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Quiet Lightning is:

a literary nonprofit with a handful of ongoing projects,

including a monthly, submission-based reading series
featuring all forms of writing without introductions or
author banter—of which sparkle + blink is a verbatim
transcript. Since December 2009 we’ve presented 1,100
readings by 800 authors in 110 shows and 90 books,
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There are only two rules to submit:

1. you have to commit to the date to submit
2. you only get up to 8 minutes


info + updates + video of every reading

sparkle + blink 96
© 2018 Quiet Lightning

cover art © Evan Karp
“American Night” by Shirley Huey
first appeared in Catapult Magazine

book design by j. brandon loberg

set in Absara

Promotional rights only.

This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form

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Your support is crucial and appreciated.
su bmit @ qui e tl i g h tn i n g . o r g
curated by
Evan Karp
featured artist
Evan Karp |

Peter Bullen Pitch 1

Shirley Huey American Night 5
Fernando Meisenhalter Happiness 13
Tommy Lee Jones
Rounds Up Mexican Immigrants
Using Excellent Spanish 15

Maia Bull Wild Yarrow 19

Cassandra Dallett All the Fucks 29
Sarah Henry 2017 33
Sean Taylor The Man that Invented
the Carousel 39
Paolo Bicchieri Stoves 41
Brian Kirven Z Poem 53
g is sponsor
et Lightnin ed b
Qu i y
Quiet Lightning
A 501(c)3, the primary objective and purpose of Quiet
Lightning is to foster a community based on literary
expression and to provide an arena for said expression. QL
produces a monthly, submission-based reading series on
the first Monday of every month, of which these books
(sparkle + blink) are verbatim transcripts.

Formed as a nonprofit in July 2011, the QL board is currently:

Evan Karp executive director

Chris Cole managing director
Josey Rose Duncan public relations
Lisa Church outreach
Meghan Thornton treasurer
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Christine No production

If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in

helping—on any level—please send us a line:

e v an @ qui et light nin g . o rg

er Bullen

Pit c h

I want to tell about this Chinese restaurant in this

elevator, not an actual Chinese restaurant in this
elevator, that would be great, but crowded. This is
not a reference to the population of China which we
know is formidable. This is a reference to a story; a
story I believe you’d like to hear; and a story I’d like
to hear on account of how I always like to hear a story
when I’m telling it. It can be your story too, just you
listening to the story grants you a part in the story;
it’s the part where a person in the story listens to
the teller of the story. Which makes it a relationship
story about a relationship that begins in an elevator
with a person telling another person a story about a
Chinese restaurant. The telling possess the quality
of endorsement; meaning it is a story that includes a
pitch for a Chinese restaurant, and as we know this
endorsement takes place in an elevator, making it,
among other things, an ‘elevator pitch’.

If you look around, you’ll see it’s just the two of us. As
fate would have it, and fate gets to have it just the way
it wants to have it, unlike you, who are probably
dreaming of anything other than what you are face
to face with, which turns out to be me. Don’t worry

I’m going to get you out, take you out of this elevator
and on down the street. Haven’t you always wanted to
leave this elevator and go down the street? Well here’s
your big chance. And what’s down the street, you’re
probably wondering, that’s such a big improvement
on life in an elevator? What’s down the street, for
your information, is a Chinese restaurant. Tell me
something I don’t know you’re probably thinking.
Don’t worry I’m going to, tell you a bunch of things
you don’t know. Like for instance how I experienced
the Chinese restaurant that’s down the street from this
elevator, the certain consistency I came across while I
was there, how the Chinese restaurant was consistent
with other Chinese restaurants, in many ways just
exactly like them, the way elevators can be eerily
similar. For instance the fortune cookies, the little
boxes. I’ve never had an argument with the little boxes,
I don’t see how anyone could. So practical, reassuring,
compact, the very essence of compact. Excellent use of
space; architecture really, small buildings, town houses,
condos, beach-front property without the beach;
unostentatious and filled with leftovers. A lullaby for
later when you are free of the elevator, when you are
never going back there, when you are finally on the
ground floor.

And they, getting back to the little boxes for a minute,

are also the stuff of love affairs, the way you forget
you have food in them, filled as you are with post-
dinner appetites, the way you plunge ravenously at
your lover (as if you hadn’t even had dinner) with that

2 Pe t e r B ul l e n
sense of infinite space and time, a sense you never have
in an elevator, and then afterwards in the afterglow
you see them again, the little buildings you brought
home with you and you think to yourself they should
probably be refrigerated, containing as they do not
merely the benign soybean cake but also the pork and
the steamed fish. And of course they represent a treat,
they are in fact the Treat’s Representatives here on
earth, the part of earth that is down the street from the
elevator. This is how you know you are a first world
person. You can take a date to dinner, make love, and
still have one more sensory experience to go before
you fall into slumber,

and dream of being trapped in an elevator.

P e t e r Bu lle n 3
ley Huey

A m e r ic a n N i g h t

My father holds the well-seasoned, heavy black iron

wok by its smooth wooden handle. A hot blue flame
blooms on our gas stove. After a swirl of oil, garlic
goes into the wok, minced with a cleaver on the heavy
chopping block that looks like it was hacked off a tree
trunk—four inches thick, a foot and a half in diameter,
round, with visible grooves you can trace.

My father works from home managing his businesses

and our household, including the shopping and the
cooking. My grandmother watches the kids after
school (me, my brother, and my younger cousins) while
my mother works at her clerical job in a big office
downtown. Dinner in our San Francisco household
is usually Chinese-style, which is to say family-style: a
table set for multiple generations, at least five dishes
every night, served with steamed white rice. We might
eat some kind of choy stir-fried in a hot wok with
garlic or ginger (jaaah—the sound of the greens as
they hit the hot wok, emitting a cloud of white steam);
sweet-savory lapchong sausages steamed with the rice
and cut into pieces on the diagonal; a dish of tiny
dried fish, baak faan yu, finished with a drizzle of oil
and soy sauce; hand-minced pork cake with bits of

chewy cuttlefish or dried scallops; chicken, cleaver-cut
through the bone, steamed with julienned ginger and
mushrooms. Perhaps there would be a dish leftover
from the night before, or something picked up at the
Chinese take-away deli: roast pork with a rich rust-
colored crackling skin; aromatic roast duck; a whole
steamed snapper, slits cut into the skin to encourage
quicker cooking, finished with raw slivers of green
onion and ginger, then soy sauce and hot oil poured
on top (yung you bao, they called it—explode it with
oil). And sometimes, if we had gone fishing recently,
we’d have pan-fried ocean perch with deeply crisped
and browned fins and tails.

Tonight is something different, though. Tonight,

nobody has to lift up the lid of the yellow ten-gallon
plastic tub filled almost to the brim with long-grain
rice and measure out little porcelain rice-bowl-sized
portions into the rice cooker. No one has to cover the
rice with cold water, rub the smooth grains with their
fingers submerged, three times repeated, discarding
cloudy water and any surface-floating brown husks.
No steamy, almost sweet scent of hot rice permeates
our kitchen, as it does every other night. Tonight is

It’s American night.

Sometimes we pick up a pizza from Pasquale’s by the

zoo. These are not cracker-thin, light-on-the-toppings,
Neapolitan-style pizzas. These are thick, yeasty pizzas

6 S h i r l e y H ue y
with dark and bubbly crusts. Our toppings of choice
are always pepperoni and mushroom—salty, spicy,
cheesy. It’s unusual for us; we hardly ever eat cheese in
our house, except on Pasquale’s days.

Sometimes, American night is about spaghetti. On

his shopping trips to Safeway, Dad sometimes picks
up a packet of Italian spaghetti sauce seasoning mix.
The packet sits on our kitchen counter—tantalizing
because we know something different is coming soon.
The Lawry’s seasoning packet, white with signature
green, yellow, and red stripes across the top, instructs
the reader to combine and simmer together water,
tomato paste, oil, and ground beef. “For a sweeter
sauce,” the instructions say, “add 1 teaspoon sugar or
to taste.”

A big pot of water for spaghetti is boiling on one of

the back burners of the stove. Pup-pup-pup-pup, the
water percolates, and the lid bumps up and down from
the force of the heat. On the front burner, the garlic
aromas from the wok begin to permeate the air, and
in goes the ground beef off a white Styrofoam tray.
Red slowly turns to brown in the wok. My father uses
the wok chaan to break up pieces of pungent garlic-
infused beef. My task is mixing the spice mixture into
water in a Chinese blue and white porcelain bowl. It
separates into small clumps—orange with little green
specks—and I smell garlic and onion and tomato. This
mixture gets added to the wok, along with a large can
of stewed tomatoes.

Sh i rle y Hu e y 7
The tangy, robust flavors of tomato merge with the
aromatic garlic notes and savory beef. The sauce
still tastes like tomatoes—fresh and tart. Mom
hates sour things, so my dad takes the “add sugar to
taste” instruction to heart. He pours sugar from the
dispenser into the wok, one circle, two circles, three
circles, sometimes four. The sugar dissolves as he stirs
with a wok chaan.

The packet of Golden Grain spaghetti is now cooked.

We drain and rinse the noodles under cold water so
that they do not stick. (This is also what we do with
Chinese egg noodles for won ton or for Hong Kong
style crispy chow mein.) We all hate soggy noodles.
Noodles must have a chewy bite to them, even if they
are going into a dish of room-temperature spaghetti

Looking back I often wonder about American night.

Did my parents want to help my brother and me
assimilate into the culture in which we lived? Or was
it just about novelty?

I remember the moments at Safeway when our dad

had a negative interaction with a checkout clerk, and
my brother and I would end up running after him
after he left the store in a huff, all our groceries still
splayed on the checkout counter. I was never sure what
happened, but I knew my dad—friendly to all servers
and workers, to anyone he met—was upset. Chou

8 S h i r l e y H ue y
baak gwai, he would mutter. As a kid, I understood he
meant stuck-up white person, though literally the phrase
translates to stinky white ghost.

Why would he want to eat the food of the chou baak


I often suspect it was intentional, calculated—that

my parents wanted us to be comfortable in different
environments, that our lives might be easier if we
could engage with the foods of people outside our
Chinese community, that we might fit in more with
the communities around us. But part of me also
wonders if it wasn’t all about us, their kids. My parents
had crossed vast open waters to come to these shores.
Holding on to our cultural foods and customs was a
labor of love, but labor nevertheless. From time to
time, American night provided a little respite from the
labor attendant to Chinese food, with its many dishes.
Sugary spaghetti or Pasquale’s pizza with its smoky
doughy crust gave our parents a break from the endless
chopping, a break from the tremendous effort of
maintaining our culture against the ever-encroaching
influences of TV, school, and the people all around us
who didn’t look like us or share our history.


For the last year, I worked Sundays at a San Francisco

farmers market. I sold pasta, delicious fresh pasta
made by people who learned the art years ago from

Sh i rle y Hu e y 9
pasta makers in Italy. While I have always liked
noodles, I never understood the simple beauty of fresh,
hand-made pasta until I started working for this pasta
maker. Now, when I taste and smell and sell it, I am
reminded that my parents had another reason for
loving spaghetti.

My mother immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada—

first to Toronto, and then to Vancouver for work. My
father immigrated from Toisan, China to San Francisco.
As I recall, my mother’s cousin’s husband knew my
father’s younger brother, and he made an introduction
that led to my father’s first visit to Vancouver and one
of my parents’ dates at the Old Spaghetti Factory. After
first meeting in San Francisco at a family friend’s home,
my parents’ courtship continued for several months
with my father making the trek up to Vancouver. In
the fall weather—cool but not icy or wintry yet—my
parents headed one night to Gastown, a tourist district
full of quaint cobblestone streets and restaurants.
They wanted something different than Chinese food,
which in those days was confined to Chinatown. They
ended up at the Old Spaghetti Factory, lured by the
excitement of dining in an antique trolley car. My
parents sat at table set with a red and white checked
tablecloth inside the narrow trolley car lit with
antique glass lamps and enjoyed their spaghetti and
meatballs. The meal, and the company, was good and
by the following spring, my mother had accepted my
father’s proposal and moved south to San Francisco to
begin a new life in America.

10 S h i r l e y H ue y
As I think about it now, our family’s American Night
was not only a night of rest from all the chopping
or a way to forge a connection between us and our
peers, but also a reminder of love found over a plate of
spaghetti and meatballs.

Sh i rle y Hu e y 11
n do Meisenha
r na lt

She has a tattoo on her boobs with something written

on it, but I can’t tell if it’s a quote from Marx or César
Chávez and the uncertainty is killing me.

“Take a picture,” she says. “It’ll last longer.”

But a camera isn’t the issue, it’s the pronounced


“Don’t you think tattoos are like bumper stickers for

humans?” I say. “It’s like the graffiti that used to be on
walls moved on to the skin of people, making it much
harder to read.”

She gives me a Frida Kahlo look.

“We’re alone in the universe with only our tattoos to

express ourselves; they’re the only thing they can’t
take from us. Show some respect.”

I apologize and change the subject, chat about the

madness present everywhere and how we’re forced
to squeeze a living out of whatever’s left.

“I work in a bar,” she says, “giving hand jobs. I need to
get the guys early, while they still have money. It’s hard
work. Some are older and it takes forever, especially if
they’re drunk.”

“You must have a strong grip,” I say.

“You can say that,” she says. “But work’s slow nowadays.
No one carries cash and everyone’s on antidepressants.
It’s like no one can handle happiness anymore.”

“It’s a damn shame,” I say.

“Happiness is in our Declaration of Independence, our

Hollywood happy endings, our self-help books. Now
it’s Citalopram and Prozac. It depresses me just to
think about it.”

And I agree. America’s missing something, something

vital. So we keep lamenting our grim prospects,
unpayable student loans, and I wonder how we’ll ever
make it through the week, how will we ever survive.
It’s an uphill battle, each and every freaking day. And
I have no cash, and she has no hope.

14 F e r n an do Me i s e nh a lt e r
n do Meisenha
r na lt
Roun Tommy Lee Jones ants
ds U p M exica n Im mi g r
Using Excellent Spanish

She wants to tie me up, but I’m scared, so I don’t let


So she gets on top, cowgirl style, bites me on the


“OWWW!” I yell.

“I want to hear you scream,” she says.

“Just don’t hurt me.”

“Oh, be a man.”

She rides me hard, with vigor, rubbing herself until she


Then she dismounts, walks away, goes to the bathroom,

won’t say a word, just like a guy.

She washes herself, and I stare at her butt the whole

time: so round, so perfect, so beautiful. Such a magical
mass of fleshy Jell-O! I can’t take my eyes off of it. I
stare and stare until it morphs into a creature with a
life of its own. Why is it shaped so nicely? Why do I
love it so much? Why does it jiggle with such precision?

No answers slide into my mind.

She comes back to bed.

“You have a funny accent,” she says.

“I grew up in Mexico City.”

“But you look European or something.”

“My ancestry is German.”

“But you’re Mexican?”

“I’m a citizen, Spanish is my native language.”

“That’s so messed up.”

“Tell me about it.”

“So here in America you always date interracial. If you

date a Hispanic it’s interracial because you’re white;
and if you date a white person it’s also interracial
because you’re a Hispanic.”

16 F e r n an do Me i s e nh a lt e r
I never thought of it that way. But it sounds right. All
my life I’ve been an outsider. Mexicans never accept
me; Americans won’t take me because of my foreign
accent. In short, I don’t belong anywhere.

“How does it feel to be a Mexican immigrant?” she asks.

I tell her how you can’t understand half the jokes on

Seinfeld; how Americans think words like exactamundo
and desperado are Spanish, when in reality they only
exist in Hollywood. The correct terms are exactamente
and desesperado.

Still, sometimes I do hear Spanish used correctly, like

Tommy Lee Jones in that flick Men in Black as he
rounds up unauthorized immigrants near the border.
His Spanish there is perfect, funny, asking one guy
why is he so ugly, which is such a Mexican way to
tease: hey, manito, why are you so ugly, paisa? Please help
me understand.

“My family doesn’t like Mexicans.”

“You think they won’t accept me?”

“Just tell them you’re German. They like Germans.”

But that’s prejudiced and I won’t stand for it. I’m about
to tell her how it’s not okay and all that jazz, when she
leans forward and gives me the lustiest kiss I’ve ever
had in my entire life, a kiss so lusty it has to be from

F e rnando Me i se nh a lt e r 17
another planet, from another dimension.

I want to live in that dimension.

It curls my toes.

I get another erection.

“Okay,” I say.“Tie me up.”

“This time I really want to hear you scream,” she says.

I think of Tommy Lee Jones, of his rounding up of

immigrants, his excellent Spanish, his jokes, and how
I’m okay being tied up to a strange bed, with a strange
woman, so far from no home.

I don’t belong anywhere. I connect only with other

individuals. In fact, these straps might be my only link
to the universe.

“Go ahead,” I say.“Show me the way.”

She smiles.

I guess we’re bonding.

“And tell your parents I’m German if you want to.

I don’t care at all.”

18 F e r n an do Me i s e nh a lt e r
Maia Bull

Wild Yarrow

Where was I when I knew myself last?
I look inside see how I slip
on pluff mud unsure what I will be—
the people I think I am not
and if I will be stone

tell them
your father is Jewish
but your mother
is not

floats into the pond

like a summer swimmer
day as blue as when
I first met my father.

Every afternoon I paddle

by wild yarrow and the full
crowd of my family,
watch from the porch
as light passes over the pond
then stretches and vanishes,

leaving an island
of blue and gold
between me and my father
that does not

20 Ma i a B ul l
I try to drift
closer to my father—
find where
he is
or if he is
within me

and beneath
my clothing
lengths of
longing form
a stretch
of land
to walk

between houses
where people sing
soft songs
in Hebrew
and crush
savory leaves
I climb up
to the roof
to ask

what does it mean

to have this
in me

Ma i a Bu ll 21
and not
know it?

When she wrote

It is November, 1934
did November 1941

22 Ma i a B ul l
My uncle writes

from the salt marsh, where the morning dew drops its
diamonds in the needle grass and you think you can just
walk out and pick them like mussels but they dissolve before
you can put them in your basket and you’re back to being
your poor old self. Truth is, if you live here you’re rich.
That’s how I’ve felt this summer which has been milder than
usual, and greener than usual from the late afternoon rains
which come by four and clear off by six.  It looks like the
world has been washed clean.  If only that were true.

My sisters by the pile of conch shells collected on the

porch, me in the kitchen preparing clams to steam in
garlic and white wine and celery leaves.

There’s a bag of clams waiting for me and I’d better get to

Livingston before he closes shop to go fishing which he does
regularly when the sea trout are running and he doesn’t
have to go far to get them with his pole and line. In contrast
to the anonymous fish that the fleet bring in by the box and
are put to bed under ice in his giant refrigerators.

My cousin pulling a cart of two ten pound bags of

fresh dug clams. I think of him like Adela, bringing in
the bright day.

Ma i a Bu ll 23
I revisit
the salt marsh
until the view
toward Cowpen
is plumbed
navigate the creeks
by alligator
dive off docks
cut by oysters
exposed in low tide

cows exhale
the air perfumed
by confederate jasmine
tea olives
and yet another bloom
of fortnight lilies—
of bright shadows

All turns brown in marsh. Full of holes and fluid. Black
flies and flooded amber. Yet, in heat. We take turns
showering outside. Hot water to scratch mosquito
bites our hands slapping any part not under water.
Hitting slip, thigh. Gazed green banana palms, fretted
crab-apple trees, dates, orange groves. Flex in the
golden-ing living on fish. Moor at the bottom of mud
mind. Look up to. Deep violin wood. Warm humid

24 Ma i a B ul l
Table set. Swept sweetgrass baskets, pitcher thick from
shallow well. Bottle shored away in damp. Bagged
clams and Carolina shrimp right off the boat. Cleaned.
Dropped in boiling water with bay. Burnt butter.
Closest thing to proof of god. Steamed black rice,
celery leaves. Sad paper doll in cornflower blue smiles
at me tragically from a corner.

This day until night for the rest of my life.

Repetition interrupts
the rush of narrative—
was there inessential
Was there not
every reason
to halt

Ma i a Bu ll 25
Now it always
seems to be
a warm evening
early November
1934 and 1941

even in July
it is winter
when weather
is soft
on the river

I walk
as though
beside myself
and light
the lamps
which stay warm
after they
are dark

I lie down
feeling complete
for an evening
a descendent
of something—
the night and lamps
the Einsatzgruppen

26 Ma i a B ul l
moving east
towards Lwów
a windowbox
tangled with mallow
and last year’s fennel—
I sign away
a certain hold
on life
and lose

Ma i a Bu ll 27
I think I am
you and my sense
of your death
leaves me—you
on the sunk
cement in the river
clapping your hands
when you are not
you I am
closest to who is
within me
skin softer
as though I slept
soundly for hours
in the shade
at the center
of loss

28 Ma i a B ul l
ra Dall
s sand et
Ca t
All the Fu cks

Number one
sleeping face on my pillow.
A face I knew thirty years ago
innocent and serious like our prom picture,
I cram to understand this face
twisted in rage,
blank when adoring,
it always keeps its door closed.
His fans show up
with this face,
etched into their skin,
swarm around to get a piece of his time.
I never let him know the fucks I give
the mountain of fucks
tucked neatly into my chest.
I used to scream I don’t give a fuck
I’on’t give a fuck I’on’t give
a single solitary fuck
what you do to me
He stomped on me.
His absence hurts more.
I knew his rage.
I shared it.
Out of control and uncontrollable.

Even now neither of us could work a straight job
not cut out for being managed.
I scratched his face and threatened him
even when he was punching me
I crushed on the soft cotton of his clothing.
The way he swaddles himself in layers of it
leaves wet mounds of undershirts and draws
beside my bed smelling like soap and sugar.
I finger the soft insides of his arm.
His hands consume mine
leave purple spots up and down me.
Giving a fuck is all I ever did,
Mister Boomerang.

The second calls

a recording interrupts to remind us
this call is from a correctional facility
counts down the seconds until it cuts us off
leaves him leaning concrete
sweating a dorm of one hundred sixty men
in a hundred and ten degrees.
No air, no freedom, no end in sight.
He is the one I would marry.

Then there’s an international call.

My Rasta, a pig farmer who fancies himself in love.
He’s lost his cell phone at sea
an overloaded fishing boat sinking into the

30 c assan dra da l le t t
He says my name over and over and calls me queen.
Asks me when I’ll be ready for retiring,
How many jobs he has to take,
to take care of me.

The fourth is an ex
who comes to lie on the floor next to my dying dog.
Weeping this illness, this loss, all of the death
he has suffered the past year.
Or maybe he cries remembering
when we first dated
how he kicked this dog
roughly off my bed.
How I calmly told him,
that anyone who could hurt this dog--
who does nothing but love,
who lives to be close,
just closeness that’s all he wants,
anyone who could hurt that
must have a serious problem.
I said with my back to him.
After that he was never mean.
He doted on both dogs
even after I broke it off.
He whispered love in velvet dog ears
words he was never brave enough
or sure enough to say to me.

cassandra da lle t t 31
h Henry

2 0 17

She’s beautiful at fifteen, everybody agrees. Two little

old ladies come up to my sister in a Mexican restaurant
to tell her. Men put their hands on her thighs until she
stops taking the bus all together. There’s something
I want to tell her, but I’m afraid she already knows.
She smokes weed every day and sleeps all the time.
She misses three periods. Her boyfriend texts her
fuck fuck fuck. There’s something wrong, they stop
the heartbeat. She walks around for a week with
something dead floating inside of her.

Mom drives her all the way to New Mexico so she can
deliver it, blue and stillborn. It’s the only clinic that’ll
take her when it’s that old.

When they get back, mom says there were dead dogs
all over the side of the highway out there.

She says don’t tell your dad okay?

I’m dreaming, my father hands me a drawing my sister

made for him and I set it down carefully beside me.
It’s two stick figures, one big and one small. They’re
holding hands and the words at the top read I love

you daddy in big shaky capital letters. I want to tell
him that it’s alright and not to be sad anymore, and
to do as well as he can with the time he has left. All of
it is a gift. I know this to be true even in my sickness.
I want to tell him what I’ve learned but I can’t open
my mouth. His flesh becomes ghostly, he is leaving
his body but I can’t go with him yet. I’m stuck here
in mine.

I close my eyes and dream the way the light used to

shine over the hills in the morning before school, pale
frost seared across the ground. Deer with their eyes
of black stone high stepping through the snow, Bud
Light cans crushed into the dirt beneath my feet. My
brother and I collecting shards of bone in the woods
we grew up in, the ground matted with pine needles
the color of rusted metal. We fight over nothing and
I push him down a ravine. We sit in the backseat and
eat ice cream, trading the carton back and forth. He
sends me two hundred dollars by Moneygram with
no note. He hugs me goodbye goodbye goodbye. He’s
falling down drunk, tall towering and screaming. He’s
in the house with the yellow Christmas lights, the
one by the ocean, with the rats in the walls. He comes
crashing through the gate they and the lights start to
stretch and bend, swell too bright and too hard as if
they’re going to break the glass they’re contained in.
The sound slows down, speeds up. His head whips in
my direction. He’s furious again because of something
I’ve done. He’s after me and an old horror rises before
I can punch it down.

34 S a ra h H e n r y

The problem is that he can be fine

alright even, driving within the lines
taking good notes, understanding how it goes up and
sometimes, back and forth, you can’t do much about
it. You’re one way and then
you’re another and you can survive a whole lifetime
doing that, you can be many different people in
one body, the way birds move in one motion
in many parts above the power lines,
he likes to dance, he takes his meds
every day, drinks in moderation, wears clean clothes
washes his body, calls his parents, holds his girlfriend
even though there’s something else he wants to do
to her, he feels it darkly, feels it rising, feels
something when he goes to the community pool
on the weekends, buoyant ribs rising to take in the
air that they need,
sky stretched wide, broken up by high rises on either
he doesn’t need therapy anymore doesn’t need
he’ll never buy that poison shit again, not if it means
he might die

Sa ra h He nry 35
or someone else might die,
that’s just crazy, to take something that might kill
you, and kill someone else,
and he’s not crazy he just
sings along to the radio in a crazy way to make her
babies laugh,
goes home every night and digs a hole in the ground
covers it with paper, stands on it, falls through
hits a black hole, gets sucked under water,
flies across the meridian
fucks someone else,
breaks everything made of glass
in the whole house,
in the whole wide country,
wakes up sorry,
straightens the cross on the wall, tattoos it
across his chest,
always misses the part that’s stuck on repeat
but never changes,
how we like to feel safe and then throw it away,
you’re safe and you just need to throw it away.


I ride the train home and watch the lights

of the houses and the apartment buildings

36 S a ra h H e n r y
floating without context, sitting at
eye level across from my head
on the glass resting, cold air blowing
impossible to sleep and not safe to try anyway,
watch pale gold lights spark up through the dark,
they look like stars
may as well be celestial right now, I’d rather
feel that weightlessness and fly home drunk and
disintegrating into ash, into smoke, into single
atoms, I go to work and get off late, walk my
body around the bars at night,
I want to be picked up but I can’t find anybody who
wants the same thing,
I go home, listen to spacey instrumental music on
bart, crying with one hand
over my face because I’m tired and want to do
something else and don’t know how to quit
drinking and make it stick, it reminds me of
being sixteen and
hiding my bad teeth every time I laughed, or ate food
in front of another person, I still do it
sometimes, even though no one is watching that
closely, even though no one really cares and I
have some self assurance now, some understand-
ing of where I am in relation to the bodies of
others, and i pretend to feel it as if I were born
that way, keep my eyes up
and wear the right clothes,

Sa ra h He nry 37
pull my shoulders back,
it’s kill or be killed
it’s dead or start dying,
it won’t be this way forever,
I’ll fall in love and make some money, go somewhere
else, be somebody
who remembers getting sick and
getting better

38 S a ra h H e n r y

inventthe man thatousel

ed the car

The man that invented the carousel slept on the train.

His eyes rolled in his sleep. He couldn’t remember his
mother’s arms around him, and his neck was always
sore. He was an engineer. The first carousel was so
loud it scared most all children away. It was set to
move at the exact speed with which our minds are able
to recognize someone. He wanted them there, and
then, he wanted them gone. Dreamlike. He could have
built a quieter and slower machine, but he liked the
noise. It deafens the senses, he would say, and when
the senses are deaf, they can better dream.

The horse that finished behind the pig on the first

carousel wasn’t named Satellite. His wife, the wife of
the inventor of the carousel, indulged in slow motion
sickness. She didn’t need to dream of spinning to get
dizzy and still find it pleasing. They didn’t own a farm,
nor were they great sculptors of fantastic beasts in
flight. Though often as they did, and they did quite
often, dance around their kitchen table whereupon the
only five candles they owned were lit. The candles
varied in age and therefore in length. This staggered
light provided them with an illusion of raised and

lowered movement, coupled with the sherry they
drank their dancing appeared rather fluid.

It was a difficult charade to explain. A steam powered

machine that moves and yet leaves its passengers
almost exactly where they began. They were the
eccentric couple down the block, the neighbors rich
in poor thoughts. It does move you, he is said to have
been heard, just not forward. And what is the purpose
of going around? They asked. It was a difficult charade
to explain, dancing with your wife, drunk, late at
night. You aren’t building a machine, his wife told him
after all of the investors passed and laughed, you are
expressing a feeling.

The man that invented the carousel dreamt on the

train. His seat a saddle, his stride rough and bucking.
He could tell you about the weight of a wooden horse,
and how hard it is to get some feelings off the ground.

40 S e an Tay l or
olo ri


I was sure I was asleep. I didn’t remember anything

before, any ways, and it had felt like a slumber.
Somewhere in that null. But the dream that I was sure
was just that, a dream, was too described. None of the
fogginess that often accompanies a dream, the mild
disconnect, was present. I am here, and it seems like it
could be Romania.

Two men sit just behind the booth I find myself

sitting in. Each has a beard; one braided into two
gray and small tufts and the other a mess of flimsy
black. One hoots on the clarinet and the other looks
complacent playing an accordion. In front of them is
a tall and hollow box: “Georgey Food Boys Burger Bin:
Donations Please.”

In front of them two little girls dance. Their smiles

alone could bring someone out of a stupor; teeth
sprouting awkward and joyous. Their family is
clapping them on, and so am I. I’ve got a big smile on
my face—I can feel it, even if I don’t remember why I
have it. Across the table from me is a big man. He
has a red shirt on, and a trim mustache/beard combo.
He’s smiling too. Everyone is smiling!

We’re in a café I have to assume. In my hand I’m gripping
a cup of coffee, and it smells great. There’s a plate of
food that is half-eaten in front of me, and it looks great.
IF the coffee wasn’t so pungent I bet it would smell
great too—eggs with kale, tomatoes, mushrooms and
elephant meat. My companion is eating pancakes, or
hot cakes, I guess it doesn’t change, really. All around
people are eating and I can see outside through a set
of three windows across the room, past the aspiring
ballet. There is a row of trees descending along with a
not-busy street and out there is water. A whole body of
it; we’re not talking about a pond or something.

The music is enticing. I don’t know how I got here, and

I thought I was peaceful before, sleeping, but now that
I’m here I want to dance!

I’m wearing clothes well enough for dancing—tan

denim, shoes with arch support to spare, a shirt and a
coat. I shed my coat, and stand up to join the girls. As
I do, my companion claps like a chimp and a few other
café goers hop up, too. People are clapping for us, and
we’re spinning, sloshing around coffee in my stomach
I don’t remember drinking, and having one of the best
times in recent history, I know it.

After my feet get sore I come back to the table. I have a

bite of the scramble—it seems someone, I don’t know
if it was me, already put a hot sauce in it. It tastes like
browned butter, but that’s normal.

42 Paol o B i c c h i e r i
“Really great moves, man!” my companion says. He has
almost no hair, just curly short locks, and oil skin. In
color and consistency. He smells like a jar of blunts.

“Hey, thanks!” I cheer over the noise. I ask him how we

got here.

“I thought you said you walked?” he says. His left eye

squints, but his right eye swells.

“Oh, I meant, ya know, in general, haha,” I say. It occurs

to me that he is probably not the person to ask—he’s
just enjoying breakfast. His pancakes are covered in a
powder with beads in it. I don’t know what kind of

“How the hell would I know! I’m just enjoying my

breakfast, haha!”

“Right,” I say.

The musicians with their European flavor and style,

one wears a stylish hat so I assume it’s European, pack
up. They take their burger fund and go. We follow
them out as the lights turn off behind us.

It’s a little windy but very sunny outside. The street

slopes along with the trees toward a park, we can see
it down the road, but my friend motions me up the
street. I’m here, so I might as well. The park can wait.

Paolo Bi cch i e ri 43
“Did you like it? The Factory?”

“Was that the name of the restaurant?”

“Yeah!” his shirt is bounding with his steps, fluttering

and colliding.

“Oh, yeah! I really liked the dancing, and the coffee was

“I really like it there. What else are you doing today?”

my companion, I can assume friend, asks me.

I stop us at a street corner with a little white man

telling us to cross. He’s shouting at us, but I have to
think. Down the street is the park, yes, but what’s at
the park, any ways? I can go into the comic book store,
over there with the neon sign that says “Read Here”, or
that movie theater or the post office. There are endless
possibilities just on this corner! What about the water?
What about that mountain I see when I peer all the
way down the road—I wonder what’s at the top?

“I’m not sure. What are you going to do?”

“Shit, I’ve got to work,” my friend puts a brown cap on

his head. “I need to pay off that train of mine. And the

“Ah, yeah that makes sense. Well fair’s fair,” I say with a
smile. My hair is in my face—how long have I had long

44 Paol o B i c c h i e r i
hair? “I’ll see you around…”

There’s a pause. How am I supposed to know his name?

I wish the Romanian music was playing again.

“Well, bye then. Not a problem.” he says. If he’d wink,

or shrug or something, I would believe it more. It’s just
sad seeing him bound away, but that’s what he’s doing.
So now I’m alone on the corner, with the red signs
telling me to stop. So I’ll wait for the little man.

I don’t want to hike right now, so no mountain, thanks;

I’ll walk through this alley. Purple flowers blooming
in the mud. What a sight! In this alley that seems
impossible! But I can’t argue with blooming flowers—
how gorgeous! I bend to pick one and they sting me,
asking to be left alone with respect. I can understand
that. The alley opens to a wharf. It seems familiar but I
am sure I’ve never seen a place with so much vibrancy.
Thousands, no, millions of people are saying hello to
each other. They aren’t all saying it but it’s happening,
I can see it! Their eyes light up and they kiss each other
and there are children dancing. Women dance with
their sons and there are dogs wrestling on their own.
A lot of the people are wrestling on their own but the
dogs look good doing it.

I’ve come to a wide place, as I cross the street and enter

the massive throng. The neighborhood behind me, with
the quaint café, is gone and pales next to this monolith
of community. I zip up my coat—the wind off the

Paolo Bi cch i e ri 45
water is nipping my skin. I’m malnourished, it seems.
Didn’t I have enough elephant meat? People are eating
kabobs with anything on them, it doesn’t matter, and
laughing until their bones rattle. They’re making love
on the sandy white tile of the wharf. They’re making
love and people still shake their hands and say how do
you do and fine thank you and you? There are little
planes landing and rising with fruits and vegetables in
them but it doesn’t seem like they are the captains of
their crafts because if they were then why would they
come to this place to be eaten? The community seems
enormous and healthy but what is an enormous and
healthy community to fruits and vegetables? Isn’t it
suicide to land here, or did they want to see the dogs
looking good on their own? I guess I wouldn’t blame
them if that was the case, but I can’t say. I feel like I
just got here, and unencumbered there is a lot for me
to do. I can be wherever I want along this pier, seeing
people and making their acquaintance, or I could join
that mariachi band since that’s part of me but I don’t
really know that for sure anymore.

I’ve come to a wide place but it still feels enclosed, but

in that enclosure is the life of this city—I know it! I
think it’s a city any ways; so many people must be a
city. I reach into my pocket and find a few sticky coins.
They look like pesos with a picture of an elephant on
the face.

I see a vendor on the other side of the pier, through

the rapids of people, and I start to go to them. A group

46 Paol o B i c c h i e r i
of three people stop my way—they put their hands on
my chest. For a moment I feel myself change, become
more like them, but I ask them to kindly move. All
three are gorgeous beings, crowded together they are
powerful, too. Their hands run across my body, and
I’m confused because I thought this place I am in let
me be the steward of my direction. It doesn’t feel that
way right now! I ask again, please move so I can make
it to the vendor. Relenting the trio let me go by, but
one grabs my cock. Their hand is hot and alive like
a magmatic spirit, but I am still hungry. And, really,
I don’t know this person, and I’m not interested in
spending the time to make their acquaintance right

Wading through the people is insane—I don’t

remember doing this before in such an electric way.
My breath is short and inspired, rushing in and out in
time with the memory of the Romanian music. People
touch me and I touch them. I see people making love
and I ask them how they’re doing. I blend right in
because this has been here all along! And it’s still such
a nice day outside, and now I can hear the mariachi
and even if I’m not playing the guitar I love the banda
rhythm. It isn’t mine but that’s fine. We’re sharing the

The vendor is a sleek woman. Her appearance is sharp

and she has a badge that says “No nonsense, thanks.”
Her smile is authentic but temporary—maybe she’s
also hungry. I look at her wares and see a box of snacks.

Paolo Bi cch i e ri 47
They’re foreign to me, but at the moment everything

“One box of your snacks, please.” I ask.

“Alright,” she says. “Eighty dollars, then.”

I wipe my coins off on my jacket and lay them on the

glass counter. She inspects one.

“I said no nonsense, didn’t I?!” she tosses them back at


I catch them, elephant side up.

“Ah, I’m sorry, I didn’t know that this was nonsense,” I

say. I mean it, too.

She looks around. The mariachi is bleeding joy and I

don’t think she can resist it. The beat of the wharf, and
the temperance of the day. She tosses me the plastic
box filled with treats.

“Take ‘em, but keep your nasty coins.” she winks.

Inside are beetles and roaches, ants and worms, coated

in tabasco and honey. There are chilies and balls of
clay; when I rattle the container it lets out a sigh of
gratitude. Or maybe that’s me! I tear off the thin piece
of plastic and recycle it behind the vendor’s counter. I
eat a spicy insect and am remembering something, but

48 Paol o B i c c h i e r i
I guess it doesn’t matter. What NOW?

“Thank you!” I say. “Do you know what else I can do

today? Where might be a good place to spend my

The no-nonsense woman rests her elbows on the

counter. She has a sweater that goes all the way up to
her chin, and it looks uncomfortable. It’s carrot juice
color, so not quite as dirty as a carrot. Her eyes rotate
around like a dreidel until they land on the water
behind her vending station. I follow her oracle’s gaze.

Ferry boats are chugging big orange and pink clouds

out of their stove tops and moving in the water, just
behind the bay, and taking people, people that look
like they could be eating snacks just like me or maybe
making love and it’s a sizzling thing that they’re
creating, around these islands that I couldn’t see from
the café or hardly even the wharf until this woman
let me see them. I’m struck again like a cudgel at how
I can do this thing now that I’m awake, and that I’m
here and what’s stopping me, any ways?

“I think I see what you mean,” I say to the vendor. She

smiles at me. “Thank you for the treats!”

“No nonsense next time, alright?”

I understand her completely. The path to the ferry

station is opened up like a slip n’ slide when I look

Paolo Bi cch i e ri 49
to my left. I grease my way through beautiful people,
my coat brushing against their tender bodies, and keep
my eyes just above the din. The stacks are like stoves
billowing out hot clouds of pizza-smelling ether. I
can’t be more excited—but how did I get here? Where
do the ferries taxi their guests? And is it a welcoming

There isn’t a line to the ferry. Only an empty parking

lot with a few candy bar wrappers. I look over my
shoulder and see the booming pack I’m leaving.
They’ve been so fun and I want to stay, but I know that
the ships are the next thing. I am confused, but this
much I know. I smile and shake the hand of two men
wearing bowler hats before I leave the dancing nation
and step into the parking lot.

There isn’t a line, but there’s a booth—a kiosk, I guess.

A heavily bearded man looks over his green and white
counter. I look behind him and can see the ferry that is
blowing smoke like a carny chewing on his pipe. “Vini
Vidi” it reads, carved into a thick piece of sea wood.
The ferry is the right size—big enough for cars and all
the sadness that travelers lug with them. The sadness
that is recreated when one chases their most recent
destination and watches their last one shrink.

“A ticket, please.” I ask.

“It’s a membership. One elephant coin.” His voice is

thick like rich chocolate.

50 Paol o B i c c h i e r i
“Will I need to pay dues?”

He sighs, extends a gloved hand. I place my coin in

his hand—it peels off my warm palm with some
resistance. He lifts the coin from his palm and runs it
through a machine. After a moment, he whispers into
a radio, then ushers me on. The parking lot is as empty
as before, but now there isn’t even one elephant coin-
carrying bum like me!

Night thunders around the ship as I step on board.

Lights go up as the city’s finest keep existing—making
love and letting the dogs do their thing. I smile as
I step up a few metal stairs, then I take a few more.
Wind scrapes my face when I get on the deck. There’s
another kiosk, but this one is unattended. Greek is
written, poorly, above a bowl of tequila bites. It’s a
strange scene, and I can’t read Greek. I take the salty
green pyramids in my warm palms to the rear of the
ship. I only see a few people sitting in red leather seats.
They’re cold—I can see it around them like a blue

Black, lumpy water is hitting the ferry. The city with

the sloping streets is shrinking, and I’m munching my
tequila bites. They’re strong like the hot sauce, and
I’m smiling. I know why I’m smiling this time because
I’ve been here, observing and acting. Approaching,
considering, choosing and it has led me here. I love my
actions, and this food and the boat. I haven’t taken this
ferry before, but one like it. The Gorgonzola, or the

Paolo Bi cch i e ri 51
Franciscan, it was called. That’s not right. It doesn’t

Cavalcades of lights and laughing—I can still hear

people laughing! Some people are moaning, and
I’m warm all over. I miss them, but I’m on the run.
I assume that, any ways. I don’t have a bindle or
anything hobo-ish, but who else just wakes up with
no recollection of their lives? I didn’t just coast my
way into that café. That’s impossible. I would have
remembered. My guess so far is that I’m not a secret

agent, but her accomplice, maybe. A gadgets person.
doesn’t matter.

Land is a speck in the past. I haven’t walked to the

front of the ship yet. I imagine the island or country
we’re going to, though: it’s huge and has people that
are tropical. They eat toucans and lizards and we hike
to the lip of craters each morning, or whenever we feel
like it. I love the rhythm of the ocean, I’m noticing, so

I hope it’s an island. It’ll be unforgettable.

52 Paol o B i c c h i e r i
n Kirven

Z Poem

Days of the Dead 2000, Patzcuaro, Michoacan, México

Hindooz or was it Mayuz

first came up with the number zero
“origin from which all values are calibrated”
z= “an unknown quantity”
in Pre-Colombian Mexico, zero was just a number
something or other and nothing moreover
India added to it, bringing null to their religious philosophy
Tibetans have no Z in their alphabet
Zeta is the 6th letter in the Greek alphabet
Oohhh logical illogical human zoo
I’d like to know who came up with
z last letter of z last names: Rodríguez Ramírez
Gutiérrez González Hernández Gómez Go Mezico!

Here en Mexico it’s back to ground zero as

Porfirio Díaz y los dazed muertos doze
Adiós Cortez y Viva Montezuma!
Arriba, Go Huitzilopochtli!
Viva Mexico Zapata Juárez Lázaro Cárdenas Lazarus
todos los muertos all the uncountable tzompantli, skulls

In Mestizo Mexico Zona Michoacana:

tiz z first letter of many pueblos: Zinapecuaro
Zitacuaro Zihuatanejo? No, es muy lejos
El corazón del Día de los Muertos is here
Ihuatzio Janitzio Zamora Zarzamora

Zacatlán Ztintzuntzán
Zen Zen Zen Z list goes on Zirahuén Zero is zen?
Zen is One and zen is zero and zen is…
Om is one and zero one who uttereth the mono-syllable
Om at parting goes with Brahma to ze right fin
to the land of Oz
Ze Hindenberg zepelin down zey go
below the zephyr and ze zabra cadaver ship sinking
zozobra, shipwrecked zebras swimming zig-zag
across the Z sea into eternity

Led Zeppelin’s Stairway zu Heaven,
Ozzy Osbourne and Zappa’s Zeitgest of zaniness,
Dizzy Gillespie zooms through the dead’s dreams.
Zorba the Greek embodies Z cinematic zest for life
and death Viva los Zapatistas
“the Zion train is coming our way”
carrying all ze zigns of ze zodiac
Ziggy stardust and z spiders are going back to Marz ese

Back in Michoacan: Tzentzenguaro Zen Zen Zero

z=zero? Zed and two Naughts=zero Zorro is no more, OH!
To Zirahuén I went with Gonzalo Zero when zen?
Zero when muerto Ziruapan Zero when what happens?
Siz it! You’re gonzo! You’re one big Zero!
When your number comes up Daz it Z ‘ya!

Tzurumutaro mother of all zeros
with the familia of Esperanza Calavera,
cocinera de la casa de poets and painters
praying for the recent dead, rezando por su mamá Elaria
ofrenda con manzana mujeres en rebozos azules,
blue shawls
Me con camera another extranjero bozo
in Patzcuaro many putzy gringos
futzin’ around funerals and tombstonz
El tonto, the Fool in the Tarot es el número Zero

54 B r i an k i r v e n
Take a pausa con pozole with a zing at ze end of ze sizzling tongue

azaleas and booze abound on this altar
rezando para el papá de Lupe la limpiadora
zapped by Zeus’ thunderbolt in a field of maíz
o Zea Zip Zap Zilch ZAS! makin’
makin’ a mess o masa cornmeal Diós mío!
too late for los zopilotes (mistaken in New World as
no need for zacateca, gravedigger
left only with empty zapatos this hombre be zonked
azotado, flogged by la mano de Diós
como un ángel negro
Así es A Z it is siz it!

The end scene of Eisenstein’s ¡Viva Mexico!

Zany Amazing Shazam! Zowie!
Zoetrope figures in the danza de death!
Ofrendas with zapote fruit fiesta con mezcal pues
not Zinfandel but let’s try Zizyphus’ fruits
al panteón con Esperanza
no playing of the zither here only sollozos, sobs
and nine days of rosarios and aves Marías
and más cempazuchitles marigolds to decorate tristeza
calaveras de calabaza, pumpkin skulls
de la familia de Esperanza Calavera
confetti de su hija Alejandrita on our cabezas
la cabeza de Zooey headstanding on el templo de Ihuatzio
at her upside-down zenith on this ziggurat
burying dark tristeza tierra sadness
con los colores de paz y alegría her swirling sangre
squeezing through the sesos ese, her brains

What happens if the dead sneeze?
Todos Santos all ze zillion almas awaken from their haze
Zombies arise
tristezalegria y abejas zumban, bees buzz
spirits come a zoomin’

Bri an ki rve n 55
like the monarch mariposas in migration all the way from
following a trail of orange wing dust
like the petals of the cempazuchitl path
the Aztecs
paved for ancestors to find their way home along
to find their way again with zest to fiestas
swept away by zacatones, grass brooms
and souls snooze otra vez from fiesta to siesta
back to ground zero into la tierra de azufres,
Sufrimiento is all life crazzzy suffering?
in death hay descanso pues, there’s rest,

Beyond the last letter the last breath the last village
Zirahuén “la vela perpetua” pueblo holds perpetuity in lit candle
Zoroastrian flame ever onward hombre
Zirahuén Zero when until they return again
from worlds without words without alphabetzzzzzzzz
Siz it! Dis is Z end of Z poem!

56 B r i an k i r v e n
- november 5, 2018 -

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