Q uiet L

ightning
sPARKLE & bLINK
7

Q uiet L ightning
sPARKLE & bLINK
as performed on Sept 6 10 @ Mina Dresden Gallery © 2010 by Evan Karp + Rajshree Chauhan 978-0-557-63272-5

front + back cover art by cat soldier
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cover design by dawn andres
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layout by evan karp
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Q uiet Lightning
is a monthly submission-based reading series with 2 stipulations you have to be able to be there to submit you only get 3-8 min submit ! !

« contents »
paul corman-roberts
you so lit 9

julia halprin jackson
gravy, baby, and other ways to make love 17 your prophylactics are my marbles

18

jesus castillo
from “remains” 21

scott lambridis
0.54 seconds 25

carrie seitzinger
two crows lines like bees, like ghosts 38 33

andrew paul nelson
knew bad scientists tell obvious lies 43 45

frank stopp
I am becoming a sounding brass 51

katie may
monologues 57

matty byloos
tons confessions: happily stained 77

amy glasenapp
veronica 91

steven gray
a pathological community the junkies on montgomery street 97 104

william taylor jr.
rush hour and the girl … 107 a certain light mission street, december most of what they’ve said

109 110 113

w. ross ayers

the vote

115

shruti swamy
breathless 121

m.g. martin
bumbye tourists wouldn’t understand 129 132

laura riggs
from My Fat Tuesdays (part II) 135

Paul Corman-Roberts

YOU SO LIT
You stand on the San Clemente shoreline & look on a wavering horizon and wonder when the Tsunami is coming and if arrangements could be made to formally greet it with a luau, a poetry reading and a phone call from whom-ever the leader of the free world might be at that particular moment. Until then these warm breezes which make your spine light up like a south strip Vegas Christmas tree; these Santa Ana’s that make the lot owners in the hills terribly nervous are the only communications that can be banked with the elemental gods whose benevolence over the long term could be deemed unstable at best. Down the shoreline, out into the overdeveloped frontage streets and through the
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relevant commercial drags all you can see is your fellow amoeba born into flux yet everywhere bound by reflections of starlight more and more refined into trans-global lay lines secured primarily through their own spinal coils, all these recurring journal entries an interlude by our own stricken agendas. Back at the ensconcement you sneer at the brittle gallery of flickering salvations: “Don’t harsh my breeze mom” as you generously distribute secular attachments throughout the landscape like Johnny Appleseed gone Zen on a karmic bender; flavored cigarettes given over to the heartbroken members of the writing group; chapbooks to those editors you never speak with anymore; the porn password to that Austin poet whose rent boy just disappeared
« 10 »

Paul Corman-Roberts

for what should be the last time. You’re shedding vices like a method actor on cold turkey. Own the fog, its musty crisp aroma an agitant to your abused sinuses, a sweet gray masochism to wrap about the torso. You own the coming summerwinter, shaking out ills in the fluorescent dawn stinging the insides of your tainted gums. But that rhythmic tsunami inhale/exhale of forgotten things comes roaring back when you least expect doesn't it? No warning and not in single or individual components but all at once, a wave that could have come from nowhere but the empire of Psyche because you didn't see it and it is the nature of that element so casually invoked, so casually manipulated to do so.
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The only thing you refuse to release now is this ubiquitous starlight. Give none of it away now. Not one photon. As if any of us could. The point is to be through pretending there is anything else. We should own the frequency of our temperate wraiths, no matter how gravitationally challenged they are by the dark matter radiating from our forever reptile hearts. A billowing gray behemoth rises up to devour your dear barricaded peninsula in its mouth-less maw. Somewhere up there in the neon lotus festooned wrinkles the chattering teeth & rolling eyes snake their heads and moan; all the while knowing to dig just a little deeper into already furrowed wrists. Keep us safe and numb in the shadow of the billowing gray behemoth, runs every version of this left handed prayer.
« 12 »

Paul Corman-Roberts

You so engaged. You so connected. You so identified. You so realized. You so manifest. You so lit on every channel. Not until it was too late did you find yourself ensnared in weeds whose roots were not thoroughly pulled and eradicated decades ago. Give up. Dive into her waters and let the Olympians have their turn at you. Otherwise you will have to go through all of this all over again. Days, weeks, years, decades, lifetimes from now. All of it. Again and again. Just give up. You must believe that the casually invoked element will inevitably have its way with you, if you are to invoke it so casually. Otherwise there would be no other choice but to self-combust above the glare of the horror that is the greater Los Angeles
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basin; an “I” forever staring up into the unforgiving of the void.

« 14 »

Paul Corman-Roberts

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« 16 »

Julia Halprin Jackson

GRAVY, BABY,
And other ways to make love
1. Your bicycle rubs up against mine in the hallway all day long. 2. I prefer driving stick because then I can miss and grab your knees. 3. Your parents finally left to walk the dog. 4. Remember that time I beat you to your belt? 5. You took off your pants as you said, “let’s stick to what we’re good at.” 6. Champagne with raspberries at Monterey. 7. When I wash the dishes, you rub my back. 8. Vacuuming my room in those wonderful black jeans. 9. You called, voice thick with whiskey, and said “I like you more than molasses.” 10. In a lobby chair on the fifteenth floor of the Marriot in Denver. Midnight.
--after “Ways of Making Love,” by Del Ray Cross

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YOUR PROPHYLACTICS ARE MY MARBLES
After D.A. Powell’s “The expiration date on the world is not quite the same as the expiration date on my prophylactic”

You turn the insides of your pockets out thinking perhaps you’ve lost some fortune down there. You are in love with what makes you sick And sick of what makes you love. You empty boxes on the floor, upturn desks, watch words spill into a puddle across the floor. Intimacy is a rubix cube, its colors fading. Goodbyes murmur along your windowpanes. Stand breathing behind closed doors. Your mortality is your postage stamp. Your calla lily, your centerfold, your denuded forest. Stop a moment: open your door.
« 18 »

Julia Halprin Jackson

Offer it your empty pockets. Your sick heart. Even when you hold your tongue, the words scramble across the floor, lost marbles. Accept death’s craziness: a salve to survival. To being the one left. And when you’re ready, you can shut the door again.

« 19 »

Paul Corman-Roberts

« 20 »

Jesus Castillo

from “REMAINS”
She arrived with a hermit crab shell, small as a world, in the palm of her calloused hand. As you grow older, she told me, you will come to such sights, by and by, and you won’t know whether to weep or harden. Years later, I sat in a park bench alone, looking down at my fingers. The grassy knoll behind me, outlined by the lights of the financial district. I remembered there were no more wild tigers. I remembered we were stepping forward, each with our own camera, our own timed flash, containing its negation like a coin. «» Across the screen scrolls today’s hot searches: Salinger death, polar bears. I’m not waiting for my body to dissolve, but only hoping that my eyes will stop recognizing yellow. It’s a strange world out there, without our personal ways of remembering. I want to hear this as music. The rioters hurling fire. Aren’t we all just doing our jobs? I want this wavelength carved. The sound of fighter jets over the apartment. A place to live in while the sun runs out of things to hammer into grapes. «»
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Each small pebble in the stream lends its inverse shape to the water’s flow. The great river ahead carries these small dances in its heart. The symphony wants to survive. Does so sometimes in the form of induced nostalgia. I cried because it seemed like the least sentimental thing to do. This is the notion that time is made from patches of insight and loss. A kind of open loneliness. A muralist finding his paint. Diving past the wall, to the place where his figures go on dying. In paradise the flags are sleeping, dissolving in the river without hurry. All names are blood memory. The cicada blooming is also the sound of leaves burning. Knots of rope are door hinges swinging. When I look up, the window is open. The cold in the room fills my eyes. The broken radio patiently gathers history. Atop my desk sits a glass of cold tea. A ray of red traffic light touches the sill. I can hear the young couple in the second floor promising never to fight again. «» To wake from the portrait, scream. Or to wake from the portrait, touch the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth. To process
« 22 »

Jesus Castillo

the sound of separation, walk far into the crowd. To move in fault lines, to keep from starving, we talk about it. To step forward, to balance on the string, knotted at points, to propel the thing unsaid through locks and chain, to keep our hands from breaking, our judgment from aging, we skip the waking, tumble down, eyes weightless, heaven sent and hell-proof. «» What we kept was a childish love of throwing stones into deep, empty places and listening. We waited sometimes for days before the first sounds reached us, watching the moss gather on the stones where we sat, feeling ourselves expanding in the heart of what we knew to be summer. In our thin clothes, looking up at the clouds full of Old World patience. And we had a vague notion of what patience entailed. Time stretched over the days to accommodate our brand new minds. We’d lie down side by side, under the bed, face up, telling ghost stories, hoping the other would be brave enough this time, to reach over and touch an exposed hip.

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« 24 »

Scott Lambridis

0.54 SECONDS
“This is cool, right?” she says, but what registers is the light packet passing through his left cornea. It refracts forty diopters past his iris, twenty more past his lens, flecking potassium ions off a cluster of cones in his fovea. Having spent hours in the colorless world of an airplane’s night, all five million cones shake like naked girls in a humid rain as positive ions shimmy down the depolarized receptor and spray proteins into the synapse that are snatched up by other hungry proteins on the waiting bipolar neuron, their digestion taking 0.002 seconds before they’re hungry again.
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Bipolar to ganglion, down the optic nerve, across the chiasm, then to his thalamus, passing the depolarization into the third layer of the first optic tract in his right visual cortex on wires firing always and only at 520nm. Elapsed time: ~0.12 seconds. The dust is weightless as the train platform, as the building, as her hand. Other cells fire too, triggered by unsteady light movement. Other pathways converge on the signal with predictive possibility. Successive patterns. Synchronous patterns. Attempts to keep the signal down, to know it, to ignore it. Of the many possible unsteady 520nm greens, this
« 26 »

Scott Lambridis

one is the lime-colored tail of her wool jacket snapping forward with the gust from the train. The signal passes up up up into deeper connections where inputs from other pathways intersect. The green is also her luggage, collected in the airport a few minutes ago, and the envelope of her birthday card, with tickets for her first trip to Manhattan. And the pillowcase at his mother’s, a train-ride away. And the company logo he was creating when he first saw her enter his office building to pick up one of his coworkers, her old boyfriend. And the fliers for his band’s show that she snuck out to see. And her underwear in the hotel room after. And the apple he was eating when that old
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boyfriend threatened his life. And the gum he was chewing when he told her he didn’t have time for a relationship. And a kite in the wind on a beach that would snap her wedding dress some time in the future when he could see himself holding her and repeating words that bind. All over his brain now, nerves chatter in the following proportions: 42% the green of her flapping coat, 31% the sound of the incoming train, 12% the smell of body odor, 8% the advertisement on the wall, 6% the stiffness of his back, and 1% the feel of clothing on his skin and the pace of his breathing and the
« 28 »

Scott Lambridis

movement of his hair and the temperature and the voices around him that are all muffled and insignificant. Insignificant except to his hypothalamus. It watches all, reuptaking and releasing its chemical messengers into the blood, triggering the sympathetic and parasympathetic paths of stress and sweat, attentive hairs and heart, calm, hunger, thirst, relief. Up, down, and up and down. Elapsed time: ~0.24 seconds. He feels nothing discernable. More nerves signal the presence of the internal messengers back up in a feedback loop, pairing them in a causality he feels as stimulus plus good, and stimulus plus bad, matched to
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the past, present, and future. Hope that he will see her coat flapping like this again. Fear of her jacket pulling her into the tracks. Pride that she agreed to this trip. Terror that she will say “no” when he tells her in the dark of his mother’s house how much he’s thought of her these past two years. Elapsed time: ~0.32 seconds. At twentyfive, he’s had 157,680,000,000x109 thoughts. His brain holds the notion of other brains too. He knows that in hers there are people and buildings and careers and mountains and pancakes and arguments and bicycles and gnats and healthcare and a million other
« 30 »

Scott Lambridis

wonderful and horrible tidbits of life, but to him in this moment there is only the black edge of the end of the world and the white expanse between him and her, and so his brain shoots an efferent signal down his spine, a bullet train connecting to a smaller train leading to his wrist’s flexor muscles that pump calcium ions across the divide to the skeletal muscles whose fibers slide over each other and his hand contracts and squeezes hers so that she looks up. “Isn’t it?” she repeats. “Beautiful,” he says and the dust falls and their dead skin cells fly from their hands, sucked into the wind behind the passing train.
« 31 »

Carrie Seitzinger

TWO CROWS
The second time you took me home, I woke in your bleak white bed and told you of the nightmare, pulling flies and maggots out of my ears. You drew my head to your chest and said, "You scare me all of time." Yesterday a pair of crows seemed to follow me around the morning. I looked down at the lone crow tattooed to my arm, and thought of your attraction to the aesthetic grace of those birds, their uniform blackness, and my alliance with all things dark. This poem is for the lovers that disappointment has surgically alerted,
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for those whose memory lays them down nightly on their beds like an operating table. This poem is for the blood that taught itself only to run cold and anesthetic. For years I've been acting like my wrecking ball heart is someone else's lost marble. For years I've been acting like my heart is a daffodil bulb, only able to bloom once before it's killed by winter. For years I've been acting like my soul doesn't cry its eyes out, and laugh a hole in the wall like a cannon backfire, when I notice the simplest sky has its tips dipped in gold, and spills out its never-ending confession,
« 34 »

Carrie Seitzinger

and when it's done sharing my tears, swallows the moon like communion. Someday I'll push my tongue past the pews of your teeth so that we can finally find a church to belong to when our mouths meet. I cried that night when you told me how your first love stained your heart the color of ruin, and how you look forward to death. I cried because I believe I understand what happens when your body goes home to the earth and the rest of you, home to the wind. That night you said it was strange how we both have an affinity for crows,
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when you asked me not to wear perfume so that when I leave, I seem less like a woman, more like a ghost. When I wanted to ask you what music you were listening to when you started to fall in love but just couldn't quite... I wanted to play that song for you, hold your head in my hands like a crystal ball so I could read your eyes and get past the clouds you put between us, get past the bullshit, so I could hold your heavy head in my terrified hands like a perfect stranger and decide to love. This is for the simple hearts that take poems like triple shots,
« 36 »

Carrie Seitzinger

for the ones who welcome their dying day. This is for you, for the morning, when I wake and tell you my dream, no matter how frightening, or filled with blood, or sex, or apocalyptic flood. I know you might take this poem like a horse pill, but still I had to say I thought of you yesterday when a couple of crows seemed to follow me around the morning. They seemed like they could've been you and me, because they hardly ever pair off like that.

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LINES LIKE BEES, LIKE GHOSTS
I wake up still drunk, wine scabs on my lip, steady stumble to the cafe, and I pick the seat at the outside table right next to the grumbling homeless man. My mind is muttering to itself just like he is. It slices the lines of the book of poetry between my hands, and then I'm mouthing and breathing the words, Frank O'Hara – sometimes we lose ourselves, the streams between conscious and unconscious blur together and suddenly the rain and the river are the same thing and I can't make out the shore. He's waving his arms in the middle of the street and still rambling as my pen makes underlines in the book, and then the man takes
« 38 »

Carrie Seitzinger

his seat beside me again and says softly, "This is your book, of your poetry." My eyes start to sweat because he's right, it is mine when I breathe it out, this is what happens when I wake the words, when I stir the dead. Two months ago I met six-foot-tall dimples and a mouth to match my own. We talked about what god we pray to and how everyone in the city shares the weather like a story we're all living together. He went north and I daydreamed of telling him to take that ring out of his lip and put it on my wedding finger, that I only have one muse and she lives in a red mess in my chest— if you want to know how to fix me I make more sense in the dark, and in the morning the sun will be a huge bell through the window, a car alarm that we have no response to but try to drown out with our own music.
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Even though he went north to make the mountains purple, I still think about him every day. The final star in the constellation, pointed like a compass— this is what happens when I hunt ghosts, when I stir the dead. How can I stop believing there is meaning everywhere when the trees in this park lose their wings like tearing hundreds of bees. God, say all that is hard to say. Give me something before you take it away. Wake his words and give me his vibrato, it comes in heavy shakes, an earthquake that rocks me to lullaby.

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Carrie Seitzinger

« 41 »

Andrew Paul Nelson

KNEW
If you knew who you were if you only knew if you knew who you were you wd have nothing to fear to fear nothing not even what you are If you only knew you might explode soon passing slowly out of breath if you don't explode soon this bridge might bury you if you only knew then you wd not have to they will try and convince you to know when you knew everything the day you were born listen, listen everybody ears to the Earth L I S T E N! If you cd only hear it the faint whisper of the volcano the one that erupted
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the moment of yr birth still breathes beneath you still fissures the Earth yr skull never closed they lied to you yr mouth is still open this soft spot the escape route they've been trying to convince you of yr own extinction since the day you were born but you knew everything then you knew what is cd never have been the martyred slave of what was and I know you're tired of waiting I'm like you I too endeavor to know that which I once knew

« 44 »

Andrew Paul Nelson

BAD SCIENTISTS TELL OBVIOUS LIES
Early one Sept morning, the Buddha and Baudelaire were having coffee on the rooftop of One World Trade Center. ‘The Transcendent One’ petitioned ‘His Most Decadent’ to reveal the essence of being human. The Buddha asked Baudelaire, “what are we?” To this, the Dandy Most High replied … we are sleepy pig gods! delicately pandering sweet nothings to a chinatown glory hole called love we are amnesiac elephants beneath our ears you can hear the almighty ought whisper — ‘don’t bite snakes, play play like the sex crazed primates you once were’ we are bad scientists behind the cataracts of a dead imagination our viable offspring have been
« 45 »

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taken by an unconscious inability to aver anything but doubt we are obvious crimes against language unaware of what to do w/ our thumbs in the dark we wait patiently for Apollo to enter stage left and fix everything we are consumed by felicitous accidents our caprice is no virtue but the decapitated ghost of what may we are choking on analytic temperance we forgot pluto was a planet forgot planet was a word forgot the word replaced god we are bottom – feeders decadent word-eaters the co-valedictorians
« 46 »

Andrew Paul Nelson

of communist re-education camp class of two-thousand and never we are well before reason all lovers of wisdom lead boring sex lives some poets are wild animals we are infamous bottle nuns giving even-keel nihilists a bad name we don’t go trout fishing in America throw water balloons at us Having been encumbered by being everywhere and nowhere, all at the same time, the Buddha fell asleep before Baudelaire cd finish, before that whole shit came down, before Florida floated off into the Atlantic only to be replaced by southern California. Now Manhattan is an island w/ a whole towards the bottom that you cd fit a sleeping Buddha in. Where, if in the middle of the night, you were to sneak past the security guards in their pearl earrings and semi-automatic rifles, you can still hear the faint sound of the poet…
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banging his bones on yr tombstone

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Andrew Paul Nelson

« 49 »

Frank Stopp (An experiment: can performance transcend text? Are we too easily wooed by conviction&diction? Can gibberish take meaning? Hell if I know.)

i AM BECOME AS SOUNDING BRASS (with apologies to Paul)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves. It always trusts, always protects, always trusts, always trusts, always hopes, always protects, always preserves. Love does not proud. It always hopes, always preserves. Love does not boast, it does not easily angered, it is not boast, it is not envy, it is not easily angered, it is not rude, it is not
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envy, it is not boast, it is not delight in evil but rejoices, not proud. It always protects, always preserves. Love is patient, love is patient, love is kind. Love does not easily angered, it keeps not boast, it does not envy, it delight is not record of wrongs. Love does no record of wrongs. Love is not does not proud. It delight is not preserves. Love is no rejoices not boast, love does with the truth. It always trusts, always trusts, always patient, love is not easily angered, it keeps not does not easily angered, it keeps not does not protects, always patient, it is not easily angered, it does not proud. It always proud. It always proud.

« 52 »

Frank Stopp

It it it is wit it is not evil but kings. Love is not is truth, is not does. Loves not is patienvy, it but precord of withe doeself-seek envy, it doeseeps hopes wroud. Love delight it it is prejoices. It red, it does, loves, always is not always not ind. It doeseekin evily angerecord of with. Love does. Love is not always pred. Love is not is not it res. Love the is wit ent, it does not is wrot boast, always hopes proud. It does, is not does not always not but Love delight it evily always not ent, it kind. It is with the is not is wit. Love does not angerve it is kingerve is hopes no, is hopeseekingered, always not king, is trut always not is not but always not, is pred, it is no red, is not does. It does proud. Loves, it always no rejoices not it evil boast, love it, love it kind. //

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Love is kind. It kind. And now three remain: faith, hope and now these is love. And love. But these these three remain: faith, hope and love. But these these the greatest of these these the greatest of these is love. And now three remain: faith, hope and love. And now these is love. And now three remain: faith, hope and now the greatest of these these these is love. And love. But these is love. And love. But the greatest of these these the greatest of the greatest of the greatest of these is love.

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Frank Stopp

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ELIZABETH

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Matty Byloos

Genesis. We are in one of those rooms when the doctor tells me. One of those rooms, with that vinyl bed covered by that strip of tissue paper. It sticks to the backs of my legs. It crackles under me when I shift, when I move, causing creases running like veins, causing crackling noise like static—sharp, electric green against the quiet muted beiges of carpet, walls, ceiling. When the doctor tells me: You’re pregnant. And just like that, my life becomes a movie. One of those scenes where everything runs fast forward and loud. Happy loud. Beehive Loud. Then, STOPS. Freezes. Silence. I am on screen, frozen. Every detail preserved— eyes wide, my pulse throbbing in my neck, and there’s my inner monolog
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running in real time, panicking, frenzied. Frantic—but the only words that are really coming through are: Oh fuck, ohh fuck, ohhh fuck … Flash to B reel of cells in time lapse growing, expanding, dividing. A head with two dark spots for eyes and a network of veins already beginning to map the surface, deep in the tissues of this body I no longer control. (Beat.) Mutiny. “Impossible!” Mama to the rescue. “She’s a virgin!” “I’m a virgin!”

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Matty Byloos

I’m a robot. My body is hot, cold, numb, we came for high fever, back pain. And now there is mama wanting to know if I understand what sex is. Seventeen years old, I roll my eyes. “She’s a virgin.” She believes it. “I’m a virgin.” He believes us. Why does he believe us? (Beat.)

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I am a robot and a fantastic actress. “Well,” he shrugs, “I guess we know it’s happened at least once before.” Mama smiles, but I don’t get the joke … On the car ride home we laugh, crack uneasy jokes. Jokes like superglue holding things together, they must be handled with care. We don’t want to get stuck. Three weeks later, a second appointment, with a different doctor … And my body is my own again—ink drying on the peace treaty. But nothing will ever be the same. It is not the doctor saying, you are pregnant that has changed me, but the three seconds afterward. One—the decision made. Two—finalized. Three—beyond a shadow of a doubt. I had always
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Matty Byloos

believed it would be a debate. At first, I pretend not to recognize the person now in the mirror, staring back at me from behind my eyes. But she has always been there and I realize that our selves are like brain cells. We are born with a finite number. Life is merely an exposé, a process of peeling them back, finding out what’s already down there, and bringing it out into the light. In bed with a lover once, years later, he gripped my arm and said, “You’re here. You’re present.” I was never sure afterward if I had actually been there until that moment. Perhaps I don’t exist before the doctor tells me I’m pregnant.
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Perhaps in that moment, I am called into being.

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Matty Byloos

VIRGINIA
I always wanted to be a mother. I once read a Hallmark card that said motherhood is like putting your own heart into another body and watching it walk around outside yourself for the rest of your life. I agree with that. In fact it is an entirely accurate representation, a brilliant summing up. Sometimes those Hallmark quipsters attain a level of poetic insight that rivals Shakespeare and I am not— Being. Sarcastic. However, the heart is only half the equation. They left the out the part about the soul. They are, after all, the eternal duet. (Singing.) Heart and soul … (Hums a few bars.) Some clichés are
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clichés for a reason. (Beat.) What they don’t tell you, what they so conveniently leave out is that your children don’t get your soul, it would be easier if they did, but they only take your heart. They skip out into the world carrying the sweet ache of it, and when they are young you gather them close in order to feel. But the soul is a strange and separate beast. The heart is rooted, it is steady and satisfied. But the soul … has wings. The soul has longings, and urges. Ragged and worn from its separation
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Matty Byloos

from the heart, it is the soul that tears its hair and cries in the bathroom because that’s the only door in the house that has a lock. It’s the soul that cringes at each clinging bit of macaroni and cheese burnt to the bottom of your sauce pans, and growls at the errant cheerios that skitter from beneath the refrigerator for years after the highchair has been put away. It’s the soul that runs away with younger men, that disappears screaming into the night only to turn up again years later begging for forgiveness that cannot be had, because the soul— Wants. The Un-for-givable.

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The soul has wings and if given the chance it will aim straight for the sun. (Beat.) Your children are your anchors. And for years you quiet the desperate rumblings, bite back the broken harmony that congeals to stone in your throat, for years you tell yourself, “When they are old enough”, ”When they are gone.” And then? They are gone. And you open your throat to sing, to sigh, to scream with relief, and you discover— that the other thing they don’t tell you about being a mother is that there is No Escape. They don’t tell you that from the
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Matty Byloos

moment you feel the weight of your babies gathering inside you, the phone cannot ring after ten o’clock at night without your blood going icy in your veins, they don’t tell you that your children come into this world with a whole lifetime’s worth of wants already programmed into the secret twists of their DNA, they don’t tell you that, forever after, two words will rule your life, and when their mouths open and the sounds “I. Need.” bloom on their lips you will never—despite the violent objections of a bruised and battered soul—ever be able to answer them, “No.”

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DEE
Job. Every homosexual has a first kiss story. A first real kiss. The Big Bang of kisses—the one that explodes, with so much heat, and light, and pent up rage that a whole new universe is born in its wake. (Beat.) My first kiss is in a car, with Emily Mowry. Mama’s out of town, Jim’s gone to bed early and I’m parked out in front of the house pressing my lips into her shoulders, working my way up her neck, when she grabs the sides of my face and sticks her tongue in my mouth real slow and shallow. She tastes like the wine we stole from her Mama’s pantry. And I don’t know if it’s that wine or the way her chest is pressing into me, but my whole body’s on fire. And
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there’s something in the pit of my stomach rising up, like … like there’s a fish in my gut, suddenly turned to mammal and desperate for air. I’m smiling into her mouth and she starts giggling. Laughing right into me. Filling my whole head with the sound of it. Which is why I don’t hear him coming, until the door handle jerks against my spine, my head snaps back, and he’s yelling “WHORE!” I’m falling backward outta that car looking straight into Emily’s eyes and Jim’s already preaching. “Leviticus 18:22: You shall not lie with another woman as you do a man; it is an ABOMINATION!”

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He’s got me by the hair. “Leviticus 20:13: both of them have committed a DETESTABLE act; and they shall be put to DEATH!” His other hand’s taking off his belt. “Put on the whole armor of God to stand against the wiles of the devil!” He hauls me across the yard and I fall on the front steps. I go down hard, right on the concrete edge, but he’s praying too loud to hear the snap. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness!” There’s pain rising up in big red waves
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Matty Byloos

and Jim’s belt coming down between them, “WHORE! WHORE! WHORE!” Using his preaching voice to condemn my soul to hell. (Beat.) I start laughing. Big Belly laughs, so loud I’m drowning out his praying, so hard I’m losing my breath. Laughing ‘cuz I’m angry, and it hurts, and I can’t imagine that HELL could be any worse than this. (Long Beat. Heart Monitor fades to normal levels. Elizabeth enters as Mama.) Twelve years old, I ask Mama about gay people and she confesses that she doesn’t think all gays are going to hell. She sees it more like a handicap. (Spotlight up on Elizabeth as Mama.)
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MAMA Everything gets fixed in heaven. DEE She tells me. MAMA If you’re missing an arm you get an arm, if you’re legs don’t work you walk. DEE What if you don’t want the arm? What if it’s part of who you are? MAMA

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Matty Byloos

Everything gets fixed in heaven.

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DEE She tells me. MAMA If you’re missing an arm you get an arm, if you’re legs don’t work you walk. DEE What if you don’t want the arm? What if it’s part of who you are?

MAMA Things like that aren’t important in heaven.

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Matty Byloos

DEE But I still want to be me in heaven. ELIZABETH/MAMA When you get there…being you won’t matter anymore. MAMA Things like that aren’t important in heaven. DEE But I still want to be me in heaven.

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ELIZABATH/MAMA When you get there … being you won’t matter anymore. DEE In that moment I stop caring whether or not I go to heaven. And when my laughter drowns out the sound of Jim’s prayers— I even stop believing in Hell.

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Tons Confessions: Happily Stained
Father Gregory thinks again about getting a massage. He’s being coy, or maybe he isn’t. This is not, after all, about confession. How many times can he wash his hands – if he’s honest with himself, then Joseph knows he’s obsessive compulsive, but they’re both paying too much attention, and this borders on something unbelievable. For his part, Joseph is technically dawdling. His twelve years of life show up on his face in two ways: his wrinkle of a smile is uncomfortable, for one. The other quality is more intangible. It’s the kind of childish drama that makes the adults in his proximity feel like they’re sleepwalking, which is to
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Matty Byloos

say, bored. Father Gregory has a different take on him. He thinks Joseph is generous for a young boy: giving of himself. It’s the generosity that has made him nervous around Joseph the whole time. Joseph has been in the stall for way too long now to be doing anything realistically productive, that is, if you consider graffiti a dismissible idea. His pants aren’t even down; Father Gregory notes this as he leans over, bent in half at the waist, investigating and affecting a nonchalant manner in case anyone else walks in. From inside the stall, Joseph has been following Father Gregory’s soft-soled black shoes around the bathroom. Now he’s staring down underneath where the stall door ends, eyeballing the tips of them, which are both decrepit and old, but also polished. They’re his only pair, Joseph
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thinks. Joseph can feel him trying to make out where his face would be from the other side of the door, which is obvious, so he’s bored and looks around inside the four walls for something to carry him somewhere else, maybe back outside the rest stop. They’re not that far from the city, really. Joseph’s reading something on the door of his stall now, it says, the internet, it ruined this, and he’s thinking about just how different his attention span is from Father Gregory’s. It’s a heavy thought. He’s holding one wrist in between his fingers, nudging around the skin on the inside for a pulse. What he finds is wiry and loose. The priest has backed up a few feet away from Joseph’s stall, one of three
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Matty Byloos

sandwiched in the middle of the others. He’s closer to the entrance door, wondering why no one else has entered yet. He refocuses. With one foot behind him now, holding the door to the outside firmly closed, Father Gregory inhales deeply, exhaling in muted breaths, short and vaguely erotic. He remembers the softness of her skin as the insides of her legs brushed up against his back, he lying on his stomach, wearing nothing but a towel. His heart swells. Something, call it adrenaline, wells up in him from behind his lungs maybe, but he pushes it back. Or at least he’s trying. Joseph falls silent, double-checking the lock on the door of the stall. He wonders for a second if someone will enter the rest stop bathroom now, prays, even, for an interruption. He drifts. Has the Internet
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ruined him? He’s more easily influenced than ever before; that much is certainly true. At twelve, thoughts like this come up often, but dissipate even faster. There are plenty of things he can’t hold on to for very long. Yet. “Sometimes, Joseph, the pain. The pain’s—“ he’s trying to find words, pictures a small animal somewhere near the front of his brain, scratching at a list of adjectives but coming up empty-handed. “It’s a weight. It’s just—“ he’s frustrated again. That’s all that this is, a failed sentence. “It’s unbearable. And this was different.” When the homilies didn’t connect back up to the people in the congregation, and he felt his faith crumbling apart, Father Gregory noticed a shift inside himself. The human part, which before then he had only
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Matty Byloos

associated with maybe his internal organs, for instance, took over, got more of his soul in its hands. That was after things had been going on for months with Joseph. “I don’t understand. I thought we were —“ Joseph’s trying to remember what Father Gregory had called them after that first Sunday, when he was crying. He was thinking of himself in the future, seeing himself dressed in white, loose-fitting clothes, maybe the exact opposite of the wardrobe that hung inside the polished wooden closets behind the altar of the church. He felt himself calming down. “I thought you told me I was your friend. Why did you need another friend?” He sounded like a child again, but this made it harder for both of them. It was easier when he was indifferent, a vessel to be filled. Empty.
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In his mind, Father Gregory is underwater now, and he’s seeing everything in the bathroom between and around them as somehow green. The volume of the objects in there – the sinks, urinals, the paper towels – it was slippery and edgeless. Or at least not sharp. Joseph’s questions cut through this softness, degrees beyond the coldest temperature in Father Gregory’s imagination. “This was a different kind of friend, you know? I didn’t want to disappoint you. It’s just—“ he stopped there, but didn’t think he was going to. Joseph’s body is as slack as one could get, given the limited means a body has to express itself within his current confines. He’s sitting on the toilet now. When he talks, it’s muted, and Father Gregory can sense
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Matty Byloos

the boy’s body doubled over; he hears Joseph's voice project quietly down toward the floor. “Was she pretty?” It stuns him for a second. He remembers the girl’s expression when she turned him over. She stared into him, her eyes forming small, clawed hands, nothing that could hurt him though, at least not physically, so maybe that means in a way that would be worse. Like she was trying to scoop out his eyes to get at something behind them, so hurting him physically would only have been a means to an end. She smiled in a knowing way, like he was being looked upon as a human. All human. And this, he imagined, was how betrayal felt, not at all like his time with Joseph; that was something different. “This was different, Joseph. She looked at me – she – didn’t say
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Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK

anything. The whole time. But—“ He hadn’t imagined the moment would be this kind of difficult. People don’t die when they ought to. Joseph reads more scrawling on the wall to his left, lower than the rest of the etched scribbles around him, and can’t quite locate anything inside of him that’s able to acknowledge its profundity. This too, is beyond him. It’s what makes his life seem somehow all darkness, a large expanse of forest and trees, a place within which he might find an interminable middle and then just—get lost. Forever. If he could live in the very center of a suicide, that might help. His thoughts scramble and he sits up straight to try to find his gravity again. He could just walk out there, walk home, hitchhike or
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Matty Byloos

whatever. Quietly, he unlatches the lock on the door. Father Gregory doesn’t hear it happen. How much more complicated was it to become the seeker? To go out in the world and pursue something, someone – to assume the role of the hunter. “You’re lucky, Joseph.” He doesn’t finish the thought, but in his head, he’s realizing its second half, that Joseph was a body to be acted upon, and in his submissiveness, his life was easier, only neither of them realized it at the time, and Joseph—well, maybe never. Joseph’s crying, but it’s like foreign moisture welling up in him more than anything emotional. He doesn’t have the capacity. If he did, it would probably feel more like a haunting, or living in a world of funhouse mirror reflections. He makes a face
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to himself, scrunching up his features like a dampened dishtowel. It stops the tears. Father Gregory turns the cold, industrial steel of the faucet. It’s worn. He splashes water on his face, and thinks about absolution. He’s been sweating, but what doesn’t seem pertinent just slips away into abstraction. Going over the facts in his head, he makes a list: Joseph, Massage, Betrayal, Human Parts. He can’t link up the four things, but knows he’ll spend the majority of his time being consumed by the spaces between them. He’s disconnected from the rest of the morning, maybe from things that were larger than that, but he’s grinning. This fact does not dawn on him until he realizes he’s staring at himself in the mirror. “I’m going to take you home now,
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Matty Byloos

Joseph. It’s time we go.” He’s gathered himself again. It’s his role—to be a leader, to know things when others don’t. This way, he’s more like a shepherd. Joseph enters the space with Father Gregory again, and wanders over to him without noticing it’s what he’s doing. He crawls into the space between his arm and chest, so the priest ends up holding him like a child. “Will you give me a hint, then? Will you still help me?” It’s the kind of thing that passes for conversation between them. Father Gregory is thinking how he reads more depth than he ought to into the words that spill haphazardly from Joseph’s mouth, like they’re so much spilled milk in an old painting. “This was what happened, Joseph. And though you may not know it, or feel it inside
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of you, God loves you. And he always will.” But this comforts neither of them. And Father Gregory, for all his effort, is slipping again.

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VERONICA
Come back to me, my wife Elizabeth said as I shipped out. Then I met Marlene on the base, and even in her boxy purple uniform she had the tightest, roundest buns of any woman I ever laid eyes on. I was second in command, and we were engaged in unification on the second day. Antigravity is, physically, exactly what you’d expect. But there are other things you don’t: your head goes light. You start to imagine things. First was the gardener who watered the rows of oxygenating plants in Hospital Ward A for the newcomers who, any day now, would break the pudding skin of their
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Amy Glasenapp

chemically defrosted eggs. I’d also seen him in Ward B, where the workers with injuries went to lie down, sometimes to die. The dead workers were sent down the chute, and the newcomers were their replacements. We know in advance when most things are going to happen. Although that, too, could be an illusion—even the captain isn’t so sure anymore. The second thing was this: the gardener had kidnapped Veronica, Marlene’s cabin mate, who’d been missing for three days. She had gone out to rectify a situation between a munitions officer and a D-464777 pilot, a romantic spat perhaps, since they were both young, attractive, single, highly fertile, enamored with American jazz, and repulsed by anything remotely Canadian, according to our records. She hadn’t
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returned, and neither the officer nor the pilot could remember having seen her. It was obvious they were telling the truth because they were both still angry. Veronica was famous for the hypnotic spells she used on couples under her wing, and she never left a situation until both partners were pacified, sometimes unable to remember why they’d been yelling or cursing one another’s egg donors in the first place. The one who took Veronica had to have been the gardener, I thought, because everyone else on the base had been interviewed and subjected to rounds of underwater shocks. We came up empty-handed, with no official stone left unturned. The gardener had to have done it, because, as I suspected, he didn’t exist. Everyone who did exist was released to his
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Amy Glasenapp

or her cabin, and each cabin was put under twenty-seven-hour surveillance. Captain Marco shuddered and turned to me in the cockpit, tilting a contraband bottle of champagne to his mouth. What do you think happened to her? he asked. You know the gardener in the medical ward? I ventured. What gardener? he asked. Exactly. He looked concerned, and the bottle parted from his lips with a low, wet pop. Are you feeling all right? he asked, and I assured him I was feeling fine, better than fine, brilliant in fact, but I didn’t tell him why. I realized I had known all along that the gardener who had taken Veronica was nothing more than a figment of my own imagination. Which meant, of course, that I had taken Veronica. And when I got back to my cabin, there she was sprawled out on the bed wearing her
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bright blue helmet, her own hypnotic spell turned in on herself under the hard, plastic shell. Veronica, I cooed, remembering I’d seen her before in this exact position around the same time yesterday. Where am I? she purred, taking off the helmet, her beautiful black eyes meeting mine.

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A PATHOLOGICAL COMMUNITY
For a long time I was looking at it through the wrong end of a telepathic telescope. I think that I was strung out on the “pathos of distance” and to hang around with writers seemed incestuous. I stayed within a stone’s throw but it wasn’t an immersion and I wonder why I was a loner and how come I stayed out in the cold so long. I finally turned the telescope around and now the poets are up close and personal. They’re coming into focus, so is a Homeric dimension of the spoken word, a way of life for any poet worth his salt. I didn’t expect much from the poetry community, it’s only human and there are a
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Steven Gray

lot of variables, the vocals being stirred up by the brainwaves running through it like a river of diversifying verite, and getting its cooperation is like herding lizards. You can listen to an ego poet with his ego poems, there are echo poets, and some ecce homo poets. There are people who are barely literate and they reiterate it with a microphone. You listen to so many kinds of mental illness at an open mic and wonder if you’ve gone too far into the open. I’m reminded of the old days when somebody said, “You were out-acted but you weren’t out-written.” What the fuck. I’m focused on the word. Wake up and smell the coffeehouse, you may be grounded in it, but it’s like a slow death in the afternoon, a
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passive opium den. The poets have abandoned it, and some of their behavior is unheard of. I have heard a woman spill her guts and do it with intestinal fortitude and not a little attitude, a lubricant for those who’re getting oral on a stage. The private is colliding with a public codependency, it turns into a shoot-out of linguistic mutants and they have the angles covered while some backgrounds are uncovered. When your brains are scrambled by the rambling jack-offs you declare a moratorium on oratory and retire to your literary laboratory where you have some distillations on a burner of infernal learning.
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Steven Gray

I’m experimenting with a mental condition, testing out a sequence with an evaporating significance, the eerie vapors rising from my head, condensing on the page and sensing my intelligence, for what it’s worth, a recipe for observation and subversion, with some trial and error thrown in for suspense. A marijuana levitation even though it’s dumbing down the conversation and your timing may be off. It is intentional, there is a four-dimensional fortitude as you inhale The Human Condition, also known as THC. A woman is demanding TLC, it keeps you on your fingertips and that is where the sparks are generated. Ask a guitarist if that isn’t true.
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Some are rendezvousing with the muses by becoming invisible, unfortunately their transparency becomes a habit. No one knows that they are moonlighting as a poet, and in being so ephemeral some people see it as a lack of substance and they run right over them. The tire tracks of otherness are registered as lines of writing, or a last line of resistance on the part of someone who’s too mental for his own good, but some neuroses and pathologies are unavoidable, you’re thrown into them by the physics of your own existence. Going through the ceiling as the secondhand marijuana pulls you up into the sky,
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Steven Gray

you’re on the roof, abandoning the party while you gaze into the distance, the electric fog on the horizon, while the party is disintegrating, as the poetry community can fall apart and come together like a big amoeba. The poetry of commoners is not p.c. if it is worth its peppercorns. It is a pathologic conversation and a possible conversion, a power chord in a prosaic country. It’s a long prose cutter and a philosophic coke-rush, it’s a poor man’s concerto and a pornographic curtain as you pan the circumstantial evidence of a personal condition with poetic correlations in a pandemonium chorus. There are phallic candles and a pussy
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cunning, not to mention paranoia, coffee, pot and cigarettes, or pinot in a cup: it pacifies the critic so a paranormal composition will ensue, and maybe please the crowd. They like it when you’re pissing on a Congressman, performing with some congas in a post-industrial club.

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Steven Gray

THE JUNKIES ON MONTGOMERY STREET
Caught between the timeless and the homeless they have no time for an occupation, frozen in the garbage and they’re trading in the rapid transit for a trance. A life is in collapse, it is nothing but a cardboard box they crawl into, the public and the private a distinction that becomes irrelevant. They have a secret weapon and it isn’t hard: inject a hypodermic and you turn into a ghost. You are not all there and so you haunt the doorways, make a foray into worn-out silhouettes, the old clothing in the trash, the permanent is like a dead-end alley and a fellow addict is an ally for a while. You’re haunted by the windows
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of security and light, you’re staying up all night and feeling like a vampire and you bite yourself or put a needle through the palm of your hand and feel like Jesus. You’re in heroin heaven and you sit there like a wooden Indian, your unemployment is becoming transcendental. The sun is coming up, you burst into flame, and turn into a pile of ashes or a smelly residue the gainfully employed are stepping over in the morning.

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RUSH HOUR AND THE GIRL WHO ALMOST MADE IT BEARABLE
Prodded and driven on crowded subway cars like doomed animals we are faced with it. We are forced to see, there is nowhere to look away. We close our eyes and there is still the smell and the noise of it, the sick feel of it brushing against our skin. Humanity confronted with itself. Sweating, sneezing, coughing, wheezing hunchbacked and stink mouthed, toothless, weepy, obese
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William Taylor Jr.

and sickly, leering and glassy eyed, lustful and impotent, confused by our destination and hurtling towards some darkness we will never understand, pretending we are whole and with purpose instead of the broken things we are. And on the seat opposite mine, crushed between two nightmare beings whose laughter is the sound of death is a young skinny girl with an awkward almost smile, as if embarrassed by her transient beauty,
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her pale hands folded to her lap, her eyes cast down upon them like two dying suns

« 110 »

William Taylor Jr.

A CERTAIN LIGHT
It's true, these days lack an abundance of mercy; the indifference of the sun, the cruelty of mirrors. But love we are young enough in the gaze of eternity and alive enough in the eyes of graveyards. In a certain light we may yet be mistaken for beauty and on such nights the collective sorrow of the years reflected in your eyes still makes me swoon like a drunken child.

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MISSION STREET, DECEMBER
The soft light of the winter evening brings a heavy sadness that pushes the heart strange clouds gather and the air smells of coming rain I wander Mission Street sidewalks in no hurry to be anywhere still haunted by the pretty dream of being something more than death maintaining my belief in common miracles
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William Taylor Jr.

even now determined to salvage scraps of joy from the rubble of life scattered bits of kindness like leaves on the sidewalk not yet trampled remnants of abandoned beauty line the streets like gilded flakes of gold I put them in my pockets to carry home walking quickly now as soon the rain will fall
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like my tears like my tears like my tears.

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William Taylor Jr.

MOST OF WHAT THEY’VE SAID
Friends, there's not much to it, after all. Years pass, things fall away. Most of what they've said isn't true. There are precious few things that need remembering: keep bitterness at bay as best you can, kindness whenever possible. Listen to the ancient music of things, let it guide you. Seek out the deeper joy within the blanketing sorrow.
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Embrace it and become whatever it is you are.

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William Taylor Jr.

« 117 »

W. Ross Ayers

THE VOTE
He held the Smith and Wesson pistol in his hand slack at his side. Long gray black barrel, dusty looking. I couldn’t breathe, I wasn’t. I was a step beyond thought. I was seven. He stepped out of the bedroom where the cowboy gun was kept in the closet. It was loaded. We all knew that. “If I can’t make a living I'll just shoot myself and you all can live on the insurance money.” He raised the gun half way not yet putting it to his head. Horror washed through me. Still not breathing. Mom and Rich watched also. Rich was nine not yet ten because it was still warm outside. The one holding the gun— His eyes

Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK

were wide and dull. Not frantic really. Just faster and pathetic, whiney. The question unable to be asked in my mind. Thought became solid. It was a beautiful summer day. Sun lit the house. The windows were open. The air inside was cool and light. My sight was clear. I could smell the old green matted carpet of the living room and stale cigarettes and the clean air. What she said I don’t remember. Something about “give me the gun” or “give it to me” and something about “the insurance doesn’t cover suicide.” He said something in the wide-eyed, faster, pathetic, whiney way. She said something back, “Give me the gun” or something as equally blank. In this moment I don’t see Rich

W. Ross Ayers

anymore, but he was there. So was I, but I don’t see myself either. Time became solid. I watched, my eyes moving from Dad to Mom, Mom to Dad. Still no breathing. If I kept very still maybe nothing would get worse. We had been told stories about the cowboy gun. Hair trigger, filed down on purpose. Used by her granddad out west in the cowboy days. My mind froze and shook at the same time feeling the destruction and sound it would produce within the living room of our old farmhouse. I was an unwilling audience and I wanted it to be unreal and make it go away. The gray black gun went down then back up. Whining and pathetic, but oh so deadly real and serious. I was in mortal

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danger. Was Scooby Doo playing on the TV? I don’t know. “Give me the gun.” “You’re better off with me dead.” Then I don’t remember. Then she held the gray black cowboy gun in her hand. Then he walked into the bedroom and shut the door behind him. Then I think I started to breathe, but not really. Mom, Rich and I went outside. The clouds were white and puffy. The sky was blue blue. The grass behind the over grown flower garden where we sat was tall and thick with yellow dandelions. We voted to stay or to go. I voted to go. We stayed.

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BREATHLESS
Nikhil drives carelessly even in the best of circumstances; Manjari is steady behind the wheel, even in—especially in—emergencies. A wordless moment between them, Nikhil passes Manjari the keys. She’s holding the boy in her arms. He’s limp, the way dolls are limp, but warm, the heavy limpness of a sleeping person. Earlier in the evening she had bathed him, washed his fine hair though he squirmed, kicked against her, got soap in his eyes and cried. Then his hair had dried into wispy curls. A cool night, they are all three of them breathless inside it. Nikhil gets in the backseat with the boy, strapping him into his carseat. Manjari remembers the way to the

Shruti Swamy

hospital— mother’s memory. They have no GPS system and their twenty-year- old Honda that has to be coaxed into starting. Now on the road Manjari’s senses sharpen. At each stoplight, a jagged, unbearable impatience. It is past evening, into deep night, and her son’s lungs have closed. Her son’s lungs have closed and she remembers where the hospital is, so he won’t die. How are you doing back there? We’re okay. We’re almost there. Don’t worry, says Nikhil. She sees him in the rearview mirror, a light hand on the little boy’s chest. Is he breathing? A little, he says. Don’t worry. A little. If they are quiet they can hear him breathe,

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or try to. Hellish sound. Manjari starts to sing. The first song she can think of Up on the rooftop reindeer pause Out jumps good old Santa Clause. She knows where the hospital is but not where to go once they get there. The emergency room? The children’s hospital? They’re passing through orchards, the bare white spines of pear trees. Not even a whimper from him. Quiet and pale, sucking air through lungs that are closed like two fists. Their little lion colored boy. Only this morning he was running barefoot through the backyard, wearing his favorite pair of ducky shorts. Ho, ho, ho, who wouldn’t go! And Nikhil starts: Ho, ho, ho, who wouldn’t go! There is a thump against the front wheel; she has hit something. Oh god, she says. Oh

Shruti Swamy

god, Nik, should I pull over? We can’t stop right now. We’ll come back later. We can’t stop now, Manju. What if it was a person? It was not a person. It was small. A child? It’s three in the morning, Manjari. It’s not a child. Manjari presses her lips together, bites down on them. We’ll come back. We’ll come back, okay? We have to go, now. So she keeps driving. The way back from the hospital Nikhil drives, and he takes a different route, turning up at Green Valley Road, making an early right. They don’t say anything. In the hospital, they put the little boy in an oxygen tent and now he is sleeping in his carseat. His breathing is easy and slow, and she is sitting in the backseat with him, watching his brow twitch with bad dreams. His face is her face,

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except for the chin, the eyes. To inhale pure oxygen, she imagines, it must be like standing on the top of a shining mountain, on top of Everest. To be standing with bare feet on a plane of blinding white. This is what relief feels like. She wants to touch him, to keep touching him, his beautiful warm skin. He smells bitter from the neem oil Nikhil puts on him for his eczema, and there is that indestructible loop of information they fastened around his wrist at the hospital—she forgot to ask the nurse to cut it off when they were leaving. And she forgets to cut it off when they get home. Nikhil carries the boy into the house, puts him down on his bed. She unties his small red shoes. He is already in his pajamas. Manjari has not forgotten the sound of that thing hitting her car. For years, she thinks,

Shruti Swamy

maybe forever, she will take the long way around. You should sleep, she says to Nikhil. You should sleep. I’ll stay with him. I can’t sleep. She sees now that Nikhil is trembling. But she is still and calm, heavy almost. Are you okay? she says. She puts a hand on him. He’s fine, she says. Look, he’s fine. It was with us in the car. Almost a smell. What was with us in the car? Nothing. He’s okay … I don’t know. I’m … tired. Tell me. Nikhil kisses her, the boy. She is sitting at the edge of the boy’s bed and he leans against the wall for a long moment. A square of light falls in from the street like a stain on the carpet. In the morning, Nikhil washes blood off the bumper with the garden hose.

M.G. Martin

BUMBYE*
bumbye aloha bumbye akamai bumbye aunteh bumbye anykine bumbye all buss bumbye an’ den? bumbye ai kudiyam bumbye amakua bumbye ainokea bumbye bumbye bumbye broke da mouth bumbye braddah bumbye bu bumbye boto bumbye bulai bumbye babooze bumbye bakatare bumbye bumboocha bumbye bolo head bumbye buss ‘em out bumbye betta dan pig betta dan poi bumbye calabash bumbye can? bumbye cock fight bumbye come insai bumbye cherry bumbye cazh bumbye chicken katsu bumbye chokin’ bumbye chisai chimpo bumbye das why bumbye da kine bumbye dat one bumbye dirty lickings bumbye deelux bumbye das fo’ kracks bumbye different kine stuffs bumbye eh! bumbye ea bumbye ‘ehu bumbye ‘elelū bumbye ‘enemi bumbye f.o.b. bumbye f.b.i. bumbye fufu’e bumbye fo’real bumbye futless bumbye false crack medivac bumbye gef’um? bumbye gala galaz bumbye going bumbye garoot bumbye garanteed bumbye garans bumbye garanz ballbarenz bumbye girigiri bumbye gunfunnit bumbye grinds bumbye hawai’i bumbye hana okolele peanut butta jelly bumbye hānai bumbye hāpai bumbye hanabata days bumbye he go bumbye hele on bumbye hawaiian time bumbye hemo skin bumbye hamajang bumbye hawaiian bumbye hapa bumbye haolefied bumbye huli maka flip bumbye ichiban bumbye ipu bumbye irkatated bumbye imu bumbye aisus bumbye ikaika bumbye junkalunka bumbye jah music bumbye junk already bumbye ju buggah bumbye jawaiian bumbye japanee bumbye ja’ like bumbye jam up

Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK bumbye kakaroach bumbye kalakoa bumbye kama‘āina bumbye kanaka bumbye kapakahi bumbye kapu bumbye kau kau bumbye kolohe bumbye k-den bumbye killah wiffah bumbye kaho‘olawe bumbye kaua‘i bumbye li’dat bumbye li hing mui bumbye lōlō bumbye luau bumbye loco moco bumbye lana‘i bumbye lomi lomi bumbye lilikoi bumbye local boi bumbye lua bumbye maui bumbye moloka'i bumbye mo’ bettah bumbye mahalo bumbye māhū bumbye makule bumbye manini bumbye makapiapia bumbye malasada bumbye minahs bumbye mosh mosh bumbye nēnē bird bumbye namasu bumbye ni‘ihau bumbye nahf already bumbye nori bumbye nerjous bumbye oh yeah no bumbye ‘ōkole bumbye ova dea bumbye ‘ono bumbye olopop bumbye ‘onolicious bumbye ‘opihi bumbye o‘ahu bumbye ohana bumbye portagee bumbye pau hana bumbye poi dog bumbye poke squid bumbye pōpolo bumbye pocho bumbye pilau bumbye all pau bumbye pua ting bumbye pupule bumbye pūnani bumbye puka bumbye quick tink of one “q” word bumbye reckanotice bumbye remembah dat? bumbye ruff take bumbye rugged buggah bumbye rebel muzik bumbye rubbah slippah bumbye same diffs bumbye salty eh? bumbye shibai bumbye shoots bah bumbye skeda-u bumbye small kid time bumbye stink eye bumbye suck ‘em up bumbye shave ice bumbye shaka bumbye talk story bumbye tanks, eh bumbye toe jams bumbye talofa bumbye tita bumbye tūtū bumbye ukubillion bumbye ua mau ke ea o ka ‘aina i ka pono bumbye unreal bumbye used « 132 »

M.G. Martin to to bumbye usumara you? bumbye vijro games bumbye wana bumbye wahine bumbye waz up? bumbye who da guy? bumbye wop your jaws bumbye yeah, no? bumbye you go stay go, i go stay come hana hou hana hou hana hou *bum-bye [bum-bi] -adverb as a result of; because of; to produce a result. Origin: 1900-1910. Possibly from the Tagalog. Incorporated into Hawaiian pidjin English.

Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK

TOURISTS WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND
i use da middle fingah fo’ track da dent of your opu slight & hunehune your silhouette like mountain fog making one almost opaque blanket for mauna loa: morning dress. da moon making you look like canoe fruit, da sag of your breasts: mountain apples. no wonder da polynesians went trow you into da canoe. come, we go. nobody goin’ miss us. u & i. we can dig one puka insai mauna loa or swim to kauaʻi on da backs of two honu: da patterns of their shells fitting togeda « 134 »

M.G. Martin like an Escher called: us. nah, nah: jus’ joke. i only like stay insai dis moment watching da green leak outta ya eyes & paint da leaves of da mac nut tree.

Laura Riggs

from MY FAT TUESDAYS
II.
During Martedì Grasso in Vicenza, all the inhabitants wore expensive Italian shoes. All the women wore fur coats. The men wore fine suits. Olive green was in style while I was there, so everyone wore olive green. Next season they would all have purchased equally fine clothing in a different color. The patrician couples strolled down the Corso Andrea Palladio each with a well-scrubbed, wellbehaved singleton child holding their hand. The child was dressed as a clown or a dog or a kitty cat or a princess. Each child held a sack filled

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with candy as they visited the shopkeepers along the corso. The evening was warm and the light from the Veneto sunset tinged the handsome, well-proportioned buildings the color of Campari. Contrapuntally, I saw three thin men dressed in nuns’ habits sitting on the edge of a fountain. One held the string of a yellow balloon. They looked at me and smiled wanly. I didn’t speak their language, so I only smiled back. I boarded a bus, to go the short distance to Cittadella—a walled town—to see the Martedì Grasso celebration. It was festival time, but also commute hour, so the bus was packed,
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Laura Riggs

and I had to stand. As the bus took on more and more passengers, my arms were tightly pinned to my sides by the crowd. Like an iridescent beetle in a glass display box, I couldn’t move even a half an inch. As it happened, I was completely surrounded by men, all close to me in age. In less than the time it took for the bus to set into motion, someone cupped my ass and pressed his fingers into my cunt through my blue jeans. I gasped with a sudden urge to leave my body, but my violator’s inescapable physical presence wouldn’t permit this. He kept me there—pinned and claustrophobic—with his insistent pressure.

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I looked anxiously at all the men surrounding me, perspiring, disturbing them as I tried to twist around, searching each face with increasing franticness. Each face was slack with the boredom of public transit. I couldn’t detect any reaction, any trace of a reaction from any of the possible perpetrators. About eight men seemed to be close enough and all fell under the moist cloud of my suspicion.

The bus was devoid of human sounds. There were the mechanical noises of vehicle, the drone of engine, the screech of brakes, but no voices. The humanity on the bus was physically
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Laura Riggs

close, but we didn’t share the additional intimacy of language. I didn’t speak. I couldn’t speak the language of my violator, so what could I hope to communicate? I tried to work out in pidgin Italian “a bad man has his hand in my ass,” but my vocabulary was too limited. I later learned how to say “leave me alone you ugly son of a whore,” brutto filo di putanna! But this type of outburst might have been mistaken as Tourettes syndrome anyway. I remained mute, absurdly hoping my violator was the good looking man to my rear left. We went three stops like that, like dogs frozen in union after copulation. His hand, my ass. I couldn’t move away from him until a

Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK

number of people dismounted the bus. Perhaps he dismounted himself. I never knew who he was. Not a smirk, not a nod, not a furtive glance gave him up. I can think of him detachedly now. I remember the loss of control and a strange loss of volition. Arriving in Cittadella, I put on a feathered mask to join the dancing in the street that surrounded the Roman fortifications. My hips undulated to pulsing American rock and roll echoing off the stone walls in a swelling cacophony. Later, I went to a private party and watched Italians eat tiny grilled birds, so small, each little life was only one bite.
« 142 »

Laura Riggs

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