapped around his hand, finger in an Igloo cooler of pink ice at the end of a stretcher. The door is open and the clouds are magic carpets that carry the injured and incurable back home to their diseases, to that bathroom and the broken bottles and the blood. The Datsun drives itself, parks in the garage where it seems wise to let the engine run and close the door. But better to enter, pour a drink, unplug the phone, take a piss, and carve some hearts and unicorns.
John Grey The tail grew overnight, whipped the back of my legs as I stumbled out of bed. I rubbed my eyes and thick brown hair sprouted from my knuckles, my palms, my limbs, my torso, everywhere. Talons tunneled their way out of my flesh, protruded from my feet. I looked warily in the mirror. I was all whiskers, long teeth, sharp as daggers. Thankfully, I knew you would always love me despite what I’d become. Hence the piece of cheese waiting for me in the kitchen. Not on the table but floor level where I could scurry more easily. And sprinkled with your special seasoning from the bottle with the X’s on the side. I was a rat but you forgave me.
James Valvis All my life I’ve loved the leaves shining deliriously and how the breathless wildflowers galloped up hills. What joy came from faces, and truth burned me to ash. But my ex-wife, Darcy, was different. Bored, she would demand I take her to a bar, and after I took her, she’d demand I take her home. How desperately I loved her, and how quickly she tired of me. I used to think I wasn’t beautiful enough for her, that she needed someone who collected moonglow in his mouth so that he could kiss her with light, that if I could just be a finer poet she might love me. But now I think it may have been the reverse. She wanted someone much less beautiful. She wanted a guy who liked drinking in bars.
Feel the Sun Spill Over Your Bones
“What Will You Do to End Women’s Suffrage?”
Paul David Adkins
-- British Suffragist Christabel Pankhurst agonized over the term “suffrage” to acquire votes for women. She decided to forgo using the word as it suggested to “ . . . some unlettered or jesting folk the idea of suffering. ’Let them suffer away! --’ we had heard the taunt.” Currently, gag video street interviews show male pollsters encouraging unwitting women respondents to sign petitions calling for an end to women’s suffrage.
We heard the taunts but have forgotten. We endured the cracks but now we laugh – Of course, end women’s suffrage! The boors laugh, too – Of course! 67
Stars It is pointless to point out months we spent in prison, truncheons we endured, cracks to arm and rib.
How bobbies advanced to meet us, bent our thumbs back, drove us to our knees – I’ll give you suffering! Now grinning boys approach with cameras and microphones, clipboards and pens. And women press forward with smiles one could never confuse with grimacing, with pain.
Open My Death
The Veracity of Certain Demons
he demon did not resemble any image of evil the girl had ever seen before. Still, it was just as terrifying.
It came first as a claw near the back of her throat, a scratching of the skin when she coughed, which was often and grew more frequent and harsh until she spat up blood-tainted spittle. The girl’s mother took her to the emergency room. Doctors tapped her and gave her tests, took X-rays, questioned her with their pruned and leery skins. “It’s something inside me,” the girl managed to say, though the demon was at that moment savagely chewing through her intestine. Dr. Wright scoffed, sucking down a chortle and a snot bubble. He asked the girl’s mother out into the hallway. The girl looked at illustrated posters of sawed-in-half heads, mouths, throats and learned the correct spelling of esophagus. But then the demon punched her heart and fisted her down below with a quick pop, and so she kicked, almost reflexively like when Dr. Wright used the medical hammer with the tiny tooth against her knee. She kicked the cabinet and knocked a plastic lung to the floor where it broke open, hollow and clattering. At home a priest visited. The girl had never seen the movie, but she knew all about “The Exorcist” and the actress little girl who spun her head and puked up avocado slime.
Her mother said, “I’m sorry honey. I don’t know what else to do. I’m desperate.” The girl capitulated; this was no ordinary demon. The priest spoke somber incantations in a stilted foreign language. He sloshed her with water labeled as holy. He called on God to strike down Satan. He asked God to turn the demon into swine and send it squealing off a cliff. After half an hour, the satisfied vicar rose from bended knee and pronounced success. “That should about do it,” he said. Many sighs and thanks came from the girl’s mother. Gasps of relief. A nervous smile and a nod. A whispered, “I love you,” to the girl before escorting the priest out. The next night, the girl’s father returned from a trip. “She looks pretty good to me,” he said in a flat voice, the irony only noted by the girl and this man. Her mother smiled, “You are better, aren’t you, sweetie?” The demon reached his hand under the table. It stung the girl’s knee like a smoldering skittle. She nodded and watched the demon at the head of the table flash a brazen wink.
Walking New Snow with My Grandson
G.A. Saindon It can’t matter on a day so bright so uncold and beckoning for tracks: his parents left him no boots. We visit the chickens, the cats, errant birds in branches askew and naked this February. His gloves are my last year’s, useless, but cover his hands to forestall chilling. He’ll have more water in his shoes than we can slosh in our meandering. His tracks are small, close and he’s nearly weightless as the shallow indentations scatter before me. The child is farther than the man for awhile, then he comes tramping and splashing back at me, head down, watching the snow scatter. Chickens unafraid of snow make tracks toward us; the child squeals in fear (they are just 3 inches shorter than he is) or delight (the snowball he made hits its mark). 72
Cats sit idle, wary of the boy, who wants to squeeze and squeeze them. Half a dozen chickadees explode raucously scolding the one cat we missed padding near the tree they contend is theirs. The boy smiles and squishes forward, sure he’s doing what comes naturally. This is joy without frills, without reason, without call, and careless.
Reverse Macro Snow
Thomas Zimmerman The shadow, id of the electric light, might not attract the flying insects, but the crawlers love it well and tell us what our psyches sometimes won’t: that constant, brightwhite, artificial light, when focused, might be fine in public, when we wish to cut a figure, flit about on wings, keep shut our inner eyes, stay blind to deeper sight; but when we crawl in our obscurity, alone with mysteries of sex and death, we feed ourselves a root, a meat, that lets us seed our darkness, with this surety: the shadow gives our psyches blood and breath, enriches us with treasures it begets.
Over Bodies, Eternal Drip
Valentina Cano An idea seemed to melt the door frame in our room. The wood first wobbled, all buckling knees, then toppled over without a single sound. We gazed on, our minds coffee grinders of useless quotes, useless phrases we’ve spat out, dripping, a hundred times. The walls sigh as the idea scratches at them with claws made of sharpened clichés. We think on, oblivious to the massacre, the crumbling bricks, the cursing plaster, watching without seeing, only dreaming our soundless words.
“Pistol Pete” Maravich Died Doing What He Loved
Paul David Adkins Shooting hoops, he stumbled, tumbled to the court. He died doing what he loved, which would be true if his matter started swirling mid-dribble like flakes in a snow globe, friends shouting–– Beam him up! He collapsed like a pressed thumb puppet, bounced his head on hardwood because his heart yanked the plug of his life from his body. He gasped, vomited. This was not what he loved, dying on a cold floor, suffering his teammates’ awkward CPR and frantic rescue breathing, confusing angels with overhead fluorescent tubes. The basketball he mastered rolled from his convulsing palm so easily away.
All of Us Await a New Season
G.A. Saindon Cool amber shine the evening snows at rest; Redwing blackbirds north and northwest of me Bobbing on their reeds, quite impossibly Weightless as those thoughts that with joy are blessed. A pair of sandhill cranes alights so close I hear them mumble; idly nodding low Through Giacometti shadows and thin snow, Gleaning unsprouted corn, that’s autumn’s ghost. These birds and I remark on Spring’s delay, Lingering snow, hurried daylight, and more–– My yearnings like lolling blackbirds sway In a yellow air pierced by Sandhill lore: Calm cranes my patience counsel. Then to pray, Trust, that I can soon sing from every pore.
Joseph Farley scratches in clay indentations, scratches on palm leaves, scratches on papyrus, scratches on bamboo strips, scratchings and brushings and chiseled squiggles, all doodlings that dissolve into words in the ocean of the brain. voices speak in scratches and scrapings. put the needle of the phonograph on the clay plot and listen to the sound of the potter’s wheel turning, the breathing of the craftsman and the shaping of his hands. _______________________
Scientists say the sound of potters making their ware may have been captured in the finger lines of ancient pots, much as an oldtime record captured sound.
Jenny & Ethan