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QUIET LIGHTNING IS

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53
© 2014 Quiet Lightning
artwork © Luis Pinto
dadeluis@gmail.com
“I Am Woman Hear Me Roar” first published in Pedestal
“The Disenchantress” was first published in Frank Matter, later
reprinted in Iron Horse Review
“Chicago Without Any Shoes On” can be found in
Spark: A Creative Anthology
“A Note on Euphemisms…” first published in The Bygone Bureau
book design by j. brandon loberg
set in Absara
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CONTENTS
curated by
Kristen Kramer & Sarah Carpenter
featured artist Luis Pinto
PETER BULLEN After-Party 1
Unglued 3
MONETA GOLDSMITH Chicago Without Any Shoes On 9
XAN ROBERTI April in the Bay 13
SHARON COLEMAN Taxi Woman 15
ANDRENA ZAWINSKI I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar 21
EMMA WOOD Without Sex 23
JOHN-VINCENT GRECCO Mistrials Ballad 27
MARCUS LUND A Prayer for Rain 31
MONETA GOLDSMITH The Disenchantress 35
TOMAS MONIZ Things That Inspire Me 39
SIAMAK VOSSOUGHI Secretly Secretly 43
JEN SULLIVAN BRYCH A Note on Euphemisms in My
New-Adult, Erotic Novel 47
MR(S) TISATULA To the Reader it May Concern 53
Q
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ING IS SP
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l a g u n i t a s . c o m
QUIET LIGHTNING
A 501(c)3, the primary objective and purpose of Quiet
Lightning is to foster a community based on literary
expression and to provide an arena for said expression. QL
produces a monthly, submission-based reading series on
the first Monday of every month, of which these books
(sparkle + blink) are verbatim transcripts.
Formed as a nonprofit in July 2011, the board of QL is
currently:
Evan Karp founder + president
Chris Cole managing director
Josey Lee public relations
Meghan Thornton treasurer
Kristen Kramer chair
Sarah Ciston director of books
Katie Wheeler-Dubin director of films
Kelsey Schimmelman acting secretary
Sidney Stretz and Laura Cerón Melo
art directors
Lisa Miller, Rose Linke, and RJ Ingram
outreach directors
Sarah Maria Griffin and Ceri Bevan
directors of special operations
If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in
helping—on any level—please send us a line:
evan@qui etl i ghtni ng. or g
- SET 1 -
1
P
E
T
E
R B U
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A
F
TER-PAR
T
Y
How you want to talk with people about.
Just that, how you want.
Just that, how you desire it, to talk with another, with
a stranger who is made into another with whom you
want, long, to talk what you can’t talk with about.
What they can’t talk about, is how you wish, yearn to
talk.
How you wish for that conversation with the one
who has her back to you, her shoulders bare, with the
one who has her front to you.
How you wish, and how you fear her front to you,
with which you want to talk.
How you fear and long for her front to you; and later
her back, her bare shoulders, her hands through her
hair, a habit.
She has a habit, with which you want to talk.
How you wish to touch upon what you’ve waited
2
to touch upon, and can’t talk about. How you desire
it, how you long, and can’t talk about.
So that her, with her back to you, and her with her
front to you, can share, can share this impossible
conversation you cannot embark upon.
How lovely then, to not embark upon this impossible
conversation, how lovely then, to share the absence
of, the absence of this impossible conversation, a
paralysis of speech, to share it with the one who has
her back to you, to fear it with the one who has her
front to you.
PETER BULLEN 3
UNGLUED
1.
It was probably the coffee.
I was exuberant, a touch un-tethered. I wrote Bob
a letter telling him a simple truth; that the sight of
his wife’s ankles caused me to swoon. But not to the
point of passing out, which of course, he would have
noticed, since he was standing by his wife at the time.
For some reason, I thought he’d be glad to hear an
honest, unfiltered confession from me; that it would
draw us closer. And I meant the whole thing as a
compliment to him. He had chosen her. Well done, I
wanted to say. Bravo.
In the letter, I neglected to mention his ankles, which
may be why I did not hear anything back. When
I think of his ankles, which isn’t often, I imagine
them covered up by those white socks that come in
packets of three from Ross. Those are terrible socks. I
wear them myself so I speak from experience. Those
damn socks, in their sporty little packets, are filled
with irony. Their design hints at athleticism, but your
poor feet can barely breathe in them. How would
4
you ever pole vault or run a three minute mile inside
such suffocating encasements? I feel sorry for Bob
when I picture his ankles imprisoned in those torture
chambers, while his wife goes about boldly displaying
hers.
I wish he’d write me back.
2.
I thought to send a follow-up letter. Actually, I
couldn’t stop thinking about it. Everywhere I went
I was silently composing it. What I would say, how
I would say it, became the central meaning of my
life, which I was grateful for, since I had been on
the lookout for a central meaning. I couldn’t begin
the letter with an outright apology for making so
much of his wife’s ankles. It would only serve to
remind him of what, by now, must have become an
awkward and painful subject. On the other hand,
if I left the matter out entirely, and simply shot
the breeze, he might take that as an insult to his
intelligence, or even think (this may be a stretch)
that I had recalibrated my perspective on his wife’s
ankles, demoting them on the scale of desirables,
down to hum-drum, run-of-the-mill body parts dully
related to the human skeleton, things that would
still hang around when the rest of her was gone.
Hopefully no such thought had occurred to him. I
was already in enough trouble without reminding
him of his wife’s perishable status. I decided the
PETER BULLEN 5
best strategy was simply to act as if no breach had
occurred, and that there was no significance to the
deathly silence that had fallen between us. I would
take the position that there had been no former letter.
The letter I was about to compose would count as
my first correspondence. If he had received another
letter, it must have been a forgery sent by a deranged
individual. The world is full of troubled people.
3.
I decided my new letter should include an invitation,
feeling as I did that only more time in each other’s
company could provide the balm needed to heal
the wounds caused by the imposter. It would
serve as a testing ground into which I would enter,
adopting the spirit of determined warrior, ready
and willing to do battle with temptation, no matter
how formidable. This required inventive planning.
Everything was survivable if all I was faced with was
a ‘from the waist-up’ version of Bob’s wife. True, all
parts of her were charming, trinkets of loveliness
abounded on her person, little treasure chests
popped up in unusual corners, sparkling, and silently
communicative. The way her breath moved through
her upper body placed me in a gothic novel I couldn’t
remember the title of. But these were manageable
things, unlike the unmentionables that rested just
above her feet.
6
4.
I would suggest a meeting place that had the
potential, through an accident of design (much as I
felt myself to be) to shield me from any risky re-
visiting of her spectacular ground-floor. Along with
my just-short-of-foaming-at-the-mouth absorption,
in matters related to how the gods had assembled
Bob’s wife, I enjoyed an esthetic pleasure of close to
equal force, when letting my eyes linger over old-
school Italian espresso machines, which made the
Café Trieste the perfect location for our rendezvous.
It would be my treat. I’d get there first, a good fifteen
minutes ahead, station myself at a table close to the
door, keeping an eye on approaching customers. As
soon as I caught sight of Bob and his wife, I’d turn
toward the espresso machine. I’d hear them say my
name, my eyes still combing the sumptuous contours
of the espresso machine. “Sit down,” I’d say in a
celebratory, welcoming tone without yet turning to
face them. They might find this odd, but once Bob’s
wife was seated, and her ankles safely concealed
under the table, I would turn and explain that an
occasional trance-like state overcame me, in response
to the beautiful workmanship that went into the very
best espresso machines.
“So glad you guys could make it,” I’d say, in the casual
friendly way you speak to people with whom you
PETER BULLEN 7
harbor no secret obsessions. I felt confident in regard
to this plan, and sent off my letter.
I did not receive a reply.
5.
After a year or so, I was starting to think I would
never hear back from Bob. It was an unbearable
feeling. I couldn’t concentrate, I was falling behind
on every task, my boss wanted to speak with me
about my work performance. I could barely sleep.
So I sent another letter confessing that the ‘imposter’
letter was a ruse; that I was the imposter, yes Bob, I
admitted—the imposter was the imposter. I nursed
the hope that Bob’s compassion would be aroused,
that his heart would open as he began to comprehend
the scale of my distress, the lengths I was willing to
go to in order to make amends, and that perhaps now
he would understand the enormity of my admiration
for his wife’s ankles, as well as the intensity of my
wish to take back my inappropriate expression in
regard to them.
I thought there was a good chance Bob would write
me back, given how thoroughly I had laid bare my
soul.
So far, he hasn’t.
8
9
M
O
N
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T
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HICAG
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I
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U
T ANY SH
O
E
S

O
N
They tell me I was born on a Wednesday. That I was filthy.
       So they washed me.
And when you asked me the other day
what Chicago is like without you,
what I wanted to say is that
Chicago is a hallway without any doors,
that it is an elevator shaft recently exhumed,
stretched out to its limit, long and limp
as a pair of vocal chords—now with more
echoing power!
I wanted to say that Chicago is an empty dive bar
and that I am its sole patron. That Chicago is a
bourbon
baptism, and that you are a tall glass of not anymore
top-shelf Whisky tapped from the ceiling.
That you made this city Irish-Catholic silly
by leaving.
I wanted to say that Chicago has memorized
your lips—your lips that are plums that are spied
10
by aspiring grocers; that it still remembers
the story you told about a bunch of rats
that once lived inside a piano—‘and I can think of
nothing
sadder than that’, you said, than a bevy of rats
living inside a piano, gnawing on the strings until
the whole thing’s collapsed.
And now Chicago wants to get a giant tattoo
of the price of an abortion. A billboard that bleeds
in its throat, that still gushes over your leftover
sadness.
Chicago is still searching to get lost in your late night
binge-drink capitalism; but its arms—its arms are
revolving
doors that cannot close; its neck is a sugar shelf
lingering
in the air of diabetes night, a little bit broken.
And when I say the word ‘searching’,
what I mean is that Chicago is walking around with
a YouTube
clip of your face as a child, asking everyone:
         ’have you seen this little girl.
         she’s last seen charmed just a little bit dangerous.
         and she’s been missing too long’.
MONETA GOLDSMI TH 11
And when I say the word ‘dangerous’ what I mean is
that
Chicago is a crescendo trapped in the middle of a
scream.
That the city is sneaking subliminal messages to its
cab drivers,
trading in counterfeit romances, like:
            *WANTED*
Everybody. Spread-eagle. Up against the wall, like:
           *WANTED*
Everybody. Go grab schoolyard microphones at
midnight,
and make inebriated announcements, like:
            *WANTED*
‘To the owner of a blue beluga surf-board,
you left your nipples out in the rain.
you parked on top of my ribcage.
you melted the icicle of my starving esophagus.
you kissed me for like seven hours and my body
still feels like a waterfall for three days after, and
how is that possible’?
You ask me what Chicago is like without you,
and I want to say that it is whispering
at a gun-clap staccato. That Chicago is a museum
of itself the day after
12
a barefoot heist—that will take three weeks before
anybody—save for a bevy of mice—even becomes
aware of it. Because some secrets
can only stay sexy for so long.
Because whoever it was who wrote the book Piano Rats,
I looked for them. Their name was wrong. They were
not who they said they were. Because whoever it was
who wrote Piano Rats, they moved away from Chicago
the day after the book was released;
they moved away because they had to.
And when you ask me what Chicago is like without
you,
I do not tell you that it is filthy, that it is chewing on
its own
lot and loss, that it is ready and waiting to be washed
all over again. I tell you,
‘Chicago is fine’. Chicago is fine, I say.
Chicago is going to be fine because it has to be.
13
X
A
N

R O B
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T
I
A
P
R
IL IN THE
B
A
Y
Spring in a city where the seasons don’t change
is like wearing the same set of striped coveralls all day,
contrary or not. A poet’s version of hell is when the
words all sound
like words you’ve heard before in the same order.
When the world descends
into universals: field; bus; grief; fees, that is when you
have to stop
looking at the world, and start looking in.
Today I’m excited for the tattoos I won’t get, the lists
I’ll dust, the future
I won’t inherit. Hand-me-downs are hold-me-downs.
I have to say it: you are the kind of black hole whose
pull I (almost) want to feel.
But the heart is a one-way street, and I’ve been rear-
viewing it for too long,
pretending the horsepower can come after. Maybe
fate
isn’t surrender, maybe it’s foster care faith, support
beams where identity can pivot,
14
shift. I didn’t get winter to shovel snow, to change
my mind,
to know it enough to make its plaster mold. You have
to wreck something, let it die. My words are
peninsula, tinder, picnic—
a code (legible not logical) like I’m programing
a machine not yet made. I’m not interested in cherry
pie
achievement but the honesty rubber banded to it.
Bury me to see if I’m a seed. Slingshot me.
I know I may not fly, but I’m up’n at ‘em ready
15
S
H
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N C O
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M
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A
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I WOM
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on the art of teaching writing
Ideally, it begins like this: Three or so line up to get
into my taxi, cut-rate fare paid in advance. When
they get in, I twist around, stretch my arm along the
back of the vinyl seat, ask them where they want to
go and nudge them for directions. I turn back, gaze
at them in the rear view mirror and smile, “Here we
go.” But instead of releasing the hand-break, I get out,
open a passenger door, pull one out, and put her into
the driver’s seat. I take her place in the back. “You’ll
be doing the driving yourself even if you don’t know
where you’re going. You’ll find your way by simply
pressing the gas.”
Some freeze up, grip the wheel, but most say, “Oh,
okay, I get it,” and take the stick shift in hand. (My
taxi’s a standard, so they have to be at one with
their speed and rhythm.) Most come to enjoy my
backseat commentary, warnings about clichéd signs
and wordy routes. “One more block of Lovers’ Lane
and your license is revoked.” She slows down,
thinks a moment, then flips a U onto Joy Road.
The other passengers catch on and join in like
a Greek chorus: “No more self pity. A crown of
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thorns gets the writing nowhere.” And she swerves
into a real cutting edge trajectory. Once the driver
grooves into a dramatic build up, she’ll make us catch
our breath by down shifting into sharp but smooth
turns where we least expect them. And we end up
totally elsewhere: drag karaoke at Jack London’s Last
Chance Bar, an abandoned water tower filled with
unexploded love letters, a trail of wilting flower
petals from Oakland to Baghdad.
When the taxi ride’s over, the driver’s usually jots
notes for an entire book as drops of anxiety fall from
her brow and rose petals issue from her scribbling
fingers. (There’s nothing like being the agent of one’s
own education.) If she decides to leave us, we pick
up another passenger, smile our wide-lipped smiles,
shove him in the back seat, and an initiate who knows
the routine jumps behind the steering wheel.
But then there are also the problem children, like
the man in his sixties who shows up in 1920s racing
goggles and drives endlessly through streets of
foreclosed suburban housing developments at 15
miles per hour catcalling phantom women even
though for the past fifteen years he’s wanted sex only
with men. Or there’s the exotic dancer who really
is a great driver—she defies time to cruise us down
The Mission in 1967. But every so often she pulls
up completely stereotypical characters that make
everybody carsick.
SHARON COLEMAN 17
Then the young ones with the maps, their goddamned
maps. Like they need someone to guide their pen
through the world. When I rip the map from their
hands and tell them to look ahead, to look around,
to open the doors of perception, too many get
squeamish and pull out an iPhone to google Earth
Quest. So, of course, when they aren’t looking where
they’re going at 30 miles per hour—splat!—they run
over say William S. Burroughs. The smell of blood
and alcohol fills the interior. Everybody jumps out.
But then again, when some of them go against my
best advice, they do come up with something great,
for instance, the 12 mile per hour Renga. Okay, I
guess I am a bit old fashioned in thinking you have
to come to a complete stop in order to change
drivers. Complete stop, new piece. But one of these
agile scribblers did a set 5-7-5 blocks, turned for a
couplet of 7 blocks each line; then one slithered out
and another slithered into the driver’s seat with no
change in speed, just an occasional slight swerve to
tease our thoughts.
It’s really the punishment of success that drives
me crazy: I pull in early to my taxi stop, and there’s
already a line of 48 people shivering in the fog. Some
come in pairs like their world’s ending, and I’m a
latter-day Noah’s arc; in such cases I am. Perhaps
it’s the rise in unemployment; others say the cuts
in education. As the long day wears on, hands of
a world clock chase each other across my face and
18
keep me from looking beyond the taillights of the car
ahead as desperate backseat writers spout piss and
vinegar in my face. I swat at those clock hands as if
they were buzzing mosquitoes and try to regain a few
seconds, to rethink apple leaves just spouting. But
they don’t stop, not even after the last drop off, not
until hours later when my blank mind stares into cool
darkness for hours.
Sometimes I think of those who found the seeds to
writing deep in their entrails. The seeds pushed forth
stems up and up until rose blooms sprung from their
throats and filled the air. Their word pushed back
the wolf’s breath of the valueless world. Their floral
aroma has transformed traumatized puppy-killers
into lyrical poets and tyrannical mythomaniacs into
post-modern storytellers.
Other times I dream I’m driving alone to the edge
of town, between the upscale pseudo-sustainable
shopping and the railroad tracks, where inevitably
someone’s car has flipped, wheels still spinning in the
air. I go to work. I knock their words back together.
They lie staring at the stars, words strewn across red
asphalt. Because they have no idea which words to
gather up and which to leave to be pulverized by
traffic, I spend hours sorting. By dawn I’ve given
them back just enough speech to roll over the engine
and they slowly drive into the rising sun. But some
get addicted: they come to this corner of the city
to waste my time flipping their cars and watching
SHARON COLEMAN 19
the wheels spin. When I yell that the permanent
revolution comes from writing, they get flustered and
slash their tires. So I hand them a strong needle with
thick red thread and turn away until they sew up
their gashes and drive away. But when I turn around,
there’s more in a line stretching beyond the freeway
overpass, and they’re waiting for me to say, “Yes, you
too have words.”
Instead I turn back and scrawl across my taxi’s hood:
“I’m made of clay. I’m made of holy laughter. I’m made
of bones that will vibrate with everybody’s song for
a million years.” One day, a far off scientist will hold
my quivering rib and wonder.
21
A
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A Z A
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S
K
I
I A
M WOMAN
,
H
E
A
R
ME RO
A
R
For the En Drag Ensemble at Club Tango Tango
of San Francisco
At Club Tango Tango, the Bay Area’s finest
roll the night’s illusions across the floor in suitcases
packed with gowns and boas. In steely stilettos
they strut their stuff, Saturday night, San Francisco.
Two-hundred pound Daphne De Luxe dons a wig
it takes a mountain of testosterone to move
and moves it through the crowd in a cloud
of white linen, this big blonde cruise ship slicing by.
Working the house, a tootsie wootsie in spandex
brushes cheeks, flirts fingers across backs,
all swoosh and swirl down the strand of an aisle.
Chills crawl spines, the audience squirms.
Dancers in pink curls and red short-shorts,
pin thin and all fluff and sparkle, make the throng
call for more, make me scream for more, more
feathers and sequins and grand glitter domes of hair,
a whole bordello of pose and strut.
22
And when I slip some bills down a padded bra,
I don’t know what name I have or who I want to be—
the Hootchie Coo, that Butter Fly, some Sugar Bee
when this floozy peels a dress down to a thong,
invites me to try my hand at Gypsy Rose Lee.
Instead I get in queue at the bar for more tip change
while Petula Clark rises up to guru proportions,
her lyrics a mantra, disco ball icon spinning the eaves,
riding these stars tossed toward the heavens,
all wishes and kisses in drag
23
E
M
M
A W
O
O
D
W
ITHOUT SE
X
When I’m not having regular sex, I don’t feel like
I’m living in a body. My family has never been
demonstrative. Although I live at home, we rarely
touch. I frequently think to myself, like two ships
passing in the night, except we can see each other
perfectly thanks to the incandescent light. We rarely
touch and when we do it is with the sort of light-but-
firm pat we give the dog.
At work, we don’t touch each other and I am happy
for it. Once my colleague whom I like very much
jokingly punched me and I felt so violated I could
barely speak to him for the rest of the day.
With some friends, I am the physical one, demanding
hello-goodbye hugs and answering the question “how
are you” on an overly material plane—headaches,
knee pain, etc. With others, I am as physical as a
telephone pole, expressing affection through loosely-
strung wires of language.
To fuck is to say fuck you to language and all non-
carnal modes of communication including the
Word. Fucking is to talking as stripping naked and
jumping in the freezing water is to rowing across
24
a lake in a suit you’re trying to keep dry. Bad sex
reveals you’re in that rowboat—and now you can’t
leave it, even though you want only to be in the water
below. Good sex confirms you are living your whole
life in this body with skin as penetrable as a ripe pear,
and you must thank God every day you manage to
transport it safely from one space to another. Sex as
a woman is like being that pear—cut open, eaten. It’s
the little death you get to die without dying. When
I’m having regular sex, I know I’m a fucking animal.
Without the sex, I pay about as much attention to my
body as I would to a sterling silver candlestick. What
do I care if it tarnishes; it’s only a candlestick.
Living in the city amplifies the body-as-object-I-own
effect. I am currently in the country. I just walked
down to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. As
the water sat in the metal container over the gas
flame, I stepped out into the yard. A cool wind blew
against the bare skin of my calves and ruffled my
long skirt against my legs. The brick beneath my
bare feet had the rough smoothness of my legs a few
hours after shaving. In that briefest of moments, I
was aware of my body in a way I can’t be in the
city, which requires more or less full-body coverage
as I shuttle myself between one-close-windowed
air-conditioned/heated room to another with the
velocity of a bullet.
Monks, nuns, and other highly religious people don’t
EMMA WOOD 25
have sex because the goal of most modern religion
is to “bring us closer to God,” i.e. farther from the
animals standing hoof-deep in Earth’s mud. Religion
wants to bring us closer to the sky: the grass is always
greener.
I want to know when and why we Civilized people
decided God, by definition and capitalization our
superior, is bodiless, thus separate: not matter, but air.
Because I, for one, would like God to be the bacteria
lining all 22 feet of my small intestine. Then when
someone said, God be with you, I could respond, Yes,
thank you, he is, and hard at work extracting nutrients
to keep me healthy, and we could depict Him as an
adorable anthropomorphic microbe instead of a tall,
blue-eyed white guy on a throne.
But if God were the liver or something Symbolic like
the heart, I’d still be satisfied. The point is if I knew
everyone else was walking around with a piece of
God, I’d be a lot nicer to everyone else, and everyone
would be nicer to me, and fucking would no longer
be this impure, sinful act but something that brought
you closer to God, which would be hidden in other
people as it is in you.
As you can see, I am not having regular sex right
now and it has turned me into quite the philosopher,
which makes me think perhaps monks and nuns are
onto something.
Celibacy: 1. Sex: 0.
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J
O
H
N
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V
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C E N
T

G
R
E
C
O
M
I
S
T
R
IALS BA
L
L
A
D
(sounds from an ol’ fashioned American restaurant arson)
All the people in town called RJ guilty
because RJ was dangerous enough to do it.
Because when everyone agrees, it must be true, right?
But when everyone agrees, I get nervous.
Everyone called JP slut. They called Omar thief.
They said homo to DD every single day and they said
who? that little homo days when DD wasn’t around.
F they
were sure was crazy. KT: crazy. Poe cheats. Poe
was a cheater – everyone said. Oxy was easy. Oxy
fucks.
Oxy would do anything not to be rejected or left
alone,
trembling.
The internet called RJ guilty
because RJ was dangerous enough to do it. Everyone
agrees. Everyone calls KT creep. Calls Sid trash.
They all said not to trust M because M stole –
they were so, so sure and besides, everyone said
M’s mom was trash and herself stole. JP’s mom was
a loon,
had to be locked up at Bellevue once. Poe was a
28
genius
everybody said. Could you believe they called Poe
genius?
Everybody said RJ should be locked up
because RJ was crazy since coming back from
Afghanistan
everyone heard RJ flew off the handle at that
waitress.
Even though no one saw
the restaurant fire start, RJ was fingered
because RJ seemed guilty enough to torch it.
When everyone agrees, and so assuredly, don’t
you get nervous? A tremble
is all you can trust. Doubt may one day grow a voice
that trembles for you
against the assured masses, the impossible
gossiping world.
- SET 2 -
31
M
A
R
C
U S L
U
N
D
A

P
R
A
Y
ER FO
R
R
A
I
N
(formerly known as “speak this spell when in need of rain”)
Hold tight and wait. Listen to the rap song about how
everyone dies in the summer.
Draw a bath of warm water. Feel the water that is
hot against your feet but warm against your legs
and then hot again against your ass and then warm
against your belly.
This is a sacrifice.
Slide your back down into the tub and let your
knobby knees fly out of the water, spray water
against the sink: what a sacrifice.
Drink whiskey instead of water every night. Get
drunk every single night. Drink beer because it is
safer than water.
Do not drain the tub.
I got a nosebleed in Montana, not because the air
is thin and dry. I mean there’s snow everywhere.
It’s because everyone uses their goddamn heaters.
32
It’s supposed to get negative twenty degrees tonight
and Al Gore is worried about Global Warming.
Blood dripped down the back of my throat, my head
tilted back. It reminded me of cocaine and the drip,
drip, drip.
Listen to that other rap song about how we need
water like Kanye needs Jesus.
Drink too much whiskey (singing we don’t care what
people say).
Climb into the tub full of cold water, full of the dirt
and oil from two days ago. Turn on the shower. Let
the water fall into the tub and across your forehead
and remind yourself that this is what rain can sound
like.
Citing water usage studies from the 1950s, remember
that water is used as coolant in telecommunication
centers and stop calling your friends.
The lake smells bad today. An opportunity for me to
remember that not all water is good water.
California is in a drought in January and Al Gore is
worried about Global Warming. I say, let California
die of dehydration. Let the Bay Area slip into the
bay area where there’ll be plenty of water for those
liberal bastards to drink.
MARCUS LUND 33
Don’t drain the tub.
It is a sacrifice.
Climb into the tub in only your shoes and drink
whiskey and let it dribble down your chin into the
stale bathwater.
Start a water fight (see: water war) but only take the
shot if it’s a sure thing.
Let your shoelaces become tendrils.
Listen to that other rap song about diving head first
into a pool full of liquor.
Become a sea monster. We are Nessie and this is our
Loch Ness.
Hold tight: a sacrifice.
35
M
O
N
E
T
A
G O
L
D
S
M
I
T
H
T
H
E

D
ISENCHAN
T
R
E
S
S
The long desired, the disenchantress,
leaving alone the desolate heart with bitter ease.
~rainer maria rilke, ‘the duino elegies’
I was listening to this story about meteors the other
night on the radio. Meteors, it turns out, are distinct
from asteroids in that they are ‘seldom any larger
than the size of a plump grape or a dried up raisin,
& while asteroids are frequently concentrated from
the remains of a planet that fell apart, a meteor
can originate from the disintegration of a comet
instead.’ Well, I turned off the radio when I heard
that, because I don’t put much thought/care into
science—mostly because I don’t understand it, or
else because I once got a ‘C’ on a test in elementary
school for leaving out Pluto among the list of planets
in our solar system. Sometime back when science
announced that Pluto was no longer a planet is about
the time I stopped believing in science.
So I turned off the radio, like I said, & I started to
read this book about the French Existentialist
Albert Camus instead. Camus, it turns out,
believed that our behavior should be guided
exclusively by ‘those three or four times in your
36
life when your heart opened up’—before a Stranger,
say, or else, as he so tenderly puts it, before the
‘benign indifference of the entire universe,’ which
may or may not be the same thing. It isn’t clear. Well
I don’t much like for people to tell me what to do
with my heart. So I closed that book up as well, &
I started to read a biography of the French novelist
Marie-Henri Beyle aka “Stendhal” instead. Stendhal,
it turns out, “despised wit, cleverness & the salons
of 19
th
century Paris, although if he was not able to
speak with some very clever people in the evening-
times, he felt utterly asphyxiated almost to the point
of death. The kind of death,” says Stendhal [I’m still
basically quoting here] “that one might find in a
pillow-fight gone radically wrong.” Well I don’t much
care about cleverness all that much—particularly
when it’s somebody else’s—& I don’t much care for
it when writers tell me about their writing processes
either, which always feels cheap & dirty to me, like
bombing for the sake of world peace, say, or else like
having sex in support of virginity-awareness.
So I closed that book up also & I dashed off to visit
the nearest bookshop of all places, to get some air,
or to have a talk with the bookseller I like, or to
see if my heart opened up before a stranger maybe.
(Sometimes I get so cooped up I feel like I can hardly
breathe.) Well anyway, this bookseller, it turns out,
didn’t much care for cleverness anymore than I did—
probably because she had so much of it—& after I
told her how eloquent I thought she was, how she
MONETA GOLDSMI TH 37
was the kind of eloquent stranger you might meet,
say, three or four times in your life if you were lucky,
she said that everything out of her mouth was in
fact “complete & utter horseshit,” & that “I’d do much
better to stick to the books.” These were in fact her
words, not mine, which I told her reminded me of
the famous coldness of Montaigne somehow & how
he once said that he’d sooner save his books from a
burning building than he would his own children—
& it also reminded me of another time, when he
said that if someone were to ever submit his private
thoughts to the eyes of the law, he would surely be
hanged ten times a day, maybe more.

Well I’m not one to dance on somebody else’s funeral.
So I left the bookshop, & it might sound strange
to you, but I saw the image of that girl from the
bookshop everywhere on my way home, an image
of the perfect stranger, you might say, & as I walked
along the street outside I loosened my collar a little
& I looked up at the stars on my way home—because
you remember to do that sort of thing when you
can breathe again—and I remember thinking how
remarkable it is that something as small as a grape
can sometimes light up the whole sky.
38
39
T
O
M
A
S M
O
N
I
Z
T
H
INGS THA
T
IN
SPIRE M
E
an excerpt from To Be Whole Is To Be Part
1. Redwoods
When I was young, I dreamed of being tall, big and
arrogant like all the men of my family. I wanted to
be the one who presided over those who were smaller,
the one who chided others to pull it together when
they were weak, the one who never ever fell down,
but walking in the redwoods, I feel childish, ashamed
at my misguided sense of height, of what makes
something tall or big or a man. These trees find power
in giving: protecting what is smaller with their canopy,
housing safely in their branches whole ecosystems like
a father’s hug, and even when they fall, even in their
demise, new life, little things, take root, seek shelter,
find a home in their decaying bodies.
2. Porn
The thing that resonates with me after watching
porn is the arrogance, the confidence the actors
40
possess in their nudity. I imagine the people just out
of sight, the ones holding lights, the ones pointing
the camera, the sound engineers, all fully clothed,
coffee on their breaths, feeling superior perhaps or
at least socially presentable while the actors chitchat,
stay hydrated, text loved ones and then on cue spread
ass cheeks gracefully or cup their own ball sacks for
everyone to see as if there was never any issue of
shame or judgment or ridicule involved in the body’s
soft and secret places. I want that kind of trust in my
own body to walk around completely nude if I have
to and look you in the eye and shake your hand and
say hello.
3. Resilience
Think a sea sponge, think the soft part of your inner
thigh, think your heart, think the stuff they make
Nerf footballs out of, think the loyalty of a dog, think
the love of a child, think clichéd Buddhist proverbs or
Japanese koans or Sufi poets or idiomatic expressions
or bad movie dialog, think of your friends and the
letters they write you, think of the way you make the
world a bit more freaky, remember sometimes lessons
are taught not through words but gestures, quiet
moments, the time a parent kissed you goodbye as you
were falling asleep, the way someone close to you can
reassure you with a look, a touch, because resilience is
not the avoidance of difficulty, the lack of impact, the
absence of damage, but the ability to spring back into
shape, to return to your true self, it’s the arrogance
TOMAS MONI Z 41
and threat of toughness, it’s surrendering to the fact
that if you cannot be what you once were, you will be
what you are.
4. Hunger
To fill the ache, I sometimes stick my whole body
in the maw you call a heart, and teeth, rounded and
dull by years of gnawing, rub angrily along the thing
I call a torso, a thigh, a spine, yet the discoloration
that ensues along neck line and belly fat reminds me
of failure and the angsty attempt to feed on ourselves,
but this hollow desire vets the knowledge that it’s
the journey and the reflux, the gag and the thrum, so
there is no satiation, there is only the hunger, the daily
instinct to ingest and the nightly realization that
we will never be full nor do we want to be because
nothing is more satisfying than discovering that to be
whole is to be part.
5. Honesty
It’s true: nothing hurts more than the wounds you
cannot see, there is a pain the heart understands that
will bring you to your knees, leave you wondering and
in awe at just how precious a cup of tea can be, there
are times you will not win, there are times you will
know you are right but will be wrong anyway, there
will be a chance to begin again, there will never be
enough time, start now, right now, do what it is you
need to do, say it, break it, run away from it, let it
42
go like we did that one time we caught a rat in our
kitchen with a bucket, neither one of us could kill
it, so we slid a piece of cardboard between floor and
bucket rim, flipped it over, I could feel the rat thump
its desperation against the sides, there was an honesty
in that sound, a conviction, I remember that sound
hearing the breath of your sleep like the rhythm of
waves reaching the shore, if you sit still long enough
you can discover that honesty and conviction in your
own body, the striking truthfulness in the way your
heart beats through bone and flesh and blood with
enough force that you can witness your own chest rise
and fall again and again and again.
43
S
I
A
M
A
K

V O S
S
O
U
G
H
I
S
E
C
R
E
TLY SEC
R
E
T
L
Y
When he was nineteen, my brother announced one
night at the dinner table that he was giving up on the
word ‘cheesy’.
     “There is no such thing,” he said.
     “Sure there is,” my sister, who was fifteen, said.
     I got excited about what was coming.
     “You can think there is if you want,” my brother
said. “But I don’t know where it’s going to get you.”
     “What is cheesy?” my father said in Farsi.
     “Loos,” my sister said.
     “It’s not loos,” my brother said. “It’s more like
sentimental.”
     “It’s worse than sentimental,” my sister said. “It’s
more like sentimental and stupid.”
     “Why do you want to give up on it?” my father
said.
     “It is a false path. You can call anything cheesy if
you want.”
     “It’s not a path,” my sister said. “Some things are
just cheesy.”
     “Cheese means paneer,” my father said.
     “Does it have to do with paneer?” my mother said.
     “Cheese is seen as a symbol of cheesiness in this
country,” my brother said. “I don’t know why.”
     “You should not give up on any words,” my
44
father said.
     “What about fuck?” my sister said.
     “Fuck is a bad word in America,” my father said.
“But you never know, there may be a time when you
have to use it.”
     “It’s not so much the word I’m giving up on,” my
brother said. “I’m giving up on calling things cheesy.”
     I wanted to hear my brother explain it. I liked the
way my sister called things cheesy, but my brother
used to do that too, so if he had a reason why he was
stopping, I thought it must be a good one.
     “You take a song,” my brother said. “You take one
of those Iranian songs that Khaleh Amani likes...”
     “Those are cheesy,” my sister said.
     “That’s what I mean,” my brother said. “If you
want to say that the way that she likes those songs is
different from the way that you like the songs you
like, you can say that, but you can’t prove it.”
     “I can prove it,” my sister said.
     “How?”
     “Those songs are cheesy.”
     “I think you need a better example, Davi,” my
father said. “Those songs are terrible.”
     “Why do you have to prove it, anyway?” my sister
said.
     “Why do you have to prove it? Why do you have
to prove anything?”
     “Why do you have to prove anything?”
     “Because the point is to get at the truth of it.
Either a thing is cheesy or it’s not cheesy.”
     “It’s enough for me that it feels cheesy.”
SI AMAK VOSSOUGHI 45
     “Of course it feels cheesy. But how do you expect
to grow if you go by how it feels?”
     “I expect to grow by talking with other people
who also think it’s cheesy and laughing with them.”
     “Well I’m not one of those people any more.”
     “What kind of person are you?” my father said.
     “I’m one of those people who says that everybody
should listen to whatever songs they want.”
     “But secretly you still think that they’re cheesy,”
my sister said.
     “It doesn’t matter what I secretly think.”
     “Sure it does.”
     “No it doesn’t. It matters what I
secretly secretly think.”
     “What do you secretly secretly think?”
     “What I secretly secretly think is that I feel sorry
for Khaleh Amani when she likes the songs. Maybe
she wouldn’t like those songs if Dayee Ramin was a
more romantic fellow.”
     “Do you mean that it is not cheesy if you know
about a person’s life?” my father said.
     “Yes,” my brother said.
     My sister was quiet for a while.
     “But that means you have to know about
everybody’s life,” my sister said.
     “I know,” my brother said. He looked very happy.
“I can’t wait.”
47
J
E
N

S
U
L
L
I V A N

B
R
Y
C
H
A

N
O
T
E
ON EUPH
E
M
I
S
M
S
I
N

M
Y

N
E
W
-
A
DULT, ERO
T
I
C

N
O
V
E
L
To: Sandra <Editor_Sandra@crumpetpublishing.com>
From: Anne <pistil234@gmail.com>
Re: “penis”
My Dear Editor,
Thanks for your feedback on my new-adult novel. I
agree that the overall tone should be Fifty Shades of
Grey meets Ulysses (and sometimes The Notebook).
However, I have some responses (see below) to the
euphemism conundrum:
1. You take issue with the heroine’s reference to her
lover’s penis as “him” (i.e. the sentence on page 210:
“He pulled me back on top and shifted until I could
clearly feel him through his skinny cords”).
I agree that I’m not entirely happy with this word
choice, but I’ve rejected all other possibilities, for
reasons that I have listed below.
a. “Penis”: Too clinical (this character has no
48
medical training).
b. “Member”: Too old-fashioned (and, by the way,
“member” of what? A tennis club?)
c. “Willie” (as in the bard himself), “Handle”, “Spear,”
and “Weapon” are likely derived from Shakespeare,
and thus, are too pretentious.
d. “Phallus”: Too academic and “Please-stop-by-
my-office-hours-so-I-can-close-the-door-and-
deconstruct-your-pants.”
e. “Peter”: I veto all penis-related baby names
outright. Let’s just let little Peter continue to wipe his
nose on his palm and then lick the aforementioned
palm.
f. “What about ‘dick’?” you asked. But the
connotations are too negative, i.e. “He’s such a dick.”
g. “Rod”: No.
No!
No.
Coitus is not taking place in the back of a corvette
whose hood has been painted with a giant golden
eagle. (Actually, as you might recall, coitus in
this scene is taking place in the back room of the
J EN SULLI VAN BRYCH 49
library, on a pile of damaged Thomas Pynchon
novels, and it involves a lot of book-tape, used as
both a binding agent and waxing strip. However, I
did take your note that the books should be open
paperbacks instead of stacked hardbacks. Even acts of
sadomasochism should have a base-line of comfort.)
h. “Thing”: Never. (It conjures up the old Swamp
Thing poster, featuring the title character, dripping
with green slime as he emerges from the depths.)
(Double entendre intended.)
i. “Stiffy”: I already used this one on page 702 to refer
to a drink: my heroine says, “I sure could use a stiffy.”
(Again, double entendre intended.)
j. “Schlong”: Nothing with sch- (as in, “Penis, sch-
menis.”). It trivializes the sex act.
k. “Cock”: (-a-doddle-do). I just can’t do it.
Furthermore, it’s too porn-y.
l. As for the euphemisms that rely on phallic imagery,
i.e. “snake”, “trouser snake”, “bottle rocket”, “rocket-
pop”, et. al., well, they are frankly silly.
Thus, I settled on “him” as in “I could feel him.”
Vague at best. But I hope you understand.
This brings me to another concern:
50
2. You worry that, as an unanticipated consequence
of this action with her lover, Tristan, the heroine
becomes what you call a “size queen,” and thus
unlikeable. However, in her defense, if men can be
“leg-men” or “ass-men” or simply obsessed with breast-
size, then why shouldn’t penis-size factor into the list
of qualities for which a heterosexual woman searches
in a romantic partner? (Of course this should be
accompanied by at least some of the following items:
intelligence, a generally good appearance, kindness,
sense of humor, etc. etc. “Loves reading and walks on
the beach. Has a pretty large [him].”)
Speaking of male genitalia, this brings up one final
word-choice issue, and I’d love your advice on it.
3. This is regarding the scene on page 508, in which
our heroine is arguing with her lover Olivia over
who was supposed to bring the nipple clamps. Since
my heroine is a feminist, in order to avoid saying
the more male-centric phrase “That takes a lot of
balls,” I am considering that she should say “That
takes a lot of clit.” But this substitution doesn’t ring
true to me. Size doesn’t necessarily matter in terms
of the clitoris’s ability to feel pleasure, or in terms of
a woman’s fertility. And so, to say, for example, that
“She has a ten-inch clit” doesn’t have the same gravitas
as “He’s got huge cojones” or “He’s got a ten-inch
penis” (although a ten-inch clitoris would be quite
something to behold). In any case, trying to find
another phrase is mind-boggling—what part of the
J EN SULLI VAN BRYCH 51
female anatomy would be the equivalent?
a. What about “That takes a lot of tits”? Not quite
the same, is it? Moreover, it implies that big-chested
women are more powerful (and, as a B-cup, I
disagree).
b. A friend of mine used to say “Suck my left tit”
instead of “Suck my dick.” It’s a nice attempt, but it
conjures up the whole breast-milk-drinking-fetish
and the related black market, etc. etc. (However, I
will admit that writing this paragraph just turned me
on. I’ll keep working on it).
c. “Lick me” is an interesting insult, but it insinuates
that doing so would not be pleasant (as does “Suck
my dick.” Why does the latter work? Is it the element
of subjugation?).
And so, I am back to basics. I must reinvent language,
as Shakespeare did. No easy task.
Speaking of which:
4. I’m so glad that you like my invented insult “You
flaccid worm” and its implication of Tristan’s
impotency. I wanted it to be a strong put-down, since
our heroine has just found out he’s leaving her, with
only an incurable case of oral-gonorrhea to remember
him by.
52
Let me know what you think! I’ll get the revisions
to you as swiftly as possible, dear Editor. I’m also
thinking you should send my manuscript to Ryan
Gosling’s agent and get an adaptation in the works.
That is, if he’ll do full-frontal. Perhaps he will, if he is
confident in the overall appearance of his [him].
Thanks so much,
Anne
53
M
R
(
S
)
T I S A
T
U
L
A
T
O
THE READ
E
R
I
T

M
A
Y
CONC
E
R
N
Maybe you can help me. I’ve been having a hard
time naming this poem of mine. The problem is
whenever I take a pen to it, all the words shift their
order around underneath my pen like sand beneath
a torrent of water in the middle of a squall. Which
is just what my pen has become whenever I go to
name this thing. Whenever this happens, whenever
the metaphors cry out for help as if to tell me they
did not belong there in the first place, when the
adjectives beg and bend their way toward oblivion
or toward the edge of the page (whichever comes
first) it is almost as though my pen were a premature
coffin soaked in limpid tears, or a scepter clutched by
an ancient stone just waiting for the right person to
come along (that’s where you come in) to loosen the
grooves in its bindings, to shatter the glass with your
gaze.

In order for you to name this poem you’d probably
like to know first what it is about. Well, that is
another trouble I’ve been having. You see, I like
to believe this particular poem is not easily
reducible to summary, that it resists the penury of
54
all things permanent, and all of the other timeworn
artifices having to do with plot, and character
development, and an effective use of style and other
rhetorical devices. This poem, you might say, and I
wouldn’t disagree with you, is about nothing and
about everything at the very same time; this poem
has its sights set beyond the common marketplace,
beyond the atmosphere, the biosphere, the galaxy, the
cumulus of galaxies! This poem is, in some very clear
sense, what all poems have always been about, at least
as far back as the Greeks on Olympus, the Egyptians
lording over Persia, the Hittites in caves and the
Sumerians with Stylus. Strictly speaking, this poem
is about Fucking and it is about Being Fucked.
You might think it easy to name a poem after these
two quintessential themes of all poetry. You might
think that you can get away with calling such a poem,
‘A Letter from the Government’, for instance, or else,
‘A Trip to the DMV on a Sunday Afternoon’. You
might make the mistake in thinking, as I first did,
that a title as broad and simple as ‘Sunday Afternoon’
could fit the bill. And it’s true, all of these titles
get to the heart of what all poetry (good or bad) is
really about. What’s more, all of these titles have the
added benefit of another deeply cherished philosophy
of mine when it comes to poetry—and that is, the
imperative to write about what you fear rather than
about what you know. Forgive me for lingering on
this point, but I’d like to offer you a couple of other
related titles, which you should almost certainly
MR( S) TI SATULA 55
want to dismiss out of hand when it comes time for
you to name this poem of mine. These titles are: ‘The
Time I fell in Love with My Neighbor for Telling Me
That My Typewriter was Too Loud’, ‘The Afternoon
I Made Love Twelve Times, All of Them by Myself
(which explains a lot)’. Or what about, merely,
‘Sunday Afternoon’?

All of this brings to mind a memory that may have
even been the impetus for this poem and, now that
I think of it, may provide some much-needed insight
into what you’d like to do with this poem when the
time comes. I am speaking of the afternoon I came
home early from the DMV, because this was a Sunday
and the DMV has always been closed on Sundays,
two things I didn’t realize were the case until I got
there. So in any case, when I came home I could
see, even through the casement window beside the
entrance to my apartment, that my best girl was lying
in bed with a strange man, the two of them rolling to
my side of the bed like a couple of sweaty Twizzlers,
rolling around right where I usually keep my
bed-time things—my industrial-strength ear muffs
and my Oxford Critical Companion to Paul Gauguin,
things like that—and so here I was, unsure if I’d
ever get these things back or even whether I’d get to
sleep in my own bed again without having to cause
a scene; and so I guess it’s not so much that there is
one title out there more or less accurate than another
title—any of the titles I’ve suggested, in fact, bear
my philosophy of poetry in mind, albeit some more
56
heavy-handedly than others. Still, the fact remains
that I’ve only just thought of these things and here I
am at the end of the page, and by now, well, I guess
this is the poem, y’know?
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