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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 banter—of 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
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info + updates + video of every reading

sparkle + blink 75
© 2016 Quiet Lightning
front cover: “Law of Attraction” by Sheeba Maya, digital painting
back cover: “The Waters” by Sage Stargate, graphite on paper
“Good Girl” by Katie Wheeler-Dubin written in conjunction w/
Anastasia Kuba’s photography project, “Nothing But Light”
nothingbutlight.io
“Fruitvale Is” by Rohan DaCosta first appeared in Oakland Review,
v.3 (Pedestrian 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

Chris Cole + Kate Folk
featured artists

Sheeba Maya + Sage Stargate

sheebamaya.com sydneycain.com

CASSANDRA DALLETT

How Beyonce got all up in my head

1

KATIE WHEELER-DUBIN

Good Girl

5

YXTA MAYA MURRAY

The Whitney’s 2016 Max Mara Anniversary
Bag Designed by Renzo Piano’s
Building Workshop
9

FERNANDO MEISENHALTER

How To Become An American Without
Invading Grenada

13

ROHAN DACOSTA

Fruitvale Is

19

ET
QU I

G IS SPONSOR
LIGHTNIN
ED B
Y

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
executive director
Chris Cole
managing director
Josey Lee
public relations
Meghan Thornton treasurer
Kelsey Schimmelman
secretary
Sarah Ciston
director of books
Katie Wheeler-Dubin
director of films
Laura Cerón Melo
art director
Christine No
producer/assistant managing director
If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in
helping—on any level—please send us a line:
e v an @ qui et light nin g . o rg

curated and published as part of

SOMArts Cultural Center’s
annual night light multimedia garden party
This year’s theme “Breaking the Code” was informed
by and complements somarts’ Main Gallery exhibition
The Black Woman is God: Reprogramming that God Code,
curated by Karen Seneferu and Melorra Green.
For more about somarts, The Black Woman is God,
and Night Light, including a list of, and links to, all
exhibiting and performing artists:

somarts.org/nightlight2016

C

CC
CC

CCCCCCCCCC

CC

H

GOT ALO W B E Y O N C E HEAD
L UP IN MY
all up in my feelings
as mother I choked tears
seeing the mothers of Trayvon, Michael Brown,
Eric Garner looking royal, beautiful, heart breaking
Lemonade is the story of Mother love like Beloved is,
and I never read or watched Beloved without
weeping.
And when she smashes windows with bat
I’m transported back
to Vano
sun glinting off the red car club me
spraying tinted glass cubes into sunlight on Haight
my rage
my darkness under blue skies
shattering moon-roof I shattered all the windows
sat in fragments ripping the guts from under the dash
we drove home from Quentin in that ride and
he ain’t takin’ no bitch to the hotel in it now
how he towed it away
how I ached empty
forgot how to live,
how to eat
how I was animal till they locked me in a cell.
How I was the other woman swinging a hammer
1

through John’s window as he tried to run me over
how you can say Love open your body be spilt
apart
find yourself barefoot sliding under his tires
then
he’s gone
just tire tracks in the snow.
Or Big how I dropped that Hennessy bottle
off the balcony right through his windshield and he
didn’t even bat an eye
tried to get a rise to meet the longing of his bossy
touch
he called on his way back to her,
asked
Do you feel better?
deep voice, soft lipped smirk in my ear
made me a child’s tantrum ready to open the door
once more.
Before him there was JB
whose windows I couldn’t break
as they were my own but he took that car
and left me and my baby to walk in the rain
called her on my phone
as he’d once called me on hers
opened my head released blood red hot on my
chest.
How I was the cheater
with the man who loved me most
coffee in bed foot rub scratched sleep to scalp
I was villain crucified cried
eyes out and tried to reconcile
2

paced my big cat cage hungering raw meat
I threw all his shit in the street.
The cheater, the cheat,
the cheated-on and -with,
how my body becomes survival, revenge then
softens into love again
exchanging weapons for words confessions aired
dirty
period panties on the line cause
if I say these things wounds can close and
everyone knows
scars are beautiful.
Tonight I’m mad for no reason
memories unleashed in a song
a woman growing wings and coming home
every time I use the turn signal I whisper Sandra
Sandra Bland
I see those old lovers in your face
and maybe I am crazy
but ask Bey with the baseball bat
crazy feels better than jealous
because of its power.

Cassandra Da lle t t

3

K

KK
KK

KKKKKKKKKKK

G O OD GIRL

KK

K

I don’t want to be a good girl because good girls become
breeders. I don’t want to be a good girl because good
girls are good girlfriends and good cooks and good
cleaners and good nurses and good smilers and good at
hand jobs. But I am good at all these things. And if you
call me a bad girlfriend, I will slap your face.
I used to drive old people around San Francisco in a
PT Cruiser when I was twenty-two, I was like a valet
caretaker. This one day, I got on a life-lesson bender. I
was like, I’m gonna milk these old people of all their
treasures! I asked Ms. V. what she’d do if she could
relive it all. She was silent, I think she had died. I asked
Barbara from Santa Barbara, driving past Stern Grove,
I asked her advice on how I should live. She said, be a
good girl. I thought, well, fuck.
In New Orleans last summer, I met a palm reader in
a millionaire’s kitchen. This palm reader had grown
up in Louisiana and she had survived forty years of
cocktail parties as a shy squirrel by taking people to
the corners of rooms and reading their hands with
the help of an old book. By the time I met her, she
was the book. I spread my fingers over the sink and
5

she saw me. She saw my shyness. She said, you’re shy.
She said, Katie, you’re a good girl. Fuck, I thought. You
can see that in my hands? How do you survive parties?
she asked. I ask people questions, I said.
I think I am liked by a lot of people because I listen to
a lot of people, even when I don’t ask them questions.
Also, I like to drink and smoke weed and take acid
and molly and mushrooms and dmt and suck dick and
climb trees and orgasm in cornfields and volunteer at
lit readings and go swimming in the ocean despite the
riptide. People are greedy vampires. Being liked and
being friends are two different things. Friendship is a
mutual cannibalism. I think that more people call me
theirs than I call mine.
A good party girl, to quote Sia, don’t get hurt, can’t feel
anything. She sings, I’m the one for a good time call,
phone’s blowing up, ringing my doorbell, I feel the
love, feel the love. I agree with her message. It’s easy to
love someone who is fun and good at phone calls. I am
trying to cut out the people in my life who are using
me, but it is hard to do this, being a good girl. I really
don’t want to be a good girl. I want to be a bad girl,
but real bad girls don’t buy boxes of condoms. Real bad
girls don’t grimace at the thought of failing. Real bad
girls have ice fortresses around their hearts. Real bad
girls don’t feel bad for saying fuck you.
I want to be a pleasure party on Tuesday and a shadow
bitch on Friday. I want to laugh and cry in the same
6

afternoon. I want to live up to this internalized need
to give and make others happy while maintaining
my own no-how. So many plastic geysers out there,
spurting steam sermons. Or piles of rock afraid of
their own molten responsibility. I want to talk about
how much you’ve hurt me and please don’t freak out
cuz you don’t know your own heart. Life is pain and
realized desire, great risk and smooth calm: mixed and
in cycles. Or else what the fuck’s the point.
I wanna merge with another volcano. I wanna mack
on a blockbuster. I have these recurring dreams that
my friends and I have built a house at the edge of the
open ocean. The wind is high and water cuts across
rock, but we’re cozy. I am flying. I dream I am flying
and I am good at it.

Kat i e Wh e e le r- Du bi n

7

Y
YY

YYYYYYYYYYYY

Y

T H E W HI
T N E Y ’S 2 0 1 6 M A X M A R A O
A NNI
NZ
VE RSAR Y
B A G D ESI G N E D B Y R E
P I A N O ’S
BUILDING WORKSHOP
“Max Mara hosted an intimate dinner Tuesday night
to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Whitney
Museum’s new building, [as well as] the launch of the
Whitney Bag Anniversary Edition.”
Bettina Kilkha, Max Mara Hosts A Dinner To Celebrate
the Whitney’s One Year Anniversary, Forbes, Apr. 28, 2016
Max Mara Whitney Bag
Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Colour: Pearl
Details:
The “Whitney Anniversary Bag” is made of soft pearl
leather, and comes in two styles: one has flowers,
and one has leaves. It is like a bush, a tree, and when
it is unfilled it looks like an empty mind. The Bag is
designed by an anonymous artisan who works for
Renzo Piano, an architect who makes money, along
with the Whitney, from the sale of the bags. The
Bag is a metaphor that sits at the highest reaches
of luxury and longing, and its only function is to
9

make its owner look wealthy and to feel temporarily
free from grief and pain.
The object of art is to make you look and also make
you feel something disturbingly authentic, but these
utilities are unlikely to be discovered in the Whitney
Anniversary Bag. The Whitney Anniversary Bag was
actually designed in the spirit of an unfortunate outfit
once donned by Whitney founder Gertrude Vanderbilt
Whitney. Mrs. Whitney liked to sometimes dress like a
harem girl in ensembles composed of clashing florals,
and we have evidence of this weakness because in
1914 John Singer Sargent drew her in one such outfit.
Whether Sargent was having a laugh or drew her in
gloomy respect is not recorded, but Renzo Piano’s
anonymous artisan drew from this primary source
when he or perhaps even she designed the Bag. The
pretend harem girl inspiration will be found less in the
Bag’s reliefs of flowers and leaves than in its whiteness,
which resembles that of our founder’s, and, again, is a
color that we have labeled as “pearl.”
The Whitney Anniversary Bag is $1,750.00, though not
all of the Bags have been sold for actual money. At this
point only 19 are available online, though 400 were
created by the anonymous wretch who labors invisibly
for Renzo Piano. What happened to the other 381?
Some of them have been sold to susceptible women in
the brick-and-mortar Max Mara stores, though others
remain what the philosopher Jacques Lacan called
the objet petit a, which Lacan never wanted translated
10

except by an algebraic sign, but means an “unattainable
object of desire.” This makes the Whitney Anniversary
Bag perfect to put on your Wish List because it is
not part of you, it is part of the ungrabbable Other,
in this case the million- or billionaire who has made
donations and so deserves a free pearl bag, which not
only resembles an evacuated mind but also signifies, as
Sigmund Freud teaches us, an unoccupied vagina.
What will the sale of these 19 bags help fund? The
Whitney Museum purchases works like John Currin’s
Skinny Woman (1992), which depicts a thin white
woman with a pelvis as vacant as the Bag, though
perhaps if you asked her questions you would find that
she is loaded with certain hostile ideas. The Whitney
curators themselves explain that Skinny Woman “is
reminiscent of a fashion model, [but] the artist
complicates this association by giving the woman an
aged, thin body and silvery gray hair.” It seems that
Skinny Woman might very well herself want to own
an Anniversary Bag, as its shade would match her hair
and its emptiness would match John Currin’s. Currin
himself once said that his subjects were “old women at
the end of the cycle of sexual potential, between the
object of desire and the object of loathing.”
And so the Whitney Anniversary Bag is an object petit
a for an angry and empty woman at the end of the
cycle of potential, if she can get her hands on it and
pay $1,750.00. It is not clear whether the woman at the
end of the cycle wears harem pants, leaves, or flowers,
Y xta Maya Mu rray

11

but she would love to fondle a pearl purse made by a
dogsbody of Renzo Piano’s instead of feeling genuine
emotion, as she will soon be an object of horror. The
Whitney Anniversary Bag is designed to make her, you,
the dogsbody, the billionaires, the credulous customer,
Renzo Piano, and John Currin feel nothing at all,
except for included or excluded, in an algebraic way.
We have said that the Whitney Anniversary Bag is
sold empty, but that is not quite correct. It holds
something invisible, but very precious. A long
time ago we thought that museums were churches
uncontaminated by hierarchy or the soul-numbing
problems of money. Back in our deplorable youth,
we would come to this church to worship beauty
and to pray for a more Dionysian world. But within
each sold or gifted Whitney Anniversary Bag hides
a small cinder of that dream of what art means and
what it should be, which turns out to constitute the
real object petit a for not only old women and for
the ghost of Gertrude but also for everyone who has
ever felt passion. Hearing the cinder rattle around
your new Bag is sure to add a frisson to any occasion
that requires the carrying of large, pale status objects
crafted out of skin and cultural theft, though whether
that excitement triggers anarchic epiphanies or tingly
self-satisfaction is up to you.
Add to Shopping Bag
Add to Wish List
12

F
FF

F
FF

FFFFFFFFFFF

HOW TO BECOME AN
A M E R I C A N W IT H O U T
INVADING GRENADA

FF

FF

Today is my last day as a Mexican.
After years of immigrant misery, I’m finally
about to become a US citizen, which won’t stop my
wretched condition but will give me the right to vote
for it.
I’m also a former Third World nationalist and
suffer the added guilt of becoming an enemy of my
soon-to-be former self. I grab the phone and dial the
Mexican Identity 800-number.
I listen to the familiar recording.
For quality service, your call may be monitored.
I get a live person: “Thank you for calling the
Mexican Identity Line. My name is Pancho Villa. How
may I assist you?”
“I’m taking my oath today,” I say. “I’m going to
become a US citizen. Will I ever be forgiven?”
“Of course not, you’re a traitor,” Pancho Villa says.
“But Mexico now accepts dual citizenship.”
“A traitor is a traitor,” Villa says. “You have
disgraced yourself by deciding to become a full-time
American. In my day, we would have shot you on
the spot. Such is war.”
13

“But this hardly qualifies as a combat situation,”
I say.
“We’re always at war, you just don’t know it,” he
replies.
“Octavio Paz said nationalism is a form of
ignorance.”
“Never listen to intellectuals,” Pancho Villa says.
“They lie even when they are telling the truth.”
“But Octavio Paz won the Nobel Prize,” I say.
“Who cares?” Villa says. “You should always live
in reality. And only war brings you to reality. I still
remember the violence, the killings, the unnecessary
bloodshed. Ah! Those were the days. I miss the
revolution.”
This isn’t helping me.
“I’d like to speak to your supervisor, please,” I say.
Villa ignores my request.
“Join me,” he continues. “We could fight Ricky
Martin and rid Latin America of that idiot. We could
do humanity a favor by shooting Julio Iglesias. Even
the imperialists would approve of that. Think of the
damage that half-man has done to our ears: worse than
five hundred years of genocide. Join the revolution,
Mexico needs you.”
“Is this really the Mexican Identity line?” I ask.
“I’m offering you a way out, a way to redeem
yourself.”
I hang up.
I realize magical realism won’t save me. I will
have to face my metamorphosis into Americaness (and
the corresponding guilt quota) on my own.
14

I grab my Green Card and leave my studio
apartment. The icy San Francisco wind immediately
freezes my nose and cheeks.
I run down the street, catch a bus, and half an
hour later I reach the Masonic Center. The building is a
1950s structure built in a late Mussolini-style. There is
a bleakness here that hurts my soul. Finally, something
I can understand. I walk inside, go straight to the
shrine to the goddess of stress: the restroom. The place
is impersonal, white, remote, numbing. Just the way
I like it. I turn the faucet, warm water flows through
my fingers. I’m still amazed how public restrooms in
America always seem to have hot water. I splash some
on my face, look at myself in the mirror.
What happened to me? I was raised to be a
patriotic Mexican. As a kid my school took us to El
Zócalo to support the nationalization of the banks,
and later taught me to curse nafta for opening the
floodgates to cheap imports, destroying Mexico’s
internal market.
But these nationalist dreams melted away like
butter under the Acapulco sun. The middle class was
wiped out, poverty drowned half the population. What
future was there left? What choice did I have? It was
time to migrate to the States and I plunged into the
stream of wandering souls towards el Norte, putting
myself at the mercy of the same forces that destroyed
my world. And now, here I am, in a restroom, alone,
about to take my final step towards complete betrayal.
I feel lifeless and vaguely nauseated. But I guess
that’s normal if you’re about to become an American.
F e rnando Me i se nh a lt e r

15

I walk to the main hall, stand in line with the
rest of the immigrant cattle. Hundreds of people
of all nationalities: Indians, Filipinos, Chinese, East
Europeans.
I find a seat, sit down.
The person next to me says “hi.” He’s a short man
with a very round head, like a Playmobil. Somehow he
decides I need help understanding the schedule for the
ceremony.
“Dthis is nauw. Dthen comes dthat. Siee?” He
says this while pointing at the schedule I hold in my
hand.
What is he talking about?
“Okay,” I say.
I can tell he’s nervous. His hands are shaking.

“And dthen dthers the ouut, see?”
The ouut? What the heck is the ouut? Oh... he
means the oath. The big moment, when we all become
gringos.
“Thanks,” I say.
“Nou proublem.”
For a moment I reflect on our immigrant
struggles, those ins interviews, a Horror straight out
of Joseph Conrad.
“Nouw we jave to say dthis, see?” says the guy
next to me while showing me his schedule.
I nod again, pretending to understand. He smiles
satisfied.
Nice guy.
The judge gives us a long speech about solemn
matters that should pertain to us as impending New
16

Americans. Soon we will have the right to vote for
either of the two parties that don’t represent us,
and fight in foreign wars for reasons no one fully
understands.

Now it’s time for the oath.
“We muust all stand up nouw,” the guy says.
I stand up.
The guy next to me is still convinced I need help.
“See? Dthat’s the juug,” he says, pointing around
my program with his finger. “Nouw the ouut. See, it
says raight hieere.”
I nod.
My heart is pounding. I feel like a child. I can’t
help it. I really believe in this. In spite of my hardened
Third World cynicism, I could cry.
We recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I mumble
the wrong words in two or three places: an appalling
way to enter my Americanhood.
Then the moment arrives. Two magic words
will instantly turn us into Americans; two words will
end our existence as Third World dropouts or former
shantytown dwellers, and turn us into imperialists
who invade Grenada and refuse to sign the Kyoto
Protocol.
Hey, why not?
The contradictions of postmodernism will tear
us apart anyway.
I’m sweating, I can’t think, I can’t breathe, and I
feel as if I might pass out at any moment. We all raise our
hands. The auditorium becomes a forest of eager palms.
Then we let out those two magical words:
F e rnando Me i se nh a lt e r

17

“I do.”
And just like that I’m transformed into an
American.
The guy next to me shakes my hand.
“Coungratulaitiouns,” he says while I stand there
dumbfounded.
“Thanks,” I manage.
Some weep, embrace one another.
I’m alone. I walk out of the place feeling as lost
as ever. I put on my jacket, pull up the zipper. The
wind hits me. It’s still very cold.
But somehow I no longer care.

18

RO

HAN DaCOSTA

FRUITVALE IS
I know a place held together
By a level stretch of road
Two expressways
And a perfect myth
Where the houses are pastels
Broken Easter eggshells
Scattered about the chewed up hills
I know a dog named Bunny
That gets loose and chases pigeons
On the downward slope of Manzanita
I know a woman named Jackie
With a voice like a secretive canary
She hobbles over fissured slabs
Through the “murder dubs”
With a light in her heart
And Jesus across the chest
Fruitvale is on fire
Like that car melted in half
Clothes spilling out the back of an exit wound
Like every hunk of metal
Every gold-toothed grin
Like that temple riveted on high
Just briefly tanned in a tangerine syrup
At the breaks in conversation
19

The bart hums a thing soothing
Sings a note familiar
Wails a tale wretched
At the top of one hill
Live three wise men
Pacing well into the evening
A witch whose cauldron bubbles over
The finest solvent for miles and miles
I know a neighbor with an electric chair in her living
room
I know a food truck like a medic like an answer like a
second chance
I know a woman who whenever a seam came loose
She made it a rope to tie this place together even
tighter
I even know baristas quite like Paul Revere
Who tell me the skittish are coming
But Fruitvale is on fire folks
Just who is gonna put us out?

20

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