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Q uiet L

ightning
sPARKLe & bLINk
2.0

Q uiet L ightning
sPARKLe & bLINk
as performed on Jan 3 11 @ Public Works SF
© 2010 by Evan Karp + Rajshree Chauhan 978-0-557-99626-1 front + back art by casey cripe :: caseycripe.com designed + edited by evan karp :: evankarp.com
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Q uiet Lightning
is a monthly submission-based reading series with 2 stipulations you have to commit to the date to submit you only get 3-8 min submit ! !

contents
Siamak Vossoughi nATIONal pASTIMEs 8

«

Graham Gremore hAPPy bIRTHDAy (sORRy yOu missed iT) 15 Jesús Castillo from rEMAINs Deborah Steinberg sLAUGHTERHOUSe Clive Matson sONg #25 sONg #24 Michael Palmer lITERATURe cLASs Steven Gray dON’t wRITe a word mEMORy fOAm Evan Karp uNTITLEd 21 25 31 34 39 41 43 47

Chris Cole wE aRe nOt mIGHTy bUt wE aRe iMMORTAl 49 eVERYTHINg mEANs sO mUCh mORe tHAn iT mEANs 51 fOURTEEn hills 53 Timothy Walker tHe mANy tURNs oF nOSTALGIa55

Lauren Hamlin cASe #0900 Josey Duncan wHEn wE dRINk Rajshree Chauhan lOOk gOOd nAKEd Dean Rader hOw tO bUy a gUn iN hAVANa sELf-pORTRAIt: bLIZZARd 80 wHAt this iS: 35 Paul Corman-Roberts pANHANDLE’s eNd closer info + guide to other readings 92

59 67 71 77 83 85 89

nATIONAl pASTIMEs It wasn't the game itself. I used to go down to the baseball fields near my house in the summers with my bat and a few balls, usually in the mornings when it was still cool and foggy. I wasn't planning on trying out for any team. I didn't even have a group of friends to get together for a game later in the day. But I liked the way the ball flew off my bat when I hit it right, and I was just trying to be a part of what was around me. Around me were baseball fields and a town and America. I wasn't trying to fit into an American story when I rode my bike holding my bat in one hand, but if I happened to fit into one on those mornings, that was all right. It was one way for my family to get to know America and its stories. They would be getting to know the part that had a boy coming back home and tossing his bat in the garage. And then later in the day I would go back out to the fields and watch the part that had men and women who worked for different companies play a joking, friendly game against each other. I wouldn't know what to think. On the one hand, it was a bat and a ball and a field. On the other hand, they were adults, not kids. I wouldn't know what to think except that I might as well feel as glad for them as I
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did and as sorry for them as I did. Either the world was very big or very small. I would watch the American men and women playing softball and think it was both. They were definitely part of a story, and it wasn't just an American story. It was a human story. I didn't think the light in the sky behind them would look so beautiful if it wasn't a human story. And it would seem very funny that somebody who was just getting to know American stories would already feel poetic and world-weary about them. I looked forward to being out there on the baseball field with them one day, and I didn't think I could do it at all. "Hey there Billy, he just wants to end this game so he can have a beer afterwards." I couldn't wait till I was the one out there saying things like that and I felt like I could wait forever too. Well, I would walk home and whatever it was that had felt so light and breezy at the baseball fields would be balanced out by something heavy and if not dark then at least dark-tinted in our house. I would lie down and think, those were grown men and women back there. Is that what I have to look forward to or not? There was something circular about it, being a kid and wanting to be an adult, and then being an adult and wanting to play a kid's game. If there was something else
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to be in America, I didn't know what it was. I knew there were other things to be in Iran. I knew a kid could already be running from the police for selling newspapers that the government didn't like, and an adult could be going on hunger strikes in prison for it. At school I would hear stories about kids running from the police for writing on a wall or stealing cigarettes and how they would be punished by their parents, and I would think: My parents? My parents are the absolute least of my problems. My father was never going to suggest that we take in a baseball game, but part of that was that he did not share one of the beliefs commonly held, or at least suggested, at baseball games: that the world was an easy enough place to take in a baseball game. He didn't mind going outside and throwing the ball high in the air so I could practice catching pop flies, because that had a sense of wonder to it. Look at that, he'd think or say, a ball way up in the air like that. What great things we are capable of in this world! And afterwards he would look at me and smile as if to say, that's not so bad a thing to do when you're a kid. It was a while later that I figured out that he looked at me and smiled like that because he had been a boy running from the police for selling newspapers the government didn't like. He was
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seeing the ease of boyhood for the first time. When I saw that, I thought, Okay, I can't be who he was, but I can be great at who I am, and so there was no pop fly that was ever out of my reach. I would sprint great distances to go after balls that at first glance I had no chance of catching, but at the last second I would reach out my glove and there it would be. I might as well try to be great at the things a boy could do in America, I thought. To get a relationship going with the ball and the ground I would have to cover and the sky that the ball was set against. Those relationships seemed to go past being American or Iranian. My father would watch and I would see him thinking - there's something to this, it's not all just little kid games. He is learning about precision and accuracy and will, and those are useful things to learn in life. That's what it looked like he was thinking at least. And those things might find a place for themselves on joking, friendly baseball fields when I was a man like my father, but it didn't feel like that was what I was practicing for. I didn't have the first thing against those things coming out on those fields in general, and sometimes I would see a man make a great catch and I would think, there's a guy after my own heart, but I liked the way my father looked at baseball even
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more than I liked the great catch, even though he had no idea how the game was played. He looked at it like he was working towards a world where anybody could play baseball if they wanted to. He looked like he loved baseball more than the men and women down at the field, and I wanted to know about that. I wanted to know about loving something you didn't know anything about. The truth was that those men and women would be joking and friendly, but in the next minute they might be arguing and swearing too. It was hard to love something the more you got to know about it sometimes. A ball and a bat and a field seemed like something everybody agreed on, but it was hard to keep that agreement going and play the game too. I pretty much figured I wouldn't have something like that in America, where I would love something that I was very much a part of too, until I stood on a pitcher's mound and pitched the ball to American children, feeling a little bit like my father, only with a knowledge of how to pitch a ball too. I had America enough in my body when I did my windup, and so out there we could all concentrate on being human. That meant nobody laughing when a little kid came up to the plate holding the bat backwards and upside-down, or if they did, laughing with love. If they laughed
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with anything else, an Iranian man would correct American children with a look like his father had given him, and I would see them pause for a second because they knew that look was from far away and yet the way I was holding the ball was from right next door, and I would say to myself the conclusion I hoped they would reach: Yep, you can be anything you want to be. You better start today though because it's the hardest thing there is, and I would take my place on the mound and realize that I had found a place I had always been looking for, a place that was light and breezy on its surface and still made of the darkest and heaviest principles underneath, and the funny thing was how easily children could move in a place like that. A toss of a ball or a word about life might just as easily come their way. And I would notice that and think of how the one thing I knew to be true was that nobody knew how much room they had for whatever came their way until it did. Nobody in America knew how much they were waiting for an Iranian man to tell them what he knew of them, of life, and possibly least of all of baseball, until he told them. And then it would seem like the most natural thing there was. In the meantime I could make sure that the children I was among could feel like anybody could play baseball if they
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wanted to, and that was a great feeling. It was a great feeling to be a man who knew the game telling them that the most important thing about baseball was whether or not anybody could play. That was when I felt like I was passing on baseball the way my father had passed baseball on to me, and we would have the whole story of baseball and a father and son playing catch, all that poetry stuff, we would have all that alongside an Iranian story of how it's either going to be all of us or none of us and that's the way it's going to be, and fortunately we didn't have any dictator we were yelling that at like my father had, just the world, just a world that wasn't necessarily going to go along with that once we left the game and went out the schoolyard gate, but the funny thing was that we knew baseball, we knew the real baseball, and if anybody ever told us any different, well, they would be arguing with baseball, that's all.

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hAPPy bIRTHDAy (sORRy yOu mISSEd iT) Shortly after I moved to L.A. I received a phone call from my mother. “Graham, you have to come back to Minnesota next weekend. Your Great Aunt Winifred is turning 100 and I’m stuck planning the party.” “Big fucking deal,” I replied. “People turn 100 all the time. Anyway, I have plans next weekend. Maude and I are going to see Fantasia from American Idol. Not to mention, Aunt Winifred hates me.” “That’s not true,” my mother replied. “She doesn’t hate you.” “Yes she does. She told me so last Christmas at Grandma Mickey’s. Remember?” I reminded my mother about how I was sitting next to my Great Aunt Winifred at the dinner table when I asked if she would like any more green bean casserole. “Fuck off!” she barked. Then she said she hated me. “That was only because of her medication,” my mother replied. “She’s not on those pills anymore.” “I don’t care,” I said. “I still think she’s a nasty, old bitch.” “You’re terrible,” my mother replied. “You must get it from your father.”
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“I’m just saying, Aunt Winifred is an evil person. Remember when she called Muriel a strumpet? I mean, who even uses that word anymore?” Muriel was an older cousin from my mother’s side. Last Easter, she announced to the family that she was pregnant with twins. Aunt Winifred spat at her from across the dinner table then called her a “filthy, godless strumpet.” Muriel burst into a quivering mass of choking tears then locked herself in the bathroom. The rest of us just sort of looked around, confused because Muriel had been married to a Swedish man named Bjorn for the past six years. It wasn’t like she got knocked up by some random guy she met at a bar. Afterwards, Aunt Winifred refused to apologize, claiming that, even if Muriel wasn’t a strumpet, she should have known better than to announce her pregnancy on Easter. “How dare she try to steal Jesus’ thunder,” she preached. My mother sighed heavily into the receiver, signaling that she was done having this conversation. “Look, I understand that Aunt Winifred can be a bit much, but I’ll be damned if I’m stuck with her by myself,” she said. “If I have to suffer, so do you. Now, the Professor will pick you up next Saturday at the airport. We’ll see you then.” The ensuing Saturday, I met the Professor at the Minneapolis airport. Just
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Graham Gremore —–––––––––––

to clarify, the Professor is my father. We call him this because he’s an academic, and a very absent-minded one at that. He’s always getting sidetracked. He’s also very lazy. It makes for quite an unsettling personality. Half the time when he says he’ll be somewhere, he has absolutely no intention of actually showing up. The other half of the time, he plain forgets. “What the hell are you doing here?” I asked when I found him waiting for me by the baggage claim. “I’m afraid I have what could potentially be very devastating news,” he said as we headed away from the baggage carousel and towards his car, which he had parked outside in front of a fire hydrant. “Your Great Aunt Winifred passed away early this morning.” “Are you fucking kidding me?” I replied, annoyed. “So I could’ve seen Fantasia after all.” “There is something poetic about all this,” the Professor continued. “On the eve of her 100th birthday, she embarks on her final journey. Offward she goes to face the Great Unknown.” “I guess. But I can’t say I’m all that surprised. She looked like a walking corpse, after all. And she smelled like one too. So what’s going on with the party?” “Well, instead of a birthday party,
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there’s going to be a funeral,” the Professor said. He went on to explain that my mother was having the caterers she hired for the birthday party use the food for the funeral reception instead. And as for the birthday cake, the bakery had already written “Happy Birthday” on it. So my mother had them add “Sorry You Missed It” in parenthesis underneath. “That’s morbid,” I replied. “Even for me.” “That cake cost $75. Times are tough. We couldn’t just let it go to waste.” “How’d she die anyway?” I asked as we neared the Professor’s rusted out Volkswagon. A parking ticket was tucked under the front windshield wiper, but my father didn’t seem to notice it. “She went peacefully in her sleep,” he replied. “Then she crapped her pants.” “Are you serious?” “Unless she crapped her pants and then she died. I guess we’ll never know.” “That really happens? The whole crapping your pants thing?” The Professor shrugged. “It did to your Great Aunt Winifred.” We climbed into the car. “She is so disgusting,” I said, buckling my seat belt. “When I die, I’m going to make sure to get a colonic
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beforehand. I will leave this world with dignity, damn it.” The Professor turned the keys in the ignition and pulled out on to the street, nearly sideswiping a shuttle van, and causing the parking ticket tucked under the windshield wiper to blow away. As I watched the tiny piece of paper be carried off by the breeze, I thought about my Great Aunt Winifred. How, she too, had been swept away so suddenly. And how, like a lost parking ticket, nobody would miss her.

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from

rEMAINs As for the question of what can’t be retrieved from the tangles of interaction. As for standing on a drawbridge above a dry riverbed overlooking downtown. I mean the reasons we hesitated to make contact while all the ways we could fail or succeed passed through us like rays illuminating rooms only we could see. Noticing a bird landing on a wet branch aloud as a means of buying ourselves some time. As for the walk back to the car. As for the heavy cages that sat at the bottom of us breaking. Getting caught in the sand with our clothes off never with the voices from the street making their circles in the rain crossed our minds. All the outcomes we had kept in orbit started coming down, one after one after one in a hail. .

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as ready and able as conscious ghosts and we let go. The ground opens up to let our old bones hide. Strangers rest their gazes on us from time to time and then they move on. The willows in the park with the artificial lake sway in days in a life of houses made to fade. The mind opposing the desperate kind of dance and the mind dreaming in its patterns. The alert young man in his room dividing himself into canvases and the young man waking up to find drooping branches moving over him. Some place where you can’t see me. But I can’t find it. Plain daylight shines on the covers, the air in the room showing its dust. . Sometimes we stand outside amazed that we still get up to do this each day. Even this doom of a god that remains absent is a way the world opens. We walk to the town with our stack of papers and our instruments slung over our backs. Our sins tied up
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in small leather pouches that we carry on the inside of our jackets, ready for the day when they will come in handy. We practice juggling three at a time. If only we had infinity and a few more arms to point to the receding answers. I don’t know how many bottles it takes me to get drunk now. We’ll make do with reimagining the image in our image, tracing the bruises that’ll bring us home.

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sLAUGHTERHOUSe When you’re eight years old your parents take you to the old slaughterhouse ten miles outside town, and your mother is gaunt as a skeleton and collapses twice on the way and you have to help your dad drag her through the air, straining your child’s wings and telling yourself you can do it even if you don’t know why you’re going to the old slaughterhouse (some ancient animal instinct was telling you to flee) and inside the smell makes you gag, under the aluminum roof the heat percolates and your body is a vat of fluids barely contained by your skin, and there’s a man you don’t want to see who comes out of the shadows toward youyou back up against your parents but they’re backing away, panic shoots boiling lava up your veins, It’ll be OK you think your dad says but he’s crying, they’re leaving the building and you’re running after them but the man you can’t look at catches you by the wings and lifts you into the air and you flail your arms and legs uselessly, you scream and scream and scream until you puke as the man holds your wings firmly, he’s unflustered by your frantic thrashings, he doesn’t care about the puke on the stained floor or your screams or the blood now
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pouring out of your nose, he throws you onto your stomach on a metal table (the metal was so hot it left burns on your torso) and ties your struggling limbs one by one to the legs of the table and a long needle jabs into the base of your spine and sends paralyzing pain down every nerve in your body after which you are completely numb, suspended in the memory of pain, then there is nothing until you wake up in pain and screaming in your own bed and your fever is so high you hardly recognize your mother wiping your brow with a cold cloth, you kick and punch at anyone who comes near your tiny diminished body wrapped in bloody sheets, you wake several times into a nightmare in which your back is on fire and you know what’s happened you know what’s gone and you scream and scream and scream and you don’t understand how they can be there trying to soothe you when they did this to you, gradually you’re forced to come awake but it’s not like being awake before it’s a state of gray it’s acute pain that fades to dull pain that fades to lack, it’s sitting mute at a table with food on it refusing to eat while your parents choke down what they can, it’s vowing to never go outside again, never wanting to see sky again, then one day getting
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brave enough to walk outside, if you walked into that slaughterhouse you can walk out a door, and the sunlight hurt, and the trees hurt, and the voices of children flying nearby hurt so much you could hardly stand, and you taught yourself to walk upright without falling forward, you taught your legs how to hold you all the time, your legs were so tired they felt like they’d fall off, and one night you packed a bag with your few things, you walked out of your parents’ house without saying goodbye, you went to the house out on Old Kemper Road where Jenny said some of the other girls like you had gone, you were welcomed into the circle around the fire, Amanda helped you sew up the back holes in your shirts, Jenny rubbed oil into your scars, and you hid every time your parents came, you squeezed under your bed and up against the wall, into the space too narrow for wings, you hid there even when your parents came to tell you they were going south, you didn’t speak even when they cried and you watched their shoes walk away and then you lived with yourself after that, you pushed that regret down into the hollow place where the memory of flight had been left to rot, and you ate in spite of yourself, you ate the food that was left mysteriously on the front porch for
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the girls by members of the community who believed in charity, and you found yourself growing up in spite of yourself, you cooked and sewed and gardened, you helped make the house clean and bright, you found yourself laughing from the place in your abdomen you’d thought was hollowed out, you helped put up cheerful curtains in the windows, you salvaged wood from the rotting shed and crafted backs for the chairs, you caught yourself singing as you carved a piece of scrap wood into a woman without wings, and then somehow you were grown in spite of your crippled body, and your body wanted the way a woman’s body wants, you suffered the sneers of young men when you looked at them too long, you spent a first night with the baker’s son and he wouldn’t talk to you the next day and oh your heart broke hard and you cried into Jenny’s shoulder and all your old bitterness filled you until you puked out your third-floor window, and for days you didn’t leave your bed but one morning it was better, you knew then that you were stronger than the baker’s son, you discovered that the man in the slaughterhouse had made you strong, you walked more deliberately after that and you went to the Saloon with the other girls and you stared at the baker’s
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son until he had to look away, and you held your back very straight, your arms and legs were strong, and you laughed in spite of what you lacked and would always lack, you laughed in spite of what you desired, and you smiled at the guitarist in the mariachi band that came to town, you smiled and didn’t look away when he smiled back.

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sONg tWENTY-FOUr A photo without an image. A frame without a picture. A wall without a hanging. What happened? Some trembling infiltrated and reversed joy's wiring. Electricity folds in on itself and air turns inside out. The madrone bends arms across spotted skies and matches a swell of thigh I won't recognize. I've joined the fearful. I wake. I breakfast. I ride bus. I go work. I talk friends. I watch movies. I play ball. I no think. Things in distinct cages stay captured in adamant mesh and a file cabinet reasons not to bleed their borders. Raw tin awaits a stamp mill. Rushing water waits my brush's stilling stroke. Ideas wait my smart thought's killing stroke.
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We swim in an ocean of love, you proclaim. How wet is it? What temperature? Can my skin sense it? Visible in what wavelength? How buoyant? A halo flashed between limbs so fast I didn't see. I market. I play 'lectrons. I shop how town. I 'xercise. I no feel. I tire. I sleep. Romance the release of sex tension only. Big figures climb into imagination when you say "All those babes play in my blood." All these babes play in my blood. Joints dislocate sprockets and scapula. Skin rubs against engorged skin. Devil calls to devil. Put silver on the glass and make it a mirror. I won't be summoned. Demon infants oogle such smooth skin in their huge cribs spread under everything, delighted lose boundaries, vault through each other, bounce off walls
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and back through again. Keep the mirror up, make it show my made-up face. Laughter resonates plexus to plexus and I refuse to hear. Once I reached a tender hand toward love and twice a boot came crushing. Now at first touch my phantom hand shrinks back and I put all devotion into unshadowed play of images. I feel something for you and the current running through my fingers burns me. Hay bales piled evenly in the barnyard a truck horn splits the morning gray. In a well-oiled water pump a worn seal screeches. The bluebird clips its wing against my window. Rubbing in the wind dry branches don't echo your heartbeat. Don't echo. Don't echo. Your heartbeat.

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sONg tWENTy-fIVe Don't you know you have to cry? You have to cry. You have to cry out all those tears. They numb your spirit, their sad pressure warps your cool, their brine leaches from the world its color. Flowers cry. Buildings cry. Rocks cry and trees cry. Sky cries and millennium mountains reduce to silt and sand. Pull your mane across puffy, reddened brows, wish you had hair enough to hide abraded nostrils and the wet! Curl up in my arms and weep. Weep, weep yellow chick in the rain, wail drenched cat slinking like a halfdrowned rat. You have to let those tears all out. They crowd your sockets, tears will burst out corners' creeks, cut grooves through cheekbone ridges, flood
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ravines until alluvial fans enfat your jowls. You have to cry out all the tears. Talk of lovely geese and wind-combed foxes trotting into forest green but you cannot see the sky or trees through teardrops! The windshield roughed with heavy dew and vision ruptured, scattered all convex pixels. You cannot see until the tears are gone. All gone. What, you have no tears? You cannot cry? Thump your chest and test how dry. Bruise knuckles on hard ice, a crusty hunk where cartilage meets at plexus, at elbows, knees, and pelvis more frozen chunks! How can you open arms to sun and sky? How can you dance? Mom and Dad slow waltzed on hardpan over uncried tears. Sister and brother
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lug transparent cisterns. Lovers make up faces tears roasted out and ironed young. And you, you have a glacier dusted with twigs and throw rugs and asphalt roads. You have to melt that ice. Thaw that cold boulder from six months old and let it flood your cheek ravines! Overflow the storm drains, wash out gulches and culverts until your features disa ppear and tears gouge erosion facades into your bones. Do you know how my skull feels cupped in your hands while dual rivers frame my face? How my nipples hum when tears have damped the dimpled skin? Stand on river rock and shake in orgasm wind. Torso an empty ring of bone the air blows through.
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Sun warms ribs’ innersides. Ropes swing through trees. Here comes spring green. Here comes high noon. Here come storms. Here come flash floods crashing through my hollow chest. Put on your rain hat! Grasp our hands tear-lined palm to tear-lined palm. Let's tromp the sodden streets in sudden galoshes.

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lITERATURe cLASs The teacher gave them reading assignments: poetry, short stories, novels. The students could not get into it: fidgeting in their chairs, shooting spitwads, testing the aerodynamics of paper airplanes. When they tried to read passages aloud they could not finish— they laughed at what they read: “This guy’s SO weird,” they said. The teacher just laughed with them. “Let’s stop for today,” he said. We’ll try this again in 20-25 years.” The teacher left the room. The students ran outside delirious with their imagined freedom. Decades later the students returned to the room. The teacher was gone. The books were still there,
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covered with dust and the trails where the silverfish had their life sustaining meals. One by one the students went to their desks sat down, blew the dust away, opened the books, and began to read. Every word, every line, every sentence stabbed them in the heart. They read the words, the lines of words, over and over. They almost bled to death. Almost.

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dON’t wRITe a wORd I had a lot of wine last night and did not sleep much and now in the light of day I am dumb as the moon, I am a heat wave in the air. I have sand in my head and my bones are not my own, I feel like a strange man or a ghost of my old self, but a ghost made of ash and stone. I am so close to the earth in this state you would think I was a monk in a zone. I have no thoughts of the past, now is all I know or can deal with, that’s how real it is, this frame of mind, as if I don’t have a name or need one. I’m not out on a limb of words. I want to quit my job and stare at things, lie in bed like a girl who thinks of sex all the time, whose skin and hair and eyes and blood are the whole world and few thoughts get in the way. It’s like she knows the mind is small so what good is it, don’t use it, when you lose it (which can take a lot of wine) it leaves you on the ground like a piece of old wood and how cool is that. In such a low-down state it feels like I have a huge cock and I don’t care if it lies in the sun like a dog on its paws. You are right at home in the world, you breathe the air and what are the odds there is no god out there in a black hole of space where the stars burn gas all night and time bends so you don’t know
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what time it is and since there is no god you are free, you only have to look at the facts of life and feel them to the bone and own them as you take on the weight of a rock. It puts you at ease, it may come as a shock to some how close they are to that state if they would not ride the winds that move through their head all the time. There are long trails made of words that take you out of your skin and leave you up in the air in no man’s land, if you want to be at peace and feel like you are part of the world like the trees and hills and birds just shut off your brain. Don’t write a word. Put down your pen. Pick up a rock and hold it. Find a clock and make it stop. Your thoughts are a dream, wake up and smell the tea. The last act ends with the sound of one hand in the air.

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Steven Gray —–––––––––––

mEMORy fOAm We’re sleeping on a mattress made of memory foam, is that ephemeral or what. We wake up in the morning and remember who we are, and who we’re sleeping with. It cuts down on the promiscuity and amplifies the continuity of your existence, making for a smooth transition, one day to the next. No one wants to be a jagged discontinual persona who is haunted by amnesia. You can turn your life into a superhighway of coherency with an illusion that you see forever, but you still are saddled with a brain. It’s old as the hills and just as wrinkled, losing track of who you are or what you did last week is common, like a road that disappears from view when it is winding through the mountains you are often out of touch with the past.
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The memory foam remembers what the contours of your body look like, and I have a sinking feeling, like the body is absorbed into the mattress and you’re in a state of suspended animation as the world turns and eventually the sun comes up, and you are slowly reemerging from a lack of definition. You were part of the mattress for a while and now you are reconstituted. What happened to the old one, it did not remember us and so I shot it full of holes, a case of mattress-cide, it ended up outside. I live in an apartment with my inside information where the memory is amorous, I’m sleeping with a horizontal woman and we sink into ourselves when we are losing consciousness, a spiritual osmosis going on between us.
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Steven Gray —–––––––––––

A man and woman lying side by side and breathing with their eyes closed, they are being blind-sided by the visions in the brain, it never sleeps, it is a tumbleweed of visionary nerve-ends, or a sea slug with hermaphroditic tendencies. The woman’s hair is tangled as Medusa, a disheveled sleeping beauty who is ready for a close-up, I am gravitating to the distant. The dreams unfolding in the darkness are revealing, I am open to the unfamiliar, but I lose track of the family in the process, while unconsciously she wallows in familiarities, it gives her confidence, a woman grounded in the family. In the morning we were walking by the harbor and a sailboat, it was floating on its own reflection which was falling apart.
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Steven Gray —–––––––––––

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Evan Karp —–––––––––––

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wE aRe nOt mIGHTy bUt wE aRe iMMORTAl i am who you are before you thought about what that might mean when you could still be touched without a question mark when you didn't think about the difference between falling and flying it is always something in between a face that we catch out of the corner of our eye or maybe in the corner of some room something was in the drink and somehow i was swallowed up we disappear from sight we disappear from ourselves we are not mighty but we are immortal we were never here and we never left we pass at such great speed but as the earth goes by and the universe folds into itself can we take a moment to remember what we look like and how we were caught up in an instant city
50

Chris Cole —–––––––––––

by this inescapable presence can we take the time to draw ourselves and find out what the rush of blood looks like so that we may walk around with our eyes closed and still know what we are looking for

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eVERYTHINg mEANs sO mUCh mORe tHAn iT mEANs i can't keep it together these days i'm cracked open and whatever it is that i've been trying to contain just spills out everywhere it's hard to go to the living rooms and bars everyone there just keeps filling each others cup even though they're already overflowing spilling onto the carpet leaking into the floorboards flooding up the basements where drunk writers talk about what it means to write but you can't write about meaning you can only try to find meaning in what you write there are these colors that come to me and beg me to open them up and look inside "we are the present you've been waiting for"
52

Chris Cole —–––––––––––

they say but i run as fast as i can from what it means to mean something by what it means to see you here there across the room as imperfect ashtrays try to measure the weight of your words in smoke that leaks out the corners of your mouth like arms reaching up towards heaven hoping there will be someone who will pull you up right out of this room and the light escapes even as it searches for a way back in

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fOURTEEn hILLs it was a hilltop where we sat until our butts got so cold we had to stand "we're higher than most of the people in this city" but only because we wanted to go to the top and knew we belonged there you said to evan and i "this city seems so small" and evan said "but when you're inside of it it goes on forever" perfection doesn't rsvp and it usually shows up with strangers but it was only the three of us last night we knew what there was to know about each other even if we had no idea how we found out after we wrote those words across the skyline of our city we went down the hill
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Chris Cole —–––––––––––

to where forever was waiting with its arms open wide

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tHe mANy tURNs oF nOSTALGIa Stuck in traffic on the 880, northbound, somewhere between Union City consumer wasteland and Hayward industrial warehouse hell, a man in the midst of a mid-(twenties)-life crisis is forced to pause, mind-caught by the lights of a Chuck-E-Cheese blooming red and virile in the haze of an early morning Bay Area December storm. There is a hiccup to the pulse of his daily river, brief breaks in the rhythm and the time, seconds where he is seeing those shutter flashes of a younger sun. To what made him ache with Nostalgia, there were these: Glimpses of Baseball Diamond in the last cheery echo of a late Iowa spring— boys in uniform, in position—one chewing absently on the worn leather of a well used glove staring at the clouds, listening for the crack of the bat, the rush of wind in the moments before a hero is made and the crowd goes wild— the crowd a motley collection of grandparents, friends and relatives, cheering as if to say more than just “win,” cheering in celebration of innocence, of youth, of sunburned cherub faces in need of bathing, of little mouths chewing sloppily, bubble gum
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Timothy Walker —–––––––––––

and sunflower seeds, each with a brightly drawn stain of Gatorade as mustache—the twinkle of apprehension and joy in the eyes as the ball comes flashing like a star plucked out of the sky and hurled to earth, awaiting the swing of some cosmic bat, splinter of wood whose construction lends itself to the furthering of lofty hopes and tightly wound dreams; ALSO! Glimpses of Too Small Car with too many bodies, legs and hands pressed against another’s—each grasping cheap cans with which to swill, to blindly seek something other than inebriation, something closer to their own personal gods, their desires to soar, each to his own personal mountain on his own swift drafted swan breath from heaven—the crisp of night in the frigid depths of Midwestern December—the silhouette of tree groves among the empty fields so stark against the blue black white blaze of far away stars—the cars inhabitants, mere teenagers wearing masks of age for the nights duration, practicing their loud introductions to the world, postulating ideas which undulate back and forth in a thriving mass of exhaled troubles, and inhaled epiphany, the
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sparks of youth set to kindling by the meeting of one another’s burning gaze, by the share of coughs and sickness and heartache, the celebration of which is like the christening of a newborn, this holding of a fresh spring meadow find for all to see, “look, see there, the eyes, they blinked” and all look down at their swill and nod in this shared conspiracy called raw, cruel and unadorned by some, sweet, delicate and tender by others—so are bonds formed by fire, within an old off white honda civic in the dead of night, Dark Side of The Moon playing low in melancholic monotone behind the sway of conversation—these are the nights that they will wear like tattoos, something to point proudly at and laugh; ALSO! Glimpses of a Family Wound tight like multi-colored thread in the loom—as a porpoise pod, cohesive and neat upon initial inspection, though secret chaoses lie hid beyond the swish of fin and tail, the giggle of snout and the sun drenched isle somersaulting of solstice sunsets—six in number, interchangeably individual, each to each a link to the world, sharing arteries in symbiotic union, tumbling adolescents finding
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Timothy Walker —–––––––––––

treasures and pain, inevitable share, always that point, that sharing, and again, Inevitability, the grooming of oneself like the sibling or parent, inextricable when so many mirrors are held so close to one another—in moments of familial doubt, so much can be revealed if you just look harder at the ugliness, stare into the devil’s face and learn to count his teeth so you can size a necklace on which to hang them. And so there is a spinning world on which the numbers dance, and all of us who live above can clap our hands and exclaim with glee, at least until the car behind us, and the car behind that one, begin to honk, and we put the car in drive, and so doing, move onward to where it might be that we are going.

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cASe #0900 The Marcos’ live in a half-baked community forty miles south of Sacramento. The town sits like an afterthought on the side of the highway, a mile from the outlets. The subdivisions are unfinished, two-story boxes double as homes, trimmed with loud, primary colors, probably to distract you from the stubby driveways and dirt lawns. McHovels, I call them. My boss and I drove up from San Francisco in a rented sedan that smelled like flop sweat and quarter-pounders. We were meeting with our newest client, Carlotta. Her daughters had died in an SUV rollover, the airbags had failed, the seatbelts too. In front of the house, scratched up Tonka trucks lined the walkway like booby traps, and cigarette butts poked out of spidermited plants. Jason walked up the stairs in front of me, kicking a toy train out of his way and sending it skittering over the edge Carlotta was trashier then I imagined. When she opened the door the first thing I noticed was her chest. It was a tangle of gold chains and pert cleavage. Most prominent was an almost cross-like pendant; a B and a T intertwined and glittering with inset
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Lauren Hamlin —–––––––––––

diamonds. She grabbed my hand in both of hers and said, So nice to finally meet you, in a way that was so unnaturally formal and proud it licked me raw. Jason said, what a lovely home. She beamed and stuttered. Touched her hair. The house was a pigsty; T.V. dinner packages littered the counter, empty grocery bags carpeted the floor, a halfeaten can of cat food crusted over in the sink. Packed in the tiny kitchen were two middle-aged women with sunken, bored eyes; a teenage boy eating beef jerky; a man wearing an aquamarine muscle shirt and copper bracelets. Carlotta rattled off their names as we walked by, not stopping, not really introducing us so much as pointing out important scenery. The living room had the feel of a makeshift shrine. Eight by eleven photos of the twins in various stages of life littered every surface of the room. The girls were tall and lanky; they swam in their leotards and their soccer uniforms sagged, their eyes were bright and eerie. The photos surrounded us insistently and I pulled at my skirt, yanked it down on my hips. She told us to sit down at a table in the dining room that was piled high with stacks of magazines and papers, not an inch of wood showing.
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Jason is the attorney but the case is mine. I am a paralegal doing the work of a first year associate. They bill me out at half an associate’s rate and pay me a heartbreaking fraction of that. I tell myself it’s only temporary. I’m too smart to be doing this work forever. Too morally aware to be shoveling shit in this gray area, day in and day out. I do the work up on all the rollover cases, for Carlotta’s just like the other Plaintiffs. I get the police reports, make sure they were wearing seat belts, make sure no one was drinking. Match the make, model and year of the vehicle with known and successfully litigated safety defects. I talk to the mothers on the phone, wait out their crying jags, Fed-Ex the HIPPA forms so we can get the autopsy photos. All Jason does is come to my cubicle, bend down and whisper reminders of the night before in his wife’s bed. All he does is distract me. On his way out he doubles back, says More pathos, call the mother, get photos, I’m thinking…Prom. They were hot little things no? So that’s exactly what I do. Rebecca and Tamara were their names. Bex and Tammy. I knew more about the case than him. He was only there because in the wake of grief people lash themselves
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Lauren Hamlin —–––––––––––

gladly to arrogance and a charcoal suit. But that’s the way it is and the sound of my hackles rising always reminds me I won’t be able to take this for very long. I won’t be a middle-aged paralegal attending the company Christmas party like it’s the fucking Oscars, decked out and drunk on bulk wine, my dress and the unfamiliar feeling of equality competing for shiniest illusion of the night. We asked Carlotta about the accident, cleared up a few questions that were too upsetting to ask over the phone. Were the girls drinking that night? Did they have a history of partying? That sort of thing. They weren’t driving, so from a legal stand point the drinking didn’t matter, but from a money standpoint? It mattered. The case wouldn’t go to trial anyway so it was all about upping the settlement amount. Virginal innocents played much better in mediation than girls with a history of shoplifting and amateur porn. These questions had to be asked so we didn’t get our asses handed to us in an airless room by some fat, shiny, corporate prick. I moved uncomfortably in my seat and realized that something beneath me was crinkling. I took a newspaper
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clipping out from under me and squinted at it, looked at Carlotta. “Bex got third place in science fair last year,” she said, pointing to the photo, “she tested the effects of Red Bull on fruit flies.” “Can I take it with me?” I asked. She gave me a puzzled look and I told her it was for the economic expert; for an analysis of projected lifetime earnings. The confused look persisted so I continued. These earnings help determine the settlement amount. Loss of earnings, loss of income, loss of livelihood. These are the words we use. Dust hung in the light that sprayed across the table in thin shards. We all sat quietly in the sickening space where a child’s life has been quantified in terms of dollars. Then, he saved me. He took Carlotta’s hand and covered it with his soft, boyish palm. His face slackened earnestly and when he reached across the table his shirt cuffs pulled back to reveal a muscled forearm. I’ve seen him do it before but every time, I believe him. He squeezed Carlotta’s hand gently and her knuckles crunched together. “I know this is hard. But, the right thing is not always the easy thing.
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Lauren Hamlin —–––––––––––

Getting all this information makes it more likely they will settle. To admit they were wrong.” He said it with conviction, and I knew he meant it. The car company we’re suing has deep pockets, but they also have a well-documented history of fucking over the consumer. Selling unsafe vehicles for bottom dollar to the bottom rung. Just as there is a bit of truth in every stereotype, there’s a bit of righteousness in every ambulance chaser. Carlotta’s head bent down and she began weeping softly. She looked as if this had been happening a lot lately. Now that her eyes were no longer on him, Jason looked satisfied with himself. That look turned quickly to boredom. I removed the contract from my briefcase and put it on the table in front of her. “Of course you can take your time with this, look it over, FedEx it back whenever you like,” I said, “call me if you have any questions.” The room was sun-baked and dusty and I could feel the sweat start to collect behind my knees and between my breasts. Jason had removed his hand from Carlotta’s and began fiddling with his collar. We looked at each other like, let’s get the hell out of here.
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Out in the driveway, he threw his leather bound folder into the backseat, undid his tie. “She was kind of hot, huh?” he said. I took off my nylons. They were itchy and practically soaked in sweat. I propped my legs up on the dash and turned the AC on high. “For a forty-five year old?” he said, pushing past my rolling eyes. “Yeah, I guess if you’re into trashy, sure.” “I bet she’s dirty,” he said as he backed the car out of the stubby driveway, banging the muffler on the curb. “Did you see her licking her lips?” he said, “It was either me or the money.” He flashed a hard-charging grin and I smiled back and shook my head in faux disgust. “You’re sick,” I said. “What do you think those people were lurking around for, the weird boyfriend? They’re horny for it.” “Not everybody is mercenary,” I said, rolling down my window, wondering why I always found myself saying things to him that I didn’t believe. “God you’re hot,” he said, “Naïve and hot.”
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Lauren Hamlin —–––––––––––

As we drove away from Carlotta’s McHovel, I saw her standing in the window. Her hand was pulled to her chest, and she rubbed the necklace between her thumb and forefinger, looking hopeful and absent at the same time. Without missing a beat Jason put the car into gear, and reached between my legs. I smiled at him, but what I meant was no. No, not now, no. The problem is, sometimes it’s hard to trust the distinction between yes and no, good and bad, right and wrong. Sometimes instead, you’re flayed open and all there is, is raw.

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wHEn wE dRINk I embarked on my first bender because I got dumped. Even when you know it’s coming, when you’re nineteen—and maybe, when you’re not—it sucks. After pleading and crying and empty threats, I called some friends, went to the Greyhound station, got hit-on by a dude on his way to a Job Corps forestry program, and tearfully rode the bus to Santa Cruz, where I wallowed in cheap vodka, puked up cheap vodka, and might have at some point eaten a burrito. I stumbled through five misty, hazy days before catching a ride home. Splitting headache and trembling hands aside, I felt much better than I had before I left. I felt cleansed. I embarked on my next bender for every graduation, promotion, win, completion, or triumph. Birthdays and weddings and new apartments in San Francisco with working fireplaces and picture windows with crane-necked views of the Bay Bridge and the bay (happy housewarming). When we tied the knot, we toasted with guests and shots of Black Maple Hill bourbon poured into square glasses printed with our initials. I celebrated with white and red wines, and club soda spiked with vodka or bourbon, through
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Josey Duncan —–––––––––––

the midnight reception, until almost sunrise. We cheered and spilled and sang and shattered glasses and bendered because we were happy. After a death, after the blood drains from behind your eyes and the world rushes past and is frozen at the same time, there are drinks. Numbing the exposed, while hugging the fresh pain close. Memories and tears cascade steady with each swig, the glass bottle bottom a story’s end. Pour a little out on the asphalt or the dirt. Wit chases drinks. Now there is talking to strangers who are no longer strange. There is that song, that one song, and that thing that happened one time that you both think about a lot when your minds wander, when you are alone. And there is far, far less fidgeting, and arms uncross and hands gesture loudly. If you’ve panicked, you’ll know that feeling of tight-chest and pressedagainst. And you’ll know that sweet booze is the deepest breath. When new love is found or fake love is gone or decayed love falls away completely and our raw, wet selves are exposed, when we are lost or have discovered exactly what we are looking for—this is when we drink. When we must drink.
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And sometimes there is nothing. There is the morning. Or the sunset, or the almost-sunrise. 12:34 or 5:13 or 7:06 and it is not-bright or too-bright or it is a dim room or it is not a room at all. There is an outside-your-fluttering-blinds where it’s not hot, or it is raining and there is thunder. Or it is one weird week of sticky Portland in December snow. Or there is fog, because it is San Francisco and there is always fog. Blinking away last night, or the last 10 hours of crispeyed-awake, or your last-seen 10 am, you press your neurons to spark and feel the day or night ahead and still there is nothing, except a bender. There are always drinks. And after drinks possibilities rise like after-rain steam on sweaty sidewalks, from your warming body in the dark or the sun or the dim room with the blinking bright numbers. And you are alone or you are with someone who is so a part of you that you are basically one, one alone, or you are alone, alone, and don’t feel alone. The sweetest smoke spilling from the coldest fire that grows as you sip, and then you swig, spilling.

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Josey Duncan —–––––––––––

lOOk gOOd nAKEd Naked *smile and wink… I could tell you about a hot 4th of July when I was 17, when I walked into a grocery store and ran into guys from school – accidentally forgetting I had left my shirt unbuttoned down to my jeans – my breasts and nipples barely covered by the flimsy pink and white lace… I was trying to stay cool earlier, in that summer heat trapped in the valley. I was drying my hair before leaving the house and simply forgot. Oops! Naked *naughty… I could tell you about my trip to Cabo when I was 29. Someone had put a magazine clipping above the peephole in my room. It read, “Look Good Naked.” So, I did. For the rest of the trip, I walked around that room, I slept in the cool sheets… every time I was in that room, I was naked. Looking back, there was probably a hidden camera, streaming me over the internet somewhere. Or what about the time I, fresh from the shower, dressed in front of my windows… the windows in my room open up onto a hillside of brush and trees – not a soul to be seen… usually… not until that morning. I finished dressing and looked up to see guys trimming the trees up on that hill…
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grinning. I felt they owed me some money for that! Naked The word implies vulnerability. None of these stories leaves me open. I mean, you’re listenin’ to a gal who doesn’t have very many inhibitions sober. Black bra contest? Hold on *checking. Right on! What I should tell you about… When I was in high school, I was never asked out. When I was in college, I was never asked out. It wasn’t until I was 24 when he asked me out. Dear Lord, his smile. His eyes, the look in his eyes when he looked at me. The way he would cradle the back of my neck as he kissed my forehead. The way he’d pull me to him, his hands on the small of my back or on both hips, pulling my body against the firmness of his. He was beautiful that one. Crème caramel skin, rugged and smooth at the same time. He was shaving his blonde head before it was cool, downy and ticklish on my palm when it grew. I mean, you could see every tiny muscle in his back – a swimmer’s back, a gymnast’s back. The echo of him, the memory of him *sigh We went on a road trip that December between Christmas and New Year’s. From
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Rajshree Chauhan —–––––––––

down in Joshua Tree, up into Northern California, into Oregon, into Washington, into BC. Eating, sleeping, playing games, camping near the beach. With him was the only time I’ve ever made love – we didn’t just fuck each other. It wasn’t that pure raw sex, which is good in its own right. The look on his face when he cupped, kissed and sucked on my nipples, the fascination he had with tasting my insides, with rolling my skin and muscles under his palms and fingers. He drank me with his body. Hungry, waiting, desiring. Senses heightened, breaths held. The spark of the first touch… it wasn’t enough, never enough. It left me wanting more. I wanted to crawl into him, to be a part of him… Don’t breathe… Not yet… … Here… Ah, yeah… breathe On the drive back, on a stretch of highway between Oregon and California… There was rain that night. The roads were slick. He had the window open for a hot minute to stave off the sleepiness. We both saw something in the road. I’m still not sure what it was. A deer? A coyote? I don’t know… When we hit the hillside, we lost control and flipped… he had his seatbelt on… How did he end up outside the car? What happened? I knew there was blood streaming down
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my face, I knew I had hit my head… I saw him lying in the road. I didn’t matter anymore. I half crawled over to him, my hands and legs feeling thick and heavy, unable to follow through with my commands. Making my way with the cacophony of the rain raucous in my ears, on my skin, in the confusion… Or, was it the blood rush? Feeling the wet rocks in the roadway dig into my hands, imprinting them, muddying them, I had to get him out off the road. He was on his back, his lashes touching his cheeks. The rain pooling at the inner corner of his eyes. The rain sliding down the planes of his face… There was too much rain, I couldn’t tell if he was breathing… But I had to move him. I tried… I tried… He was too heavy. I pulled his arms, and sat him up. His sweatshirt was soaked. Already? Was it water? Or?... I leaned my body behind his, his beautiful back against my chest, his head lolling, his body heavier without the spark of his smile. I moved him a little, pulling him backward. I couldn’t do this alone. Where was the adrenaline? Was that his blood or mine mixing and dripping with the rain onto him? It had to be mine. Why couldn’t I move you? Why did the seatbelt snap? How did the seatbelt snap? Why?
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Rajshree Chauhan —–––––––––

The next car, the lights blinding me… I thought it was slowing down. I thought help had come. I put him down to wave my arms, to plead for help. I ran out in front of him to protect him. The car swerved around me too fast… spun out… crushed his skull, crushed his smile… I watched it happen even as time stopped. That last moment… He was gone. Forever gone. He was the love of my life... Infinity pain. Clouds of infinity pain… I fell through them. There was no one to catch me. Now… Now, I stand before you naked…

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Rajshree Chauhan —–––––––––

hOw tO bUy a gUn iN hAVANa First, never say the word gun. Or pistolero or buy. Talk instead about platanos. And smile. You’ll know the bodega; it’s the one in Los Sitios with the wooden parrot clipped to the wire on the left side of the door. When the wind springs up off the sidewalk, the parrot bobs slightly, banging its crimson head against the building’s wooden slats. Go inside. On the far wall above the shelves of candles and tilty stacks of shirts, you’ll see the blackboard. It’s the same in every store: an inventory of frijoles negros, arroz, and leche de coco, menued in white chalk. You will scan the inventory for platanos, hoping they are in stock. You never know.
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You will have brought with you a pouch of powdered milk. Inside will be powdered milk and eight hundred fifty Euros. No dollars. No sterling. The pouch will be glued shut. No tape. No staples. You will, as you do with your wife, your children, your boss, barter. There is no baby formula in Cuba; no cow’s milk. You will hand over the pouch and ask for platanos. It is said that at a similar bodega in Vedado, you look the man behind the counter in the eye. But here, you are supposed to settle on the framed photo of the Catedral de San Cristobal nailed to the wall above the shirts. The woman will place the platanos in a plastic bag. You will take them. You will not say thank you. No one knows the precise chain of events, not even you, because, as you are told,
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Dean Rader —–––––––––

you turn away. You will walk over to the shelves next to the old Coke cooler and ruffle through Frisbees, pantyhose, and postcards of Che playing golf in Army fatigues. By the time you are finished, your bag of platanos will feel heavy. At that point, you walk out of the store, and out of Los Sitios, and make your way to the Malecón, and you gaze at the lovers lounging on the wall and you stop for mango ice, and you ask yourself, as you have done with everything meaningful in your life, what happens now?

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sELf pORTRAIt: bLIZZARd Dropping from the sky like flakes of soap, big heavy chunks like frozen leaves or pieces of poems. Dropping like wings of small birds like thick onion skins that freeze their own tears, like bits of alabaster flesh searching for bone, like sugar cubes or lily petals, like clumps of feathers or dandelions: crumbs of white bread: the dust of clouds: Snow falls because it cannot rise, cannot bend its knees, spread its wings. It has no arms and cannot climb the thin threads it leaves streaming from the sky. The more it falls, the more it remembers its absence of rising. To descend is not to ascend. And not to ascend is to fall. And to fall is to lose. Snow is tired of losing. Snow wants to watch TV on Sunday. It wants to hibernate in the winter, wear glasses
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Dean Rader —–––––––––

And put on a tie. Snow wants to learn to tell time. Snow wants to eat Bar-B-Q ribs, and listen to Elgar, It wants to kiss a man or a woman. Snow wants to wonder about God. It so happens that Snow wants to be rain: it wants to dance on leaves in the green of spring. Snow wants be made love in, sliding down buildings or bodies. It wants to plunge on alfalfa and corn stalks, it wants to sound like a slap. But snow also wants to feel like the ocean. Snow is ready for water. Snow wants to keep flowing. But April retreats like a distant shorline, leaving Snow to dream of Rangoon, San Tropez, Antigua, where it can take off its fuzzy coat and return to the source of its making. But, snow wakes to its work, diving down on linens left out on the line, landing on underwear and tanktops, where it melts into big dirty drops salty as tears.
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wHAt tHIS iS: 35 1. This is the vase for the flowers you’re holding 2. This is the sign on the wall that I’m gone 3. This is your chance to create a distraction 4. This is the answer to 7 across 5. This is the heaven we can’t reimagine 6. This is the hammer this is the chain 7. This is not at all what you asked for 8. This is the way we do things in Russia 9. This is something quite different from that 10. This is my body that lies down in darkness 11. This is the word spoken aloud 12. This is not what I thought would happen 13. This is the heart and this is the heart 14. This is the part of the poem you wanted 15. This is my hand it’s touching your elbow 16. This is the language we all have to use 17. This is the same thing we did in the morning 18. This is the question I won’t ever ask 19. This is the place you can take me
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Dean Rader —–––––––––

for coffee 20. This 21. This returned 22. This _______ 23. This 24. This 25. This 26. This I’ll kiss 27. This about 28. This shadow 29. This 30. This tomorrow 31. This heart 32. This believe 33. This say 34. This

is the dog that misses his tail is for keeps it can’t be is my penance for all of my is is is is perhaps the craziest line forever, that is for now the tree I planted in Cypress the place on your thigh that

is the one I’ve been talking is the light that is absent of is all I can do for you now is the lie that I’ll tell you is the heart and this is the is the reason we choose to is the word we know never to is not over it’s hardly begun

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pANHANDLE’s eNd I hear good old-fashioned SF sound feedback pouring out of a tiny amp down the hill. Sketch, the self-described potaholic decked out in the classic seventies denim uniform, is doing the hippy flail down by the guitar player and his old lady who are older but stunningly beautiful people. The guitar player backs a grindy riff with a mean reggae/blues howl: Minstrel sing beware o’ Vanity Fair Poet cry don’cha heed the siren o’ the sea And the sin of the wicked city. This turns out to be the guy’s only lyric but he bites down on the vocal really well and noodles the fuzzy sound in luscious tones. So then this poncho with hair gone the color of an old mop comes bobbing up the hill, and stops by our femora cove, just above Needle Lake. His name is James or Jamie or some shit like that and we instantly recognize each other as equals beneath the sun. We desire conversation because we see that shine in each other so clearly, but it is utterly useless. He can’t verbally communicate
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the distance he’s traveled to reach her, but looking into his steel gray eyes the answer comes so clearly. Baja? I don’t know. Is it that far? It seems longer rather than farther. I see the thousand miles in his pupils; I see Cabo and a thousand million handouts and nights on warm beaches and not so warm nights underneath a levy or a broken bus stop or whatever holds up till someone comes to run you off. He doesn’t do acid anymore. He doesn’t need to, he’s tripping all the time now; life next to the ocean will do that to a wanderer. Can he see my coyotes in the Mojave? The shades and wraiths haunting the Valley of Fire...(?) ...Oh yes. His smile sees all, clearly and right through me. D and John watch the whole time; they hear our conversation as “yeah, you know man, ‘cause it’s all like, like just totally so fuckin’ wow ever, you know man.” They laugh at us the whole time. But all I hear is beckoning. You could do it too you know. It’s all just one big beach between here and Chile, and the Incan ruins...you could go. You’re smart enough, you’re strong enough to start out on that journey right now and leave these sorry bitches
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behind right now and isn’t that what you really want, isn’t that all any of us who end on this frontier want? Macchu Picchu fades and the drawings of the High Plateau’s become the shadows of the wrinkles in poncho’s face. The sun is low and gold/orange through the Eucalyptus and Oak trees. Now I’m looking at a malnourished man, an old man not much older than me, and a smoky voice, having hooked up a freebie from Diana’s American Spirits, asks if I know where to get something to eat. “The Krishna Temple is something like, three blocks down Haight and another four blocks up. They’ll feed you, y’know, up to a certain time. I think you still have a couple hours or so.” He gets that wry knowing look that comes so easy to those with premature crow’s feet. “Yeah, it won’t be the first time I’ve done some chanting. I can get off on it too, but at the end of the second day they start wantin’ you to hang around y’know?” Yeah, I know. “That’s the price ain’t it? There’s always the introductory offer. There are a thousand ways to turn Bohemian in this town, each with the same market value as the entrance to
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any monastery of your choosing. Entire lives are bound in tightly wound strategies; entire histories are displayed in tightly wound stances. You have a stance now that projects the exact same thing in ways that some of us can see and others of us cannot see.” Now he laughs at me. “I think that’s a plan. Thanks Migs, you’ve helped me out a lot.” And off he goes. D and John are staring at me; stoopid acid grins pasted to their glazed mugs. John starts pealing out guffaws. “Miggy, you’re a fuckin’ freak!” “I told you he was the real deal,” D chides. I have no choice but to grin back at them sheepishly. I tell them I think I have ESP.

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cLOSEr Yeah, I’m the closer. Wait don’t go please. I know you’re tired. I know you didn’t come for my self-absorbed catharsis. I know there’s a lover you need to get back to now However real or unreal they may be But you waited this long we may as well finish our ritual. Just one more minute I swear. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’m just the kind of poem to be hanging out till the last title just the kind of poem who’s lost and looking for a free ride Who am I kidding? of course I’m that kind of poem but the thing about the closer is I heard you tonight
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saw you burn bright & you know I’m blessed to feel your embers’ occasional burst into dangerous spark that threatens to become flame for better or worse; blessed to smear the stain of your ashes in the old lachrymological scratch across my third eye all of which you have given longingly willingly soulfully to the conflagration whose dousing we now bear witness to. And where are you going now? Is it the place you most want to go? Carry this ember back into the dark with you so your chosen creatures will know you when you return home to them.

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