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a monthly submission-based reading series with 2 stipulations:

1. you have to commit to the date to submit 2. you only get up to 8 minutes

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1 year + 12 issues + 12 shows for $100

sparkle + blink 43
2013 Quiet Lightning ISBN 978-1-304-33911-9 artwork Ins Laresgoiti book design by j. brandon loberg set in Absara Promotional rights only. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission from individual authors. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the internet or any other means without the permission of the author(s) is illegal. Your support is crucial and appreciated.
subm it @ qu iet l i g ht n i n g . org

curated by

Kelsey Schimmelman & Evan Karp

featured artist Ins


Set 1

Take Two Deep Play

1 7 9 13 17


Little Green Men Camera Karma Mark America


A Locals Guide to Keeping it Cool During Tom Waits Sightings 25 What It Is 29

set 2
MONETA GOLDSMITH The Vagrant Ghost of Winter


Be Sure to Be Caffeinated Author Bios Literature Should Aspire to the Condition of Rock and Roll

33 38 41 45 49 55


The Giver




A 501(c)3, the primary objective and purpose of Quiet Lightning is to foster a community based on literary expression and to provide an arena for said expression. QL produces a monthly, submission-based reading series on the first Monday of every month, of which these books (sparkle + blink) are verbatim transcripts. Formed as a nonprofit in July 2011, the board of QL is currently: Evan Karp founder + president Chris Cole managing director Josey Lee public relations Meghan Thornton treasurer Kristen Kramer chair S.B. Stokes director of volunteers Sarah Ciston director of books Jacqueline Norheim art director Sarah Maria Griffin and Ceri Bevan directors of special operations If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in helpingon any levelplease send us a line: ev an @ quiet light ning . org



In 2013, Quiet Lightning is teaming up with a different literary organization each month in order to bring together the many outstanding series and organizations of the Bay Area literary world, and to introduce its various audience members to programming they might like but not yet know about. For these reasons, we will create custom-designed shows that combine the defining features of Quiet Lightning with those of each months partner organization. This months collaboration with the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowerspart two of the annual three-show summer series The Greenhouse Effectis the ninth show of our Tour and a return to form: the two-set literary mixtape, selected through a blind process and featuring all forms of writing.
For details on the TOUR T H R OU GH T OWN visit our website:


- SET 1 -



1. [The time has come] It does take more than one. Youve tried it on your own. Not working. Move away from your private adventure in front of the laptops glowing screen. Look up from your soiled lap. Return the toilet roll to the bathroom. A small quiet mess is not a life. Take a chance. Ask Janet out. She is in this world for a short time, like you. See, you do have something in common. People underestimate the similarities they share on account of what waits for them at the end, which is not, by the way, a suggestion to bring it up. Talk of mortality as an opening gambit is pretty much a buzz-kill.

2. [Impediments] I agree, when Janet passes your office desk, she does exude what could be interpreted as a mild case of contempt. It does seem subtly directed at you. I want to emphasize the word subtle here. It is not extreme; it is not hate. Listen, Janet is the only un-coupled woman you know, and whatever way youve been broadcasting your appeal on romance promising websites, its not working. You were shooting for

originality, didnt want to go the walks on the beach trip to the wine country route, but posting a prose poem on the unexpected romance that blossoms from a car-jacking may have been taking the original approach in a worrisome direction, from the point of view of potential respondents. There were one or two, but I can tell you for a fact that the woman you were scheduled to meet last Tuesday at Philz Coffee, the blonde whose dating website name was Sandra, was the very same woman who, when you went up and asked her if she was Sandra, lied, telling you her name was Candace, and that she was waiting for her husband. She was not waiting for her husband. She has no husband. Up until you walked in, it was you she was waiting for. Dont spend a lot of time thinking about this. Lets say initial impressions are not your strong suit. It doesnt matter. Initial impressions are mostly fraudulent. Which brings me back to Janet: she at least knows you. Over the years, shes laughed at one, maybe two of your jokes. Value those memories. Read things into them.

3. [Doubts and possibilities] Janets not involved with anyone, hasnt been for years. Her volatility, her high-decibel rages may keep men at bay. I know youve been on the receiving end of those, but you were missing deadlines, and she is on the Company Leadership Team. She has a job to do. Ask her out, both your clocks are ticking. She might want kids. After a while you can talk her into an anger

management class, especially if she wants kids. You dont want her going ballistic on the toddlers. Perhaps shes great in bed, whatever that means. Youve heard it said. Its brought up everywhere, but youve never had the nerve to ask someone for a definition. What you know so far is this: if a woman takes off her clothes and gets in bed with you that pretty much comes down to great. The great in bed sentence bandied about so casually by so many who, frighteningly, may in fact know what it means, makes you anxious since no former girlfriend has ever described you that way. Lifes a risk. Another person is a nerve-racking proposition. So what? Just ask. At a minimum youll surprise her. She could use a surprise.

4. [And then] You are by the water cooler with her. You planned it. Good work. She got back early from lunch. You didnt go to lunch; you just waited. You kept getting up from your desk, peeking into the hallway, praying shed be back first, praying she was one of an ever-increasing number of people focused on hydrating themselves at regular intervals. Youve skipped a lot of lunches waiting for this to work out. And shes back way early, fifteen minutes or more. The office is quiet as church. What are you doing here? she says.

You never noticed before: she has a small gap between her front teeth. How could you have missed that? Its terribly appealing. An opening where you didnt expect to find one.
P e t e r Bu lle n

Youre not going to believe it, but I want to ask you out, you say, taking pride in your moment of valor, no matter how tentative it might sound. Janet looks at you as if she were studying a very unusual plant; one she has never seen, and does not know the name of, but that has somehow suddenly popped up in her garden. The fact that time is passing by and she has not said the word no, or started screaming at you about the utter disregard for the standards of the workplace you are demonstrating, by your dreamy trance-like staring at her front teeth, and your bizarre request to date her, this very fact, along with the stunned silence the two of you share, has your body begin to respond as if in fact she will say yes, as if at some inevitable time in the future, this fearsome and attractive member of the Company Leadership Team will be treating you to undreamed of sights and experiences.

5. [Home free?] The two of you are at her place. You think the risk of failure (which is the risk of life, isnt it, every minute?) is lower. You have made it from the water cooler to her actual home. You are through the door. Its true she did have a cocktail at dinner, but she appears in charge of her wits. You must be likeable, you must be of interest. Surely you are not through the door solely on the strength of one quickly consumed alcoholic beverage. Janet is on the Company Leadership Team. She is a substantive person. Mild inebriation would not diminish her character, or reduce her standards,

although it may lower her expectations, which would not be so bad. Not long after you enter her habitat, she sits comfortably down on her beige Italian leather sofa in her spare but tastefully appointed living room, kicks off her shoes, and curls up her legs. Because you are in her house, because she has let you in, you are, lets say, newly entitled to take a seat beside her. On account of such mounting evidence, there is an understanding that there will be a kiss. Something has to come next.

6. [Flashback] You remember the beginning of this kissing business, how you stumbled into it at fourteen. Youd lived a sheltered life, and certainly hadnt imagined it to be the way it turned out a welcomed entrance into the watery dark cave of another persons complete and total mouth, an exploration of mystery and delight, possessing an ecstatic quality, one more astonishing than a triple scoop of ice cream with an open bar on toppings choices. At that tender age, it was inconceivable that a girl who had initiated you thusly, and provided safe passage into her extraordinary cavity, from where at other times her sardonic teenage sentences were launched with aplomb, that that same girl, who had ushered you into a realm, and onto a ride more exhilarating and transcendent than any dreamed up by Disneyland, would be bestowing much the same rapturous treatment on an entirely different boy a mere two weeks later. Adult pain made its
P e t e r Bu lle n

first showing. It hurt like hell. You told your mother. She showed no sympathy.

8. [The Present] And now just shy of middle age, you discover again a magic you assumed had long since expired, killed off by the adult reality of too many choices, meaning specifically the choices all four of your ex-girlfriends made after sampling you, because tonight your tongue, the tongue that is uniquely yours, the one that came with your body, has been given the right and privilege to pay a visit to that heart-stopping little gap between Janets two front teeth. Take a bow, fella. You begin again. Every feeling of defeat, every oddly written and possibly ill-advised dating website personal profile, every petty humiliation suffered at the hands of desire, every lonely, and basically unimaginative sexual fantasy youve subjected yourself to, will vanish into forgotten dust. Heres what you will call it You will call it the past.

Watch Peter Bullen read "Take Two"



When I was a kid and I had friends, we used to play until the streetlights came on and we had to go home that was the rule. Or else I risked my mom ringing an old ship bell attached to our fence and yelling for me to come home, as though we were living her childhood and not mine. This type of anachronism is never more humiliating than when its perpetrated in front of the neighbors. My parents bought our house when it was on a field, with field mice and rabbits and gophers and all that. By the time my friends and I were playing on our block the field, built over with houses and condominiums, was reduced to one or two vacant, overgrown lots, and one sprawling cypress remained a dark shelter for bats. At dusk, before the streetlights came on, the bats would be out looking for insects. The game was to toss small pebbles, bits of gravel, really, high enough to attract the bats before falling back to us, where we watched them flit and give chase to counterfeit June bugs. Simple ways to keep the dwindling time in play. For a moment, the span of a kiss, say, they might meet, like bocce balls, tangential, but always falling away from each other, one up, one down.

Perhaps in that moment I wanted it to be a bug, or at least for the bat to catch it, throw it back to me. Who knows what a bat thinks? But my small disappointment must have been shared, a tiny sigh in the failing light of a soft parabolic brush off. Still, its got to be better at least it could be no worsethan feeling like youd caught yourself a good June bug only to find that, after all, it was just gravel. * I believe this was exactly what Clifford Geertz would call deep play, had he been to my neighborhood to see the bats rather than cockfights in Bali.

Watch Ginger Buswell read "Deep Play"




We lived beside them, across from them, underneath them. We heard their footsteps at night and their car engines revving in the morning. We heard them laughing, crying and fucking. Sometimes two of these actions at once, but never all three at the same time. They were one man and one woman, both skinny, always disheveled. We saw what they were wearing above the waist, but never below, since our apartment windows looked up diagonally to theirs. Sometimes we wondered if they were always naked from the waist down, Porky Pig style. They wore lots of hoodies. Sometimes they wore the occasional ironic bow tie or string of fake pearls, but only on Saturday nights, and only after payday. Those were the nights they went dancing. They were cheap, after all, our neighbors. They cut each others hair under a bare light bulb in the kitchen, for Petes sake. They always held hands when they went outside. When we ran into them on the street, we flashed each other our usual expressions: theirs a cocky grin, ours a regal nod. They squeezed their hands tighter together when they saw us. To them, we were a portrait of love aged well, a grey-haired, wizened version of the smiling bride and groom perched atop a wedding cake.

They probably made fun of us, a doddering old couple in our threadbare sweatpants and our Birkenstock sandals worn with socks. They could see into our apartment too, and from their angle, they only saw us from the waist down. Thats love, they surely said to each other, as they watched us sweeping floors and scrubbing countertops, wordlessly moving out of each others way, our ordinary movements so practiced they had become choreography. We saw our neighbors as surrogates for our kids, now grown and moved away. Since our kids only rattled off sanitized versions of their lives to us on the phone, we pictured that their every day existence was similar to that of our neighbors: windowsill planter boxes full of neglected and desiccated herbs, a recycling bin overflowing with craft beer bottles, ignored student loan reminders littering their mail slot. And because the neighbors reminded us of our kids, we liked them. One winter, a third person entered their sphere. A blonde man with a beard, who only came over when the woman was home alone. The woman and the blonde man moved urgently, hands groping, kissing ferociously, from kitchen to living room to bedroom, and then the blinds would snap shut. This carried on for about a month. We watched nervously. When the original couple was home, the woman shrunk into herself with folded arms, avoiding her boyfriends gaze. The affairs became more frequent and more ravenous. One time, the woman and the blonde man forgot to close the bedroom blinds. We popped some popcorn

and opened up a bottle of wine for that one. Just last week, we returned from a matinee downtown when we saw the original couple in the kitchen again. The man sat at the breakfast table, his head in his hands. The woman was crying, gesturing towards him. All he did was shake his head. Finally, he got up, went to the hall closet, and came back with several cardboard boxes. Now the sounds coming from their apartment are the clanging of objects, the crumpling of newspapers, and the occasional sob. We ran into them on the street yesterday, but not together. The man and then the woman, several blocks later. Neither one of them will look us in the eye anymore. They walk briskly by, as if they are embarrassed, as if they have failed us somehow. We want to tell them. We want to tell them that our decades together have been punctuated by our own blonde men with beards, or women with champagne-colored eyes. Intruders like tornados who ripped through our lives and left us, broken and reeling, among the wreckage. We want to tell them that with all our automated motions of cleaning and cooking, there is as much distance as closeness. That when we lean into each other on the beat-up couch to watch TV, we settle into the soft warmth of resignation. But we wont tell them. They would never believe us, because they dont want to.

Watch Elise Hunter read "Neighbors"

Eli se H u nt e r




DTs, Uncle Mike, 28, is saying to father, 12. Delirium tremors. This is what he gets coming off the booze. Theres something on the TV. Theyre sitting on opposite ends of the cream-colored couch, watching. Outside, an Indiana summer, hot and humid. The front door is open. Coming through the screen door is the smell and push of the hot, moist ground. Theres a small fan on the floor in the corner, whirring. Uncle Mike has a cigarette between his fingers, that arm resting on the hard arm of the couch. Theres an ashtray with three butts in it, and a lamp on the end table. Grandma doesnt like the smoke, but shes nowhere to be found. Grandpa is working his shift at the steel mill. He always does his smoking on the porch. Let me tell ya, Uncle Mike continues. Hes talking to the TV. Every once in a while father snatches a look at him. He is tall and a man and pretty cool. Its not the DTs I mind so much. Its those little green men. They pop out of the toilet. They hide in the closets. They follow me around. Theyre hyper and mean. Have you ever heard anything like that, Johnny? He looks at father who, because he had thought he would remain pleasantly unnoticed like the upright piano against the wall, jerks his head to Uncle Mike like someone caught in a crime. Uncle Mike holds

fathers eyes for only a second, just making sure he still has the company, and then throws his head back and sucks long and hard on his cigarette, slowly blowing the smoke out into the room. It at first hangs in the wet air, preparing to dance. The air from the fan pushes it as if over a cliff, and away it goes. Let me tell ya. You dont wanna. No, father replies to the TV. Cant say I have. Just like a cool, grown man. Uncle Mike turns from the TV again, looks down at father sitting with his legs stretched out and ankles crossed, arms across his chest in the way he would, decades later, hold himself as a grown man. Uncle Mikes non-smoking arm has been stretched out across the back of the couch, riding its gentle mid-way hump, but he lowers it and palms fathers shoulder. Cant say I have, Uncle Mike says in a frigid smile that flattens and lengthens his top lip into one thin line. His teeth appear from below this line, as if exposed genitalia. What is it that you know, Johnny boy? Huh? You cant know hardly anything. The laugh he shoots to the ceiling sticks there. Father uncrosses his legs and arms, pushes himself way back into the crease of the couch back. Theres a commercial on, but he doesnt want to look at Uncle Mikes face, prefers instead to gauge his presence there from the whites of his eyes. Uncle Mike still has his palm on fathers shoulder and, this time, shakes it. You listening over there? Uncle Mike says. Wanting a drink is like wanting a drink. Its like

nothing youll ever know. Uncle Mikes cigarette has burnt down to a nub. Father has been watching the tender fire slowly incinerate the thing, leaving behind a precarious column of ash that maintains its shape as a lie does: effervescent, mocking, winsome. It will singe Uncle Mikes fingers before Uncle Mike can get another drag, he thinks. Uncle Mike, though, sucks in the last of the tobacco and crunches the hot thing into the ashtray. Father lets slip a heavy breath from his nostrils and slumps his shoulders in relief. Uncle Mike lets fathers shoulder go. He lowers his ankle from across the knee of his opposite leg, puts both feet on the ground, bends his long legs, and stands up. Father thinks that he just about touches the ceiling. Im hungry, he says. Ill make us sandwiches. In front of the TV, they eat bologna sandwiches on white bread with Miracle Whip and pickles. They drink Coke. They let the crumbs fall on their pants and sweep them off. Afterward, neither one of them has any hunger at all. Were like angels, full like this, satisfied, Uncle Mike lights up another. Its like being completely free!

Watch Sommer Schafer read "Little Green Men"


Somme r Scha f e r



Cosmologies rub primordial hollow Passion parades, pradas a drop


A meteoric hell dress rhapsodic judge

A beautiful two-dimensional woman Made of metal, cut from her Beer, spirits the wall

A rip in my pants, pain of my peers, I reap, reappear, go on, ignore

I am Lady Poverty Lazy pottery, Poetry is poverty, only the v lost the flock of birds unconsciously

Pure doubt and yet the most true Your porch and the tree That stands alone yet splits the view

Youll be the master of illusions in a broken down neighborhood with terrible tools

Whose ocean are you in the blue of fireman eyelashes?

I was built in a brain building I was built from the suns romantic clumsiness mask of no sadness, only endless Sendedness, holy potentiality, luminous blindness, homely lettuce cup, tears in the lettuce Across from the commons, I am a woman Son of a sovereign, below the invention Of the distance of writing

I took the horror honor watercolor save her


Watercolor access, water, color, water, color Water call her happiness headlines nullify Knowledge lullaby of appearance as terror

Cars are ugly Telephones are vulgar

What you do with words is she. What you hear from time is they. Without alms, napalm plans Museum ridge of open eye

Ampersand, a little boy

Anemone, name me enemy A viciousness, vicissitude so compelling Between the wheat-stalk swaying, in the warmth of a southern intonation

Alana Si e ge l


I could not accept your invitation It rose up like a stalk Between pain and pleasure

David said: Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law (Ps. cxix, 18).

Red orange yellow green blue indigo violence; Sunset teresas; I saw sin as in s; A wild hydra harlequin; I rarely leave the forest; I cant be away from trees

Diagonal roots agonize praisesparrow seed sextile mesmerizing daisleaves, wings, Tangerines tapered, folded back like spikes

Well go for a walk means well make peace

He was a glass blower, slept in the snow Walked through underground gold brick tunnels


The motion is cylindrical, not realizable

Under the quiet of a lonely oak tree in the opaque recognition of mortality as measure Continents are contents, are land mass, confine me A sculpture born of scorn inhales a beauty, prolongs the world

Sober kindness heavy I dojo dialecticbright white ball lights hang from steel sticks Miasma Wicca civil court waiting ravenously for the walking silver man to cross the Grumpy river

Accordion joy or folkloric blue, was there ever a world faint red umbrella?

Once youre a poet, youre a poet foreversmuggle reincarnation from the mad mans Mouth on the closed down street; evasive pandemonium of loneliness or ignorance

Alana Si e ge l


Vertiginous anonymous evasive miscellaneous No social strata, her clothing does not fit her, viaduct decision, wait in line for knowings Beinga clef confirmation; middle heat, middle world

Clouds convergejaws A creature of the sky, begins To learn how to Descend into Her mind

Opheliado I feel?

Ghostly apparencies of patterns and their parentage nameless plumbing at the bottom Of the buildingcoins convert the chatter of their wishes, a circus of small talk peppered By, exalted by, tall ceilingsintentional acoustics of futilitythe cost of wine is


Shes missing her father, her door into knowledge, We overcome with splendor all Appearances as other

Language stole my age, stole my heart, stole my life Time is my wife She shines

Watch Alana Siegel read "Camera Karma Mark America"

Alana Si e ge l


When youre on a first date at the local steam-punk festival, it is appropriate and necessary to jab the outof-towner youre with in the ribs, snatch his camera and shove him aside when he attempts to solicit Tom Waits for a photograph. Explain that around these parts, we have an unspoken code: The first rule of a Tom Waits sighting is to not acknowledge youre having a Tom Waits sighting. When the date says, I loved that dude in Mystery Men. I love his acting, ask if he likes his music. When the date responds with I dont know. Ive only heard a little, walk away. Wonder what in the fuck youre doing at a steam-punk festival with this tool in the first place. Wander across town to a dingy bar, play San Diego Serenade on the jukebox, and weep over your bad fortune with men. At some point, you and Tom Waits will end up regularly dining in the same restaurants and pop-up diners. Resist the temptation to barge in on his family dinner to tell him how driving home through Humboldt County one night, with the kids and a soon-to-be ex boyfriend sleeping in the car, a pirate radio station played Watch Her Disappear as you maneuvered twists and turns through towering redwoods.



Dont exclaim, across the restaurant, how those twoand-a-half minutes were the only decent moments of your road-trip. Enjoy your meal and prepare for the sense of panic that will come when your editor mentions his presence at one of these eating establishments in an upcoming article. You wont see him there again for a very long time. But it will all be OK. Have patience. When you bump into Tom Waits at the local Apple Blossom Parade, do not attempt to remove or otherwise fondle the buttons on his denim jacket. Resist the urge to reach out and touch the disheveled curls peeking out from under his hat. Be confident in knowing that others before you have told him that Tango Till Theyre Sore is on their Top 10 list of all-time favorite songs. No need to accost him and proclaim your love as he attempts to secure the lid of his coffee cup. Be cool. Your friend, who works as a personal assistant for Tom Waits, might show up at your clothing swap with a bag of his things that were meant for Goodwill. This is the only instance you are allowed a complete starstruck meltdown. Take his blue and gold tie, breathe in the faint scent of coastal air and eucalyptus and diesel fuel. Believe he wore this while bro-ing out with Bob Dylan. Put on Big Time and do a little dance. Cry when your friend snatches it and gives it to her loser husband. When you spot Tom Waits seemingly speaking to himself in a crosswalk near your favorite coffee shop,

dont pull over and interrupt. Refrain from blabbering on and on about how Blood Money came out at a brutal time in your life, how All The World Is Green was the theme song to the most epic heartache you ever experienced, how you listened to it at least 837 times when you grieved the death of that same person who devastated you, how youd put the kids to bed at night and sit in the dark and sob. Know that in this moment, as Tom Waits crosses the street in front of you on that gray autumn morning, that he is likely channeling the lyrics in a yet-to-be-written song and they are forming on his lips in that very moment. Sit at the stop sign, let your eyes meet his for a brief, divine moment. Listen to every song on his next album. Guess which one you helped him to bring into the world from behind your windshield. Look up to the sky. When you bump into Tom Waits not once, but twice on the stairs at the premiere of Silver Linings Playbook at a local film festival, accept his apology and offer him popcorn. Dont suggest that Diamonds and Gold should be in the imaginary movie youre making about your life. Know that laughing and crying in unison with Tom Waits, as he sits a few rows away in this Mill Valley theater, must mean something big, like the time you reached out your hands as the Dalai Lama walked by at that talk in Tucson. Like in those rare moments when your mind slows down and opens up to the words you need to be writing. Know that wherever this dude goes, there is some divine presence accompanying him. And tell yourself, for whatever its worth, that since youve come in such close contact so
Dani Bu rli son


many countless timesand kept it so incredibly, patyourself-on-the-back cool over the past two decades, that maybe some of his magic will rub off on you, as well.

Watch Sarah Griff read for Dani Burlison, "A Local's Guide to Keeping It Cool During Tom Waits Sightings"




you said youve never wanted worshippers but thats what humans do, said I, we worship one another and thats the way to love our God there isnt any other of course you change the subject Ive come too close again my coarse need too raw Ive gone off course and showed for a moment my open adoration we mustnt be afraid to worship at the altars of our needy selves God comes to us in need His and Hers and ours clinging together singing songs of celebration

the rooms of our hearts are temples for one anothers images this is not idle worship but the only way out of hearts empty cell that hell where the fool refuses the work of God construction then says there is none I will have you to worship love faith in each other is the only faith that signifies not the preachers lies nor the frozen dogmas of the dead nor all the efforts of the head which can no temple be the heart will have its lord and so it is with me

Watch Charles Kruger read "What It Is"


- SET 2 -




At the close of last nights reading, the artist inside Gatsbys Books came tearing outside, crying Someone bought one of my prints! I cant believe it, someone bought one of my prints! I happened to be standing besides this young lady at the time, half-pretending to smoke a cigarettesomething I often do when I dont have anything to say to people, trading down one form of malaise for another. And so I stepped forward into the streetlight, valiant knave that I am, and I told her, I am the one who purchased one of your precious prints. You!? the young woman said after a lengthy pause. Theres really no need to thank me. It was nothing, I retorted, scarcely masking what little modesty I could pretend to muster at the moment. I-Idont know what to say, she sputtered out at last. Please. Dont say anything. Your works are statement enough. More than enough, in fact. Oh! Do you really think so?

Let me tell you, I should know good work when I see it. You see, I studied pickiness at the Sorbonne, with a specialization in distinction. That so?

I was ABD, no lessthats All But Dissertation, in case you wonderedand the only reason I didnt go all the way with it was because I was dissatisfied with the works on offer at the time; the Italian Renaissance can be such a bore. I found all those church-boys, frankly, to be sowell, a bit pedestrian. Anyway, I couldnt find a third reader who was up to my standards. Now then and here I paused as if deciding whether to continue, then did. Now then. Let me speak a word or twoif I am permitted to be so boldabout these works of yours. These works, and here perhaps I laid it on a bit thick for the benefit of the growing crowd, as I admittedly became riled by the sudden attention of so many eager and indifferent twenty-somethings in such a compressed environment, all of them standing around in an imperfect circle, composing the very picture of effete cosmopolitanism that I had so come to cherish as a fledgling and emotionally arrested adult. I continued: These works, I feel, are enough to make the walls appear naked without them; they are enough to make our twilights raw and even the most exquisite diets suddenly sugarless (by contrast). These works are enough to be swallowed whole, coughed up later on,

and still their mystery would remain in tact. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that looking at these works I feel that the faces of the masses will sag like tenements in their presence, overwhelmed by their immense grandeur and secret horrors. Id like to be the first to declare that these works are enough to cure all the major ailments and minor irritations of our humdrum livesthe disease the greed the evil of our generations Great Unrealized Yawn (yours and mine, lets not go mistaking pigeons for parrots now). And these works are the yawp above the rooftop that the birds have been waiting for with bated bird breaththeir final permission perhaps to migrate onward to a new day. Thats no accidental metaphor, either; for these works are the swelter of ascent, the very embodiment of the future is contained in their canvasesand, let me tell you young lady, that future looks bright, untainted and pure from where I am now standing. And I dont exaggerate when I say your art makes me want to move to Morocco and raise Bantam chickens; they make me want to write a best-selling novel in order to earn enough dough to buy the rest of your compendious oeuvre; in fact, I want to take them home and spray them with the stuff they use in the military on their finest steel and ships, and then go and stash them away in the declivity of a mountain someplace for posterity, for preservationfor the kids! These works appear effortless, as if they had no ambition, other than the truth; and Ill tell you another
Mone ta Goldsmi t h


thing, my friend, they have a divine and pleasing quality, a dark and underlying enigma to them; in my humblealbeit totally expert and specialized opinion, these works are what might happen if Tim Burton were to beat up the mustachioed ghost of Salvador Dal by throwing him down an escalator in a Suburban shopping center. Have you ever observed a cricket slide along the sewers beneath the glimmering streetlights? No? Well, these works have that quality to them, their slender poetry all the more dangerous for being unsuspected. I fear if I stare too long at these works, they will take up residence in my sweat glands, behind the eyelids, just to prove the honesty of my reaction to them. They look like you might have extracted rare specimens or bruises from such a spectral encounter, and placed them in their proper context at last; the kind of feat that could only be performed with the tenderness and precision of a surgeon who operates on fractured mosaics from the Byzantine periodplaced them at last in their proper context; and then, thenI dont know what I had meant to say here because I no longer recall how I began this sentence, but I shall set this straight right after I blow my nose... Yes, right. Young lady, as I look closer now, I have to tell you I feel these works provide the unforeseen sensation of dancing on a mountaintop with a circle of Bavarian monksas if in a dream, when the hour of sunrise endows the sky with a tangerine hue that may or may not be accomplished with the use of CGI, so

that mystics with their holy butter and their chanting beads might discover new shades of the color orange in one anothers faces, and appreciate their friends just a little bit more from that point forward. I hope you understand me. I mean this as a compliment. I am very fond of mountains, and monks and even CGI. Anyone who evokes all three of these things for me at once deserves all of the blessings and accolades that I might be rich enough to shower down upon them. Um, okay. WellI dont know about all that, replied the artist, after another lengthy pause. This stuff for me is just my anxiety burned on to the canvas. Thats all. Well keep having anxiety, my friend, I said. Enjoy the donut money.

Mone ta Goldsmi t h


///You sent me a picture of your coffee the other day. A phrase was printed on the cup that said: Life is short, stay awake for it.

You know what gets me about these phrases printed on coffee cups? The fact that they put any two phrases together they feel like (algorithms for every feeling): Children are small. You should overpower them. Cancer is real. You might as well crush pigeons. Then they ship them out to hundreds of thousands of people (algorithms also); and all of them are grammatically correct, the people and the phrases. Like I said, algorithms for what they feel like. But that doesnt make it alright. ///When I drive you to the airport, it is as if the world is suspended; its as if all the apparatuses, the processing mechanisms of perception are in suspension. You would never know this by looking at me


I begin to construct phrases in my head according to a private algorithm: Life is sad, you might as well have fun. Life is fun, so be sure to be caffeinated. I am a connoisseur of despair, you mustnt belong to me.

When I drive you to the airport we pass a billboard for an Internet dating site that says: life is short, get compatible. I feel lucky that your head is down digging for something in your purse. Three things occur to me about this phrase that I do not share with you: i. My apparatuses of perception were probably different before the Internet and Internet dating. ii. I am an enumerator of phrases, someone who makes up new words and phrases. iii. The only people who create new words and phrases are the people who suffer from emotional/intellectual sterility. ///At home. Aflabby burritos on the counter that you left. I try not to look at my own reflection. All my poems are tombstones now that youve read them,
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thought about reading them, then didnt then did(?) My bedroom is a sterile laboratory, vaulted like a church. I say the word fuck into the room at a moderate volume. My voice resounds, shame upon shame. I nearly catch sight of myself in the kitchen window. I turn away. Something occurs to me about this. A phrase comes back to me, another phrase I do not share with you: I am an enumerator of phrases, a flabby burrito is the opprobrium I deserve. And all my poems look like hanker-chiefs that I want to blow my nose with. All my poems look like butterflies wriggling on the wall; they dont know that they dont belong.

Watch Moneta Goldsmith read "Vagrant Ghost of Winter" and "Be Sure to Be Caffienated"


Author Bio Cate White grew up in the woods, isolated from other children and culture. She had mystical experiences with plants and animals and an imaginary friend named Donny Blue who lived in poverty. White showed him her things proudly. Snipping scissors caused her pain because she imagined that she was injuring microbes in the air. White once accidentally stepped on a salamander that was under the plastic tarp covering the wood pile. She discovered it with a white cartilage-like material jutting out of the side of its head, but it was still aliveshe could tell by the light in its eye. She put it in a box with some petals off a camellia bush. The next day it was GONE. She went through a phase where she was into Jesus after this and wrote this song: Once I went to Bethlehem town And there I saw the newborn king. Then he went to heaven. I wish I could go with him. There wasnt a chorus.


Author Bio Cate White graduated from a small town high school in 1989 as valedictorian. She gave a plagiarized speech about education and democracy. Throughout her adolescence, she sneaked out for crank-snorting trysts with a 30-year old married redneck man. They did it in the cab of his GMC Jimmy. He smelled like sawdust and chainsaw smoke because he was a logger and he had steel toe boots. He said her speech was boring, which it was. During the speech and the entire day and night of her graduation, she had a urinary tract infection (UTI), which made her feel like she had to pee constantly, which you would know if youve ever had one. Some doctors call UTIs The Honeymoon Disease because you get them from having frequent sexual intercourse. She has never been married. Author Bio Cate White went back to a coke dealers motel room alone with him one morning after being up all night smoking coke. The madness of Looney Tunes played on the television set. He fell asleep as he was trying to molest her, which allowed for her getaway. She graduated college and read The Dharma Bums. It was then that she decided to live in a van. Shortly after, White came to the end of the rock of crystal meth she had been nursing for a year and moved to a cabin in the woods to try to write. During the following eight odd years, White would be troubled by many things. There were some decent times with boyfriends who took care of her. She also returned to chewing Copenhagen, which facilitated her ability to focus. She made little

visible progress by societal standards. Author Bio Cate White had a fantasy about a pair of light blue corduroy pants that would make her feel confident and complete and able to achieve her goals. In 2002 she found these pants at Ross and moved to San Francisco. She was unable to eat and maintain the fit of these pants so she stopped eating. Then she started eating again and ate a lot of fattening food starting with a ham and cheese croissant and never wore the pants again. White tried to live on a boat but felt too ungrounded and ate more food. White found someone fatter than she in a 350-pound man from the streets. She lived with him until his drug use and her neediness became incompatible. At this point White became the woman in the neighborhood who throws her mans belongings over the balcony into the front yard, including a queen-sized mattress and box spring which, in a show of superhuman strength, she wrangled through the house and over the railing all on her own, after which time she fell in love with the mechanic whod been right under her nose all along, smoking crack in a van, and who made a miraculous recovery in order to rise to the occasion of loving her. Throughout these later years, White tried to express herself creatively because there were two weeks shortly after 9/11 and a short time after she read The Dharma Bums when art seemed like the ticket. White drives a well-maintained 1998 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner and continues to try to express herself creatively in Oakland.

Cat e Whi t e


Watch Cate White read "Author Bios"


I believe that literature should aspire to the condition of rock and roll, Larry said, punctuating his thought with an air-guitarishy flourish and mock-sexy tonguewag that didnt quite make the impression upon her that hed hoped, she, Flora, the butterfly-tattoomidriffed rocker-chick, and he, Larry, the sort-of sometimes-writer, somewhat afraid to commit fully to the writer-identity, at least insofar as when hes at a party (and he attends far fewer of these than he used to, and even back in his misremembered halcyon days, he hadnt really attended all that many) and someone (a woman, a potential rival for a potential woman, etc.) asks him what he does for a living, hes massively uncomfortable to reply Im a writer, not having actually written any books to speak of and certainly no stories published in magazines the potential inquisitor is likely to have heard of, and so will refer dispiritedly to his day job in event marketing, or perhaps (in rare cases) will invent a cover story whole cloth about how he trains wild animals (lions, tigers, bears, plus a series of increasingly obscure antelope, including but not limited to the springbok, gerenuk, dik-dik, kudu, bongo, and okapi) for appearances



(often comic) in American television programs and motion pictures, and in fact it was precisely this absurd career fabrication which had garnered Larry the (at least fleeting) attentions of the almost contrivedly lovely Flora (ironically, through a phony back-story about Fauna) and though she hadnt believed him for a second it turned out that she was amenable and open to and even found potentially alluring the idea of him being a writer, that is, one who does the ridiculous but somehow romantic (in her mind) work of pushing blocks of words across pages (whether they want to be pushed or not), albeit not a hugely successful writer as of yet (that yet is and always will be an amazingly and even delusionally hopeful word) and when he dared call himself something of an experimental writer, Flora mentioned her ex-boyfriend (ex here being for Larry nearly as hopeful a word as the aforementioned yet) who played in a series of experimental rock bands (one of which was called, serendipitously enough, the Dead Okapis) and this information, mingling nicely with eight different kinds of alcohol, somehow triggered in Larrys mind the statement (which hed been secretly formulating for some time now) that literature should and must aspire to the condition of rock and roll, and when Flora asked him to elaborate on this theory, he told her how he thought that words were actually just stand-ins (stunt doubles) for musical notes, how punctuation marks are actually key changes, and how his ultimate goal was to get language itself to rebel more, let its hair down, throw on a metal-spiked belt and a pair of black

biker boots, and here he paused, sensing that Flora was misunderstanding him somehow, thinking that he was feeding her some overcooked macho blather, some Hemmingwayian bombast, which wasnt it, exactly, he was talking more about the rhythms of language, the ways that words bumped into each other, and really, if he were being completely honest, he was talking about fucking, how music sounded so often like sex but books so rarely did, and by this point Flora was more confused than intrigued by his theory and was starting to lose interest, which Larry sensed, and the only thing he could think of to keep her attention was to suggest, hey, let me write a story about you, and she was skeptical of this idea, of course, but also a bit flattered because who doesnt want to be the center of narrative focus, at least sometimes, particularly after a few drinks, and given that this guy seemed especially passionate about (if crazily off base with) his theories, she sat attentively and curiously on the couch, nursing her drink as Larry snagged her napkin and proceeded to write a story about her, a story in which Flora was cast as a singer, not just any singer, but the best singer on this or any planet, who had an unfailing memory of every song that had ever been written in human history and the ability to replicate each of these songs on cue with perfect pitch and passion, but also in this same story Flora lived in a world where music of all kinds had been banned (think beyond Footloose territory and into Taliban-style musical repression or worse) and so the infinity of musical knowledge and talent that she had
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was doomed to remain trapped inside her angelicallycrooning head forever, the world criminally deprived of her almost unfathomable talent, until one day she fell hellishly ill, and in the penultimate moment of her existence, right there on her deathbed, she belted out a single, flawless note that combined not only all the notes of every song ever written, but also the spirit, tone and feeling of every word ever penned in every book in every language in every library and on every bookshelf around the globe, now, across every time, past, present and future, melding literature and music into a single, irreducible, unreproducible strand of Truthand thats the point that Larry had reached in his story when Flora, quite suddenly, snagged the napkin out of his hands, took out her cigarette lighter, and set the napkin (and, in the process, the entire party house) on firewhich, thought Larry, in the brief moments remaining to him, was just about the single most rock and roll act he had ever witnessed.

Watch Matt Leibel read "Literature Should Aspire to the Condition of Rock and Roll"




A skill-sharing group splinters from my sisters chapter of La Leche League and now my niece knows sign language. Well, perhaps thats generous. What she knows is how to require assistance in the bathroom every time my sister begins a conversation and how to demand organic corn puffs. She is, in fact, tapping her beaked fingers to her lips right now. How many other five-month-olds can do that, my sister beams. Certainly nice of her to have waited for the commercial, I say. We are watching a documentary about mine fires in Pennsylvania. Families have abandoned their homes and animals have collapsed from carbon monoxide poisoning, but the footage is mostly of after. That is, mostly of smoky nothing. If my brother-inlaw were here hed say something like, Tell me, do you think they taught kids to stop, drop, and roll in the Centralia public school system? I am here to fill his side of the bed with perspective, I think. Or maybe I am here because unlike elsewhere, it is enough.


My sister shares skills despite the triple-digit humidity, but today no group member brought the one she needs most. She calls from the meeting to say shell be later than anticipated. Shes in search of an air conditioner mechanic, and in the desert these things are serious. Dogs get forgotten in cars too long and dry out slowly. Even dried fruit looks different here, and dryer. Hell, you could dry it yourself on the dash in an afternoon. I find myself wondering if my niece has a sign for overheated. Good luck, I say, but all I hear is air conditioner over and over. I try to wrap my head around it. We do not live in hogans and we are not intimate with the monuments of the mesa. Still we must remain focused, must minimize variables. When Im home alone, I hold things over the stove and chart the way they feel when they meet the flame. How they move and sound and smell becomes my heat map. A strand of hair is a shriveling alloy; a hydrangea petal is a cowering moth. I observe character between my fingers. When were home alone together, my niece and I, we dance. I lift her up and she demi-plis through the air as though shes been practicing someplace private all along. You are my Tiny Heraclitus, I tell her, teaching her to feel motion from a flame. She becomes my souschef: buffalo mozzarella has a timid accent and sheep cheddar glides like silk.

In the kitchen she begins to sing long narratives I cannot wholly follow. Eventually she seems to tell the saga of my ex-girlfriend and my old home, but how can I be sure? One night I ask my sister for a smidgen of human cheese for my map. She has assorted varieties at the ready but finds my request disrespectful. I dont imagine it would occupy a place on the character spectrum different from those of other animals, but am curious nonetheless. We are less special than most presume, I say. And isnt it possible you are mistaking language for flesh? Isnt it possible you have no clue what youre talking about, she says. Sure, I say. But someones got to do some talking around here. One morning the three of us take a drive to Leapin Lagoon for my niece to get reckless. My face feels hot and unfamiliar beneath the windshield, and after days in the climate-controlled dark I realize I could use some splash padding myself. Remember Heater Magic, I ask, adjusting the air slats until coolness skims my cheeks. You know, on the way to school? Mom only let you do it, my sister says. You were the only one who believed it.

Li za St. Ja me s


I dont know that I ever believed it, I say. I think I just liked feeling control over something specific. I mean, One, two, three: Heater Magic let me see? Who even makes that shit up? Mom apparently, my sister replies. We hear moaning from the back seat where my niece is shaking her fists up and down. The day Tiny Heraclitus signs for something other than a shit is the day Ill go home, I say. And not a day sooner, she adds. I never tell her about the stories my niece signs after we dance. She probably already knows about them the way mothers like her know things the way our Mom knew things. She probably also thinks of asking where exactly I mean by home, but my sister understands timing in a way I never have. It wont be long before I visit Tiny Heraclitus in her own life elsewhere. Well be strolling, say, in Hasenheide Park one evening, and someone, a Spaniard, will ask for a light. Facelit by feuerzeug, the Spanish woman will tell my niece, Your sunrise, its very beautiful. And it always has been, but by blue sky in the foyer there are only sonrisas. Over a flame there are hidden glints yet. But who has the patience to isolate a flame in a fire anymore, to tease it into a tall, bluing grammar?

My sister and niece are bobbing in the pool between two green funnoodles. I prepare to take their photo when a temperature warning crosses my display. The screen freezes from overheating just as the hand, for a split second, misrecognizes too-hot water as icy. I pretend to go on with the camera, knowing my sister will ask for the photo, knowing the duties of a time periods witness are in the cataloging. Say cheese, Tiny Heraclitus, I say, and she grins, beaked fingers tapping against parted lips. I lob a puff toward the pool and, delicately, it arrives in her expecting mouth.

Watch Liza St. James read "Phoenix"

Li za St. Ja me s




It starts when the dog dies, a wheezing Wolfhound with two paralyzed legs. My mother wraps his body in a sheet and puts it in the hearth. Then she packs up his bed and rawhide bones and takes off with them. The house shakes when she leaves it. For days, every room smells of singed hair. Next, my leather gloves disappear. They arent in my room, or in the hall closet among the row of shoes nestled beneath the robes and animal furs. I go down to the basement and sift through the stacks of cardboard boxes. The space is full of junk: baby blankets, broken toys and rancid incense. One night, I wake to the sounds of furtive rummaging. I think theres a rat in the house and head downstairs with a baseball bat. I find my mother pawing through the hall closet on her hands and knees, half-buried by objects that are reduced to vague shapes in the low light. She looks up at me with gleaming, animal eyes and freezes. # My sister ate the fruit like a red leather ball, full of bloody teeth.


When she was gone, the dog howled inconsolably. His lament lasted hours, a day. Then he fell down the stairs and ruined his legs. # We live in a house with a lopsided tower full of dusty, precious things. All kinds of flying creatures circle the towers peak. If you sleep in the room at the very top, their shrieking will keep you up all night. I know because my mother would punish me and make me spend the night up there when I was little. Fields surround the house with grass thick as a girls hair and flowers with petals that form tiny lips to drink the rain. There is no one and nothing for miles, just the fields and forest beyond. My mother used to make corn everything: corn tamales wrapped in corn shuck, corn chowder, cold corn salad with black beans. She planted varieties in the garden and they grew high as the garage: sweet yellow, blue, a black-red, and white with fat kernels. Once, I asked her why she didnt grow roses or tomatoes like other mothers did. She looked at me the way she always does whenever I suggest she do something normal people do. Then she picked at a hangnail, stripping the skin in a curl, and flicked it into the air. # My sister had hair like pheasant feathers. She was skinny and slightly bow-legged. It made her seem

delicate, always wrapped in filmy robes with her nipples visible. She had pearls for teeth. Her laughter was tinkling bells. # She takes my clothes. Thats how Ive come to think of it: not as a giving away, but a taking. She puts them in trash bags while Im at school and drives with the car full of them to those places where people give away things they dont want and then they are sold to poor people or teenagers. I come home to find only the wire skeletons of closet hangers. A few days later, I see a girl at school wearing one of my t-shirts. As the house empties out, it begins to echo. The sounds of the things that circle the tower grow louder. All night they scream. I hear the woosh of their leather wings. # Once, she gets drunk and I ask her about my father. She says men arent worth speculating about. Then she fits her entire fist into her mouth and moans. # I get a tattoo of the fruit that killed my sister. Its on my hip, just below the waistline of my boys Levis. The lines are red, insinuating the outer form and the bejeweled cavern. I get it done by the mall with my two gold-haired friends who are like vapid, giggling handmaids. They belonged to my sister but they follow me around now for lack of anything better to do.
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Someday, Ill slip off my pants in front of a lover who will ask me about it. Or maybe not. I smoke cigarettes behind the school while my handmaids watch. The cigarettes are foul and satisfying. I like holding embers between my fingertips. # When my sister disappeared, so did my mother. For months, maybe a year she wandered and I had the house and the car to myself. I took the dog with me everywhere and he filled the entire backseat. Each day it snowed. The flakes covered everything like dust. When she came back, she was a hag with swollen, blistered feet. I didnt know who she was. # After my clothes, she takes my bed and I have to sleep on the floor. All the other furniture is already gone. I dont know how she got it out of the house -- if someone came to take it, if she burned it, or broke it into pieces. One night, watching me eat, she snatches the food from my mouth. # My sisters fingernailssoft moonstone. Her eyes, the color shifting in the light. She was picking flowers in the field when she disappeared. The ground opened up and she tumbled

down into it. Weeks later, they found her body in the river that circles the earth and passes like a drain through the dead places, her fingertips stained purplered. # The snow. The clouds of it could billow and twist. If I stared out the window long enough, I saw in it the shapes of faces I could recognize, or not, depending on my mood. And animals: deer, a dove. Once, a poppy, blossoming. Every afternoon, the sky turned a velvet grayblue. The color filled the house and made the white of the walls glow. Snowplows scraped past on the narrow strip of road. # When she came back, her teeth were gray as if shed been eating ash. # The last thing she takes from me is my breath. Gasping, I tumble backwards and hit my head on the marble floor. She isnt trying to kill me, she says. But she cant tell me why she did it. Theres nothing to pack up. All I have are the clothes Im wearing. There are cruel words on my tongue like thistle. I swallow them down into my stomach where they will make me sick. She watches me go. She has cinders for eyes. The house shudders behind me. Outside, the grass ripples. A few snowflakes drift by like afterthoughts and disappear.
Li ndsay Me rbau m


Watch Lindsay Merbaum read "The Giver"

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- september 2, 2013 -

ISBN 978-1-304-33911-9


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