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sparkle + blink 93
© 2018 Quiet Lightning

Nicholas Danby
@danbytown
“Motion” by Peter Bullen first appeared in Red Wheelbarrow
“The Pull” by Lili Weckler first appeared in Thin Air Magazine
“The Diary of Water” by Anna Avery
first appeared in Bombay Gin Literary Journal
book design by j. brandon loberg
set in Absara

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quietlightning.org
su bmit@ qui e tli g h tn i n g . o r g
CONTENTS
curated by
Sarah Carpenter + Gracie Malley
featured artist
Nicholas Danby | @danbytown

KATIE WHEELER-DUBIN My Right Foot 1


RISS ROSADO First Feast 5
PETER BULLEN Motion 9
Picture This 11
TRACY JANE GREGORY Cathy is Having a Bad Day 15
GLENN INGERSOLL Yes 19
IRIS BLOOMFIELD Summer 2017 21
HADAS GOSHEN First Time in Bali 23
ANDREW GORDON Black Plastic Chair 25

JOHNY BLOOD A Rake’s Confession 29


LILI WECKLER The Pull 33
ANNA AVERY The Diary of Water 39
ALEX TURNAGE Lunacy 49
CYRUS ARMAJANI Rise 51
Cough Syrup 52
ADAM MOSKOWITZ Traffic 53
Highway Trucks and
their Christmas Lights 54
KARTHIK SETHURAMAN Well-Lit 55
HTNING IS SPONSORED
U IE T L IG BY
Q
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
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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


- SET 1 -
KK KKKKKKKKKKK
KK KK
K K
M Y RIG HT F O O T

If we were naked, at a river, I wouldn’t be asking to


see your tongue or feel your pulse. I would be secretly
eyeing your toes. I would be looking to see if you had
round feet or long feet. If your ankles were knobbly or
if you had a little bit of edema. If your toes were hairy
or if your nails were painted. I would be looking to see
if there was anything wrong with your toenails.

I’ve had a fungus toe on my right foot as long as I


can remember. I always thought of it as something I
inherited from my Dad because he had fungus toes
that covered both feet. Then he took liver pills when
I was a teenager and they disappeared and our special
club became single-player Maddie. I just had one
fungal nail growing up as a kid, on my big toe. At pool
parties, I would stand so that my left foot covered my
right food. It’s spread. It’s four out of five toenails now.
But only on my right foot. My left foot is just great. I
love my left foot.

I study Chinese Medicine because it helps me connect


the dots. I don’t want to hide from who I am. I don’t
want to hide from my pathology.

1
What I know through Chinese Medicine is that the
nails of the body are connected to the Liver and the
Liver is the leader and governor of the free flow of
energy. Free flow of qi, to be specific. If I was a very
relaxed person and everything was going and flowing,
I would have perfect toenails. Pink and smooth and
translucent like little slices of bai shao. The Liver
governs your eyes, it governs your sinews and your
tendons, it governs shouting and anger. The Liver organ
is said to be associated with the Spring, with Windy
gusty days that stir up out of nowhere and leave you
breathless. I have weak nails on my hands that chip off.
My eyesight before Lasik eye surgery was bad. I have
a very hard time getting angry. When I study Chinese
Medicine and I study my imperfections, I see how my
anger repression issues show up as fungal utopia. My
nails are weak so they are a perfect breeding ground
for an enemy invasion.

Some people get scared of my toes. Don’t worry, you


can’t catch them. You can catch bad vibes and bad
moods. You can catch mopey mean perspectives on
the current state of affairs. Bad moods love company,
haven’t you noticed? I try to hang out with people
who bring me joy, but life isn’t always a bag of fresh
apricots. The world can feel very evil. I think I learned
how to repress my emotions from my Dad. A pill
named Lamisil sorted out his nail problem. I don’t
want to take pills. Imperfection is human. I want to
be human.

2
I am attached to my toes, ugly as they are. Imperfect
as they are. These toes help me weed out boyfriends.
Some people bury their monsters deep deep inside. Me,
it’s out in the world to see, on my right foot. Take a
look. I’m wearing gold toenail polish so good luck.

I’m in therapy for my negative patterns.

Have you noticed that we get mad at other people


for the things we’re obsessed about with ourselves?
We’re like, why does my roommate always chew
their ice when they’re done with their coke? And
it’s because you’re afraid of chewing loudly, which
might draw attention to your crooked teeth, but
you subconsciously relabel it as politeness, and then
get mad at other people’s food sounds but it’s really
because you’re jealous of their toothy freedom. My
judgement of my own feet makes me afraid you’ll
judge me too. Oh Maddie, I like to chide when I watch
my right foot hide under my left when the nail polish
rubs off. I really want my right foot to get sun too but
the shame is so loud.

If you think I’ll judge your toes, don’t worry. No one


has as ugly toes as me, so I win. I’m the winner.

I’m seeing a therapist, willingly this time, and I’m


starting to warm up, even though she’s probably not
a wizard. I believe everybody should get therapy, but
at the same time it feels like I’ve failed at something,
or gotten into terrible trouble. I don’t have any

Kat i e Wh e e le r- Du bi n 3
opiate addictions. I burn myself, but it’s a 5,000 year
old tradition called moxa. As a child, I tortured small
animals. I don’t do that anymore.

Therapy isn’t limited to one hour a week. It could


become every single conversation you have, with
yourself, with any person who’s around. Talking to
dogs is great because they have wonderful hearing
abilities and are needy in only predictable ways. I try
not to launch into therapy-talk with just anyone. I try
not to be a punisher. If someone asks, I’ll talk about
my back pain. It’s much easier to talk about your back
pain than your anger.

Maybe after ten years of therapy and acupuncture, my


toenails will be beautiful like yours. I will be beautiful
not only on the inside, but on the outside too.

4
RRRRRRR
RRRR

F IR ST F E A ST

the plan is
meet at my place
walk to Hanover Park
have a picnic
end of date

the plan is find something to wear in the next 4


minutes
you’re my first queer date
but I won’t ever tell you
because Gold Star lesbians
don’t give bisexuals the time of anything

the plan is play on the classic picnic


with a Grown Up twist:
matching PB&Js
a banana for each of us
bottle of sparkling lemonade
bottle of wine
bar of dark chocolate

the plan is be totally chill


as I open the door and see you for the first time:
oh wow

5
even cuter in person
oh wow you have hand tattoos
oh wow
you’re a nomad and a massage therapist
you’ve been to festivals I’ve never heard of
how long have we been talking
let’s open the wine

the plan is have a glass of wine while we continue


talking
I’ve had a full-body blush since you walked in
you’ve unconsciously touched my arm twice
I’m counting
I blurt out that I like to draw faces on bananas and
give them backstories
I draw aviator shades and a mohawk on yours and
you laugh
oh wow your laugh
but aren’t you hungry?
let’s have our picnic here

the plan is have an indoor picnic


the wine is gone
you tell me you’re a little under the weather
I make you a hot toddy
ginger tea honey and whiskey
your eyes light up
you giggle
we talk
you maybe slurred a word in there
oh wait

6
the plan was not to get you drunk
oh no
you’re so small
you were maybe drinking in stride with me
not knowing I am a competitive wine drinker
oh no
you’re tired, in no shape to drive

the plan is offer you my couch


because the date is going well but maybe not well
enough to invite you to bed?
I don’t know how this works
this is my first queer date I’m sorry
I make up the couch
tuck you in
go to my bed alone
tuck myself in

the plan is not get murdered


there’s a stranger, essentially, asleep on my couch,
I lock my bedroom door.

the plan is wake up and make you breakfast


but you’re gone

I am about to sink into a funk


when I see my banana

Ri ss Rosa do 7
you drew a face on it

you signed your name

you said, “see you next time”

later you reveal you woke up in the middle of the


night, thirsty for me, that you knocked on my door
but it was locked, so you went back to sleep, and you
slipped out for an appointment in the morning.

the plan is see you again


as soon as possible

8
PPPPPPPPP
PPP

M O TI O N

My wife Cindy asked me why the spokesman on


television was waving around, had I noticed, and did
it disturb me? The truth is I was wholly absorbed in
the design of his sweater. It was a tic-tac-toe pattern
without any x’s or o’s, and I sort of missed seeing those.
One thing Cindy and I had in common right then
was the television spokesman. In a marriage, common
ground is everything, I’ve been told. I was told this
by a man in a pea-green suit, a barker outside a strip
club. They are always so emphatic. The television
spokesman was speaking about people who were
knowledgeable. That sure did grab my attention,
because those were exactly the people I’d set out to
find many years ago. I was still looking, and I wasn’t
getting any younger. I didn’t think the spokesman was
waving around, although after Cindy brought it up I
had to admit his shoulders were swaying slightly. I said
as much. Cindy said she probably ought to leave me
if I was the sort of man who could sit idly by while a
spokesman on television swayed around on the screen
like that. And she didn’t appreciate me downplaying
the degree of motion he was in either, with a cheesy
bit of alliteration like “swaying slightly”. There was
nothing slight about my rudeness she added. It was

9
quite brazen and not even a little bit sexy. Which, she
went on to say, was unfortunate, since brazen can be
very sexy in different circumstances. I had to agree
with her there. Cindy was first rate at the making of
salient points. If memory serves, that’s what had me
fall in love with her in the first place; that and her
promise to make me watch the news in leather chaps.
“We could just turn him off,” I said. “Are you kidding?”
she screamed, her face turning a scary shade of red.
“Now he’ll be in our thoughts forever, we’ll never shake
him!”

10
PICTURE THIS

“I don’t think much is coming” I said.

“Where were you when you had that thought?”


she said.

“Does location matter?” I said.

“Location is everything,” she said.

“Everything seems like a lot,” I said.

“Everything is a lot, an awful lot,” she said.

“Well yes,” I said, “one can hardly argue with that.”

“So where were you?” she said.

“I was sitting outside a coffee shop.”

“You do that a lot, don’t you?”

“A fair amount I suppose,” I said.

“Is it helping?”

“I’ve got to sit somewhere,” I said.

“Why don’t you lie down?”

“You mean outside the coffee shop?” I said.

“You’d see the stars,” she said.

“They’re not out in the daytime,” I said.

P e t e r Bu lle n 11
“They’re always there,” she said.

“Well I suppose that’s true,” I said, “but I only see


them at night.”

“You could imagine them in the daytime,” she said.

“I never thought to do that,” I said.

“That might be your trouble,” she said.

“Do I have a trouble?” I said.

“You have many,” she said.

“Are there any you’d like to address? “ I said.

“We could start with your lack of imagination. You


were fine lying down with me but where was
your imagination, probably outside some coffee
shop,” she said.

“It’s true my mind did wander, which is hard to


believe because I craved every opportunity to
lie down with you, and you did grant me several
episodes.”

“Episodes?” she said.

“Times of mutual lying down.” I said.

“Which you thought of as episodes?” she said.

“Yes, but fabulous episodes in an amazing series; one


I would even recommend to friends, but if I did
I think I’d be struck with terrible jealousy, so I
never mentioned the episodes to others.”

12
“Not a single person? “

“Well I did attempt to give Max an overview.”

“Max is handsome,” she said.

“You see what I mean,” I said.

“Not really,” she said.

“Now you’ve gone and told me Max is handsome and I


feel jealous.” I said.

“Well where does he live?” she said.

“I don’t see how giving out his address helps anyone.”


I said.

“Well it would help the mailman,” she said.

“But you’re not the mailman” I said.

“I could pretend,” she said, “we could call that episode:


a pretend mailman goes to see Max.”

“I’m not feeling so good, I think I’ll have to lie down.”

“You’ll see the stars,” she said.

“I’ll pretend I’m seeing them,” I said.

“Don’t forget about Max’s address,” she said.

“I’ll try not to,” I said, “but I’m starting to fall fast
asleep.”

P e t e r Bu lle n 13
T TTTTTTTTTTTT
T TT TT
C AT H Y I S H AV I N G
A BAD DAY

Cathy is having a bad day. She feels the weight of


her fat to the point of distraction. Cathy can’t take it
anymore and decides she needs a break.

So, she leaves work early to stop by the quaint church


on 5th street; the one she never visits but always tells
herself to, especially on days she’s had more than her
doctor’s recommended amount of pound cake. But
today, Cathy bravely pushes open the church’s studded
Victorian doors, thinking God is light. God is many
people’s savior, including mine, gosh darnet! The doors
open to an empty church; Cathy’s guilty pleasure, for
she just couldn’t handle any Bible thumpers breathing
down her neck today. She quietly sits in a pew in the
last row, resting her clasped hands in her polyester-
covered lap.

But as Cathy begins to conjure the prayer verging on


wish list she recited as a young girl, something feels
off. This pew is not the lacquered mahogany she
remembers from childhood; her little legs would
slide with glee across that bench in the 62-degree air
as she conjured angels catching her before she’d spill

15
into the aisle. Instead, this pew is pine, and unfinished.
This air is not conditioned, but heavy and humid. Even
with the accumulation of sweat underneath her now
thick thighs, she would never be able to slide across this
wood. No angels, no matter how strong, would catch
her now. The weight of God is suddenly unbearable.
Cathy, forgetting to cross herself, tumbles out of the
pew and back onto the street.

Searching for a familiar holiness, Cathy spies a spiritual


bookstore on the other side of 5th. She wheezes her
way through the crosswalk, flipping the bird at a blue
Dodge that almost runs her over.

After entering the store, she finds herself in front of


the Alternative Religions section and picks up a book
on Possessive Spiritualism. The epigraph instructs her
to forget everything she knows about the afterlife
by recalling her traditional ideologies on an inhale
and releasing them on an exhale. As her concentrated
breath exits her nose, Cathy receives a message.

Lie on your back.

Cathy questions the validity of this message, fearing


the bookstore patrons’ perceptions of her if she were
to lie down on this mysteriously stained carpet. But
the unknown presence does not waver.

Lie on your back and you will find what you are searching
for.

16
Cathy walks to the section of the store she thinks
will be the least populated, the Poetry section, and
collapses next to Rilke and Rumi.

Now, have you ever had another spirit inside of your body?

Cathy finds this question ridiculous. Of course, she


has. God’s spirit is everywhere.

No, not an omniscient presence, says the voice, but one spirit,
existing only inside of you.

Cathy pauses. She has likened the thought of her


ancestors moving freely through her body, particularly
in times of turmoil, but she has never recognized this
idea to be true.

Cathy, I want you to try an exercise to show you what it’s


like to live with another.

Cathy expels a second breath and silently agrees.

Stare at the ceiling, eyes open until they are tearing.

Cathy can only remember doing such an activity as a


young girl when challenged to play the crying game.
All the other girls could tear up just from a sad memory,
but, as a child, Cathy rarely felt strong emotions and
had to physically force herself to cry.

Remain so still that your vision does not blur.

Tra cy Jane Gre gory 17


Cathy complies and eventually her tears form a
protective layer over her eyeballs: a liquid lens. She
no longer sees the water spot on the ceiling but now
identifies the specs floating in the air. It’s as if these
dust and skin particles are, in fact, her soul being
carried gently past her head. For the first time, Cathy
can see clearly. It’s a sharpness, a freedom, that allows
her to see the world anew.

Excuse me, ma’am?

An unfamiliar face penetrates Cathy’s vision, and she


enters her bloated body once again. Cathy apologizes
to the bookstore employee before buying five copies
of Possessive Spiritualism and returning home to eat a
pound cake and pass out on her futon.

18
GG GGGGGGGGG
GG GG

YES

I climbed a ladder to your yes.


I broke down a door to your yes.
I flipped a switch and your yes lit up, then started
flashing YES! YES! YES!

I found your yes in stickery bushes.


I found your yes in a jar in a box.
I found your yes asleep among pigeons.

I wandered across a desert to your yes.


I rolled up my pant legs and waded through a stream
to your yes.
I lay down and closed my eyes and in my darkness
came to your yes.

I went into the store of international agreement and


put down money for your yes.
I will give you this beautiful stone, I said, if you will
give me your yes.
I brought your yes back to you, thinking it lost.

I have everything, I sometimes think, as I have


your yes.
If the thunder rattles the windows it cannot
drown out your yes.
19
All night I sit up beside your yes, unable to sleep.

I go from your yes and miss it.


I am here; I don’t know where your yes is now.
On a map I put a dot indicating the place of your yes.

I am standing at a bridge railing over a slow river


when suddenly I remember your yes.
I tell a woman smoking in a teahouse your yes is
nearby.
I cut open a cantaloupe, scoop out the seeds, strip off
the rind; in its sweetness I taste your yes.

20
IIIIIIIIIIII
III

SU M M ER 2 0 17

I eat a few dates and watch YouTube videos.


It’s a hundred degrees outside. My plants are dying.
I’m gonna scream so hard into the river the
fish die. I’m going to push my fingers through
my skull. I’m going to unhinge my jaw and twist
myself into it, even though what I really
want is to be a conch shell on the shore
licked by ocean waves. Instead
I am my own dense atom-cloud
vibrating money, pink with sex
for a word you once said

21
HHHHHHHHH
HHH

FI R ST TI M E I N B A LI

I remember the bat we saw in Bali


Inverted, clinging to the tree by the feet
His brown body trembling and taut
How rare, we thought, stunning to

Unearth him here like this, a held breath


Between impossibly slanted shops, spilling
Their silvered masks, glinting hot rows
Of sharp white teeth, wooden clawed

Carvings and golden discs on which to


Ash one’s cigarettes. Marlboros, I think it
Was back then, those meditative inhales
When you came upon the bat pointing

Look there, I turned and thought how lithe


And frail, the way he held himself
So human. The owner approached us then,
Offered up a photogenic snake.

We left the clearing when I noticed


Chains rusting around his tiny fingered feet.
I did not stop to ask you if you’d seen it,
Somehow I understood we both

23
Absorbed the price of paradise, in
Our pineapple vodkas and tan lined
Pelvic kiss, the faux honeymoon mattress on
Which we laughed inverted. The day

I left Bali I grabbed you by the ankle


Tied a woven bracelet around your foot, desperate
Souvenir that I was. I’d forgotten you’d already
Been to Bali. You knew about the bat.

24
AAAAAAAAAAA
AA
B L A C K P L A STI C C H A I R

My father is a black plastic chair


Sitting alone in the dandelion sun.
He supports me
While I read, while I eat,
And when lovers tell me
They must leave.
When I kneel to hug him,
He folds shut.
Then there is nothing
To do but carry him inside.

25
SHE IS FOLDING HER CLOTHES

she is folding her clothes.


sweaters, jeans, blouses.
they dry in the sun,
slung over iron patio chairs.
as she folds, she hums.
bees drink from the daffodils,
and hummingbirds sit on piles of tangy oak air.
i wade through the depths beneath them,
for humidity is such a treat in the desert.
she is folding her clothes.
folding shadows of her body
and placing herself in stacks.

26
- SET 2 -
JJJJJJJJ
JJJ
A R A K E ’S C O N F E S S I O N

When I woke up they said to me, it was you, you were


the one who did it, it was you who did all those things
and the things they said, they said it was me but it
wasn’t, it wasn’t me or it wasn’t, how shall I say, it was
not me that’s talking right now, it’s not me who says I
am I right now, does that make sense? It was another
one. I don’t think it does. I see that, I see that it doesn’t
make sense but what I mean is that the one who is
myself, the one that I am right now, the one who I say
I am I, that one was asleep. That one is me, it is I and I
was asleep and so then you see, right? That I couldn’t
have, that I couldn’t have been there and I couldn’t
have done it because I was here, I was asleep. It was a
dream and I was asleep and now I’m still asleep, I am
still in this dream or, I don’t know any more, maybe it’s
a different dream but I think I’m asleep and having a
dream, that’s all, it’s not me, I don’t know who it is but
it’s not me, not I, I am still asleep. It’s a dream, that’s
all, but I don’t like this dream and they keep telling me
what I did, but I didn’t, I didn’t do it, it didn’t happen,
or it didn’t happen like that, like they say it did, or it
did but it was someone else, or anyway, no, I do not
like this dream. I keep trying to wake up and see
what happened and they keep telling me it was you,
you did those things and then they tell me all the
29
things I did, that they say I did, and I’m talking to them,
I’m explaining it and they keep saying it was you, it
was you, and no, no I do not like this dream. It can’t be
like that, like everyone says, like everyone keeps telling
me, that can’t be it. That can’t be right. That’s what I
keep saying. That I was asleep, that it was a dream. A
bad dream though. A very bad dream. I remember…I
don’t remember, I don’t think I can remember, but it
was a very bad dream. I can’t tell if it’s over, it seems
like it’s over now and I’ve woken up, and then I hear
how bad it is, how bad everything is and I think no,
that’s not it. That’s something different. I remember
and it’s bad, it’s a very bad dream, but it’s different
from what they say, but then that’s not the dream, it’s
not like that, it’s not what they say, it’s not me, it’s
not me that did it. Not me, it’s…I don’t know. I don’t
know who. Another. Someone else. You know? I think
there’s someone, there’s a guy wearing my clothes,
everything, my shoes, my watch, my voice, but he says,
what he says, first of all, it’s much more, how shall I
say. More confident-sounding, I guess, he’s much more
confident-sounding than I am, like, he’s pretending
to be me but he’s actually better at it than I am. You
know? He’s better at being me than I am at being me,
but that’s not right. I’m asleep, it’s night time and I’m
asleep, but he’s out there and everyone seems to think
he’s right, when they hear what he says it seems right,
but that’s not how I would say it, or not how I think I
would or, I don’t know. He was talking, he was talking
and he was saying all sorts of things like I do and the
weird thing is that I could hear him, I could hear what

30
he was saying even though I wasn’t there, I don’t know
how, maybe that was the dream and I could hear him,
it was like me, it was, it was like things I would say but
it wasn’t. It wasn’t, it was much more, I don’t know,
more clever maybe, clever and interesting and people
seemed to be listening and they liked it but it wasn’t
me. And do you know what he said. I know it’s not true,
all those stories he told, they’re not true but I wouldn’t
call them lies. And even what I’m saying right now. I
mean who’s saying it. Who’s speaking right now. It’s
me, it’s me of course because—you can tell right? You
can tell that this is me and it shouldn’t be, no it should
be, it’s right but now I don’t know any more. I can’t
tell. And no one would listen. They all said, they all
kept saying I did it, you shot at that boy they said, you
covered those people’s faces and made them stand on
that stool, all those things, you did that, and you know
what it was, it wasn’t me, it wasn’t me I was asleep
and then he, you know the other one, he said, that one
said, well then someone did it for you. You wanted to, I
didn’t want to but he said I wanted to, he said I wanted
to and someone did it for me, he used my name and he
did it for me and now you’re happy, he said, you can
admit it, you know this is what you wanted and I’m
not…I didn’t do it and I didn’t want it and now I can’t
get rid of it. I can’t get away from it and everyone says
it was me and I can’t wake up. And he keeps saying,
he keeps telling me that even if you didn’t hold that
guy down, even if you weren’t the one who grabbed
that woman and started choking her, which, I mean
even if you did it was OK, you did what you thought

Joh ny Blood 31
was right, but even if that wasn’t you who did it, still
you know what you’ve done. You know what you’ve
done and it’s just as bad. You’ll never straighten it out,
you’ll never be OK but think it over, really it’s OK. He
says, you can never come back from this. After what
you’ve done, no you can never go back. What you’ve
lost is lost forever. But you know you would have lost
it anyway so in that way, yes it’s OK. That’s not true,
or I don’t know maybe that part is true. That I’ll lose,
you know, lose everything I guess, I don’t want that to
be true. It doesn’t have to be. Or maybe I already have.
Do you know what he told me? This really was a lie I
think, I mean I know it’s not true, he said—I know, I
know I shouldn’t fall for it, but he said don’t worry,
things can be like they were before, everything will
be like it used to be and that’s just what I wanted to
hear, I knew it wasn’t true but that’s what I wanted to
hear, he said things could be like they were before. But
that it could be over and I could just forget, no I don’t
believe that. I think if everyone would stop saying it, if
someone would just say yes of course you were asleep
and it was a dream but not if I say it. Not if it’s just
something I’m saying to myself. You know? But I think,
I don’t know it seems like it can’t be just a dream. If
it’s a dream, if it’s only a dream, then this, I mean me
saying it is a dream. Then it’s not even a dream it’s a…
no. Then there’s no end. Then it couldn’t stop because,
do you see, because it would keep going on. I mean if
this. I mean if me right now. If me what I’m saying. If
this is a dream and I’m still dreaming then I don’t need
to wake up, I need to go back to sleep. If this is a dream
I’ll go back to sleep. No.
32
LLLLLLLL
LLLL

THE PULL
I.

The difference between my body


and the objects it encounters. Body: a process,
a shifting, liquid experience. A pull, spread, push,
contract kind of being. Objects: the way
I know my body is in this world.

The hard, incredibly black, metal pan


on the stove. The olive oil pouring
out of the bottle. Heat, in dense blue, slurping
magnetic arcs out of the burners. Heat near
my belly, my wrists. My fingers
on the handle of the hot pan.

This is when the objects and my body


come to know each other. Come to define
themselves in relation to one another. I am
a creature that feels the heat of this pan. That eats
food cooked by the heat in this pan, coated in
the oil that runs out of the glass bottle.

I am a creature who travels


inside a machine, presses a lever
with her right foot. Fills a hole in its side
with an anteater’s snout; snout that cracks bedrock. Snout
that eats money; delivers brown juice.
33
I am a creature who owns this machine, who thinks
it should do my bidding, take me wherever
I like. I’m exasperated when it needs servicing.
Can’t it take care of itself?

I am a creature who sleeps like sandwich meat


between foam and feathers, in a box with yellow
walls and a wooden floor. A creature who
does not have to deal with her own excrement, can send it
spiraling away as if it did not exist. Is this how I know
my nature? Could it be different? Could my daily objects
be non-objects; a life in verbs instead of nouns?

Breathing (in-motion). Could I touch verbs. Be held


by them. Pour cold water out of them
into my mouth. Or stick my mouth inside
them, maybe my whole head, and suck the water
from them as they move in ways
I cannot and do not wish to direct.

II.

1. The future-tense of a supernova. Free, or incredibly low-cost


pizza-makers, baby shoes, and disposable straws. Things no
one needs but Americans buy anyway.
2. A short, but deeply muscled, black man with a tattoo in
cursive on his thick neck that says WANDA.
3. Trying to get another fix, from the pusher on the corner,
his shining pink forehead buried in a bowler. So hard to
communicate through the double-paned window (no voice),

34
and assumptions of deadness.
4. Wanda, in all her glory, perversely cooking eggs on a
non-stick.
5. Fissures, combustion, insufferable light. Opening,
sifting, stripping. Burrows and burrows. Lives,
moulton, into the pits of mountains. Like the
colonizer who insists on living according to his old
order, the rhythms of his mother England. His biscuits
at 3. His plastic skin, white button-downs, even in the
tremendous heat. Cultural adaptation only a capacity
of the lower classes?
6. Typical tech-world internet handle: his last name
spelled omitting the final vowel. Untraceable, elegant,
and yet requiring no creativity to invent. Name that
was at first a profile, that became a man, and then
quickly a ghost.
7. Ghosting, a new verb. Taking up residence next to
other things with which the internet replaced life-
sustaining actions. Replaced with a false sense of
agency acts of actual doing-ness. To be ghosted: we’re
all non-plussed to be on the receiving end of that stick.
And does that make the ghoster “plussed,” as it were?
Perhaps.
8. Ghost: a verb that means non-doing. The rejected not
even deserving of an active rejection; rejected only by
assumptions made in a vacancy.
9. 9 or 10 cops, mostly at attention, holding the sides
of their belts—chests jutting, elbows cranked back,
surveying everyone. One or two sloppily out of form,
standing but slouching, or leaning against their
bicycles like ordinary men.

Li li We ckle r 35
10. 9 or 10 white cops and one skinny, black drug-addict,
repeatedly fixing the waist of his pants, as if his
undergarments can’t quite fit beneath the fabric and
need constantly to be reached into and smoothed
down. Blood on the sidewalk, almost invisible against
the red brick. And yet, from up close, somehow
hyper-visible, especially after staining the tan soles of
unsuspecting shoes.
11. The thick, indecent smell of menstrual fluid in the
bathroom stall. Not my own, but enough like my own
smell to be intimately recognizable. Feral. Undeniable.
12. Confessions: first to the church, and later to Freud, the
biggest ear of the modern century. Foucault: the spankee
scholar, conceiving the panopticon, swinging around
the black leather playroom.
13. The history of bodies. Bodies, their very firmament,
created by history, and history, produced, organized,
formulated by bodies (en mass). Bodies hanging from
ships. Bodies buried in fields and fields and pyramids
and walls. Bodies directing great hulks of steel across
the land and sky. Bodies below pairs of hovering eyes,
fixed before glowing portals to anywhere.
14. Planets, stars, asteroids and empty space produce
bodies but are not produced by them. Not reciprocal
entities like history. Land. Mountain. “Space.” A place
we manage to visit but do not seem, yet, to occupy. Or
to change.

36
III.

an eye for an (I)

sometimes it isn’t about forgiveness. it’s


about anger. anger invigorating. anger
demolishing. i don’t know if i can tolerate
the risks associated. (my frustration. my arousal.)

female desire makes men (and women)


uncomfortable. so does my rage. do i
have an (I) to occupy here, in this america
of lower-case women.

Li li We ckle r 37
AAAAAAAAAA

THE DIARY OF WATER

In the heartbeat of the sea, the parents name the child


they do not know yet. They repeat the same cycles of
culture, ideology, and rain.

39
At the bottom of the child’s spine something peaks in pain.
A small hand pulls out a pin needle connecting vertebras
to vertebras and a silver sap seeps out. The child falls dead

40
The child rushes in blue roulettes, breaking down bone-by-
bone, forming cursive in the waves, twirling and reflecting
a soft metallic image.

Anna Ave ry 41
Lead paves the streets and doorways, slips into the water,
pours into a spider web fog weaves its way between
buildings and school districts. The water pushes and
breaks itself in a continuous sulfuric flow, water struggles
up walls of banks and creates an acidic current.

42
The child plays with another child, bouncing a ball in
between minefields. One child says to the other: “We
are friends but more than five hundred years and five
hundred thousands grave yards stand between us. What
shall we do?”

Anna Ave ry 43
In the space between sounds, a nervous system chatters.
The child prepares its meal, goes to work, and pretends
that nothing bad has ever happened. Bloodied spirituality
wears white satin. Unanswered questions wear the drag
of declaration, an eddy called culture. A silence says more
than not saying, a burial at sea, and dissociative dream, a
culture built upon a rotting foundation

44
Sea. Ocean dark, swallowing the picture of a memory
dissipates into sepia foam constructed of bubbles and air.
Delicate. Transparent air. Sea foam, womb contains an
invisible sea monster on a half-shell, spreading and glit-
tering and naked, blue and black and full of plastic and
brine.

Anna Ave ry 45
Swirling eddies white foam white noise
water digs into itself beneath tan and pink granite rocks.
Waterfall underneath movement foam, ripples agile skin,
gold pools underneath the water is a warm permeable
soft metallic membrane. Triangular waves irregular scales
layering. Rocks hold space for water to flow. Turbulent
crossing over millions of large and small pebbles and
boulders. These rocks form a line, then a curve, gouge
delicately into the land.

46
Memory fades into a voice without waves and a picture
without images. Thinking is a process of holding tightly
to the water. 80 percent of memory sheds into the canyon
of the cervix. Sun peaks into the second story hard wood
floor studio apartment. The sun warms the bed, the body
of a young woman hunched in a curl, draped in gold
curtains, against a grey brick wall. A mobile of deer bones
circle above her, whispering purple lullabies. Calligraphy
weeps, holds her heart with its giggling fist in a gesture to
protect. What has been hurt, what feels pain. Love songs
crawl up sweet spine boughs.

Anna Ave ry 47
Two lovers together on one bed. Drenched hours gleam
pink noises; satin magenta circles of her solitude. Circular
sounds imprint sobs create a fullness, languishes in
spacious corners, tender noise in the deep end.

48
AAAAAAAAA
AAA

LUNACY

A crescent moon acts as a


pale blue beacon illuminating
thin murky clouds against a pitch black sky
and radiating even the darkest surfaces

A boy on a porch
admiring the celestial plane.
Like a professional symphonic orchestra or
a clumsy puppy or the Burj Khalifa
might bring another to their knees.
An addict of inspiring awe
he wishes to carry the moon in his pocket,
to present it before friends and family
an everlasting ephemeral experience.

So he grabs his phone


aiming diligently upwards
to capture and display
what belonged to the sky.
Yet each time he tried to frame the moon,
the sky moved the clouds to protect its child
or made a face too bright for a camera to see.
The boy cursed his infernal device
for failing his every desire.

49
The soft twilight eased his defeat
that planted itself on the boy’s facade.
But after a brief eternity,
the boy smiled. Beauty cannot always
be captured, reproduced and manufactured
and it was sheer madness to believe
a mortal being such as he could hold
such exuberant brilliance.

50
CCCCCCCCCCCC
CC

RISE

The concrete can rise up and shoot


Swishers and Skittles, and there is this sadness -

even if you are standing on the corner


painting mountains and streams
the concrete will rise -

the sadness of knowing no one will ever tell you,


“You. You are the true and rightful owner of
the moon.”

51
COUGH SYRUP

the city’s skunks are not skunks


they are purple
the city’s raccoons are not raccoons
they used to live in The City
the city’s roosters are not roosters
they are sirens
the city’s strays are not cats
they are dogs who think they are men
the city’s squirrels are not squirrels
they are mothers nervous their kids play outside
because police think their boys are men but
the city’s boys are boys are boys are boys
our boys our boys our boys are our boys
if we repeat it
it will be true
the way writing lines in elementary school
was true and not true and true because
teachers good teachers sane societies believe in
second chances
because learning is second chances over and
over again
making the same mistake over and over again until
you learn not to push, to be gentle,
learn how to spell beautiful.

52
A AAAAAAAAAA
AA A

T R A F FI C

We took the exit for the whole world. Saw a sign that it
was under construction. When you’re rolling down a
ramp at fifty what are the options? All we could do was
have our thoughts and my thought during the first few
minutes was, “I’ll say!” The city was gutted and there
were sparks and shouts and ignorance and everyone
was in it together. This world is under construction
and it hurts and it’s full of some of the best parties. We
all have our moments. They’re so real we can’t take it.
Each of us, known and unknown, wonders how this is
possible. This irritation, this bliss. The aches and the
damned reservoirs beneath the skin.

53
HIGHWAY TRUCKS AND THEIR
CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

Blue paint explodes in a truck’s light like the eyes of


the still animal body. We mark some of the best nature
with fast food signs. This American rodent knows
about the trucks, yet it targets the tonnage that barrels
across.

Beneath the fur, the slamming heart. The knowing


about the breathing, and the life just like it’s own,
behind the wheel.

Let’s go for romance. Let’s assume this is a prairie. At


the gas station we’ll forget about current pumping
from the ground, we’ll bathe in the cool ether wind,
and the light will feel celestial. It might feel like a
contradiction. It’ll be just about breathing. And heaven,
right at the pump, with all this electricity. With the
knowing of all the living and dying. In this streaming
field of false bright light. The truck sounds won’t be so
monstrous. They’ll be visible in the stars.

54
K KKKKKKKKKKKK
K KK KK

W E L L -L IT

I am sitting on the toilet and stifle a cough and am


surprised
to hear my brother who I haven’t seen in a while ask
me
from the neighboring stall what I’ve been up to and
I reply
with nothing but inquire why I’ve missed him all this
time
and he gently reminds me that he passed away a few
years
ago in the middle of a well-lit street where passersby
sometimes
stopped to smoke so I tell him that I do remember
with great
clarity another moment we sat side-by-side in the
bathroom
a moment spent in silence when we were still
teenagers dragged
onto the beach by our uncle a whale of a man who
laid on the sand
like a merman or more a sea lion begging for mid-
afternoon applause
and my brother remarks that he would very much
like to visit again

55
but where will I be the next time and should we
mark something
on our calendars and I ask him how he tracks his ap-
pointments
and he groans that he has too many obligations to
the living
so I promise him I will see him again and he promises
me the same
then he leaves and I stay still and am stuck and am
afraid
I am afraid to unroll the toilet paper I am afraid to
disturb his body
lying in the rain I am afraid of what waits outside of
this well-lit
room I am afraid to admit to our mother that he was
too young
I am afraid to implore him come home I am afraid to
wipe the tears
which wash over my face with the force of gently
pitying laughter
I am afraid to wash my hands I am afraid to clean
myself I am afraid.

56
- may 7, 2018 -

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