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Q uiet L


Q uiet L ightning
as performed on
Sept 6 10
Mina Dresden Gallery

© 2010 by Evan Karp + Rajshree Chauhan


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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Promotional rights only.

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reproduced in any form without permission
from individual authors.

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author(s) is illegal.

Your support is crucial and appreciated.

For information:
Q uiet Lightning

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


« contents »
paul corman-roberts

you so lit 9

julia halprin jackson

gravy, baby, and other ways to make love

your prophylactics are my marbles 18

jesus castillo

from “remains” 21

scott lambridis

0.54 seconds 25

carrie seitzinger

two crows 33
lines like bees, like ghosts

andrew paul nelson

knew 43
bad scientists tell obvious lies 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 97
the junkies on montgomery street 104

william taylor jr.

rush hour and the girl …

a certain light 109
mission street, december 110
most of what they’ve said 113

w. ross ayers
the vote 115

shruti swamy

breathless 121

m.g. martin

bumbye 129
tourists wouldn’t understand 132

laura riggs

from My Fat Tuesdays (part II)

Paul Corman-Roberts


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 over-
developed 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
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
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.

« 11 »
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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
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

« 13 »
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basin; an “I” forever staring up into the

unforgiving of the void.

« 14 »
Paul Corman-Roberts

« 15 »
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« 16 »
Julia Halprin Jackson

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
5. You took off your pants as you said,
“let’s stick to what we’re good at.”
6. Champagne with raspberries at
7. When I wash the dishes, you rub my
8. Vacuuming my room in those wonderful
black jeans.
9. You called, voice thick with whiskey,
and said “I like you more than
10. In a lobby chair on the fifteenth
floor of the Marriot in Denver. Midnight.

--after “Ways of Making Love,” by Del Ray Cross

« 17 »
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After D.A. Powell’s “The expiration date on the world is
not quite the same as the expiration date on my

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
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
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.
« 21 »
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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
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

« 23 »
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« 24 »
Scott Lambridis

“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.

« 25 »
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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

« 27 »
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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


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

« 29 »
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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 twenty-

five, 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


“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

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
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,
« 33 »
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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
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
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
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,

« 35 »
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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
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
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

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
because they hardly ever pair off like that.

« 37 »
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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.

« 39 »
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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.

« 40 »
Carrie Seitzinger

« 41 »
Andrew Paul Nelson

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

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
« 43 »
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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
of yr own extinction
since the day you were born
but you knew everything
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


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
we wait patiently for Apollo to enter stage
left and fix


we are
by felicitous
our caprice is no virtue
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…
« 47 »
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banging his bones

on yr tombstone

« 48 »
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.)

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
« 51 »
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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. //

« 53 »
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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

« 54 »
Frank Stopp

« 55 »
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« 56 »
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

« 57 »
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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.)

“Impossible!” Mama to the rescue.

“She’s a virgin!”
“I’m a virgin!”

« 58 »
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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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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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.

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


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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from the heart, it is the soul that tears

its hair and cries in the bathroom
because that’s the only door in the
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.

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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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,

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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

“Leviticus 18:22: You shall not lie with

another woman as you do a man; it is

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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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and Jim’s belt coming down between

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

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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Everything gets fixed in heaven.

She tells me.

If you’re missing an arm you get
an arm, if you’re legs don’t work
you walk.

What if you don’t want the arm?
What if it’s part of who you are?


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Everything gets fixed in heaven.

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She tells me.

If you’re missing an arm you get
an arm, if you’re legs don’t work
you walk.

What if you don’t want the arm?
What if it’s part of who you are?

Things like that aren’t important in

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Matty Byloos

But I still want to be me in heaven.

When you get there…being you
won’t matter anymore.

Things like that aren’t important in

But I still want to be me in heaven.

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When you get there … being you
won’t matter anymore.

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

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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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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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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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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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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anything. The whole time. But—“ He hadn’t

imagined the moment would be this kind of
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
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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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
“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

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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
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

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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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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
a lubricant for those who’re getting oral on a

The private is colliding with a public co-

dependency, 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
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 second-

hand 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

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

Caught between the timeless and the
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

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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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
the smell and the noise of it, the sick feel of
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
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
smile, as if embarrassed by her transient

« 109 »
Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK

her pale hands folded to her lap, her eyes

cast down upon them like two dying suns

« 110 »
William Taylor Jr.

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.

« 111 »
Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK

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

« 112 »
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

« 113 »
Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK

like my tears
like my tears
like my tears.

« 114 »
William Taylor Jr.


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.

« 115 »
Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK

Embrace it and become

whatever it is you are.

« 116 »
William Taylor Jr.

« 117 »
W. Ross Ayers

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
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
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
Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK

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.
Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK

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
A little, he says. Don’t worry. A little.

If they are quiet they can hear him breathe,

Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK

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

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

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,
Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK

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


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 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
hana hou hana hou hana hou

*bum-bye [bum-bi]
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

i use da middle fingah
fo’ track da dent of your opu
slight & hunehune
your silhouette like
mountain fog
making one almost opaque
for mauna loa: morning

da moon making you look

like canoe
fruit, da sag of your breasts:
mountain apples.
no wonder da polynesians
went trow you
into da

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

watching da green leak
outta ya eyes
& paint da leaves
of da mac nut tree.
Laura Riggs



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, well-

behaved 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

Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK

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,

« 138 »
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.
Quiet Lightning » sPARKLE & bLINK

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

« 140 »
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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