the Bicycle Review

Issue # 25 15 December, 2013

Original artworks by Marco Mazzoni and Marwane Pallas Poetry and Prose by: Michael Cohen, Bruce Colbert, Craig Cotter, Ginetta Correli, Cassandra Dallett, Evan Greif, Bill Haugse, Marie Lecrivain, Anthony Mastroianni, Patrick Morey, Alex Neely, Georgina Parfitt, Sandra Rokoff-Lizut, Matt Rowan, and A.D. Winans.

All selections published in the Bicycle Review are the property of their creators, and may not be reproduced without the express permission of the authors and artists.

the Bicycle Review # 25

...features the work of Marco Mazzoni and Marwane Pallas, two European artists working in unusual ways with unique combinations of medium. Both of our featured artists in this issue have gone far beyond what we've come to expect from the handlers of their chosen tools. In the case of Pallas, it's hard to pin down just whether this is photography or multi-media fine art, but whatever you decide to call it, it doesn't make the images any less beautiful and arresting. Likewise, Mazzoni's creations  in colored pencil on moleskin notebook pages, ranging from one page to triptych, defy the stereotypes cast on a medium more commonly associated with elementary school art hour (do they still have such a thing?) with their brilliance. Some time ago, basking in his new-found fame, Charles Bukowski wrote a poem called “The Poet Up North”. Sadly, this was typical of his tendency to attack in print people who had helped or influenced him in the past, and with whom he'd had a falling out under typically drunken circumstances. In response, A.D. Winans wrote “The Poet Down South”, which was then printed in the same publication that ran Bukowski's attack. We've been lucky enough to be allowed by A.D. to reprint that piece here, alongside a new Winans poem, “To the Poet Waiting on Fame”. Both of these poems have a lot to say about the poetry “scene” today. Unfortunately, not too much has changed. Drunken backbiting still abounds throughout the small press world. We've been the victim of some of this ourselves of late, not to add fuel to the fire by naming any names. To my mind, that people would bother shows that we must be doing something right. Nelson Mandela has died, as you must have heard by now. It's sheer coincidence that we happened to have accepted a piece about post-colonial Africa, “A Tree on the Rift” by Bruce Colbert. Colbert's short story takes place in Kenya, not South Africa, but it's a reminder of the kind of regimes that most commonly replaced colonial apartheid-style governments in Africa. Mandela's policy of reconciliation and democracy was a brave move in a region where governments rise and fall on a regular basis, based on nothing more than old, or sometimes – as in the case of Rwanda and others, even fabricated, racial resentments.
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Other returning writers in issue # 25 include Ginetta Correli, Cassandra Dallett, and Marie Lecrivain. As usual, most of the writing in these pages is by writers we've never published before. Enjoy, cyclists.

Share the Road, J de Salvo

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the bidet – a continuation (after “the Bidet” by J de Salvo) Woke up. In my bed about 3:00 a.m. Dark. Watching me in the morning. About 9:00 a.m. The bidet is most obvious white. i am scrubbing the bidet. i left him and his bathroom about 30 years ago. Did him a huge favor leaving. That's what he said. Cleaning his bathroom again? i must be crazy. This is no longer my house. Nor my mess. Scrubbing hard. Brown creamy mush on the rim. i gotta pee. Head hangin. i sit on the toilet bidet. Thinking. Floor smells. Smells like pee. Tiny ants march toward my hairy toe. i have to buy ant spray? What a pain. Later his neighbor says to me: “You're leaving the ants? That’s not cool.” Father told me then. i was about ten. We stood in our backyard. Was staring at an open can of tuna and a feral grey cat. Father says: “Ants and cat shits spread disease” Years ago i knew this nice old Polish waiter from work. Quiet and content man. We called him: “Cat Mad Doo” Cat mad lived alone, yet shared his home and love with about 100 stray cats. The man was sick with leukemia. i hear Cat Mad is still alive.

Copyright 2013 by Ginetta Correli

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Nickel Diner

Two teenage boys 14 & 15 on a date in front of me at The Nickel Diner in LA. They wear the same tennis shoes different colors, both worn. One powder blue jeans, one dark blue jeans. I’m having breakfast with Kenneth Koch 's Collected. Did Frank call him Ken? He's telling me about being 25 in Paris. I tell him about sitting alone in a café in the 4th Arrondissement writing "Sausage Rolls" as the 14-year-old boys left school in their blue uniforms. Everyone was so well dressed in Paris my friends told me my clothes weren't right. One boy smiles all silver and grey braces I don't know what he's telling his boyfriend over eggs. Their love seems fragile/perfect. My eggs have arrived baked into an oval porcelain dish. Kenneth has coffee and smokes. He knows I'm not eating waiting for eggs and spinach to cool. I've invited him to breakfast to tell him I've decided he's a major poet although much of his work is sub-standard. Davin was unavailable because Troy was making breakfast and Arthea didn’t email back. I've been told Kenneth's body is gone but have no proof of this. The teen boys in love—he's not even chewing as he stares into his boyfriend's eyes listening. He (powder blue jeans) puts a huge load of food in his mouth with his fork like Alex used to
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when we were 15 and 14. Now he covers his face laughing (his boyfriend said something) his hand and long fingers so large they cover most of his face. I forgot to put on my earrings this morning I have 43 cents in my wallet. * The boy (powder blue) is so skinny he only ate 16.7% of his breakfast. Food piles on his plate. His left dark blue tennis shoe touches the right white tennis shoe of his boyfriend under the table. He taps his boyfriend's toes gently. They are laughing about a large, red purse. I didn't want to be alone this morning, thank you Kenneth for coming from New York to LA on short notice for breakfast.

Copyright 2013 by Craig Cotter

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POEM FOR THE POET WAITING ON FAME Don't get up in the morning Pissed-off bent out of shape Defeated and fatigued Don't kick your dog A can is okay Don't look for trouble A fist in the face Won't change history Don't spit into the wind It might come back at you Never place your hand Over your heart The marksman might think You're marking his target Don't fight the poem Let it live or die On its own merits Accept the inevitable And maybe it won't come Until next week next month Next year maybe never Remember there isn't anything Wrong with being a mechanic A cab driver a pimp a whore Be glad you have two hands Two feet two eyes two ears One of the latter is okay If your name is Van Gogh Go easy go slow Or life will pass you by Like an aging conductor Without a train Leaving you feeling Like a comic without applause
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Know this above all else Eight out of ten poets are bores And one of the other two A literary whore Support that odd one He needs you And you need him More than either of you Will ever know

Copyright 2013 by A.D. Winans

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A Tree on the Rift

The flight was booked on KLM but it stopped first in London, and then we had to spend a night in Amsterdam before going on to Nairobi. I had planned a day with a Dutch friend from Ohio State, and for the first time in Europe for me or anywhere else, I saw a large chanting crowd with street banners demanding Solidarity passing below me in the street to rousing cheers from onlookers. “What’s all that for?” I asked the bellman who just shrugged his shoulders, and poured myself a drink from the room minibar, stepping out onto the balcony for a better look. Down below was a crowd of what I took to be dock and factory workers, and the usual students that followed these marches which too often ended badly. I sadly remembered what had happened at Kent State, just down the road. But in Holland where drugs were plentiful and cheap, everyone in the street seemed relaxed, or maybe, just high. Still riot police were hovering nervously along the sidewalk and seemed tense, ready to spring. In liberal Amsterdam, the Dutch government had even had isolated a whole district which housed those on narcotics, and there was a fast trade between methadone and its hard drug opposites going on. But I was going to Africa tomorrow as the manager of a coffee plantation, a large farm in the central Highlands of Kenya, forty miles north of Nairobi, and so I just watched it all pass, lost in my own thoughts. Two months ago, I had been reading the Wall Street Journal with my morning coffee waiting for another day to start as a sales assistant in my uncle’s wholesale auto parts warehouse outside of Cleveland. He had given me this job, and since he had no children, he thought of me as his successor, well, in maybe fifteen years. All this, all five thousand square feet of this empire of batteries and water pumps would be mine, and it was a depressing thought. I had noticed an ad calling for a man who was young and energetic with farm management experience for a position as manager of one of the largest coffee plantations in East Africa. I, of course, lied about my qualifications, and answered the advertisement, mostly as a fantasy. Anything to get out of Cleveland.

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Two weeks later I had gotten a telephone call to meet the owner, a South African named Rufus Railsback, who wanted to interview me over dinner that next evening. At first, I thought I might be able to convince him that farm experience wasn’t necessary to run this plantation, but rather good management, skills I had picked up from two or three business courses I’d taken five years earlier at the university. I had been active in Cleveland civic clubs like Rotary and Kiwanis, and had a certain flair for entertaining bored businessmen over lunch, no mean feat. Railsback was staying at the Hilton Hotel downtown, and I met him in the lobby bar as arranged at 7pm. He was tall and still had the build of a once powerful man, though he tended to stoop a bit when he walked. I guessed his age at sixty or seventy, He had a small mustache and neatly trimmed beard which was white, a deep tan from the equatorial sun, his skin was lined and leathery but still smooth, Easy to spot in the an American hotel, he wore a khaki bush jacket, dark wool trousers and an open yellow shirt, about right for early fall here. So as he walked into the bar, I was seated near the door, I called out, “Mister Railsback, over here,” and gave him a smart wave, almost yacht like. He turned abruptly, smiled and walked over to me, saying, “Ah, Mister Markus, we finally meet, yes,” and pulled a chair to the table and sat down hard, sort of aiming himself into the chair. He gave a loud groan, and I looked up, startled, and stood. “No, sit, forty years in Africa, my whole life, this old body!” he said, matter-offactly, and added, “Scotch, yes?” looking toward the bar. “A long way from Durban.” “Of course,” I said, and called over the waiter and ordered. The drinks came quickly. “Let me tell you about my farm, Mister Markus, he started, “then you can tell me about yourself!” “But, I wanted to…” and I drifted off when he shook his head, no, meaning he wanted to talk now. “It was nothing when I came there, thirty five years before, Uhuru,” he told me. “Uhuru?” What’s that?” I asked.
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“Oh sorry, independence, end of the Brits,” he said. “You know of the MauMau’s?” he asked. “No,” I said. “The Mau Mau’s came calling, oh, they did!” he went on, hitting one of his legs, “shot me twice, the bastards!” “They made my headman, Job, turn on me, “he told me, “had him bite the head off a live chicken, covered him in its blood, made him take the oath! But in the end, he turned on them,” Hah!” “They killed three thousand whites, and then the British Army said, ‘we either bring in planes and bomb them all, or pull out’,” he explained, “and they decided to go!” “I had a machine gun, I did, fooled them!, and the two nights they came for me, they got a big surprise!” he said. You could still see a look of madness cross his face from those nights of horror, even after forty years it was still clearly there. “An M60! you know it? they used them in Vietnam, very accurate hitting a man,” he said. “No! I told him, wanting to change the subject from his tale of slaughter. “Kenyatta calmed down the fuzzy wuzzies!,” the old Mazai!” he went on, “waving his fly wisk!” waving the cloth napkin in a small circle above his head. “Mazai? I asked him, figuring it was a word I should know if I was going to be in Africa. “Great man in the tribe!” he explained, “ he’s a Kikuyu!” “Jomo was a killer! knew Brits, what they’d do, had a white wife, too,,” he added. ‘Kenyatta’ I mouthed silently, remembering the name, he was Kenya's president now. He leaned forward, and said in a lowered voice, almost secretive, “the Kikuyus are a small tribe, they’re wise little buggers!”

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“Did the Brit’s dirty work, then turned on them!” he laughed. “A few Cubans joined from Angola, but they got killed off. Mostly it was Kikuyu’s chopping you up in your bed!” “They respect old Rufus, ‘cause they know I killed a bunch of ‘em, he said, “so I have no trouble!” “You’ll meet him!“ the great man himself, for a drink!, at his manse!” he added, followed by a laughing and coughing fit, grabbing a glass of water on the table. Rufus didn’t want to leave the bar, so we had sandwiches from their small menu, and he talked and talked, about his early days as a young man, starting with nothing, his setbacks, the crooked politicians he encountered, mostly black, but a few white ones too. He worked as a white hunter, led safaris, killed renegade animals for the government, tilled the land alongside the natives for years. He had prevailed. Finally I couldn’t hold it back no longer, and I confessed to him that I’d lied, I didn’t have any farm experience at all, that I’d spent my whole life in a handful of Cleveland suburbs. I told him I was sorry I wasted his time, and I was, I liked him. He looked at me for a long time, saying nothing, put down his drink, and said, “When we shook hands I could feel that you had the hand of a Lutheran pastor, and there wasn’t much color to your face, no.” “I feel like a fool,” I said, getting up, ready to leave. “No, sit! he said, “I’m a good judge of men, and I like what I see, and hear. You’ve got the job!” “What!” I exclaimed, and stammered for a moment trying to say something. “I don’t know farming,!” I lamely pleaded, “and I’ve only been out of the country, once, to Mexico, on a cruise!” “It’s settled,” he said, reaching across the table to shake my hand. “I’ll see you in Nairobi, in two months time, that’s fair. Now, I want to sleep, good night.” He paid the bill and walked across the lobby to the elevators.

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He walked with a noticeable limp, swinging his body to the right in a small arc as he moved forward. But from the back he looked like a man who had met life face on, and lived it according to his own terms. I still felt the touch of his rough, calloused hand gripping my own. As I watched him briefly wave and get into the elevator, I stood there speechless savoring my good fortune. The flight from Amsterdam was long and event-less, with pretty Dutch stewardesses filling my wine glass every few minutes in First Class, so that I finally had to shake my sleepy head four or five times, no, for them to stop. Rufus met me at the airport and drove me in his beaten-up Land Rover to the Norfolk Hotel, where he told me we’d be spending my first night in Africa. After checking in, he told me to meet him on the hotel terrace for tea, and maybe a drink. The terrace was jammed with people, Africans, Brits, Americans, Germans, and a host of other nationalities, working either for the UN, or various NGOS, he told me, and a few clandestine CIA guys and their prey, scanning the crowd over tea. A stocky African man in a dark suit, and starched shirt and tie came over to the table, and said, “Well Rufus, come back to civilization, eh!” He introduced me to James Muragi, deputy prime minister, who told us he was late for a meeting but wanted to see his old friend Rufus first. “Of course, he’s a liar! he’d see me dead in minute if it wouldn’t piss off Kenyatta! Rufus laughed. “He’s got the farm next to mine, wants my land!” Kenyatta has told all his people, “hands off the white’s land,’ we want the world to love us.” “He’s got a beautiful young mixed-blood wife here in Nairobi, Clarina, and Lulu, the fat black one running the farm,” he said. “I like both of them, frankly.” “He seems interesting!” was all I could add. “My wife Frida loathes both women, for different reasons, she tells me,” he said. “You have a wife?” I said, surprised only because it never came up in conversation before.
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“Ah Frida, my much younger,” he paused with that phrase, looking at his hands, and then said, “exquisite German wife, and our two lovely little girls. Of course, she was delighted when I told her I hired a farm manager, now we could spend more time in Mombasa with the girls, she loves the sea so.” “You see those two ‘gringos’ overs there with the crew cuts,” both of them are now CIA, I knew them with the South African national police, two colonels,” he told me. “They know a lot about the Russians, that’s why they got hired, nasty guys!” “Jesus!” I said, looking over quickly, and then away from them. “Africa on the Norfolk terrace! Everybody’s here! he said, holding his two arms sky ward, “mainland Chinese, Russians, Mugabe’s goons, you name it! Now finish up, let’s get some real food!” The next morning Rufus navigated his dirty white Land Rover onto the rocky narrow escarpment above Nairobi, and then down into the fertile Rift Valley where his farm was located, along with most of the county’s coffee and tea. We passed through the dusty town of Nakuru, not very memorable except for a handful of old Victorian houses, nestled together on a single, tree-lined street. They belonged to the old planters who wanted to live in town, in the Twenties, he pointed out. “The only thing here that’ll amuse you, “he chucked, “is the Rift Valley Sports Club, outside of town about two miles.” “Wait ‘till you see the old farmers, the upstart blacks they had to take in, go at it! Worth the price of admission. I’ll put you up.” “Thanks,” I told him. “Oh, they have the only swimming pool in the Highlands!” “Still tense, huh? Race here?” I inquired. “Mostly Kenya cowboys who grew up here,” he said. As we drove along the countryside on a half asphalt-laid highway, the opposite lane paved, we passed a lovely stone church which looked like it should have been resting in Scotland in some heather covered dell.

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“That’s strange, a stone church sitting here all alone, with all this open space,” I said. 'White man’s Africa!'.” “Presbyterians! they came here and fought with the Anglicans, about whose Goddamn church looked more British,” he explained, a little bored. “Look I’m a Boer, Afrikaaner, got no use for them, never have,“he added with some seriousness. “They ruined South Africa, their lukewarm political shit!” We drove past a sign in black inset letters that read ‘Railsback’, and down a long barren dirt road with fields of coffee on both sides for what seemed several miles, before I saw the one story rambling farm house in the distance, with a wide covered porch on three sides. As we came closer, I could see a youngish shapely blond woman come to the porch steps with a look of concern on her face, which changed into a wide smile as she recognized the Land Rover. It was Frida, I’d soon learn. He had met her through friends in Johannesburg at a dinner, she had just lost her father who’d been a university professor in Leipzig, and had taught for several years in South Africa, before dying suddenly of heart failure. She had grown up in East Germany, and had never been outside Leipzig when her father brought her there, actually to Durban where he was given a chair in the classics. She was twenty seven years old when he died, she was now thirty eight. She married Rufus in June of the year following her father’s death. He was thirty six years older, but in the space of four years together, he had fathered two children with Frida. That was as much as I knew when I shook her extended hand for the first time on that farm house porch, and was invited in to sit down to a lavish lunch prepared by their housekeeper Rosemary, a wonderful cook and a devout Christian, the Church of God in Christ, she proudly told me, and a refugee from Idi Amin’s Uganda who had been with Rufus for two decades. He husband had been in the African Rifles in World War II, with Amin, and they were friendly. Amin later shot him for some obscure political reason. The meal I remember well, it was haunch of deer, raised domestically by Rufus for his dinner table, a seemingly rare smallish breed of New Zealand origin. The conversation that first lunch was mostly Rufus telling me about Africa itself, the history of the farm, and what life would be like for me, and occasionally Frida would chime in with something pleasant about life here, in a thick German accent.
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Her girls, Erica and Sabina, came to the table, introduced themselves, and then curtsied in true Old World fashion and were gone. They were soon to go off to an Anglican boarding school for girls in Thika, and they were both very excited about it. Kenyatta’s granddaughter was a student there also, started by a female cousin of old Queen Victoria in 1911. At coffee after lunch, Job Wainiana, the African farm foreman, came to the table and we talked about farm production. Most of the coffee trees were over three years old, mature and filled with berries. None of it was irrigated, so in about one out of every four years, the farm had some drought. Sometimes it could be severe, I was warned, with 3,500 bags of coffee harvested, when it should have been 10,000. It was a large farm of more than three thousand acres, half of it in some crop or other most years. The other profitable crop was something I’d never heard of, pyrethrum, a flower that had natural insecticide in its daisy core, and was sold for home sprays in Europe and the US. It was a plantation crop first cultivated by British scientists, and the African climate had suited it well. Rufus was one of a handful of white farmers in this fertile paradise who had been saved by friendship with Kenyatta, who remained their protector against Black Africans, generally politicians, who wanted the farms nationalized, and then returned to them as private leaseholds. Kenyatta’s years at Oxford and in London had given him a thorough understanding of the West, and he preferred being the darling of Black nationalists than pleasing a few local politicos. “Job will work with the natives, you’re the front man, you deal directly with the government, the politicians, go to their dinners, be cordial, make friends, give toasts!” he laughed. “I’ll try,” I ventured. “It’s Africa, you’re a chief, you need to act like one here! he urged, turning a little pensive. “They set the prices! You give out a few gifts to officials, yes, under the table!” “If I must,” I said, “sure.” Take Frida to these dinners in Nairobi,” he said, “she needs to get out of the bush, and it’s good for business,” he said. “I own another farm in the Transvaal with big problems I need to fix, so I’ll be gone a lot. Just do the damn dinners for me, OK?”
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“Anything, you want, Rufus!” I answered. “Good!’ now let’s drive around the farm!” I moved into the house which had six bedrooms, and really had my own wing, but he told me he was going to build me my own house by the following year, he would find me a good architect from Nairobi to design it. The farm work and meals together took on the feel of an extended family, and I liked it well enough, and was learning a lot about farming, mostly from Job, with whom I spent most of the long African day, starting at six am. After about a month, Rufus left for the Transvaal, he told me he’d be gone for as long as two months, so lunch and dinners were spent with Frida. Both girls had gone off to St. Hillary’s for the term, which would be four months, coming home for the Christmas holidays. Frida had a beautiful Germanic face, and was the child of a scholar father, so our conversations tended to be about life after war in a divided Germany, the Russians and the East German Stazi, always present and threatening. Her father had served as an aide to Von Paulus on the Russian Front, and he had been one of the few survivors returned to Germany of the three hundred thousand German soldiers who had surrendered after Stalingrad, retreating across Russia. “My father liked General Von Paulus, they both hated Hitler, an illiterate fool, they often said among themselves, and knew they would probably both die in Russia!,” she told me on evening over candlelight. “Von Paulus did die there. I think Stalin shot him, maybe two or three months after he surrendered.” She asked me about my life, which was quite ordinary, the university and my family. I have one younger sister just married, and I told her my few amusing stories. After two months, Rufus returned for a few days, and was jovial as usual, but he looked sickly; his skin was yellow, almost jaundiced. The two of us spent two solid days on farm business, and he told me that he must leave again for another few months, the Transvaal problems still unsolved. Sitting in his farm office, he handed me a pile of engraved invitations, and told me to take Frida to these dinners. Job would act as our chauffeur, and liked short trips to Nairobi where he had a few friends.
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“Go to them all, they’re six, I think,” he said, “got to show the flag!” I agreed, but said I didn’t have any formal clothes unfortunately. I had never owned a tuxedo, or formal clothing. It wasn’t done in my Cleveland life. “Not a problem, my Hindu tailor will drive up with his man, measure you, and you’ll be bloody outfitted in time for the first feed!” he joked, breaking from laughter into a fit of coughing. He left the next morning. The first dinner I went to with Frida was hosted by none other than Deputy Prime Minister Muragi had has large home in Nairobi, complete with manicured, formal gardens, and an army of servants. “Ah my friend, you come as Rufus is absent, with the lovely Frida,” he said, greeting us at the door. “You will like Africa!” At dinner I made a few jokes about Cleveland politics, its corruption, and that got a few laughs from white and black guests at the dinner table. “Most interesting,” Murgai said to me. “How is it that dead people vote so often in Cleveland? we must learn from you!” He turned to his colleague on his right and spoke to him in Kikuyu, and I heard the English words ‘Cleveland’ and ‘dead’ amidst a tongue I couldn’t understand. His Black politician friend, a minister of labor, I later learned, had approved of the scheme of keeping the deceased as voters. He shook his head knowingly. Clarina, Muragi’s wife was on my left, and we had a pleasant conversation about Africa. Her father had been East Indian, Punjabi, she told me and had come in the Twenties as a merchant, recruited by the Colonial British, and had married an Africa woman, her mother, the daughter of a chief, again in the smaller Kikuyu tribe. Her features were clearly Asian, and the color of her skin almost a light mocha. The father had prospered, and sent her to mission schools, run by the Anglicans. “I’ve been to London twice,” she announced proudly. “James was on a mission! We stayed at Claridge’s, very beautiful!” I told her I was one of those untraveled Americans, alas, and that I had come love life in Kenya, between Nairobi and the farm. “The city is where I must be. The pace!” she said, chewing the wild game on her china plate thoroughly. ”James knows this!”
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“She’s such a ‘vitch’”, Frida said, meaning ‘witch’ of course, in a whisper as Clarina talked across the table with another guest. That night as we finally got back to the farm, Frida came over to me as I said good night, and kissed me passionately on the mouth. I was stunned, but then I knew for certain that I was in love with this woman. It had been slowly building up inside me. The next night I had a telephone call from Rufus who told me that disaster had hit the Transvaal farm, and that he must stay another two months. He asked about the coffee crop, and how I had enjoyed the dinners in Nairobi with Frida. I told him everything was fine, not to worry. “I’m not worried,” he said, “I know things are going ‘vell’,” he said, falling into his Afrikaner accent when he had been speaking Dutch in the Transvaal. “Like planned!” He told me not to forget Job’s birthday, and call the Yamaha dealer in Nairobi and order a small motorcycle for him, a fiftieth birthday gift, something he wanted for years. Each day Frida and I got closer, until we just accepted the overflowing love we felt for one another and started acting like husband and wife. I worked the farm, and she conducted the household duties as she had always done, with Teutonic resolve. At night we slept in the same bed. Of course, the servants knew all, and probably Job as well, but there was never a word spoken about it. We went on in the same way every day. I wanted her to marry me, but I was afraid to ask her. And what would be the outcome of such a rash act? With her children in school in Africa, this farm, and what I might be able to offer her in return? “I love you,” I told her one night, “and I want us to have a life together,” I said, “can that be?” “It will be!” she answered, “Rufus, must know that we cannot be man and wife any longer! I will tell him!” “What will we do, go back to the states?” I asked in desperation. “My uncle will give me a job, we’ll get a small house, put the kids in school there!” “Yes, yes,” she said as she hugged me with all her strength.
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So she would divorce him, it was settled, and we would leave Africa. It was another month before Rufus returned, and when he walked into the house he looked like a man on death’s doorstep, thirty pounds lighter, his face showing a constant pain, his walk now a pathetic limp. We were in the farm office and he asked me to pour us two brandies and leave the bottle on the table, should we want more. “I know about you and Frida,” he said, slowly sipping the drink, with a grimace. “What do you know?” I challenged him. “Jeff, I know everything,” he said, this time his Dutch voice soothing. I raised my voice to say something, and uttered a false laugh, “Hah! I don’t think so!” “Jeff, I’m dying from pancreatic cancer. I have been dying slowly for the last two years, longer than anyone expected me to live,” he said calmly. “What?” “I haven’t been in the Transvaal at all, although I do have a farm there, and it’s fine. No, I’ve been in two hospitals in Johannesburg, and there is nothing anyone in the world can do to help me. I will be dead in three months,” he confessed. “I’ve seen doctors in New York, and in Zurich, the best. It’s too late for me, my friend. I have lived a full life, better than most, and now it’s time to die,” he said. “I’m so sorry, I…” I said, looking down at the floor, filled with shame. “I want you to marry Frida when I’m gone,” he announced, “I will be gone, soon!” “This is, is, insane,” I shouted. “What’s going on here?!” I was on my feet, undone emotionally, moving around the small office without purpose. “The moment I met you, I knew that you would be Frida’s husband, and a good, kind and loving one,” he told me. “So you arranged this, all of this?” I yelled.
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“I did! My good friend!” he said. “The world is filled with farm managers, but there are only so many good men to go around. Frida is a wonderful and loving and beautiful woman as you can see with your own eyes. I want the best for her. You are that best,” he went on. “But you set this up,” I said, trying to calm myself down. “So I did!” he said, and then turned to me, motioning me to pour him another drink. Which I did, and another for myself. “You will have two fine young daughters who will learn to love you, and Frida is young, so there will be more, he told me. “My will has been written and it all goes to her, the farms, the other interests, everything, and to you as her husband,” he said. “The Africa I knew is gone, and when the old chiefs go, it will be one war after another. It’s all tribes, killing each other, even the smart ones, look to the tribe,” he said, for no real reason, trying to explain something about the Africa he had known. “The truth is I worked against the British. I knew the Africans would win, but I killed my share of them, when they came after this white man, the savages.” “Kenyatta knows I’m dying, and he is the kind of man who has told me he would do the same in my place, so you have a protector in Africa, in a very high place. The great chief himself,” he continued. “He will be your friend. Go to his parties, take him gifts he likes,” he added. “He has always been fascinated by old firearms. Get him shotguns, expensive ones, that once belonged to the British ruling class, hand tooled! The old farmers at the Rift Club like Jack Jones can tell you who in England has these guns. He’s the old white-haired guy. We were hunters together before the war. Jack was a colonel in the African Rifles, he was Amin’s commander, ambushed a few Kraut patrols who came ashore at Mombasa. Jack’s your man!” “Maybe things can change, you’ll get better,” I offered, but knew he wouldn’t. “No man’s lived a better life, always on my terms,” he said. “I’ll die at home, as an African chief does. No life machine wires, no nurses, and Kenyatta will come to my deathbed; which will be a sign to the rabble like Muragi that you, a warrior, will now be chief, Frida’s husband,” He started coughing uncontrollably,
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and I looked at this complex man, wondering about his life, and poured him some water from a decanter on a table. Two months later, on a cool night, Frida and I closed the eyes of this unapologetic Afrikaner. At dusk the next day I took his body in his old Land Rover along with Job and set it out naked against a tree on a flat place atop the Rift escarpment, so that jackals would devour it, and he would become a part of his beloved Africa as he had wished.

Copyright 2013 by Bruce Colbert

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With apologies to Saint Paul Love is a clanging cymbal The neighbors may call the police A freight train in the night flattening pennies on the track Love is the whisper of a charlatan misapprehended in your ear Love is Victoria Falls thundering throughout all the forest, the monkeys used to it by now Love is a thousand year old temple in a flowered archipelago three stone women still pouring water from their tipped urns Love lurks inside of love half smiling, peeking through glass from the dark yard Love is a cleaner on a scaffold thirty stories up washing away the city Like salt-and-pepper granite smoothed in the mill of years but never worn away Like the sky at once near and faraway Love is the face divined in a rafter of leaves on the walk shifting in the wind Copyright 2013 by Bill Haugse

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The Queen of Cheetahs: Another L.A. Anti-fable (inspired by Gabriel Tanaka)

Twelve minutes equals 65 spins around the metal phallus. A handful of ones and fives scattered at the lucite-shod feet of every girl who shook her money-maker. At the apex of the first melody in a three-song set, each one would cast aside her barely-there bra and panties that left little to the imagination, and thereby, as I was able to deduce - reduce - her nightly intake by 33 %. Then, there was the Queen of Cheetahs. The Long-Legged Dominatrix; that’s what the barflies called her. Legions of flat-bottomed romeos who roosted by the runway like a flock of San Juan Capistrano swallows at 10:56 pm every Saturday night. She would strut out - stage left in front of a line of floor-to-ceiling mirrors that echoed the graceful back end of a leather-clad goddess. Her delicate arms, encased in black opera-length gloves, would reach out to a horde that shared the seductive vision of her boot-clad thighs as she twirled around the metal pole to the strains of Donna Summer’s She Works Hard for the Money, and Madonna’s Express Yourself. Her right eye winked impishly through an errant lock of red bangs, and her smile was a beacon of hope to the souls of the damned.
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As she wove her magic spell into the final strains of Santana’s Black Magic Woman, she’d reach behind her back and skillfully remove her ebony brassiere to reveal a pair of alabaster breasts, a benediction burned f-o-r-e-v-e-r onto countless pairs of retinas. Blinded by gratitude, she was showered with tens and twenties thrown like roses from a herd of love-sick swains. She swiftly gathered her spoils, and disappeared backstage, while the forlorn masses drowned their sorrows in lap dances and stale beer.

Copyright 2013 by Marie Lecrivain

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POEM FOR THE POET DOWN SOUTH

There’s this poet down South Who wrote this poem about the poet up North who supposedly keeps attacking him this poet down South learned of these alleged attacks from a supposedly poet friend whose job it must be to keep the poet down South informed of this vicious poet up North who allegedly keeps putting him down and of course the poet down South doesn’t question his source but feels slighted enough to put this poet up North down which isn’t exactly something new for the poet down South old habits being hard to break this poet down South has an interesting theory that he somehow got lucky and made it big while the poet up North remained unlucky and that this somehow explains the reason for the poet up North attacking him the theory of the poet down South is that you’re better off with strangers who will allow you your luck be it good or bad and that you should be careful with whom you drink with unless your fate is to stay unlucky

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the truth is I know this poet up North and he doesn’t seem such a bad guy for seventeen years he published hundreds of poets including the poet down South but I’m not surprised at the poet down South’s rantings for as long as I have known him it has been this way if not against the poet up North then with poets East and West the truth is that most of the people the poet down South puts down deserve it more or less but it’s equally true that this poet down South for the better part of his life has been a drunk and for that matter this holds true for the poet up North too one became a respected poet and the other a respected publisher who wrote some pretty fine poems himself though as the poet down South said never achieved the luck the poet down South had

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and having been a drunk myself I can tell you first hand that most drunks are not nice people not the poet down South and not the poet up North and never for one moment did I think that hanging around with the poet up South was a good thing to do for the only thing worse than a bad drunk are two bad drunks which is why I only drank with him but three times in two decades for to have palled around with him would have meant being harangued nevertheless I loved this man and loved his writing even more and that’s all that really matters in the end and the poet down South did better than most men I know he wrote about his life in a mean, lean and honest way but he wasn’t the only poet in the world and one might think he would have shown at least as much respect as he demanded from those he called his friends and the poets who emulate his style must be lonely souls for there’s nothing romantic about being a down and out poet people who believe otherwise are only fooling themselves

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what this poet down South represented was the American dream of making it out of the slums and being able to spit in the face of the beast even if sometimes the beast is ourselves what the poet down South represented is individualism at its best and worst a crying appeal to a popular audience who can empathize with this way of life look man, they can say: maybe there’s hope for me too so you see it isn’t about being lucky at all the important thing is that much of his writing shows empathy for the down and out the damned and the near damned and not yet death trodden souls of America for the drunks and the working class stiffs for the assembly line zombies barely able to make it home from work at night and this is where the poet down South’s art rose high above the man himself for his art was better than he was as a person which is a compliment and not a put down and only goes to show that the power of art prevails in the end and that my friend is what poetry is all about
This Printing Copyright 2013 by A.D. Winans
(previously reprinted in “Drowning Like Li Po in a River of Red Wine: Selected Poems:1970-2010” by Bottle of Smoke Press.) 35

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Nothing to Hold You Down On Market Street

Between bus stops you realize you don’t have a home some days you walk the sparkly sidewalks blind with sadness as useless as all the other trash blowing along in the violent Pacific air out door Fuscia trees and Aloe lose their magic just overgrown house plants that have gone astray like you. The fog is not romantic it enters your bones cold ends the lie that is California this is the city you needed, you jonesed for and there’s no home to go back to no quaint New England bed of spindle and patchwork This is it. But nothing holds you here the mates you pick bob around the ring, you try and you try to beat them into needing you you punch them in the nose with your little girl fists you kick and feed them your icky bits. You want to force them to hold you safe as mother arms in the night again and again you wake alone every day a hangover even when you’re too bored to drink too tired to twelve step.
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Some people have things they went to school for things that pay them, or require them, children, careers, foreign words, you, only wanted love you’ll only kill it when it’s given feels like putting on someone else’s clothes you can’t fit into it are too malnourished to swallow it, need something stronger to keep you from falling off, right off, this quaky edge of continent all you can do is walk and walk, let the Muni bus pass your broke ass by.

Copyright 2013 by Cassandra Dallett

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The Fishing

The man went along with his friends, who all liked to fish. Unfortunately, the man had always had a sort of nausea about fishing. It was something about the sound the fish makes when it comes out of the water. But this time, the man went along with his friends, who were all good fishermen and set up a chair as they did, and even brought along a rod and line that he’d borrowed from his father-in-law, of all people. And the man put his line in the water, and sat, resting, taking his time, as the fishermen did, and to a certain extent, started to enjoy himself. But the afternoon took a disturbing turn, when, of all people, the man’s line started to jiggle and he knew that he’d caught a fish on the hook. The tough little body of the fish was pulling and tugging. There was nothing for it. The man’s friends had already noticed this jiggling and were urging him to reel in the fish and see the size of it. They could tell it was a big one. So the man started slowly to reel the fish in. Closer and closer to the surface it came, pulling and tugging. Sure enough, as the man had feared, the fish started to become visible. An orange glow grew in the water and became clearer and clearer. By this point the man’s friends had abandoned their own lines and were peering into the water. They had never seen such an orange fish before. It was pure gold. It plopped out of the water and landed on the bank at the man’s feet, not with the soft, wet sound of a fish but with the hard, musical sound of money falling onto the ground from a pocket. Its scales were bright medallions. Its tail left a golden arrow on the grass. The man’s friends backed away. They didn’t know what to say. This wasn’t anything they’d bargained for. The man knelt down to his golden fish and put out his finger to touch it on the head. It was cold and dry. “Thank you,” he whispered, but with all the commotion, the fish was already dead.

Copyright 2013 by Georgina Parfitt

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Enthusiasm for the Final Climactic Showdown They want you to seem perceptive at the end time, like you knew what was coming and you saw it all there, revealing itself to you in your inner life, your own thoughts. The forces that propelled you were inevitable, inexorable. You could not have been stopped. They always said something righteous was preparing to clash with other ideas. And the ones in the cage were the ones who were perceptive. That’s what got them there. All that remained, to see whether or not their cause was just and the fight was worth fighting. It was always worth fighting, in the end. Because it had to be. They told you it was. For a long time a lot of the actors believed, the principals. It was easy to believe. You wanted to believe. And the actors on all sides were inculcated with belief that theirs was the righteous side. They were taken to their Small Room, to study very specifically. The beliefs that you believe in are going to send you on a strange journey at which endpoint you will find it in you to surmount the obstacles and achieve the desired result. The advancement of your beliefs is a good thing. So ask yourself, ‘what do I believe?’ Use all the power of your acumen and cogitation to make this decision. Then, when time comes to act, understand that you believe this _______. You really believed this. From the Small Room, you are led on a journey. A journey of experiences that would, absent of all other information, lead one to a very likely set of values. In the library you might find a book. There’s one among the stacks that is called Alabama: Friend Not Foe: What You Can Do To Make Sure It Stays That Way - A Reader’s Guide In it there is this thesis: Why are they taking away my Alabama with their terrible beliefs?
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The remainder of the book follows this thesis to its logical conclusion: because they are wicked. They are truly the wicked. They must be stopped before all is lost. And when Gil found himself in a Small Room, that day of his seventh birthday, his confusion was palpable. There were others in the room. An animated Count was on the television. He was giving them their earliest lessons about the nature of their lives and the ideation that was going to define their lives from this point forward. It was going to be tough. They would persevere. “We will make your bodies healthier,” said the animated Count. “We only want you to discover your purpose. And do not fear if these ideas I speak of are scary or don’t seem to make sense. You are still learning. There is much time for growth. All you must do is trust us.” Gil was reminded of the people that were once his people. The family. They were murdered, unjustly. By a roving band of marauders come from somewhere to the east. They were of Sino extraction. Dangerous men and their families. All would get the justice that was coming. The others he was brought together with had similar stories, similar things had happened to all their people. All those people, Gil thought. And a feeling, an alien-strange feeling, began inside him. Took hold of him. The beginnings. He felt newly human, newly minted. He felt that way, but he couldn’t express it. They were out in the middle of a field one day doing exercises, preparing. A man came, a farmer-looking man. He was leading a goat along. He said, “This goat is one of the Chinese goats. It was there the day they killed your families. I have a special relationship with it, and so it has communicated to me, by means I will not disclose, that it does not feel any remorse and does not expect that any of you are brave enough or powerful enough to kill and eat it. So who of you is brave enough and powerful enough to kill and eat it?” The goat looked sad and bent down to eat from a patch of grass.

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Gil was supposed to hate it, but he didn’t. He didn’t know why. He’d hated the idea of all those people, those people dead, his people. But he didn’t hate the goat. He wanted the goat to live, even if what the farmer-looking man said was true. And Gil wasn’t trying to suggest he didn’t believe the farmer-looking guy, or for that matter, what he was told in the Small Room by the animated Count and, later, the Encourager. The goat seemed goat-like and not so concerned with the affairs of humans. Gil didn’t want to descend on it with conditioned rage. He fought the urge. The girls in his group didn’t. Neither did the other boys. They descended on the goat with conditioned rage. The poor goat. *** The group got older and stronger, and they were finally sent to visit with people in villages nearby. The elderly in those villages were quick to tell them stories of degradation and mud, all because of the hordes of the outsiders who had wrecked their way of life. One among them was especially to blame. An angry child with an eyepatch and long untamed hair. Gil thought his own hair was beginning to look a little bit untamed. He would have to have it trimmed. He wasn’t sure he felt righteous indignation, or if that was even what he was supposed to feel. How offended Gil’s people were, and oppressed, by forces from somewhere he and the others had never seen and couldn’t know. But somewhere inside he felt something. It was this fiery vaguely alcoholinduced feeling sensation. “You’re a terrible member of the clan, Gil,” Jenny said. “You’re a piece of shit and you’re full of shit.” “Why are you such a piece of shit?” Victor Slaw said. “Not one of these fine young ladies of our ilk is going to want to have sex with you. They’re not going to want to provide you with a child. Then who will you be? Not a man. Not one of us. Good luck with that.” Gil had known an airing of disapproval was coming, but it caught him off guard regardless. They’d caught him at a weak moment, while he was asleep in his bunk and they’d wrestled him awake.
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“Do you want flowers? Is that what this is about?” Sarah said. “Because you can have all the flowers you want after we’re finally vindicated in the Final Climactic Showdown with the Chinamen. And you shouldn’t need more incentive to kill them than what they’ve already done to everyone we care about and all we hold dear.” “I’m not saying I don’t want to kill them,” Gil said, trying to muster a defense in his waking stupor, amid the constant salvos of platitudes his compatriots were unleashing. “I want to kill them. They all should die. I’m interested in flowers, but only as a hobby and I don’t need them, not right now, not like air.” “You better not lose sight of what’s important. You better be with us. You can just forget about having sex with me, otherwise,” Sarah said, her expression gravid with malice. “Don’t make me exploit your weakness,” Slaw said, and mimed strangling Gil. Gil did want to have sex with Sarah, or something like that. He wanted to give her flowers for reasons he didn’t understand. He thought it was funny. He’d heard of drugs that could alter one’s perception of life in dramatic ways. He’d even been prescribed certain drugs before, for ailments and the like. He wondered if he’d been drugged without his knowing it at some point. He had no way of knowing. He felt like himself. He felt like he’d never been psychotropically removed from his self. But maybe that was one of the drug’s effects. He did feel like something was missing. And he hated the feeling of rage kept at a constant boil inside him. He felt manipulated by it. He saw the stirring of rage in the others. He saw it tear away at their physical selves. They were torn from their youthful bodies. They were hollowed by the singularity of pursuing their one aim. One hollow aim. The aim of retribution, exacting a toll on the ones who had wronged you and your people. He didn’t feel right about any of it. The others knew. That’s where the threats came from. And the relational motivation. Be one with us. Prove it. *** They kept pressing the group forward, as the group continued to press Gil, be more like them. Made them make the choices they were going to make, motivated by what they believed was the will of their people. Visions of the
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eye-patched Chinaman flooded Gil’s waking and unconscious thoughts regularly, without warning. “I’m going to kill all you hold dear, Gil!” the Chinaman said, the Chinese. He was making an effort to call his enemy a Chinese. They would be expected to use weapons, to fight and kill. Gil knew, and he’d been training with weapons for a long time. There was a part of it that became automatic. He found himself killing things without effort or consideration. Animals mostly. Tiny animals. On impulse. And he would eat the animals. It made him feel guilty to kill indiscriminately like that, especially if it served no useful purpose. So he ate the tiny animals. He was almost always full. “I don’t want to kill any human. I know I must. I know that we are heading down a path to the final showdown. But I am not excited about crushing a skull on a rock, doing the things they say we have to do to prevail.” “Why are you telling me this? I thought you wanted me to come out here for intercourse,” Sarah said, again a flame smoldering within her expression. “I do want that! But I wanted to be honest, too. You know, it’s not easy.” “Jesus, this was supposed to be over with, Gil. Remember? They’re the ones that started all of this. They’re the ones who haunt our worst fears, inhabit them. Their existence means we can’t be safe. As long as they’re around, we can’t be safe. And telling you truthfully, I don’t want anyone to harm you. I don’t want your head crushed. Or any other thing like that. That would be awful. I don’t think I could live if that happened to you, if anything like that happened to you.” “I love you,” Gil said to Sarah, awkward and with a bit of uncertainty. And though Sarah detected the uncertainty she kissed him open mouthed. A new experience to them both. And this now complicated things. They wouldn’t like it, that was assured. Gil brimmed. Brimmed with a feeling that replaced the rage and the hatred cultivated for so long. Sarah, too, seemed lightened. The others noticed, but the others decided it was not a huge detriment to their ultimate objective -- not yet. The others let it be.
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They felt differently, and so they sent the Count to talk some sense into Gil and Sarah. The Count was the actor who voiced the animated version of the Count in a Count mascot outfit. “Youf gotta focus on the biiig picture, vlah,” the Count said. “It’s hard to take you seriously when you speak that way,” Gil said. “Youf got to listen to me now, regaardless. I am truly your one last hope. Remember our time together in the Small Room, where you learned your ABCs and how to hate your en-ah-mies,” the Count said. “It is urgent, vlah, that you stay true to the course. There may be a time for romance later. Now is the time to hate and to prepare for the kill.” “We will always be true to the course. We are loyal. We are prepared to kill,” Sarah said, stone-faced. Then Gil saw her give him a wink, barely perceivable. “Vlah, yes. Well, vlah, I’m glad we had this talk. It was nice to see you both again, vlah.” *** The Final Climactic Showdown was fast approaching. They were at their most nubile, these now twenty-one year olds pitted against their Chinese rivals of approximately the same age. People liked to see the relatively young fight for the honor of the community. Gil intended to see to it that the fighting didn’t happen. He considered not fighting, but it was likely in that event, he would just be killed by his enemies. He assumed now, seeing a little of the bigger picture, as the Count had inadvertently suggested, that the Chinese had been brought up with the same venom he had. The lone difference being theirs was directed, naturally, toward him and his people. The stadium roared, like the coliseums of old Rome. The expectation was the same: a victory for the righteous side and some blood and some gore, at least.
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Gil was dressed in the traditional garments of his people: a silver and white jumpsuit and headband. Their opponents were dressed similarly. Everyone came out onto the sand-covered killing field, the crowd above shaking the bleachers. The visage of the Handsome Authority Figure soothed the crowd, quieting them to a gentle murmur. So handsome and so angry, the Handsome Authority Figure. He glowed happily but scowled unhappily. Everyone in the stadium “ewwwed” and “ahhhhd” reverentially for a long interval. “LET THE BATTLES HAVE THEIR BEGINNING!” The Handsome Authority Figure wailed, in a voice like an alien, which was incongruous and startling to the people, part of why the Handsome Authority Figure was so carefully obeyed. Then the song started. “It’s a final climactic showdown, a final, a final, a final climactic showdown. Evil will lose and victory will prevail. Victory will go to the ones whoooooooo prove they deserve it. Prov-prov-prov-prov-prov-prov-prove you will!” But before anything else could happen, Gil used his spear to stab the eyepatched Chinese man, right in the heart. His plan, whatever it was, consisted primarily of killing one of his adversaries immediately. It happened by chance his victim was the Chinese man with the eye patch, the one who could reasonably be deemed his most apparent mortal enemy. Quickly, Gil killed all of his adversaries, all the Chinese, by himself. No strategy. No sport. Without a thought, with robotic efficiency and evident skill. He’d only wanted to do so for the sake of Sarah, to protect her. He’d hoped in the end to kill himself, too, as a form of protest. He wanted to prove to the people that there was another way, and he was willing to martyr himself if it meant creating an environment ripe for change. He expected them to adore him. He expected to be their hero. The crowd was silent with disappointment. They had expected a climactic showdown. This was not that. This was a letdown. And Gil absolutely hadn’t counted on the power of a singular entity possessing the venom of many thousands of people.
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The crowd was prepared to indicate how much they did not care for letdowns by slithering together, merging as it were, to become a volcano. A volcano whom the Handsome Authority Figure was encouraging take its revenge, end things in climactic fashion, get its money’s worth. “Spit your rage down upon them, Citizens!” the Handsome Authority Figure cried, and no one could ignore it. Gil ran to Sarah as all the others ran to escape. “I didn’t mean for this. I don’t know what exactly I meant for. I might have done it purely as a triggered response. I know they prefer we give each successive kill purpose,” Gil shouted over the volcano’s eruption. Sarah gripped him, kissing him hard as the avalanche of smoke and ash surrounded and encased them. *** Many months later, excavators had dug up the previously-molten rock and found the pocket they believed Gil and Sarah were trapped together inside, dead presumably. They knocked on it, expecting to hear nothing. They were mistaken. They heard something. Two voices asked them to go away. They did. They went away. They left them there. It remains, a monument to something special.

Copyright 2013 by Matt Rowan

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The Club

All the pictures in the club are black and white. In the main hallway next to the lower dining room, where we ate the day I got in, there's one of Herbert Hoover, the club's first president, holding a pitching wedge and smoking a cigar. In it his hair is tight against his head. It could be gray, or white but just in shadow. In the dining room, my grandfather managed to get us a table looking over one of the golf courses. The room was new, built in the last five years, but made in the same white-pillared style as everything else. "What would you like?" he asked, pushing a menu at me. "Everything here is good." "Thanks." I took the menu and ordered a bowl of soup when the waiter came. While we waited for the food, my grandfather told me the story about how my father won the club championship the year before he went to college. It had come down to a putt on the hole we were sitting over. "Eleven feet, and he sunk it." I nodded. "That's good." My grandfather shifted in his chair. "You should write him." My eyes stuck to the wall. The room was full of men, gray-haired and round-stomached, who knew the others' names and spouses' names and what type of watch the others generally wore. They occasionally greeted my grandfather, who introduced them to me. They would look at me, then say: "Yes, of course." The waiter brought our food and some whiskey, courtesy of one of the men. "Tell him Happy Thanksgiving." my grandfather said, and the waiter nodded and left.
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For Thanksgiving we ate in the main dining room, which looked out through glass-paneled doors to where the pools and golf courses and tennis courts of the club became the inscrutable Virginia woods, miles of undistinguished greenness. Inside, silver platters spanned two adjacent walls. There was everything characteristic of Thanksgiving and then more. The same men who had been in the lower dining room the night before shuffled through the line, filling their plates. On one of the walls a football game showed. My grandfather sat at a table and watched the game. A glass of whiskey stood in front of his unfilled plate. Of course he had eaten at the hospital before driving over. I made my plate and took a seat next to him. "How was she today?" His eyes flicked down to the whiskey before coming up to mine. They were diluted blue, like some of the moisture around them had seeped in. "She's better. You should come see her." I nodded and removed my eyes from his, pretending to watch the football game. "I will. I'll come see her when she gets better." "Want anything else?" my grandfather asked, then got up and walked to the platters. Outside, the sunlight danced on the pools and polished metal of the club. Someone in the football game made a great throw and the men in the room cheered. It was halftime now. A man in an iron-colored suit got up to make a toast. "Now that's enough waiting," he called to the expectant room. "Let's raise our glasses and say what it is we're thankful for." Let me tell you one thing I'm thankful for now. It's what happened later that night, after the football game and the dinner were over and the men had driven off, so that it was just me and the club and
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the darkness, and I'm thankful for it because I think it helped me understand something about the club and how I was feeling then. That night, I took some of the blue and white stationary from the desk in my room and went out to the porch to write a letter. I sat there, thinking about the metal-colored suits of the men, of my grandfather's handshake before he left, of my father making the putt that cemented him in club history. Most of all, I thought of the difference between what I had thought of the club as a child and what I thought of it now. I wrote a lot, but I wasn't saying anything. After a while I tipped the letter into the waste-bin. For some reason on my way back I passed my room and kept on walking. I went to the staircase and up to the club's attic. There, in the dust-covered discarded things of the club, was something covered by a tarp. I removed the covering and stood looking at the thing underneath for a while. Then I went down to my room to sleep. But I was still thinking about what I saw. Underneath the tarp was a painting in which a purple sky spilled water onto a field. The sky was in color, but the field wasn't. It was as gray as the fields of the places where it never rains.

Copyright 2013 by Evan Greif

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A Dream of Learning During the summer after my freshman year of college I sold expensive books door to door in Phoenix. The Great Books of the Western World—you can still see them occasionally for sale in used book stores—was a set of 54 volumes of classics in literature, history, philosophy, psychology, economics, politics, mathematics, and science, published by the same people who put out the Encyclopaedia Britannica and marketed as a way to acquire familiarity with everything worthwhile that had been written about “the great ideas” of Western civilization. My college roommate and I answered an ad and spent two days learning the pitch for the Great Books. It was a canned speech that had to be memorized and then delivered word for word—no improvisation was permitted during the training period. Even afterward we were told our best chance for a sale was to stick closely to the text that a team of marketing psychologists had worked hard to get right. “If you can get through the pitch five times”, said Whitey, my gravelvoiced team leader, “you will get a sale.” Whitey was about sixty, or at least that was the guess of a nineteen-year-old for whom old doesn’t admit of too many degrees. He looked as if he would be equally at ease running a small bookie operation or grifting an insurance scam. The appeal of the pitch for him might have been its mendacity—not about the merit of the books, but about the way the customers were to pay for them. The pitch first offered ridiculously low payments over a ten-year period, but you couldn’t close the deal unless you “converted” the buyer to a more expensive, 30-month plan. There was in fact no ten-year option. But Whitey was right, at least in my experience. I hardly ever got through more than one pitch a night, working from shortly after five in the evening—we had to pitch husbands and wives together—until about nine-thirty or ten, when people simply stopped answering the door. I sold a set of books on average once every five days and made almost $500 for the month I sold books, which wasn’t bad for a nineteen-year old in 1962 working a part-time evening job. *** The Great Books of the Western World was not the first such experiment in popular education. Half a century earlier, two editors at Collier, the encyclopedia publisher, had talked the recently retired head of Harvard into
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putting together the Harvard Classics. Charles William Eliot, who had run the university longer than any president before him, had claimed in speeches to working men (shades of John Ruskin!) that “a five-foot shelf would hold books enough to give in the course of years of reading a good substitute for a liberal education.” Thus the Harvard Classics, also known as the Harvard Five-Foot Shelf of Books, was begun. The fifty volumes Eliot eventually chose were heavy on literature and also contained ancient and modern philosophy, economics (Adam Smith but not Karl Marx), science of the nineteenth century (Darwin, Lister, Faraday, Pasteur) and earlier (Harvey, Jenner, but no Copernicus, Galileo, or Newton), politics, history, travels, and religious texts. Eliot described his intent in the first paragraph of his introduction to the set: My purpose in selecting The Harvard Classics was to provide the literary materials from which a careful and persistent reader might gain a fair view of the progress of man observing, recording, inventing, and imagining from the earliest historical times to the close of the nineteenth century. Within the limits of fifty volumes…I was to provide the means of obtaining such a knowledge of ancient and modern literature as seems essential to the twentieth century idea of a cultivated man. The best acquisition of a cultivated man is a liberal frame of mind or way of thinking; but there must be added to that possession acquaintance with the prodigious store of recorded discoveries, experiences, and reflections which humanity in its intermittent and irregular progress from barbarism to civilization has acquired and laid up. From that store I proposed to make such a selection as any intellectually ambitious American family might use to advantage, even if their early opportunities of education had been scanty. *** I ring the doorbell of the newly-built tract house in the Phoenix suburbs. “Hi, I’m Mike Cohen, University of Chicago,” I say without a blush -another bit of mendacity in the pitch. “I’m here to talk to you about a unique educational opportunity. You’re interested in education, aren’t you, Mr. ------?”

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The slight, blond man who has come to the door looks no older than I am. With only a brief hesitation, he gives me his last name, which means I can now use it in the pitch. He’s just home from work and hasn’t had time to change—a white, short-sleeved dress shirt, with a collar too large for his skinny neck, and a tie. We sit down and I stall while his wife is putting the baby down in the next room. When she comes in I start the pitch in earnest. She looks even younger than her husband, also slight, and tired. They are sitting on the couch and I on a straight –back chair that is the only other furniture in the living room. Over their heads, through the undraperied picture window, I can see the bare yard with a sprinkler going on dirt that must be newly sown with grass. They haven’t been in the house long enough for it to sprout. “Start there,” Whitey had said as he let me out of the team car, indicating the house with the bare yard. It didn’t look very promising to me. But he was right. An hour later I left with my first sale. *** The “ambitious American family” whose “early opportunities of education had been scanty” is the main target for the Great Books just as it was for the Harvard Classics. Of course they appealed to other buyers. Once I made a sale to a man who was clearly familiar with the names on the spines; he wanted the books as a resource but was also eager at the chance to just dip into authors he’d never read before. The extreme case was what Whitey called a “book mooch.” This kind of customer was sold early in the pitch when the pitchmaker unfolded a full-size color photograph of the books—printed on a canvas broadside—and spread it at his feet. “You can see the pupils of their eyes get bigger,” Whitey said. “It’s like they were watching porn or something.” The mooches tended to answer magazine ads featuring the Great Books, mailing in their addresses to have further information “sent” to them. These leads were always kept by Whitey and the other team chiefs and resulted in a much higher rate of sale than the cold canvas we newbies were limited to. ***

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The Great Books took up slightly more shelf space than the Harvard Classics, and came with their own bookcase. Eliot had envisioned the earlier set as a series of courses; the Great Books were inspired by a course philosopher Mortimer Adler and university president Robert Hutchins developed at the University of Chicago around some landmark texts of the Western tradition. One of the students in the Adler-Hutchins course was William Benton, who, when he became publisher of Encyclopaedia Britannica in the 1940s, enlisted his former teachers in a project to select texts for what would become the Great Books of the Western World. By the time the set was published in 1952, the endeavor’s educational purpose had acquired almost sacred status in Hutchins’s view. “This is more than a set of books,” Hutchins told the crowd at the publication launch. “Great Books of the Western World is an act of piety. Here are the sources of our being. Here is our heritage. This is the West. This is its meaning for mankind.” Adler and Hutchins benefited from some of the criticism that had been directed toward the Harvard Classics over forty years. All of Homer, the Greek playwrights, Plato and Aristotle (two volumes) were included. So were many more science and mathematics texts. The English literature representation began with Chaucer (Troilus and The Canterbury Tales), whom Eliot had excluded. Not only Darwin, but Hegel, Marx, and Freud were amply presented. The great novelty, however, was the addition of what Mortimer Adler called the Syntopicon. He and almost a hundred readers working for him made a list of ideas which they found recurring in the authors of the Great Books. They then painstakingly compiled an index of passages where each idea was discussed. References to 3,000 different topics were assembled, and then Adler reduced these topics to a master list of larger ideas. He called these the “Great Ideas,” and they included such obvious choices as Beauty, Chance, Democracy, Fate, God, Good and Evil, Happiness, Justice, Religion, Sin, Truth and Wisdom. Some less obvious choices were Angel, Definition, Habit, Oligarchy, and Prophecy. The Syntopicon gave the Great Books something of the nature of an encyclopedia that could be dipped into and sampled by the use of this master index. *** The Great Books sold poorly during the first few years. Then Encyclopaedia Britannica started to market the books the same way they marketed their encyclopedia. In the late 1950s they began using the pitch
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Britannica’s marketing psychologists had painstakingly assembled; in 1961, the year before I was going door to door, Britannica sold 50,000 sets. Selling the Great Books like an encyclopedia seems to be an inevitable result of their conception. Clearly the Harvard Classics and the Great Books both began in the minds of people who made encyclopedias; they were conceived for the common reader and the common reader was their obvious market. The encyclopedia is also the product of a dream of learning for the common folk, born of the Enlightenment, but housed in a profit-making form. Encyclopedias of the non-virtual sort, made up of a row of sizable and very actual books, are rare now. In its inception though, the encyclopedia is remarkably like the current virtual variety on the Wikipedia model that is the work of a community of scholars and intended for the use of the ordinary citizen, anyone who can access it, the nonspecialist, the inquirer who wants quick and concise but also accurate and reliable information. Learning served up in easy helpings. The first modern encyclopedia was the Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (1751-1765) edited and partly written by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert. The Encyclopédie was twenty-eight volumes of information and illustrations put together by a score of learned writers that included Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu. It was a populist effort that included descriptions of ordinary trades (métiers) by the workers themselves, and its writers rejected the authority of church and state to make any claims of knowledge. Nothing less than “human knowledge in a truly unified system” (d’Alembert’s words) was the aim of the Encyclopédie, and its intended audience was any one who desired knowledge and could read. Diderot and d’Alembert did not appeal directly to “any intellectually ambitious…family…even if their early opportunities of education had been scanty,” but they did ultimately find such readers, and most scholars agree that the Encyclopédie contributed significantly to the democratizing movements leading up to the revolution in France. Of course it is the overall populist effect of the Encyclopédie through time that I speak of. The first sets were sold to rich men by subscription before they were even written, and there was never anyone going door to door saying, “Salut! Je suis Michel Cohen, de la Société des Philosophes.” Collecting writings such as the Harvard Classics or the Great Books is a less subversive activity than that of the encyclopedists. There are plenty of dangerous ideas in the Great Books, and the actual words of writers such as Locke show up in revolutionary documents like the Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. But the sedition and the blasphemy and the rabble-rousing words were
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all written by those long dead, who can’t be hauled off to jail, as Diderot was at one point. *** Large editorial projects like assembling great books for mass sale are a thing of the past. Too many of the works in such collections are in the public domain, and are therefore available free online as etexts. But the lack of commercial motive is not the only reason why we don’t see a twenty-firstcentury five-foot bookshelf. Civilization’s necessary documents probably need a much larger shelf than five feet. Partly this is a matter of expanding the notion of “western” to include texts from farther afield, but editors would also be thinking about women writers and scientists who never even occurred to Eliot (a few of these found their way into the second edition of the Great Books), and perhaps finding slave narratives and captivity narratives that would fill some of the gaps between Eliot’s all-white writers. “And so on, endlessly, until we have inflated the five-foot shelf to the size of the Widener Library,” writes Adam Kirsch in “The Five-Foot Shelf Reconsidered” in Harvard Magazine in 2001. But even if we could keep the size under control, the selections themselves would be less readable, because an explosion of knowledge has been accompanied by an acceleration in its specialization. A more serious obstacle is the growth of skeptical attitudes. We are less inclined than we used to be to invest anyone with the cultural authority to tell us what the great books are. Strident voices are raised in criticism whenever anyone presumes to talk about the “best” books or the ones “necessary” to a liberal education. Moreover a contemporary skepticism retreats into the theoretical, into a kind of meta-specialization. We seem convinced that no one can be educated in history by historians without hearing from historiographers about the biases and blind spots of the historians—and so on in every other discipline. Yet there are testimonials. David Denby writes about the joys of re-taking the Columbia University great books class he first took as a freshman in 1961. Sometimes it is hard to tell whether Denby’s Great Books: My Adventures with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf, and Other Indestructible Writers of the Western World (1996) is a paean to the genuinely indestructible writers or an elegy for a kind of instruction that was common enough during the twentieth century but is mostly gone or profoundly diluted in this one. Nonetheless there are still many

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colleges with Great Books curricula, either as the multi-year core of liberal arts degrees or merely as a one- or two-semester survey. And outside of colleges there are also still many listmakers. Publishers, newspapers, and magazines often come out with lists of the hundred novels we dare not die before we read, the vital nonfiction books of the last hundred years, and so on. Robert B. Downs’s Books That Changed the World has gone through three editions since 1956 and remains in print. Martin SeymourSmith’s The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written got a great deal of attention when it was published in 1998. Except for a score or so of writers, these lists rarely give us a consensus, and their more outré choices often tell more about the compiler’s personality than the galaxy of important books. That there is no consensus does not preclude a census, of course. The catch is that you have to be educated to undertake an intelligent census, to find out on your own just what constitutes the best that has been thought and said. In fact, the older and better-stocked the mind, the more pleasure it takes in making choices about what to read. *** One can still buy the Great Books either in an expensive second edition put together in 1990 or in the original edition, from used book dealers online or in brick and mortar stores. The sets are easy to find since more than a million were sold. The Harvard Classics also show up in bookstores, and in recent decades Easton Press produced a leather-bound set and Kessinger Publishing a paperback one. But the entire five-foot bookshelf is now available online from Gutenberg.org. Another site, MyHarvardClassics.com, has all the volumes available as pdf file downloads, and the site also has a reading plan: “Use this accelerated reading guide for 1 hour a day and become a cultivated scholar with all the elements of a liberal education in 90 Days.” The modern hawkers of self-education are those who’ve made a market in homeschooling and in denying the necessity of college. UnCollege.org, sells its founder’s book Hacking Your Education and various expensive “programs” rather than courses. The Great Books Academy sells its courses for about three thousand dollars each. In America we dream that everything should be within our reach—and without reaching very far. Some of us remember when milk and ice and baked goods, fresh vegetables and fruit, ice cream and knife sharpening, pot and pan repair and household odd jobs all were there at our doorstep or passing in the street. I grew up selling various things door to door: doughnuts and newspapers, little cans of Cloverine Brand Salve to get my first Daisy BB rifle,
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and eventually the Great Books. I have been hawking great books all my adult life, selling them door to door my freshman year and teaching them in college Honors Humanities classes for years before I retired. Having tried it both ways, though, I confess there has always seemed to be something mendacious about the door-to-door sale of education, or its modern equivalent in the internet do-it-in-the-comfort-of-your-own-home salesmen. I don’t say the autodidact is a modern impossibility, but educating oneself was never easy and has to be more difficult now. There are no shortcuts. You really do have to read Euclid (or to have been taught geometry) in order to read Newton, and although you might not need any preparation to read Darwin, you jolly well won’t grasp much from Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason unless you’ve read Aristotle and Plato as well as Descartes and Hume, or had at least one good introductory philosophy course. The dream of learning in everyone’s grasp, the dream of the enlightenment of a free and self-educated citizenry, has always been there, but in America it has always smelled a little too much like snake oil. Whitey didn’t say this in so many words, but I think I knew it, even at nineteen.

Copyright 2013 by Michael Cohen

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Fancy

I made a coffee after dinner and took the dog outside with me to smoke a cigarette. She quit a while ago, but I, however am incapable of sipping a coffee without a roly poly cigarette in the other hand. It’s the typical Bridgeport, Connecticut January evening and I was finally getting used to it turning pitch black before the clock struck exactly nighttime. Snow and ice cover the yard and every morning it starts to melt until the sun disappears over the house and the slush on top turns back into ice. In the morning it starts all over again just like the day itself. My dog slid around the great Park City Tundra before she settled down and she sat on the ice. Fancy pointed her nose up at the moon and the smog. Her name is Lilly, but I call her Fancy for short. She sat like a big silent scalene triangle. She just breathed at the moon. It was but a matter of seconds, my head was rushed with images of wolves, the words like water circumfluent in space, symbolism flowed forth over my mind. It wasn’t even thinking. I was more thoughting than anything. Words and ideas popped liked those old camera flashbulbs and Nature jumped in and out of my stream of consciousness. Human nature and the other kind too, the outside kind. I moved it around in my head, waxing poetic to myself. My poor Fancy knows enough to sit and look at the moon. Being but only a distant descendent of something so free and so wild, she, like the most of us, she’s incapable of the howl, of a true unfiltered form of expression. We have the freedom of speech, but lack power to say anything. We’re over comfortable with the way we are. We are too neutered to be anything but pets. We are all incapable of howling at the moon The animal instinct is still there perhaps, but we just don’t know how to use it anymore. I then realized she was just going to the bathroom. Copyright 2013 by Anthony Mastroianni
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In The Mind

…they hang there in the mind… - Tony Hoagland, “The Question” They hang there in the mind, questions to which we have no answers. Suspended, all around them, are answers to the questions we were never asked.

Copyright 2013 by Sandra Rokoff-Lizut

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Banana Scandal

The sex-ed teacher they hired was a thin, jittery man just out of college. His button-down shirt and tie hung on him awkwardly and he carried his papers around with him in a plastic bag. He might have been able to pass as a student if he wasn’t already going bald in his mid-twenties. It was his idea to use bananas as the botanical alternative to the—now let’s be serious here, kids—penis during the instruction of proper condom application. In the first attempt at this lesson, the kids peeled and ate the fruits as he was handing out the condoms. Though he considered explaining to them the homoerotic overtones of their actions, he instead watched all the assignments be eaten up without saying a word. He didn’t want to cause a riot by insinuating anything too scandalous about the boys. For his next attempt, he requested the school provide him with less appetizing green bananas, making sure to suggest that the cafeteria could use them afterwards. There were some grumbles amongst the school board for having to make out two checks for large orders of bananas within the same week, but the unspoken truth was that they were glad to finally get this whole condom business out of the way. The instruction went satisfactorily. The sex-ed teacher was confident that each boy could apply a condom to any banana, yellow or green. Congratulating himself on his teaching ability, the teacher collected up the fruits and sent them to the cafeteria. For a while all was quiet. But soon the boys began to question the slippery sheen on their fruit and recognized the graffiti they made on a few of them. In an outburst of horrid clarity, they realized they were eating their post-coital fruit. Complaints flooded the principal’s desk; janitors spent hours wiping banana mush from the walls. After some consideration, the school decided that it was better to drop the sex-ed program entirely. Whenever the teacher saw the principal after that, he apologized several times in a row, though he wasn’t ever sure that the principal forgave him.

Copyright 2013 by Patrick Morey

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Save Me from My Enemies I am stuck between a bunker wall and other bodies. The humidity is so that I sweat without movement. I haven’t swallowed in minutes, or the sand in my teeth has soaked up my spit. The air smells of sulfur and burning flesh. I want to look beyond the concrete. I want to witness the side effects of an hour’s worth of enemy indirect fire. But, I don’t move. I don’t look. I can’t move. The rigid gray concrete, now appearing black under the shadows, is strangely reassuring on my right side. While on all other sides, I feel the sweat and sand covered skin of grown men, their tense muscles shivering. Boom! Another rocket. Screams ricochet through the concrete tunnel. “Save me from my enemies, my God; protect me from those who attack me!” The words are bouncing off a soldier’s quivering lips. His sand-covered right arm, against my body, is scratching me, as it shifts between words. If he is crying, his tears are mixed with streams of sweat. I find a strange solace watching beads of water drip from his nose into the darkness of the bunker. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Boom! Another rocket. Every soldier in the bunker flinches collectively, sending a twitch through their body and a dip in their chin. “Save me from those evil people; rescue me from those murderers!” His American southern accent mixed with fear makes the prayer sound like the delusional muttering of a drug-addled reverend. No one seems to be paying him any attention though. Each soldier is prisoner of their own memories and confusion. Eyes open, their visions are a thousand miles away. They see their children. Or wife. Or girlfriend. Or parents. Or home. Or all. There is momentary comfort in their thought, a fleeting hug of home, and then it disappears. And where joyous reuniting once stood, vivid images of faraway faces, like a sputtering movie reel against the backdrop of one’s fear and regret. “Look! They are waiting to kill me; cruel people are gathering against me.” The soldier manically shouted the words into the cement ceiling. Boom! Another rocket. That explosion sounded closer than the last few. The soldier plants his forefingers into his ears. I feel a warm sensation on my bare feet. The soldier in front of me has peed himself. A stale odor of iron emanates through clouds of sulfur. “It is not because of any sin wrong I have done…” Boom! Another rocket. I hear metal and wood violently scatter through the night air. We are once again greeted with an uncomfortable silence, one that follows each explosion.. The
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enemy has retreated. Maybe our soldiers killed them. Or maybe not! Maybe the next one will hit us. The next one will kill me. “nor because of any fault of mine, O Lord, that they hurry to their places.” I began to fear this soldier more than the explosions. Were those words really comforting to him? Had he lost his mind? What is this person capable of? “Rise, Lord God Almighty, and come to my aid!” I didn’t want to tell him, but I didn’t think God was going to rise. Ever.

Copyright 2013 by Alex Neely

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This is the life

Comic strip character sprawled in a striped hammock arms behind his head wagon wheel grin gleaming hair, cowlick couple palm trees sway against the sky blue if the Sunday funnies clear if a weekday couple carefree clouds in a dialog bubble (if somebody’s there) if a thought bubble (if alone) “This is the life!” Is it just that? Is that the whole piece? Is nothing missing? Is the sky just the sky the palm just the palm the dialog bubble just a bubble and the thought bubble? In the funnies something terrible is about to happen a wife wielding a big black fry pan or a twister rising from the enormous sea cartoonist adds a question mark “This is the life?”

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Then it is revealed the fry pan is full of over-easies and the twister fails at the surf line “This is the life!”

Copyright 2013 by Bill Haugse

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The Bicycle Review #25 was edited and curated by Rhea Adri, J de Salvo, Robert Louis Henry, and Michael McCormick.

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