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QUIET LIGHTNING IS:

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sparkle + blink 79
2016 Quiet Lightning
cover Bl Voelker
bluvoelker.com
Parts of Comfort by Sarah Heady first appeared in Elderly and
Amerarcana: A Bird & Beckett Review and is forthcoming in Hold: A
Journal.
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.
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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

Kelsey Schimmelman + Christine No


featured artists

Bl Voelker | bluvoelker.com
WESLEY COHEN

The Bike Fucker

JOS VADI

Saturn Returned a Racist 2016


In the absence of color is a void...

7
9

KATE AMBASH

Reclaiming Your Image

13

SARAH HEADY

from Comfort

17

LORRAINE LUPO

Helping the New Girl


The Future

37
40

BRENNAN DEFRISCO Couple in the Booth Across...



Powder: A Quartet of Collapse
Tactile

43
45
46

CASSANDRA DALLETT Stolen Goods



Daytime Drinking

Living in Drought Can Make You...
Terminology

47
50
51
53

ELIZEYA QUATE

The Vagina Stick-up

57

ABE BECKER

The First Time I Tried to Box


61
The Only Lovers Who Have Ever... 65


ALLIE MARINI

G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Raised in the South) 69


The Southern Girls Guide to...
72

J. K. FOWLER Arrangements

77

SARAH HENRY

81

The Leaving

KEITH GABOURY Humanoid

87

JOANELL SERRA

89

Animal Abatement

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 QL board is currently:
Evan Karp
executive director
Chris Cole
managing director
Josey Rose Duncan
public relations
Lisa Church outreach
Meghan Thornton treasurer
Kelsey Schimmelman
secretary
Laura Cern Melo
art director
Christine No
production
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 -

WWW

WWWWWWWWW

T H E BIK E F U C K E R
My phone rings and its Marcella and she says, Jonas,
somebody fucked my bike.
I laugh. You mean they fucked up your bike? Like they
messed it up?
I picture her in high ponytail and leggings, mad cause
somebody stole her back tire or handlebars and she
cant get home. I take a lunch break and bike over.
Nobody messed up her tires or nothing. Somebody
fucked Marcellas bike.
Shes got one of those bike seats thats high under the
ass with a groove down the middle to take weight
off soft tissues, is what the bike shop guy said, but
it keeps her vagina from hurting when she bikes a
lot. Shes real athletic. The leather seat is all pasty and
theres jizz down on the crossbar, and under the pedal
theres an empty foil packet of lube like they give out
at Student Health.
Oh, shit, I say. Somebody fucked this bike.

Now she laughs at me. And were both laughing at her


poor bike, what are we gonna do, its been fucked.
What we do is go to Rite Aid and she buys plastic
gloves and cleaning wipes and I buy a sandwich and
I watch while she cleans the seed off her seat and
disinfects it a few extra times. We laugh but mostly
were grossed out and we dont want to talk about it. I
kiss her goodbye and bike back to work and she goes
home and takes, she tells me, a long fucking shower,
Jesus.
But the next day I get a university police department
email reporting sexual harassment slash vandalism
because somebody elses bike got fucked. And the
next email describes three new cases, and theres a
campus alert for this suspect, male, whos all hot for
a sweet body on two wheels. Facebook is going nuts
for this Bike Fucker, and soon Marcella is famous as
the original bike fuck-ee and for a month the bike
fucking scene just explodespeople printing shirts
with bikes that say Get Fucked, UC Davis and Save a
Cowgirl/Fuck a Bike and Never Forget, Bike Fucker
2k16. According to Ricardo who does campus security,
the police think theres copycat fuckers because bikes
are getting fucked like ten a night, and whos got the
stamina to fuck so many bikes, right? But then its
spring break and no bike fucks are reported, so campus
police (according to Ricardo) figure the Fucker is a
student who went home to do laundry, but the bike
fucks never start up again. Theyre done.
2

But when Marcella gets her bike from Sams garage


after spring break, its different somehow. Shes got one
of those 80s mens bikes with the curved handlebars
and the super-thin tires, and she looks super hot on it
cause shes really tall and fast, all leaned over, like shes
got places to be. The bike is toothpaste green with
orange stripes and a straight flat post from the seat to
the handlebars, so she cant wear skirts when she rides,
but thats okay. But when she gets her bike after break,
the middle bar of the bike is curved somehow. It slopes
down towards the pedals in the middle, like somebody
melted it just there. Marcella acts like shes not sure
whether its really bent but its definitely there, we
check with a ruler and Sam agrees. So we ride home
together and I look over at her and the curve of the bar
is like the slight dipping curve of her belly while she
stops pedaling and just coasts, her elbows straight up
from the handlebars.
Over the next weeks the curve gets worse, and other
people whose bikes got fucked come up to me after class
and ask whether its happening to Marcellas bike too.
They check around over their shoulders, embarrassed,
like Ill think theyre crazy, but then I show them her
bike and theyre relieved. Nobody knows how its
happening. We bring her bike inside for a few nights
but its still more curved each morning so we put it
back outside. Soon the bar bends nearly all the way
down to the pedals and its like one of those sloping
lady bikes, just a smooth arc. We look at it when were
smoking in the park one long hot night after finals and
We sle y Coh e n

she points out it cant curve any more, theres nowhere


else for it to go. And when were biking home in the
dark, past the pond, something about the quiet makes
her shout Get fucked, Bike Fucker! and ding her
bell a bunch of times even though people are sleeping,
she knows.
That next morning is one of the great ones, where its
warm and I wake up with her in my arms with her hair
all over the place, her cheek sticky on my chest, her
lips a perfect angels pout. And we decide to go to the
farmers market but we cant get out of bed because our
bodies fit together too well. At one we peel ourselves
off of each other and get dressed and walk downstairs
and her bike, its a fucking tandem bicycle now. Its
got another set of wheels and an extra seat behind hers.
But the back half doesnt match the front half, its not
turquoise with orange stripes, its navy blue and says
steve potts and has chunky mountain bike tires,
like my bike.
And my bikes sitting there all smug in the sun.
We both get on Marcellas double bike and instead of
stopping at the farmers market we keep going, deep
through the citrus orchards, through Winters, past the
fields up to the hills and once its dark we stop and
find a restaurant for dinner. She eats the first French
fry and closes her eyes for a second, and for a second
shes a Mona Lisa, a Keira Knightley, a Beyoncshes
a vision. My heart hurts for her.
4

And after the restaurant closes and everyone leaves


were putting on headlamps and sweaters to go home
and theres a bike in the rack, just sitting there, left out
for the night, and Marcella looks at me and she says
Jonas, hang on. Im gonna fuck that bike.
And she does.

We sle y Coh e n

JJJJJJJJJ

S AT U R N R E T U R N E D

A R A C IS T 2 0 1 6

im taking cerebral self-defense courses in long stares


with each passerby / potentially standing on opposite
blade of politics spectrum / of the ilk whose grandparents called mine Boy / to be born on treaty signature
lines / ink made of teeth mashed and mouths / like flags
/ burned / 2016 is teaching my skin how to disappear
completely / phantom smoke becomes jaw bone /
a grin / life in a sock is murder waiting to happen /
says the blade against my ankle / all of this makes the
blood on Van Ness & Market scream / stabbing
overdose disembodiment / same corner where
the pieces of a Tenderloin drifter / Legod into a
suitcase stuffed beyond a carry-ons capacity / donated
to Goodwills doorstop / my country club is right
around the corner / offers five dollars dabs / ample
seating / cleaner bathrooms than most universities /
Dearest St. Francis,/ consolidate the square footage
of every bike-laned-parklet and solve homelessness
in the city / call a noise complaint on the J-Church
rolling by Liberty Street / deliver a baby under the
private shade of a golden gate park tree rented thru
a mobile app / i wonder when the HBO series will
take place here / how bright the camera will shine
on SAG Card Holders / hired SoMa Loft Dwellers
7

/ and if theyll ask / me, standing in the alley / blowing


ghosts from my lungs, / Is it safe [to park] here?

IN THE ABSENCE OF COLOR IS A


VOID THAT WONT SIT NEXT TO ME
ON THE TRAIN
white like alopecia is proof of God
a dappled deity sanctifying your lack
white like tired of talking about White people
white like undergrad programs in Whiteness
white like decaf skim lattes
ordered in workout gear at 7:25am
the time these words are written
when forced to overhear your business meeting
the world your office
white like The world your office
white like offices
white like work
white like off-white cubicles
Oxfords tucked into blue jeans and
brown shoes with matching belts, stained leather
white like calling things white from brown lips
is progress
because at least those lips arent lynching trinkets
for sale
Jos Va di

a lynching is not a lynching without a crowd


white like every action is one of colony
white like every residence is act of gentry
white like list off Neruda and the abbreviation ToMo
to describe your casual Sundays in bed with The Times
white like cannons
white like literary canons
white like both have the same targets
white like both pride the same quotas
white like down comforters that
brown people call White People Blankets
the idea that a commodity is only bound to white hands
My niece was four when she touched chinchilla
white like the assumption
white like guero before gabacho
the nuance between epithets
white like rush hour trains and
me alone next to window seat
knowing even as sardines
the seat adjacent is a reluctant
destination for alabaster bottoms
white like muzak
like Journey sing alongs
10

white like the white in Ike


propelling suburban flight
white like moving to SF for jobs
white like musical festivals
white like wellness benefits
like Happy Place
white like Doing Good

like Have a Good One
like philanthropy to white-owned foundations
like black friends
invited to Oscars parties
like bones of forefathers
incinerated
glowing heat
falling from
your eyes.

Jos Va di

11

KKK

RE CLA

KKKKKKKK

IMING Y OUR IM A G E

Sometimes I feel like I reached through the flames


and didnt feel a thing,
like I passed through hellfire unscathed,
that I emerged without a touch,
with just these images etched in my minds eye.
Its these memories I carry within me
night after night.
They burn me where the flames failed.
Now I carry you inside
unable to explain what we suffered
and why you arent here.
Its not a story made for my world.
I fail to explain how a walk through the woods,
canopied by clouds and crows
and lumbering cows in your background
could landscape so much hurt.
Words in your language and mine fall short,
cannot describe this human journey:
of lifes offering and its decline.

13

I choke on the thought that the cruelest of all


is where this occurred:
While we bathed beneath the frigid drops,
that familiar and awesome cascade pawed you down,
One more entity swept onward in her path.
Sometimes I want to take up stones, storm that
mountain,
lash out where you fell
where your body no longer lays but has marked
forever the soft wood
where we once played.
No one returns.
Nature reclaimed a place of beauty, beat us back by
force: claimed you.
But just as the water continues to surge and the pools
reform season after season,
no good comes from my desire to take back the earth
where you lay.
Youre elsewhere now.
We visit you among our others: washed, sanitized,
given to the hereafter
with official peace.
I wear scars of pain on my heart just as on my face:
They see me perturbed, discontent:
They cant see what I see:
your body bruised, broken, gaping,
though I fight to remember you whole.

14

It crosses my mind that I failed you over and over


again.
An unintended witness: an intruder. I heard you
gurgle.
I held your hand, prayed a foreign tongue,
whispered over your tortured body as it clung to life.
We left you behind and that haunts me.
We left you alone as we formed that sad,
lonely caravan back to the house,
each in his own head, turning over the extraordinary.
Babbling. Meandering.
We bore down that hill as new individuals: hardened.
Coming back to town marked by your loss.
And we had to tell.
We left you behind and its as though flames separate
us now
from that moment forever. Thunder. Ghosts.
A million minutes.
Youre gone.
So all I have are gaudy words
that attempt to explain the indignity of your death;
Punishing images that shower me with doubt,
my own limited scars inflicted by contorted thoughts
of your
bodys anguishing end.
I have emptiness, fear, cowardice.
These cocoon me now.
Kat e Ambash

15

In time I hope to neuter the potency of these selfsorry emotions,


restore your image from its charred past.
On that day, when I bring you back,
I will see you with the full light of grace,
having doused those flames
with the strength of recognition.
I will see you in all ways, always.

16

SSSS

f ro m

SSSSSSS

C O MF O RT

i remembered to cover up the mound today. began my


ambulatory, stopped
at the pile of bones ive seen so many
times i dont see it anymore.
and the fire opened the pine cones, the boiling water
opened the mouth of the shell,
the feet and hands tangled together in a
victual net

the other day wandering



i saw a shape at propertys edge :

the seer

effigy in her pocket

baby on hip

from all the way over there she somehow


told me
17

you

will conquer those


who would do you harm

she
moved
her entire
body
like
a tongue

if you tell your snake dream

she somehow said



18

you will quarrel


with the person to whom you told it

smelled the day grow long & rot :

the length of a day in a place


where suns are lateral : blue moths

leap inside fire. both doors open and shut :


both doors placate the
thresher. both doors open
on pockmarked breasts & i rolled over

a new length of rope poking out of


the ground, rolled over

a wheel & spoke are there hairs below dirt that have still
not dissolved :

Sa ra h He a dy

19

i will take you to a wide sea


some day : smooth glass
from green bottles : necklaces
for you : our animals dragging
their hind legs backward through
mud, up from the oil :
all is over
: the horses
gone by morning

take the space between

my hands & fill it with waste

the blister made by rubbing me


reaches capacity here :


on the radio
a retelling of our nations story

a motionless fruit
hoisted over the square &
up the flagpole
starting to turn

[ these bullet silos ]


20

rolling hill
of the bodys
cold forelegs :

you are a child


hemorrhaging me
[ the growing hedge is useless
for some years, during
which time it needs

protection for itself ]

ive come too close to leave my pasture


full of investments behind

im waiting for sound to stop :

Sa ra h He a dy

21

always take a newborn baby upstairs before you


take him downstairs, otherwise youll incline him
downwards for life : tomorrows in jars lined up in
the cellar : everything moves sooner or later, even the
fence

22

ate the barn-yards


wild onions alone

now i have subjectivity &

you have nothing

i tried to share the bed


hanging by chain
from the wraparound porch

but the sun will keep you



company : ill cut you a third


eyelid : then youll see

my adoration plain
as morning : plain
as the mess of hair

you culled from the setter

Sa ra h He a dy

23

the seer
in a pile
by the silo

i swear :

evenings at the window :

the same

window im looking out of :


so how


she somehow tells me
when i
was a child a snake

licked my ears clean & now i can truly hear

she uses each limb as perimeter : spreads

the whole of her skin across our portion of sky



handing me chicory

[ she is chicken wire casting



24

the thinnest crossed shadows

into my hands ]

now im sleeping in outbuildings : corncrib

lettered with message :

carry rattles

around the neck

about the ankle

between the breasts & make

a circle of rope around you :

Sa ra h He a dy

25

coil it like a snake

a makeshift place to hold the fire, a mysticized study


of pain :

sun disappears but the song stays, the


heat stays : severity

of how you see me : the love, somehow, of a life : a life



in which we look for lost
objects : in which

26

the last lost objects belong to us

i dont ask him anymore


to stay here
i release him to the goblet of
coming night
where it sits on stilts
leaned up against the barn

he would come up

meet me at the quarry
whereupon i would change
into a creature he could trap with paper

& then we would hold
our bones together

he would flay roots



if it brought him [ here ]
[ to this woody center; me ]
to the corona, a blue
ring of coin-eating machines [ my mouths ]

Sa ra h He a dy

27

watched a fire jump the break, opened the window



to black exhaust.
cooked a meal
forward and backward. without

urgency scraped

the crumbs onto the floor,


made a paste of the crumbs

and the walls condensation,


applied it

28

to the lock on his door :

there was a list of the ways & i read it to him


outside the shelterbelt,

at the property line,

in the purple room of dusk :

i can only say


there is what you know &
what i know & those things may never
converge
in the field i want them to

(and here a worn


ottoman interrupting the perfect
length of the rug)

languages from elsewhere


spoken in the ell
light shines butter-crass on
the blue snow

question (crumbling) : whether men


or women make better choices
Sa ra h He a dy

29

& you find an extra fold of space


in the pocket of world
& label it
me & this : calm eyes
when you tell me about the frame
around our pocket-world : the net
worth of my actions :
nothing & i am the last
one to swallow the earth
in this house : a hard clod : empty
the hands the sockets the
mouth of all
hope ; ill catch up with you later

30

so some things just dont go anywhere


they fall to the side of the purple road
i walk in a scarf line through untold
color and i can
forgive myself

Sa ra h He a dy

31

& sing me
a way of being
close to me
without being
inside me
my blue self is
quiet and waiting
for my red half
to return

but you wont slow down to see


deaths purple mergings you
wont see

a new life for the field

the ditch deepens


each season :

an undertow in a stone
room :
steeped in burning
lavender :

32

lock yourself out


once

ill let you in

twice
[ i cant do this anymore ]


everything is change in the
valley of summer :

the conflagration is me
if you love this body let it go into sedge
into bluestem in search of
their anchors. anchors

tall ships

hold down the roof of our house,

and

oxidized

prisms that mimic


true north. & a ways out
i watch the blonde
wood get relief
from the winter

sun as it sets :
Sa ra h He a dy

33

leave me here to heal

leave me here wanting more

in a circle of purple sky



gether :

i turn on the light

in the circle we built to-

& living things

scamper off the worlds edge

let it be let it be
sings the one that stays behind
[ but i smell the wind ]

34

: this is the proximal book :

a dream in which we grow long


joints swollen
easily by weather

this is a vision of the last page :

blame the rust but that is change

Sa ra h He a dy

35

LLL

LLLLLLLLLL

H E LPIN G

THE NEW GIRL

The girls knew they liked her for her yellow hair; the
boys were less conscious and would drift around her.
After school, staying in the shade of the redwood trees
out front, she would hop from rock to rock and they
would follow her. It was the same urge they felt about
other things presented to them: little collectibles. The
possibility of possession. But the grown-ups saw things
differently. So much could go wrong with the body or
brain. It was hard to know which prospect was more
frightening: being afflicted, or encountering those
who were. The supermarket employed a boy (well, that
wasnt exactly true, he was probably close to middle
age now) who would bag your groceries and offer to
take them to your car. It was like a test. Though if
things went smoothly it would feel good. Especially if
your kids were therea teaching moment: Shh, Jacob.
We dont say retarded. It felt nice to be polite. The
mothers strove to teach their children the pleasures of
bestowing benevolence. But the children never acted
in that spirit; they were at the mercy of unscrutinized
reactions and impulses. Friendships were begun
without ceremony. Sometimes the sweetest angels
tried being mean just to know how it felt. They
spoke with authority about matters they barely
37

understood, faltering half-way through the telling.


The fad this month was rubber bracelets, which were
already banned from school. In the afternoons the sun
was strong and the children rushed out of the double
doors. The middle schoolers from up the hill would
tumble down and mix with the younger kids, jittery
and uproarious. To see two boys gyrating near the
flagpole was only disconcerting to those parents who
didnt know that dance move. If you could contain
these things, you see, contain them by comprehension
or participation. Many of the mothers hadnt objected
to the rubber bracelets because they had a hand in
selecting.
The new girl dressed like a child, i.e. not in imitation
of adult styles. Old fashioned pinafores, prim collared
dresses. Her mother was homely and carried herself
with happy ignorance of the fact. This offended the
other mothers. Occasionally, there was a stain on her
blouse. The mothers pointed out how much their
children had taken a liking to her child. It amazed
them and they wanted to share their amazement. But
this mother was like her daughterimpervious to
compliment, oblivious of their charity.
One mother who volunteered in the library couldnt
help noticing how the new girl wouldnt check out
books. Week after week she left silent and emptyhanded. So the mother decided to ask her about it,
putting on her best mothers voice, saying sweetheart.
38

The exchange left her feeling no better about the new


girl and no better about herself. Then she became
decisive and the new girl was invited over to play. She
was offered coffee cake which she ate ungraciously.
She didnt ask any curious questions or make any of
the usual self-declarations. After the girls crept away,
the mother picked up the new girls glass, inspecting
it for the print of her mouth. Not a single drink, she
said to herself, then poured it down the sink.
Soon the children were slamming doors, laughing and
screaming. The mother stood nearby to listen without
being seen. Then the new girl went home and the
house was theirs again. Something was left on the
carpet in the hall, a remnant of the girls game. At the
sight of it her daughter was reduced to hysterics. She
held the toy before her to replenish the laughter when
it threatened to fade. The mother wanted to rush at
her. She imagined striking the child into silence, to
make her understand.

Lorra i ne Lu p o

39

THE FUTURE
After a few minutes of this they were too drunk to
keep fighting gravity. They put their heads down on
the table still kissing, his fat arm across her back. She
was ready to marry him a half hour ago. He had nice
thick shiny black hair. The Eagles were playing. Sue
and Jeff Blatnick had already gone home.

Something big, he was telling her, something
wild, far out.

How about Morocco?

Yeah. Cmere.

I like your hands are warm.

I run hot.

One of those bazaars where they sell silver
and silk scarves.

Yeah. Hell yeah.

Youll buy me something. Theres this town I
think in India where the monkeys took over

Love it. Better than pigeons.

Everyone hates pigeons.

Not everyone.

They stopped kissing but didnt move their
heads. Fuck it. They were going places.

Which place first?

You know where I wanna take you?

No more talking they had an understanding.
Sometimes he turned to take a hit from the green
bottle. She watched this future husband.
40


Im Trina.

I know. Ill always remember.

She wasnt going to call anybody. Shed send
postcards from under a waterfall.

Trina, he said, and popped up all of the sudden.
I forgot about my wash, next door? Be right back.
Where?

He took her wrist to consult her watch.

Cant go without my shorts, right? Wait for
me.

She pulled herself up on an elbow and watched
him move to the door. He sang take it eeeaasy, digging
in his pocket for quarters.

Idiot. She groped for her purse, buttoned her
blouse. Shit. Now what. Above the bar the cardboard
German girl had four frothy mugs for you. She got up
and walked out, the floor
heaving.

Lorra i ne Lu p o

41

BB
BB

BBBBBBBBBBB

COUPLE IN THE BOOTH

A C R O SS F R O M U S

i. him


tongue crawls across teeth


as each woman walks past

phantom hands reach for


their spines, any will suffice

hunters eyes, like all bodies


are red, concentric rings

yellow stains grin as lips


smack with catcall kisses

ii. her

quiet, like silence is


a synonym for safety
43

folded shoulder lines


trying to chameleon

retreating limbs into


chipped shell

trembles, whispering,


at least were not home yet

44

POWDER: A QUARTET OF
COLLAPSE
Salt
Let me drown in that hourglass
of remembered dreams

Sugar
Have you ever dissolved
in the lower lip of sweetness?

Cocaine
There are countless ways
to avoid your reflection

Ash
I was only ever a collection
of borrowed things

Bre nnan De F ri sco

45

TACTILE
I read somewhere
that our fingertips
can sense texture
so well,
that if we were old world titans,

hands Sistine-stretched across the sky,
our planet-sized whorls

could feel the difference
between Oaklands rooftops

& the black plastic, flapping

from each parked cars window frame.
Sometimes, on long car trips,

I imagine the squish of a body
popping like a blister

when my god-like finger finds
whoever took my stereo.

46

C
CC

CCCC

CCCCCCC

CC

STO LEN G O O D S

I still dream of shoplifting


the rise of elevator gut all adrenaline
clench and brazen walk towards the door
projecting your invisibility is most important
in my dreams I jam things too large under my coat
suck the bulge in my flesh and go
heart knocking
Like that time in Nordstrom
when my friends said youre crazy
I made it across the floor
got on the elevator
shopping bag loaded with leather and fur
the door took forever to close
the metal shine low lights and gleam
down down
any minute theyll grab me
Ive been arrested before
loss prevention, security, SFPD,
always act like its personal
as if youd stolen from their house
how I will floss
this jacket LL Cool J fresh
47

fur draping down the chest


it will hang over guess jeans
Ive already boosted
The elevator stops folks get off
I stare stony my reflection
next to floor numbers
and Im down
Im all the way down
train level underground
walking fast almost a run
still holding on to invisible
My friends are still in the store
I flash fast pass
Im in the turnstile
wont count my blessings
till Church Street
Out into air past Church Street Station
where Ive never eaten
past The Transfer a pounding gay bar
with a dutch door across from Safeway
where weve stolen so many bottles
In a few blocks Im home
sweating I tear off my clothes
put on the jacket
when my friends come back
they find me naked skin on fake fur luxury
they say
48

youre crazy
I own shit
a mattress on the floor
a desk without a chair
and a designer coat
I will slay in

Cassandra Da lle t t

49

DAYTIME DRINKING
leads to
running away
from yourself
into a green car at the bus stop
finding yourself naked
on a dirty mattress
in an abandoned apartment on Hayes Street
them taking turns with your frozen white body
you smoke crack
you get crabs
you so wanting with no idea for what
you will rewrite the truth again and again
you will say it never happened
because you cannot say
why you didnt scream
how you started your morning
with a twelve pack bouncing quarters into beer
you will say I dont know why I went with those men
they will say but you are not drunk now
you will say nothing
but please
let me go

50

LIVING IN DROUGHT
CAN MAKE YOU CRAZY
Dreams of rain tap you awake
false patter on window glass
dry nights you rememberlightnings thrill crack and flash
the humid build up
breaking wet
the musical pound on tin roof
first drops
spread fat and warm
nights in the city
between parties
pavements shine
rain streamed face
strychnine in your gut
headlights catch you
blurry and delicious
that one storm
last year
flooded the subway
soaked your clothes
the shrink called
told you turn back
Cassandra Da lle t t

51

theres no electricity
no elevators
nothing but downpour
and dark windows ahead
you standing on Market Street
drenched and laughing.

52

TERMINOLOGY
Finally found the word
for never finding the word
lethologica
the inability to remember
or put your finger on the right one
are you saying its all in my head
all psychogenic, all jammed up
like a shoplifting hoarders attic
Im always searching,
checking for your next text
I was just about to do some.
thing but what, but you
I remember and remember
earworm eating my apple heart
you sticky sticky hamster wheel
my teeth so tight together
we should be together
I swipe left through Tinder
theres no cuties after you
after you there is only more you
I swiped right and then you left
but you say youre not gone
Im all amygdala
lost my cortex

Cassandra Da lle t t

53

oh how I adore you tracing


my muscles, naming them
loosening trapezius under scapula
my nerves lighting up under your finger tips
my mammary in your mouth
lingua like the ocean

the fleshy folds


the organs of speech
the pinkish or reddish margins
how I miss them
like the edge of a wound

54

- SET 2 -

EEE

EEEEEEEEEE

THE VAGINA STICK-UP


there was a robbery at the fancy parlor down the
street, the newspapers said.
it was a vagina, newspapers said. a mean old vagina
who went and shaved the place.
the vagina came in through the saloon doors with a
gun and said: nobody move
everybody close your eyes
if i see one eye opened then youre gonna get it: blam-blam,
right in the face!
no one has managed to get a consistent description of
the suspect.
one eyewitness said the vagina was tall and lanky.
another said
the vagina was short and hunched-over.
yet another eyewitness claims the vagina was
hairy all over, very masculine.
57

detective veronica g. sussner believes that there may


have even been two vaginas.
sussner theorizes that one vagina may have carried
the gun while a second vagina
applied the blindfolds and cream to the parlor guests,
holding a bag open while
the first vagina shaved everyone.
however, the idea that there could have been three
vaginas involved has been
ruled out (by sussner and her colleagues) on the
grounds of being completely
ridiculous.
two at most, thinks detective veronica g. sussner. and
even thats pushing it.
after everyone was blindfolded, the vagina
announced that no one would be harmed as
long as everyone cooperated.
if, on the other hand,
anyone wanted to be a hero - well, then we would
all get a refresher in the true
58

meaning of the word


blood.
do we have any facking heroes who need that kind of a
refresher?
everyone shook their heads. one parlor guest shat
their pants.
okey, said the mean old vagina, canadian and
twanging.
i am going to come around to those of you with thick
beards and moustaches.
i am going to apply a small lump of shaving cream. then,
with a safety razor, i am going
to shave you.
if you move while i am shaving you, i will shoot you in the
face and then
i will shoot everyone else here in the face. eh?
everyone nodded. beneath their blindfolds, with
hands raised in the air, the witnesses
could hear the shaving cream.

Eli ze ya Quat e

59

being squirted and rubbed, applied to face after face.


the vagina (or vaginas) worked
quickly, and since there were only three beards and
one moustache among the parlor
guests, the vagina(s) were in and out of the fancy
parlor in six minutes flat.
but how, mused detective veronica g. sussner, could
one vagina
have held a gun, squirted shaving cream, applied it to
blindfolded faces and shaved four
people, all in under six minutes?
there must have been three vaginas, speculated
deputy jt hepley.
one to hold the gun, one to hold the bag and one to
shave. detective veronica g.
sussner shook her head at this, pulling hard on a
chrome hip flask and
belching softly. more than two vaginas? i mean, isnt
this whole thing
starting to sound a bit ridiculous?

60

AAAAAAAAAA

THE FIRST TIME

I T RIED TO B O X
I was trying to get knocked out.
I spent the weeks since she left staring
out my window

at the trains leaving MacArthur Station
toward her house
or further away
waiting for the day I summoned the cowardice
to dump myself

into the metal
lurch before they passed
but couldnt leave
the imprint of my absence
on my parents like her place
in my chestsaw how misleading
the term for this is: heartbreak
when its just pounding less
maybe this clenched-fist
defibrillator, let suicidality
take a round before I
come back feeling
less dead
feeling -

61

Boarding the train I fantasized as my course of suicide


I thought about the only time someone swung at me
the moment before the end-of-lunch bell
in middle school, the real most-unpopular boy
trying to usurp my status as second-mostunpopular missed on a hook,
my jab whiffed

as the bell rang
I wondered (on the train)
would everything be different
if I leaned into that
ruckus?
At 16th Street Station the traffic
danced like we did, timid
on our first date. I wanted to embrace
the flittering bumpers
but held it in until the gym
where (on a friends advice)
I did not proclaim

i came here to

get
knocked
out
but hit a bag imagining
it was her new improved sexxxl!fe
hit the bag visualizing myself
sobbing in my window
for weeks now
stuck, screaming into each release until
for the first time since she left
62

I didnt want her back


just
water.
Two more trips to the gym
and my friend and this guy he trains
ask me to spar with them. I run
over the student like Ive been
dying to be flattened so my
friend blows out the match
mid-round, takes his
pupils place and
easily
evades
anything I swing
like a cat pawing exhausted prey
until he nonchalantly starts
hammering me in my shit-eating
grinits such a relief
this contained dangerI feel
my heart get off the mat
pumping this one last thought
from veins to brain:
Patrick is about to
knock me out

I keel over center ring just breathing
in: I loved herI love her
out: Im alive and I want to be more alive
in: I was alive with her
out: Im alive now
Abe Be ck e r

63

in: then
out: now
in

when it all stops.

64

THE ONLY LOVERS WHO HAVE EVER


CALLED ME DADDY HAVE TOLD ME
ALL ABOUT HIM FIRST
In the first case I had already met Jim, the softspoken gynecologist.
At that dinner I kept thinking: Jims trying not to think
about that I have sex with his daughter
That caused me to giggle like a school girl after
anything he said.
The first time she said it I imagined we were back at
that dinner.
I imagined Jim asking me to pass the salt, that I took
the head
off the shaker and buried his meat in the entirety of
its acerbic
contents, that his pecker writhed like a tortured slug
the further
mine plunged into pleasure as awkward as I was
when I couldnt
talk to him. Fuck me daddy, she said, as I peppered
her ass
with disciplinary open-hand rouge and recalled the
only time
I saw a slug tortured it was by my soon-to-be
promiscuous best
friend the summer before middle school. And I dont
know if
Abe Be ck e r

65

my dad spanked my sister and Inothing dramatic


enough to
scar emotionallynot like this roleplay; this felt
filthy in the
best way: I wanted to run out of my girlfriends room
and stay
in equal measure. And I wanted to run back decades
to pre-lust
days when winning pick-up homerun-derby was the
apex of
conquest. And I wanted to stay until the specter of
my great-great
grandpa whose name I dont even know peered
through the window.
Whos my little girl? I asked her, imagining the legs
of Jims
chair buckling, that he fell below the dinner table as
his daughter
answered I am! I imagined asking her to say Fuck
me Jim! or
Fuck me Glenn! (my dads name) which seemed gross
and dumb
Do you like this? I asked. She sucked her thumb and
nodded.
I dont like that I really like it I told her. She
shushed me,
whispering DaddyI have to go to cheerleader
practice
Cmon daddy Thats kind of clichI thought, and of
Jim,
of me standing atop his table, pouring all that gravy
on his head.
66

The second time I was rebounding from Jims


daughter.
My rebound made clear we could have sex once Im
over who
Im never going to get over. One night she let me
spank her
for hours in our underwear. She had told me about
her dad
on a walk, how he either wasnt there, which was sad,
or
they wished he wasnt, which involved guilt. We lay
there
afterward, piqued without penetration, not touching.
I was suddenly as lonely as before I came over. Do
you
want to call me daddy sometime? I asked her. Do
you
want to love me? she said. No. I said.
Okay. She told me.
Okay dad.

Abe Be ck e r

67

AAAA

(GIRL

AAAAAAAA

G.R.I.T.S.

S RAISED IN THE SOUTH)

I want to say a prayer for all the grits,


you girls raised in the South,
who came up in the trailer park with dreams bigger
than a doublewide
saddled with the names your mommas gave you
to mark the wide open spaces they themselves will
never see:
names like Savannah, Sierra
with a backwoods Lynn tacked onto the end to
tether you to
the one-stoplight towns that are always blinking red,
because girls like us,

we werent meant to make a break for it.
Let this prayer reach you, Tami-Lynn, & you too,
Misty, Amber & Crystal,
named for all the beauty denied you by the food
stamps & F-schools,
all those dead-ends cast out like a net on the day you
were born,
drawing up tighter, and you:
leaping out of the water like a mullet, caught up in
the nylon webbing,
69

trying to breathe in the air as your gills gasped at the


hurt of it.
Im bending at the knee for all the dishwater blonde
Dakotas & Kelsies,
who learn to make biscuits & sweet tea before they
learn to read or add,
because everything in the trailer park is a trap,
designed to keep you poor,
keep you scared

keep you ignorant & pregnant
These words are for all the Beckys & the ground-in
pit stains on the hand-me-downs
from your sisters & cousins, & their wish that one day,
if you can finally afford
Nice Things
that youll give & give & give the people you love
all those Nice Things that you cant have right now.
This prayer is for you, Madison & Taylor,
because when your hips started to spread
& your breasts ripened like little apples,
you had a whole different set of obstacles than just
wanting to get out
For the Kylies & Shawnas,
the girls who kept your knees closed
not because of Jesus
but because boys meant babies

& babies meant
70


your books got taken back to the library

never to be checked out again
Shelby, Brandie, Nevaeh:
You know those books are your ticket out,
so I pray youll find a way to swallow down your guilt
the one that tastes like WIC cheese & freezerburned
tater tots
& earn yourself a scholarship to turn that history
inside out by
getting out of the trailer park

being the first one in your family to earn

that piece of paper

& turn your back on the Stars & Bars
Mariah, Raelynn, Allie

I hope this prayer reaches you

when you tuck in tonight, & that
youll believe me
when I tell you:
Theres a way to bust out
of any trap,
& youre clever enough to find it
so dream bigger than a doublewide,
learn every way there is to leave the South,
& when that one stoplight finally turns green
Floor it
&
dont ever look back
Amen.
Alli e Ma ri ni

71

THE SOUTHERN GIRLS GUIDE TO


GETTING YOUR MRS DEGREE
first of all, lets talk sweet tea.
Yankees joke about the secret being sugar

& it is, partlybut the real secrets in the baking
soda.
it takes the bitterness out of the tea
& makes the sweet taste sweeter.
just like you should be to your husband.
neutralize all the bitterness
& just be sweet as Southern tea.
& dont squeeze them teabags.

you know what I mean, girl.
know your way around a kitchen.

cornbread: make sure its baked in a cast iron skillet.

biscuits: always make catheads

& dont listen to anyone who says they come

out just as good

with butter because that aint true

use lard or Crisco, & always use a fork,

because your hot hands will melt the fat

& then they wont raise up right.

fried chicken needs to set up overnight

in buttermilk or pickle juice;

whichever one your man likes best.

always use peanut oil to fry it

& a little cornstarch in the flour
72


goes a long ways.

speaking of peanuts,

even though its just peanuts, water & salt,

there are, in fact, ways to jack up boiled
peanuts,

so be patient: cook em long & over low heat.

make sure your ambrosias the best one
around.
but dont be surprised if even with all that good
cooking at home,
he still steps out for junk food & drive-thru.
when he does, keep Alka-Seltzer in the cupboard
& you

get used to the taste of your own tongue,

because youre gonna have to swallow it down.
keep a tidy house
& make sure theres order when he comes home.
always make the bed.
never leave dishes in the sink if you can avoid it
& make sure the laundry basket never overflows.
iron his pants, even if you know
hell never notice you do that.
but when you go grocery shopping, he pushes the
buggy
& taking out the trash is always husband work.
so make sure you stay firm on those 2 points,
even if you learn to bend like a cattail in the wind

on everything else.

Alli e Ma ri ni

73

pray that when your belly swells


that its a son that comes first,
because then your man can love the little girl that
follows

without reservations.
if she has the misfortune to come first,
be kinder to her than you want to be,
even when shes awful,
because shell always suspect
that her Daddy loves his son bettern he loves her.

& shell be right.

you remember what thats like.
he will drink, he will gamble, he will smoke & swear,
& chances are, hell cheat.
keep Saltines & ginger ale in the cupboard
& aspirin in the medicine chest.

when you do the laundry,

keep whatever loose change & dollar bills
you find

in a coffee can on top of the fridge,

so you have pin money

in case he isnt very good at poker.

dont ever tell him if he isnt very good at
poker.
take up smoking Winstons yourself,
or pretend you dont smell the smoke on his shirt cuffs.

74

in mixed company, remember to say,


Oh, for heavens sake!
when his language is salty
but behind closed doors, keep a few choice phrases
tucked into your pillowcase.
if he cheats, play dumb, but remember it.
pray that he keeps coming home to you,
& that even if he does love her, hell always love you
more.
it wont hurt any less if you dont say anything about it,

but itll at least keep the peace.
learn to love being on your knees, in the bedroom &
in church pews.
understand that you will be calling upon Jesus in
both places,
albeit for mightily different reasons.
your praise chorus will not always be
in the holy covenant of your matrimonial bond.
oftentimes, the pleas you begin in the bedroom on
Saturday night
when he stumbles home drunk
youll just have to finish up on Sunday morning,
face scrubbed raw & shiny.
understand that sometimes your prayers will go
unanswered.

this is just the way of faith.
if his hand ever raises up to you,

turn away like this so your nose dont break.
Alli e Ma ri ni

75

if he blackens your eye, stay home till it fades.


if he hits, remember what I told you about sweet tea:

neutralize the bitterness & stay sweet.

but remember it.
if he dont bring flowers, come home for a spell.
wait till next time to tell your Daddy & your brothers.
if all else fails, remember that other thing I told you
about sweet tea:
if you forget to add the baking soda,
or if you squeeze the teabags,
it can get mighty bitter.
bitter teaeven if its sweet teacan hide a lot of
things,
just like any good wife who follows all the rules.
so if you reach your wits end,
you can always be real careful not to touch it yourself
& stir a spoonful of sap
from the oleander tree out back
into his sweet tea.

now, let me finish fixin your veil.

76

JJJJJJJJJJJ

A R RA N G E ME N TS
Sounds of home. Coffeemaker, heating duct, creaking
floorboards, breath of lab, fireplace embers, the
beating of a hummingbirds wings through kitchen
window. Time is still. Sunday.
Parts
Stomach. His lover throwing up in the bathroom.
Vomit on porcelain, porcelain on knees. Calluses.
How childhood, how bully, how someone help. Extra
weight to absorb the punches. The cutting. The
bathroom. The door. And that lock.
Skin. Quiver in your lovers voice as black bodies, like
his, fall from trees blocking drains. Rain. Streets are
flooded as passersby ride gondolas over mussel-shell
skeletons, cigarillo wrappers, Coke cans. To not leave
the house for days. The watching. As the next move is
known, its just a matter of time.
Memory. Summer afternoon. Spirit crows lift
walnuts from roots, fly them upward through tree
branches. Rise. Drop them to crack open. Fall.
Split shell.
77

End. Your lovers voice, again. Fighter for black and


brown babies, works twice as hard to get half as far
as the rest. Always falling short. He considers the end
almost every day. Where are we?
Caretaker.
Open. His lover takes his hand. Says, be gentle when
you push; the last time someone was there, they told me to
keep it to myself or they would hurt me, so I did. Silence
and the slow kill. That gentle membrane rips again,
the tears, hands too hardened to catch them all. Rainmakers should be relegated to shadow but too often
walk in light. His lover is dehydrated, preserved.
Fresh out.
Take care.
Ear. First man he ever dated had a mother named
Candy. Trash-mouth haranger; not so sweet.
Remembers his lovers longing to connect to mother,
now idea, less than human. Hearing the screams over
the phone, crying on his shoulder. As listener, knew
his was to come, his own mother unfurling in the
wind. With distance, she grew fainter; with distance,
she grew omnipresent. Mother. Mirrors just about at
every turn. Even monster mothers are mother.
How this temporary can be so everlasting.
Soap. Remembers how his lover did not keep himself
78

clean, carried sidewalks on skin, tire treads across


forehead; was a deserving dirt, he felt, no scrubbing
could remove. When he left marks on the sheets,
he said, see, I have presence. When he would leave, so
much to clean.
Each lover a clock with tics. Sucked dry.
There is always a taking in caring. He wonders when
he will learn to care for self.
Self care.
Memory. Dusk in the fall, light on the lake through
turning leaves, the reflection of clouds in ripples
behind geese. That lessons can be learned from egrets:
patient, slow. That even the most barren of trees on
lakes bear nests.
Moment. When they hold each other, steady. Not
triggered. Cradle no ghosts. This isnt a haunting.
Present attentive. A churning, nutrients from
sediment. Remembers things he has forgotten in the
face of duty: smile, breeze on face, birds, banter, fish
leaping from water, arm around shoulder, long kiss
as the sun goes down. Life need not be so dramatic.
Goes on.
Nature of the trigger: alluring, evocative, intoxicating. Buckling, unbalancing, a throwing off. He is
tired.
J.K. F owle r

79

Peel mask from rancid skull.


How to bury this trigger: carve open earth with
palm, place gently under childhood home. No
watering necessary.
Let us be alone, together. Time out.
Cyclic tide. Moon rises. Breathe deep.

80

SSSS

SSSSSSS

THE LEAVING
When my dad left when I was a kid, it was night in the
kind of pitch black it only gets out in the woods, where
it seems like you may as well be a million miles from
the nearest streetlamp for how cut off and groundless
you feel. We clung to our light sources out there, in the
northern mountains of my childhood. Light is what
made you feel like a person when the sun went down
and the wind began calling, rushing through the leaves
of the black oak trees. We would fill the cabin up with
candles, and I would do my homework in between the
flickering shadows they cast across the linoleum floor.
The best light in the house was a single bulb hooked
up to a car battery that sat on the table. It would run
out of juice pretty fast though, and my time using it
was always brief and monitored. It would steadily fade
from bright clean white to a dull yellow that barely
illuminated the pages, and I would try to get as many
seconds as I could before somebody told me to give
it a rest already. Sometimes Id click on a flashlight
anyway, curled up on my mattress in the attic, so that
I could read more. I never wanted to stop reading.
-81

The house itself was a tiny red hunting cabin, down


off a long dirt road. We moved out there after my dad
got busted and the money stopped coming in and he
finally got a job at Burger King. Hed talk about seeing
the cop that got him in the aisles at winco, about
how he suppressed the urge to bring the glass bottle
he was carrying down over the mans head. He got off
lucky with just probation and no prison sentence, and
we packed our things and disappeared even deeper
into the hills.
I knew it was a hunting cabin and not a regular cabin
because there was a long beam sticking out of the
front of the house, and I had asked my mom what it
was for when we moved in. She said it was where you
slung the deer carcass after you killed and bled it. This
seemed reasonable enough, brutal enough for life in
the woods. That beam held a gruesome fascination, and
Id stare at it sometimes, imaging dead meat hanging
down, blood dripping onto the deck. Grizzled hunters
living inside our house, using the sink, cooking on
our wood stove, never speaking and only killing. Deer
were common out there, but seeing one then was
always like seeing an angel to meall I could do was
stop, wait and watch and hold my breath, both afraid
and reverent. Silently understanding that they were
made of something beautiful that people were not,
something that had to do with the way the water ran
in the rivers, the way snowflakes could come down in
hauntingly perfect spirals.

82

The night my dad left two of the dogs got into a fight
outside. We always had so many dogs. Back in San Jose
after I was born, Dad bought a puppy off a man who
should not have had one. His official name was Curly
for the ragged hair that stuck up in little half-moons,
but I called him Bone Boy in my head because of the
ribs that still jutted under his skin. He never could gain
weight very well, and he always had a crazy look in
his eyes like the sparks that burst up from a campfire.
The owner had tied him to a metal pole in his backyard
with a foot long lead, and beat him so many times that
he no longer barked. He had been broken before he
got a chance to grow.
Dad worked for months every day, trying to get him to
play, to trust his hands, to eat without checking to see
if it was safe first. The first time he barked, he cowered,
expecting to be hit, and my dad crouched next to him
softly saying good boy, youre a good boy. Waiting until
the dog was calm enough to come forward and lick his
hands.
Eventually Bone Boys fur grew out and covered his
scars and you couldnt tell anymore how he had been
raised, what he had been born into and managed to
survive.
-That night the dogs were fighting outside on the
deck, and inside, Dad was screaming at mom because
she came home late from seeing some guy after work.
Sa ra h He nry

83

Every day she bundled flowers in an icy warehouse,


her twenty nine year old hands sore in a way that only
endless repetition brings, the soreness that comes
before the immobility of arthritis and carpal tunnel.
He was screaming, hurtling his stuff into his red work
bag. He would do that every now and then, fly off
the handle, turn into a monster. Like the person he
appeared to be was hiding someone else inside him,
not our dad, but a stranger.
He looked huge when I was that small, his eyes over
bright and his spit flying as he yelled. These days he
looks so stooped over and beat down, his grey hair in
short wisps over his head. I am not nearly so afraid of
him now, only afraid of life and the regular kind of
broken hearted you become as you watch your parents
get old and collapse in on themselves like dying stars
or sheds under the weight of too much snow. I look at
him and have to remember the man who worked so
long and with so much patience to care for a beaten
dog.
-My mom sat on the floor and took it, his anger. She
waited like a house waits for the hurricane to pass,
hoping it doesnt shred away the foundation as it goes.
I was sitting on the couch beneath the ladder that went
up to the attic where my brother and I slept, waiting it
out with her, caught in the shadows.

84

Dad knew us kids were watching, witnessing. He


handed her a piece of cardboard with an ugly note
scrawled on it, as if swallowing back some of the words
he wanted to yell would protect us, as if the damage
hadnt been done already. I pretended to be watching
the Simpsons. I pretended like I was deaf, like I was a
wall, unmovable and impervious to all things. If you
keep making that face, itll get stuck like that. If you keep
pretending to be indifferent, you can find it hard to
show anything at all.
He blustered himself out eventually and left the room.
Mom got up without a word and checked on the dogs,
opening the door and letting the cold night air come
pouring in, like taking a clean breath the size of the
whole night sky. One of the dogs came limping in, his
eyes wild with hurt like my fathers, a valley of blood
pouring from a wound in his neck. He was walking in
it, panting around the room and leaving bloody paw
prints on the linoleum.
-That night when I was sure my brother was asleep, I
wept over everything I had seen and taken in with a
sensitive kids preternatural emotional intelligence. I
had passed over something, stepped across a line not
of my own making. Dad heard me crying and climbed
up the stairs. He sat on the floor next to my bed and
put his hand on my back and said Im going to look for a
place in town.
Sa ra h He nry

85

And that was that, I said okay and he walked back


down the stairs and into the rest of his life, nursing
his own injuries. Our individual sadnesses resonating
inside of us, scattered across the house, absolutely
incommunicable, and the darkness pressed all around
like we were stones at the bottom of an ocean.

86

KKK

KKKKKKKKKK

H U MAN OID
Animated in a factory of stiffs,
Ive constructed a daughter
out of nonhuman parts
by plopping in a pigs heart,
one fenced-in aorta
pumping within her white cage.
I wiped away the blood
on my forehead
over a repurposed Homo sapiens
skeleton, six months galore.
Her vessel is alive
as I stuff goat lungs up her chest
and superglue the knees
of a brown bear onto her sockets.
What do we have now?
Well since a brain is required
to finish the product,
I hustle in a neurological
universe:
87

the capacity of a calf


crawls into consciousness.
Will she moo on the steel floor?
Of course not. My daughter
cries within a scoop of sunlight
under bones hanging from hooks
and machetes hacking the livestock.
I meanwhile scrub my body clean
before carrying her out onto the dirt road.
Now sing a lullaby to her grass-fed self.

88

JJJ

JJJJJJJJJJ

ANIMAL ABATEMENT
To the deer that took her last breath on my property,
then collapsed in the corner of the yard I never get to:
Im sorry. I wish I had seen your body earlier, before
it was stiff. Your eyes seem awkwardly alive, staring at
my bedroom window. I wish I could have saved you,
although I have no idea how you died. Only that your
cold hoof rests on the bottom of the gate to the back
yard, as if begging for entrance.
To the woman who answers the phone when I call
Sonoma Animal Control.
No, I did not kill the deer, nor did my dogs. And yes, I
now understand that it is my responsibility to have it
disposed of. Unless the deer happens to find its way to
the street, in which case this is no longer my problem?
No, I wont lift the dead doe and toss her in the street.
No.
To Frank, who advertises his Animal Abatement
services on Google:
Thank you for saying your nephew would be right
89

over. No, I agree, I shouldnt let the dogs gnaw on her,


she might be diseased.
To my dogs, a mother and her puppy, recently rescued
by me in a moment of insanity:
Get away from that gate. Get your nose off the poor
dead girls paw. Do not gnaw.
To the deer who still lies on her side:
Franks nephew is coming.
To Frank:
Im sorry about your nephew. Yes, they can be
unreliable at that age, I know. No problem, I can
wait. Im just sitting on the back deck watching her.
Yes, I know I dont have to. Yes, its windy today. The
chill seeps right through the blanket I pulled over my
shoulders before I came out to yell at the dogs.
To the puppy:
Where is my other shoe?
To the deer:
I dont know why Im standing on the grass, ten feet
away, as if you might spring up at any moment. Why
I am ignoring the dogs whining from inside the house
90

where Ive locked them, and not doing the chores that
I listed on the back of an envelope. It feels decent, to
be here with you. A witness. And Im sad. You look
so young to die, like a doe just getting started, in the
prime of your life.
Did you eat the ripe blackberries on Kenleigh Road
last summer? Run unfettered in the fields that
surround us? Tell me you at least had some sweetness
in your short life, before coming to this unremarkable
end. And how did you die? Why did you choose here,
outside my window, on a very high hill, the views
stretching to the East?
Then again, what a good spot you chose to die on.
Ill be back. I need to get a cup of tea.
To Frank:
Its Ok. Ill wait. Yes, traffic on 37 is always a bitch this
time of day. Thanks for coming since your nephew is
hung over. No, I dont know the Wilsons. I dont really
know the neighbors. Its a second home. A sheep?
Mountain lions ate their sheep? Right down my street.
Huh.
Well, Im glad you know just where I am. See you soon.
To my husband, on the cell phone between meetings:

Joane ll Se rra

91

I forgot why we have a house in the country. Since


we bought it we have had: a dead bird in the pool, an
erupting septic tank, a broken dishwasher, and clogged
toilets. And that enormous tree fall down on the deck.
And, apparently, mountain lions. Yes, you can call me
back later.
To my husbands voice mail:
To be fair, weve also had a lot of fun. Fifty late
dinners on warm summer nights, a party that ended
with dancing so vigorous I threw out my hip, and
many glasses of wine near the pool. A hundred hot
tub moments. And four Christmas Eves. Sorry I was
cranky. This mountain lion shit is for real though. We
have to keep an eye on the puppy.
To the deer who appears frozen and alone:
Im sorry I cant bury you. I tried to bury an animal
here, just last winter. I wanted my old dogs body here
with us. I wanted her spirit to breathe through the
grass, her bones to feed the yellow flowers that bloom
in late March. I wanted to know my girl, my fuzzy dogalmost-a-bear with the enormous golden eyes, was still
with me.
But we discovered that the acres of land that surround
us are deceiving, appearing to be fertile earth. They are
actually rocks in disguise. We took turns digging, then
sitting and crying with our old girl, knowing she was
92

about to die. After four hours, we gave up. The hole,


our attempt to dig a grave, is still there, the shovels
abandoned on both sides.
Fuck, its cold out here.
To Frank, whose tattoos are so large and intricate
that I am distracted for a minute from the purpose
of your visit:
Thank you for coming. Im glad to meet your surly
nephew as well. I wish you hadnt pointed out the
obvious cause of the deers death, nor insisted I see
the tiny fawn that was pushing its way from the
mother womb when they succumbed to death.
I too am glad there are no maggots. An occupational
hazard, I gather. Thanks for mentioning that.
No, I dont have $125 in cash.
Really? Youre a retired San Francisco cop. Thirty five
years on the force. I guess that fits. No, I never walk
alone in that neighborhood at night. I hope to not
need to call you again, but sure. Ill take your card.
Yeah, I really dont have cash like that in my pocket.
To the deer:
I wish Frank had been more gentle with you. I wish Id
Joane ll Se rra

93

buried you, even in a shallow grave, on the hill, where


your ghost could emerge at night and run with the
other ghost deer. Flirt with a translucent buck, raise
your gossamer baby fawn.
I feel I have done you a disservice, sweet, dead, doe.
To my dogs, the German Shephard mother and puppy
who watch uneasily as the truck pulls away:
Im so glad you both survived the harrowing process of
birth outside, in the wild. And that someone put you
in their barn, for shelter. And that we came by a few
weeks later and saw Cora, the skinny frightened Mama,
nursing eight ravenous pups. And that I thought we
need to get you out of here, Mama.
To Cora:
Stop licking my face. I dont know why Im crying.
To the puppy:
Drop it. Thats my damn shoe.

94

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