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sparkle + blink 58
© 2014 Quiet Lightning

artwork © Sidney Stretz

“River” by Jill Tomasetti was first published in The Lack Thereof


“Some Birth Day” by Sally Ashton was first published in Sand Hill

“Holes in the Mountain” and “The Boy’s Head” were first published
in The Missouri Review

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set in Absara

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PETER BULLEN How Come I Came? 1

AVREN KEATING The Story of the Ghost... 3
Afternoon Dysphoria 5
Fall of ‘72 6
My Planet is Making Me Dizzy 15
Some Birth Day 16
Gratitude 17
KATE FOLK The Pit 19
Immigrant 27
Jai Yen Yen 29
KAI CARLSON-WEE Holes in the Mountain 35
CHLOÉ VEYLIT To Root in Luggage 39
KEI GRIOT …Steam…Lavender…and Musk… 41
KAREN PENLEY people, people who need people 57
ROSE LINKE we are thirsty and we wish for rain 61
SHIDEH ETAAT from And the Birds Will Follow 63
KAI CARLSON-WEE The Boy’s Head 71
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the first Monday of every month, of which these books
(sparkle + blink) are verbatim transcripts.

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e v an @ qui et light nin g . o rg

- SET 1 -

Starts like this. Maxwell invites me to party at his

house. Last party invitation I received was in middle
school. That didn’t go well. I don’t want to go to
Maxwell’s party, can’t converse; come up short every
time. Have tried preparing for possible questions that
accompany social interaction etc. Very little success.
Maxwell insists. Have no ability to resist commands.
Happy no one has asked me to do damaging things.
Would do them if insisted upon. Maxwell rings
doorbell of his house. Weird—his house, but still
he rings the bell. Wife comes to door. Looks at me
warily. Not nice. Real hostile hostess, cruel but
captivating. Nose tilts, lips large, like female Mick
Jagger. Full breasted like sexy sergeant. Would be
great in uniform. I turn away from her (not easy).
Look at Maxwell. Want him to account for my
existence. Want to have existence. Lifetime goal, not
fully realized, not half realized. How to achieve? Not
sure. “This is Theo, honey,” Maxwell says. “What’s
he doing here?” she says. Starting to have the same
question Maxwell’s wife has. Maybe we’re kindred
spirits. “Did I forget to tell you?” Maxwell asks; his
head lowered like on chopping block. “Fuck yes,”
his wife says. I tell myself there are many styles
of welcoming, the world has many cultures. Does

Maxwell’s wife have unique culture? Wife walks
away, leaving door open. Maxwell and I go in. Lots
of people nibbling cheesy items, drinking wine.
Beautiful, large, possibly crazy woman makes beeline
for me. First sign of real welcome. But makes for
uneasy feeling. “Fuck, a man alone,” she says. Don’t
know how to properly interpret greeting. Is she glad
to see me, or pointing out my isolated nature, my un-
coupled circumstance? Is it insult or seduction? Never
clear, but in my experience, usually insult. Large,
clearly crazy woman has strong scent of alcohol.
“Well?” she says. Says it pretty loud. Other guests turn
heads. I am now center of attention, least favorite
position. “Not alone exactly,” I say, too timidly.
“What, you hiding some bitch where I can’t see her?”
Sounds mad. Bad sign. Just arrived at first party since
middle school. “No hidden bitch,” I whisper, hoping
nobody hears. Not polite talk. Disrespectful. Man
comes over. Man also large, but not crazy. More like
stoic. “I see you’ve met my wife,” he says. “Yes,” I say.
So glad there is husband and that he has come over.
Although confusedly, and coming to me only now, in
husband’s presence—am drawn to his wife’s ferocity.
Even though very scary, have secret, silent wish for her
to whip me into shape, work me over, love me all up.

Human connection important, even when unwieldy

and terrifying.

T ,

No, I am not a ghost. You can see­hear me. To get to
this grove, loaded library, I had to shave my own
heel to fit. Had to fake stepsister. Had to use my own
fingers as a shoehorn. Shiny mirror shoes that show
you and you. Granted important with some famous
name on the sole and a star. See, note, hear.

The forest is shade. Patches of dead light pox the
ground. I am not a ghost. I am trying to remember
that here, where there is no body. Leaves rustle
to bask their blank lines. Lizard twitches into the
sunlight. I had no idea. Thought only of deer. But
here they are.

They skitter across the branches, scarred stuff. I feel
that in me, too, in these bones. All of us are mud-
skippers dragging ourselves from the same primor-
dial sadness. Not monsters. As I walk down the
path they run. Then pause. As I get close they run

again. They don’t move left or right but keep straight.
Thriller victim. The audience shouts in frustration.
Throws their popcorn. Dukkha. Careful, careful, you
might hurt the hurt.


It’s three in the afternoon, and I’m chewing popcorn

with grandma at the bar in the strip mall. Grandma
and I are both drinking our first Jack and Coke of
the afternoon. The rest of my family is here, too,
but talking amongst themselves. The men at the bar
gave me each their own particular shitty side glance
when I was ordering. Men in small town bars always
give me shitty looks. Mom insists she’ll drive us back
home. She has perfected the art of tipsy driving.
“Now,” my mom said before we walked in, “you know
you’re not supposed to drink and drive.” My voice
is not my own and so I didn’t reply. There is semi­
darkness here because the windows are tinted. “I used
to listen to these meditation tapes,” grandma says to
me, “for relaxation, and stuff, you know. And I would
just float, like, out of my body. And I would be flying
around all over the place,” she laughs. I clutch the
table to try and feel grounded. My hands are tiny
and incorrect. Glasses are amber fragments. We’re
next to the liquor store where my dad used to get his
chewing tobacco. On the other side is a nail salon.
Painted on its window is a large, white hand with red
nails that is holding a red rose like a magic wand.

Avre n Ke at i ng 5

∵ This form accrues histories

as does yours,
some lab rats,
(those rats whose genes
passed on the acquired
fear of cherry blossoms
to their offspring) et al.

Genetics renders exposition

unnecessary: e.g., the newborn
who already cries out,
overwhelmed by the sheer
weight of light,
of their limbs,
of their parents,
and so on.
∴ It’s not your
summer of ‘69 that I carry,
not the “Time of the Season”
in Tarzana, not people watching
from the bus bench, etc.

It’s the fall of ‘72,

sudden cold gun in his
own mouth when he saw
you hadn’t mowed the lawn
like he had asked.

But, you were still raking, etc.


The nest was tucked inside a hole under our window

sill. Carla spotted it first. Bits of newspaper stuck out
of it and fluttered at the faintest hint of wind, yet
clung tightly to its edge and did not fall down onto
the courtyard from a seven-floor height. It looked as
if a small tail wiggled in the hole, a sign that it was
not empty, but filled with invisible life. Carla saw it
from our neighbor’s balcony, where we would sneak
off to spend entire afternoons watching people
behind their windows; from there we studied the
details of the building’s facade and pictured what life
behind our own window looked like from the outside.
She claimed she had better eyesight than me, and she
swore upon our dog’s life that, in the midst of the
straw and newspaper, there were dozens of eggs.

From that day on, she became obsessed with it. Every
afternoon, after school, Carla lowered a shirt out of
the window and let the sleeves graze the hole, as if
tickling it, with the hope that whatever was sheltered
inside would come out. It was one of those few
unexplored places around our building of which
she—and I—were not afraid, and which could not
possibly contain, nor hide, anything bigger than us.

One day, when our mother was not home, Carla
grabbed a chair, brought it to the window, and
stepped up on it.

“What are you doing?” I said.

“I want to see how it is made,” she said.

“It’s dangerous,” I said.

“Don’t worry. Help me and hold my legs.”

I was scared, but excited that for once Carla and I

were on a mission together; that she saw me as her
ally and not as the little sister she got rid of when she
was doing her eleven-year-old things that eight-year-
olds were not allowed to do or see.

“Are you sure?” I asked. On the chair, Carla’s upper

body, towering over me, seemed to be suspended in
the sky peeking out from behind her shoulders.

“Do what I tell you,” she said, and leaned out over the
window, as if she was diving into the sea. I sank my
knees to the floor and hugged her legs with my whole
body, holding them as tightly as I could. Stella, our
dog, was barking and jumping up against the wall
beside me.

I waited for my sister’s head to come back up, like

when I wait for her to surface out of the water, afraid

that she might have drowned. I thought I was losing
my grip when she screamed, yelling that she had the
nest in her hands. I pulled her hard toward me, and
we both fell to the floor.

“I did it!” she said, her excitement canceling the scare

out of her heart and mine.

She opened her fist, and small twigs—some neatly

braided, others loose and disentangled—scattered
onto the tiled floor. Stella sniffed the twigs, scarfed
them, then spat them out. Two eggs rolled softly on
the tiles. They were the size of ping-pong balls, the
color of clay, streaked with brown stains. They didn’t
look alive to me.

Carla grabbed them before the dog did.

“Give me one,” I said.

“But be careful,” Carla placed one egg in my hands.

It was cold and felt like a stone.

“They look like Play-Doh. Are you sure they’re real?”

I said.

“Of course they’re real,” she snapped, as if responding

to a personal insult.

“Let’s shake them and see if there’s something inside.”

Sara Mari ne lli 9

“They are not Kinder surprise eggs,” she snickered.

I shook my egg hard. Carla shook hers too.

“They’re empty; there’s nothing inside,” I said, irritated.

“Stella, come here,” I put the egg under the dog’s nose.

“What are you doing?” Carla yelled.

“It’s a test: if Stella wants to eat it, they are real, if not,
they are clay.”

Stella sniffed my egg and turned away, uninterested.

“You see, it’s Play-Doh. I bet you made them and put
them in the hole to trick me,” I said.

“I didn’t make them.”

“Yes, you did.”

“I did not.”

“You did too!” I yelled, and banged my hand on the


A warm, sticky fluid slid between my fingers; on the

green tiles, the ruffled outline of a tiny winged body
dissolved quietly into a yellow and orange pool. It
looked like egg yolk whipped with cherry-tomato

“Look what you did! I told you they were real,” Carla

I fell silent. The churn in my stomach told me I was

standing before something broken and irreparable. I
watched Stella dip her tongue into the pool, greedily
slurping up the mush, and I hoped she would finish it
all, that nothing would be left of the mess I made.

“It’s disgusting, Stella stop,” Carla shouted.

To my relief, Stella kept licking and licking until the

tiles were sparkling clean.

Carla’s right eyebrow was twitching, and that’s how

I knew she was furious. She stood up and headed
toward the door without saying a word.

“What’re you gonna do with that egg?” I asked.

“You killed yours, I’ll brood mine.”

I sat on the floor for a while, hugging my guilt,

then began to clean the evidence of our first—and
probably last—sisterly adventure. I collected the
flakes of the broken shell, the straw, and the little
twigs that Stella had spat out. I crushed them into
dust and hurried to scoop it under the rug.

That night—and a few after it—I couldn’t sleep.

Outside our window, a persistent flapping of wings;

Sara Mari ne lli 11

inside, Carla’s whispers and laments, like a prayer. I
leaned forward from the bunk bed above hers, and in
the dim light cast across the curtains, the egg seemed
alive and glowing in her hand.

“You’ll be okay,” she murmured, rubbing the egg

between her palms. “I will save you.”

Carla kept the egg wrapped in a handkerchief under

her pillow for a week, and every night she was
careful not to squash it with her head. She said she
would keep it warm until it hatched. She was sure a
wondrous bird would come out of it; it would be her
new pet, and she would call it Tweety Bird.

“Tweety Bird stinks,” I told her one night.

“It’s you farting.”

“No, I am not.”

“Yes, you are; you stink.”

“Can’t you see the shell is cracked, and all wrinkled? It

looks like grandma’s skin.”

“It’s sprouting wings.”

“Stinky wings.”

“You’re just jealous you don’t have one.”

That night, a smell of rotten eggs rose from my sister’s

pillow and hung in our room like the spirit monster
that we knew hid under our bed. Even Stella, who
always stayed with us at night, left the room with
disgust on her face.

The next morning, Carla woke up early. She jumped

out of bed as if she were late for school, but it wasn’t
late, and the room was still enveloped in darkness—
and a foul smell. She took the egg from under her
pillow, opened the window, and with no hesitation
she flung it high in the air.

“You can go now,” she said.

She stood by the window, motionless, except for her

eyebrow twitching; she squinted her eyes, and peered
for a long time into the now bright and sunlit sky, as
if waiting for Tweety Bird to fly by. Then, suddenly,
she slammed the window hard, drew the curtains, and
night fell over us again.

Sara Mari ne lli 13



satellites skim its surface

beam back the spin lights cloud
day and night flash across my screen
I cannot stand still from the outside in
what about gravity—how long will it
hold they don’t even know how it works
don’t panic the whole world tilts
mad teacups I never noticed
before YouTube choreographed our
heavenly bodies to music watched
the galaxies near the speed of light startled
stars time dilates I spend my
afternoons holding on nights given to
sleep seasick dreams coiled like
forgotten telephone cord earth rotates
counter-clockwise from the North
clockwise from the South but from the side
my planet is a giant blue and turtle-green
wheel I ride tumbling day to night
the speed of sound desire the speed of light


Because my soul, open like a tin can under heaven,

caught lost light refracted from a planet or star I
never saw but felt illuminate my empty core, the dark
matter of fact, and like a can once opened can never
be resealed, this became the because of my tin can
life, the thin curved metal of my remaining days, the
lid-off-mouth-open-catch-all-that-can-be mystery
of moment rolled under aluminum stars, a comet’s
glance, the knife blade moon slicing, sliding, o moon.
And you sun, bleached memories of wakefulnesses
flickering empty as a can, complete as a can can be
opened, open empty under heaven, matter’s dark fact
and the seasons, turning.


The woman woke from her nap. A breeze tossed

through the greeny branches overhead. Some bird
wheedled in a way that matched the motion of the
wind, the leaves. A stem of grass teased her bare
ankle. The dry air buzzed. In one direction vineyard
unfurled, rising, falling with the hills. In the other
the steeple and tiled roofs of some small town stood
almost asleep. She didn’t want to move either. It was
good that dinosaurs were extinct. They would have
ruined everything.

Sally Ash t on 17

Tuesday nights, my husband Kyle has his algebra
class at Clearwood, the community college north of
town. Kyle does sales for a widget manufacturer, and
his boss says once Kyle finishes his bachelor’s degree
they’ll send him to China to sell widgets there. It’ll
mean a big raise, but first Kyle has to get through
algebra, then two more years at State, and who knows
how he’ll feel about widgets then?

When he comes home from class tonight, Kyle’s

clothes are caked in mud. He’s holding one of those
institutional paper towels that looks like a big
graham cracker against a cut on his right cheek.

“Boy, am I beat!” Kyle says. He collapses into his armchair.

“Quiz night?” I say.

“Yeah. At least I got a few extra credit points, for

helping dig the pit.”

I’ve heard people talk about the pit before, but I

thought it was figurative, a visualization device to
help with studying. Navigating around the pit of
procrastination or something.

“So it’s a real pit?” I say. “Not a metaphor?”

“An honest to god pit. Threw my back out digging it.”

This is my cue to fetch bags of frozen things from

the freezer. Strawberries, peas, tropical fruit medley.
I help Kyle position the bags against his lumbar
spine. He describes digging into the frozen earth
of the old track. Once they’d dug it eight feet deep,
they all jumped in at a signal from their teacher,
Mrs. Applebee. They did their quizzes by the light
of kerosene lamps. The first student to complete his
quiz and scramble up the side of the pit earned fifty
extra credit points.

“It was pointless because we knew Jian would win,”

Kyle says. He’s mentioned Jian before, a Chinese
student who was placed in the class by mistake,
because his English isn’t good and he messed up the
placement test. The word problems were confusingly
phrased. Even Kyle had trouble understanding what
they were getting at.

“Jian took about three minutes to finish the quiz,”

Kyle says. “I hate that guy. He wears the same
Abercrombie sweatshirt every day.”

“I don’t understand,” I say. “Why a pit?”

Kyle explains Mrs. Applebee’s pedagogical rationale

for the algebra pit. In the real world, people have

to use algebra in stressful situations. Say you’re a
train operator, and a track goes out, and you have to
calculate within seconds the speed at which train A is
traveling and the moment it will intersect the path of
train B. The pit aims to mimic such a stressor.

“If you get the pit credit, you’re set for the rest of the
semester,” Kyle says. “You barely even have to go to
class. Of course, Jian still will, because he loves math.”

Kyle’s hips shift on his ice cushions. He winces and

adjusts the peas.

“You hungry?” I say. “I made a lentil thing.”

“Nah,” Kyle says. “Rob broke out some trail mix in the
pit. Someone else had a bottle of tequila. Once Jian
climbed out we just said ‘fuck it’ and copied each
other’s answers and got drunk.”

I don’t know what to make of the pit. We had no

such thing at my liberal arts college. Our professors
wore hiking boots to class and eschewed tests in favor
of brief, impressionistic essays.

In bed, I snuggle my back into Kyle’s broad front.

Though he showered, he still smells of wet earth and
tequila and something sticky and metallic, like old
coins warmed in a palm.

* * *

Kat e F olk 21
In March, Kyle has his midterm. That night I watch
a reality show in which dowdy female contestants
are furnished with plastic surgery and provocative
clothing, then pitted against each other in a beauty
pageant. When Kyle comes home, I flip to CNN.

Kyle’s shirt is streaked with blood. “I didn’t get the pit

credit,” he says. “And this time there were snakes.”

I follow Kyle into the bathroom and ask him

questions through the shower curtain. He says
that after Jian climbed out, Mrs. Applebee tilted an
aquarium full of snakes over the pit. They were just
garters, but still.

“I stepped on one,” Kyle says, his voice small. “I felt it

squish and then I heard its spine crack.”

“Why don’t you just drop the class?” I say. “This

whole pit business doesn’t seem worth it.”

“I want that pit credit,” Kyle says.

I stall and brush my teeth again, hoping he’ll say more.

His bloody t-shirt is balled in the trashcan, hidden
under tissues and floss. The shower runs and runs.

* * *

Kyle’s different after his midterm. He can’t plug in his

computer because the cord reminds him of a snake.

He takes days off work to study. I get home around
six and he’s still there, at the kitchen table, solving for
the value of x.

On the night of Kyle’s final exam, we eat Chinese

takeout straight from the boxes, using plastic forks so
we won’t have to wash anything. Kyle drinks bottles
of Blue Moon with slivers of orange pushed into the
necks. We don’t talk about the test. He’s like a boxer
preparing for the ring.

“Wish me luck,” he says from the door.

I wait a few minutes, then get in my car and drive

to Clearwood. I find Kyle’s class on the old track.
Since the new track was built two years ago, this one
has been left to ruin. A menagerie of drug addicts
gathers here at night, on the overgrown grass where
the school once held Zumba classes and Ultimate
Frisbee tournaments. The dirt beneath the bleachers
is riddled with broken lighters, tiny Ziplock bags,
condom wrappers and wads of foil.

Against the sherbet hues of the setting sun, Kyle’s

class digs. I spot Jian in an orange Abercrombie
sweatshirt. Gradually the students’ heads disappear.
Then they help each other climb out and line up
like children at the edge of a pool. Mrs. Applebee
distributes the exams. When everyone’s ready, she
blows a whistle and they all jump in.

Kat e F olk 23
Shambling human figures encroach at the margins
of the track, waiting for the class to disperse. Mrs.
Applebee sits in the grass and stares at the bright
rectangle of her phone screen. Ten minutes pass, and
then Kyle’s head pops over the edge. He holds his test
in his fist like a baton. He thrusts it at Mrs. Applebee,
who looks confused. She peers over the lip of the pit
and screams.

The other students scramble out, but Jian remains in

the pit. I picture him lying bloody and broken, still
clutching his final exam. My husband stands alone,
facing me. I watch the triumph on his face dissolve
into fear. I wave, but he looks right through me, into
the middle distance of our ruined future. Sirens wail
in the distance. I slink back to my car and drive home
to wait for the phone to ring.


I drink monsoon rains and swirl thanaka paste on my
To protect me from sun and government juntas
I fight with chili peppers and pound them into garlic
and fish sauce until I cry
I fish in lakes that a tsunami made: half salt, half
I have moments where I stand on water, speak in
I tie shells to my wrists with bits of crimson string
and leave oranges for the dead
They call me Sayama, Kun Cru, Lalana, Pii Sow
But this summer
I sit in cafes with blond wood across from men I meet
in a machine
Dodge their kisses and thirst for their texts
Wait for them to love me more than their cubicles
I gulp San Francisco fog that floods into Edwardian
and forget there is light just beyond the bridge
But there are days on Baker beach when the sky
is butterfly blue and the pelicans help me

In summers I eat countries

I eat the saffron line in the sky as the day dies
I eat the jasmine garland that protects the human
I eat the perfumed powder that men pat into their
skin after evening showers
I eat the motorbikes, the exhaust, the sniff kisses, the
spirit houses, the pink bags, the gold leaf, geckos,
weaving looms, mosquitoes filled with dengue
I eat the dark teak wood floors that feel cool on my
naked feet
I cannot swallow stock options, excel spreadsheets,
perfect profile pictures
I am not satisfied with crumbs
I came to this planet to feast


My father wakes me before

he combs his monster-
under-the-bed hair. My father
standing solidly like an Italian
sausage. He opens his red, green, gold
mouth. Mouth of the dried pimento
hanging near the curing linguiça,
mouth of the Nina, the Pinta,
the Santa Maria. His tongue
is the Portuguese flag telling me
it’s time to pray. Tongue
of a guppy, tongue like my brother’s
pop gun, subtitle tongue.
My father has
eyes of the stained glass
rosette in St. Chapelle. Eyes
of the Empire State building. Eyes
filled with the New York harbor
and its torch. My father with hands
round the rosary. His tsunami
hands, purple hands, Sistine chapel
hands, hands of clay, nails
and terra-cotta tiles.
My father with the voice
of the Ave Maria, of the matina. The voice of

Li ne t t e Escobar 27
voice of being chosen last, voice of being
team captain, my father with the voice
of a cement mixer. Voice of the great
Amen. My father with feet of the Olympian
running around shells in Sarajevo, feet washed by God,
feet of the raped, feet of the Bosnian,
the Nazi, the Jew. Double boned feet. I am afraid
of my father’s anger. My father with the anger
of a box cutter carried in the deep green pocket
of a drugstore stock boy. Afraid of my father
by the graveyard. Afraid of my father’s
mourning. His scurvy mourning, mourning
of the Winchester Mystery House, coat hanger
mourning, the mourning of a comic strip
character, mourning in ashes,
like the day after the fire,
My father’s mourning like the glass
of Porto that spills late at night.


for Gkai

Your tones are falling rising

Falling around me
The words do not enter my heart
I say
Hoping mine enter yours
Slowly you say cha-cha
And I want to be as slow
As the heat climbing the tallest
durian tree air thick
with water I want
to sit with this
smiling when you walk in and hug me
like I might break
smiling when you tell me not to come
to your island where the Muslims will talk
smiling when we sleep with legs tangled the night
before I get on a plane to the other side
of the world
I want to smile the Thai smile for you
But I can’t quite put the ice to my heart

Li ne t t e Escobar 29

try to imagine we are

arrows no

more like


more like meeting



arctic current

in a warming Pacific

sends up its angels

opaque rising white


fog hides sharp things inside it

summer, coasts

as weather
each to the other we crawl

. . .

& in spring’s budding

a remembered paint trim of
then against this

the last coat of polish on nails

red: “an old flame”

heavy, cold, beautiful

(rainstorms, flowers, etc)

. . .

& in winter’s

unleaned against

each branch of

indrawn breath

a bedroom of
forests have been here and left a
while ago

of rain


carved path

. . .

there is no mirror in the water

just foolish to think

we could find ourselves anywhere

other than living like a river

we are

we take it

Ji ll Tomas e t t i 33
we flow to the lowest place

we carry,

bear it all

Even the dead rats in the alleys of Oxford,
head-crushed and tossed in a trashbag,
left to fester behind the fence, are waiting
for crows to divide them, to carry their bodies
away. And if not crows, or the street pigeons
picking a leg-bone, then the broom
of a street-sweeper keeping a rhythm
to one of the tunes in his head. Or the wind
as it funnels the dust in a mini-tornado
above him. Because it isn’t enough
to say god is the speed of the wheel
that turns the sky, or that god is the distance
between two trains, hurtling at the same speed
toward you. It doesn’t matter what stories we use
to explain these impossible themes—
they will always turn fake or explode
in our faces. On Mount St. Helens
the fires went into the roots of the oldest pines,
smoldered and stayed in the coals for a month
before burning the farms on the opposite side
of the mountain. They found this out later,
tracking a mouse through a network
of intricate caves. We used to have ways
of explaining our failures. Now all we do
is erase them by spreading the veils of blame

so thin. The scars on our hands are only around
to remind us: don’t grow old in yourself,
don’t get lost in this scrimmage. Because even
death, in its marble skies and free-wheeling borders
is an art of remembering everything over.
And although the soul is a joke we tell
to the part of ourselves we can touch,
it’s only because the soul is a fire, and laughs
at our sorrow, and has already survived us.

- SET 2 -
to root in luggage and brown sweaters, to keep knocked
heels and rubber, to chant with spring carrion, to leave
the wheels cut loose, to step away from the bedroom
and into the tile, to throw the bicycle against the
window and wear clover flowers as a child, to funeral
rite the glass bottle, to sing to the mussels, to scrape
this face like leather, to find no end to this zipper


… S T E A M … L AV E N D E R

your embrace holds without seeking/ home/ memory/

far back and ever forward/ limbs wrap around/ and
around/ where we come from/ we rest suspended in
time/ hold each other like/ we won’t let go/ knowing
we must/ your energy comes over me thick like
molasses/ from my fingertips to my palms/ your
warmth climbs my wrist/ my chest/ your kiss gentle
as my breath/ enmeshed

we rewind and relive these moments in familiar

tastes/ mouths wet before breaking bread after a long
day/ the kettle whistles on the stovetop/ inhale the
steam/ herbs fill my nose/ sip slow/ lavender caresses
my tongue/ almost sweet/ add a bit of honey/ from
the marketplace/ these days/ nothin costs nothin/ but

we harbor endless motion/ at our cores/ well deep/

life after life/ we meet/ dance ceremonies/ sing
morning harmonies/ create fantasies/ collect stories/
through birthmarks/ reminding of a time when/ we
touched spirit to spirit/ before we learned to fear/
the dark/ before we were told/ where to go/ now

we sink into each others’ arms/ we, the bastard leaves
of the limbs/ of a bastard tree/ birthed of a nation/ of
liberty/ let freedom ring/ sea to shining sea/ North
Star shine on me/ dip moonlight from the river/ offer
libations in your earthen body/ as my body quivers

the kettle steaming/ nearly boiling still/ wind

howling against our windows/ we let our legs fall
over each other/ rub feet, ankles, calves and knees/
loose the joints and muscles before a night of sleep/
take our sides in bed/ pull the quilt over our heads/
act out dreams before we dream/ from our fragile

home is where you are/ where/ we are/ holding

hands walking/ down paved ways and up dirt roads/
knowing this country is as much our own as it ain’t/
tainted memories in our DNA/ shouting what we
can’t/ be/ soft/ in love/ with our everything/ hard/
handling anything

“wassup girls?/ ay ladies/ beautiful sistas/ keep smilin/

how you doin? can i join in? are y’all sistas, related,
friends?”/ on our way to and from/ keep our heads
high/ and do smile/ like we got no reason not to/ we
flower open in our sanctuary/ where they don’t see
us/ by our own choosing

in the club/ gazelles with lush fur coats strut/ eyed

from horn tips to tails/ mahogany eyes wide catching/
lion pride watching/ hungry mouths/ entitled strides/

coming for necks/ to grab, pull, take down and feed
mercilessly/ shoving fear aside/ gazelles glide through

as if abandoning care/ embrace each other/ without

seeking/ hold on and don’t let go/ knowing/ as time’s
moving/ we must/ nothing so soothing as lavender
tea and your touch

the bus/ slams to a stop/ we shuffle from the back to

the doors/ brush against riders/ freeing ourselves/
from the thick musk/ we step out

Ke i Gri ot 43



much. the word a kind of glistening

gummy in the mouth-breath, pretty

though not really as in good which

could be great, as in that apocryphal

white lie rehearsed out the mouth,

pretty as in good, as in fine, okay.

pretty is a slow motion

video of beautiful,

which sounds more floral.

pretty lacks the violence of excitement.

pretty is breathier than sexy,

though both whisper coyly.

pretty is multisyllabic

in the same way


have a secret indefinition

whilst awfully defined.

pretty as in there’s gotta be some way

of subjects meeting each other in space

to act as if though objective, pretty as in

predicate, as in predicament. pretty as in

the seeking of fine, fine as in elegant

or re-fine as in oil or sugarcane,

fine as synonym of pretty.

pretty is not immune from history,

pretty is a haunted room

populated by vases flowering femme.

i am pretty’s colonial subject,

pretty as in diaspora, pretty as in

pretty far away.

pretty as in the observation,

which is sometimes gaze,

sometimes straight.

pretty gaze-eyed love-soul

unmistakable coming

out of the curl in

your lips, i named it

pretty - what was that

you said?

pretty as in to be

wanting to be

as in wanting

pretty (breath)


Pablo Bae za 47

-flowersong (literal + metaphorical, I suppose)
-sex-breath comma gender-breath
-whisper (as in i like it when)
-equal to other ways, other meetings
-historical meanings of elegant, fine
-history’s way of pollinating/vaccinating the story
-haunted room, kiss ghosts?
-a wordgender womanquestioning
-a colony of the body, maybe in the asshole or finger-
-distance as in grass always greener as in water as in
rain or lack thereof
-observation: did i just make meaning? is the subject
of this poem…
-looking, indefinitely, in noun’s absentia.
-gaze-eyed + love-soul + unmistakable coming
-i define, but –
-what do you think
-pretty is?



which came distinctly and was invented by the

which came from cunning which gave/performed
cunnilingus also skillful
which came also from artful as in wily as in while as
in meanwhile
coming from astute, ass-tute, toot toot! onomatopoe-
ia. but i digress. pretty
infantile lately. let’s continue with the etymology
lesson. pretty also from
west germanic “pratt” –

pratt = tricky = a trick = trick, joke

as in
funny hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
but also quite queer if you think about it

pretty also came from not a few considerably but

with a sense of moderately qualifying verbs and
adjectives – i guess a few linguists think of it as two
words making love passionately (evidence: not a few,
considerably) in the furtive wild because pretty is an
emphatic plea and charisma, eh?

apparently pretty is a person

Pablo Bae za 49
or thing
hey pretty maybe i’ll see you

i wonder/forget what the spanish word

for pretty is,


pretty. (breath)

pretty. pretty. pretty. pretty. (breath) pretty.

(breath) pretty. (breath) pretty. (breath) pretty.
(breath) pretty. (breath) pretty. (breath) pretty.
(breath) (breath) pretty. pretty. pretty. pretty. pretty.
pretty. pretty. pretty. pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty,
pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty-
pretty (breath) prettyprettypretty (breah) prettypret-
typrettyprettypretty (breath) (breath)… prettypretty-





(bre( )ath)

(breath) PrettY. PrettY. PREEETY.



and pretty (x2).

Pablo Bae za 51


i just think…

you’re pretty,

that’s all…


six haikus about pretty.

that night, i dreamt you
were an ocean, i dived
in search of pretty

at the performance
the room was dark and you be—
—came all three bodies

i remember it
that landscape from be—
—fore—travel is this—

pretty only
has two vowels—but takes up
but takes up an empty room

gaze-eyed love-soul: I
want you to know how much I
am this way—two—too

yesterday I woke
and learned the secret—pretty
was what I am—

Pablo Bae za 53


much. wood kind glistening.

gummy mouth breath. pretty.
really good as in
the mouth
fine, pretty

floral (violence?)

(whisper) can i?



there’s gotta be some way

subjects meet
to act, pretty.
act out pretty, act pretty out?

the seeking.
not immune haunted flowering

from far away

you: gaze-eyed
eye: love-soul i named it


you called it

pretty – wanting
to be. (so) much – so much, pretty, so much.

Pablo Bae za 55


benedicta says everything i already know. she says it

like she is telling me a great thing. she is from france.
have you heard of the monologues of the vagina? like
with a hush. it is really good. yeah yeah i know that.

it doesnt matter what i say to her, she doesnt listen.

she likes to tell me about the plants, their character-
istics and qualities. i dont care about that i say. later
that day, she takes the needles of the sequoia in her
hand and says, see the leaves, how flat they are. i say i
dont care about that. she doesnt remember. she looks
up at the big sequoia in wonder oh the sequoia, she
breathes. i say, yeah.

i want her to get out of my house. i hear her little

mouse sounds, tender as she pours the juice in the
glass. her hair is grey and cut short. she spoons the
cereal in her bowl. she is trying not to make a sound.
but inside there is the suffering of her years, pulling
at me to look to care, get out of my house i yell at her
inside my heart. she hums some sappy tune as she
leaves, her declaration of self hood.

do not sing, i think. do not sing. i dont like your
earnest lilting voice. she wants me to speak in a
lilting voice. ‘i dont want to talk. i dont want to talk’
she demonstrates for me how to do it. i take that
fucking lilting speak and rip it in raw chunks and
hand it back to her. i do not want to talk. i do not
want to talk. get it through your stupid fucking head,
dumb person, i belch.

i have to talk to benedicta so long. everything takes

so long and it is repeated. like i’m carving it into her
wispy insides. do you want oatmeal? she makes her
face of concern. she does not understand me. oat
meal. i say. oat meal. oat meal. OAT meal.

everything i do, she asks me about. what is toi let?

how do you say underbra. peering over my shoulder
as i pick out rye flakes, what is this? your dog is
heavy. she comments and questions. this is talking.
this must be talking.

in the morning i look out of my window and there

she is sitting with bright red sweatshirt. she’d like me
to wave and smile. i dont do this. i ‘m 55. we dont do
this. although i’m glad she got the crud off my cheese

benedicta comes in with all this softness around her,

like mulch or vomit. i think it’s like vomit. bonne
jour she says with a lilt. i hate lilts. it is very hard to
just look at her without lifting up my mouth muscles.

but i do it. straight. but even that feels wrong. where
is my straight no smiling face that i like and wear all
the time? with her so smiling at me, my own straight
face seems mean. i’m just not smiling. i dont want to
smile. there’s nothing to smile about because she’s
still here.

this is my gift, the roaring of the lion as he lifts an

inert benedicta, talking talking into the sky. no, the
lion roars, no. and all the ladies and gentlemen of
my ancestry, standing behind me so close they are
breathing on each other’s necks, all the ladies and
gentlemen that me begat them begat me begat them,
they fall over like dominoes, fast. i am a person. the
person is me. the me that is a person is tired of all
this caring and fairness.

all good thinkings are gone. they are piled up by the

window like squirrel carcasses,

Kare n P e nle y 59


We are trying to define drought so we look it up

in the dictionary. We accidentally look up drown
instead. Where we are caught it’s enough to just be
in the night. Enough to take our tender feet on down
to the sea. Enough to trace the blue brim of shore
beyond the overgrown median blooming orange.

What some of us forget to remember in our

consciousness. What some of us can converse about
but only in the rain. What some of us collect as ideas,
as truths.

A body can be parched as a root, perched as a hawk.

Can watch in silence as the smoke curls off the hills.
We look over the land, exhausted. We look over the
living as if we are static. We look as if we are mute.
This is sometimes how it goes. Some years instead of
rain we get a sky full of ash. We get heat drawing a
line of dust around the perimeter of a lake.

We speak towards proper weather. Towards

knowing the horizon as well as our heft, our hips.
We speak towards when we are gone. See, some

of us are trying to catch no thing in our small hands.
Some of us have deserts for bodies. Some of us find
sand in our navels. Some of us are uncrossable. Some
of us are buried by belief.

If the trees could see some of us on our knees. If they

could see some of our despair. What else but to let
our limbs or boughs open. What else but to let one
another touch the moss.



The sun is fat and slaps me in the face. I’m awake on

a beach with party clothes on and stale breath and
the urge to vomit. I’ve been sober for almost a month
now; two weeks after my DUI and accident, a month
after my father officially moved out. Whatever
happened last night was a mistake; it was just a
moment of weakness. It’ll never happen again. I

The bird is pale and too close to me. Is it a pigeon?

Is it a seagull? I can’t tell. From a distance I’m sure it
would’ve passed as a normal looking bird, but it hops
around me clumsily. When I look closely at it, I can
see it’s missing a leg. There are other birds on this
beach and together they peck inside garbage cans,
attempt flight, but this bird is alone and it’s not the
wanting kind of alone, it’s the alone you don’t get a
say in.

The bird is missing its leg and I’m missing my memory

and I feel in this moment that the bird has come
to deliver some prophetic message to me, but this
bird is too pale and looks sad, so sad that I don’t

think it has any kind of messages to offer other
than—make sure you keep your leg, life without a leg
is shitty and lonely. The bird makes me think of my
grandfather who has both legs, but has Alzheimer’s
which is kind of like losing a limb, except it’s on the
inside and people don’t just sympathize from the
get go. You have to know someone really well, know
how much they loved to recite poetry and stories by
heart, know that they had a presence that lit everyone
up from the inside, to understand what it means for
them to lose their ability to remember.

I don’t hate the bird, but it encircles me and

hypnotizes me with its struggle. Its other leg is whole,
rugged and thick, but it’s all this bird has left holding
it up on this earth. This guy I don’t know begins to
rustle around behind me; soon he’ll wake up and
try to relive last night, moment by moment he’ll try
to find someway to connect based on things I only
partially remember. In this way the bird and I are
the same, in this way my grandfather and I are the
same, but also I’m the only one with a choice. This
pale, ugly, outcast of a bird probably got its leg eaten
off by a coyote or another feisty bird fighting over
a half-eaten hamburger discarded on the beach. My
grandfather is a victim of time, of protein build up in
his brain; he did not choose to forget.

The bird stops its waddle in front of me, nobly

lowers its beak as if bowing to me, as if saying—
you can do better, at least you have legs, and then it

attempts a pathetic lift off, weighty and uneven and
unnatural, and then it meets the sky and is a fluid
thing, a beautiful bullet of flight with no intention of

“What time is it?” the man rises and asks. I reach for
my phone, but it’s dead.

“I have no idea,” I say, my eyes reaching for the sky, the

bird, but it’s gone now.

The blackouts had been happening more and more

right up to my DUI, and every time I wake up from
blackness I always think of my grandfather. When
he blinks does emptiness fill him up, and with eyes
open he’s made new again? I’m jealous of this possible
newness, and sad that I’m jealous of a sick old man
I love. It’s all very Zen, in the most depressing way

Next time I’ll see patterns and warning signs and will
say no when someone invites me to a party. Next time
I’ll stick to the plan. Next time I’ll remember the first
step; to admit I’m powerless over alcohol, that my life
is unmanageable.

“Shit, where are my pants?” he asks. I turn around and

stare at him, this mediocre looking potential frat boy
I would’ve never given a chance to in daylight.

“I have no idea,” I say, his blonde curls glisten and

Sh i de h Etaat 65
are coiled so tightly I have a deep urge to pull on
them. He scoots closer to me and squeezes my arm
affectionately. I want him to leave, but also I want
him to keep squeezing. I look at my phone again
hoping it’ll come to life and I can call my friend Asal,
even though she probably hates me right now. I’m
sure she’d urged me to go home with her last night
and I’d found a way to insult her or convince her I
was fine. Best friends aren’t supposed to judge, but
I hear it in her voice every time. She’s the one who
always helps me put the pieces back together.

He keeps squeezing my arm, playing with the layer of

fat that jiggles and it’s disgusting and heartwarming
all at the same time. I think about stepping into the
water, stripping down to skin and letting this big,
blue piece of shaking glass wash me clean.

When I was a little girl my father tried to teach me

how to swim in our pool with the tiles that were
chipping away all along the side. I remember never
questioning the instructions he gave me. When he
told me to grab onto his shoulders I did. When he
told me to kick I did. When he told me he wouldn’t
let go I believed him.

Only those who love you want to teach you, and he

wouldn’t give up until I could do it on my own. One
day he got a cramp in his leg though. He couldn’t
stay up anymore and ended up letting me go. I hadn’t
learned enough yet and still needed his body to

guide me. But he was gone, a faded image of a man
struggling to hold onto the only thing he’d ever loved.
I flapped around, inhaled too much water. I kicked
and screamed and cried for him to come back, for
the water not to swallow him up, and in the mayhem
of those chlorine waves my mother jumped in and
snatched me up.

I didn’t want to take her down with me, he kept telling

my mother who just shook her head in disbelief.

I never really tried to swim again after that.

“Last night was fun,” he says. His eyelashes are lined

with sand. He looks more handsome suddenly. Maybe
he’s not a frat boy after all. “Ya, it was, but how did we
end up in the water?” “You don’t remember?”

I don’t say anything.

“You really wanted to go in, like you dragged me here

and wouldn’t let me go until I went inside with you.
You said you had to practice, that you were trying
to learn how to swim. You really don’t know how to

“Did we go in all the way?” I feel like an idiot asking

him these questions, having to rely on a stranger for
basic information about my life events, but even
these things Asal wouldn’t have any way of knowing.

Sh i de h Etaat 67
“You swam,” he says, “you said you couldn’t, but you
swam pretty far out on your own. Who told you
you’re not a swimmer? You’re definitely a swimmer.”

“That doesn’t sound like something I’d do.”

“It’s funny, I don’t remember your name,” he says

looking all embarrassed about it.

“Samira,” I say. I don’t know why I say it like that

because most people just call me Sam.

“You go to UCLA?”

“Graduated last year.”

“So you work?”

“Still figuring it out.”

“Is that Indian or something? Your name? You look

like you could be Indian.”

“It’s Persian. My parents are from Iran,” I say.

He nods like he thinks it’s cool, but he doesn’t have

anything interesting to add. He probably doesn’t even
know where Iran is. He’s probably from Kentucky
or Alabama and just assumes anyone with a darker
shade of skin is Indian. I reach below my dress and
check for my underwear, which is still wet from our

apparent swim.

“Did anything happen?” I ask.

“You don’t remember?”

“Some of it. Some parts I do.” I open up my purse

and inside I find a glistening golden Trojan wrapper
and as horrible as it is, I’m relieved. He asks if I want
to get breakfast, but I need to find a place to throw
up. I don’t get his name, but he asks for my number
anyway and I give it to him because I don’t want to
be rude. I ask if I can use his phone to call Asal. They
took my license and I don’t feel like sitting in a car
with a stranger.

Sh i de h Etaat 69

after Roberto Bolaño

There was a year or two when none of it mattered.

I woke up late, sat on the balcony porch with a
cigarette, turned on the gas-light to scramble some
eggs. Days seemed to flash and fold away like pages in
a magazine. No one knew my name, and if they did,
they didn’t bring me up in conversation. I was living
off the grid, you might say, in the gaudy retirement
halls of the Mount Helix Apartments. My hair fell
down in complete abandon, swinging from eye to
eye. Usually tied in the back with rubber bands, or
with shoelaces somebody left on the curb. Nobody
cared about my style. On weekends I went to the
skatepark in El Cajon and attempted to flirt with
the girls. People came through, disappeared, made
claims. The sun never altered its place in the sky. The
floodlights came on and the Mexicans listened to
boom-boxes perched on the stairs. I was down there
one day in September, a day like any other day, when
a boy’s head was found in the playing field, cut with
a hacksaw, circled in little white stones. Local
authorities said it was a ‘gang thing’ or a ‘satanic
ritual kind of thing.’ They said it was a product
of organized crime, an ‘underground collective,’

although no one really knew. The troubling part,
to me at least, was that the boy wasn’t even from
town—he was on vacation with his parents from
North Dakota, traveling by motor-home, headed for
Zion and Flagstaff, Mount St. Helens, Vancouver,
Rainier. For the first few days there was vague
speculation, but no one came forward and no one was
blamed. Weeks later, it seemed as though nothing had
happened. The park flags waved in the same lacking
breezes, the tennis balls hung in the chain-link fence,
the skaters continued to circle the bowl, and the
killer was soon forgotten.

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