You are on page 1of 64

QUIET LIGHTNING IS:

a literary nonprofit with a handful of ongoing projects,


including a monthly, submission-based reading series
featuring all forms of writing without introductions or
author banterof which sparkle + blink is a verbatim
transcript. The series moves around to a different venue
every month, appearing so far in bars, art galleries,
music halls, bookstores, night clubs, a greenhouse, a
ballroom, a theater, a mansion, a sporting goods store, a
pirate store, a print shop, a museum, a hotel, and a cave.
There are only two rules to submit:
1. you have to commit to the date to submit
2. you only get up to 8 minutes

quietlightning.org/submission-details

SUBSCRIBE
quietlightning.org/subscribe
info + updates + video of every reading

sparkle + blink 68
2015 Quiet Lightning
artwork Taylor Mazer
taylordraws.com
Undertow by Prartho Sereno
from the collection Elephant Raga (Lynx House Press)
The Adventures of La Dos in Costcolandia by Javier Huerta
from the collection American Copia (Arte Pblico Press)
book design by j. brandon loberg
set in Absara
Promotional rights only.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form
without permission from individual authors.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the
internet or any other means without the permission of the
author(s) is illegal.
Your support is crucial and appreciated.

quietlightning.org
su bmit @ qui e tl i g h tn i n g . o r g

CONTENTS
curated by

Lauren Traetto & Charlie Getter


featured artist

Taylor Mazer

Wild

American Chien

1
2
3

XIAOJUAN SHU

The Cornfield

CHELSEA KIRK

Eulogy for a Goldfish

13

JENNIFER LEWIS

My Collection

15

CLAUDE CONVERS

Did I Really Paint My Lips Red?

21

MK CHAVEZ Artemis

LAURA JOAKIMSON

Where We Lived
Smaller

Alien Rights

Always Speak to Strangers

Red Dress

23
24
25
26
27

LISA PIAZZA (something)

31

CLARA HSU Manzanita

33

JOHN HAGGERTY

35

Polar Bears

PRARTHO SERENO Undertow


JAVIER HUERTA

The Adventures of La Dos


in Costcolandia

JOSEPH BODIE Ukiyo

37
39
45

Do You Know the Huntsman?


47
BabyourSorrow
48
Ideation 49
MK CHAVEZ

JULIA SILLS Fifteen

51

ET
QU I

G IS SPONSOR
LIGHTNIN
ED B
Y

lagunitas.com

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
Kelsey Schimmelman
Sarah Ciston
Katie Wheeler-Dubin

secretary
director of books
director of films

Laura Cern Melo


art director
Christine No
producer/assistant managing director
If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in
helpingon any levelplease send us a line:
e v an @ qui et light nin g . o rg

- SET 1 -

MMMMMMMMM

A R TE M IS
Come ride
my
ovarian horns.
Down
with the captive
Clitori.
Be free
&
speak
my
grizzly
bear
lips.

WILD
There are good bears
and bad bears.
I am one of them. She-bear,
a honey and potential
man-eating mammalian.
I forage because times are hard.
I growl at the wrong moments,
its the juxtaposition
of my needs and the food
in your hands.
We have all clawed at someone.
Remind me of the year
I became the unknown
visitor.
I am still learning eastern
& western time.
Once I was a dancing bear.
Here are my teeth.
What do you think?
2

AMERICAN CHIEN
She pats it
like
the family dog
Treats it
like
an umbrella
Now open/ Now close
Makes it do tricks
Sticks
an eyeball in it
Scares
all the customers
Eye can see you
Persona
non-grata
Vagina
dentata
that
thing

down
there
MK Ch ave z

XXX

XXXXXXXXX

T H E C O R NFIE L D
Yaya! Lets go play Fucking, whispered Bing outside
the window.
It was noon rest time. Grandpa was asleep in the
bamboo chair in the living room. I tiptoed through the
front door. Cicadas on the trees in front of the house
were complaining, Too hot! I followed Bing on the
dirt road to Fengs house next door. Bings grandma
was my grandaunt, and I had been following him
around since Mama dropped me off at grandparents
three months ago. After Feng joined us, we headed
west. The large green cornfields were on the left
beyond a ditch with muddy water.
I was five, Feng six and Bing eight.
Through a side trail, we crossed the ditch and walked
on the narrow footpath between the cornfields. After
making sure nobody saw us, we quickly entered the
forest of corn. It was cooler in the cornfields with
the corn tassels looming above me, twice my height.
Smelling the dry dirt and the ripening corn, we
threaded our way through the cornstalks further
and further until the cicadas sounded distant.
5

Bing and Feng pulled leaves from the stalks and


flattened them on the ground to make a bed. Lets do
it! Bing said. Feng looked at Bing with his crossed eyes
and pulled down his pants half way and lay down. This
was the second time I played this, and I didnt know
why my heart raced like a galloping pony. I slowly
pulled down my pants half way and lay on top of Feng,
face to face, naked part touching naked part. We just
lay there while Bing watched us. Time went by slowly
and I grew bored. Was this really what the grownups
do, as Bing had seen?
I wanted to get up, but Bings frown made me stay. A
week ago when we played this for the first time, Bing
lay down with me to show Feng. That time, Bing had
asked me to lie down first, then he lay on top of me.
But I could hardly breathe, so he decided that I should
always be on top. I felt I was being cared for.
Lets go! Bing said finally. I sprang up. We walked
out of the cornfield in single file, with Bing leading,
me in the middle, and Feng the last. Feng didnt go to
the one classroom school for kids over age six because
he was slow in his head, I heard, and his crossed eyes
were often mocked by other boys. Whenever they saw
Feng, they would all cross their eyes and laugh until
their tummies hurt. One boy would always ask if Feng
saw him as one person or two. Feng rarely spoke. What
a bore to play Fucking with. We walked along the
ditch. At the end of the ditch, Feng took off his new
sandals to wash his feet. On impulse, I threw one of his
6

sandals into the ditch, and instantly I wished I hadnt


done it. The muddy water was deep. Give me back my
shoe, Feng said. I ran home.
At dusk, Bing came to take me to a new secret place.
We walked to dachang. Dachang was the open flat land
that the villagers shared to dry the harvested crops and
sift grains, and also a place for village gatherings.
We passed the cornfield on the left and then crossed
a narrow cement bridge over a small creek before we
arrived at dachang, where many hay piles were stacked.
My favorite thing to do with these hay piles was
climbing them. I would run from afar towards a hay
pile, as Bing did before he climbed to the top. But I
always slid down half way.
We stopped at one of the hay piles, and Bing removed
the hay from the front of the pile. It was hollow! I bent
down and followed him inside. The outside noises
disappeared like magic. I breathed in the smell of the
fresh hay mixed with sunshine. I sat down while Bing
blocked the entrance with loose hay. It went dark.
Shhh! he said. People were walking by and talking.
They had no idea that we were inside the hay! I could
barely hold my laugh.
Yaya! Dinner! Grandpa called in the distance. We
crawled out and then camouflaged the entrance.
I ate dinner as fast as I could because my favorite movie
Xi aojuan Sh u

Nezha Conquers the Dragon King would be shown


again on dachang that night. Then I heard Feng crying
and his mama yelling about the lost shoe. I felt a big
knot in my stomach, fearing his mama would suddenly
show up at the door and ask for the sandal. But she
didnt come. Quickly, I washed myself in a wooden tub
and then changed into my favorite pink flower dress
with lace.
Grandma walked with me to dachang, but I felt like
running as the breeze tickled me through my pink
dress. I ran ahead all the way to dachang, where
Uncle Jin and several others were raising a big white
rectangular cloth tied between two poles. Soon, more
and more people gathered that I didnt know. They
brought their own little wooden benches to sit in
front of the white screen. The big crowd excited me.
I felt pretty in my pink flower dress and I loved the
attention that I attracted. I opened my arms to spin
my body so that my pink flower dress would fly out.
What a pretty girl! I heard someone say. I spun faster
until I felt too dizzy to stand. I found Grandma and
collapsed onto her lap.
The sky grew dark. The movie began in a cool breeze.
When the movie was over, everyone stood up to leave
at the same time. Jumping off of Grandmas lap, I
worked my way through the crowd, but was pushed
from behind and fell. I tried to get up, but someone
was standing on my dress. I was scared and began
to cry. A pair of big hands pulled me up. Dont cry,
8

pretty girl. Ill get you out of here, the stranger with
big hands said. He lifted me up and carried me in his
arms. In the moonlight, through tears I saw Feng in
the crowd.
The man walked fast and soon the noise of the
crowd was behind the narrow cement bridge. My
grandparents house was nearby. I wanted to be put
down, but he kept walking. I smelled corn. We were in
the cornfield. Suddenly, I was scared.
I want to go home, I said.
He locked me in his arms and pressed my body against
his chest.
I want to go home! I kicked him.
His big hand moved under my dress between my legs,
like the sandpaper Grandpa used, scrubbing my skin.
I began to cry.
One big hand covered my mouth while the other was
touching my naked part in a strange way, a finger
poking inside. It hurt so much that I wanted to scream,
but my voice was trapped in my chest. I kicked him
harder, but his body was hard like a rock.
Ahhh! a voice shouted. It was Feng.

Xi aojuan Sh u

Little bastard! Shouting for what? the man said.


Feng kept yelling. The man finally let go of me and
disappeared into the dark. I let out my cry.
Yaya! Yaya! Grandma was calling.
I walked home, sobbing. Feng followed at a distance.
Grandma was waiting for me in front of the house.
I couldnt tell Grandma what happened. It still hurt
there and I was afraid to touch it. After Grandma and
Grandpa went to sleep, I crawled under the bed and
hid my wrinkled pink flower dress in the far corner. I
didnt want to wear it again because it would remind
me of the big hands.
The next day, I walked to the hay house and sat in the
dark, hugging my knees until Grandpa called me for
lunch, then for dinner, then lunch the next day, then
dinner again. When Bing came after school, I pushed
him out with all my strength.
Feng was the only one who shared my secret. When
other boys mocked his crossed eyes again, I felt sorry
for him. If they knew my naked part had been poked
by a big hand, they would shout together, Big hand
poked! Big hand poked! and then laugh until their
tummies hurt.
It was quiet in the hay house.
10

Three months later I turned six. The ditch was drained


and I saw Fengs sandal in the mud. I washed it in the
creek and left it by his door. As I was walking to the
hay house, something was lifted in my heart. All of a
sudden, I felt like running. I ran, and ran. I ran as fast
as I could. So fast that I believed none of those boys
could catch me. I ran, and ran. I ran toward the tallest
hay pile and climbed all the way to the top for the first
time. I stood there, shouting at the top of my lungs,
Wo liu sui le! (Im six!) Tears washed my face like a
warm spring.

Xi aojuan Sh u

11

CCC

EULOG

CCCCCCCCC

Y FO R A G O L D F I S H

Today in church I am reduced to nylon and cotton


and my stepdad: a narrow necked urn
the best hes looked in years.
When I was younger I watched my mother dunk
herself in holy water believing The Book of Mormon
would save her. I told her drowning is being saved
and today the pews are brimming with politeness,
people trying not to drown.
After the phone call, I felt hands touch my back
as I sobbed in the shower, and now I cant help
but imagine him trembling on the bathroom floor
like cabin doors on take off, buckling himself in,
surrendering his own fate, breathing out slow.
Thats drowning.
My mother asked me to write his eulogy and
I didnt know which words to use. We sat on bus
benches
and ate donuts, watched football and killed angelfish.
We went to Vegas once, came home with a ferret
and starved it by our third apartment. I told her
I couldnt write a eulogy for a man who died
13

before I met him.


Its understandable that we would all read eulogies
for a different man today. I read one for the man who
chased
dragons in motel rooms, let his daughter microwave
foil,
and found his happy place in the bend of his arm.
My sister
read one for her carnival prize, asked me why her
father died,
and cried when I told her fish arent meant to live
in fish bowls.

14

JJJ

JJJJJJJJJJJ

M Y C O LL E C TI O N
I bought my first wig when Mo was diagnosed with
breast cancer and she had started losing her hair. She
and I went to the Lemmon Wig Shop and I remember
being impressed by the quality and selection. They
looked like real human hair! They were more expensive
than what Id budgeted for, but the sky was the limit
for Mo, and it was important that she walked out of
Lemmons feeling pretty, or at the very leastamused.
I remember being nervous when we walked in, seeing
all those wigs on cartoon mannequin faces in the
windows was a little creepy, but the people behind the
counter gave us big smiles and encouraged us to try
on every wig in the store. Hours later, we rolled out
of there with four wigs, fake eyelashes and bedazzled
press-on nails.
Paul had been dead for only a month when I found
Jonathan, my grown-ass son, in my walk-in closet. I
heard a wig rustling off one of the six Styrofoam
heads. What was he doing in there? Trying one on? My
knees trembled and my heart galloped thinking of him
finding my collection: a waist-length platinum job,
a short red number with bangs, some curly brown
locks, a Dolly Parton, A Crystal Gail and Britneys
15

pink alter ego. Instead of walking backwards out the


door like I had intended, (I dont know what came over
me!) I shouted, Havent you taken enough?
I almost expected my son to come out with Virginia on
his head, my long platinum beauty that flipped up at
the bottom, because thats just the kind of relationship
we had. We were able to joke about the most serious
things, but he walked out empty-headed. He looked
stunned, pale. His blue eyes glazed over. He couldnt
even look at me. His own mother who had bailed him
out of jail. Twice. Usually he had something clever to
say, but he just put his hands in his pockets and his
sour mouth turned down with disgust. Get out, I
said. Get out this minute.
That look he gave me! I can still see it now. Who was
he to judge me? I didnt want to keep the wigs in a box
anymore. They get all bent out of shape and theyre
never really the same if you dont treat them properly.
Why was he on my side of the house anyway? Cant a
fifty-six-year-old woman have some privacy? Havent I
suffered enough? Two dead husbands and a troubled
son. Most women my age have grandchildren. Ive
never put any pressure on him.
Now I know it must have been hard, losing his father
in the middle of the night. I can still remember when
the police knocked on the door. Those words: car,
tree, under-the-influence. A woman passenger
who had survived without a scratch. That couldnt
16

be my husband! I remember saying that over and


over. I was twenty-six years old. There had to be some
kind of mistake. The police officer kept repeating my
husbands name. He finally had to wrap my fingers
around his drivers license. And when I saw his picture,
I started crying. I suppose I was screaming. Now that
Im thinking about it, you couldve called me hysterical.
When Jonathan walked into the living room, I guess
I should have composed myself. Thought about his
feelings first. A six-year-old boy shouldnt see his
mother in that state. He shouldnt have had to figure
things out by himself. But that was a long time ago.
Thirty years ago.

When Terry comes over in the middle of the night,


I dont think Jonathan could hear us. I moved my
bedroom to the other side of the house next to the
pool. I had to. We couldnt afford to go to hotels
anymore. Even the cheap ones add up. Plus, neither
of us liked checking in at the front desk. Dallas is
big, but its a small town and Ive gotten a little vocal
these days. I dont know what has gotten into me. Ive
never really understood sex before, just went through
the motions hoping it would be over soon. It must be
those wigs. They make me want to scream. The silky
hair that hangs down my back and covers my breasts.
Even the short ones that tuck under my ear, they make
me feel so giddy. I finally know what this body is for. I
dont even mind being older. With my wig on, Im just
pretty hair.
Je nni f e r Le wi s

17

Last week when Terry was over, he picked up a picture


of Jonathan and said, Right off the bat, I could tell he
was yours.
He may have gotten my cheekbones and my almond
shape eyes, I replied, but hes all his father. He tans
like me though. In the summer, were the same shade.
Look, heres the picture. See his glossy eyes. Always
looks like hes just been stung by a bee.
Like the time he was playing in the backyard by the
black-eyed Susans. He used to pick up those daisy-like
things and run in circles. The golden flowers matched
his straw hair. I remember seeing the yellow jacket
flying around his head and instead of crashing onto his
shoulder, it landed in the dark center of the flower. He
had reached for butterflies before, orange and red ones,
so why would this be any different? From my poolside
chair, I watched him grab for the yellow and black
stripes. I saw the bee land on the webbing between his
thumb and index finger. I watched the pain travel up
his tan little arm, to his clutched jaw, and just when he
was about to wail, he looked at me and we locked eyes,
and instead of screaming, he just held it in. Spent his
whole life holding it in. He had to be about eight years
old or so because we had already moved into Pauls
house. I remember because after he got stung, I ran to
hug him and Mo went into the house to get some ice.
Ive never told anyone this before. That night the police
18

officer asked me if I wanted to know the name of the


woman who was in the car. I remember shaking my
head. Beating my hands on the policemans chest. The
police officer trying to calm me down by putting me
in a bear hug. But it was printed in the paper the very
next day. I didnt know that name. Had no intention
of ever looking it up. I did keep those clippings in an
album and when Jonathan got older I let him see those
scrapbooks. I watched his face when he read about the
woman. Saw him wondering who she was and how
strange it was that someone had been next to him
when he died and it was neither of us. But he never
did ask, so I never did say anything about it. Figured it
was all there in black and white.
Jonathans missing now. Its been a little over a week
since he found my collection. Sometimes I wonder
what I could have done differently. And all I can come
up with is that I did the best I could. If Mo was still
with us, I would call her. She would know what to do.
After the accident, Mo drove Jonathan to school on
the days I couldnt get up. I know shes watching over
him right now, keeping him safe, telling him to do the
right thing and go back home to his mama. I dont want
to burden Terry with all this. He has his own kids and
a handicapped wife. All I can do is sit here and smoke
cigarettes until either the police come knocking again
or he walks through that door. Speaking of doors, I
locked the closet door. None of that matters anymore.
Silly wigs. Making me feel joylike a girl again.

Je nni f e r Le wi s

19

CC

CCCC

CCCCCC

CC

D I D I R E A L LY

PAINT MY LIPS RED?


I truly, truly apologize, I dont know why but
I really do. I dont know why I painted my lips red
and removed my shoes at the board meeting.
I dont know why I was drunk with I believe,
some various glasses of something I forgot. I dont.
But I apologize for not holding it together. You know,
my husband is in the hospital, I dont really know why
either and I am sorry. He is very sick, the doctor told me.
Me too, I said, I have a constant headache I am trying
to kill.
You know that he burned me with cigarettes but
I never said anything. Well, I am sorry I walked on
the table
while you began to speak about, I dont know,
the financial report, I believe. I am sorry, truly,
truly sorry that I also removed my skirt and threw it
in the face of I forgot who. I mean, I forgot. I truly
forgot
how I got home. Did I really paint my lips red?
Did I really remove my shoes and walk on the table?
My colleague told me so. You know my son left home,
he never said where he went, I dont know why,
he never called. I apologize, truly, even if I cant
remember.
I am sorry I dont know why.

21

LL
LL

LLLLLLLLLL

W H E R E W E LI V E D

for Ibn Hazm


It was your idea
to split your heart
for me to climb inside;
to stay with you wherever you roamed.
But my weight had a way of
dragging you down, and
you lacked brute strength
to shelter me.
After I made your hurting back fail
you had some revengekept me locked
inside the cold place
your love for me was buried.
For years I slept
inside the darkest heart of you
dreamed of making an escape.
I asked worms to carry me.

23

SMALLER
Sometimes I think the world
wants my voice to be
smaller
wants me to be smaller
like the woman in Delaware
who starved herself small enough
that her married boyfriend
could squeeze her body into
a Styrofoam ice chest and float it out to sea;
I dont want to need anything;
dont want to be heard or validated
or seen
dont want you to think about me
after you stop.

24

ALIEN RIGHTS
Would it help if I told you
all the ways I dont quite belong to the human race?
All the times Ive been turned down,
looked over, found short of the mark?
If I ask you to judge, youll find me wanting.
I know. I know. I know.
Would it help if I lie and say your acceptance
doesnt mean much to me? Would it help
if I say your pity, your condescension, your stony-eyes
cant flay my skin? Would it help if I told you all the ways
I dont quite belong to the human race?

Lau ra Joa ki mson

25

ALWAYS SPEAK TO STRANGERS


Once strangers were strange.
Now your mother is a stranger and
your father is a stranger;
youre a stranger in your grandmothers house.
Make people who care about you a fetish;
seek those who dont find you disappointing
who cherish your imperfections
as precious proof of your humanity.
What good is success if you cant love people
you havent yet met?
If you cant come home to someone who, like you,
is slowly trying and failing to heal the world?

26

RED DRESS
When I was six years old
I overheard my mother
talking about things
I couldnt do.
She cant wash
her own hair.
It outraged me.
Because shed never asked me to.
I took the shampoo from
her hands, the next time
lathering my own long
hair; she looked stunned.
I stand too far away
from you at the bar;
not wanting to enter
your sacred space.
I dont want to see in your eyes
a disappointment in things
you think I cant do.
Like wear a red dress.
Lau ra Joa ki mson

27

Or open up to you.
Or appreciate you for who you really are.
A storyteller on stage mentions
a man who loved her
more than she loved him
and though she offered to give him
what she could.
Her friends told her
it wasnt enough.
So she pushed him away.
It might not have been
the reason
he died less than a year later
but the thought that it might have played
a role makes her voice tremble.
I was afraid if I wore the red dress
you would have known
I love you. And you
would have sent me on my way.

28

- SET 2 -

LLLLLLLLLLL

(S O M E T HI N G )
this spill of sounds
this waste of words
each letter
a rough touch
tender on the tongue
this skin story
this blue-black constellation
told by the bruise-hurt
of truth
this collision of light this balled-up sentence
tight in my fist
each earnest vowel
pressed to my
lips
this breath

balanced

on fingertips

(i know i owe you more than this line


about the sheet of stars in the sky)
all the
proof

glow n
of nothing

glory
out my open window
(something)
everything

31

CCCCCCCCC

MANZANITA
Manzanita
how naive of me
to think we have finally
changed
A grove of untrees
carmine congealed
on the branches
peeled skin
from a womans arms
hold tight her love
as you become a man
Bright like the bush
that opened Moses eyes
twisted limbs
At your fingertips
an offering of fruits
the promise of sweet taste
after bitterness
bitterness that seems to go on
moment after moment
In a garden
your bones are discussed
between the artist and the
33

architect
whether it is more suitable
to place them on a table
with votive candles
or to decorate the entrance of a hall
How naive of me
to drink your tisane
and without a message
possess your body
time becomes intolerable
Manzanita standing
in front of a fleet of tanks
Manzantia, concrete pouring
Mandella
Ghandi
Theresa
Beautiful the new Doyle drive
majestic with spectacular views
no more car accidents on windy curves
Manzanita, you were the only one
must we sacrifice ourselves for your beauty?
Did we not spend money on your welfare?
Did we not pick you up with the gentlest hands?
Tamed in the grove of untrees
driftwood
NOTE: Franciscan Manzanita, a species native to San Francisco,
had not been seen growing wild since 1947 until it was spotted
growing in the Presidio of San Francisco in October 2009. Caltrans
transplanted this specimen on 23 January 2010 to make way for
the Doyle Drive Replacement Project. Transplanting costs were
funded in part by Federal Highways Administration, Caltrans,
The Presidio of San Francisco, and private donors. Wikipedia
34

JJJ

JJJJJJJJJ

P O LAR BEARS
The polar bears have come down off the ice, now that
theres no more ice to be had. They wander through the
streets, gazing forlornly in shop windows; their cubs
play disconsolately in the parks. They monopolize the
swimming pools, submerging themselves for hours
at a time, watching the sunbathers and volleyball
enthusiasts with a quiet, unblinking stare.
Landlords dont like renting to them. Nothing personal,
they say, its just that theyre hell on the facilities. Fix
up the guestroom for your air-conditioning man
thats how much youll be seeing him. And theres the
smella fishy, walrus-blubber kind of thing thats
simply impossible to get out of the carpet and drapes.
But were doing our best to adjust to the situation.
Even the maulings have become routinewe barely
slow down to look anymore. Instead we stride on
by, eyes fixed on the horizon as a bear, its beautiful
white fur sticky and red with blood, hunches over the
convulsing body of some financial planner or software
engineer. Should you look into the animals face at
a moment like this, you will be met with a gaze of
sorrowful resignation. What did you think was
going to happen? it seems to ask. What did you
really expect?

35

PPP

PPPPPPPPPPP

UNDERTO W
The great whales, they say, once cavorted on land
their closest cousin, the dairy cow. But these
homesick bovines waddled back to the sea,
foreleg morphing to fin, hind leg to fluke.
And so this is the story of a sea creature, wrapped
in her own warmth, and how her heart grew
to the size of a small cathedral, so that when she sang
the notes became round and traveled in rings.
But first, this is the story of a cow, heavy
with barley and wheat, fed-up with gravity
and heat. About the call she barely heard
in the murmur of the sea, and how
her wobbly legs seemed to carry her
on their own, gingering down
over boulder and shale to the shore.
For a few glory days, she cooled her hooves
in the shallows and nibbled on seaweed, but the call
insisted from deeper down and away. So that one day
she strode into the breakers, great head lifted up,

37

huge nostrils drinking in air. And then


the ocean floor fell out and she drifted down
in a slow-motion paddle, buoyed by something
strange yet familiarthick, echoing, tasting of salt.

38

JJJ

JJJJJJJJJJ

THE AD
VENTURES OF LA DOS
IN

C O ST C O L A N D IA

Este cuento se trata de dos fascinaciones: 1. mi


fascinacion con La Dos 2. la fascinacion de La Dos con
el Costco. I should say nuestra fascinacion porque
somos dos los que estamos fascinados con La Dos: 1.
El Pie Derecho 2. El Pie Izquierdo. El Pie Izquierdo
y El Pie Derechoese soy yowalk to the El Cerrito
Costco because we have heard that La Dos lives in one
of the aisles. We look for her in aisle #2, but La Dos
is not there. We ask one of the stockboys where we
could find her, but he tells us a joke instead.
What do you call los enamorados de La Dos?
Que?
Los PerdiDOS!
The stockboy laughs uncontrollably, and as we walk
away he says, One day when you have forgotten it
you will hear the joke for a second time, but this time
from La Dos, and I promise you will feel like youre
dying from the laughter.

39

Just outside of aisle #2, we encounter a second stockboy,


and he points and gives us directions. 1. you want to
go . 2. you want to go . El Pie Izquierdo goes ,
and IEl Pie Derechogo .
Encontramos a La Dos lying in the makeshift aisle
between the wine bottles and the breakfast breads.
She greets us with a huge smile D.

Por que tan feliz? le preguntamos.


Because Im eating the second saddest fruit. May I
interest you in some canned peaches?
Do you feel sad when you eat the second happiest
fruit?
Of course not. The second happiest fruit is pineapples,
and they hold sunshine.
As we enjoy our canned peaches, we inform La
Dos that we are interested in writing a book about
her experiences called Las Aventuras de La Dos en
Costcolandia. She flashes a huge smile D. We should
start with some basic information you should know
about me, says La Dos gestures to El Pie Izquierdo that
he should record what she says in our notebook. La Dos
begins, Im an extrovert on the inside. Im trained as
an urban planner, but Im bad with directions. I put on
my pants two legs at a time. I have two friends named
Claudia, but I refer to each Claudia as Claudia #1.

40

I turn to El Pie Izquierdo and say, Son dos Claudias.


El Pie Izquierdo writes it down and below that he adds,
Solo hay una Dos.
And La Dos continues, I have been in love only once,
pero de dos personas. O tal vez me enamor dos veces
pero solo de una persona. I met him here at Costco.
He still works as a stockboy in aisle #2 and likes to tell
jokes about me.
El Pio Izquierdo looks at me to suggest that this would
be a good time to tell La Dos what we came to tell
her. In reality we have come to Costco to declare our
fascination. Dos, tengo dos cosas que decirte: 1. me
fascinas. 2. me fascinas. Pero tenemos un problema de
dos porque lo pensamos dos veces y al fin decimos dos
nadas.

La Dos starts up with a huge smile D because she


remembers it is time for free samples. She grabs both of
us by the arm and guides us to what she calls bite-size
wonder. And it is wonderful. We eat gelato, hummus,
crackers, chocolates, and wings, and we drink it all
down with cappucino and water. La Dos laughs at El
Pie Izquierdo y El Pie Derechoese soy yowhen the
gelato server scolds us because we try to grab a second
sample.
Then La Dos sees a huge Costco cart and runs to it.
We follow behind. One Costco cart is as big as two
Javi e r Hu e rta

41

regular grocery carts, and they come equipped to


accommodate two babies with two legs each. La Dos
says, May I interest you in a ride. El Pie Izquierdo and
I sit down and let our legs dangle. This makes La Dos
smile D. La Dos pushes the cart and us to the fridge,
which, as she claims, is big enough to walk around in.

You should go inside to get me a case of milk and see


for yourself how huge the fridge is, La Dos says.
When El Pie Izquierdo and I step into the fridge, La
Dos closes the glass door on us. We look back to see
her huge smile D. El Pie Izquierdo and I act afraid
until she lets us out. When we hand her a case of milk,
La Dos says, See. In one case, you get two gallons of
milk. Costco believes everyone should have a friend to
share milk with. You two should take this one home.

El Pie Izquierdo whispers to me that we are running


out of time and that we should tell La Dos exactly
how we feel. La Dos wants to know what we are
whispering about. We want to say, Dos, tengo dos
cosas que decirte. 1. quiero sentir la singularidad de la
Dos. 2. quiero sentir la singularidad de La Dos. Pero
lo unico que nos sale son dos silencios. We could have
enjoyed two glorious joys for the price of one. La Dos
breaks los dos silencios with her beautiful smile D.
Tengo dos cosas que darles: 1. My recipe for black bean
patties. 2. My recipe for white bean patties.

Dos, why do you love Costco so much? we ask her.


42

Because bulk is beautiful, she says.


And as she guides us through the Costco aisles looking
for ingredients, El Pie Izquierdo y yo El Pie Derecho
find ourselves alone in ailse #2 not knowing when La
Dos had left us. The stockboy, the one who was loved
twice by La Dos, is still there.
May I interest you in a piece of Tres Leches cake?
El Pie Izquierdo y El Pie Derecho, ese soy yo, take one
piece and split it in half. El Pie Izquierdo takes 1
and yo El Pie Derecho take 1 .
I thought that eating Tres Leches cake would help me
move beyond La Dos. But I have come to realize that it
is the second saddest cake, the stockboy says.
Why do they call her La Dos? we ask.
Porque tiene dos ojos costcoltecos.

Javi e r Hu e rta

43

JJJ

JJJJJJJJJ

U K IY O
It has these really big balloons that help keep it in the
air. 25 balloons. Papa says this is because the floating
city is 25 square miles.
I dream of working on the balloons.
You never know where the floating city will be, because
it is at the mercy of the wind. Right now, though, it is
close to our little town, closer than it has ever been. It
is a tiny dot in the sky.
Papa says that I have to stay on the farm. He needs my
help. Papa says my dreams are impractical. Thats the
word he uses, impractical.
The floating city runs on steam. There are huge exhaust
pipes on the bottom of the city, the side that we can
see from the ground. The floating city releases steam
from these pipes. The steam is thick and dangerous
and burns things. Cattle, trees, people.
People say that if you are lucky enough to work on
the floating city, on the balloons or in the steam
rooms, that, after a while, you can stop working and
45

just live there. People who live there only do what they
want to do.
If the floating city is over where you live, everything
on the ground is in darkness. Because the city is so big
and its shadow so large and because it is so big that it
blocks out the sun.
Somebody from our town went to work on the floating
city, once. A long time ago, way before I was born,
people say that the floating city was over our town
and that Claude McGill went to work on the balloons.
The floating city might stay in one place for a week
or for a year. It just depends on the wind. If it stays
too long it can be very bad, because of the steam and
the darkness. One time, the floating city stayed in one
place for six months and everything on the ground died.
Papa says that these stories are just stories and that
nobody ever goes to work on the floating city. Papa
says it is time to milk the cows. Papa says Claude
McGill died. On the ground, Papa says.
Each day, the dot in the sky is getting bigger. The
floating city is moving and it looks like it is moving
towards us.
I am happy and each night I dream of balloons.
Papa is afraid.
46

MMMMMMMMM

DO YOU KNOW

T H E H U N TS M A N ?
In Lodi you can eat burgers among 314 taxidermied
animals. The portrait: Lonely visits lonely. I too was
once the wild hunt until a huntsman came upon
me and carved me out. Once considered interesting
enough to try to catch. Now everyone pretends that I
did not happen and anything that followed has been
denial. Everyone relieved. I still, waiting among crests
of cheetah pelvis and loin mane. Some of us sharpen
eye and antler. Everything connected to our bodies a
potential weapon.

47

BABYOURSORROW
After Mark Rydens painting Birth
Busy with the impending rue
you forgot to feed the knotted
bud. The only bulb that could emerge,
a weakened mandrake, not quite human
retreated rightly into what it knew best.
Burrowed in the dirt
never to be seen again.

48

IDEATION
Walk on the snail trail pass the coy and the failed.
Pick up snail by snail.
They mumble from a mucus covered membrane
Its best not to coddle
the kind of sunshine that comes from a bottle.
I think of Alice popping pills. Ache for that orange glow
the familiar cylinder. Vacant smile.
The sit & wait, the quiet bait
on medicine shelf. My head is a new exhibition,
jaws of old mold, synaptic, break crackle snap.
This is just one day in the park. Walk the rain,
wet brain, clean sink consider
whats left. The gunk
stuck at the bottom.
Some sad brain drain.

MK Ch ave z

49

JJJJJJJJJJJ

FI FT E E N
This is how you feel. This is how words start to feel
weightless. This is how you stare at someone on the
train in the morning. This is how you swallow anger
and this how you let it fill you and feel its thin fingers
around your wrists. This is how you stare at the wall
and make the insides of your body evaporate. This is
how you turn your memory off for seventeen minutes.
This is how you turn it back on.
This is how you feel. Youre a fifteen year old girl and
you steal your mothers old gray car and drive it to the
other side of the city in the middle of the night. You park
it on a street youve never been on, in a neighborhood
you have been told not to go to. You start to walk
and smoke a cigarette from a box youve been hiding
under your bed for 5 months. You dont really know
how to smoke cigarettes but you do it because it feels
dangerous and thats what youre looking for, danger.
The kind of danger that makes your stomach tight and
your fingernails dig into your palms.You think about
the fear of your mother finding out. You concentrate
on her not knowing where you are, how angry she
would be. The fear feels good.

51

A man starts walking next to you. He seems like hes


used to walking around in the middle of the night. He
walks slowly and studies your face as if he is slowly
recognizing something, a secret he isnt sharing. He
has tangled hair, more tangled than yours. As he starts
to notice something in you, you see an opportunity in
him, in the way he looks at you and asks you if you
want to go to the park near here, in the way you are
suddenly acutely and crushingly alone together in the
dark, and in the way he asks if you are afraid.
You smile quietly. No, you are not afraid. Its summer,
youre not wearing a jacket, and you look at the pale
skin on the insides of your arms, in the soft light the
skin is almost translucent.

52

Subscribe q u i e t l i gh t n i n g . o rg

info + updates + video of every reading


Read quietlightning.org/sparkle-blink

every past show

Scene l i tseen . co m

calendar + reviews + interviews + purviews

Also by Quiet Lightning


quietlightning.org/books

by

Breast Milk
tupelo hassman

if you want to be one of them


playing in the streets
by zack haber

- september 7, 2015 -

Related Interests