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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. Since December 2009 we’ve presented 1,100
readings by 700 authors in 100 shows and 80 books,
selected by 50 people through a blind selection process
and performed in 70 venues, appearing so far in bars,
art galleries...a hotel, and a cave.

The shows are also filmed and loaded online—in text
and video—and rebroadcast on public access television.

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


info + updates + video of every reading
This year we received a grant from the San Francisco Arts
Commission that’s enabled us to make our shows free and
to pay all participating artists. In the hopes of making this a
sustainable practice, we’re running a fundraising campaign
through Oct 12, specifically to establish our first living-wage
staff position—for which we’ll soon be hiring; our board
of directors has pledged to match our modest $15K goal, if

With your help we can create a healthier, more vibrant
culture that will last and flourish long after we’re no longer
able to run this organization personally. All contributions
go directly to artists and artist opportunities throughout the
SF/Bay Area, and are tax deductible to the fullest extent of
the law.

to find out more:


or see one of our staff members
Poetry in Parks 2016
co-presented by

with additional help from the following
friends of mt. tam marin county free
one tam library
somarts cultural marin poetry center
center california poets in the
litquake schools
booksmith poets & writers
artspan d’maize catering
bread & roses presents sneaky’s bbq
classical revolution lagunitas brewing
california arts company
council house kombucha

To find out more about all of these partners, and all of
today’s artists:
sparkle + blink 77
© 2016 Quiet Lightning

cover © Matthew Lewandowski

“Ostinato” by Heather June Gibbons first appeared in Boston Review
“The Brain May Disassemble Itself In Sleep”
by Heather June Gibbons first appeared in Sprung Formal
“How to Sell” by Tara Dorabji first appeared in Jaggery
“IKEA, 4400 Shellmound Ave., Emeryville, CA 94608”
by Zack Haber first appeared in The Capilano Review
“Still Life with Gratitude” by Dean Rader
first appeared on Prairie Home Companion

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.
su bmit @ qui e tl i g h tn i n g . o r g
curated by
Chris Cole, Kelsey Schimmelman
Christine No + Evan Karp
featured artists
Matthew Lewandowski


BJ DUBIN Ocean of My Tears 5

LISA PIAZZA Side Yard 11
& the moon 13

Ana Mendieta 15

TARA DORABJI How to Sell 19

ZACK HABER IKEA, 4400 Shellmound Ave.
Emeryville, CA 94608 25

KAREN PENLEY Trying to Make Friends 27

MARGARET SPILMAN I Believed in the Jaterna 31



HEATHER JUNE GIBBONS The Brain May Disassemble
Itself in Sleep 43

DEAN RADER Still Life with Gratitude 45
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 Cerón Melo art director
Christine No production

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

The new company logo is a torch inside an obelisk
inside a five-pointed star inside a sixteen-sided die
against a backdrop of blazing sunlight. It took years
of focus groups, an in-house creative team collecting
only the smoothest, flattest stones from the banks
of the minor tributaries of each river beloved by
our target demographic, research into their
patterns of worship, the lives of their saints, Saint
and the case of the missing anvil, miracle of the giant
tropical lake found on Saturn’s Titan Moon so like
that box
of tissues in the conference room that never empties
in the face of ongoing organizational betrayal.
At the quarterly meeting of shareholders, the chief
unveiled several new prayers for the test markets:
is impossible—it is your responsibility to make it so,
let us search for management in a stargazing field, let
sustain new synergies among alleged victims, give

this day our daily sales cloud. You are the blue arrow
pointing down to a box half-shaded in gray on the
Here is your cubicle, your stapler. Burt is your team
through this period of consolidation. He developed
an upgrade that renders the old product obsolete
for which he received a fat raise and the right to keep
his desk utterly bare. The shareholders believe
he is an oracle, that he peers into that empty, elegant
veneer, his mind a crescendo underlying a persistent
musical pattern, the end of desire itself, one killer app
for the one Oregonian suffering under sunset’s vague
one step towards the eradication of mediocrity
normal children. Your team emblem is a kitten,
your alibi is that you never watched an entire
When the supervisor asks how the product has
your life personally, be vague, say you dream less
of free diving with dolphins in bloody water and
about your fear of local elections. As you peruse
the company directory, try not to notice how many
have been crossed out, be grateful for the key card
around your neck even as the metrics tell a different

what the target audience had for lunch, dinner,
dinner, lunch,
barriers to accuracy, ways to boost stamina. Dear co-
let’s dress up in golf shirts and do karaoke with the
unpaid interns,
let’s hold a séance on the lowest level of the parking
rewrite the cost savings report in chromatic
shorthand, go viral,
erase all the voice messages in the world, let’s paint
on our faces with printer ink and insist we are as
as executive letterhead in ivory, as close-knit and
as we appear to be in the video from last year’s
Christmas Party,
more efficient than anti-crepuscular rays, more
of outlasting the outsource, and lucky enough not to
just how narrowly we escaped the meandering
volcanic haze.

H e at he r Ju ne Gi bbons 3


I have walked through fire
to get to this storm

I have sat in the creek
and shed ancestral tears

I have sat with the elders
and the Medicine people
and heard the ancient stories

I have flown too close to
the sun and fallen to earth
a pile of broken wings
and tattered feathers

I heard the calling and
my spirit cried

Freedom is yours
if you want it
So off I went deep into
the sacred mountains of

my dreams

I was 22 yrs old
I went up that old
medicine road
i was broken
i was dying

I am 41 now
it has been 20 years
since I set out in the dark
of the night

I was a fool then
I assure you
I am a fool no more

Where does love begin

Why is my heart so filled
with sadness

I still have much to learn
Spirit Dancer use to say
I was unteachable

Spirit Dancer was like a father to me
we were cut form the same thread
He was a cosmic yiddish cowboy
a holy man

a snake oil
a conguero
a healer
he wore the ram on his chest
and he locked horns with
everybody he loved and
we all paid the price
especially when he was hurting

i’m still paying
here we go baby here
come the tears
the tears of tomorrow
the tears of yesterday
the ancestral tears
the rain is once again
beginning to fall right
here in the bakery

I’m here but i’m traveling
i can feel my soul aching
i need love
i need my tribe
they’re all moving on
i’m left here in the storm
waiting for the rain to
really come down

yeah let it flow

Bj Du bi n 7
i will cry the peoples’ tears
i will walk the sacred river
of tears and sorrow
i am a ridge runner
without a mountain
i am the hawk

i come here in a good
way grandfather
i am broken
my medicine bag is empty
my heart is cracked and busted
my time is short
my spirit is enormous
i am here to serve the people
my wings are beginning to heal
time is an illusion
there is no time
only sorrow
sorrow and moonlight
i should have never
moved that dead coyote
off the road
i picked him up cause old
Heck Ace Of Jamesburg
told me to
and i wanted him to love
me because old spirit
dancer and i were
on the outs
i was again looking for a

to fill the hole in my soul

warrior round has begun
i thought if i chopped
enough wood and killed
enough rattle snakes and
became a mountain man
i would be a warrior
a bad mother
it all seems like a dream

i am raging inside
i am on fire
i am damaged and i want
to scream and cry out

“why creator
why have u
let me fall
so hard”

is there no end to the
i got to get on up and go
i’m crying
the river is flowing
to the ocean of my tears
Bj Du bi n 9


Some years
you catch
the changes
the changes
catch you

each season
like skin
to the air

so that
it doesn’t hurt
when the
neighbor’s tree
moves between
its shades of green

now bare
now popcorn

stars of

soon the
red plums
of summer
too heavy
and sweet
to keep.


Nights the moon
beams into my back

yard & I catch
the light on the patio

the light in the bedroom
& remember what the

house could have been
or was at one time

or never & the
moon like a memory

like the sea

promise, promise
promise, promise

promise (to me)

Li sa P i a zza 13

In 1980, the artist Ana Mendieta stood in a dirt field in
Amana, Iowa. She bent down and cleared the space of
irony. She carved the shape of a goddess into the earth
with her hands. She hollowed out the goddess and
filled her with gunpowder. She lit the powder on fire
and watched it explode. Then she took photographs of
this now-burned girl, and called her Untitled.

In 1985, Ana Mendieta fell from a window during an
argument with the Minimalist sculptor Carl Andre,
her large and jealous husband. She landed on the roof
of a delicatessen. Her body made a print on the metal.
Mass and attraction worked like ammunition.

Carl Andre was acquitted of her murder, and so it was
understood that Ana Mendieta died of gravity.

Women worry, though. Maybe Ana Mendieta actually
died of homicide. Maybe the system is rigged. And if
Ana Mendieta could get killed by her man but not be
legally murdered, then what about them?

Women who love art and fret about sexism look
back at the burned girl that Mendieta made.
They watch the burned girl rise from her Iowa grave.
The worried women see her walk into 1985 and into
2016 and into the future, writing graffiti on the walls
of art galleries.

Ana Mendieta was killed by a conspiracy, the graffiti reads.

What do you do?

Ana Mendieta’s work is in vogue for the first time.
It was always too earnest but now the imprint of
her body on the deli plus the decorous passage of
the years make it just right. Today, we may purchase
silver gelatin prints of her burned girl for over forty
thousand dollars.

In 2015, Sotheby’s estimated that Carl Andre’s sleekly
minimal copper squares could fetch over three million

But we don’t have that kind of money.

We could host a byob fundraiser in the park, and
buy the art from the dealers who will hopefully give
us a discount. Then we could hold the Guggenheim
hostage using our rolled-up copies of Artforum and our
rejection texts as weapons. We’d put all of the pictures
and the copper squares into the rotunda and demand
a retrial. The retrial would not observe due process,
however. It would obey the laws of aesthetics, which
demand beauty.

And which is beautiful? Maximalism or minimalism?
The burned girl will laugh to see the city set on fire.
Her elegant enemies, the copper squares, will erase all
of your doubts with their spare surfaces.

One is guilty, and must be executed, like academic
painting and Clement Greenberg. But this is more
serious than mid-century modernism. This is about
a woman of color, motherfucker. We will put dark
veils over our heads and pray that the jury thinks that
forty thousand dollars is expensive. We will spray fake
blood like peta activists and demand that the laws of
beauty be obeyed. We do not pretend to be objective.

Ana Mendieta is collectable now, but we want
vengeance. After minimalism is convicted there
must be a sacrifice of the art world. There must be a
catalogue raisonné filled with autopsy reports and
auction prices. Once there are no more museums, we
will give ourselves a day to mourn before we move
onto Congress. (We’ll steal for ourselves a Mickalene
Thomas.) We will not use the word “purge,” we will
use the term “nowness,” and employ the burned girl as
our brand. But we must fend for ourselves if we are to
embark upon this revolution: Feminist art critic Linda
Nochlin is on the admissions committee this semester,
and the Guerrilla Girls are at Bilbao.

It is left for us to sing and dance until we find the
savage solution.

Y xta Maya Mu rray 17


As a woman, being smart is dangerous unless you cut
it with sexy. It seems trivial, but chalk it up to the
thousands of unspoken, but shared truths between
mothers and daughters. This goes against all of what
I’ve taught you, but you will need to learn to walk in
heels, too. I know. I refused to let you buy your own
pair. You are only twelve. They will leave blisters on
your feet, aggravate your athlete’s foot, and destroy
your posture. But in your 30s, heels will be essential to
closing any deal: pharmaceutical, salary negotiations,
even editorial board meetings.

When your foot grows to my size, I will give you my
heels. By my 60s, I should’ve sold enough that I can
wear comfortable shoes again. Frugality cannot be
overrated in our family. We’ll pass the heels through
generations: mother to daughter.

Your cunning will guide you, but never underestimate
the power of curb appeal. Show the right amount
of skin. Sexy-not-slutty is imperative for success.
Men want to feel that rush when looking at you,
wondering if you are wearing any underwear.
Stand with confidence. You cannot be bought. Your

attention must be earned. They will like this.

When negotiating with a man, always start with his
need. Be soft. You are decorative first. This will make
him feel comfortable when you start to show your
intelligence. If the idea is powerful, let him think he
thought it first. Top negotiations generally come back
to men. They hold a monopoly on global power.

Pay particular attention to tone. Appear gentle. You
must never be a threat. It is okay to take charge. Men
love it when you do the work, as long as you are
working for them. Let him offer you advice. Tell him
that he is right. Smile. Cross your legs.

Always wear makeup for photo shoots or videos. This
is non-negotiable. Pay for professional photos early on.
We live in a digital world. You must be strategic about
your online presence. By the time you are an adult, the
material world may be fully absorbed into cyberspace.
Stay away from prints and heavy jewelry in photos.
Natural light is more powerful than artificial. This will
remain true into the future. Never forget the power of
the sun.

You are not for sale, but you must market yourself to

Make sure to shave. Nothing can botch a deal like
body hair. This was a tough one for me. But let’s face
it—armpit hair is unprofessional and showing that

much skin is generally appropriate, often required.
You may become defiant. For years, I didn’t shave.
Youth brings natural sex appeal. Try to possess it fully.
You can get away with a sloppiness that will no longer
be allowable as you age.

Try not to be afraid of your power.

You cannot sell anything when you are afraid. I learned
this early on, canvassing door to door. People decide
in the first half second when they open the door
whether they will give you money or not. Your pitch
is important, but not as important as your confidence.
You must believe they will give you money. This
accounts for 96% of sales.

As a woman of this world, things are stacked for you
to do 75 percent of the work, receive 10 percent of the
pay, and own 1 percent of property. You will defy these
odds, but you must use everything you have to do it. I
will help you.

In America, liberation is having our bodies airbrushed
on billboards. We have the right to wear a string bikini
as long as we wax our pussies, ripping hair from the
softest of spots. Pain that sears and pops. Remember
this will bring you pleasure. This is what we must tell
ourselves: We wax for ourselves cause we like the softness.
But really we do it to feel desired. After childbirth, you
may need to wear a push up bra, to flaunt your cleavage.
Just enough to be admired during a business meeting,

Ta ra Dorabji 21
but not too much that it is vulgar. Suggestiveness is
key here.

Fear is your biggest enemy. Never let yourself be the
victim. You must not let them take from you. This will
become more difficult in the years ahead. You will
likely be broken. You may already be broken. You are
twelve. You are a girl. We live in America. You might
never tell me, your mother. Though if you have been
hurt, it was likely by someone we both know. I have
been terrorized by this fear since you were born. Men
are mostly the threats here. The ones we are closest to.

You do not have to allow inappropriate behavior or
comments. This will take time to learn. You are still
too young.

Men will rub themselves against you in crowded buses.
They will grab your breasts in broad daylight. You will
want to believe it was not intentional. They will deny
that they were ever hard. They will tell you that you
are crazy. You may never find the words, anyway. You
may start to think that you imagined it. You might
start to think that it was your fault. Somehow, you led
them on.

Do not apologize after being raped. This may seem
ridiculous to you, but it is possible. Believe me. Do not
apologize after being raped.

It is okay to walk out on a man after having sex,

particularly if you made it clear that you weren’t in
the mood. You can leave while they are sleeping. You
can just pull your jeans on and walk out the door. You
don’t have to say anything.

You may choose to drink during this time. You may get
tired of saying no. You may eventually fall in love, but
be careful. If you have been broken, it will be easy to
become the victim. You will find yourself trivialized.
You may be showing too much skin. You will wake up
ashamed in the morning.

It is easier to maintain your power when you have
not been violated. You will not be afraid. You will
not acquiesce as easily. You will be able to be coy and
smooth, thwarting unwanted advances.

You will peel hands off your ass. You will learn to keep
your elbow out on the bus. You will cram your elbow
into his bulging stomach to keep him from pressing
his hardness into your ass. You will learn not to be shy
about this.

Men are never too old. You will never be too young. It
is a timeless law. Only a few of them will actually touch
you. Many of them will make jokes about you, sitting
on their lap. They will talk about how delightful it
is to be around beautiful, young girls. Some of them
will want to dance with you. They believe it is their
right. You won’t know how to keep the right amount
of distance. You may not have words for the hardness

Ta ra Dorabji 23
that you feel. You will feel ashamed. Most likely, you
will be silent and try to forget.

You will get older. You will become of legal age. It
doesn’t matter how old they are. They will always
believe they are entitled to leer at you. You will find
the joy of having your own man. You will get lazy and
adjust to the ease. You will adorn yourself for him.

You will understand his pleasures. He will uncork your
passion. You will make sure that you smell sweet. You
will start to age. Time must be spent on cultivating
your beauty. The birthright of youth ages. You will
pluck your hairs.

I will be an old woman then, and I will give you my

4 4 0 0 S H E L L M O U N D AV E .

We love your pets, but they can’t shop at ikea, because
they don’t have any money. We love the sun, and we
love the wind too. All of our air is imported. Imagine if
these mason jars were filled up full of grains. All of our
plants are made out of oil.

I have seen hundreds of people here. None of them
have been laughing. No one is still. No one is fast.
Everyone’s moving but moving slowly. I have seen
hundreds of people here. None of them have been
weeping. I’m comfortable on this couch right now but
will I still find this couch comfortable after ten years?
I just don’t know. I just don’t know. I just don’t know
how you can know something like that.

ikea is a soap opera museum of suburban dreams. A
kid tries to run but his father grabs the hood on the
kid’s hoodie so the kid just makes running motions
instead of running. ikea is a soap opera museum of
rooms. There’s twenty thin walls before any sunlight.
Where’s the place the window would be?

Nobody wins here but the picture of the sunny

field is winning in the contest against the window
suffocated by wires and grids of anti-septic light
overhead. No one wins, but here, in the red glow of
the emergency exit sign, the picture of twilight sun
peaking through thin spaces between branches in a
thick forest is certainly beating the pictures of kids in
kids rooms pretending to play.

I am inside a fake room. But this desk, and these
drawers, are real. How does this desk relate to me?
Does this desk relate to me? How will these drawers
change my life? Will these drawers change my life?
There’s a real tv here but the sound is off. I see images
of golf courses and beaches and sunsets. There’s text
on the bottom of the screen. It reads: Stop if your face
starts swelling. Stop if it causes anxiety. See our ad in
Money Magazine.


sandra would like me to just give up this thing i’m
holding onto of being best friends and how that means
she should call me more than once a year. she thinks i am
blocking my spiritual growth because of that because
she loves me when she’s with me and also those other
364 days just not an in-person or on-the-phone kind of
love because there are just too many wonderful people
in the world and some who are probably a lot more
wonderful than me, warm and sunny loving people
with long hair and dresses that will hold her hand
while she talks to all the people she knows, laughing
and teasing while i’m at one of the tables, making do
with betsy and lots of mustard on my roast beef slices.
sandra will give me a little minute when i’m outside
with my dog, letting her pee, but it will be a wonderful
minute, packed full of love like a firecracker but for
me not so much cause she won’t agree that we are
best friends. she laughs. she has to go. there are lots of
people inside. terry, her ex boyfriend orchestrated all
the food, for nothing. he didn’t expect anything back,
she tells me, he’s not even her boyfriend anymore. this
is a little lesson she’s giving me in love. i know this
but i don’t care that much. i just think to myself,
yeah? so? it sounds the same to me as when they say

there are monkeys in space, or when someone says the
word kalamazoo. i just miss sandra with her frizzy hair
and when we talk, stoned with cigarettes and wine and
our legs up on the table, for hours.

marilyn doesn’t like to talk about me in the car. she
gets so much happier when we talk about her. i can
hear it in her voice; happiness, instead of the patience
she uses to listen to me with. a patience she must
gather up and employ. i don’t care about marilyn, i say
to myself. she is dumb and stupid, i say. she is bad, i say.
i dont like her anymore, i say. all of these thoughts help
me to sit quiet and enjoy them. in the car. they are my
new friends.

i watch how others make friends. i watch how they
talk to each other; sudden. funny. how suddenly they’re
friends and all that comes along with that. the full
mantle. the cloak. the responsibility. the responsibility
of care. i watch how it multiplies. the pictures of them,
then them and one, then more and more til there’s a
group. some with arms slung around each other. how
do they do that? how do they sling an arm? how do
they smile like that, warm and with everyone in the
room held in that curve, that warm red curve and
themselves most of all.

Sandra song

when you’re back there sitting by the black and white
checkerboard tiles by the stove

the woodturning stove
and you’re sitting there in the shadows
knowing nobody likes you not the way they like
and that’s just the way it is
you can’t do anything about it
but sit there with your eyes open
your eyes open
you see it there
you usually pass over it but this time you caught it
there like a little duck you grabbed it by its neck
and it went quack
and out of it’s mouth it came the feeling
that is the feeling
and honey roast plums and cinnamon nigel slater
pudding cake
that is not going to help you now
cause nobody likes you not the way they like sandra
and your sight goes out of your eyes like the suns of
the desert
your sight goes out of your eyes like the wide expanse
of the desert
it is the sight of the truth
nobody likes you not the way they like your friend
all around your head there is millions of miles
millions of mices speaking the truth speaking the
with suspenders, they’re railroad mice
stoking the coals of the steam engine of your head
one of them’s got his hands on the side of his hips, his

Ka re n P e n le y 29
hands on the side of his head, he’s saying, ‘fuck
and heck and let’s get something going here,
something besides this…
meaningless drone of truth.’


I believed so much that I was angry because The
Jaterna would not come to me. It would not snatch me
and gobble me as punishment, no matter how often
I spit on the ground, broke plates, and scratched at
boys’ eyes. I wanted to see the inside of its thick lined
stomach, that wild and rollicking shadowy protrusion
full of small footprints. I promised I would not kick
and thrash to get out if it swallowed me whole. I would
stay safe in the wet and warmth of its belly. I would
trust its wrath. I thought I could earn its hunger. I was
an arrogant child.

We’d all been threatened with the stories for years
whenever the dishes sat idle or we hammered the
words, “I don’t want to!” The Jaterna came to those
children whose parents had given up on them, children
who had stolen their parents’ throats and left them
speechless, parents who wanted fresh starts without
exasperated sighs. Sometimes The Jaterna would leave
a shiny blue egg in the bed where the child had slept
and if the parents kept it warm it would hatch into
their new child, their wanted and obedient child.

I did my best to encourage its arrival. I made lists of
my misdeeds, writing them in Mother’s many voices
and turned them to smoke so that they could travel
wherever The Jaterna was. When she found all the
fuel in her lighters used up and my blistered and ashy
hands she threatened me with The Jaterna. I could not
stop smiling, no matter how much it angered her. And
that anger was fuel too was it not? We burned there,

Sadly, thick sludge did not rise from the floorboards.
It did not congeal into marvelous shapes in the still
air. Nothing crawled or wretched over the bed sheets
and out of the shadows. Nothing, besides what was
expected, hissed or moaned in the night. I gnawed on
my own arm to see, perhaps I just did not taste right?

The Jaterna did not come but Baluk did, with his
singsong voice and inability to walk a straight line. He
came for Mother, but she was not home and so I let
him in.

“His shoes are too big for him.”
“No it’s his feet”
“No it’s his knees, they go different directions”

His entourage was vast and whispered such rumors
constantly, but they adored him despite his odd way
of walking. They laughed when he laughed and wept
when he wept, an echo chamber of emotions. It swept
you away without warning. Laughing or crying over

the many cups hooked around his many fingers; you
could not help but join him. His energy was short
lived though, and Mother took so long to come home.
He collapsed on the dusty rug from the waiting. I did
what Grandmother had told me to do if ever he entered
the house without an invitation; I gave him cookies
and tea and showed him the open window and the
bright new day. He couldn’t stay. The Jaterna would
never act with such a sensitive audience. Besides, it
was exhausting trying to keep someone happy just so
the furniture didn’t start to float in the chain reaction
of tears.

With some convincing Baluk crawled out the window
and left with his entourage. He would look for Mother
elsewhere, but thanked me for the tea. When he was
a safe distance away I shouted into his oversized ears,
“Can you send The Jaterna for me?!” I still hoped. He
shook his head and wept, and his followers wept until
the water churned the dust into mud. The rains lasted
weeks. I knew why. I knew I was too old to become
someone else’s child. Too tall to be replaced by a blue

I had tracked my age by pencil marks in the kitchen,
hunching my shoulders and letting the pencil dip
down along my scalp, but still I grew. The Jaterna’s
stomach was not so large, his palate favored child’s
flesh. When the baby fat moved into my hips I knew
The Jaterna would never come. Still I believed in his
absence as much as I had in his presence, and in that

Ma r g a re t Sp i llm an 33
belief I saw the shadow he left behind. I could sense
him in other houses. Jealousy was my bread.

I knew The Jaterna came for the boy with the clicking
jaw and mealworm colored sweater and cauliflower
ears. I sensed when the girl with the black teeth and
the girl with the gray toes stopped walking along the
sidewalk. No one counted them but me. There were
always other explanations, ways to turn those gobbled
into runaways or neverwases.

I send my smoke signals still. The Jaterna is slow
moving and so I stay and wait. Just in case.

Baluk has never come back to my house. He knows not
to look for Mother here. She is too quiet now. Mother
lies in the bed and does not scold me. Her tongue is
too large in her mouth for such exertions. He would
shrivel without adoration, and no one shouts his name
against the clank of glasses in this house anymore. His
entourage would have turned resentful without the
required prestige. I imagine he’s in the West Country
where the trees are larger and the water tastes like
sour mash whiskey. I think of following him there. I
thought he had come for a visit when the rains started
again. They have not stopped for months and even
Baluk could not have so many tears.

Those who could swim are gone now and I have no
boat. I have no sturdy shoes for wading in deep waters.
My escape will be The Jaterna, as it always was meant

to be. I have heard rustlings under the floorboards
beneath Mother’s bed. There is a veil of smoke that
will not leave the house. It stays because The Jaterna
is almost here. It is coming just like the stories always

Ma r g a re t Sp i llm an 35


Japanese B-movies on personal
empties, torn wrappers,
paper napkins
wadded in cups. I opened the shade
and saw, below us in the night,
a cubic mile
with nothing in it but rain.

Your voice:

precise, visionary, mercenary, marketable.

Soft this morning
as you described your dream
of holding a private
on the tides
of Western Australia.

Cars turn onto Franklin from 3 rd Avenue.
The smell of laundry in the air.
The moon cool and clear as middle C.
In a second-floor
a poet is watching.
Laundry!, middle C!,
the poet is thinking.
The poet is also drinking.

All night in the new building,
clanks and drafts,
cats’ whiskers
brushing past.
The skyline
silver and empty.
My ears
ringing. I want
to sleep.

Wind in Longfellow, Minneapolis.
Wind in the laundry lines,
wind in grass.
Wind through the branches and bats.
Wind in the shadows of cars,
in the silver sails of the moon,
in grass.
Here it comes through the branches.
Here it comes behind the bats.

Two days sick in a motel in Rawlins, Wyoming,
the moving van parked in the sun,
wide streets, wind,
The clerk draws a map to McDonald’s
but the delicate rays of black ink
lead into bare
I sleep poorly,
waking often to the sensation of falling,
like an insect someone’s swallowed whole.

Bri an De Ma rco 39


This is a teepee for the tempest : is a pocket for a
prince : is a membrane for a mystery
A special climate for the rare occasion
A jump rope for the joy
A talisman in the river bed
Bearskin for the brush with death
This is eye contact : is a pilgrimage : is a prayer
Across the desert : under the stars : on the internet
A breeze beneath the talons
A touch to the cheek
It’s young : It’s terminal : It’s intimate


Every night, neural connections unravel a little
as your mind edits itself and resets, making way
for recently formed memories to replay
and become more sharply etched. You dream
of a lanky lawyer in a flawless dress shirt
who smells faintly of hotel lobby and of ham,
not to mention the one about teeth. Julia says
teeth mean control, but you’re pretty sure
they mean death. Either way, it’s not good
to dream about your mother in the tall, wet grass,
her arms folded as if to say, what are you waiting for?
And when Julia appears in tattered lace with
a green ribbon around her wrist and tells you
her terrible secret, you are happy because
she finally told you what you already knew.
It is not enough to say we are transparent things.
The sun sets in the cracks of a haggard, snowy peak.
The captain cracks his knuckles over the intercom.
The dog sleeps in cargo, sedate in its crate while
in the west rage against the blowing dust advisory.
Every September, the arctic ground squirrel
burrows beneath the tundra to curl up in a nest

of lichen and caribou hair. Its heart slows,
its lungs slow, its temperature dips below freezing
and electrical signals vanish in many areas of its
but don’t worry. Soon it will awaken and return
to the surface of the earth, hungry and eager
to mate, just as you will wake up with creases
on your face on a plane still circling airspace,
waiting for permission to land, just in time
to see clouds unraveling magenta, your brain
nicely blank but for vague pulses of light.


One day, the scientists tell us, every star in the
will burn out, the galaxies gradually blackening until
the last light flares and falls returning the all to
where it will remain until the end of what we have
to think of as time. But even in the dark, time would
go on,
bold in its black cloak, no shade, no shadow,
only the onward motion of movement, which is what
if it exists at all, really is: the absence of reversal, the
impossibility of that final fire dying into itself,
dragging the day deep into what it no longer is,
bowing only to rise into the other, into a shining
the heavens were commanded to host, the entire
always poised between the gravity of upward and
like the energy of a star itself constantly balanced
its weight straining to crush its core and the heat
of that

same core heaving it outward, as though what
redeems, what collapses also radiates, not unlike
this life, Love, which we are traveling through at
an astonishing speed, entire galaxies racing past,
universes, it is as if we are watching time itself drift
into the cosmos, like a spinning wall of images
already gone, and I realize most of what we know
we can’t see, like the birdsong overhead or the
in China building iPhones or the men picking
strawberries in the early dawn or even our sleeping
sons in the other room who will wake up and ask
for their light sabers. Death will come for
us so fast we will never be able to outrun it,
no matter how far we travel or how heavily
we arm ourselves against the invisible,
which is what I’m thinking, Love, even though the
in the blood that keeps you alive was born from a
star-death somewhere in the past that is also the
and what I mean to say is that I am so lucky
to be living with you in this brief moment
of light before everything goes dark.

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